Saturday, February 1, 2014

All Your Questions Will Be Answered

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

Troll and Flame did it:

So did Swords and Dorkery:

And Dyson:


I've never done one of these before, but I'll do my best.  Let me know if I go off topic or ramble or something.  

1. First person who introduced you to D&D. Which edition? Your first character?
I want to run a game where I put stats on everything.  HP, AC, attacks.  Like, at the most fundamental level, this would mean that the barbarian could dispel an enchantment by hitting it with his axe.  But it would also apply to other things.  Kill a fire by shooting it with wooden arrows?  Fine.  Destroy a child's sense of wonder?  Okay.  Attack the darkness?  YES.  Killing someone's civil liberties?  Check.
Basically, it's a one-button video game, and you can solve any problem by (a) identifying what you need to kill, and (b) killing it.

2. First person who you introduced to D&D. Which edition? Their first character?
I wish I kept better notes as a GM, especially with a campaign that goes on longer than a year.  Then I could surprise characters by having them discover their long lost bottles of olive oil, sitting on a shelf in some random dungeon, a whole universe away from where they lost them.
3. First Dungeon you explored as a player-character or ran as a DM.
In my Pathfinder game, the party fought a psychic tank in a snow-covered desert.  It was picking them up and just holding them there while it crumpled their armor like empty soda cans, crushing their bodies inside.  And it had a giant laser cannon to use on the PCs who had a good Will save.
That was fun.  Plus, it was invisible at the start of the combat.
4. First dragon your character slew.
I've never thrown a dragon my players in any of my games.  It just seems mean. (+Courtney Campbell).  And you risk trivializing the draconic epicness, classic dragons don't hold a lot of surprises, yadda yadda.
I know there are times when you want an epic opponent with predictable powers (fire breath, terrible jaws, fear) so the party can plan for it (and dragons fit that bill pretty well), but I haven't had that niche to fill yet.  I probably should give them a shot.
5. First character to go from 1st level to the highest level possible in a given edition.
In Duscuro, elder dragons cannot lie.  If an elder dragon tells you that you are a thief, well, you're a thief.  Rewrite your character sheet appropriately.  If a dragon tells you that there never was a country called Orthon, he's correct.  If a dragon tells you your gender, your genitalia will always prove it right.  If a dragon decries that you don't exist and never have, well. . .
6. First character death. How did you handle it?
I have a folder in my campaign folder called "IN CASE OF TPK".  It's for my Pathfinder campaign.  My players have had some pretty terrible things happen to them (trapped behind time paradoxes, banished to hell, fed to a giant playwright's mechanical dragon, etc.) but they've never gotten a TPK.
This folder contains the scenario that I will run if they die in their quest to save the world from the Cult of the New Flesh.  
Basically, they wake up 50 years later, revived by a bunch of resurrection spells.  All their gear is lost, the bad guys have won, and the maps are all different.  
And then the campaign would mutate from "Hunt Down the Cult of Godkillers" to "Overthrow the Evil Empire".
Plus, you get to see all of the NPCs as old people.
7. First D&D product you ever bought. Do you still have it?
If you do sent your PCs into the future as a consequence of their failure, don't cheapen it by allowing them to rewind time or whatever.
Your girlfriend is 79 years old now and mourning her dead husband, who she was married to for 44 years.  Deal with it.
8. First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?
The first game of DnD I played was in 2005.  My first edition was 3.0.  I don't think I care too much about tradition or momentum.  (And I still think that 4d4 might be a better way to roll ability scores, instead of 3d6.  See
But because of DnD's ubiquity, everything I write needs to be compatible.
And that's fine.  Everyone wants new content for their campaign.  People very rarely want to learn/teach a whole new ruleset.
9. First campaign setting (published or homebrew) you played in.
The DnD-centricity of the OSR is probably a good thing, though.  It forces me to think about new, interesting things, instead of bogging down in mechanics and mathematical minutia (although I do that, too).
When I was an undergrad, I would spend a couple hours every night writing up mid-level NPCs.  This was 3.5, so these were all 1-2 page affairs.  I had a folder with hundreds of these NPCs.  This was soothing and enjoyable to me.  Not like snowboarding is fun, but like reading the Sunday comics is fun, without ever really laughing out loud.
Sometimes I think that I probably have some type of autism.
10. First gaming magazine you ever bought.
My first campaign setting was Centerra.  It's a fantasy setting that was originally highly designed (I worried about plate tectonics).  It was built on hard assumptions about the world (a bit like hard sci-fi).  It was built around themes of transformation, biology, and inverting fantasy tropes.
11. First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.
I've never bought a gaming magazine.  But I've read a few.  They're mostly alright, but I prefer the freak-engine of creativity that is the OSR.  There are brilliant fucking people writing brilliant fucking things for free and you just have to click on things to go read them and why are you even here, anyway?
I've even been fortunate enough to game with some of my heroes on G+.  But not all of them.  (e.g. +Scrap Princess).
12. First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?
My second campaign setting was Duscuro.  It was tightly constructed around a single campaign that I had planned out.  Mostly revolving around questions of divinity.  What does Ultimate Power have to do with Worship, anyway?  And once you introduce extraterrestrials, how do gods work anyway, both in purpose and scope?
13. First miniature(s) you used for D&D.
Since day 1, the Duscuro campaign has had a very defined arc.  The campaign has been going on for 2+ years and every one is level 17.
It's exhausting, and I still struggle with nonlinearity vs engineered-epicness.  Although it is wonderful how tightly interconnected all of the NPCs and story are.
14. Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?
I have promised my players that if they can beat the Duscuro campaign without getting a TPK, my next tattoo will be of something related to the campaign.
The story is drawing to it's inevitable conclusion.  I don't have many more chances left.
15. What was the first edition of D&D you didn’t enjoy? Why?
My third campaign setting is Eldritch Americana.  It's just an intersection of 1920's Americanisms, post-apocalyptic prosperity, Cthulhu, and general strangeness.
16. Did you remember your first Edition War? Did you win? ;)
My fourth setting is the Axis Mundi.  It's an 8000 year old colony ship that's big and weird and unknowable.  It's all sci-fi and shit.  The themes include identity, memory, and humanity.
17. First time you heard that D&D was somehow “evil”
I tricked my family into playing DnD with me last Christmas.  They were all amnesiacs shaking off the reins of psychic domination within a wizard's tower.  Dad was the thief, mom was the fighter, sister was the druid.
NOTE TO SELF: When DMing for your family, be sure you run a very short session.  Families have no tolerance for long ones.
18. First gaming convention you ever attended?
My campaign settings are mostly just buckets.  When I have a cool idea, I put it in whatever bucket is most appropriate.

