Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wasting Time with You

This morning I was catching up on some reading when I ran across a post by +Alexis Smolensk titled Age. The post is about how Alexis deals with age limits on demi-humans as compared to humans. Now in the post Alexis makes the follow comment:
". . . Tolkein's elves . . . sit and sit and wait and occupy themselves with unaccountable tasks - singing, I suppose, or other art forms that are only obliquely addressed.  Over 1,000 years, it doesn't seem like much of a life.  Why they don't develop the technology and skills mankind invented within 800 years after the re-education of Western Europe is never explained.  If we are going to talk about skills, it doesn't take 800 years to learn to use a sword better - it doesn't even take 800 years to replace the sword entirely with gunpowder, cannon and rifles - but the elves seem uncommonly maudlin, unambitious creatures . . ." (Age
The answer to why elves haven't advanced far beyond the understanding of humanity - or even simply developed a more modern technology - is procrastination. Procrastination affects all of us, and there is no reason to suppose that it would not affect a creature who lived a thousand years to a greater extent.

We see the effects of procrastination in our everyday lives as we put off planting flowers, building decks, and finishing series we've been writing. It permeates existence and has caused the trite saying, "There's never enough time," to be the standard lament of every elderly person to appear on film in the last twenty-five years. So when the question is asked, why haven't the elves advanced technologically beyond the scope of human understanding, the answer is clear: procrastination. In other words, Elves haven't advanced beyond our keen because they've always got tomorrow.

Humanity advances, in part, because we view our lives as these short little things that have to create a greater importance for ourselves than a simple existence would allow. We alter the face of the earth and endlessly toil with mechanical chores to make our lives easier so that we can do more. Cranes can move more earth than a man with a shovel. Guns kill game and our enemies better than a rock ever could. Books whisper our words through the ages to people who will remember our names a thousand years from when we put pen to paper. 

Your thoughts?

Nobody Makes it Out Alive, Part 6: The Trouble with Rats

"They're coming fast," Neverwas shouted!

What are we looking at? I shouted back as I readied one of my Ju-ju cans.

"Rat swarm," Poot called out. "Big fucking rat swarm."

Watch out, I called as I lit the fuse on Clevenger's lamp, Ju-ju can on the way! I launched the jug and struck the swarm in the center of the mass and before the conflagration could get closer Poot closed the door on them. So, how much damage should I roll?

"I don't even know how to calculate it," Little E said in exasperation. "I mean, how much damage would a knock off version of napalm even do?"

"I would rule it the same as alchemist fire," Rudy chimed in, "it's the closest corollary we've got without turning this whole thing into a farce."

It was a farce the minute we started betting on Dungeons and Dragons.

Little E just shook his head, "Fine. Roll 1d6 for damage and -"

Oh, hell no. If what I just threw was a single pint of Ju-ju then I'd agree, but we're talking about quite a bit more.


A gallon.

"A gallon?"

That's eight pints or 8d6 damage from that mother fucker, plus ongoing fire damage since the shit sticks to them and keeps burning, and burning, and burning.

"I can't believe Rudy okay'd this," Little E moaned.

Pick your enemies wisely and all that.

"How did you even know about that?"

When I was in college I had a tendency to not sleep for days at a time. So I would sneak into the library on campus after everyone else went to bed and explore the research shelves until I found something exciting and dangerous. Then I would trip the alarms and play hide and go seek with campus security as I raced out of the building and hid in the holly bushes.

"Wouldn't that hurt?"

Well, yeah, but no one expects a runner to leap into one of those bushes and hide voluntarily.

"And that's how you found about this?"

Oh, God no. I found about this shit on the internet. 

Little E and Rudy starred at me from across the table and a long silence seemed to take over. I let it hang there for a few minutes and then cleared my throat. Gentlemen, I do believe that we have just cleared our third room without any of us so much as taking a scratch.

"Wait," Little E began.

"I do believe that you're right," Step-up confirmed.

"But you haven't gone into the third room yet!"

"Quite right," Poot said. "Step-up if you please."

"On it."

Once we cross that threshold and enter room four I want my money, I told Little E.

"I'll have to get your money in the morning," Little E began.

Wait, I said, you don't have the money you owe me right now?

"Isn't that interesting," Step-up commented.

"You know," Poot said, "I seem to remember him telling you that you had to have the money ready when we got here."

Sounds about right to me.

"Listen, I didn't think you guys would get this far," Little E stammered.

Ah, so you made a bet you couldn't pay.

"No, I have the money. I just don't have it with me and -"

You squirm like a slug after you pour salt on it when you're welshing E.

"I'm not refusing to pay!"

Of course not. 

"Don't be like that Charlie!"

Tell you what, I said with a smile that never touched my eyes, what if we changed the bet to something a bit more interesting?

"What did you have in mind," E asked with suspicion in his voice.

Let's double it.

