On the best places to gather rare plants

Rare plants are useful for whatever you want. Resurrection? A magical enchantment? Some bullshit mcguffin?

Rare plants—if they want the thing, they go to the place where it is. Now your job is easy because you know where they are going. Where are the best places to get these rare plants?

Spider Moss: This is found in rotting abatis, deep within shadowy forests. It often grows thick and infests spiders, fermenting their brain to fulfill its arachnivorous needs, making them aggressive and territorial.

Lady Tongue: This fleshy bud is on a tight bright green lappaceous and acanthous-shaped branch. It exudes a strong smell, and is found in very warm places, near geothermal vents. Though pungent and bitter, the folem in the stem is a favored food for magically twisted creatophagous horrors.

Green Gel: A moss that exudes a gelatinous, slightly lumesent gelital spoor. It's found deep within caves below the water level. The frequency of elemental discharges such as the spawning of weirds and mephits is a beef-witted brabble that coxcombs use to befuddle cottiers for entertainment. However, we plight no guarantee of safety.

Bride's Comb: This cteniform fungus is found high in trees in arid lands. The roots of the fungus rot the pitha of the tree, causing frequent breaks. It is only commonly found 200'+ above the base of the plant.

Dungeon Algae: This bright green algae is found only deep in subterranean environments, near madid fonts of underdark radiation.

Mortal Spore: This plant can only be collected from a marcescent limb of a living creature. This is usually accomplished by constricting the blood until the limb begins to rot. Exposing the withered limb to the air from fresh corpses will seed the mold.

Berry Dripping: Found on the underside of mazzard bushes. It's a residue deposited by the rectrix of cockatrice.

Frozen Dungmuk: Many adventurers and ner-do-wells are familiar with the brunneous mold and its pyrophilic tendency, but when the mold grows in dark frozen clefts, Dungmuk is the result: looking like a glossy clump of fecal colored spheres, covered in poudrin ice flowers.

Glow Threads: This airy plant floats in the water like a bundle of loose threadless string. It only lies in shallow pools in shaded sunlight inhabited by radds, a species of electric catfish.

Vorpal Mold: Hangs from the ceiling in humanoid caves. Grows from the spend and humors of beastmen, creating bundled coils of Vorpal Mold. When disturbed, it violently spasms ejuaculating lacerating wire-like vines.


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On how to Level UP

Do you have questions?

Check out Level up! A book of fantasy gaming lists in .pdf and print.

DTRPG Digital
DTRPG Print (In approval)
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
Lulu Digital
Lulu Print

It's a book of lists! But more than that—it's a way to bend your mind in more creative ways.
What are the top types of magical currency? Why do wizards live in towers? What exactly is wrong down at the brewery? What are all the different types of secret doors?

So, fun and useful for you. But invaluable for the young or curious about Dungeons and Dragons. What were the top news stories from Dungeons and Dragons history? Whatever happened to the fourth edition virtual tabletop? What are all the different versions of Dungeons and Dragons? Through humor and page after page of classic fantasy style illustrations, it helps those who don't know a lot about Dungeons and Dragons feel less anxious and more comfortable.

In other news, I talk a little about my latest release with Matt Finch! But the important part is there in the thumbnail. Check it out for a fun interview.



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On the Birthday Surprise, a Dread Eyrie!

Well, I turn older in a few days, but THIS year, I've accomplished a life long goal.

Finally, someone else has published something I've written!

This is amazing. I can't believe it.

So, if you think I'm full of crap-here's an example of how I'd write a good module. I've been talking shit providing insight into adventure design for so long, why not check it out and see how I do when put up to the test?

Announcing:

Eyrie of the Dread Eye!


It's 56 (!) pages, an homage to the Forbidden City. It's available from Drive Thru RPG in .pdf and Print (coming soon!). There's a plan in place to get .pdf price is deducted if you decide to get the print on demand in two weeks!

