On Early Tropes, Eggs and Raising Young Monsters

From the very beginning of Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon was a thing. Not only was Charm Person and Monster often used to fill out ranks for henchmen, many beasts were found and raised. You can see early thoughts on this from Gygax, on Page 50 of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

"Griffons are often nasty and bad-tempered. If captured when very young and trained, however, they can become fiercely loyal mounts. Their loyalty is non-transferable once fixed, so they must be disciplined and trained solely by the intended rider. The griffon must be trained and exercised by its owner on a fairly regular basis while it is a fledgling (up to age six months) in order to accustom it to his or her presence and the bridle, blanket, saddle, etc. When the griffon is half-grown a period of intensive training must begin, which will last at least four months. The daily routine must never be broken for more than two days, or the griffon's wild nature will assert itself and all progress will be lost. After two months of this intensive training, it will be possible to begin to fly the griffon. This will be a period of training for mount and owner alike, as the rider must learn how to deal with a new dimension, And he will probably have no teacher but himself. Imagine the confusing tumult of giant wings, the rush of air, the sudden changes in altitude, and you will realize why an inexperienced rider absolutely cannot handle a flying mount.
Griffons, like all large flying creatures, eat enormous amounts of food, especially after prolonged aviation. Moreover, they are carnivores, and thus very expensive to feed. Care and keeping of a griffon will be a constant strain on the largest treasure hoard. Costs will probably run in the area of 300-600 g.p. per month. It will require special quarters, at least three grooms and keepers, and occasionally an entire horse for dinner (diet will differ, but similar arrangements must be made for all flying mounts).
Hippogriffs are not so difficult to train os griffons, but neither are they as dependable in a pinch. A  training process basically similar to that previously described will be necessary, though occasionally an animal trainer con substitute for the master for short periods if he or she is tied up elsewhere. Once broken, hippogriffs may possibly serve more than one master. They are omnivores, and thus somewhat less expensive to
feed thon griffons.
Pegasi are greatly valued for their speed, which makes them virtually the fastest things in the air. Their training is o long process similar in many respects to thot of griffons." -Gary Gygax, Dungeon Masters Guide

Obviously this was an issue that came up repeatedly, and Gygax developed the following procedures to train animals.

One of the formative experiences of Dungeons and Dragons are the challenges with taking a monster, enemy or opponent, and turning them to your ends. As with most challenges to get creatures to change their inner nature, it is astoundingly difficult, and requires a bond on top of the serious commitment maintained above. The animal must be socialized till adolescence, and then intensively trained for months.

The general consensus about Animal Friendship and the limits of animal training are subjective and should be worked out between the Dungeon Master and the player, keeping in mind the animals intelligence and alignment. And it will come up, with unicorns, flying creatures as above, or even minanimals from the Monster Manual II.

Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

On Brothers of Battle

It's so good, it's like a snow globe made of murder hobos and horrific violence. It's an abstract tactical puzzle, where if you are smart, tactics will beat numbers and arms.

After a short tutorial battle, you are set loose upon a randomly generated world and can do what you want. Ally with a noble house, rob caravans, explore the unknown.

Your troops gain levels, and you improve them selectively. After the first hours of play you start to realize you can build them for specific roles—dagger assassin stabbing men to death in their heavy armor, nimble duelists moving first and darting between targets taking out back rank archers, bowmen raining down arrows, arbalisters knocking people off hills, heavy tanks taunting and drawing attention. From the palette of abilities they give you, you can make countless roles.

Let's talk about Battle Brothers!

The Basics

You manage a mercenary company. You must have gold and food for daily wages. You can visit different cities, recruit and train new men, slay brigands, orcs, the dead in the wilds, and horrors even worse.

Here I have taken the high ground
Combat is turn based on a hex map with height levels, obstacles and terrain. The graphics are of your men and monsters as game pieces—they are busts that display all necessary information visibility, the condition of your helmet, armor, weapon, and man.

You must manage your funds, via victories and trade, to bring in enough income to cover medical supplies, ammunition, tools to repair armor and weapons, food and wages.

Over time your brothers grow increasing both 3 of their 8 stats and picking a new 'perk' which changes certain aspects of how they interact on the field. One might allow you to step away from an engagement, another might increase damage after you get a kill, a third by increase one of your stats by a %. Each different brother develops like a plant, where you guide their organic growth.

