On Early Tropes

What were some common tropes of early fantasy games?

The Pseudo-Dragon: From Edwina, the familiar of Jallarzi Sallivarian, to Afreeta from Quag Keep, to the captured Pseudo-dragon in U1, the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh the idea of a small dragon familiar was rife in the early days of our hobby. 

And why not? Who doesn't want a dragon familiar? Isn't the idea of owning a dragon a very cool one? Of course it is.

Like most memes, this one fell out of favor because soon, every Tom Strongblade, Dick Swiftwand, and Harry Sneakthrift was walking around with a dragon on their shoulder. 

Historically having a pseudo-dragon familiar provided magic resistance and what it sees and hears within 24" including invisible objects. 

The Deadly Touch: Recently one of my players died to yellow mold. He had never heard of yellow mold. (!)

The early game was filled with things that punished people for touching them. Green Slime. Yellow Mold. Rot Grubs. Each one with a specific way of dealing with them. You can see it from the green slime card in the board game Dungeon (tm) or the frequency with which refuse piles are filled with rot grubs.

That was really where part of the wonder of the early game came from. In the next room, what would you find? Would you die at its touch, or would it be a fabulous chest filled with jewels and wealth?

The violent and sudden nature of the deaths caused this trope to fall by the wayside, but you can see a resurgence in these types of encounters in modern games.


  1. I remember a *lot* of pit traps, too.

  2. This isn't the only article in this series.

    1. ...how about a "Trope" label, then? : )

    2. Well, the others haven't been published yet.

  3. See also: Kitty Pryde's little dragon in 80s X-Men comics.

  4. I go back and forth on dangers which cause death upon being touched. Sometimes when I see them I feel like it's an interesting challenge for the players. Other times it just feels cheap. So far it has not appeared in my games.

  5. Anything yellow in the game seemed to get a torch put to it. No questions asked. I like it. Bring those days back ha.

  6. Yeah, my players burn the shit out of yellow mold. They also like to bash chests open. So I decided the next chest they found would have some yellow mold that ejected its spores when bashed. Lucky guy made his save.

  7. Recently one of my player's characters contracted yellow mold and was about to die. He decided to self immolate, taking the same damage as the yellow mold, hoping to kill it of or die trying. He made it. It was a memorable scene.


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