I've been writing about the classic style gaming for over a decade now. What do I do when I have the reigns for designing a high or mid-level module? Here's an adventure for high level characters that doesn't involve a stupid corridor of unavoidable fights or complete nullification of the players powers.  Oh! Bullet points!
  • A quest beyond the Dark Wall!
  • An adventure with an assumption of dynamic encounters?
  • Climbing AND Wyverns. Together! It's like peanut butter and jelly!
  • An ancient 400' tall statue, guarding a hidden eyrie. How will the players activate or bypass the mysterious mechanism?
  • A city filled with factions, each ripe for exploitation.
  • Opportunities for players to get unique and powerful treasures!
  • It's written for Adventurer Conqueror King, so it's completely off-the-shelf compatible with not only the one of the best clones ever written, but also seemlessly used with any Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons compatible system.
It's 4.99! This is a discount on when the Print on Demand comes out in a week! 5e version and Print on demand coming soon!

My first book published guys. I've got more coming out soon, but this one is first. I poured myself into it. 

Am I full of crap, or is this a good mid-high level adventure? Only one way to find out, and it's pretty cheap. Eyrie of the Dread Eye, available for the pittance of 4.99! Bonus materials coming to Patreon!

Happy Birthday to me!


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On the Sunless Citadel Stroll

The Sunless Citadel.jpg
I've played a lot of adventures. I've never been able to easily find out what happens in an adventure without playing it. I've always wished someone talked about the adventures that they've been through, not so much a review, but a commentary. This. . . is that.

The Sunless Citadel

I had just moved to this city for the first time, and was back in college. I was working a terrible phone support job for an internet service provider, with weird and shady people. That redhead was named Scarlett, and that story is one for another time.

I spent all my free time at work getting little dribs and drabs of information about the new third edition of Dungeons and Dragons on Enworld. It was going back to the dungeon. Any race could be any class. Dungeons & Dragons things were miraculously still being published.

It was a heady time.

I ran this module for a group of friends, as my first experience running third edition. It was a well-designed linear adventure. The part nobody remembers is that there's an evil tree sprouted from a stake used to kill a vampire, protected by an evil druid, that blooms two evil fruits with seeds that create twig blights.

There's a couple of quick and minor encounters on your way into the valley, with enough distraction to lull the players into a sense of security. They checked for traps the first time, the second, and the third, but the fourth was a pit trap they walked into. Well done. The maps are pretty interesting and  although very linear, they at least nod to creativity, expansion, and multi-level adventure.

It's early in the life cycle, but the module clearly pushes a certain model of play, remember where the squares are, success is determined by checks (with a nod to some behaviors), and a strong board "game-like" feel and structure. It's easy to see how this eventually developed into the baroque Pathfinder, where the system itself handles all vagaries of play, being a precision model that answers all questions for the dungeon master. 


The Citadel Proper

Once entered, there's a magically locked door to the left, and the dungeon to the right.

The magically locked door is a sequence of chambers that only give the slightest nod to options. They can have the key, The knock spell (which requires a third level wizard in this first level adventure) or they can succeed at a DC 36 (!) Strength check. It's unlikely anyone would have a +16 bonus to their strength at first level. At the end you find a troll and some treasure.

Once you give up and go the way you are supposed to, you meet Meepo. Everyone remembers Meepo, he went on to some measure of fame. He only says two things:

"The clan's dragon. . .  we've lost our dragon. The wretched goblins stole Calcryx, our dragon!"
"Meepo don't know, but the leader does. Meepo take you to meet the leader, Yusdrayl, if you make nice. Grant you safe passage, if you promise not to hurt Meepo. May be if you promise to rescue dragon, leader make nice to you, answer your questions."

After this point, every adventuring group in the world pretty much teamed up with Meepo. He walks you through the Kobold sector. You can kill everything in these ten or so rooms, or follow meepo to the boss.

You could free some goblin prisoners on the way, but the adventure says you probably shouldn't. The goblins will lie and flee and double-cross players. See, the kobolds are the good guys and the goblins are the bad guys, and just go along with it.