Death comes quickly, along with permanent injuries, failure, and loss. But each choice, from where you move your piece on the battlefield, to what rolls you select when your brother levels, has ramifications that change the course of your game.

I don't know the devs. No one is paying me. But when you find yourself staring into the facets of a diamond for untold hours (301 hours as of this post. Well, I guess it's told now.), you kind of want to share. Why is it so engaging?

The Facets

Because the differences are significant, and create different kinds of emergent play. When the world
is generated, cities have attached sites that determine their character, the spawns and arrangement of towns is always different, along with the distribution of lairs and dens of evil. The way the game works changes dramatically from these differing starting states. There are really strong parallels to sandboxes in Dungeons & Dragons here.

I was very far into the game before I realized that each of those buildings adjacent to the city, changed not only the characteristics of that city, but how it interacts with the rest of the map. Those goat farms mean affordable goat cheese for your men. These building and even cities can be destroyed and rebuilt over the course of the campaign.  Because this town has both an ore smelter and blast furnace, it produces high quality armor and weapons in the stores. But the regiments it produces are also extremely well armored and it has vision to the sea, meaning that it's hard for lairs to fester.

Which, they do you know. Nits make lice. A goblin city will produce goblin patrols. As it grows, it will eventually send out a patrol that sets up a camp. Go in and clear out all the greenskins and it will take them a long time to repopulate. So each map is strongly different based on its random starting arrangement. Sometimes there's a forest town in the frontier assaulted constantly by enemies. Get dogs and birds from cities with kennels, and use them to hunt down nightmares and archers.

It's often unclear how things affect other things, and I'm still discovering new nuances. Each nobel house has a personality, and I'm not certain, but it seems to affect which quests you get from it. Is this true? Only a lot more testing and play will tell. But everytime I reroll I find or see something new.

The Men

Your first games end in brutal destruction, without even understanding why. But as you play you begin to understand, these aren't individual men, they are part of a squad that works together.

Each man has a head and body. Those who don't wear a cover are corpses, yeah? Each is covered in armor. Better armor is not always 'better', some men go heavy armor and some go light, depending on their role. You take wounds in combat (which always heal, depending on severity in 1-6 days) based on the % of your hit points taken, meaning tougher brothers take fewer wounds. If killed, there's even a chance they survive with a permanent wound. And while some are. . .untenable, some people consider a boost (it's harder for witches to charm or giests to scare a brain damaged brother).

Each man has eight statistics, and they increase by a random roll at every level. So you want to increase what he needs when the roll is high, and skip low rolls, but it's important to know what role they have so you can assign the stats correctly. The statistics are Hit points, Fatigue, Resolve, Initative, Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Melee Defense, and Ranged Defense.

When you hire a brother they may have traits, like iron lungs, or athletic, which positively or negative affect their stats. The following brother is Huge (+10% damage -5 Ranged Defense, -5 Melee Defense) and Paranoid (-40% initiative,  +5 Ranged Defense, +5 Melee Defense) meaning he does +10% damage in exchange for going later in the round. So I gave him a cleaver, and made it reduce the damage he needs to do to wound, and gave him duelist so that more damage penetrates armor. So he cripples and bleeds anyone he strikes. This causes morale checks, which reduce the combat ability of your opponents.

If you're reading this, you probably like the same things I like, and this sounds awesome, right? It is. You can name and go to the barber to change the look of your brothers. It's like controlling a team of bonsai trees that you have very carefully cultivated to mercilessly slaughter any who stand against you!

The difficulty curve is very clear, with several different stages. When you start out, you aren't prepared for this. You generally end up destroying equipment you must salvage from your opponents. Striking someone in the head will leave their fancy armor untouched, or you can surround or dagger opponents to death.

Every 100 in game days, a crisis occurs, either greenskins invade, the undead, rise, or there is a war among the noble houses. There are certain thresholds where the base difficulty increases. You have a range of danger options on the contracts you can take, as well as creatures in the wild getting more dangerous as you venture away from civilization.

The recent expansion turned it from a good game into a great one. There are a selection of new enemies, creating different and dangerous tactical challenges both apart and with other groups. The enemy variety is very high and differs significantly between campaigns. It's like a good movie. Every part of the journey is fun.

