Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wizards of the Coast Recognized Product Publication Schedule Since 2006

Since the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5e in 2014 I have been attempting to collect everything that Wizards of the Coast has published. As many of you know I'm a bit too cheap to buy anything at full price so I tend to wait until the price gets low enough that I'm willing to buy it; which often means that I forget some of the things that Wizards has published. So yesterday I started trying to make myself a checklist of all the things Wizards of the Coast had published since D&D 5e went live so that I could remember what I had and still needed only to find that their official website is very unhelpful in this matter, that their product listing page is poorly designed, and that it's missing quite a lot of material. So rather than throw my hands up and walk away from the whole thing I thought that it might be better to organize the products that Wizards of the Coast recognizes on their website in a reasonable fashion and to publish the list here on the blog. 

It's here that I need your help gang. Help me fill in the gaps and missing materials. I don't have the dates for any of the Dungeon+ issues prior to issue #9. I know that they've published other things as I caught the fifth book from the Sundering series being left off their official listing. What else have they missed and where does it go on the list?

As new information becomes available to me I'll update this list every so often to reflect the missed materials and the new products as they're announced so that it'll be a useful page and not just a footnote.


August 31             Castle Ravenloft Board Game

February 15          Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game
May 25                 Daggerdale (Video Game)
June 21                 Conquest of Nerath Board Game
October 18           The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
November 1         Brimstone Angels by Erin M. Evans (Book)

March 20             Lords of Waterdeep Board Game

2013 (Run Up Year to D&D 5e Launch)
March 19           Dungeons of Dread (Collection of S-Series Modules) 
June 5                 Chronicles of Mystara (Video Game)
June 18               Against the Slave Lords (Collection of A-Series Modules) 
August 6             The Companions (Sundering Book 1) by R.A. Salvatore (Book)
August 15           Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle (Next Preview) 
August 20           Scoundrels of Skullport Board Game
August 20           Murder in Baldur's Gate (Sundering Part 1)
October 1            The Godborn (Sundering Book 2) by Paul S. Kemp
November 15      Baldur's Gate 2: Enhanced Edition (Video Game)
November 19      Original Dungeons & Dragons Premium Reprint
November 21       Lords of Waterdeep (Video Game)
December 3         The Adversary (Sundering Book 3) by Erin M. Evans

2014 (D&D 5e Officially Launches)
February 4           The Reaver (Sundering Book 4) by Richard Lee Byers
February 4           Scourge of the Sword Coast  (dmsguild.com exclusive)
February 25         Fell's Five (Graphic Novel)
March 4               Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex Book 1) by R.A. Salvatore
April 1                 The Sentinel (Sundering Book 5) by Troy Denning
April 2                 Cutter (Graphic Novel) by R.A. Salvatore and Geno Salvatore
April 17               Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition (Video Game)
June 3                  The Herald (Sundering Book 6) by Ed Greenwood
June 24                 Dungeon! Board Game
July 9                    Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Sundering Part 2)
July 9                    Dead in Thay: Dreams of the Red Wizards (dmsguild.com exclusive)
July 15                  D&D Starter Set (Boxed Set)
July 15                   Icons of the Realms: Starter Set (Miniatures)
August 12             The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories (Audible exclusive)
August 19             Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Tyranny of Dragons Part 1
August 19             Player's Handbook
September 30        Rise of the King (Companions Codex: Book 2) by R.A. Salvatore
September 30        Monster Manual
October 14             Fire in the Blood (Brimstone Angels) by Erin M. Evans (Book)
October 15             Legends of Baldur's Gate by Jim Zub (Comic)
October 30             Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition (Video Game)
November 4           The Rise of Tiamat: Tyranny of Dragons Part 2
November 19         D&D Icons of the Realms: Bahamut
November 19         D&D Icons of the Realms: Tiamat
December 9            Dungeon Master's Guide

January 20              Dungeon Master's Screen
March 3                  Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore (Companions Codex, Book 3)
March 4                   Elemental Evil: Booster (Miniatures)
April 7                     Princes of the Apocalypse
April 16                   Player's Companion: Elemental Evil
April 29                   Temple of Elemental Evil (Board Game)
June 2                      Spellstorm by Ed Greenwood
September 1            Archmage by R.A. Salvatore (Homecoming Book 1) (Book)
September 8            Gold Box Classics (Video Game) (Good Old Games)
September 9            Rage of Demons: Booster
September 15          Out of the Abyss: Rage of Demons
October 20               Sword Coast Legends
November 3             Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
December 29           Ashes of the Tyrant (Brimstone Angels) by Erin M. Evans (Book)

March 15                  Curse of Strahd
March 31                  Siege of Dragonspear (Video Game)
April 1                      Tarokka Deck
April 5                      Maestro (Homecoming Book 2) by R.A. Salvatore (Book)
April 6                      Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie
June 7                       Death Masks by Ed Greenwood
June 16                     Tyrants of the Underdark Board Game
September 2             Dragon+ #9
September 6             Storm King's Thunder
September 6             Storm King's Thunder DM Screen
September 21           Icons of the Realms: Storm King's Thunder
September 22           Monsters and Heroes of the Realms (Coloring Book)
October 4                 The Devil You Know (Brimstone Angels) by Erin M. Evans
October 25               Hero (Homecoming Book 3) by R.A. Salvatore
October 28               Dragon+ #10
November 8             Dungeonology
November 15           Volo's Guide to Monsters
December 7              Rock, Paper, Wizard
December 15            Dragon+ #11

January 4                  Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie 2
January 11                Frost Giant's Fury (Comic) by Jim Zub & Netho Diaz
February 15              Assault of the Giants Board Game
February 27              Dragon+ #12
April 4                      Tales from the Yawning Portal
Announced               Dungeon Chess (Virtual Reality Video Game)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My Wife Wrote a Book!