The kobold territory consists of "Down the 60' hallway". Once that immense distance is traversed, they meat the Kobold leader, Yusdrayl. She gives a quest, retrieve the white dragon and offers the key to the earlier area, and she lets you know about the evil guy downstairs. She is standing in front of an altar with some minor magic items on it, and I've seen more than one party turn on the Kobolds at this point. Many don't, which means Meepo accompanies them on the rest of the adventure.

Even though there's a door that leads straight through to the goblin main encounter, they encourage you to go the back way, so you can adventure through the entire goblin section of the dungeon. The only way the shortcut is taken, is if the Kobolds are all killed.

You have several fights against rats and detritus. To get into the goblin area proper, you have to assault a small wall down a caltrop filled hallway. Once you get past that, you find some prisoners, including a 2nd level Gnome Fighter/Cleric named Erky Timbers who's super eager to join the party.

In a room adjacent to the main path, you can find the little tiny mini white dragon who likes it here. You'll have to fight him without killing him to bring him back to the kobolds.

Did you know they intentionally understate the difficulty of dragons in 3.x so that fighting them would always seem tougher than equivalently difficult monsters? Think about that. Monte Cook designed the rules so that players AND the people running the game would be surprised when the monsters were way more powerful than they said they were supposed to be, because they are dragons. Why not list them at their actual difficulty level? The answer to that is so that the difficulty would be a surprise to anyone who relied on those levels.

Then there are two large rooms that have lots of goblins in them (A 'main' encounter) with a shaft leading to Part II of the dungeon.

All this is fun and fine for an introductory module. People like to succeed and feel useful. There are optional side areas, but the adventure leads you by the nose. On the plus side, the fight with the hobgoblin boss takes place with a giant eighty-foot deep shaft in the middle of the room. 

There's a lot of text, too much, about attacks of opportunity. Don't forget attacks of opportunity! Nobody wants attacks of opportunity. Certainly not these goblins. No sir! They'll flank, but not if they have to take those attacks of opportunity. Memento Aoo.

Down a Shaft to Part II of the dungeon

The grove level is also basically a straight line. You can go north and head into the—undescribed in this module—'underdark'. You can go east and north, or you can head south which loops around to east and north. You follow the module from there straight to the end.

You fight some goblins, worms, one shadow, and skeletons; each area, another few opponents rush to kill you as you attempt to reach the 'boss chamber' at the end of the dungeon. After killing goblins guarding a gate, you stride forward into the penultimate encounter, and slay ten of the evil twig blights all at once, introduced two at a time.

The evil druid boss has some conversation options, mainly explaining everything going on. When the conversation options are exhausted, he exhorts you to surrender. When you predictable refuse you fight the boss, the tree, some more twig blights, and a few adventurers who came here earlier and failed, becoming slaves to the evil tree. Maybe the players can figure out destroying the tree will free the captured adventurers by killing them, allowing you to defeat them without chewing through their hit points?

It was fun, the fights in 3.0 were fun. It very much instilled the idea that dungeons are limited spaces and should be 'cleared' completely, extracting all the treasure and experience. I find that the games I play in are both more difficult and challenging in the sense that it's a lot less likely you'll survive a straight combat, and have enough and large enough spaces that exhaustively exploring dungeons doesn't occur.




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On the Longevity of Dungeons and Dragons

Why is it always Dungeons and Dragons?

Why hasn't some 'better' game come along and replaced it? Why is it always some version or variant of Dungeons & Dragons that people play?

Surely some better game that is in some way different would be the top game, only if. . .

Well, something, right? Longevity of not just game, but campaign. People talk of Dungeons and Dragons games in years—many tables into their first, second, or even third decade of the same campaign.

When you go to a convention, what game fills the room, what game tops the sales, what game draws the young man's eye, and sets the savvy girl's heart aflutter.

Dungeons and Dragons,

But why?

Why

It's not that it's first. Dungeons and Dragons always had lots of competition, and fell out of the public eye periodically. If its popularity was solely due to it being first, it surely would have fallen to a competitor by now. It has in the past, but only to something more Dungeons and Dragons-like then Dungeons and Dragons itself; when Pathfinder outsold Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

It might be tempting to make it seem like something complicated, drawing out the tension, but the reasons are straightforward and simple—it's the interactions between these simple reasons that  Dungeons and Dragons lands atop the heap.