In the End


It's written by two brothers, not a big game studio. The soundtrack is amazing. There's a growing community of people who stream and play this game, that has significant overlap with interests in Dungeons and Dragons sandbox play. The actual game design is rock solid. It's amazing how neatly the different parts of the game interact with each other. You only have 9 action points a turn, but depending on the weapon, traits, and skills, you can turn that into two or three attacks each round. Once you see how the pieces fit together, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to turn that to your advantage, often only coming to the correct conclusion after a lot of testing or tries.

It's good and I needed to tell people about it. Don't complain to me about missed sleep.
Battle Brothers is $30 on Steam.

Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

On Gygax Design IV

My thesis here is that something was misunderstood. The question I'm left with is how did that happen?

Let's take a look.

Cave Introduction

The first page of the caves proper contains the flavor text we discussed in the last post. It's lurid, and therefore interesting.

If you're going to ask someone to listen to something, it better get a reaction.

Immediately Gygax takes one column line to outline all his overview notes for the adventure: 600 words. He describes how to read the cave contour map on the outside, describes the woods, underground, and interiors.
He then covers prisoner ransom ("Set the sums low — 10 to 100 gold pieces or a magic item. . . "), the specifics of the tribal relationships, how monsters should react and handle player actions, and what happens in empty areas.

It is a training module, but these sections only contain nine sentences containing specific  'newbie' or training advice. The rest of the information is all useful, reduces the need for repetitive text, and is easily found in the front of the appropriate section. This is the really interesting thing. Here's a room description
1. Guard Room: 6 kobold guards (AC 7, HD 1/2, hp 3 each, #AT 1, D 1-4, Save NM, ML 6). They will throw their spears the first round if they have initiative. Each carries d6 silver pieces. One will run to warn areas 4. and 6.. The guards will be altered by loud noises or lights.
Is there a single unnecessary word in that description to craft an emergent encounter for the players?

What is an Adventure?

All the rooms are like this.
"Number. Description: # creatures (one line stat block), Rules and tactical information, treasure."

Is there any boxed text? No. Each room only tells you what you need to know what's in it, and more importantly how they act. The text is there to create emergent play. Here are quotes.
"This huge kobold is so powerful that he fights with a battle axe. . . and a large gem on a great golden chain around his neck."
"Six goblin guards are alterly watching both passages for intruders of any sort"
"If there is a cry of "BREE-YARK" similar to "hey rube!" (ed: noted in the rumor section as goblin for "We Surrender"), 2 of these guards will rush to the secret door, toss a sack with 250 gold coins to the ogre and ask him to help him"

This is over and over again in the room encounters. Set-ups from earlier pay off. Encounters are dramatic scenes. We know from his own play descriptions that he used random encounters and avoiding keying many areas in Greyhawk for these reasons. Each one uses as few descriptive words as possible to give the Dungeon Master a hook to hang his hat (the encounter) on.
There's no ancient history text, no unknowable background information.

Mostly. I lied a little bit. Everyone had to get the wrong idea from somewhere, right? Even when there is some unknown history, it is referenced and due to non-player character actions is discoverable by players. e.g.
13. Forgotten Room. Only the two orc leaders (from this area and from B.) Know of this place. They secretly meet here on occasion to plan co-operative ventures or discuss tribal problems, for although separate tribes are not exactly friendly, both leaders are aware of the fact that there is strength in numbers. . . . 
Looking at this alone, it certainly looks like the usual dump of information to the Dungeon Master that is completely inaccessible to the players. Except, note the following sentences:
From 12. Orc Leader's Room: . . . If hard pressed, the leader will wiggle behind the tapestries on the south wall and attempt to work the catch on the secret door to the south and go to the rival tribe for help. . . 
From Dungeon Master notes: If the leader is slain, the survivors will seek safety in area B/C, taking everything of value (and even of no value with them)

So you know, it's part of a dynamic encounter.

Encounter Design

I've talked before about how room environments should consist of clearly interactable objects in Red Herring Agency. That article uses the example of play from the Dungeon Master's Guide, and it's pretty clear the same design aesthetic is in use here. In the forgotten room, it describes "A small table and two chairs", "a wooden chest", "Two shields hanging on the wall", and "Two pouches behind an old bucket." The chairs are normal, as are the shields. The chest is unlocked and contains some weapons. The pouches have treasure, but cover 2 centipedes.