Well, a novelette really.

Anyway, super proud of her and you should check her out if you get a chance. She's pretty awesome and not just because she can write.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why Not Waterdeep?

Last night I was talking with a friend of mine about Dyvers as a setting for an adventure that he was getting ready to run and he said something that has been kind of stuck in my craw ever since: "Why begin in Dyvers? Why not Waterdeep?" Why not Waterdeep indeed.

I'll tell you why not fucking Waterdeep. 

Waterdeep is a bullshit town without good music, easy sex, or ready access to drugs. It's a puritanical nightmare covered in a veneer of scum that barely covers the city, and by extension the whole setting. It's the fucking Branson of fictional cities. I don't want to go to god-damned Branson. I want to go to Vegas where I can be covered in cheap whores and expensive liquor while snorting cocaine off the craps table. 

Fuck Waterdeep!

Actually, now that I think about it there are a few things there that I like . . . Never mind. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Four Way Tie? Well, That Was Unexpected.

Last night when I went to bed I expected to wake up this morning and find that the first Dyvers Abroad project would begin in Talislanta. The morning, however, has proven that not to be the case. Instead I have been greeted with a four way tie between Talislanta, Mystara, The Palladium World, and RIFTS Earth. 

So we're going to have a run-off.

For those of you who aren't familiar with these settings allow me to provide you with a very brief explanation of each so you can have a baseline familiarity before casting your vote in the final poll. 

Mystara: Originally known as the "Known World" this setting was the baseline for Basic Dungeons & Dragons. It's a fun world populated by societies built around concepts that gives it a weight that has allowed it to garner ardent fans over the last forty years. As such if you're familiar with more traditional Dungeons & Dragons styled settings than you have a passing familiarity with this setting as well. 

The Palladium World: This is the world of Palladium Fantasy Role-Play. It's a rich world more reminiscent of Games Workshop's early incarnation of the Old World setting as it has a depth of brutality to it that often can leave a player reeling if they aren't prepared for it. Unlike the Old World, however, the Palladium World doesn't have that sense of hopelessness attached to it that often pervades Games Workshop's products. By comparison to other Palladium settings the Palladium World is largely undefined and open to interpretation in a way that is similar to the Greyhawk setting from TSR / Wizards of the Coast. It has a few unique options to it but none is so notable as the Wolfen, a race of humanoid wolves that vie for control of the world. 

RIFTS Earth: This is the base world for Palladium's RIFTS system. It's a shattered world that has been torn apart by dimensional rifts that allow players to play at any time, in any place, and in any reality that their Game Master can imagine. The core setting, that of the baseline earth, is one where the players are struggling for survival against extra-dimensional beings, magical legends, living gods, and fascist dictatorships. Technologically you'll see everything from cyberpunk future technologies to sword wielding barbarians. By far an away it is the most diverse of all the settings I've ever read.

Talislanta: This setting is a complete reinterpretation of the pseudo-Medieval world pulling from such diverse sources of inspiration as Jack Vance, William S. Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft. It is a refutation of the Tolkien inspired setting and as a result it is breath of fresh air. Tone wise it varies from the grim to comical but the players will rarely feel hopeless unless they place themselves in such situations.

Good luck to your favorites! I'm kind of excited to see who will finally win!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Whole of Fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons

Jupiter and Europa by Marit Berg

Last night I was reading a pdf copy of Europa when I ran across an article by Gary Gygax, How to Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign - and Be Stuck Refereeing it Seven Days per Week Until the Wee Hours of the Morning! This was actually the second part of a series he had been writing, which I have yet to fully explore as I haven't found any other copies of Europa other than this one, and I noticed something that I had suspected for some time but not actually seen in print before. Gary wrote, ". . . Now fantasy / swords & sorcery games need not have any fixed basis for the assumptions made by its referee (my own doesn't) except those which embrace the whole of fantasy . . . Settings based upon the limits (if one can speak of fantasy limits) can be very interesting in themselves providing the scope of the setting will allow the players relative free-reign to their imaginations. Typical settings are: Teutonic / Norse Mythology; Medieval European Folklore (including King Arthur, Holger the Dane, and so on); The Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser; Indian Mythology; and Lost Continents such as Atlantis or Mu. Regardless of the setting you can have it all taking place on an 'alternative earth' or a parallel world . . ." (Gygax, 18).

The part that got my attention was that first line, that ". . . fantasy / swords & sorcery games need not have any fixed basis for the assumptions made by its referee . . . except those which embrace the whole of fantasy . . ." (Gygax, 18). Embrace the whole of fantasy.

Too often when I read and discuss role-playing games - especially when concerning Dungeons & Dragons - I find that there are all of these established boundaries that delineate what I'm allowed to do with my games. The world must be set in a quasi-Medieval time period. Guns, if they exist at all, should be rare. The world should feel big and the players a small part of it. Oh, and the literary inspiration for your games should come from Tolkien, Martin, or Gygax's Appendix N. 

Fantasy, especially the way that the term was understood before we decided to subdivide everything to death, was so much larger than the truncated spectrum that comes from limiting our imaginations to any guiding light. Take for example my own favorite source of inspiration: pulp fantasy. 

I know that for some of my readers they might be reminded of James Maliszewski's exploration of pulp fantasy and his definition of the term or as he put it ". . . In general, 'pulp fantasy' roughly equates to what we nowadays call 'sword and sorcery.' However, the term is more expansive than that, because it also includes authors and stories that do not, strictly speaking, fall under sword and sorcery, such as Burroughs and other 'sword and planet' authors, as well as 'weird tales' of the Lovecraftian variety. I chose the term because, by and large, most of the authors whom Gygax cites as influences in the famous Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide were published in the pulp magazines of the 20s through 50s . . ." (Maliszewski).

