Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Thanks to everyone reading.  Thanks for all the great comments and all of you with blogs of your own.  I've enjoyed this conversation of ours immensely.  Here's to an awesome 2011.

Poker Personalities II

Oddysey has a nice post here about the kind of social interaction that happens in her game with Trollsmyth.  I think I first saw this after I had already written my last post, but I realize now that my poker personalities would push players to do what she calls politics.  It's really about discovering the weaknesses and foibles of npcs to use as leverage against them.  Which is fine if that's what you're looking for: intrigue, politics.  But I don't think it would be conducive to the type of play Oddysey mentions enjoying in that post.  So, what mechanics might push players toward that type of play?

I think you could tweak the card suits idea a little and get closer.  Imagine the suits represent similar realms but experiences, skills, and opinions rather than exploitable secrets   For example:
  • : Memorable purchases, moments of fame, dreams of success.
  • : Lost loves, stories of home and family, nationalism
  • ♣: Tales of hardship, monster encounters, war stories
  • : Teaching of philosophies, religious doctrines, guild bylaws
You keep the same system I suggested previously: npcs have 1 public, 3 private, and 1 secret bit of information.  Now, give a character experience each time an npc is engaged about one of their bits of information.  Finding out about someone's tragic past is not enough, you need to engage them personally.  So, the discovery of information would only be a part of the process here, you would need to hear it from the horses mouth, sit down to get more details, maybe give them advice.

How would this conversation be systematized?  I don't think it needs to be. I think it would become very obvious to a DM if a player was trying to hit on three subjects in quick succession just to rack up experience. It would seem unnatural and might shut off the npc completely. A measure of trust and comfort would need to be achieved to broach more private topics and I think players and DMs would have a natural sense of that.

So, how much experience? I'm not sure. Maybe 100 xp for private ideas, 200-500 xp for secrets. I think it would need to scale with levels though, or you would find going up in level would require conversing with more and more people. Trollsmyth and Oddysey would best have a feel for the pace here: how many conversations feels like enough to go up in level. Perhaps becoming friendly and conversant with 10-20 people would be enough to move the character forward a level.  So, multiply xp awards by level to keep the number of interactions consistent.

I'm having an intuitive tingle that letting players pick five things for themselves might be fruitful too.  Maybe you get twice the experience if you find someone with a similar religious philosophy, or who has had similar traumatic war experiences.  This would push players to explore npcs, searching for those like-minded souls.

I thought about giving experience for sharing information about npcs with other npcs, but I think that would just push towards gossiping.  I think it will be useful enough to find out about person A from person B so that you could confront/or console person A about that subject.

Heck, this might even work for romance.

As far as the cards themselves, this could all work with them being completely discrete: a hand of 5 clubs is five separate experiences/memories of hardship.  I think it could be interesting to make runs of the same suit or same card mean something, though.  Showing similar ideas memories related to each other.  The numerical value of a card could represent chronological sequence-- you discuss memories 3, and 4, before the person will reveal 5, or vice versa.

If you didn't do this and only wanted the bits of info to be discrete, what would the numerical values represent?  They could be how much that person knows/has to say about it, or how willing/unwilling to share about that subject.

Anyway, I think it is possible, with simple, abstracted mechanics to push towards almost any type of play you might think of.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three Pics

Maybe you could use these three as npcs:

From Strange Peoples (1901). Public Domain.

Countdown Clock Record Sheets

I dug the idea of countdown clocks that Risus Monkey blogged about so much that I made some record sheets.  Apparently these come from Apocalypse World of which I now nothing. But as I understand it you use the clock to keep track of big happenings in your game world like war or plague.

Here's a sheet to track a single thing:
I was thinking this could be worldwide or regional and that you could just make tally marks to track sessions.  Obviously, the "ifs" are triggers, the "thens" results.  Triggers could be something as simple as a certain number of sessions played.  Triggers could also link to other clocks; maybe war at 6:00 starts the plague up.

Here's a sheet to keep track of all the clocks running in a game world or region in one easy to see place:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Pics

Here's another potential NPC portrait:
And this one looks like it could be straight out of a classic module:
Bonus: the book calls the growth on the walls skeleton plant. Public Domain.