"You want to bet a hundred dollars that you can make it, where exactly?"

A hundred dollars, I said as I laid the bills on the table, says that we can make it further than any group you've run through this dungeon without a single player death.

"Look, you've gotten lucky so far, but we both know that it won't last."

So you accept?

"I didn't say that."

I picked up the money and slid it back into my wallet. Hurry up and make up your mind. Accept and we keep playing. Refuse and we load up in the car and get my money from your ATM right now.

"I can't get the money out of the ATM, my wife wouldn't understand."

"That's the problem with wives," Step-up said, "they never understand when you lose money you shouldn't have gambled." Little E glared at him from the end of the table.

"Give E a break, guys," Kid Icarus chimed in, "after all he's been so forgiving when we've owed him money. Oh, wait. You haven't, have you?"

"Icarus you know that I'm running a business here."

"Yes you are," Poot said with a smile, "one that apparently involves you refusing to follow through on your obligations while the rest of us are supposed to pay in advance."

Nice racket if you can get into it.

"Now hold on," E demanded. "You're not being fair here."

That's the way things go when you refuse to pay a bet.

"I'm going to pay!"

Sure you are - just not when we agreed. Little E was beginning to look desperate. Tell you what, I said as I walked over and got the cordless, why don't you call your wife and see if she'll bring you the money. Then we can get back to the game. Hell, we'll even give you some quite.

"Smoke break," Poot asked.

Smoke break, I said. As a group everyone scooted their chairs back and started walking out of the room. I'll want either my money or a doubling of the bet when we get back. 

Feel like You've Missed Something?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Best Reads of the Week! May 24 - May 29

Welcome back to the BEST READS OF THE WEEK! I read three hundred blogs and search through the Google+ Pen and Paper Bloggers community for the best articles being put out by this hobby each and every week. Below are the fruits of my effort, but they can always get better! If you've got a blog you think is being overlooked let me know so I can add you to the reading pool!

After the news broke this week that the new Basic game for Dungeons and Dragons would be a free PDF for one and all you might have expected it to dominate the blogging world - but you'd be wrong. This week we've got free games, fictive interviews, mega-dungeons, random adventures, product reviews and so much more!

As always, these guys and gals spend a lot of time working on their blogs and if you liek one of these posts be sure and let the author know by giving them a +1 on Google+, a like on facebook, a comment, or re-sharing their work with the wider community! Feel free to reshare this list, or any of the past Best Reads of the Week as well.

Best Reads of the Week!

Free D&D and Other Choices by JDJarvis, from the blog Aeons & Augauries: This week JDJarvis has been busy compiling some fantastic free resources that you can download and use today. In this post he has a list of seven role-playing games you could get right now and start having fun with today; and after you're done downloading a game, how about some free monsters?

It Was All Weird by +Wayne Rossi, from the blog Semper Initiativus Unum: There is a strain of thought out there that the Greyhawk setting is a vanilla setting that never has anything interesting happening in it. But was that the case? Wayne R. talks to one of the early players in the setting and finds that the truth is far more interesting.

The Dero interview me Via TELAUG by +Patrick Stuart, from the blog False Machine: Talking about the creative process and works that we involve ourselves in is incredibly difficult, but if ever there was someone who could do it in an engaging way it's Patrick Stuart. In this interview by the Dero, Patrick manages to not only sell you on his underdark book but makes you wish it was available for purchase right now. I can't wait till someone publishes it. 

Greyhawk PDFs: D&D Classics by mortellan, from the blog Greyhawkery: When you think of setting specific books that might make the top 100 sales list from D&D Classics how many do you think would be from the Forgotten Realms? How many do you think would be from Greyhawk? I bet you didn't see these results coming.

Is Free Good Enough by +Gerardo Tasistro, from the blog Saurondor: The big news item coming out of Wizards of the Coast this week was that a basic version of the new edition would be released as a PDF for free. For many this was wonderful news, but Gerardo Tasistro recognizes that just publishing a product isn't enough. What will Wizards do after it releases?

Megadungeon Practices by +John Arendt, from the blog Dreams in the Lich House: Designing a megadungeon isn't the easiest thing to do as there's a lot of places where you can go wrong and completely screw the effort. This handy guide by John Arendt might not give you everything you need, but it's certainly one of the best places to start I've found in years.

Devil Hill Dungeons Part Two: Haan's Tomb by +Chris Tamm, from the blog Elmaids & Octopi: Have you ever just wanted to run a dungeon off the seat of your pants? This remarkable post by Chris Tamm allows you to do just that. Randomized encounters coupled with a random dungeon of your own and you've got a game ready in less than ten minutes.

The Madness of Avool by +Arnold K., from the blog Goblin Punch: Like the King in Yellow before it the Madness of Avool (which I pronounce the Madness of A Fool) presents a pamphlet that upon reading will drive the player mad. It's a rich read that provides more fodder for the Dungeon Master and I desperately want to use it in my games.

