Followers

The Rarely Used Henchman in Dungeons and Dragons Games

Ah, the Henchman.

Not to be confused with the Hireling. Or the lowly Halfling. Or the Hireling Halfling.

Hirelings are basically hired help. They get wages and are mercenaries, blacksmiths, assassins, cooks, servants, laborers, minstrels, messengers, etc. Halfings are a race of wee folk approx. 3 feet tall, similar to Hobbits, and should not be confused with Hirelings at all.

In Dungeons and Dragons, the Henchman is a Non-Player Character who serves as a permanent retainer / ally to a character or a group of characters. They might be:

Squires to a Paladin or Fighter.

Acolytes following a Priest.

Apprentices following a Wizard, Druid or Thief.

The Proverbial Sidekick, eg. Batman's loyal sidekick Robin.

Or even the loyal servant, eg. Bruce Wayne's Butler Alfred Pennyworth.

They could even be a familial role such as a Wife, Husband, Son, Daughter, Nephew, Niece, Distant Relative, etc.

Ally - Henchmen aren't necessary lower level than PCs either. They might also be equal in level and get an equal share of party loot. But they should *rarely* be higher level than the party, otherwise they might outshine the party members and would properly be an Ally instead of a Henchman.

The Problem of Henchmen

In recent years it has become a habit during D&D games that people don't always make use of Henchmen any more. When 3rd Edition D&D appeared the concept of Henchmen was replaced with the Leadership feat, in which a person gets 1 Henchman for taking the feat. This dramatically reduced the use of such a character to fulfill the roles of apprentices, squires, etc. As 4th and 5th Edition appeared, the concept of having Henchmen in the game was basically forgotten and players of those games sort of lost touch with the whole Henchmen concept.

The problem therefore is that many DMs and players have forgotten that they have the option to bring henchmen and hirelings with them on adventures. It is an old school way of doing things, and something I would like to see revived.

Speaking for myself, when 4th Edition appeared I boycotted it completely and went back to playing 1st Edition AD&D, and sometimes also 2nd Edition AD&D. To me it was a matter of enjoying the old school feel of D&D and a rejection of the power-gaming routine of dice rolling and monty haul adventures with way too much magical loot.

My current long running campaign is a 1st Edition game with a long list of house rules and I have adopted a concept of a 'Party Henchman' who is a member of party of adventurers and stays with the party until the party's activities no longer match their own activities. Sometimes the party has multiple henchmen with them, sometimes the party leaves their henchmen at home.

At present in my campaign we have (or have had):

Maya, a wizard the party freed from statue at the Obsidian Tower. She later left the party after 4 years of game time to go do her own thing and no one has seen her since, creating a mystery around her disappearance. (Update, she later reappeared after a year of game time - as a villain. The party slew her during the final bossfight, not knowing who she was until the polymorph wore off...)

Wulfric, a fighter who was a vassal of the king and allied himself with the party when the king and queen were abducted. He was later killed by a beholder. Unknown to the party Wulfric was actually a clone created by a Deep Spawn.

Introsia, the sister of the party's assassin Indrasen, who sometimes joins the party, but most of the time she is with her tribe of elves.

King Finger, a powerful ally the party met while slaves in a gladiator pit. The Finger was a halfling gladiator known for dealing a finishing blow to his enemies with his finger. After escaping from the gladiator pit, the party and the Finger led a Spartacus-like rebellion and overthrew the city, freeing all of the halfling slaves from their human oppressors. The Finger became King Finger and has ruled there ever since. He is basically an ex-Henchman, but still an important ally of the party whenever the party is in that part of the world.

Mugug, the ogre the party freed when they were on a quest to kill trolls. "Mugug smash trolls. Mugug help." Mugug only helps the party if there are trolls involved.

Lyra the Sirine, which the party freed while in the Tomb of Xorek (which was really the Tomb of Horrors in disguise). [Xorek himself is my own version of a powerful lich-god, similar to the demi-lich Acererak from the Tomb of Horrors, the lich Vecna from Vecna Lives!, Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, etc. Whereas Vecna is a lich, Acererak is a demi-lich, Sauron is a disembodied lich with a phylactery in the form of the One Ring, and Voldemort has his 6 "horcruxes" and the 7th horcrux he didn't mean to make - Xorek has multiple bodies, many phylacteries, multiple forms of himself which are clones, demi-liches, liches, ghosts, shades, etc. He makes Voldemort and the others look like amateurs in comparison.]

Various characters that party members married like Ivana Gorstag (who one party member was forced to marry in a political marriage), and Vega (the barbarian wife of one of the party members). Note - With Ivana also came her father Lord Gorstag, who is now an important ally and the father-in-law of one of the characters.

The children of various party members who have reached an age where they can start adventuring, but thus far have been left at home to defend their holdfasts. (Our game has been going long enough that 17 years of game time has gone by since the start of the game and a few PCs now have children who are 15 years old, and thus old enough to adventure.)

Using Henchmen More Often

However the list of above henchmen barely scratches the surface of what is possible to do with henchmen as NPCs. As per 2nd Edition AD&D rules, having a Charisma of 9, 10 or 11 gives a PC a maximum of 4 Henchmen. Lets say you have 6 player characters in your gaming group, if they all had a Charisma between 9 and 11 they could potentially have up to 24 different henchmen. Or way more than that if their average Charisma scores were considerably higher. Even a character with a 2 Charisma is allowed 1 henchman.

A single PC with a 17 Charisma could have a maximum of 10 henchmen, according to the rules. 18 Charisma nets them a maximum of 15. Above that it increases by 5 henchmen by every 1 point of Charisma. And yet Henchmen, despite its potential to build a small army, is rarely used by DMs.

Even I don't use it to that ridiculous extent, but I do see it as a rule I would like to make more use of in future campaigns which are more roleplaying intensive - when our current campaign goes into semi-retirement, my goal is to restart the PCs at 1st level and play a more roleplaying oriented campaign with more mysteries, more gothic villains (vampires, werewolves, etc), more court intrigue - and it is during such a campaign that we could make a whole roster of ally henchmen, allowing henchmen and hirelings to truly shine.

During our current campaign the party has been active for 17 years, has strongholds and holdfasts, lots of Followers (as per the Followers rules for building strongholds), they spend their downtime collecting taxes and improving their strongholds, and adventuring happens less frequently as they are now semi-retired - which means weeks or months of game time can sometimes go by in 1 minute, and the party is then ready for new adventure hooks.

The Rules of Playing Henchmen in D&D

#1. Alignment.

Henchmen are not necessarily the same alignment of the character. For fun you can make them a slightly different alignment or even sometimes a radically different alignment (maybe they drank a love potion and fell in love with the PC... "But my love, opposites attract! We may be different, but I still love you!"

#2. Henchmen are usually adventurers.

But not always. They could also be monsters, pets, animals the PC befriended, etc. This could include things like faeries, unicorns, flying mounts (giant talking ravens for example), ogres, humanoids or demi-humanoids, hatchling dragons, etc. Thus if a PC gets a giant raven, a faerie, and a human squire you might want to check their Charisma and confirm how many henchman this PC is allowed.

#3. Charm spells temporarily give the PC a henchman.