It's explicit, direct. Here are the interactable objects. Each one has a different effect and clues are available in the environment.

There is a specific structure to the different pillars of play. This is what the exploration pillar means. It means there are specific presentable things—clickable objects— within play. It's these objects, their integration into the environment, their creativity, and the tactical infinity options they offer that is the gameplay of exploration.

Walls the players can knock over, doors that open into space, a ring that shrinks objects, a chained megatherium. Give the players simple things that allow interaction. Create a world where non-player characters take action in response to the players. The complexity and gameplay is emergent.

Every single piece of information is either immediately accessible to the players, or is necessary for the Dungeon Master to run the encounter.

Each room is an encounter designed, and it should be like a good scene in a movie. Interesting, helping create tension and set the pace. It shouldn't be simple, boring, dull, and buried in a thousand words of useless text. It requires both active actors and things to act upon, and it must be designed and not just generated. This doesn't require verbiage, it requires thought. You want my examples of this in use, check out Megadungeon (or any of the modules I have coming out soon!)

From RPG Cartography
I'm not saying it's perfect. It's certainly raw—for example many rooms have information on how people act if they hear someone nearby. This could be on the map, along with other modern improvements due to better tools. Which way the doors open, what the light levels are. . .

When the goblins rush the players and yell BREE-YARK, if the players got the rumor that it means "We surrender", shenanigans ensue. This isn't the only setup. More than one character is lost when the chaotic evil priest that offers to come with them from the keep casts 'inflict wounds' on characters instead of cure wounds.

The prisoners have a variety of races and genders, as well as each providing some non-standard reward, trick, or trap. You may notice a theme. There are also slaves that can be freed and armed. Each of these things creates a specific experience for the players. He isn't just writing descriptions of rooms! He's creating a scene flowchart just like the one in the start of Deep Carbon Observatory, but using the dungeon as his flowchart paths.

I did find a sentence of flavor text, "The owl bear. . . sleeps in the most southerly part of its den, digesting a meal of gnoll it just caught at dawn." That's some information that's not accessible to the players. It's on page 19.

There's also quite a lot of humor within the module. Signs posted on doors say things like "You are
invited for dinner!" and "Safety, security and repose for all humanoids that enter — WELCOME! (Come in and report to the first guard on the left for a hot meal and bed assignment.)" The thing is, it's not just a joke for the reader. The players will also find this joke amusing, and although it's funny, like all Dungeons & Dragons, it's deadly serious. I ran Hackmaster for years, and a gummi bear golem seems really funny, until it crits your fighter in the head for 38 points and kills him in a shower of sticky blood.

All of the rooms contain setpieces—interesting reactions and organic events, but this is one of the best.
"[Bugbears] lounge on stools near a smoking brazier which has skewers of meat toasting over the coals. Each will ignore his great mace when intruders enter, reaching instead for the food. Through they do not speak common, they will grab and eat a chunk, then offer the skewers to the adventurers — and suddenly use them as swords to strike first blow (at +2 bonus to hit due to surprise!) unless the victims are very alert. . . 
I mean, that exclamation point though.

If you aren't creating scenes and experiences through activities for players (and not excess verbiage) please start, and point people to this series to get them to change.

You don't have to write a bunch of words about how encounters react to every last thing, you just have to write something interesting well, and from that the Dungeon Master will be able to know how it reacts.

Enter the Present.

This is INFURIATING.

Why? I just downloaded the most recent Dungeons & Dragons pay what you want adventure to find a room description to compare. Each room description is literally a full page. In lieu of typing the whole page, I'm just going to quote some random sentences from this full page of text for a single room. A whole page. It's not even an A5 page! It's a full letter page.

"The bed is perfectly normal and has a warm, soft blanket stretched over it."
"The party is in the right place, but this isn't the chamber in which the wardrobe is kept."
"Unbeknownst to the players, a hidden passage lies beyond the bookcase"
The box text says "the chamber. . . is not quite what you imagined"

I will summarize the entire room description, as I think Gygax would have laid it out.
3. Wizard Bedroom. Locked Chest (Disable Device DC 15, Strength DC 20) contains pouch 32 gold, 13 silver pieces, 21 copper. Secret door behind bookcase filled with bird books. Note in book about secret door. Corridor beyond trapped, must flap like bird or say "[REDACTED]" 50 XP for door, 50 XP for ladder.
You do not need 1,200 words! I am a Dungeon Master looking for useful tools!

