Happy Earth Day 2021!

About 5 years ago we made a decision to become a one car family. We are fortunate to live in Portland and especially be in a part of Portland where this is actually a reasonable choice. Today like everyday I put the bags on my bike, filled them up with boxes from what I have sold for the past 24 hours, and made the journey to the post office. I do this whether or not it is rainy, cloudy, sunny, or windy. It doesn’t snow much here, but when it does I will walk up to the post office. It is a 2 mile journey round trip and I go 5 or 6 days a week. Over the past 5 years that means that I have biked over 2500 miles!

Languages in Gamma World Role Playing 1st Edition.

I am embarking on a bit of nostalgia trip by running a short campaign in the original Gamma World RPG. The rule book as you know leaves A LOT to be detailed and judged by the game master. In my campaign the world is fragmented and I am expecting some language barriers. I needed a way to determine if the players know any additional languages and since I expect a brutal campaign with a lot of player deaths there won’t be much time for back stories like why the mutant porcupine speaks Esperanto. While the details of what languages are spoken will still need to be worked out I have in typical gygaxian style created a chart!

Base Intelligence for this chart is 10. For every point under 10 subtract 4 from the roll and for every point over 10 add 2 to the roll. Raised in a band -10, Raised in a tribe -5, raised in a village +0, raised in a town +5, raised in a city +10

00 – -38 Dumb – Can only communicate with grunts and gestures
01 – 40 Illiterate
41 – 50 Functionally Illiterate
51 – 59 Read and Write Local Language Barely (1st Grade)
60 – 68 Read and Write Local Language Basic (5th Grade)
69 – 70 Read and Write Local Language (High School)
71 – 76 Read and Write Local Language + Sign Language
77 – 82 Read and Write Local Language + Speak 1 Animal Language (mutant & stock)
83 – 87 Read and Write Local Language + Technical Manuals
88 – 92 Read and Write Local Language + Scientific Texts
93 – 97 Read and Write Local Language + Academic Texts
98 – 102 Read and Write Local Language + 1 Foreign Language
103 – 109 Read and Write Local Language + 1 Foreign Language & Speak 1 Animal Language
110 – 115 Read and Write Local Language + Polyglot – Speak any language that has been exposed to for over 1 month
116 – 121 Read and Write Local Language + 1 Foreign Languages, Speak 1 Animal Language & Sign Language
122 – 126 Read and Write Local Language + 2 Foreign Languages & Speak 2 Animal Languages

Wizard Electronic Dice Roller by Kwik Find

The Wizard Electronic Dice is for those who find rolling a D6 or 2D6 to be too cumbersome. More likely this is for those who love gadgets even if they are 30 years old. Or maybe someone keeps rolling their dice off the board.

With a wave of the hand over the sensor and it rolls either one or two dice (Controller by the selector) for you.

I have this rare beauty in the eBay store. https://t.co/IxXjmv7NoK

Cardmaster Adventure Design Deck

The Cardmaster Adventure Design Deck came with a recent lot of items that I had bought and I became intrigued because it is something that I had never seen before. It comes with a small rules booklet, a bunch of cards for determining dungeon location, treasures, and monsters, and 3 card stock cut sheets of tiles and counters.

The idea behind the product is that you could use this is a tool to create random dungeons by drawing certain location cards and monster cards or that a DM could use the cards to plan out a dungeon crawl or that someone could play this as a solo quest or that a group could play it together where it might be reminiscent of the Dungeon! board game or that TSR just created this product and had no idea who was going to but it or how they were going to use. I really think the later is most likely as this came out in 1993 and they were just throwing concepts and themes at the wall to see what would stick.

It might have been a successful product if they had marketed as a spin off of the popular Dungeon! board game or as a way for player’s to solo adventure. Tonight I am going to run myself through a solo adventure and see if it is any fun. Reporting back soon….

I am back and having read the rules I decided to do quick start solo adventure where I was suppose to find the Giant skull. The adventures are very simple, as they tell you what your character is and what items he has. I played as a 5th level Wizard with special bracers, a healing spell, and a dagger that let me get one extra melee attack. I had 4 1st level spells, 2 2nd level spells, and 1 1st level spell. The spells in quick start for a Wizard are one spell only called fire bolt and based on the level the spell was cast at you got to roll D6, D8, or D10’s against a damage matrix. My first run through was a disaster and it was over pretty quickly for me; poor spell management I think was my downfall. The second run through I did much better, but a bad roll on my only heal spell only gave my Wizard 2 extra hit points. I had made a good dent in the monster cards and checked to see if there was a giant in there and there wasn’t so how was I supposed to get a skull. That is when I realized that the room cards have pictures on them and some of them have skulls so I needed to find a card with a giant skull from the floor of a room on the red level. Okay got it! Third time is the charm. Waa-waa! I did get a giant skull this time, but I died even faster by a pack of Dire Wolves that got some very lucky rolls against me.

This might be fun with a couple of friends especially if you have a night planned to play D&D and only a couple can make it, but as a single player most computer RPG games provide a more engaging experience. I also don’t really see myself keeping this in my collection to use as a DM tool as random dungeon crawls are something that I feel like the RPG experience has evolved past.

This isn’t the most glowing review, but if you are interested or just a collector of all things D&D I do have The Cardmaster Adventure Design Deck in my eBay store.