The effects of a Charm spell are such that the PC is considered to be a friend to the person or creature who failed the charm spell. This means that they *might* fight to protect their friend, or they might let them inside a door they are guarding, and they might even follow the PC willingly into danger. Taking a Charmed individual with the party for an extended period of time effectively makes them into a Henchman, and they should be treated as such. They will want an equal share of treasure and to be treated as a valuable ally. Mistreatment or a lack of fair treatment will result in them getting additional saving throws to break free from the charm spell.

#4. Henchmen are Loyal. Sometimes to a fault.

A Henchmen might knock their friend unconscious in a bad situation and then carry their body from the dungeon in a hurry if they felt their friend was in such a bad condition that they needed saving. They might also get tortured to death by refusing to reveal secrets to enemies. They might get themselves killed trying to save their friend. Any number of situations could arise in which a Henchmen could get themselves killed, jeopardize a mission by doing something unexpected, etc.

#5. Ideally Henchmen should be Likeable.

However sometimes as the DM you might accidentally make a Henchman that the PC or party members dislike because they find him/her annoying. Oh well. If that happens try to at least make the Henchman helpful / funny. eg. The annoying goblin keeps following the elf warrior-princess around, muttering "my precious" to himself in a creepy fashion, but hey, at least he is good at carrying her stuff and stays out of the way most of the time.

#6. Henchmen deserve a share of treasure.

If they are adventurers they should get an equal share. If they are more like servants then the party might only give the Henchmen items or treasure that they the party doesn't actually want. Animal or monster henchmen may not be interested in treasure, depending on the circumstances. Henchmen who don't get a share of treasure will feel mistreated by the party and then leave. If the Henchman is more of a loyal servant they should at least be paid like a Hireling does, but treated better as a sign of favouritism.

#7. It is possible to have a Henchman at level one.

In theory a PC could start off as a sort of "Batman Begins" character, already having a loyal vassal with them like Alfred Pennyworth. The henchman could be a bodyguard, a servant, a family member or some similar role. Could even be a pet. However to do this it is important to get the DMs permission, which basically requires that the DM likes the idea of having henchmen in the party.

#8. Henchmen sometimes die.

Stuff happens. The party gets betrayed, the dragon was unexpectedly hungry, the evil villain "Governor" decides to chop off Hershel's head with a katana, the henchman slips and falls while climbing a cliff. If it can happen to a PC, it can happen to a Henchman. The good news is that Henchmen are replaceable. Player Characters have a maximum number of henchmen, and how many henchmen they have may change over time if the henchmen dies in combat, is killed by a trap, or is poisoned while at the inn. If the PCs are upset by the death of a particular henchman they might even go on a quest to raise them from the dead.

#9. Reward the PCs who make the effort to roleplay meetings with NPCs.

Or in some cases you might also punish them. Remember that barmaid you seduced with last week? Well she quit her job, bought some armour and now wants you to teach her how to swing a sword. Roleplaying situations, literally any roleplaying situation, has the potential for PCs to find themselves a new Henchman. This could be anything from seducing the barmaid, complimenting a member of the town guard while bribing them to keep silent on you murdering the local criminals, flirting with the priestess of the sea dragon god, or even praising a lowly ratman on keeping his fur so clean. Any character who has no ties to keep them at home and can serve as either an ally or servant has the potential to become a Henchman.

#10. A Henchman could be higher level, but should still be weaker than the PC.

But this should be extremely rare and their skills should be highly specialized. eg. They might be a thief who specializes in picking pockets and they are utterly useless in combat, and only marginally good at other thief skills. They could even be elderly sages who know lots of information due to their high level, but due to age and a low Constitution they are horrible in combat. A good example of a sage is the flea-demon "Myoga" from the Japanese anime TV show Inuyasha, who is completely useless in combat and disappears whenever there is a danger, but is sometimes around when Inuyasha or one of his comrades needs advice or historical info.

The 2nd Edition AD&D rules are contradictory on this matter. One line says "Some may be higher level" and then in the next paragraph the first sentence is "A henchman is always lower level than the PC." How can some be higher level if the henchman is always lower level? Well, it is poorly written but what they probably really meant to say is that henchmen should always be less powerful than the PCs. They could be higher level and have a handy ability, but they should always be less powerful compared to the main party members.

If the henchman eventually becomes more powerful than a party member they should leave the party. This is what happened to Maya and King Finger above. In Maya's case she was becoming very powerful as a wizard and had established her own wizardry school. It was time for her to leave. For King Finger, his royal duties meant that he now had an army of halflings under his command and he likewise could no longer be a henchman.

#11. Henchmen should never be centre stage.

Unless it is briefly important to a plot, the henchmen should stay with the wagon train of followers, hirelings, mounts, etc. They should be guarding the horses, riding on the back of the wagon, only speak with spoken to or when it is important to the plot, should never outshine the characters unless they have a specific skill that they are particularly good at, and should rarely draw attention to themselves.

#12. If a PC is knocked unconscious, captured or killed let the player play the Henchman.

Sometimes a character gets severely injured or worse and the player doesn't have anyone to play. Having one or two henchmen handy in such circumstances means that they can now play the Henchman instead. Remember Maya up above? When I first introduced her character my primary goal was to give the party members a backup character that they could play whenever their own character was too injured to fight. Having Henchmen for that purpose is exceptionally handy.


#13. No player should feel left out when it comes to Followers.

At 9th level fighters with strongholds gain a large number of Followers. Rangers at 10th level get 2d6 Followers, Paladins get a warhorse at level 4, 8th level Clerics attract a group of 2d10x10 fanatical believers, Druids attract animal and fey Henchmen, 10th level Thieves attract a band of thieves, Wizards have their lowly familiar, and a 9th level Bard with a stronghold can attract 10d6 warriors. However circumstances may arise in which some players feel left out - in which case that is a golden opportunity to set up a situation wherein an orphan child could become a squire to the paladin, or an apprentice to the wizard, or backup minstrel to the bard. Having a few Henchmen is a great equalizer to making players feel like their PC is important.

#14. Henchmen should be trusted allies.

If they are treated in a distrustful way they will become disenfranchised with the PCs and leave. Unless they have an important reason to stay, they will simply give up and realize that they are not wanted. Any kind of abuse or distrust should be treated on a case by case situation. A minor offense might mean that they ask for an apology. A major offense might result in them leaving immediately, without even a goodbye. Although for roleplaying purposes you might wish to leave a note telling the PC why they decided to quit. Depending on their alignment they might even steal a few things on their way out the door.

#15. Henchmen can switch to a different PC.

In the event a Henchman is abused or treated unfairly, it might be a golden opportunity for a different PC to gain a new Henchman by treating them in a manner which is more befitting. "Tada, I am with Boris now. I am sorry Aragthorn, but you just never treated me with the respect I deserve. Especially when you used me as dragon bait and Boris rescued me."

#16. PC Henchman or Party Henchman. Hmm.

In 2nd Edition AD&D there is a line that states that "henchman attach themselves to a particular player character, not a group of player characters. Thus it is only under the direst of circumstances that a henchman accepts the orders of another PC." I find this to be silly. Why can the party not have allies or henchmen as a group? There is no real logic for it. Yes, sometimes a Henchman might be smitten with a particular PC, but there is no real reason why they cannot be treated as a Party Henchman (especially if the party met the Henchman through circumstances in which they all rescued the new Henchman from danger, each person playing an equal role). The downside to this is that they count as a Henchman to everyone, can take orders from anyone, and might even refuse orders due to roleplaying circumstances / alignment / etc.