Unfortunately James' definition of pulp fantasy ignores a large part of what made up the pulp fantasy of the era. As a result, if we were to hold to his definition than we wouldn't consider pulp standards like Doc Savage, Buck Rogers, Tarzan of the Apes, The Shadow, Green Lama, or Zorro as something that we should look to for inspiration in our Dungeons & Dragons games. Our heroes would be craven things who acted out of a slavish devotion to selfishness rather than because they were doing the right thing. We wouldn't have alien battles, tanks, high speed car chases, mystical hokum, or super heroics. Instead we would be bound to endlessly repeating pale imitations of Howard's adventures and Tolkien's quests.

Listen, It's all too common for people to coalesce around an idea and codify it as conventional wisdom. Today in our hobby we have as our conventional wisdom the standard refrain that our Dungeons & Dragons styled games are all supposed to be pseudo-Medieval affairs hinged on the literary roots of Conan the Barbarian, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and the Lord of the Rings; and James held to this line of thought in his discussion of pulp fantasy. As a community we have internalized this conventional wisdom and now it is taken for granted that if we are playing Dungeons & Dragons then it must be this way and any deviation is anathema.

Yet it doesn't have to be that way. 

Yes, we can explore a setting bound by certain limits as Gary noted in Europa, but we can also go further and take the game in different directions without it being something other than Dungeons & Dragons. We can hop a ride on the back of a floating cart with hairy aliens and six legged horses to take back our lives like Prince Valentine did in Robert Silverberg's  Lord Valentine's Castle. Or we can race across the globe in a desperate race to get back home after we crash landed on some god forsaken planet like Adam Reith did in Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure novels. We could even fight evil like Buck Rogers in Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D. But we don't; because too often we let ourselves be convinced that if we're playing Dungeons & Dragons it has to be the same way that everyone else has always played it. We have to be Aragon dragging some fat, little halflings half way across the world to save it on an epic quest; or we have to Conan sneaking his way through the palace. 

I have spent the better part of the last decade having fun exploring worlds like that but they're not enough any more. I want my games to be more. I want aliens. I want laser guns and high speed rocket chases across the universe. I want to fight evil. I want to out smart the villain and save the day. I want to go to sleep and wake up a thousand years later only to jump right into a gun fight as I rush to the aide of some poor sap beset by vicious gangs. 

There is so much out there for a Dungeons & Dragons game to be that isn't just a rehashing of Howard and Tolkien. I want all of it. I want the whole of fantasy.

Works Cited

Gygax, Gary. "How to Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign - and Be Stuck Refereeing it Seven Days per Week Until the Wee Hours of the Morning!" Europa. April 1975. pg 18. pdf

Maliszewski, James. "What is Pulp Fantasy?" GROGNARDIA, http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-is-pulp-fantasy.html. Accessed February 21, 2017.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cthulhu and the Old Ones Sing the Blues: The Beast in the Cave

The Beast in the Cave is the first story published in The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. The story was written by H.P. Lovecraft when he was only 14 years old and shows signs of the author's inexperience. The story is short, only six pages, and builds towards a conclusion that makes little sense in connection with the information the author provides his readers. 

Still there are hints of the weird fiction elements that would become more pronounced in his later works once the Beast makes its appearance. While it's an early effort by Lovecraft it still has the hallmarks of his prose which make for an enjoyable, if all to light, read. Largely a forgettable story that leaves me unfulfilled. 

If you haven't read this one yet, then you're not missing anything.

Table of Contents
The Beast in the Cave
The Alchemist
The Tomb
A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Old Bugs
The Transition of Juan Romero
The White Ship
The Street
The Doom that came to Sarnath
The Statement of Randolph Carter
The Terrible Old Man
The Cats of Ulthar
The Tree
The Picture in the House
The Temple
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
From Beyond
The Quest of Iranon
The Music of Erich Zann
Ex Oblivione
Sweet Ermengarde
The Nameless City
The Outsider
The Moon-bog
The Other Gods
Herbert West - Reanimator
What the Moon Brings
The Hound
The Lurking Fear
The Rats in the Walls
The Unnamable
The Festival
Under the Pyramids
The Shunned House
The Horror at Red Hook
In the Vault
Cool Air
The Call of Cthulhu
Pickman's Model
The Strange High House in the Mist
The Silver Key
The Dream-Quest of Unkown Kadath
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Color Out of Space
The Descendant
The Very Old Folk
History of the Necronomicon
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in the Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Dreams in the Witch House
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Evil Clergy Man
The Book
The Shadow Out of Time
The Haunter of the Dark

Cthulhu and the Old Ones Sing the Blues: Introduction

I like big projects and series that tend to push me to accomplish things with my blog that I wouldn't otherwise attempt. It keeps me honest. It motivates me - and right now I need that because I have a lot that I want to do on the blog this year. Anyway, way back in December, 2016 I got this bright idea that I was going to do a complete read through of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction so I purchased a copy of The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft from Amazon and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then it arrived  earlier this week and I was thrilled. The book looks to be of a fair quality and I absolutely love the subdued cover.

So here's the deal.

Over the course of this year I'm going to be reading all 69 short stories and novellas contained within this weighty tome. As I go along I'm going to be publishing my thoughts on the stories here on the blog under the series Cthulhu and the Old Ones Sing the Blues because I think that title is hilarious and it's my blog. You're more than welcome to join along in the process as I would love to hear your thoughts as we progress.