40k 7th - The Stuff by Blacksteel, from the blog Tower of Zenopus: If you're at all interested in the new edition of Warhammer 40K then this is a great post to read. Blacksteel takes the time to show lots of beautiful pictures of the new books and some of the accessories. Really has me wanting to drop some serious money down the 40K rabbit hole.

Best of Dyvers This Week!

Nobody Makes it Out Alive An actual play series for a game I instigated with a Dungeon Master all of us hated. Money was on the line, but pride mattered far more. All of the posts are linked for easy navigation.

Nobody Makes it Out Alive, Part 5: Death on the Floor and Attacked from Above

"Step-up," Poot almost shouted.

Step-up cut him off, "Relax, I know what I'm doing and what I'm looking for. Don't stress." With that he began to go down his chain for dealing with doors. Is it trapped? What do I hear on the other side? Can I smell anything coming from the room? If I place my hand near the door do I feel a temperature change? Is there anything odd about the door frame? Does the entry way have any indention, rises, or other unexpected changes? We waited in silence as Little E answered each of his questions, and then as Step-up doubled up on points that might have been missed.

Finally he seemed satisfied and announced, "We're clear to go through."

"About fucking time," Neverwas growled out, "you'd have thought you were trying to build the damned thing with how long you took."

"Okay, next time you check the door for traps."

"I didn't"

No, you didn't think and we can't afford for him to check for traps for two more rooms. Remember, we have to get through room three for me to win the bet and six more to go further than anyone else who's played here.

"You won't make it," Little E said, "you guys are already falling apart. So why don't you just go ahead and hand the money over so you guys can do what you do best: fuck off."


"I'm kicking the door clean off its hinges. I have an eighteen strength; what do I need to roll?"

The door exploded into the room as Biggboy rolled his first natural 20 of the night and we were greeted with a dead orc, his arm outstretched towards us and a door on our left. Step-up and Poot went to the door while Kid Icarus and Neverwas checked out the dead body. For my part I fell into a conversation with Biggboy. "This mother fucker is asking for me to kick his ass."

Don't let him get under your skin. He's just trying to get into your head and throw you off your game. 

"Fuck him," Biggboy said as he rolled his knuckles.

I couldn't help but feeling sorry for Little E as he sat there in his seat, comfortable in the idea that all of this was just gamesmanship, while Biggboy was genuinely getting agitated. Biggboy got his name not for being heavy or for being a tiny man that we mocked with this appellation. He got it because he could haul two man rocks out of a quarry by himself without breaking a sweat; and I can personally testify that he picked up my brother in one hand, and me in the other, and carried us into the house without so much as a second thought. The boy was incredibly stout and gentle of heart. So as I watched Little E pick at him I couldn't help but thinking that if he pushed Biggboy too far there wasn't a thing in the world that any of us could do to stop him from kicking E's teeth in.

"The door's clean," Step-up announced. "The room beyond is quiet and I don't trust Little E's description. Something's in there waiting for us."

"I never said," Little E began.

"I don't trust your fucking description."

"It didn't fill me with high hopes either," Poot confirmed. "I'm positive that we're about to run into a kill zone."

"Could be stirges," Kid Icarus chimed in.

What makes you think it might be stirges?

"The body is riddled with puncture marks and it looks like his life has been drained out of him," Neverwas answered. "The only thing we can guess that would do that is the stirge. E's trying to throw us off with calling it 'vampire-like' but there's too many holes for a vampire."

Okay, so stirges. You didn't hear anything from the room that sounded like a buzzing or any such thing?

"No. It was 'quiet like death' according to Little E," Poot said.

Alright then. Are we ready for this?

"I'll recon," Step-up answered. "Are you going to be using the Ju-ju cans?"

Not if I can help it. 

"Right then," Poot said, "I'll open the door."

"I'll check what's beyond. Remember no one goes in until I give the all clear."

We approached the door with me and Biggboy on the right, Neverwas and Kid Icarus ten feet back and directly in front of the door, and Poot holding the handle. It opened into our room so he would be falling back with it while Step-up started the investigation. Step-up held up his fingers, counted down, and we were off.

Step-up started going through his check and spotted it on the ceiling before we had even made our first misstep into the room. He pulled back to confer. "Definitely a darkmantle on the ceiling. How do we want to take this guy?"

I've got an idea. Biggboy would you mind heading back and grabbing us one of those orcs we just killed.

"On it."

"What do you have in mind," Kid Icarus asked.

These things are hunters so they're looking for fresh prey, right?


"Oh," Poot said, "I like it. Do you think it'll work?"

Only one way to find out.

Biggboy was back with the biggest dead orc slumped over his shoulder. "Alright now what?" We bent our heads together as Little E went to get a drink from the front.