#17. Lifetime limit or maximum at any one time. Hmm.

In 2nd Edition AD&D it clearly states that the maximum number of henchmen a character can have "is a lifetime limit, not just a maximum possible at any given time." However I would like to point out several things. (1). Characters eventually retire because they reach such a high level (or old age) that the players start to get bored of killing demons and dragons every week. As such, if they have not exhausted their maximum number of henchmen, they never will anyway. (2). Even if they do reach the maximum, how is it the player's fault if the DM is running a deadly campaign where both PCs and henchmen die regularly? Or likewise, how is it the player's fault if the Henchman decides to retire from the group, becomes royalty, becomes too powerful, leaves due to roleplaying reasons, leaves for any number of reasons that are out of player's control?

In my games I follow the idea that it is a maximum at any one time, and only Henchmen who either leave in disgust, or die due to the PC's negligence count against the character's maximum number of henchmen. In other words it is only those henchmen who leave due to the player's own fault which count against the maximum number. Any deaths due to flooding, DM mischief, assassins trying to kill the whole party and the henchman bit the dust, etc - those deaths simply don't count against the maximum.

However I should note that since characters rarely get more than 1 or 2 henchmen, this isn't too big of a deal. However if the DM is running a campaign wherein there are lots of henchmen and they are integral the plots, it makes sense that the DM should keep careful track of how many henchmen each PC has, how well they are treated, and so forth.

#18. Former Henchmen can become Villains.

Are you familiar with the Batman villain named "Red Hood"? No? Well spoiler alert, the Red Hood is actually Robin. Specifically he is Jason Todd, one of multiple characters who have been Robin. Todd was killed by the Joker and later brought back to life with the Lazarus Pit, becoming the villain Red Hood.

Now apply that idea to a former henchman who was mistreated. They might seek vengeance immediately, or they might spend years becoming a powerful villain and seek to destroy or defeat their former master.

#19. Henchmen might not be real henchmen.

They might be spies, assassins, thieves, people with their vendetta against the PCs or possibly an important NPC that the party is allied with. They might have been encountered in a similar fashion to other henchmen, but like a cursed magical item their appearances are not always what they seem.

#20. How hard or easy it is to gain henchmen depends on the DM and the Players.

The rules state that "Attracting a henchman is fairly difficult." But it doesn't have to be, especially if it is written in to the adventure. eg. The sirine in the Tomb of Horrors is right there, waiting to become a Henchman. If the DM takes the time to sprinkle lots of NPCs around, those NPCs have the potential to become allies, hirelings, and henchmen. Some might start off as allies or hirelings and later become henchmen, or they might be people the party rescued and became instantly devoted to a PC or to the party.

#21. Who plays the Henchmen, Players or the DM. Hmm.

This is more a matter of interpretation and circumstances. Sometimes the players might play the Henchman and other times it might be the DM. Especially if the Henchman is actually a spy, the DM might wish to retain control of the Henchman. Or if it is a Party Henchman, the DM might control them 90% of the time and the players only play the Henchman when their own character is knocked out / captured / dead. In my games the Henchmen character sheets stay in my possession and I only hand the henchmen character sheets to players when the time is appropriate. This way they are not tempted to metagame the distribution of items, the choosing of spells and the henchman is making their own decisions most of the time.

The DM can overrule any action a player attempts to take with a henchman that the DM feels is inappropriate to the Henchman's character.

#22. Henchmen "do not give away or loan magical items." Or do they?

Their friend is dying and they need a healing potion. The henchman has three healing potions, do they give one to their friend? Yes, yes they do. Again this really depends on the circumstances. Obviously they would not give away their ancestral family heirloom +2 sword, but they would be a bit more free-thinking about giving up a healing potion or something they don't need when there are circumstances that warrant it.

#23. Henchmen can mutiny.

Imagine what might happen if multiple henchmen and hirelings are aboard a ship and are being mistreated by their masters. Clearly that is a situation wherein they could mutiny if they all decide at roughly the same time that they have had enough of their mistreatment. A little rebellion would teach the PCs a lesson about the value of respect. It could even lead to a party wipe or near party wipe if all or most of the PCs are guilty of mistreatment and the henchmen outnumber the PCs and take them by surprise.

#24. Et tu Brute?

Sometimes the henchman might actually have a better sense of morals than the PC. A good henchman might decide to assassinate a PC who has become a dictator or tyrant, just as Brutus did to Julius Caesar. After returning to Rome a war hero Julius Caesar quickly established himself as a dictator and began a series of constitutional reforms, appointed many senators who were loyal to him, impeached his political opponents, and even started printing coins with his likeness. One month before his assassination he declared himself dictator for life. Brutus and his compatriots killed Julius Caesar because they saw him for the ruthless dictator he had become.

It wouldn't take much for a PC to become a ruthless dictator. Many D&D groups are basically playing characters who are a bunch of murder hobos anyway, traveling from place to place, doing all sorts of questionable activities. A Henchman who witnessed such atrocities might develop an opinion that their master is actually evil and needs to be stopped, by any means necessary.

#25. Henchmen can do anything a Player Character can do.

Which includes having their own Henchmen, their own allies, their own stronghold, their own followers, their own goals and ambitions. They are effectively adventuring NPCs and as such can do anything a PC can do. However their followers, their stronghold, their monetary wealth should always be off-limits to the players. They might bring their followers to a major battle during a time of warrior, but if mistreated they might just as easily show up and launch several volleys of arrows at the party's troops before turning tail and leaving.

Happy Gaming!

Nerd Pizza

Yep. For when a bunch of nerds get really hungry get a really big pizza.

Alternative Rules for Handling Rerolls in D&D

If you play Dungeons and Dragons sooner or later the topic of Rerolls is going to come up. However how a DM adjudicates or decides to allow rerolls is a matter of debate.

Option 1, Stick to the Rules

This means no rerolls at all. Most editions of Dungeons of Dragons don't even mention the topic of rerolls. (Several editions also don't mention Critical Hits, but I will get back to that topic later.)

Option 2, Allow Rerolls as a House Rule

This means you need to come up with a rule system to govern how often rerolls can be used and when. Too many rerolls means nothing bad ever happens to the PCs and they use their rerolls willy nilly, too few is arguably better because it means players will only use those rerolls when they really need them in order to survive, and thus will conserve their rerolls for when something dangerous happens and they absolutely need to use a reroll.

Thus as a DM if you decide to allow rerolls you need to come up with a system for using them and how many rerolls are available.

1. Once Per Level

One reroll available, once per character level. This assures the character will have very few rerolls and will attempt to conserve their one and only reroll until they manage to level up to next level and only use it in do-or-die situations.

2. Flat Number at Level One

The character starts with 5 rerolls (for example), which they can use whenever they want, but when they run out they no longer have any more. This increases their survival chances at low level but as they get to higher levels they start to run low on rerolls and have to conserve them.

3. Rerolls based on Charisma Score

12 Charisma equals 1 reroll per session, 14 Charisma equals 2 rerolls per session, 16 Charisma equals 3 rerolls per session, etc. This system gives a more plentiful number of rerolls, but also ensures that Charisma is no longer a dump stat for low stat rolls. Suddenly a high Charisma is a very valuable stat and players are encouraged to use it more often and perhaps realize the potential of playing a high Charisma character.