Now I should mention that the works of H.P. Lovecraft are in a kind of nebulous space within copyright law as there is a party that claims ownership of the copyright but has not yet produced proof of it so far as I've been able to ascertain online. You see you can read all of his works online, for free, from places like hplovecraft.com and the internet archive yet you have a copyright holder who is trying to assert their claim and from here things get into legal terms that I'm unskilled in describing or involving myself in. So instead I'm going to be very clear from the outset that I will be using quotes form H.P. Lovecraft sparingly and only in furtherance of the discussion of his works as is covered under Fair Use. I have no intention of circumventing anyone's claim on the property and have no interest in being sued. My only goal is to explore his works and to gain from them as a writer, reader, and Game Master. 

With that out of the way, welcome to the Cthulhu and the Old Ones Sing the Blues!

Table of Contents
The Beast in the Cave
The Alchemist
The Tomb
A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Old Bugs
The Transition of Juan Romero
The White Ship
The Street
The Doom that came to Sarnath
The Statement of Randolph Carter
The Terrible Old Man
The Cats of Ulthar
The Tree
The Picture in the House
The Temple
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
From Beyond
The Quest of Iranon
The Music of Erich Zann
Ex Oblivione
Sweet Ermengarde
The Nameless City
The Outsider
The Moon-bog
The Other Gods
Herbert West - Reanimator
What the Moon Brings
The Hound
The Lurking Fear
The Rats in the Walls
The Unnamable
The Festival
Under the Pyramids
The Shunned House
The Horror at Red Hook
In the Vault
Cool Air
The Call of Cthulhu
Pickman's Model
The Strange High House in the Mist
The Silver Key
The Dream-Quest of Unkown Kadath
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Color Out of Space
The Descendant
The Very Old Folk
History of the Necronomicon
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in the Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Dreams in the Witch House
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Evil Clergy Man
The Book
The Shadow Out of Time
The Haunter of the Dark

Friday, February 17, 2017

Explorations of Other Settings

As long time readers will no doubt testify, I love me some Greyhawk. I make posters about the setting, write blog posts exploring it, and generally just fly my Greyhawk Flag high. But lately I've been thinking a lot about diving into a new setting and just kind of finding out what else is out there beyond the borders of the Dyvers and the known shores of my humble world.

Judge of Ages by John Harris

Where to explore though?

To be perfectly honest the lands and environs of our shared fantasy worlds are too numerous to even attempt to name them all, so instead I'm going to limit the choices to the books I currently own and can fairly confidently explore as a result. Let's see, looking at my bookcase that gives me a few choices: Blackmoor, the Forgotten Realms (Neverwinter), the Forgotten Realms (general), Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Palladium World (PFRP), the Old World (WFRP), Mystara (Karameikos), Red Steel, Alternity, the Iron Kingdoms (IKFRP 3rd Edition variation), Talislanta, Post Earth (Gamma World 1st Edition), Eberron (3rd Edition variation), Eberron (4th Edition variation), Dragonlance (1st Edition), Dragonlance (Tales of the Lance variation), Dragonlance (3rd Edition variation), Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn Basic/Expanded), Chaos Earth (RIFTS), Hollow World (2nd Edition variations), Al Qadim, Once & Future King (Amazing Engine), and Bughunters (Amazing Engine).

I'm a bit hard pressed to make a decision on these so I'm going to throw a poll up on the right to let you guys help me pick. For the ones with more than one entry I'm going to put them up once and then, if they win, we'll have a run off for which one you all find the most interesting. Right, so, good luck to your favorites. Vote early; choose as many as you like, and vote often.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Letters to Dyvers: Problems, Problems. We've All Got Them, but Only a Few of Us Wallow in Them.

Have I ever mentioned that I like getting mail from you guys?

Well, I do.

Anyway, I'm in the process of catching up on about a year's worth of e-mails so I'm going to do a bit of a clearing house and answer three of them real quickly.

P.S. I've cleaned up the e-mails a bit to make it easier to read.

Problematic Media 

Have you seen the Mary Sue article, Everything I Love is Problematic? Thoughts?

Largely the article is just a bunch of pretentious hand wringing designed to get people to recognize that the author is so very self-aware of her privilege and blah, blah, blah. Boring rubbish for the most part that wants you to feel guilty for loving the things that you love. 

Forget that noise. 

Love what you love; don't hate on other people's things. Moving on.

Magic Items

If you could pick one Magic Item, and have it in real life, what would it be?

In my games I always have a downside to the magical items that I introduce to my players. Life is more fun when there is a consequence to your actions and the game is more fun that way too. Still, I would love to find something like the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O.  


You post a lot of art on the blog: who's your favorite?

As much as I love art I don't really have a favorite. I have styles that I love but there isn't really an artist that I go out of my way for over the others. That said I've been really digging the work of John Harris and Jakub Rozalski lately. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I'm Kind of Digging the Ladies of Girls, Guts, Glory.

Watching people play role-playing games on YouTube can often be a painful experience. The camera work is often shoddy; the audio sounds like someone is screaming in front of a fan; and the people playing are usually too busy mugging for the camera to remember that they're playing. So when I find something that looks promising I tend to get a little bit excited. You see I want to want role-playing games online without having to wait a full year for the next episode (I'm looking at you Penny Arcade) and for them to be an enjoyable experience.

There aren't a lot of games out there that meet those two criteria. In fact, I can only name one: Harmon Quest. But this teaser for Girls Guts Glory has me hopeful that we might soon have another one. 

Check it out.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Welcome to My Dungeons & Dragons World! Where Everything is Just Like You Remember It, Even Though You've Never Been Here Before.

In the last few months I've become increasingly convinced that the problem I face with making Dyvers something unique that people want to adventure in is that it can't fall into the same patterns that everyone else does with their cities. It can't be the exact same fucking thing that everyone adventures in each and every god-damned weekend

(1) It can't have winding, serpentine roads that meander their way through the town - and they can't be dirt, rough stone, or wood. 

(2) The city needs districts but the shouldn't be hard lines where there is no bleed over. The world doesn't work like that and neither should my game world.