"What are you planning on doing," Rudy asked as soon as Little E was out the door.

Spoilers only ruin the fun, Rudy.

"Hey, I just thought that if I could help," he trailed off.

Thanks for the offer, but we've got this.

When Little E came back Thief 1, Thief 2 and Laughing Boy had joined him. It seems we were about to have an audience. "So what are you guys going to do," E asked.

Biggboy ran towards the door with the orc on his shoulder and yelled, "Run, I'll hold them off," as he flung the corpse in. We mocked the sounds of combat as Little E looked at us with disbelief.

"Did it attack the orc?"

A roll, then, "The room with the darkmantle gets cloaked with a magical darkness and you can hear something crunching from within."

Excellent. Neverwas, if you please.

"Mind if I shine some LIGHT on this situation?"

"Do you have to do that every time you cast a spell," Little E groaned.

"Yes. Did the counterspell work?"

"It did."

Good. Biggboy, Poot, rock this bitch.

We dispatched the darkmantle in a single round without any of us taking a point of damage and started to scour the room in hopes of finding something worth keeping. It was then that Neverwas earned his keep because while we were all busy searching for loot he was watching that northern doorway.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sharing is MURDER! Wait, What?

This evening +Dyson Logos added his name to the long list of Google+ members who have complained about people flooding the Communities with links to their blogs and personal projects. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about how I share my content with Google+, twitter, EN World, and the various forums across the internet.

I try very hard not to spam the RPG communities with my articles but there are three places that I share my content every time I post. I share the post Publicly so that anyone who follows me can see what I'm writing; and if I refer to a specific person or website I try my best to key them into that post so that they know someone is talking about them (it's only polite). The second place I share my stuff to is the Pen and Paper RPG Bloggers community.  I hope that if you've been reading me that you can tell how much I enjoy reading blogs through my weekly Best Reads of the Week series and my Great Blog Roll Call project. For me sharing to that community is a great way to keep up with many of my fellow RPG bloggers and I've made some good friends through that community that I might never have interacted with otherwise. The last place I normally share is the G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games community. It's by and far the largest community I've found and is also the one that gets spammed the most - which is a shame, but when you've got almost 11,000 members that's going to happen.

Now on occasion I will share to other communities such as the Greyhawk community and the D&D Next community. I try to limit myself from doing so unless I've got something that either directly pertains to those communities or that breaks some news story no one else has gotten hold of yet (such as when I broke the news of David Trampier's passing or when I compiled all of the pre-order prices for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons).  I hope none of this is considered spamming the communities as that's not my intention.

Speaking of news, when I break something that might be useful to the wider community I'm often the one who lets +Russ Morrissey of EN World know. He's been nothing but kind to me so I like to help him out when I can. I also like to tell him horrible jokes on Twitter which he pretends to laugh at - that's a win-win in my book. 

Now if you see my posts linked to on forums, facebook, or reddit those are almost certainly done by other people. I've only shared anything I've written on two forums (which happens to be the number of posts I've shared as well) and that's it. But that doesn't mean that I don't like finding my stuff out there. I genuinely enjoy finding my work on these other fronts and I love it when people link to me. For me it's a real honor when someone thinks highly enough of what I've done to share me with the wider world. So for those of you who do, thank you. I appreciate you more than you can ever know.

Anyway, that's how I share my work and it's how I intend on continuing to share it for the time being. I just wanted to say it out loud.

Nobody Makes it Out Alive Part 4: Orcs and Traps, Oh My!

We pulled up to Little E's place with five minutes to spare and made our way inside. Poot locked the door behind us and turned off the neon Open sign. "What are you doing," Little E balked. "I've got a business to run here."

"Should have thought about that before you talked shit, shouldn't you," Poot countered. "Now zip up your pants and get to the table. It's time to play D&D"

"You really think it's wise to be pissing on your Dungeon Master," E said in what he believed was a threatening tone.

"Quit your posturing, I've got shit to kill."

The table was set up in the side room behind E's register. Rudy was perched on a bar stool reading the World's Largest Dungeon and muttering to Thief 1 about kids these days not recognizing the brilliance of Second Edition and the real mega-dungeon that was Undermountain.

"Whoa," Thief 1 said as we entered the room, "you're the guys he's supposed to be taking out tonight?"

Is that what he said?

"Yeah. Mind if I watch."

Sure, go wild and tell your family. 

As Thief 1 disappeared down the hallway giggling into his phone we took our places at the table and started passing our character sheets down for Rudy to go over. Then the questions started. Where are you from? How do you guys know each other? What's your faiths?

That last one had the whole table turn to me. St. Cuthbert with a focus on that Cudgel and common sense. I'm the leader of this flock of missionaries. 

"Sounds good to me," E said.

Right, as part of my duties I need to be proselytizing the word of St. Cuthbert to an initiate of the faith. I'd like to have a commoner for this. 


