Friday, March 30, 2012

Ugly Evil

Much like dragons are color coded for your convenience, evil tends to be ugly for your convenience.  Usually.  There are exceptions of course.  The seduction based monsters tend to have the features of attractive humans.  But you'll never see a good creature that looks like this freakish beast.  Good can be ugly.  That runs towards the cute ugly though.  More disney hunchback of notre dame than tragic burn victim survivor.  Definitely not anything in the nightmare fuel category.  Which really is a shame.  Imagine if there was a flip around.  The ugly disturbing creatures were the compassionate understanding ones and the shining beings of light were the downright sadistic assholes.  It would certainly throw most D&D players for a loop.  The monster manual is proof enough of that.

Art from here
LooneyDM  out

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Useless Magic Items

Search your heart.  You know it to be true.  While players desire those special swords and armor with all the pluses you know that the stories they will tell will have nothing to do with those items.  It will be the "useless" items if items are mentioned at all in the story.  Because players like challenges.  Nothing says a challenge like an item that isn't obviously useful.  Those sorts of items are just asking for a crazy plan to show how clever one can be with a so called useless item.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Monday, March 26, 2012

Low Level Antagonists

Even low level heroes need to face off against a villain of some sort.  But if you keep it in line with the players' capabilities they're not much of a threat outside of their tiny domain.  So bring on the mustache twirling and top hats, because you know the players are going to mock the antagonist's impotence so you might as well play it up.  Milk it for all it is worth.  Save the seriousness for the antagonists who are going to last more than a few sessions.

Art from GIS for hamster top hat
LooneyDM out

Sunday, March 25, 2012


There comes a time in every DMs campaign when they realize that they did not prepare for an encounter.  They then realize that they have this entire body of suitable monsters that they have created to face the party, but they have names and descriptions that don't match up for what should be where they are.  So the DM changes the name and look to match what he wants but the mechanics are from previously encountered foes.  Most players won't notice unless you're giving descriptions such as "like the goblins from before only red" or "A troll covered in blue moss instead of the usual green".  Most players aren't in the caring camp either.  As long as its not a TPK they've got fun stuff to do.  At least until it gets out of hand.  Then the players notice that you've not made a different monster mechanically for over a month and all the monsters seem to be color variants of the ones they've been fighting for the past many sessions.  To sum up.  Use refluffing sparingly or your players may get wise to your tricks.

Art from GIS for Dragon Warrior Monster
LooneyDM out

Friday, March 23, 2012

PC Boredom

Players are a finicky bunch.  They have a disturbing tendency to become incredibly destructive when they are bored or without direction.  This happened in a game I was in over the weekend.  I would declare it not my fault, but it was totally my fault.  In my defense I only suggested burning down the house of a suspected vampire in broad daylight to try to flush him out.  It was the other players that suggested we torch a neighboring town for practice before burning down the town with the vampire.  This is why you don't let your players become bored or directionless.
Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roleplaying (genres)

You know those roleplayers are out there.  Yes, *those* roleplayers.  The ones that mix that other definition of roleplaying with the one that goes in the phrase "role playing game".  Make sure you find out if the game you're joining is one of those before creating your character or you could be in for a surprise. That's really a good piece of advice regardless of the game you're joining.  Even if they are *those* sort of roleplayers it's wise to find out what the game is about prior to joining.  Moreso if they simply tell you "D&D" or worse "standard fantasy game".  Because those are incredibly indefinite terms.  They may not even be being obtuse, simply over assuming.  Assuming is a horrible destroyer of many things.

Picture from GIS for kissing cheerleaders
LooneyDM out

Monday, March 19, 2012


You see a room full of statues.  Of course at least one of them will be coming to life once you get close enough.  I don't know where this trope came from but it amuses me none the less.  The best part about tropes is having players who know the tropes so you can mess with them by subverting it.  You can even go so far as to reinforce the trope before subverting it to really throw them off their game.  That's what DMing is about a lot of the time.  Surprising your players with something and seeing how they react.