Mark of Uru

Animation by Nigerian Obinna Onwuekwe.  The production qualities of this are pretty crude. But I'm fascinated by fantasy coming from a different cultural perspective.  It's also interesting to see Onwuekwe use techniques/tropes right out of anime.

Apparently this and two other cartoons were released on a DVD called African Tales.  The first two episodes are still available online:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tomb Entrances

These could be useful to show players.  What lies within?
From Sculptured Tombs of Hellas (1896). Public domain.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ghost Leg or 阿弥陀籤

Saw this on Metafilter:
"Amidakuji, or "Ghost Leg," is a lottery party game from Japan. At the top of a sheet there are a number of spaces for people to write their names. At the bottom there are prizes. There are an equal number of each. Between them is a map obscured behind a sheet. The map is made of straight vertical lines connecting the names and prizes. Connecting those lines at random intervals are horizontal lines. When it's time to pick winners, the sheet is removed and players can follow the lines to find their prize. You follow the line from your name down until you encounter any horizontal line, which you must follow, then continue down, continuing to follow all horizontal lines you encounter, until you reach your prize. No two horizontal lines can touch."
I'm attracted to the fact that 1) it's simple , using just paper and some kind of writing utensil, 2) it randomizes, 3) it does so in an engaging way-- with participants required to watch as the outcome is revealed. Not sure how I might use it in game, but an interesting tool to keep on the shelf.

Bonus geekery: this is where the old arcade game Amidar came from.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm no expert, but from observing my own process of learning it goes something like this:
  1. completely unaware of something
  2. begin noticing something
  3. able to repeat outcomes based on that knowledge
  4. theorize about that something
  5. experiment and fail often in trying to pin it down and its boundaries
  6. act intuitively and largely unconsciously, but pretty consistently now
  7. finally act consciously and build on that knowledge. Learned it.
Also from my experience these things seem to happen in stages that feel like plateaus to me. And parts of the process are very frustrating and uncertain especially around 5 when you are starting to have the hunch something is true but can't quite express it or replicate it yet.

But I'm writing about this now because I just realized something about the Man of Wounds.  I realized that creature can evoke sympathy in players.  Their first reaction can be: "Oh my god! What happened to it?!"  if it isn't just snarling and leaping immediately to attack. I had a realization about this with the Vomiter a while back and even sat down to try and craft a creature based on making players feel sympathy.  But I forgot.

Looking back at the session my players encountered the Man of Wounds, it seems I was working off of this idea unconsciously.  For example: It had no weapon of its own in hand, so it seemed less of a threat; it shuffled along slowly, again less of a threat; but most importantly the sounds it was making were closer to those of pain than anger.  When a random encounter roll brought a second of these beasties into the tale I decided at the drop of a hat that it would be female.  Now, even though my players knew these things were hostile and violent, they seemed to pause a bit.  I even had tears streaming down the Woman of Wounds' face.

I think I must be a stage 6 with this idea of trying to have sympathetic monsters because I'd completely forgotten the post on the vomiter and the peasant king.  My natural reaction is to be frustrated with myself, but hey at least I caught on eventually.  And if this is the way learning happens, why be disappointed?  Now, it seems really appropriate, at the end of the year, to go back and reread some of my meatier posts to try and remember what I'm in the process of learning as a DM and dungeon designer.

p.s. What is the value of one good idea?  For example, one monster, one treasure?  I'd say pretty high.  My players now dread going back into that section of my dungeon.  With one monster the imagined world became fleshed out, the risk of exploration was made real, the Mythic Underworld was manifested in all its strange danger.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasons Greetings

And Merry Christmas! My boss just gave me the D&D animated series DVD as a gift. I'm going to go watch some and fondly remember when our hobby was mainstream.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DMing the Folks

I've been seriously toying with the idea of running my father and stepmother through a session of old school D&D (pretty sure mother and stepfather are a lost cause).  As I get older it seems sad to me that my family really has no conception of this game I love thinking about and playing.  When I talk about blogging and the satisfaction it gives me they listen patiently, nodding their heads as if my hobby is body modification or building a time machine in the backyard out of auto parts.