I'll call him Clevenger.

"His name's Al'kallith Ne'phthal."

I don't remember asking his name. E glared at me so I decided to go for broke. I'll be teaching novice Clevenger the glories of the faith. As such he'll be carrying two bags for me. One that holds the three holy books of St. Cuthbert and one that holds some minor items such as food and the like.

"What three holy books?"

The Cudgel, Common Sense, and the Sexual Awakening of a Young Man in Dyvers. 

"What the, " he began as I quickly cut him off.

They're totally legit. I can go get my copy of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer if you'd like?

"No, I just," he threw up his hands, "whatever. You're not going to live long enough for it to matter so that's fine."

Excellent. Rudy, have you made a call on the Ju-ju cans?

Rudy's face cracked a smile that cut his whole head in half. "Yeah. They're cool with me!"

Righteous. Let's get this show on the road. 

Little E cleared his throat and began, "After traveling for weeks across the Yellowtail Mountains you find yourselves seeking shelter in the mouth of a cave. Lightning strikes all about the mountainside and thunder nearly deafens you. What do you do?"

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Poot boomed, "I do believe that we have officially entered into the funnel. Gird your loins and check your shit. I smell a battle coming for us."

We busied ourselves prepping for the grinder before us. I readied Clevenger by hooking a lantern on his pole and lighting it. Weapons were drawn, shields readied, and Poot and I said the family motto: Kill the Dragon, Save the Girl, Loot the Treasure. With that we turned into the cave and began looking for trouble.

"Looking down the cavern mouth," Little E intoned, "you find a narrow passageway that leads down to a worked stone floor."

"I'll take point," Step-up announced, "I'm pulling out my collapsible pole and extending it all the way out so I can check for pit traps and I'm going to be checking the ceilings, walls, and floors thoroughly before we advance. Slow and steady progress is the call of the day."

"Would you like to roll for each check individually or take 20?"

"20, we're not in a hurry and we've got plenty of supplies."

An hour of game time advanced with the breath it took to say this sentence out loud and we made it to the bottom where two featureless, iron doors greeted us. Step-up set a candle on his head, Biggboy guarded our back side, and we blew out the lantern as he began to examine the doors. Another hour and we opened them to find ourselves face to face with a blackness that no light could penetrate. Immediately Kid Icarus began whispering in Step-up's ear. They carried on their private conversation while Poot chucked some loose pebbles into the black morass and listened to the silence that seemed to eat up the room.

"I'm going to step through," Step-up announced as Kid Icarus slid a note card to his right for Poot to read. "Give me a five count before you follow me through." With that he was gone.

We all stared at Little E waiting for a description of what happened next but he pretended to be studying the book for all the answers to life important questions. Finally Kid Icarus announced he was going in, followed by Neverwas, Biggboy and Poot - who handed me the note the rest of them had already read.
It's not a variation on the sphere of annihilation. He's just fucking with us. Baby Momma sent word that it's just a magical lock that won't let us back through. I told Step-up already so he's going ahead to scout.
"So," Little E said to me with a smirk on his face, "what are you going to do? Follow your buddies down the deep, dark hole? Or are you going to sit there with your thumb up your ass."

Oh, Clevenger and I are going in, I said. And that's one. He looked at me with a curious expression but let it pass as he started reading the boxed text.

"Your feeble torchlight seems to be getting swallowed up by the ever present gloom that seems to permeate the room. The room is damp and chilly. There are two, featureless, iron doors in the room. One is directly ahead and one is to your right. And somewhere out in the darkness you can hear a hacking cough."


"On it," and with that he took off sweeping the room from the far left to the right, using his darkvision to his advantage. It wasn't long before he called out, "Three orcs over here." We made our way over to the orcs while Step-up and Poot checked on the the two doors we could see and investigated the rest of the room. 

Do you speak the King's English or are you bereft of common decency and only speak that mongrel orc tongue?

"Can speak fine," the largest of the three orcs said as he looked up at us, "not that it'll do you any good."

Biggboy, see if he isn't a bit more helpful if you speak your own people's tongue to him.

"Okay," Biggboy said as he looked at his character sheet. "Right, what the fuck's the deal bitch?"

While Biggboy began his interrogation Kid Icarus leaned over to me and whispered, "Baby Momma didn't say anything about the orcs. Do you think he's flipping the script?"

No, my guess is that we went in through a different entrance. Pass the word to be on the lookout for anything odd. 


"Charlie," Biggboy said, "these fuckers aren't going to tell us anything. Seems they're convinced that whatever they've been through is going to take us out soon enough. They've completely given up."

Given up have you?

"What's it matter to you? The end's coming and it doesn't matter where you go, it'll get you soon enough."

Ah, fair enough. Biggboy, Icarus, it seems that we have three orcs who would like us to leave them alone. What do you think, Neverwas?