(3) Not every building needs a detailed description but they shouldn't be fucking blank, wood blocks set on the table as filler either. Theme them together as you would find in a normal neighborhood. Look at the world around you. It works that way for a reason.

(4) Important buildings should feel important when your players look at them. Every city - whether it's New York, London, Nashville, Calcutta, Paris, or fucking Madison - has something that makes it stand out. As human beings we have an inherent need to make things that are pleasing to our eye. It's why architects are a thing and we're not all still living in fucking caves. Use the shit you love architecturally instead of just leaving it in the back of your mind. Make it a part of your world and make your world special as a result. 

(5) Stop fucking around with names that don't matter to you or your players. If it's fucking nondescript and unimportant than don't waste your time naming it just to throw a name at them that they'll promptly forget. 

(6) Same rule when it comes to the fucking history of the place. If it doesn't matter and won't add to the adventure then Move. The. Fuck. On. You're wasting your time and everyone else's. 

(7) Descriptions: Less is more. Hit the high points and let their imaginations fill in the rest.

(8) People build sculptures every-fucking-where. Get them in the game.

(9) Common structures for every town that aren't homes: bars, churches, hotels, restaurants, police stations, convenience stores, shopping markets (however you associate the term), pawn shops, banks, fire department, doctors' offices, city hall, Courthouse, and lawyers. Get these in your city because they didn't just show up in the 1950s.  

(10) People live in apartments. They've been around since ancient Rome so throw them in your game. 

Credit: All images were found on the fantastic Tumblr How We Imagined It Would Be

Friday, February 3, 2017

Congratulations, Kids. We Just Passed 2016's Total Post Count.

Fucking A, it feels good to be writing again. Now back to work!

Your Hands are Bound by Forces Beyond Your Control and She Awaits You.

I've never really been one to enjoy horror games because they tend to begin on a simple premise: the player cannot win a fight with the villain. The extent to which this is enforced runs the gamut from the villain simply being more powerful than the players are able to overcome under normal circumstances to the villain being invulnerable to the players machinations. Some games I have been asked to play even go so far as to say that the players cannot cause harm to the creatures terrorizing them. 

I fundamentally reject such noise.

The Entomologists Dream by Edmund Dulac 1909

In role-playing games we are the heroes of our stories. We're not scared, little children hiding in the cupboard hoping that some shiftless drifter doesn't find us. We're the kids who pick up axes, guns, and knives to hunt that bastard down and show him what fear really means.  And yet even with that fundamental truth guiding our hobby I have found myself rendered powerless in role-playing games three times. The first time we were told that the mere sight of a creature drove us beyond the realm of sanity and thus we were devoured body and soul. I got up from the table and drove to a local bar where I proceeded to drink for six hours and fool around with women who though make-up was best applied by the bucketful. I still regret not having done so sooner that night. 

The second time I sat down at the table and the Game Master informed us that all of our possessions had been taken from us and that we awoke in a dungeon with monsters hunting us. I made plans to murder them only to be told that this wasn't the game we were playing. We were the prey. They were the hunters and if I didn't like it I could get the fuck away from the table. So I left and ended up fishing under the stars while a beautiful Jewish girl read poetry to me and asked me questions about God. 

I still don't have all the answers.

The last time I was sitting down to play a game when the Game Master told us that this would be a fantastic experience for all of us. We were going to be playing children who were hiding from some dastardly villain but that we couldn't hurt him. Hell, we couldn't even attempt to harm him. I left that table with my brother, Poot, and went down to the lake where we talked about our children and drank until the sun came up instead. 

Look, as role-playing enthusiasts we're often asked to pretend that our characters are bound by limitations all the time. This character isn't as strong; that one isn't so smart; that one likes to smoke and cut itself. All of these simple limitations are fine, but when you take away my ability to choose how my character will make its way in this fictional life I reject your game. 

I know the sort of player I am. I tend towards violence, bloody and unrepentant, and I like to push the limits of what is considered acceptable within the game world (though never in the actual world). I make off color jokes; use terrible accents; and am always planning ways to make my character the one thing in the game world that will scare the shit out of every Dragon and Devil alike. I want to use my mind to find the solutions to difficult situations and to take that away from me because you want to make the game scary is to ruin any fun I might have in the game. 

Now back to my book.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Welcome to Fear City, You Son of Bitch.

In 1975 the Council for Public Safety, a group consisting of public service unions (firefighters, police, and the like), put out a pamphlet titled "Welcome to Fear City." In large part it was in reaction to New York City Mayor Beame's plan to layoff nearly 11,000 police officers in an effort to stave off declaring bankruptcy for the city.

Source: islandersa1 flickr account
Source: islandersa1 flickr account
Source: islandersa1 flickr account
Source: islandersa1 flickr account

It's a great bit of propaganda as the damned thing plays into the image of big city crime, with its dangerous, criminal underbelly crawling out from the shadows to rob, murder, and rape the rest of us. While I don't condone using such fear-mongering tactics in the real world I would nonetheless love to use something like this in my role-playing games.

Hell, this is the sort of thing that I would love to be given as a player! Just imagine sitting down at the table and the Game Master hands you this little four page pamphlet. It's got this big, black skull on the front and welcomes you to "Fear City," or "The Detroit of Faerun," or any other of a thousand terrifying names you could come up with to let your players know that they're about to get right into the thick of things. 

It makes me all kinds of excited just thinking about it! In fact, I think I'm going to go work on one myself. What about you cats?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Blog Statistics: January 2017

This is going to be a boring post filled with numbers and me prattling on about the health of the blog, where I'm at in relation to my goals, and my immediate goals for February. If you're not down for that I'll have some more role-playing content available later today (probably). Otherwise, let's crunch some numbers.

Right, so the first thing that I want to look at is the performance of posts published in the month of January by Page Views only. This will give me a bit of raw numbers to observe.