4. Add a Luck Score

Similar to Charisma above, characters roll a Luck score during character creation and this governs how Lucky their character is. This is similar to how some games might also use ability scores for Honour, Sanity, Speed, Comeliness/Attractiveness, Social Rank, etc. eg. In 1st edition AD&D many players use Comeliness as a representation of a character's attractiveness, a separate ability from Charisma. In 5th Edition D&D Sanity and Honour are listed in the DMG as possible optional ability scores. In other games like Palladium Speed is listed as an ability score, so this is not a new concept.

5. Reroll Cards for Good Roleplaying

Make up a set of "One Free Reroll" cards and print them on cardstock. Eight or ten is a good number of cards to make, depending on the size of your group. Then give them out to players sparingly whenever they do a good job roleplaying. Don't award them for killing monsters. Only reward them when they do something noteworthy and memorable roleplaying wise. This encourages players to roleplay their characters, stick to their alignment, and also rewards smart thinking within the bounds of their character. It can also be used to reward good story development, avoiding the temptations of metagaming (especially when it is really tempting), and "doing the right thing" within their alignment. Chaotic characters being able to do almost anything, this really tends to reward characters who are lawful or neutral and behaves appropriately, but again I should remind you to only hand out these cards sparingly.

Also note that if you run out of cards (eg. if you give all 8 or 10 of them to the players) don't give out any more. The players cannot hoard the cards if they know there is a small supply of them, and also recommend capping individual players so they cannot have more than 2 reroll cards at any one time.

As a sub-rule, trading reroll cards should also be prohibited. As is giving them away for favours.

6. Luck as the result of Piety

Under this house rule, Luck can only be granted by the gods. Donating wealth or magical items to the church (it doesn't matter which church and it also doesn't matter which class the character is) can earn the PC a reroll. This encourages every character to choose a deity to worship, even if they are a lowly thief. The size or kind of donation given doesn't always matter either. The character could be donating gold, donating magical items, or even donating their time by volunteering to go on quests for the church or perform services on behalf of the church. If the gods are pleased with the results, they award a Luck Reroll, which could be recorded either as Luck Points or it could use "One Free Reroll" cards like #5 above.

7. Combinations of the Above Rules

You might even decide to employ more than one of the House Rules above and use them together.

eg. 1 and 2 work well together, as the rerolls are limited and eventually run out - and yet each character gets a new reroll every time they level up, which they will hopefully conserve for when they need it.

3+5 or 4+5 also work well in combination. I currently use 3+5 in my current campaign as it benefits both good roleplaying, which I like to encourage, and it encourages players to not use Charisma as a dump stat. I also use House Rules for Charisma to add benefits during large scale battles with followers, thus Charisma is exceptionally valuable if PCs choose to use their Charisma score to its full potential.

5+6 also makes an interesting combination, as it could be used with the same "One Free Reroll" cards, and thus fits seemlessly. Again, keep the number of reroll cards limited and don't allow players to hoard them in numbers more than 2.

BONUS, FIVE ALTERNATIVES TO CRITICAL HITS 

1. Instead of double damage for rolling a natural 20, make it triple damage. The potential for way more damage makes everything potentially more dangerous.

2. Double damage on a natural 19, triple damage on a natural 20. Makes critical hits more common, but also ups the damage dramatically.

3. When a natural 20 is rolled give the PC a choice: Trip, Stun, Disarm, Push or Double Damage. A trip causes the enemy to fall to the ground. Stun makes them dazed and unable to attack for one round, but they can still defend themselves. Disarm causes their weapon or shield to be knocked away from them. Push moves them 1 square in any direction the PC wishes. And Double Damage is the normal effect we are accustomed to.

4. Give them a bonus attack. If they succeed on the 2nd attack, roll damage accordingly. Note that this means that if they roll a 2nd natural 20 they would get a 3rd attack and possibly a 4th.

5. Roll Percentile Dice for an Auto-Kill. The base chance for an Auto-Kill is 50%, but it is modified by the character's level versus the target's Hit Dice. If the attacker is level 5 and the target has 10 HD, the chance is only 25% because they are 5 levels lower than the target's HD. However if the target is 2 HD and the attacker is level 6, then they have a 70% chance of killing their target because they are 4 levels over the target's HD.

6. Random Bonus Damage. Roll a d6, if you roll a 1 or 2 then the attack does double damage. If you roll a 3 or 4 then the attack does triple damage. If you roll a 5 then roll quadruple damage. If you roll a 6 then roll both quadruple damage and check to see if it is an Auto-Kill as per #5 above.

Note: Making critical hits that much more dangerous makes for very cautious PCs. They suddenly realize that even a dagger can do a lot of damage in the hands of an enemy if they manage to score a natural 20 and suddenly do 3d4 or 4d4 or Auto-Kill instead of their normal 1d4. Suddenly having rerolls sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately rerolls cannot be used to reroll an enemy's attack.

Happy playing!


Backyard Outdoor Dungeons and Dragons

So I saw the images below on a differdifferent website and I thought,  hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever made a backyard dungeon like that for Dungeons and Dragons?

And by dungeon I mean a tiny miniature dungeon for D&D miniatures. Not a big dungeon for whipping your kinky husband in / etc. Nope, we're only talking about roleplaying games here, the kind you play with dice. Not LARPing or anything more adult...

Ahem.

So I went looking for something similar on Google images to see if any gamers have made a D&D dungeon in their garden or backyard. I couldn't find anything that matched the topic but I shall try again in the future. I have not given up.

Years ago I remember joining a game where the DM often hosted sessions outdoors on the patio in the backyard. We would drink lemonade, enjoy the weather and play with miniatures on the patio table under the large patio umbrella. Even had some BBQs out there too. The DM somehow annoyed several of his friends to the point that they stopped coming to his games and he had difficulty finding more people so those games eventually petered out.

But the idea of being able to play D&D outdoors has stuck in my brain ever since.

Other groups and myself have done it on several occasions too, usually in combination with having a BBQ. But the idea of having regular sessions in a backyard, at least during the summer months, I think is still doable. It is really the question of...

1. Having a suitably large backyard.

2. Investing in patio tables that are a good size.

3. Having 1 or more large patio umbrellas. I currently have two, but I lack the backyard...

Thus this really hinges on buying a house with a good size backyard in Toronto, a city with skyrocketing real estate prices. So that won't be happening any time soon, but hey, I can dream right?

Plus for my kids it would be nice to have a place for them to play in... although I must admit I also like the idea of practicing archery in the backyard, as opposed to what I currently do which is practice in the garage or at the Toronto Public Archery Range.

Dungeons and Dragons Memes featuring Willy Wonka






When you really want to make fun of something, nobody does it better than a Willy Wonka meme to show your level of sarcasm. Boromir memes just don't do it right.

5 Embarrassingly Fun Things to do to Characters during D&D Games

Want to have lots of laughs during a D&D game? Here is a quick guide of what to do.

#1. The Smell of Fear

Introduce a monster that has a powerful Fear Aura. eg. A Dread Wyvern, same stats as a regular wyvern but give it a fear aura and its tail produces a poison that causes people to run away in fear.

However when describing the fear effect when it happens use the following words "You sh*t your pants and run away!" or "You p*ss yourself and run away!"

Afterwards have the party encounter NPCs who mock them and joke about the smells coming off of them, saying things "You smell of fear stranger." or "Maybe your wet nurse forgot to change your diaper?" or "Wow, I guess cowards really do have yellow stains on their pants. Yellow and brown stains."