"In times like these I find that SLEEP works best!"

"Sleep works best?" Little E asked in a puzzled voice. 

We've been working with him on his delivery. You should expect more bad puns throughout the night. 

"I've got a list," Neverwas chimed in.

He has a two page list of ways to cast all of his spells. By the way, he did just cast Sleep.

"Oh," Little E said, "right. Well everyone in the area needs to make a save so -"

"If you take a look at the board, Little E, you'll notice that I was angled just right so that only the orcs were in the line of fire."

"So you were," he said as he rolled. "They failed."

Good. Biggboy and I will slit their throats while Kid Icarus and Neverwas go through their possessions.

"What's your alignment," Little E asked.

Lawful Neutral with a heavy emphasis on the Cudgel for all the heathen scum who might oppose my faith.

"Chaotic neutral," Biggboy answered. "I'm only here for the killing." 

The bodies were sorted out, looted, and left in the corner for the scavengers to take care of and we waited on Poot and Step-up to finish their explorations of the room. Thankfully we didn't have to wait long as they had been busy throughout our discussions with the orcs.

"There are six doors leading out of this room. One of them smells real bad. There are a lot of dead bodies in there or it's filled with rotting zombies. Either way I'm not real excited to be exploring it. The one next to it has a trap on it. I didn't disarm it as we don't know what's there yet, but there's a sour smell coming from it. The third door was open and had bits of dried grass strewn all over the floor; real bad odor coming from the place. Last room had a closed door and nothing really to tell me what was behind it."

"Which one do you favor," Neverwas asked.

"I'm partial to the last room. It's a surprise and I'm always in favor of that. Besides, we can always come back to the trapped room when we're done. Nothing is coming in or out of it right now."

Sounds good to me. 

As we made our way to the door Poot leaned over to whisper to me, "I think he must really be running this by the book."


"Yeah," he whispered, "otherwise we should have seen something really deadly already."

Those darkmantles haven't shown up yet. 

"But we came in a different way."

Nobody Makes it Out Alive Part 3: Words of Wisdom and Hints of Dissension

"If we're going to be able to see when this fucker pulls out the stops then we're going to need an alternative to magical light," Poot said. "I'm thinking that we need to make sure that everyone has a hooded lantern and 20 pints of oil."

I leaned in close to Poot, Don't take this wrong, but I've got to use my space for something else.


Ju-ju cans.

"Ju-ju cans? What the hell are ju-ju cans?"

Low grade napalm. Sugar, oil and a clay jug with an oily rag for a fuse. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of and I aim to haunt his dreams. 

"How many are you making?"

Four. I don't think I can get away with any more. Icarus has the book where I can buy the sugar so I'm set. If Little E balks on the hireling I'll work him. 

"Alright," he whispered back to me, then at full volume, "Charlie's out of this equation so the rest of us are going to have to carry four extra to help cover that load. He's going to shoot for the hireling and if that works we'll push more oil in his pack."

"You know E's just going to have him bolt on us," Neverwas helpfully chimed in, "I know I sure as fuck would."

How about you let me worry about that.

"Just trying to be helpful."

Yeah, well you're about as helpful as a bullet to the back of the head. 

"Kids, kids," Step-up said with a shake of his head, "let's focus on the task at hand. Worrying about the shit that might happen will only make the outcome more dreadful. Besides, if the hireling balks we'll light him up and use him as a human torch"

"Right," Poot said. "Does everyone have their equipment written down? Be sure and keep track of your weights, you know that bastard's going to check. Alright, last order before we head over: who's going to tie break. Neverwas after last time you don't get a vote and you're out of the running for tie breaker so don't even think about it."

I was thinking Step-up. He always survives and living is the goal. 

"I don't want it," Step-up said. "The goal may be to live but I'd rather focus on my own ass if it's all the same. Besides, when you tie break you can't vote when we're down there - and I need that vote."

"How about Kid Icarus," Biggboy suggested. "He's always coming up with solutions to problems no one else has thought of before."

"I'd rather have him in the active voting pull," Step-up responded. "No offense, Icarus, but when you're the tie break you tend to keep quite when we need to hear from you."

"None taken," Kid Icarus said. "I just always feel like if you're going to be the tie breaker that you need to spend more time listening than talking. That way when you cast a vote you've heard everyone involved."

Fair enough but I'm with Step-up, we need you active. How about Poot?

"Are you sure?" Poot asked.

Yeah, you've been running this show since we made the call. I think we should stay with the hot hand. Anyone object? I watched each of their faces as they nodded in agreement. Poot was always a good choice as tie break since he tended to think first and then act - always a good quality in a tie break. Then that's settled. Poot's the tie break. 