Art from WotC art archive.
LooneyDM out 

Friday, March 16, 2012


Can you tell what my players have been doing recently?  And where they've been doing it?  I mean really.  You'd think they'd get the hint after the first one.  But no.  This is why they can't have nice things.  Well that and the constant complaining.  That's not my players though.  They're good about not complaining.  Everyone else on the internet though...  There was another supposed leak of the D&Dnext playtest rules.  Of course everyone decided that they were the worst thing ever and they would never convert to the new edition.  Ever.  In a million trillion years.  What is it with the internet and people complaining?  Diablo 3 is announced for May 15th.  Not 5 minutes later there are people posting that they played the beta and that it is a horrible game that Blizzard completely ruined.  Internet people are crazy.  Same deal with anything that is revealed about D&D next.  The loudest and most frequent posters are the most negative.  I suppose when you have something nice to say it doesn't take nearly as long as saying something negative in as many was as possible.  Sheesh.  Internet, why you so crazy?

Art from GIS for eberron airship
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Only in Eberron

Can you tell I'm a fan of Eberron.  No really, can you tell?  Okay yes I am.  It's my favorite published D&D setting so far.  It is also true that Hogwarts exists in Eberron.  Floating towers of magical academies!  The bowels of which are filled with strange, delightful, and  mysterious things.  Of course there's no explicit call out for a disgraced member of the academy who tried to live forever by splitting up his soul.  That said, there isn't any reason there couldn't be one.  If you don't believe that there's a place for everything in Eberron, consider this.  In Karrnath there is an alchemist.  She makes the most interesting magical item.  A piece of paper that shows the viewer whatever it is they are expecting to see.  It's most used as a magical means of forging traveling papers.  Yes, that's right.  Eberron has psychic paper.  You can't tell me there isn't a mad man in a blue box flying around the planes in Eberron.

Art from GIS for Arcanix
LooneyDM out

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I have to say I was surprised by the John Carter movie.  All I had heard was gloom and doom and meh.  I went in expecting another Green Lantern.  Something that just didn't live up to expectations or didn't fit well with its own story.  That was not this movie.  The critics are liars.  Yes it is very tropey and cliche.  So are lots of other movies that have come out and will come out.  It executes the tropes superbly.  If you haven't seen this yet you should.  It is a lot of fun in an action movie way.  The players are slightly different due to the science fiction nature of the piece but they all player their parts well in a satisfying manner.

Art from GIS for "John Carter movie"
LooneyDM out

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mankini (NSFW)

I have no words.  Hopefully after seeing this poster you will have no words either.  This was drawn by one of my players.  Artistic players are lots of fun!

LooneyDM out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Suddenly optimistic about 5e

I've had an epiphany.  One that makes me much more optimistic about how D&D 5e may turn out.  The big conflict I see in the design of 5e is the "simple vs complex" problem.  Specifically one person wants a character they created in 5 minutes and has few to no moving parts where another wants a character that can take an hour to create and has lots of fiddly bits.  The epiphany I had was that Legend could pull this off, so there's no reason that D&D 5e couldn't pull it off either.  You should check out Legend if you haven't.  They have possibly the most innovative multi classing system I have seen anywhere.  Each class in Legend receives three "tracks" these "tracks" are buckets of abilities that you receive over the course of leveling up.  Each level (other than first) gives you an ability from one track.  Each track has a theme that unites the track.  Paladins have smiting and ally buffing tracks.  Barbarians have rage and toughness increasing tracks.  Multi classing works by swapping one of your tracks for another track from a different class or from additional tracks not attached to any class.  Some tracks are passive abilities, while others are active abilities.  So you give the "I want a simple class" guy a class filled with passive tracks boosting attacks, defenses, movement modes, whatever is appropriate for the class in question.  Then you let the "more complexity" guy choose from more active tracks.  Of course this could all fall down if "I want a simple class" guy decides that a class ability every level is too many even if they are passive abilities like "do more damage", "take less damage", "boost your defenses", "move faster".  I'm still optimistic about it though.  It has been done before.  WotC could pull this off.  Or we could all just take up playing Legend instead.