 Page Views Only
         | January | February
2013 |                |
2014 | 12,848   | 13,359  
2015 | 11,066    | 16,429
2016 |  5,843    |    688
2017 |  7,093     |

Now at first glance it's tempting to scream out that I've jumped the god-damned shark and that Dyvers is dead because it isn't hitting 2014 and 2015 levels in January and February; but those numbers are deceptive. So let's look at total posts over that same time period.

Total Posts
         | Jan | Feb
2013 |       | 
2014 |  71 | 63
2015 |  37 | 42
2016 |    6 |  1
2017 |  23 |

The increased volume of posting in 2014 and 2015 definitely explains the overall increased page views during that time period. But it also brings up one of my early worries about the blog: consistency. When I first started working on the blog I had an incredibly prolific posting schedule which increased my overall views, but I had a very uneven viewership on those posts. I could have one post hit 792 views in a day and the next one would only hit 89. So let's take a moment and look at my Average Page Views per Post because I think that's going to be a bit telling.

Average Page Views per Post
         | Jan | Feb
2013 |          | 
2014 |  181  | 212
2015 |  299 | 391
2016 |  974 | 688
2017 |  308 |

Looking at those averages for the 2014 and 2015 bears out the trend that I had reported at the time: that Dyvers is seeing a consistent and steady growth in regular readers. 2016, were it a regular posting year and not so abysmally updated on my part, I believe would bear out that same consistent growth trend. As it stands now 2016 instead shows an inflated view pattern born on the backs of regular readers who checked back for new updates that didn't come as they had in past years. 2017 though continues that steady growth that was expressed in the previous years. 

In past updates I have always been able to look at Google Plus +1s as a way to evaluate my readers engagement with the blog, however, since the update to Google Plus it appears that I can no longer have confidence in the Plus 1 marker as it doesn't capture +1s given across different locations (for example, if I share a post directly with my stream and then in one of the communities). Thankfully I still have my comments section on the blog and it has been very enjoyable to see all of you commenting there since I started posting regularly again. I'll just have to keep an eye them to see where you guys are at as far as the blog is concerned until I find a better way to judge how you're liking what I'm putting out.

Now I've got to get back to plotting the end of the world in my campaign. Talk to you all later.

1920 - Final Charge by Jakub Rozalski

Monday, January 30, 2017

Switching Browsers Because Chrome is Making Me Want to Hurt Myself

This afternoon I went looking for a new browser to use for my searching because Chrome is shit. Don't get me wrong; it used to be good. But lately it's been the one that blows up my RAM. Firefox sucks too. So after reading a shit ton of reviews I decided to go with Vivaldi. Pretty happy with it so far. The performance is solid and I'm not stuck with some DRM fucking with my shit.

I totally just used to abbreviations in my post without telling you what they were first. Aren't you proud?



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cancellation, Stagnation, Hell

Today I was going to play Dungeons & Dragons with some friends I haven't been able to see in too long. I say was because this morning I woke up at about 2:30 with acid reflux. Now normally I don't have this shit because I'm on a medicine that takes care of that shit. Like, my acid is normally locked the fuck down.

Last night, not so much.

So I wake up choking on fucking acid. I thought I could stop it with a bit of milk but instead I just started throwing up like crazy. Tore up my throat to the point where I could barely talk all day and had to cancel D&D. Fuck. this. day.

Somebody tell me something cool.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Campaign Titles My Wife Says I'm Not Allowed to Use

I tend to make up titles for my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and like my blog they tend to be things that amuse me even if no one else gets the joke. Most of the time my wife doesn't look at the title and just plays. Then there are times when I run the titles I'm thinking about using across her. These are some of the ones she told me I'm not allowed to use (HA! Jokes on her. I've already used all of them!)

1.  Dickbags of the Underdark
2.  Murder Nights in Bangkok
3.  Grumbling Dwarves, Bloody Orks
4.  Mordenkainen and Two Hot Mummies
5.  You Should Have Stayed at the Inn
6.  Saving Dragons, One Kiss at a Time
7.  The Forgotten God Farts in the Dark
8.  Waiting for Bigby's Gently Caressing Hand
9.  The No Killing Club (Which None of You are Invited to Join)
10. Gnomes Gone Wild!!!!
11. Three Moons over Solace
12. Dragons and Kinder
13. I Make the Best Caverns. Everyone Knows.
14. The Damned Game
15. Three Brothers, a Gnome, and a Goat
16. One Hundred Years Chasing a God Damned Pixie and Not Doing a Fucking Thing
17. The Adventures of Three Chodes
18. You're All Criminals to Me
19. Wonderland is Kind of a Dump
20. The Barbarian's Fury
21. I Paid $49.95 for this Fucking Book the Least You Can Do is Follow the God-Damned Hook
22. Monte Cook Wrote This Shit
23. I'm Not Sure this is How Hentai Works!
24. To the Burnt Out Hovel!
25. Voodoo is Real

Monday, January 23, 2017

You Want Me to Think About How the Orc Feels Before I Kill Him? What Are You? A Pervert?

title unknown by Richard M. Powers

The other day I was reading reddit, as you do, when I ran across a thread that got my attention: Killing people is hard, but not in RPGs. The basic premise of the opening poster is that in life it's incredibly hard to kill people because reality is a complex bastard and that we should transpose this moral complexity over to our role-playing games and find a way to reflect that difficulty in how we play. 

This insistence on playing in a world of complex morality, where every decision should matter morally to me as a player has never appealed to me. Our real world is filled with that complexity and I deal with it every day so why should I deal with it in my game world too?

I don't and I won't. 