#2. Mushrooms and Diarrhea and Polymorphing

The party makes camp in the woods. Nearby is a patch of delicious looking mushrooms. Now if they choose to eat them any number of things could happen. The least of which is Diarrhea - which is both funny and embarrassing.

One of the things I did once to a group is that they developed a voracious appetite for eating mushrooms and began slowly polymorphing into giant mushrooms themselves. All it took was the initial bite and there was a feeling that the mushrooms were healing them. Several were severely injured and thus party began eating the mushrooms to heal their wounds faster. Fortunately not all of them were injured and those who were not noticed how their friends started to change colour, and started slowly transforming into mushrooms... They then burnt all the mushrooms and managed to save their friends. The good effect from that mini encounter was that the most injured people got some healing, but they suffered from the effects of a Slow spell for 12 hours until the shape-changing effect wore off.

I used the same mushrooms again years later, but instead made the mushrooms talkative and removed their healing properties. They still caused people to transform if you are the mushrooms, but there was less incentive to try eating them. That time was still funny as they had to carry the fighter away from the mushrooms and hold him down. He still suffered Slowness for many hours afterwards until it wore off.

Another time the party met a talking Oracle Mushroom which had developed interesting powers that it could imbue people who breathed in its spores. The spores would cause a random Divination spell on the person to last for 1d6+3 x 10 minutes. The effect could be Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, ESP, Clairaudience, or even Identify (allowing them to basically hold any item and identify its magical properties). The Oracle Mushroom was later killed by a shadow dragon, so it was really a one time thing.

Thus diarrhea doesn't sound so bad when you consider the number of benevolent / malevolent things that can be done with mushrooms.

#3. Food Poisoning

Okay, admittedly this is just dungeon dressing to tell you that the innkeeper is a horrible cook. But it can still be one more way to give your PCs diarrhea and let the hilarity ensue.

I recommend combining the diarrhea with a run in with the city guard and the guards putting the PCs in a separate cell at the far end of the cell block just so they don't have to smell them - which will coincidentally put them next to an old man who has been in jail a long time and can give them a new quest.

#4. Take Away their Clothes

Nothing says you got drunk last night and don't remember what you did when you wake up naked in a hut next to a NPC you don't know. The NPC might be attractive or ugly, it doesn't matter. I say roll 3d6 and make it a surprise.

If the whole party wakes up like this they made need to go on an adventure to get their stuff back, or maybe their stuff will be waiting for them at the inn where they got drunk last night. Certainly does give some interesting options.

Note - Some players will complain that their character wasn't drinking that much and that they should have got a saving throw. If you have troublesome players like that in the group ask them to roll 3 d20s at various intervals and pretend to consult a chart. Then ask them to roll percentile dice twice and make groaning sounds as you pretend to read the chart. Honestly, the things you have to do to make players loosen up and have some fun once in awhile...

2nd Note - The Tomb of Horrors has some teleporters in it that takes peoples clothes/belongings away during the teleportation process. I love that part. Best part of the whole adventure. That and the gem that provides a wish... ;)

3rd Note - Introduce the party to a tribe of nudists and have them take part in a traditional ceremony, which means no clothes but weapons are okay. Maybe even a Vulcan-esque marriage combat and you could play Star Trek fight scene music in the background... Have fun!

#5. Public Speaking Vs Rotten Tomatoes

Sometimes characters like to make speeches, often the one time that they try to use their Charisma in order to get a crowd to go in their favour. If they use their Charisma often and wisely, and through roleplaying, I don't have a problem with that, but if they try to do it as a gimmick only to get out of trouble for getting caught doing something nefarious then I recommend having a penalty for speaking to an angry crowd and give that angry crowd some rotten food. Rotten tomatoes, rotten onions, old potatoes, basically any kind of rotten vegetables will do.

In the words of Penguin in Batman Returns, "Why is there always someone who brings eggs and tomatoes to a speech?"


On the Banning of Rules Lawyers, Metagamers and Min Maxers

Hello fellow Dungeons and Dragons gamers!

(If you are not a D&D player, maybe you should try it?)

Anywho, the topic today is the issue of players with "issues" during D&D games. This discussion can also reflect anyone involved in other kinds of roleplaying games, but for my purposes I am speaking specifically of Dungeons and Dragons gamers.

Note that it doesn't really matter which edition either. 1st edition, 2nd edition, 3rd, 5th... I guess 4th is technically there too, even though I like to pretend 4th never happened and boycotted it after testing it a few times.

During my gaming groups in the past I didn't really had much choice but to tolerate problem gamers, the ones who don't want to get along and seem to want to ruin the game for everyone else. That kind of behaviour was discouraged more through peer pressure back then but as I got older I determined that some people never really learned from those social cues and just kept doing what they were doing.

I am going to name names here. Lets start with Darryl.

Darryl is from Toronto. I met him during a 1st edition game in 2007 (a game which has since been going ever since). It wasn't my game however, I was just a player.

Darryl would argue about rules, plot against fellow PCs, try to get fellow PCs killed, steal from fellow PCs, and use metagame knowledge from one of his characters to guide the actions of other characters he had. Now you might think "Oh he is just roleplaying his character!" except he had multiple characters and to this day I cannot tell the difference between their personalities. They all behaved the same due to the disruptive nature of the player.

The DM of that game decided to kick Darryl out of the game in 2008 and everyone has been much happier since then.

Years later I learned that my younger sister also met Darryl and that he had likewise been a disruptive player in her game too. The conversation came up by accident. I was socializing with my sister near the Bloor-Yonge subway and a friend of hers spotted her and came over to say hello. They started talking about the game they were in and I was politely listening / browsing my cellphone when I heard them complaining about what they should do about a guy called Darryl.

At which point I swear my ears perked up. It couldn't be the same Darryl, could it? Yep it was. A few questions about his physical appearance, his mannerisms and his email writing style of TYPING IN ALL CAPS made it pretty clear which Darryl they were talking about.

At which point I explained what had happened during our 1st edition game, and how Darryl was eventually kicked out of the game. After that conversation my sister and their group decided to kick Darryl out of their game too. Clearly the guy had not learned his lesson.

I met Darryl one last time, during an one-shot game organized by people I had never gamed with before. When Darryl showed up I was pleasantly surprised. I was pleasant and shook his hand even. After all, who is to say he hasn't learned his lesson by now? Less than an hour later he was rules lawyering again, arguing about what is in the book, when all the group really needed was a DM Ruling on something that wasn't in the rules.

You see I follow the Old School approach of whatever the DM says is the word we go by. If the DM wants to roll randomly, so be it. If the DM says yes or no, so be it.

But in Darryl's head there must be a rule for everything, and he wanted to argue and try and find a rule that either doesn't exist or would take an hour just to find it in the rulebooks. He basically ruined that game for everyone present with his sheer arguing.

Next I want about Lochlan.

Lochlan from Texas. This guy is part bully, part Rules Lawyer, part Metagamer and part Min Maxer. He is basically the unholy trinity of bad roleplayers with bullying tossed in for spice.

I met Lochlan when I joined my brother-in-law's game. He didn't like me from the very start. I arrived fresh from the archery range, carrying my bag of archery equipment and he immediately didn't like the looks of me: Tall, athletic, charismatic and easy going. This was in contrast to Lochlan being short, fat, passive-aggressive and a bully.