Now some of you reading this might wonder why we use a tie break when we've got six players involved in the game. As a group we run on a democratic system with each major decision being voted on. Neverwas was not allowed a vote because during our last campaign he attempted to rig an outcome and was caught. We forgave him being a cheating fuck, but we did not forget. By being elected the tie break Poot abstains from all votes unless there's a tie at which time he casts the final say. This method isn't for everyone but over the years it's kept us from having major incidents of infighting and has propelled us to victories that would have escaped the grasp of other groups.

 "Anyone have any last points to go over before we head to E's?" Poot asked.

Yeah, Little E loves to set up mental traps. He's known most of you guys for the better part of a decade so he knows your buttons. Watch for him to push them when we're in there. 

Don't let this son of a bitch in your heads.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nobody Makes it Out Alive Part 2: A Meeting of Minds

The next day began with a major equipment failure at work, four hours of fighting with one of our suppliers on the phone, and me skipping breakfast and lunch. Suffice it to say that when I joined everyone at the local China Hut for dinner at five I was in a dark mood fit for the evening's task. Poot was already lining things up with his effortless charm that could get a nun to eat a lemon through a fence post. "We're looking at an uphill climb tonight," he was telling them as I started munching on my General Tso's. "Little E's been running his mouth off and Charlie had to pick this fight to get us invited to play."

"You guys weren't already invited?" Neverwas interjected. 

"No, they weren't," answered Kid Icarus. "Little E's been trying to control who comes into the game by allowing most everyone but you guys to play."

"Why wouldn't he want us to play," Biggboy asked.

Because we don't play the game right. They all looked at me after I said it, as though in staring at me they could make it untrue. Listen, most everyone at this table - except for Icarus and Neverwas - has played in one of his games in the past and scrambled everything. Poot killed four of his prized NPCs, Step-up never dies, and Biggboy threatened to break his neck after he took liberties with his character. 

"What did he do to your character?" 

"He tried to rape him while he was sleeping."

The point is, I broke in, that we don't play the way he wants. We kill his NPCs, loot his treasure hordes, and rescue the dragons. He doesn't know how to deal with people who play like that.

"That's not how I play," Neverwas opined. "If you guys would stop screwing around he might want to play with you more often."

"Fuck him," said Step-up. "He's a recidivist looking for the next piece of under-aged tail who'll part her legs for him. I'm not playing by his rules and if it wasn't for Poot asking me to join I wouldn't be playing in this bullshit now."

"Which brings me back to the point of this pre-game meeting," Poot broke in, "we need a strategy to deal with what's coming. He doesn't like most of us, is scared of some of us, and likely wants to end this game as fast as possible. How do we turn that on it's head?"

"From what I've been hearing," Kid Icarus said, "it looks like all he's throwing are Darkmantles and stirges."

That doesn't seem like the sort of monsters that should be killing everything that enters that dungeon?

"I got it from Baby Momma," Poot confirmed. "According to her there weren't any traps in the first two rooms but room three had a trap."

How many were playing in her group.


What? Everyone was staring at him.

"She was one of sixteen and everyone had lost their first character by the time they had made it to room four. They had a TPK in room six and stopped at that point."

"Six rooms and a TPK," Step-up muttered. "With just darkmantles and stirges? If he's running it by the book like he claims it doesn't make sense."

"Templates," Kid Icarus said, "he's using templates. I got a look at the book while they were playing last night and he's using a Fiendish template to make them more dangerous."

What do we know about the Fiendish template?

"Not really much too it," Icarus responded, "they're resistant to cold and fire. Oh, and they get a smite good ability."

"Then we'll play evil," Poot boomed! 

He'll just change them to Celestial. No, the key is for us to be Neutral on the Good / Evil axis with a full range on the Law / Chaos side of things. 

"Fair enough," said Poot. "How's our mix of races?"

"Human," said Kid Icarus.

"Same," answered Step-up.

"I'm playing a Halfling," Neverwas announced, "I thought about going with a gnome, but they're really just a bad idea in every way."

"I'm playing a Gnome Fighter and you can choke on my tiny, gnomish dick," Poot countered.

"Just ask and my Half-orc Barb will hold that bitch down," chimed in Biggboy. 


"Looks like we've got enough of a mix that we won't get stopped by any of those racial specific attacks," Poot continued.

"You don't think he'll try to pull that shit with us, do you?" Neverwas asked.

"Maybe not this early, but the goal is to make it through the first level. That means he'll be pulling it on us. He's done it in every campaign I've ever played with him."

"That bitch."

"So how are we going to ensure we've got enough light," Step-up interjected.

My guess is that he'll have light sources present in there, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't. My plan is to pick up a hireling and load him with a lantern and enough oil to make him blow up like the Fourth of July.

"I don't think he allows hirelings," Neverwas broke in, "I certainly never do."

And that's reason 1,276 that you're a terrible Dungeon Master. 

"Like you've got that many reasons!"

I do. I've got a notebook filled with reasons why you suck. I've also got one that I use to keep track of every time you tell a lie. 