  • You keep score in Dungeons and Dragons.
  • A role-playing game has a natural social resonance effect.
  • The game is fundamentally about enforcing order over chaos, erasing the fog of war, and reclaiming that which is lost.


These three factors intersect again and again. Early Dungeons and Dragons games were run with dozens, sometimes hundreds of players, making them addictive like the first massively multiplayer online games—except they weren't online.

If all our physical needs are met, what needs do we have then? Psychologists call it  "self-actualization" and it's a fancy word for 'not being a complete piece of shit'. You want to be helpful, and have your contributions be meaningful. How do we go about doing that?

We go out, into the unknown, and find/discover/do something involving risk, which we bring back to make life better for our people. This entire process is modeled at the table, in front of a group of your peers making it meaningful. It's not just you doing it, but you all imagining it together that makes it count.

But Dungeons and Dragons presents the process in a particularly attractive way.

There is an unknown place underground, across the threshold. We, as humans, know when we step into it. If you've ever been in a situation where you realize it is not safe, then you know how you know you've crossed the threshold into the dark. We explore those spaces in dungeons, lairs, and ruins while in the game.

That sense of risk, danger, agency, and meaning: it's good stuff. It keeps people playing and coming back.

But how does it last so long?

Why it lasts so long


  • There is no core mechanic.
  • The gameplay fundamentally changes as the level increases.


Dungeons and Dragons, particularly campaigns that run in excess of three years, have lots of fiddly bits. And as you gain in power, more and more bits become available. If you simply everything down to a few mechanics, further development once those are mastered or stabilized requires the referee to somehow mechanize magical tea party gameplay. Magical Tea Party is a term for when the activity during play becomes completely dissociated from the rules, procedures, and mechanics of the game.

In traditional games of dungeons and dragons, you progress to owning land, then investing time and resources into shaping and clearing that land, and then meeting your responsibilities for the people on that land. Though a lot of the focus has shifted in more modern versions to a more 'super-hero' version of dungeons and dragons, with a few house rules or deft changes, you can easily play in the old way way.

Because when you don't, you end up meeting the 'expected campaign' determined by research done by Wizards of the Coast. Campaigns run from levels 1-10 and last six to nine months. (Sorry for the video link, but what are you gonna do?)

So yeah. It's always going to be popular, because it's about doing the most meaningful thing we can in the presence of our peers with complete freedom in how we do it.

The Peanut Gallery 

I know there's someone out there who's really sure if everyone just hears about their favorite game (FATE) everyone will play their favorite game (FATE).

But people have tried those other games.

Of course you could set up a game in another system to run for years, but at some point you realize that there are rules and you are playing a game. And that game has to be about something, some objective, some goal. And that goal needs to be compelling, in the same way a game like Tetris, Dominion, Stardew Valley, or Factorio is compelling. Go into the dangerous area, overcome challenges, recover treasure, gain more power, expand your influence—that's a powerful compelling game.

Obviously, it matters.


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Top Dungeons and Dragons News

We should remember the past, lest. . .

If it were a fad, you wouldn't be reading about it right now.
Dungeons & Dragons was always a fast starter. The first printing of 1,000 copies were gone in just a few months. That print run was doubled and sold out even faster the second time. The popularity was synergistic. Due to a mixup with rights involving The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings—Donald Wollheim of Ace Paperback was upset because Tolkien snubbed him when he asked to print Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in paperback. When their limited 5 year license to print them ran out, he just decided that it was public domain and began publishing it illegally. In order to stop this, in the late 60's they ran a huge publishing campaign to assert their rights in the united states, making the lord of the rings a very popular book in the early 70's. The themes in the book and the rising counterculture of the time made the seminal fantasy novel a nationwide phenomenon.
A lot of that popularity contributed to the fast success of Dungeons and Dragons, which in turn began to spawn more fantasy novels. With distribution channels in bookstores, gas stations, sears, and cheap child friendly books (Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer Basic) along with ads in boy's life and other teenage magazines, it sold millions of copies. 12.9$ million dollars worth in 1981—That's almost 50 million dollars in 2019 money.
It was the first D&D boom, and for many years, was the largest.