Now one thing my sister and her husband both know is that I stand up to bullies. I have zero tolerance for them.

So when Lochlan sent me an email trying to bully me in to leaving the game I simply deleted his email and pretended that I never read it. I showed up at the game and said "Hey Lochlan, wazzup?!" with a big smile and boy oh boy did that infuriate him.

So he wrote me a 2nd email, complaining about me more, trying to again pressure me to quit. I again deleted the email and went on pretending like there was nothing wrong.

Meanwhile during the game Lochlan would argue with the DM over rules - whom I would defend, pointing to the Golden Rule of D&D: "Whatever the DM says goes." He would metagame and use out of game knowledge of physics and chemistry (gunpowder, etc), basically trying to ruin the game and make his character more powerful using knowledge his character doesn't have. Next he would also import spells from basically any source he could find, with no checking to see if his wizard even has the spell, has learned the spell, etc. It was as if he had a spellbook of infinite spells, which is as rule breaking as it gets. How he managed to convince the DM to allow him the ability to use any spell in existence makes no sense whatsoever. I don't recall the reasoning behind him having access to every spell, but he would basically make a spellcraft check and if he made it he somehow had access to that spell. And lastly, he would min max as much as possible and attempt to bully other players into doing what he wants them to do.

And then there is me with my character.

I am playing Helene, a cleric I made during the above mentioned 1st edition game. Helene likes clothes, fashion, and she talks a bit like a Valley Girl. I based her off the character Quinn from the TV show Daria. Helene is a little ditzy and she isn't really that good in combat. What she is good at however is being a combat medic, staying alive, and keeping the party alive. She is a healer first, a spellcaster second, and only enters combat when she has run out of spells. She is not designed to be a min maxing spellcaster or a great fighter. She is just Helene, a humble cleric of whatever good god happens to be available in any particular campaign.

Helene thus is a character designed for roleplaying. She is designed to be fun to play and to keep the party alive.

Lochlan saw this, saw how I prefer to base spell decisions on roleplaying decisions, and decided to bully me into picking spells he felt would be better combat spells. I politely declined. It is my character. Not his.

Lochlan saw my refusal as problematic and then there was another problem...

Lochlan's girlfriend was present. Now I am not saying she had eyes on me or had any interest in me, that doesn't matter so much as the fact that I was simply there and he was jealous of my physique, good looks and charismatic way of roleplaying. He saw me as a threat to his relationship with his girlfriend and wanted to get rid of me.

Which he tried to do using the above mentioned emails, although I didn't realize at the time that he was also being motivated by jealousy. It took me awhile to figure out that it wasn't just his hatred of me that was fueling his attempts to bully me, it was also his rampant jealousy and the delusions in brain that his Canadian girlfriend might leave her Texan boyfriend for a fellow Canadian. It is not illogical, it just doesn't have all the facts.

(The facts being that I had zero interest in his girlfriend. Sure, she is attractive, but I have zero interest in dating a girl who is in an abusive relationship with a bully. That is a whole other story, but basically I would not be surprised if he beats her when nobody else is looking, and the kind of person who puts up with mental and physical abuse is not the type of person I am interested in. I already know he mentally abuses her because I have witnessed him do it and she puts up with it, but whether there is also physical abuse is a matter of debate.)

Anyway all of this came to an end as far as I am involved when Lochlan threw an email hissy fit and quit the game. He then bullied his girlfriend to quit the game too, trying to protest my involvement in the games of my sister and her husband. We simply continued playing without them.

My sister and her husband continue to play with Lochlan and have voiced concerns about how to stop playing with him. They all agree he is a problem gamer and they don't want him in their games, but they want his girlfriend to be able to continue playing with them. So they tolerate Lochlan just so they can have her in the games, and they only have such games whenever Lochlan is visiting his girlfriend here in Canada.

The rest of the time they simply play other campaigns, like our current 5th edition game of rotating DMs (the 5th edition DMG introduced rules which allows people to take turns being DM, which we thought would be fun to try out and we have been using that for awhile now).

Finally I am going to talk about my own games. Korovia.

I have been running my Korovia campaign world since 1999. I first started it in 2nd edition, later adapted it to 3rd edition, and went back to 1st edition when 4th edition came out because I love the retro feel of 1st edition. The current campaign is set during the Stone Age / cusp of the Bronze Age in Korovia, which combined with the 1st edition rules gives a very different feel. The above mentioned 5th edition game is run with sister's group, but has rotating DMs, and is set after the Third Demon War (demons periodically invade Korovia, seeking a powerful source of magic hidden beneath the earth).

During 17 years of running Korovia I have encountered my share of problematic gamers. A few stand out in my mind and others I simply didn't contact to return to the game and sort of dropped them from the game without telling them they were being dropped.

That I find is a good way to deal with problem gamers. Just drop them from the emails / contact info and don't let them know we are having another game. They will just assume we quit playing. Meanwhile in reality we kept playing and just didn't bother to tell them.

When I was running a 3rd edition version of Korovia, Darryl was one of the players. He nearly killed his elf with a lightning bolt and then argued about it. I had warned him that lightning bolts bounce off stone walls and could hit him, but he insisted on casting a lightning bolt inside a small stone room. I had warned him that casting a lightning bolt in a small stone room was basically suicide because it would bounce off the walls repeatedly until it ran out of distance. But he decided to do it anyway, and then thought he could argue his way out of a huge amount of damage that left his character fried and nearly dead. (Note, depending on the house rules of the DM, lightning bolts either fizzle and do nothing when hitting stone walls, or they bounce and keep going. I prefer the bouncy variety because it is more fun and dynamic. Darryl knew this but decided to do it anyway.)

That 3rd edition game eventually came to an end because the story had reached a climax and I decided to start a 1st edition game in a different part of Korovia's timeline. When starting the new campaign I simply didn't invite Darryl to join the new game. Problem solved.

Arguing with a player / telling them you are kicking them from the game is completely unnecessary in my opinion. It just leads to problems that could have been prevented. This is similar to how I dealt with Lochlan. I simply ignored his bullying emails and I kept playing in my usual happy-go-lucky way. Simply ignoring the problem isn't always the best way to deal with a problem, but in the case of problem gamers ignoring them and never emailing them about upcoming games definitely does work.

Over the years I have also learned to Screen Potential Players before asking them to join our gaming group. I ask them about their past gaming experiences, what their favourite character was and why, what their favourite alignment to play is, what they are thinking of making for their new character and what the new character's goals might be, if any.

Getting a player to open up and talk about their past experiences and what their character ideas are should be easy. They should be honest and enthusiastic about creating a new character and all the things they hope to accomplish.

If I get a vibe or definite clues that the person is a powergamer, a min maxer, a metagamer, or a dreaded rules lawyer (or combinations of various problems) then I know to simply not invite this person to the game. Again, solved the same way. Don't email them back telling them where and when the game is. They will assume I simply forgot to email them back.

Another thing I do these days is Recruit New Players, sometimes from people who have never played D&D ever before. I would argue this is sometimes better than getting old players who over time have become set in their ways and possibly are argumentative and don't know how to relax and just have fun playing.

My current campaign has 15 people in it, of which 6 of them are regulars and the other 9 only pop in once in awhile. One of them got so inspired by the Stone Age campaign that he left and started his own Stone Age campaign, but joins us once in awhile. One of them currently has cancer and rarely makes it to sessions. Several of them have moved away / become too busy with work or school and rarely play any more. But all of them are tried and tested true roleplayers.