The real world that I live in is filled with moral complexity and I don't need to imagine what it feels like to deal with the fallout from terrible people doing terrible things and trying to keep my family safe with murderers, thieves, drug addicts, and criminals of all sorts living around me. I don't need to wonder how I would feel if I have to deal with rape survivors, the families of murder victims, or what it feels like to be robbed. I know all of those things too well and have no interest in replaying them in my games.
No, I would rather play in game worlds where things are morally simple. There are firm lines in what is good, and what is evil. We kill orcs because they would kill us, our families, and everyone we know or could ever hope to know. Why? Because they're evil. We don't worry about the moral repercussions of our actions because they're evil and fuck them. Role-playing games can be that simple, and for me they will be because I live with the complexity that some try to emulate every day. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Using Morale in Dungeons & Dragons Without Bringing Dice Into It.

Since I first began running Dungeons & Dragons back in '04 I've had this notion that I like Morale rules in my games. I say notion because I've never actually read what the real Morale rules were in AD&D 2e but my beloved Monster Compendium showed what the morale for monsters were and so I wanted to use the damned thing. Only thing was I didn't have access to an AD&D 2e Dungeon Master Guide so I never actually read a solid explanation for the rule so playing with it was a bit of a hit or miss affair. After a while it simply went missing from my games altogether.

Last night, though, I was reading through a copy of the Sword Lords of the Eastern Regions that was given to me when I read this passage:

". . . USING THE UNIT MORALE CHART: Use this chart when a unit's morale is called for, such as facing up to a Demon. If the roll is missed on one die, the unit must withdraw from the action for one turn at half movement, and then check again. The facing of the unit is up to the player whose unit is affected. If the morale save is made, the unit will obey battle orders . . ." (Becker, 27)

It struck a cord and got me to thinking again about using a Morale Rule in my Dungeons & Dragons game - only this time I'm going to actually look up what the rule meant in AD&D 2e instead of just making it all up on the fly. So let's look at the explanation that David "Zeb" Cook wrote in 1993 edition.

". . . Monsters and NPCs are an entirely different matter . . . The DM makes their decisions, trying to think like each creature or non-player character, in turn. 
In combat, thinking like a creature mainly means deciding what actions it takes and how badly it wants to fight - the morale of the creature. 
As a general rule, monsters and NPCs are no more eager to die than player characters. Most withdraw when a fight starts to go badly. Some panic and flee, even casting their weapons aside. If they think they can get mercy, brighter foes might fall to their knees and surrender. A few bloodthirsty or brainless types might fight to the death - but this doesn't happen too often. These are the things that make up morale, things the DM must decide, either through role-playing or dice rolling . . ." (Cook, 69)

I really wish that I had read this passage from the AD&D 2e Dungeon Master Guide years ago because the line ". . . most withdraw when a fight starts to go badly . . ." is something that I could have used earlier to dramatically improve my games. Even with my bastardized morale rule too often I found myself pushing the monsters to stay in the fight until every last one of them had fought to the death. While that can be interesting on occasion having monsters run from the players can create its own sort of drama as the players can gain a real reputation in the world that feels more authentic.

Jeff Easley title unkown
It's also interesting that with the morale rule it seems that there are degrees of failure for the monsters and non-player characters that your players encounter in the world. Are there degrees of success as well?

Zeb continues:
". . . The first (and best) way to handle morale is to determine it without rolling any dice or consulting any tables. This gives the biggest range of choices an prevents illogical things from happening . . . To decide what a creature does, think about its goals and reasons for fighting . . ." (Cook, 69)

As I've been reading more of AD&D 2e in recent weeks I've noticed that there is a decided trend among the writers that as a Dungeon Master you should think about your monsters' and non-player characters' motivations behind what they're doing. This aspect of the game wasn't missing from my beloved D&D 3.5e but it wasn't as pronounced and as a result for a long time I didn't consider such things. Instead I tended to look at the Challenge Rating chart and pick monsters to throw at my players based on what lined up with their level. That was a mistake and it made my game less interesting as a result.

With that in mind let's talk about unintelligent creatures for a minute. Zeb writes:
". . . Unintelligent and animal intelligence creatures attack, most often for food or to protect their lairs. Few ever attack for the sheer joy of killing . . . A mountain lion, for example, doesn't hunt humans (as a rule) and doesn't stalk and attack humans as it would a deer . . . Such creatures normally allow a party of adventurers to pass by unhindered, without even revealing themselves. Only when the creature is close to the lair does the chance of attack increase . . . When they do become involved in combat, animals and other creatures rarely fight to the death . . . Their interest is in food . . ." (Cook, 69)
I find it interesting that while I have often had trouble remembering to get monsters to flee I almost never experience the same issue with wild animals. The difference tends to be that I am around animals both wild and domestic regularly so I've internalized their habits; while monsters, to my mind, tend to be nothing more than imaginary creatures bent on destroying the civilized world of man and demi-human alike. Even though I know what the monsters are doing in my game world and why they're doing it, it's rare that I've treated my monstrous encounters with the sort of complicated motivations that they deserve. Reading Cook's discussion of morale I can't help but feel he would be slightly disappointed in my handling of the monsters.
". . . Intelligent Creatures have more complicated motivations than the need for food and shelter . . . Greed, hatred, fear, self-defense, and hunger are all motivations, but they are not all worth dying for . . . As a guideline for intelligent creature and NPC motivation, consider the actions of the player characters. How often do they fight to the death? Why would they? At what point do they usually retreat . . ." (Cook, 69)
And here comes a point where I begin to understand why I might have simplified monsters' motivations. My players almost never retreat. Not once in the 13 years that I've been running have I had a group that fell back (though I have been a part of two groups who fell back as a player). Typically my players fight to the death every time the enter into an encounter. This begs the question, though: do they determine their notion on how to handle a fight from the way that my monsters interact with them, or do I take my lead from them?