This haphazard method of world-building has led to some unexpected results.  Like, after you have invisible iguanadons, you gotta find a place for them on the map, right?  Maybe with the hummingbird hive-mind, eh? I bet there's a story there.
19. First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.
There's only two people in this world that I hate.  One of them beat me in a wrestling match, and the other one electrocuted me.  Those fuckers.
20. First non-D&D RPG you played.
What do you tell your players when you are trying to get them to try games outside of DnD?  I know everyone has their comfort zones, but it's frustrating when my friends take the viewpoint of "I'd rather focus on playing the best DnD game, rather than play some other games".  I'd argue that the best DnD game (for a particular group, on a particular day) might be Traveller, and you won't know until you play Traveller.
21. First time you sold some of your D&D books – for whatever reason.
I wonder if everyone wants to write their own book, or if DnD people especially want to write their own books.  DMs write a lot of shit down, and we all want the acclaim and money, so I guess it makes sense.  And a lot of us have stuff to contribute.
Blogs are wonderful for this, though.  Small, focused things that are easily searchable.  More fitting with the hobbyist lifestyle.  Allowing rapid exchange of ideas in an environment that allows for commentary and integration with a community as a whole.  And they're free.
They shouldn't be free.
Here I am, breastpumping out all my creative juices and what do I get in return, huh?  You better have a blog of your own, or at least post some cool comments.
Otherwise you're breaking this blog economy.  You are shitting in the mouth of capitalism.
22. First D&D-based novel you ever read
Day of the Dragon, by Richard Knaak.  God, he's an atrocious author.  Salvatore, too.  He's like the redistricting committee of the fantasy ghetto.
23. First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?
I fully intend to try incorporating some drones, binaural beats, and other sonic weirdness into my next RL DnD game.  Soundtracks are awesome to have at your table.
24. First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?
I think I know why DnD movies suck.  They're all based on generic fantasy stuff, like Forgotten Realms.
Now I love me some generic fantasy shit.  It works great at the table.  Everyone knows what a goblin is, so we can get on with the game.  Cliches work great at the table, too, because we only want/need/have a moment to characterize an NPC (frequently).
But movies want big, weird, unimaginables presented.  And quality dialogue and characters.  Neither of which is necessarily part of the generic DnD milieu.  Get too weird, and it doesn't feel like DnD anymore.
And DnD sort of requires some good CG.  It'd be impossible to make a good DnD movie on a shoestring budget. 
Appeal to the common denominator and you get something like the Hobbit movies.  They're good and fun and awesome, but they're also just running around and smashing monsters, a bit like Transformers.  They don't really capture the mystery and peril that I associate with DnD.  (Did you see Beorn?  Beorn is AWESOME.)
It could be done, though.  Maybe we just aren't big enough to be a target audience.
25. Longest running campaign / group you’ve been in.
Sometimes I wonder why DnD isn't more popular.  I think the biggest obstacle is the complexity of the rules.
Ideally, I'd want my DnD to be something I can pull off the shelf and just play with my DnD-naive friends, like Monopoly.  You can learn monopoly in 10 minutes.
If that's the case, then we--who are continually making denser, more elaborate rules--are our own worst enemies.  By complicating the game, we are isolating it, and thereby impoverishing it.  If twice as many people played DnD, we'd have twice as many modules, twice as many adventures, twice as many idea-makers.  Twice as many good ones.
26. Do you still game with the group that introduced you to the hobby?
I'm in a hurry to write down all of my ideas.  Mostly because I'm worried that if I wait longer to write them all down, Future-Arnold will be the one going through my notes, deciding exactly what I meant when I wrote down "Neuroplectic Orc Array".  I'm worried that future-Arnold will get it wrong.  Like when poets rewrite their own work, an everyone's like, no, leave it, we love it, noooooooooooo.
No way do I want some old dude messing with my stuff.  
27. If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?
I wouldn't have made a fucking sorcerer in 3.5.
Has anyone ever played a mono-class game?  I guess Carcosa would be almost a mono-fighter game.  
Mono-thief would be excellent.  I want to play a mono-thief campaign so bad that I hereby resolve to go steal something from a gas station today.
Mono-cleric would also be cool.  Different gods, different tenets.  Religion is one of the weirdest things humanity has ever come up with, and here you get a campaign of it in your face all of the time.  Give everyone a couple of strange taboos/observances.
Mono-wizard would also be fun.  Give everyone different spell lists.  Make up some rules for multi-wizard channeling.  Give everyone a unique summon and some trusty meat shields.  It could be excellent.
28. What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from playing D&D?