Granted there is always a little bit of min maxing going on, a little bit of rules lawyering and a bit of metagaming (but nothing extreme like trying to make gunpowder and tanks). Sometimes these things are necessary evils. But they are always solved quickly and diplomatically. In recent memory I have never had any problems with players bullying one another, arguing loudly or angrily, and most group decisions are usually made by voting - unless of course the idiot thief wanders off and runs into a pack of ice demons. That was his decision. We had nothing to do with that.

The last bit actually happened. The thief went off by own, ran through a trap and got injured, saw a pack of ice demons, and then ran through the trap again on his way back and got himself killed. As DM I basically just sat there and watched him do idiotic things. It was a bit like watching a character commit suicide.

On a side topic... Character Deaths!

In my games it is never my goal to kill characters. I present dangerous situations / monsters and the players can choose to fight, flee, try to outsmart the problem or simply go around the problem.

To date there has been some memorable deaths... and near deaths.

Total Party Wipe when the group decided not to rest at the water fonts in a place with no monsters near them, and they instead proceeded down a hallway, up a floor to the above level and ran into an undead minotaur. They then ran away. The undead minotaur killed two of them fleeing while the third managed to get away but then decided to try and jump over a pit filled with spikes.

Character killed by a Dread Wyvern (poison causes a fear effect) because they chose to sacrifice themselves while other party members ran away in fear. This happened earlier in the same session as above, thus 1 got killed by the wyvern and the other 3 got killed by the undead minotaur / pit with spikes.

Character decided to try sitting on a Rug of Smothering. Read the rules for that if you are curious.

Character got charmed by a demon and then was killed by the party assassin, who accidentally hit them too hard (natural 20) while trying to subdue them.

Character decided to pick up a balor's lightning sword.

Character nearly drowned because another character decided to flood the cave.

Character nearly drowned because they refused to take off their armour before swimming.

Character knocked unconscious during combat with mammoth. Later squished by dead mammoth. Funny thing, his name was Zlatgar. He is now known as Splatgar.

Character deaths are sometimes funny and become part of the history of a campaign. eg. The character killed by the Rug of Smothering was brought back by another character going back in time (via the Temple of Time) and warning the character not to sit on the rug, thus creating an alternate timeline.

Character Deaths Vs Rules Lawyers, Metagamers and Min Maxers

Back on topic, look at past instance of your own encounters with people who are rules lawyers, metagamers and min maxers. Did they ever experience a character death?

If you say no, it could be because those players are used to playing with DMs who basically coddle them, spoon feed them, and fudge rolls in their favour so that characters never die. Even when the player does something foolish, the DM finds a way to let their character live.

That level of coddling is boring. It result in players who think they can do anything, often combined with DMs that give out too much treasure, too many magical items, or worse - magical items so powerful that they don't belong in the hands of characters so inexperienced.

eg. A 1st level character with an artifact weapon, that is basically a min maxer's wet dream.

Letting players make bad decisions and letting those same players learn to live with the results is part of the game. Once they have learned "Oh, if my character does something foolish, my character can actually die." then they start to see the game in a new light. That it is now a game of survival where one bad decision could kill the character.

In my game players often use the proverbial 10 foot pole and other tricks they have learned to check for traps. Searching for secret doors is now second nature of what they do whenever they are in a dungeon.

They even beat my slightly altered version* of the Tomb of Horrors by being extremely cautious. No crawling into the mouth of the demon statue, they know better than that in my game. When opening a chest, do it away from the party and using telekinesis - they figured that out after the first chest. When in doubt, they sent chickens or snakes to test whether it is safe first. Note - Sticks with Snakes is handy for sending snakes to test if rooms or hallways are safe.

* I mostly just changed the map and the descriptions of the visual appearance of things so that the players wouldn't recognize that they were in the Tomb of Horrors. The best way to run Tomb of Horrors is not let your players know the name of the infamous dungeon they are in!

Could you imagine a party full of min maxers, metagamers or rules lawyers going into the Tomb of Horrors? They would all get themselves killed and then argue that they should have got a saving throw from crawling inside the demon's mouth.

Darryl and Lochlan? Pff! They are two of the worst gamers I have ever seen.

Old School Players Vs Powergamers

Now this is a fascinating topic.

In my opinion Old School Players have learned how to be cautious. They have played in enough deadly campaigns to know one wrong move is going to kill you. This means that how they approach traps, monsters, setting up camp, having watches during the night, and how they converse with each other is markedly different from powergamers.

Rules lawyers, metagamers and min maxers are not used to their characters dying. They haven't learned how to be cautious and instead believe that they can solve any problem by using their knowledge of the rules, by metagaming their way out of a problem, or using really high stats to beat a problem.

Now let me outline what happened to us during a friend's game years ago.

We survived making it through the Dark Forest and made it to a small village with a single inn. There we enjoyed good food and strong drink, and got involved in a bar brawl with some thugs we concluded must be working for the cultists who live inside the Dark Forest. Several of the thugs managed to get away during the fight. We helped clean up the mess and went to bed upstairs, having already paid for our rooms in the inn.

We did not set a watch during the night.

After all, why would we? We're in a village. The inn seems perfectly safe.

And so during the night the thugs came back with their cultist friends and set the inn on fire. They then started killing everyone who was fleeing the inn. One of our party members died holding back several cultists on the top floor so that others could flee out the window. We managed to fight off the cultists and live, but we lost one of our best fighters.

Afterwards we learned our lesson. Always set a watch even when we are in a village or city or some place we think is safe. It doesn't matter how safe we think it is, set the watch anyway as a matter of habit.

Now contrast that when I joined my sister's group and first met Lochlan years ago. They didn't even do watches at all! They just made camp and rested. No watches. Nothing to prevent themselves from being murdered while they slept. The DM had never bothered to attack them while they were sleeping.

When I suggested we have watches during the night they all looked at me funny. The DM cracked a smile, as if the idea had only just occurred to him. Wow. He had been playing for years and somehow had forgotten the time honoured tradition of attacking the PCs while they slept. Perhaps he had done it before in the past, but had given up on the concept.

Having an Old School Gamer like me in their group was suddenly a breath of fresh air. Old ideas made new again. Using 10 foot poles and other tricks to find traps. Watches during the night. Actually making a character who is fun to roleplay and isn't designed to be a rules-breaking caster of any spell in existence.

As a DM, I roll for random monsters all the time whenever the party is resting in the wilderness or in a dungeon. If they are inside a stronghold or a city or village the chances are significantly reduced, but there could always be a reason why someone might try to rob them while they are sleeping, murder them during their sleep, or other reasons / goals.

The basic idea in an Old School Game is that no place is safe. Every place has the chance to have something dangerous happen, even if it is only a 1 on a d100.

In a game with rampant powergamers they are so unused to character death or facing real danger that they take things for granted that their food isn't poisoned, that the innkeeper isn't a doppleganger, that the bed isn't a mimic planning to eat them while they sleep, or that people might try to burn the inn down while they sleep.

And so a bit of advice for DMs...

Make no place completely safe. The bed lice could be diseased. The innkeeper might be a tiefling with a broken portal to the Abyss in his wine cellar. The entire village could be built on top of an earthquake fault line that has been dormant for hundreds of years.

Next thing you know your PCs are scratching their lice bites, fending off a horde of tieflings and demons, and the village falls into a chasm as the whole kingdom is wracked by a series of long overdue earthquakes.