I think that I will have to put Zeb's ideas into action to tell.

More later.

Works Cited
Becker, Michael, Keith Elliott an Wilfredo Aguilar. Sword Lords of the Eastern Regions. Archive Miniatures & Game Systems. 1981. Print. pg 27

Cook, David "Zeb." Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Dungeon Master Guide. Random House. USA, 1993. pg 69 - 72,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Black Mountain Burns, Part 2


I drove up to the Weekday Hotel where Tut was working nights and parked under the only light that worked in the parking lot ten minutes shy of eight o'clock only to find that the rest of the crew had already taken a lurking position in a darkened corner next to the pool. As I walked over to them I counted shadows and the flashes of light from cigarettes. Am I the last one to show, I asked, or are there more coming?

Step took my hand and shook it as he said, "Fucking World's Greatest Liar checked out on us, man."

That's no loss, I said as I looked towards the golden lights coming from the lobby door. We really playing in the Weekday Hotel? I thought Tut liked his job.

"He did," Icarus said, "but word just came down from the Home Office: they're closing at the end of the month."

Shit, that's a bad break. Is he going to be okay?

"Yeah," Biggboy's gravelly voice answered, "we already got him a job with my Uncle over in the Orchard."

"What's he going to be doing," Poot asked.

"I reckon my Uncle's going to be having him run the relay desk, sending the drivers out," Biggboy said.

Could be worse, I said as I watched Neverwas walking into the lobby. Now what's that fucker doing here?

"Ringer?" Step said as he lit another menthol.

"I invited him," Icarus said as we all turned to stare at him. "What? The World's Greatest Liar ducked out when he heard who was joining the table and we needed someone to cover his slot."

Has he stopped being a fucking martyr or are we going to have to watch his characters throughout this whole thing?

"No," the Master Planner said, "he's still God's only martyr and we'll have to watch him try to kill his character all night."

Fuck. Anyone want to end that early or should we let it play out?

"Let it play out," Poot said, "we'll just have to make it work for us."

Your call, I said as I raised my hands in the air. Anything else we need to worry about in this thing tonight. Any unwritten rules we need to be aware of? 

"Yeah, Ganymede's Prison is his baby so watch for him to be super protective of it," Poot said.

"That's if he actually let's us play in the damned thing," Icarus added. "He's been telling us about it for six months."

Cool. So we got a plan for tonight or are we just winging it?

"Yeah," Icarus said, "Step is raising us from the dead and She'rah is going to be recruiting you guys to help us stop Count Gambino from destroying Erfurt."


She'rah shrugged, "He likes Childish Gambino."

Fair enough.

"So what does the party need," the Master Planner asked as he ground his cigarette into the ashtray.

"Fighters and clerics," She'rah said. "We got our asses handed to us because we were heavy on magic but only had Poot for muscle."

"Fuck fighters," Biggboy said as he started walking towards the door, "they're just a bunch of whiny bitches hiding behind armor. Barbarians or get the fuck out."

Time to go in kids, I said following Biggboy's lead.

"Wait," She'rah said as she raced up beside me, "what are you and the Master Planner going to be playing?"

Master Planner?

"Ranger," he said with a wink. "I'm thinking it's time to renew an old rivalry."

Fighter it is then.

"So none of you are going to play a cleric," she said exasperated with us. "You just asked what we needed."

We've already got a cleric, I said as I opened the door for her.

"Oh," She'rah said as she gave me a look, "and just who the fuck is playing a cleric?"

"I am," Neverwas said behind her.

Called it.

Tut stood up from behind his counter as we entered and I was taken back again by the sheer size of the man. He stood nearly a head taller than me and yet he stooped his shoulders so far forward that we practically looked each other in the eye. "What did you call," he asked.

That Neverwas would be the cleric, I said as I took my seat. So how are we doing things tonight?

"Your call," Tut said as he took his seat. "I was going to run my Ganymede Prison adventure but since I've never played with you guys I thought it might be unfair to just jump into it."

"Unfair," Biggboy grumbled as he searched for a rogue d20 that had escaped under the table, "unfair for who? You? Or us?"

"Both," Tut said, "I haven't played with you guys before and I want to keep things right."

The Master Planner hit my leg, "That settles things as far as I'm concerned."

Oh? How we playing this?

"I'm Jim-Jim Wallace," he said as he pulled out his vape pipe, "My friends call me Jim-Jim. Anyway, I'm here with my family looking for a bit mischief in the form of treasure hunting."

Step smiled as he said, "Funny, I just remember that my rogue Alice's last name was Wallace. Seems I've just gotten back from a bad dungeon raid and am looking for some serious, family, backup."

"Well you've found it, little sister," Biggboy said with a little fake laugh he liked to use. "Cause your brothers Jim-Jim and Tiny Jim have just come into town looking for their favorite sister."

"I fucking hate when you guys pull this 'Jim' shit," Neverwas said as he snapped his Player's Handbook closed. 

"What's wrong with the 'Jim' stuff," Tut asked.

"It's there way of signalling that they're going to be fucking murder-hobos," Neverwas said in disgust.

"Oh," Tut said as he looked at Biggboy, Master Planner, and Step. "So what's your character's name, Neverwas."

"I'm glad you asked," He said with a huge grin, "I'm playing Timothy the Pious, devout cleric of Pelor and opponent of evil in all it's shapes and forms."

Tut's mouth hung open for a moment as everyone started first at Neverwas and then at him. If they hadn't looked away from Neverwas they would have seen him wink at Tut as he sat back in his seat. I saw it. I never look away.

"So what's your character's name," Tut said as he looked at me.

Jim Wallace. And I'm here to check on my kin folk. I certainly hope they're all alright or there will be Hell to pay for those responsible.

"I feel like this is going to go well," Tut said as he looked at Poot.