The early examples were great and maintain their popularity and utility decades later, look at the sales of the poorly-reviewed Keep on the Borderlands 5e reprint. They had to hold a second pre-order since pre-orders exceeded their first print run.

This endless glut of poor adventure writing is someone emptying their uninteresting brain noise right in the middle of what I need as a person that runs a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. Is there a market for people who want to read an adventure and have no use for it during play?

Yeah. there is, and it's pretty big. That's the problem.

People keep trying to characterize "What the old school renaissance" is. This has never been a mystery.

It's just people trying to find something they can use in play!

People were playing Dungeons and Dragons until people who did not play, and instead just read and admired ran it into the ground and nearly caused it to cease to exist. You can clearly publish a game with no firm rules and just allow everyone to do what they want, but they aren't very successful are they?

I would think everything in this post is obvious, but due to my inability to use 90% of everything ever published it apparently is not. If you feel the same way, link it the next time someone doesn't know how to write a module. Or, if you're feeling generous, you can join our hierarchy over here, and support more posts like this on Patreon, where you can get special access to my discord



Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

On the Top Ten Sandbox Locations.

You're in a D&D sandbox, you look around and find:

10. A giant rock carved like a skull. Cultists are rumored to lair there, and at night, sometimes the eyes glow as if it is possessed (or more likely that torchlight is reflected). Perhaps there are many levels of this dark place below.
9. A wizard's tower where strange lights and sounds emanate from realms beyond. Not many people would risk their souls in a wizards tower.
8. Rumors of great treasure and a hidden artifact are said to lie under caverns in the nearby hills. None who have survived the search have been successful.
7. A chateau is the home of a quite dysfunctional royal family with such wealth and power!
6. An old house, upon a hill. It's said to be haunted, those are just childrens tales. Yet people have gone missing and there are sometimes mysterious comings and goings.
5. A castle, ran by a reclusive old man. Rumors swirl about demons and blood magic being performed, but who can tell these days?
4. The ancient and hidden tomb of a malign creature. Those who have found it and returned, speak of death and horrible traps and mysteries.
3. In the nearby foothills are large buildings, several of them, of primitive make. Sometimes, if you watch, you can see a large shadow of some creature. Trolls or giants perhaps, surely. You've heard of the raids nearby.
2. A ruined moathouse, falling apart. Be careful of the large toads and collapsed roofs.
1. A small keep, with good folk, an amusing village idiot, and a respectable brick wall. It's also possible their ale is both well-brewed and affordable. They also are rather fond of folks, who happen to be of a certain sort of miscreant or wanderer. There's surely a cleric around, but I wouldn't trust him.

This list, along with any of these three hexes from ChicagoWiz, and you got yourself a game, ready to run.

If you think I'm a good writer, reward me yeah? You get rewarded yourself! You don't only get the feeling of doing something nice, you get some neat stuff, like discord roles and high def art.



Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

On The Thursday Trick: Underground Hazards

Underground Hazards (Category: Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Proximity
Mechanical: Light Detection
Mechanical: Interaction

Effects: Multiple Targets

Save: VariesDuration:Varies

Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)
Special

Description: The Sub-world is not like the world above!

Dungeons aren't supermarkets and there are dangers that exist only beneath the world. What features can be used to create interesting organic underground spaces?

Accidents and falling. This is interesting, because this hazard must be applied and telegraphed before used. Environments underground are not always smooth and level. This is naturally taken into account in every version of Dungeons and Dragons by the movement rate. It is bad form to punish your players beyond that for the underground and cramped movement space.

But that doesn't mean you can't use uneven ground. You just have to clearly communicate to the players where it is and under what conditions it applies. You can say "This ground is uneven enough that if you wanted to cross it at full speed, you have to make a dexterity check." You can inform the players of unstable ledges that could cause them to fall if they walk along them unless a check is succeeded. It's not that the basic level of these checks should be difficult, but that emergent events in the hazardous environment creates tension, tactical puzzles, and entertainment.

Note how I'm just assuming you would never present any sort of space without a vertical element, right? We're in the future of Star Trek II, where three-dimensional thinking rules.