Get Legend here
Art from GIS for Life of Brian
LooneyDM out

Friday, March 9, 2012


I saw polls when 4e first came out indicating that people enjoyed playing strikers the most out of all the roles provided in the system.  I do admit that there is something quite satisfying about doing lots of damage, but it never seems to work for me.  Not the ability to do damage.  That party I can accomplish as a striker fine.  It's the part where I feel like my contributions have significant meaning to the combat encounter.  I tend to look at it like this.  The defender can mark enemies and do special stuff when they trigger the mark.  Leaders can buff, clear status effects, heal and sometimes debuff.  Controllers move enemies around, debuff, and apply status effects.  Strikers do damage.  But so does everyone else.  Some of them can even do as much damage as strikers with powers.  Sure striker at-wills do more consistent damage than the others but it never feels like enough to me.  It leaves me wondering if I shouldn't play a leader or a controller instead because they make me feel like I'm accomplishing more.  I'm just weird I guess.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Puzzles are a thorny issue in RPGs.  Mainly because they work so very differently than they do in the inspiring fiction.  When a character in fiction gets stuck on a puzzle or riddle, it's because the writer needs to build the dramatic tension.  When players in a RPG get stuck on a puzzle or riddle it becomes a gridlock situation that rarely leads to anything fun.  This is why I avoid puzzles.  At least the straight up puzzles.  I prefer encounter puzzles.  Take a regular encounter.  Something the players can use conventional means to solve (skills, abilities, combat powers, etc).  Then add a shortcut that can be deduced.  For example I recently had a combat encounter with a pair of animated statues and some stone faces with firebolts firing from their eyes attached to a nearby wall.  The animated statues were tough and had the ability to immobilize targets they hit, but did minimal damage.  The stone faces were easy to hit and damage, but did lots of damage to anything they targeted.  The shortcut for the encounter being killing the stone faces first, thus decreasing the damage the encounter inflicted.  This was all circumvented by the fact that the animated statues didn't hit the player characters until the 3rdround of combat by which time the players had the statues down to bloodied.  This completely illustrates the issue with puzzles.  One missing piece of information can cause the whole situation to make no sense at all.

Art from GIS for Da Vinci Code
LooneyDM out

Monday, March 5, 2012

PC Titles

Do you ever have those days when inspiration avoids you.  Today was one of those days for me.  Then I read all my comics and this one jumped out at me.  I won't say you have to love Girl Genius but if you don't there may be something wrong with you.  This panel in particular really got me thinking about the titles that PCs give themselves, along with the titles that the NPCs give them.  After all, you can't really blame the DMs.  After having all their NPC and city names connected with something absurd or even scatological they deserve a little fun themselves.  Of course you have to make sure it doesn't get too out of hand or the PC will object.  But then who's really complaining.  Oh right, the PCs.

Random note:   I'm on twitter now   I comment very randomly but mostly entirely about RPG.  Follow me if that's your sort of thing.

Art from Girl Genius
LooneyDM out

Friday, March 2, 2012

Real Men

Of all the four archetypes laid out in the humor piece (Real Men, Real Roleplayers, Loonies, and Munchkins) Real Men are the ones I identify with least.  Yes, being a bad ass is cool.  But for some reason this means playing the BSF.  Of course you can screw around with roleplaying yourself as a great warrior leader, but the fact that you have no social skills (or skills period really) tends to put a damper on that.  I came to D&D during the 3.5 edition.  You know, the edition where fighters end up as little more than pack mules after a few levels.  This has quite colored my experience of D&D.  So not a huge fan of the Real Man archetype.
Art from here
LooneyDM out