Keep Your Players Initiative Orders Sorted

Initiative Tags in Action

On Twitter today I saw a great post from Ron Smith aka @pollyroller on twitter about initiative tracking hanging tags for D&D 5e that you can put on your DM screen. For years I had used small pieces of an index card with PC names on both sides. These are much cooler looking and give you space on the backside for Passive Perception, Armor Class, and Hit Points. The Bond, ideals, flaws, spaces I will probably use for some other kind of notes. Just cut them out – they print 4 to a page, fold them over, hang over your screen, and move your players around the initiative order so everyone knows when their turn is.

With his permission I have uploaded the file here for you to download and use in your own games. initiative tags

Encounters in the Savage Frontier


I am always looking for something to add to my campaign to keep my players on their toes. One of the ways that I try to break up the predictability of my style of encounters with my players is to use other peoples. One of my favorite resources has always been Dungeon Magazine. I have a pretty extensive collection of the early ones and they have some good scenarios in there, but it can be a challenge finding one I haven’t used and then converting it for use in the 5th Edition.

I recently saw someone posting on Twitter about Encounters In The Savage Frontier and thought that I would check it out. This is a PDF download located on the Dungeon Masters Guild. Those of you who follow me here or on Twitter probably know that I am not a big fan of the digital goods, but when a resource isn’t available in the media that I prefer I am not going to shun it.

This is a 72 page PDF and has 24 short encounters. The table of contents is well organized showing the name of the adventure, the challenge rating, and a link to get you to that right page. This book has many contributors, but the editor who compiled this did a good job of giving them consistency in the layout. This is part of the reason why I find Dungeon so useful is that I can quickly review a bunch of different material without having to pour over every word to figure out if it was going to work for me or not. I found the stat block at end of each encounter to be very useful for first figuring out if it was going to be a good fit for what I was looking for as well as when running the encounters the reference to the monster manual page and short details of it’s attacks and abilities.

Trap Door Spider


The book has original artwork like this of the Trap Door Spider from the “Spider and the Bear” encounter which is one of several new monsters that are included. Some of the encounters introduce new magic items that are detailed with them as well.  I always like new magic items, but it has been my experience that some of the unofficial magic items can be overpowered or ripe for abuse. The color maps in the book are not a style that work for me as I find them distracting, but I suppose they are typical of what was done in a lot of the 3rd edition stuff.

I have had the PDF for a couple of weeks and incorporated an encounter from it in each of my last two sessions. It would be nice if they had a greater range of challenge ratings and at least one that was higher CR than 7, but with just a few adjustments these can be more of less difficult. Definitely worth my $3.95.

Empire of Imagination

Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

I recently got a chance to read Empire of Imagination which is the Gary Gygax Biography – which I would be surprised if you were here AND had not yet heard of this book. I had not paid that much attention to the turmoil at TSR at the time as there really wasn’t that much news readily available to your average high school nerd in AZ about it anyway. I did know that Gary Gygax was no longer involved in creating 2nd Edition D&D when it came out which made me shy away from the system. Not to mention that it felt like I just had saved up enough money to buy used copies of both the Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures books. There was plenty of new material for my friends and I to explore without having to buy these new rule books!

The book is a quick read and finished up the last half of it this weekend. It recounts his life and important events using a fictional narrative based on facts and research. It was surprisingly informative and gave me a lot of history some that I suppose that I should know by now and other that I would have never found out without reading this book. I can’t help shake the feeling that this knowledge has left me a disillusioned with the early days of TSR and Gary Gygax. Knowing how things turned out for Gary made it difficult to root for him as the underdog in the story as you already know their isn’t a chance that he is going to win. This is a must read for anyone who is a serious D&D geek or needs to have something special up their sleeve for the next Nerds That Drink Trivia Night, but for many others I think they will find it tragic.

Call of Cthulhu 1920s

Fatal Experiments Cthulhu 1920s

It was the summer after high school and my friends wanted to play Call of Cthulhu. I had read of few H.P. Lovecraft’s books which seemed to make me the Cthulhu expert of the group and thus I was elected to be the GM. I picked up the box set used at the local comic book shop and Fatal Experiments which was a bundle of adventures. The last sentence of the Lovecraft quote on the back of the book from the short story Herbert West: Re-animator (a favorite movie of ours!) set the tone for what kind of game we were getting ourselves into.

“The wonder and diabolism of the his experiments fascinated me utterly…. His views hinged on the the essential mechanistic nature of life and concerned mean for operating the organic machinery of mankind by calculated chemical action after the failure of natural processes…. My friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can depend only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life…. He usually finished his experiments with a revolver.

I haven’t played much Cthulhu since that summer, but I still have my box set and hope someday that I get another chance to play. In the meantime I have 5 “new” Call of the Cthulhu 1920s books that I recently picked up from a comic book store that was getting rid of their role playing game stock. These books are new, but they have been sitting on dusty shelves for close to 30 years so they do have some wear, dings, and even stains. Regardless 4 of the 5 are in excellent condition for soft cover books of that age and one unfortunately the glue of binding gave out and it has a split. All of the are up on my eBay store. Mansion of Madness, Terror Australis, Cthulhu Casebook, The Great Old Ones, and the one that I used to terrify my friends with Fatal Experiments.