Another thing that must be considered underground is light. Without a light source, movement becomes more hazardous. Stating that any movement out of bright light requires a balance or dexterity check can create an environment that feels hostile, held back by the characters light. This is extremely compelling, because it psychologically mirrors the activities during the game. They are exploring the literal unknown dark, and straying from their light is dangerous.

Again, not in every environment, and not by surprise. Variety is the spice of life.

Rockfall. Man, rocks fall from space under the open sky. You can sure bet they fall underground. Have a talk with your miners and dwarves about the stability of the underground areas. Some might be very stable. Some might cause rockfall due to the use of some sonic or thunder damage. Some might be so unstable simply passing through the room is dangerous. This should be another factor in underground environments that reward characters for playing dwarves or taking the appropriate skills.

Dehydration and Exhaustion. When Dungeons and Dragons was a more focused game about exploring dungeons, there were explicit rules to handle these.
RESTING: After moving for 5 turns, the party must rest for 1 turn. One turn in 6 (one each hour of the adventure) must be spent resting. If the characters do not rest, they have a penalty of -1 on all "to hit" and damage rolls until they do rest. 
Pretty straightforward. Adventures are heady stuff.

Flooding. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single cave, in possession of adventures and near a large body of water, must be in want of a flood. They know it's coming before it happens. Water dripping from the ceiling, deep roaring noises, slick walls covered in algae. Often the best way for flooding to work, is to have it be a triggable factor in the environment. You're underground. The cave is multi level. Popping the pimple of the water will change that environment, depending on the situation, to the monsters advantage or yours.

Becoming lost is too large a topic to cover here. Disease is also a serious hazard, but is its own topic.

Detection/Disarming: Falling and balance hazards just must be full stop presented to the players. They literally function as hazardous zones. By their nature and how humans deal with movement, we can easily tell the stability of an area and our capacity to cross it. (As you would well know if you ever walked through the woods and crossed a stream). The thing is, even if we don't know how dangerous it is, we can almost always tell that it is some degree of dangerous. Of course you can make an argument that there might be some hidden danger, but we are playing a game and designing an encounter. Putting in a "F&%k you, you're prone/take x damage" isn't fun, or particularly game like. It's not a choice, it's a tax.

Rockfall. Anyone with the appropriate skill or background should absolutely be able to tell what's going on mechanically here. If they ask. When presenting rooms with rockfall, make sure you note what's on the floor. Dust, small stones, loose rocks, a boulder, spiderweb divots and cracks in the ground. If it is a rock fall area, then rocks fall. Before entering any area where it's stable unless shatters or fireballs start going off, dwarves and characters should have a  handwaved check to determine if that is the case. It's more interesting for the game if the know the consequences of using loud, damaging, area of effect spells.

Flooding. Players are going to shrug their shoulders and move ahead when you give them clues that the cavern will flood. They will say, "Well, I've got to go on the adventure!" They will often feel that they have no control over when you will flood the cave. So it's important to present it clearly to the player so they understand the dynamic. Is it a dangerous area with the risk of instant death, not only from crushing damage, but needing a way to breath water? Will it wash the characters away? Will it destroy the temple? If you're using as part of a load-bearing boss, then it really doesn't matter, right? To make it interesting in the game, the players have to understand the threat, and you should be able to communicate it to them, so they can make meaningful decisions.


This post might be more useful than the entire Dungeoneers Survival Guide. If you liked it, and you'd like to see more monthly posts, please consider joining our hierarchy on Patreon for special Discord roles!

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.

Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

The Top 10 Types of Parlor Games useable in Dungeons and Dragons

You know, for kids!

Sometimes, it will be necessary to have a small diversion during play. Perhaps a character is gambling, or they have an opportunity to avoid combat. You can even use some of these to resolve appropriate situations. Let's look at some popular and easy parlor games that can be integrated into Dungeons & Dragons. These are not full time replacements for mechanics, but something you can drop into a game. As always, it's never recommended to put one of these in the way of the game progressing. Non-traditional tasks should be optional.

10. Two lies and a truth. The rules to this game are simple. Make three statements, one of which is a lie and the other person must guess one. This is particularly useful for Dungeons & Dragons because you are playing characters, adding a second layer upon the game. The statements are made in character, and the interplay between the characters over the players provides interesting situations, while also empowering players to expand on their backstory!

9. Piggy. This is good for a game in a maze or darkness. Have the character seeking a way out close their eyes. Then have a person in the group squeal like a hog. If the blind player can determine who is the person that made the noise, they have succeeded in their sightless navigation (or made their listen roll, etc.)