Money Troubles

One of the reasons Dungeons and Dragons was able to get into so many distribution channels is that they were sitting on a large pile of money, and therefore willing to take the risk of distributing to bookstores. If a book didn't sell, you could return the cover for your money back. Once control of the game was wrested away from the Gygax family, by the selfish and despicable Blume brothers, everything changed. No longer were they interested in employee feedback. Through a series of poor business decisions, and a rumor of a large stock of suddenly returned books (from Sears, iirc.) in the late 90's, Dungeons & Dragons found itself solidly in the red.
But like anything wonderful and good that asks nothing of the world, people remember and give back. Turns out, Dungeons and Dragons was a fan favorite, A long time player and creator of a cardboard based drug that prints money, Richard Garfield, decided Wizards of the Coast would purchase D&D. They did so, changed the corporate environment, immediately made a series of good business decisions and began to work on 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons.


Third edition is coming. . . .

In the late 90's Dungeons and Dragons was dead. In addition to releasing more and more tone-deaf supplements that sold worse and worse, modern gamers had made all their complaints about Dungeons and Dragons that weren't understood by the gaming public. They had grown up with Dungeons and Dragons, and everyone had moved to the more mature and adult role playing game "Vampire: The Masquerade". In addition to being a bizarre synthesis of of the most overbearing aspects of 'narrative second edition play' (i.e. illusionism, or railroading), it also had a cool cache, and it was a fair sight easier to hook up after a vampire game then the nerdy Dungeons and Dragons.
But in late 1998, rumors began—a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons? I perused the neophyte site EN world sometimes more than one time a day for details.
And it didn't disappoint. It was released, along with the D20 license allowing Dungeons and Dragons to flourish as content came out. But even from the release of the Sunless Citadel the path we are on began to form. Characters complained about the open dungeon, and the monsters that were stronger or weaker than what the low-level party could handle, leading to design that increasingly became more mechanical, linear, and focusing on the slaying of monsters. (Literally, "We couldn't kill the roper because it's too difficult for a low-level party", of course? That's the idea of risk versus reward and thinking creatively?)


Nothing lasts forever. . .

Fourth edition was eventually announced. The game had become weighty and the people that played online spent their wrath in character optimization boards arguing endless spherical cows. Adikson had left, the D20 glut had gutted sales, and it was time to move forward. A new game was designed, creating lists of powers—with copyrightable names, of course—and planned integration with online tools. Unpopular races like gnomes were removed, and tieflings and dragonborn were made core (because people really like playing half-demons and dragon/lizard people. It's a fetish.) Since people were playing it like a tactics game, they designed it like one. Healing surges, powers with cooldowns, and more.
Many people would say that it was disconnected rules or that the change was too radical. I don't think that's true. I wasn't excited about 4th edition, but I played it, a lot. It was just really bad. Even when they tried to correct it later in official materials, it was too little, too late. Combats with creatures or opponents with hundreds of hit points, exhaust all your powers (which were printed on cards), and then left with each person doing their damage or missing to chip away at the ridiculous hit point totals. It was not a fast process, and in fact during one combat, I just went ahead and calculated our average damage per round and figured out, on average, how many rounds it would take to deplete the boss's hit points. The Dungeon Master, campaign setting, and all the rest was fine. I was playing with reasonable people, we just kept having. . . problems. I had a lazer that blew things up because that's something paladins could do in fourth edition. But you couldn't shoot anything that wasn't an enemy in combat There were issues with skill challenges (understatement) and thinking through the effects on the spell list created an untenable reality. In the first printing, speak with dead allowed the caster to communicate with anything that had died in the area, no matter how long ago. Basically there were a million undead in a sensor network that any mage could take ten minutes to ask a question. Strangeness abounded; poorly thought out design lead to the games eventual doom, but it wasn't the only nail in the coffin.