"The fuck you do."

You're right. 

"I thought so."

I've got three of them. 

"Guys," Poot broke in, "let's keep it civil. We need to make it through door number three without anyone dying to win the bet."

"What bet?" Neverwas asked.

The one where he said that it would be a cold day in hell before any team we were on would make it past the third room. That got their attention. 

"What do you mean any team we were on?" Step-up asked.

When I called him last night to arrange the game he said that none of us - me, you Poot, Kid Icarus, Biggboy, Neverwas - none of us could make it past room three. So I made a bet that we would.

"How much," Kid Icarus asked.

Fifty dollars.

"Were you drunk," asked Biggboy.

Only slightly. 

"Seriously, dude, you know rocks fall everyone dies isn't just something that happens on the interent," he continued. "There's no way you're going to keep him from doing that. Look, I'm all for fucking up his world but if you've got a plan to stop that from happening I'd love to hear it."

I've got an impartial judge lined up. The silence stretched for a full minute as they digested the idea. Then Poot broke it. "Who wants to piss on him more than us?"


Wizards of the Coast Raises the Bar.

Wizards of the Coast has just upped the ante on everybody. They're giving away the new version of Basic D&D for 5e for free. This PDF is designed to be a modern corollary for the seminal D&D Rules Cyclopedia that so many people view as the greatest version of the game. 

That's right, they're so confident that you're going to love the new D&D that they're giving it away for free.  Oh, and and they're going to keep giving you PDF updates that will make the Basic D&D game compatible with the major events.

Nobody Makes it Out Alive Part 1: Picking a Fight

Tell me again what he said to Kid Icarus?

"According to Kid Icarus he said that there wasn't a single group of players in the county who could make it past the first level of this dungeon of his," Poot said as he picked a bit of tortilla chip from in between his teeth. "Seems Little E has come to the conclusion that there isn't a man in this county with two nuts between his legs."

Was he baiting us, or did he really think Kid Icarus wouldn't spread that garbage?

"Does it really matter?"

I suppose not. Who all are we bringing in for this cluster?

"Icarus is down for the game; said he's already working up a Druid. I'm thinking about rolling with a Barbarian. You?"

I'll fill in the gap after we've got everyone else sorted out.

"Fair enough. I'm thinking Step-up will come along."

There's our Rogue. 

"I know, right? Who else is available?"

Let's see. Biggboy's available and so is Little Boy. 

"Little Boy is out."


"He's in his own little world of pain and self-importance right now." I took a sip of my Long Island Iced Tea and listened as Poot started telling me about an altercation that involved the police and a flight out of town in the trunk of a car. It was assumed that he would be back in a few weeks but until then he was busy trying to drink his life away across the state line. All things considered it was probably for the best.

That means we definitely need Biggboy to play or we'll be going in with a four man team. 

"I know that you don't like him, but what if we brought Neverwas along for the ride."


"He swears that he's been working on how to play and that he's got everything together"

Fine, make the call - but just know that when he steps over the line I'm letting Step-up off his chain. 

Poot gave a little smirk, "Actually," he said, "I'm counting on Step-up to end his world." 

Twenty minutes and four Long Island Iced Teas later we had our group ready for Little E's big adventure. Biggboy was playing a Barbarian. Step-up had his Rogue. Neverwas would be playing a wizard. Kid Icarus had come up with a Subterranean Druid build he wanted to test out. Poot had elected to play a Fighter, and I was going to be rolling a Cleric. With the group sorted out it was time for me to call Little E and pick a fight.

I dialed the number Poot fed me and waited for Little E to answer while two drunken hippies started strumming their guitars along to a half-forgotten Jimmy Buffett song about a broken flip-flop. "Hello," Little E answered.

E, it's Charlie. I hear you've got an adventure where no one can make it past the first level.

"I don't know where you heard that, Charlie." he said sounding like a four year old child trying to get out of an ass whipping. 

Let's not bullshit each other here, E. We both know that you've been running your mouth and talking out the side of your neck for anyone who can hear. What's the dungeon?

A long sigh, and then, "It's the World's Largest Dungeon and I've been running it for the last six weeks and no one's made it past the sixth room."

That cake walk? Are you running it as it was written or off the cuff?

"As written. Listen, Charlie, it's a killer dungeon and even your bullshit wouldn't make it more than three rooms."

Is that a challenge?

"You know what? Yeah, yeah it is. You and whatever bullshit group you put together wouldn't make it past the third room."

Fifty dollars says we make it through the third room without a single player death.

"You couldn't make it out of the first room without killing one of your own players."

And you couldn't find your dick with both hands and a microscope. Do we have a bet or not?

"You're on, we start tomorrow at five."

The fuck we do. We start at eight.

"Eight then, and bring your money 'cause this is going to hurt," he said before hanging up.

Closing Comments.

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