8. Codes, puzzles and riddles. I've talked about using these before. But it's possible to do so without any preparation. Simply search for word puzzles and riddles will give you more than you need for years of play, but it's a good idea to have a couple famous ones in mind. Much like jeopardy questions, people like knowing trivia. "No hinges, latches or lid, inside a golden treasure is hid!"

7. Don't Laugh! This is great for a test of will or constitution. The game is simple. The player must not crack a smile for 60 seconds while the rest of the group attempt to make them laugh. If you have to be told not to infringe on personal space inappropriately during this game, you probably shouldn't be playing Dungeons & Dragons.

6. Slaps. Did you like bullies in high school? Relive the memory awkwardly with your friends by playing slaps! The Dungeon Master puts out his hands palm up. Someone places their hands a few centimeters above the Dungeon Master's hands. The Dungeon Master tries to slap the players hands. If they fail, the player succeeds. If they hit the player, that probably sucks for the player, because getting slapped on the hand hurts. If the player flinches or pulls their hands away before the Dungeon Master starts moving, they also fail.
Somebody who likes you but is also insecure usually bullies someone by punching someone in the shoulder is what generally happened next. This doesn't have to happen in your game of course.

5. High Card or War. Pick a card, reveal your card. The higher card wins! This is a classic game. War is played to win the deck. The number of cards gathered or lost can be used to determine outcomes of actual battles, where you get cards equal to your troop count. Ties have a runoff, where three cards are burned (Each player turns 3 cards face up to add to the weight of the conflict), and the fourth duels, high card winning. Ties cascade of course.

4. Game of Phones! I saw bumblebee the other day with my daughter. It takes place in 1987. I told my daughter that 1987 was when daddy and momma were kids and there was no internet or cell phones. She said, "You didn't have TV?"
So yeah, I am old and we are in the future. Name a word or theme, and give everyone in the room 60 seconds (90 seconds if the phone is more than a few years old) to come up with the best image or video from the internet related to the word or theme. Players vote for their favorite.

3. Never have I ever played in character can be entertaining. The game is played by a person saying "Never have I ever. . . " and then states an embarrassing occurrence, such as having sex in an uncomfortable place (like the back seat of a volkswagen). It doesn't have to be sexual. "Never have I ever been robbed while drunk!"

2. Race the dice. A simple game is everyone rolls 2d6 and the low roll loses a 'life'. You can set a number of losses. This is an interesting way to handle a race. Different factors can change the die sizes. Bonuses are very powerful since you are averaging two dice, so probably you shouldn't use them!

1. Finally, Liar's dice. This classic game is played with 5d6. Each player rolls their dice and hides them behind a wall or cup. This is a pure test of player skill and the ability to bluff and lie, making it a possible tool for a tense social situation! Everyone rolls. The first player has to bid on how many dice of a certain number there are. The next player either has to raise the bid, either by increasing the number of dice or the number on the die or both, or they can challenge and call. If called, all dice are revealed. And if the dice are there, the caller loses a die. If not, the liar loses a die. The game continues until only one player has dice, them being the winner. Quicker games can be played with fewer dice and fewer players. A 1 on 1 game with the Dungeon Master could be used to resolve a deception or insight attempt. Variants include 1's being considered wild cards and representing whichever numbers are generated.


Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

On the Thursday Trick: Sand

Sand (Category: Terrain, Vents/Sprays, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: AnyEffects:
Multiple Targets
Save: Strength
Dexterity

None
Duration: Special
Resets:VariesBypass: varies

Description: This is less "sand" or "quicksand" as a trap. Sand is often ill-considered during play, and yet. . .

Sand is more deadly than wild animals. Holes, unstable footings, and instability cause more deaths than wild animal attacks. From 1990 to 2016, there have been 16 deaths just from sand pits used for making sandcastles. Sharks only killed 12 people during that span. Source.

Culturally, if there is no lumber or tree industry nearby, non-industrial societies have 'sandmen' who Collect and 'clean' sand to bring into cities. It is used as a cleaning, degreasing, and abrasive agent. Once a lumber industry is running, sawdust is cheaper and more effective, causing this job to die off. But for non-industrial societies, collecting, moving, and cleaning sand is a necessary industry.