Murder and suicide

That wasn't the worst news to come out of the 4th edition debacle. Originally their marketing plan was to distribute "patches" to the ruleset and require a paid subscription to an online tool to create characters. The rules were designed to be integrated into a true virtual table top that would allow play in much the way modern virtual table tops such as Fantasy Grounds do. Sadly, the direct of the project suffered a breakdown when his wife filed for divorce, and he killed her, then himself.
I doubt it would have changed anything in regards to 4th edition but it never even had a chance after the virtual table top plan collapsed.

 Though the most famous Dungeons and Dragons news story of all time, has to be the Patricia Pulling story. Very simply put, she had a bright intelligent son, who suffered from a psychotic break. He began barking and acting like a wolf, killing animals in their backyard. He soon committed suicide. Ms. Pulling claimed that her son died because of a Dungeons and Dragons curse. She brought lawsuits against his school, TSR inc, and more. They were thrown out of court for being meritless. She then began a campaign of lies and disinformation that lasted years.
She was a confused angry lady. She once claimed that 8% of people were satan worshipers because she estimated 4% of kids were and 4% of adults were and if you add them together you get 8%. When it was pointed out to her that this isn't how math works—not even addressing her claim is a made up estimate—she said it didn't matter because 8% of everyone being a satan worshiper was a conservative estimate. Her organization, Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons, died out when she did, in 1997, but the world had moved on in 1990.

Today Dungeons and Dragons is riding the wave of popular culture, and hopefully will be producing rich fantasy worlds for generations to come.


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On the Top Ten Tactics for Hostile Dungeons

10. Lard/Grease: Whether a squeaky door, a greased staircase before a fight, or assisting with opening rusty and old latches, having some lard and grease is always useful.
9. Tiny birds: A lot of times, you'd like to see what would happen if someone went somewhere, only you don't trust it enough to go. With this small sack of birds, you can check for traps, trade to people for passage, notice if the air is toxic, or even distract unintelligent opponents. Taking them along extends your life, at the expense of theirs.
8. Paying attention: At its core, Dungeons & Dragons is about exploring a resonant fantasy realm filled with archetypal representations. This process is handled by conversation using the socratic method. You ask questions, the Dungeon Master gives answers, yeah? If you're not asking questions or listening, you're watching your friends play Dungeons and Dragons. When you all jump in and work together, it raises the experience for all involved.
7. Gloves & Helmet: If you don't have to touch something with your bare hands, don't. Don't press parts of your body (like ears or eyes) against things. You call people that don't wear covers corpses. Get a hat, preferably one made out of metal that lets you see in the dark, grants telepathy, or makes you smart or something. There very well might be treasure in the garbage or latrine, there almost certainly is, but you don't want to go in there yourself.
6. Equipment shenanigans. Casting a light spell on a shield lets you see opponents and plays havoc with enemy archers. Buy a metal sectioned pole, so you can attach a hook, vary length, and carry one in cramped quarters. Collect potions and scrolls and don't hesitate to use them, there's always more magic to find.
5. Hammer & Piton: It holds doors both closed AND open. It draws a lot of attention. It allows you to attach rope to things. They solve problems.
4. Torchbearers & Porters: Yes it's difficult to convince them to head into dangerous territories, but when there are a lot of things that need to be done, having a man or two around who can do them is helpful. Purchase them brightly colored festive outfits. Give them nets and poles to trip up enemies, ball bearings, oil, caltrops and other things they can throw. They can pull people to safety and best of all, they draw archer fire. People don't get into this vocation because they want a safe workplace.
3. Elves & Dwarves: Everyone loves their half-demon, half-cat, half-turtle, kenku-whatever sub race, but facts remain. You want an elf for secret door detection and a dwarf for detecting stonework traps and sliding doors. Often they can see in the dark. If you don't have one in your party, hire one in town as a buddy.
2. Oil: You don't want to need it and not have it. If you want to be sure something is dead, burn it to ash.
1. Ten-Foot Pole: You will want to touch things and not be near them. Trust me.

I hope you explore some fun dungeons this weekend!


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