I am continually blown away by the diversity of interests that DnD has invested in me, and that I see within the community.  In the course of playing DnD, I've learned linguistics, psychology, geology, history (especially medieval population demographics and holy shit polearms), literature, engineering, biology, anthropology, occultism, religion, and no small dose of statistics.  I've pondered religion and existentialism.  I've dipped my finger into all of the pies.
Authors and screenwriters also acquire a superficial knowledge of a wide range of topics.  But DMs have to understand Archimede's Screw, because that's how the Deiplasms of the Far Plane will exsanguinate the planet's blood-soul, and the DM needs to be able to respond accurately when the PCs attack the giant drill-pump.
We are such cool people.


  1. Hi Arnold,

    I know I’m bothering future Arnold to look at past Arnold’s notes, but you alluded above that there’s a great wealth of D&D / ttrpg blogs out there that are giving away amazing ideas for free. Can you point or recommend me any notable greats I should check out? I only know of you, and even then for the past 6 months. In that time as I scroll through your life’s work, I have stolen the cult of emmaculate dawn, the dolphin sea-serpent worshiping people, the axis mundi setting as a whole, that Roman swore city in centura who own the dogs, the awakeners, mushroom goblins, etc

    Point is, if you’ve given me this much, surely there’s more I can consume!

  2. Massive fan of yours and am currently reading through your wealth of knowledge you’ve accumulated here. You mention above that there were other bloggers like you who have amazing blogs where they give away their great ideas for free.

    I’ve already been inspired / stolen the axis Mundi setting, the awakeners, the cult of immaculate dawn, the mushroom goblins, the isle of flowers, the sword-loving military city in centurra and the sea-serpent worshipping people.

    I’m so hungry for more, can you please recommend me any other ttrpg bloggers to checkout?

  3. Oh u need to approve it...woops....sorry