Green Sand
Sand describes a wide range of particles, from the large (64mm) to silt (.0004 mm). This consistency affects its behavior. You aren't going to sink into large grained sand. For example: Sand between .1 and .5 mm in diameter at the right humidity level will emit noises like whistling and barking. Video example 1, video example 2, video example 3.This can be up to over 100 decibels in volume. If you have a sand trap, where it pours in from somewhere, it could cause a terrible cacophony. If it happened elsewhere it could project the semblance of a terrible beast.

Sand near volcanic beaches can be straight up green. Olivine from the volcanic residue will produce a green color in the sand. Furthermore, sand can be beige or yellow. but also black, white, pink, red, gold, or purple, naturally.

Wizards who predict the future with sand would be called arenomancers. Arenolugry or Thaumoarenoists are sand wizards.

Areas with a lot of sand where it can be disturbed, (due to fights or fireballs) can put enough particularite matter in the air to cause illness, and if severe enough, cancer or death. Unprotected exposure to sand particles in the air can irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, or flu like symptoms like runny nose, lack of breath, a terrible cough.

This isn't particularly helpful, but did you know some desert animals (like sand cats) are just so damn efficient that they literally never drink? They get all the water they need from the bodies of their prey. Like all desert predators they are nocturnal.

Sand, of the correct type, will often be sought by glassmakers, wizards, and other people who need specific grades of sand for glassmaking.

For sand dominated areas, feel free to to remember that heat and water are scarce in deserts.

Quicksand

Quicksand is not limited to any specific climate or region. It can be found anywhere you find sand. A necessary component of quicksand is nearness to some body of water, whether underground or nearby.

What actually happens with quicksand is that it's super saturated with water. It's basically a deep pool, filled with a great deal of sand. The water volume is so high, that there's no friction, the pool is in a "colloidal" state and can't support any weight, any more than a swimming pool could, but the sand prevents you from swimming effectively.

You don't actually sink in very far. But the mistake most people make is that they try to push themselves out. Any attempt to "lift" out of the quicksand will cause another body part to push. This pushing disturbs the support and people sink further in.

Since the sand is more than twice as dense than the human body, you will not sink if you don't struggle. Falling head first into the sand can be deadly, being that you cannot remove your head, nor hold your breath long enough for your buoyancy to bring you to the surface.

Fantasy

Sail over the sand sea.
Giant worms snake through the sand.
Armies of the dead rest beneath the sands.
Burrowing predators harass characters in packs that swim through the sand.
Towers and whole cities rest buried beneath the dunes, the only entrance a single window at the top of a tower.
Balloons and parachutes allow sailing, held up by head coming off the dunes.
Mirages and illusions mess with dehydrated minds.
Wizards hide their towers among the dunes.
Sarlacc's and their cousins, giant dire antilions can be found among the sands.
Sandstorms ripe with magic bring thunder, lightning, and astral disruptions to the desert.
Sphinxes that live in the desert may take a dim view of you arriving to remove their valuable sand. Giant city like barges drift across the sands.
Silt striders, or other giant water bug like insects cross the sands, only their legs visible to players, their bodies far above the clouds.
In the wastes lie beasts like basilisks, sphinxes, and amphisbaena.
Victims of a sand necktie may be human or something else, often long dead, sometimes alive.
Creatures made from sand, or controlled sand shapes from sorcery nearby. (Video, nudity)


Detection/Disarming: Whenever using sand as an environmental variable, it's suggested that you explain to the players what's occurring and allow them to respond. Don't just immediately penalize them for sand exposure, mention that it's clouding the air and burning their lungs and eyes. If they don't take action to fix or correct the problem (Cloth over mouth, holding breath/closing eyes) then the penalties can apply.

The players need to be told about the hazard, before they get the chance to interact with it. Having quicksand or difficult terrain or pits on the battlefield, all should be described (if examined) before a player interacts with it.

Players should be told that sand is difficult terrain (double movement cost), but for sand that is actually hazardous (say full of pits), let people know that they will need to make a check to keep their footing. Quicksand is actually pretty difficult to spot, but allow players to take an action to try to identify which areas are unstable.

This post about sand may or may not have anything to do with my research for my Sandbox project. Get excited. If you think this post is good, and want to help make sure I can keep doing it throughout 2019, consider patreon!

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.



Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...