The Portal of Contradition

The Portal of Contradiction is a Dungeons and Dragons portal I designed for use in a D&D game. If you are unfamiliar with D&D, each player plays a character and they explore the wilderness/caverns/dungeons, kill monsters and then take their stuff. Sometimes they are fighting zombies, ogres, dragons, evil wizards, all sorts of things. The process of doing so involves rolling dice to determine attacks, damage, dodging of spells, etc, which is determined randomly with the dice. The story elements of the game however, the roleplaying, is where it really gets fun.

Anywho, the Portal of Contradiction is magical portal that can be added to any dungeon or possibly a cavern, tower, castle, wilderness area, etc in the game by the Dungeon Master (the storyteller who runs the game). Where the portal is located does not matter so much as the fact that it transports people a short distance, and has the effects further below.



Physical Description - A large stone portal covered in thick moss, circular, approx. 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide. A swirling watery mist envelops the void inside the portal and will transport any people stepping through the portal to a destination within the dungeon.

Traveling through the portal people experience a brief sensation of drowning and emerge dizzy on the opposite side, disoriented and temporarily unable to see or hear. Not to worry, that part wears off quickly within half a round. There is no saving throw for the effects of the portal. People going through the portal do so willingly and have effectively let the magic transport them and alter them during the trip.

Once aware of their surroundings they discover there is no second portal that can take them back. They are stuck there, wherever there is.

Next the DM should roll a d10 and consult the following chart below. Whatever they rolled indicates how the player should roleplay their character, which should be conveyed to the player by the DM privately, or via a secret note passed to the player.

1 - Agrees with everything that everyone else says, because they want everyone to like them, and will flip flop on issues in order to be more likable.
2 - Disagrees with everything that everyone else says because they believe that they are all secretly plotting against him/her.
3 - Constantly changes their opinion and cannot make up their mind about any action. When in doubt, roll percentile dice and the PC changes their opinion on any roll of 90 or less. Roll once per round or per decision.
4 - Agrees with everything that the person with the highest Charisma says, but disagrees with everything the person with the lowest Charisma says - even if both of these people are in agreement.
5 - Dislikes anyone who talks too much and disagrees with them on principle. Only agrees with those who barely talk at all, no matter how illogical they may seem. They may change their opinion on topics depending on who is talking more.
6 - Disagrees with any idea that involves danger, even if the danger is remotely unlikely or just a rumour.
7 - Makes up ridiculous ideas just to be contrary. eg. "Well there is always a chance a Dispel Magic could blow up..."
8 - Agrees with any idea that sounds ridiculous, no matter how silly. Disagrees with any idea that sounds reasonable.
9 - Develops a phobia of people who are intelligent and disagrees with anyone who is more intelligent than themselves. Only agrees with people they believe to be of equal or less intelligence.
10 - Agrees with anything that involves danger, but only if someone else agrees to do the dangerous part.

How long this effect by the Portal of Contradiction lasts is up to the DM. If he/she feels it is time for the effects to start wearing off they should roll percentile dice. 50 or lower indicates the effect has worn off. 51 or higher indicates the effect is still active, roll again later when the DM feels that enough time has passed by that the PC deserves a second chance.

The effects of the Portal of Contradiction cannot be removed with Dispel Magic or Remove Curse. The effect is not magical or a curse. It is a mental disease and can only be removed with Remove Disease, a Heal spell or a similar cure.

If your game is using any special House Rules for Insanity, the effects of the Portal of Contradiction counts as an Insanity.

Fortunately this insanity wears off eventually, although the precise duration is up to the DM. Whenever the DM gets tired of the silliness and wants to return to the adventure at hand.

If a Portal of Contradiction is reasonably close to a settlement and easy to access, it is probably known to the villagers or peasants of the area by a different name: The Portal of Insanity, which is only partially true. It only causes temporary insanity.

The beauty of the Portal of Contradiction is that it is a fun roleplaying situation. Players are encouraged to roleplay their characters to maximum silliness and to solve any disputes through food fights and non violent means.

I used the Portal of Contradiction years ago during a game and it teleported the characters into the wizard's wine cellar. The PCs proceeded to argue and get drunk on wine, throwing wine bottles at each other, switching sides to whomever they agreed with at the time, and eventually found a secret door in the wine cellar. They then spent a long time arguing about whether to check for traps, whether there is any traps, whether traps blow up, trying to get the barbarian to check for traps because the thief refused to do it, finding a hallway that led further into a dungeon, and arguing over marching order into the hallway and whether they should even explore it.

I wish I had recorded it all on video. It would have made a great youtube video.

Please, if you run the Portal of Contradiction in your game, please record the session on video and post a link to the youtube video in the comments below. Have fun with it!

Avengers playing "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Yep. Sounds about right. There are some definite similarities.

Nerdcore Vs Nerdovore

On a regular basis, usually when on my cellphone or tablet, I google the word Nerdovore in order to find a specific page on Nerdovore.com so I can show a friend.

Unfortunately what google responds with is:

Did you mean: nerdcore

And that REALLY annoys me.

First of all, I didn't type in nerdcore. I typed in Nerdovore. There isn't a typo. And there is a O between the nerd and the vore. And while it may sound similar, it is clearly something different.

Nerdcore in case you are wondering is a nerd version of hip hop / rap in which singers make funny songs about Star Wars, roleplaying games, Japanese anime, Game of Thrones, and other nerdy pop culture topics. It is creative, that much is true, but it isn't really Nerd Culture at its best.

If anything, nerdcore is embarrassingly bad.

And I say bad because the people who do nerdcore are not known to get recording contracts or to be taken seriously within the music industry. As a genre they are marketing to a tiny audience of nerds who like hip hop / rap, AND who appreciate nerdcore.

Which most nerds do not. In fact, most nerds make fun of other nerds who enjoy nerdcore. It is that bad.

Often it isn't even original songs either. Sometimes it is just re-using melodies from pop culture songs and setting them to a hip hop beat, but hey there isn't a lot of original melodies these days anyway. Or in the case of Nerdcore Star Wars, it sometimes involves reusing Star Wars music.

And while they are at it, the same type of people who Nerdcore Star Wars are often the same kind of people who like episodes I, II and III of Star Wars...

Which is basically blasphemy.

So yeah not only am I annoyed that Nerdcore keeps coming up during Google searches, I have to put up with the annoyance that Nerdcore is horribly bad and attracts the kind of nerds who think Star Wars Episode I was a good movie.

BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE...

There is also something called Nerdcore E Juice.

It is for people who are into electronic cigarettes / smoking "vapes".

Which I struggle to imagine the market they are aiming to sell to... Nerds who like smoking vapours? Really? That is a really niche market limited to a tiny audience!

And they chose the name Nerdcore as their brand name to sell it? As if that was a smart business choice.

I even found a review on YouTube of some loser trying out Nerdcore E Juice. Overweight bald guy with too much facial hair.

Yep.

So not only do I have to content with Nerdcore being horribly bad music (with equally bad fans), but also have to contend with idiots who like smoking vapes for some silly reason.

Oh and then there is the issue that Nerdcore musicians are typically white men in their 30s or 40s. A few Asians, but mostly white. Not a lot of women willing to embarrass themselves like that and apparently have better things to do with their creativity.

Idiots like this guy below. Enough said.


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