But, they are pretty conservative protestant types and anything reeking of creepy or demonic is only going to confirm their worst preconceptions about the game.

But how would they get a thrill from exploring if there are no threats?  I've been thinking almost as if I were going to play little kids, something Christmas-themed with elves, misfit toys, and snow.  But that feels a little condescending.

I was just thinking maybe the key is to push the tone from creepy to alien.  If creepy is unsettling because the threat seems wrong to you and it knows it's wrong (like little men stuffing a dead monk with cherries).  Alien might be threatening at no fault of the threatening object (like an ivory statue of Justice walking slowly, inexorably toward you). I'm not sure-- this seems a fine distinction and could be dangerous to get wrong in this context.

Another focus could animal threats-- I've always been a sucker for ants as foes, maybe wolves.  Or the environment-- heights, lava pits, water filled rooms.

Apart from figuring out a threat, I have a craving to make some kind of wondrous machine.  Something like a big laboratory console with buttons that do cool stuff when manipulated in different sequences.  Maybe the promise of wonder is enough to pull explorers forward in lieu of threats?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Relationship Record Cards

Here are some 4' x 6' cards to keep track of who's interacting with who in your steamy world of fantasy intrigue.  Here is a pdf.  I realize I was sort of muddling power or decision making structures with personal relationships in my last post (and sure, they are related).  I've made two types of cards the first has a typical pyramid hierarchy like you might expect in a guild or church:
This next one:
 is meant to record things like vendors in a market place, or maybe the players at court, groups of people scheming and interacting but not necessarily in a hierarchy.  Here's the back to record the names of the people involved.  You would probably want individual records for folks if pcs start interacting with them, but this is just meant to be a key to the diagram on the front:
And here is a crude example of how you might use one of these:

I've used playing card suits as per this post.  I drew a few relationships in certain directions and some going both ways. These can mean whatever makes sense to you.  Maybe 6 owes money to the guildmaster.  Maybe 8 and 10 like getting together to debate while 7 is extorting money from some out-of-guild entity, maybe without permission. 

My guess is that, as DMs, you probably would only need these as you generate, we humans seem to be wired to remember this kind of stuff fairly well.  But, these cards could be useful for your players trying to unravel the various power relationships in your world.  And if you want players to engage your world socially, giving them some of these would help send that message to them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Faction Frameworks

So, following yesterday's post, what does a DM do if you want to develop some factions?  I think the best way to do this would be to develop each individual npc in the faction and see how the relationships result in a faction social dynamic.  Bottom up.

But, perhaps you suddenly need several factions because the party travelled unexpectedly to a city you haven't fleshed out.  Or maybe you just want to try and generate some factions the other way, top down. What to do?

I was toying with the idea of using chess pieces as a generative device.  And you might still do this, the faction has members that are rooks, bishops, and knights and their abilities/relationships are somehow related to what those pieces can do on the board.  But I'm not really a chess player (gasp).  And the factions that were coming out of that framework were fairly simple and hierarchical.

Now, guild structures and militias may actually be fairly simple and hierarchical.  But, by faction I'm thinking rather broadly. And also thinking of interpersonal relationships more than power structure (maybe the King is in love with one of the Pawns).

So what would yield a more complex, familiar structure that we could use to help here?  How about this as a faction structure:
Look familiar?  Or how about this?
The first are the positions in baseball, the second hockey.  Some of you (Christian, ze Bulette) seem pretty enthusiastic about professional sports.  I figure a DM could take a sport they're familiar with and use that to build a faction or social web in-game fairly quickly.  What is interesting is that they don't tend to form pyramids with one person in charge.  The baseball grid looks like it has a triumvirate of influential people, the hockey grid, a pair pulling the strings.

Maybe you could think of what pcs are trying to do as plays: gaining guild membership requires you talk to A then B then C, your out!  Or, you have to get by the goalie first.

You might even get more specific: "Okay, the Fighters Guild is like the 1978 Whoevers, this guy they're threatening is the pitcher, looks really impressive, but if the keep the pressure on he's totally going to choke."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Poker Personalities

Trollsmyth did a few posts recently about how if you want your players to do social interactions in-game you need rules that will push them that way.

I think people commenting on those posts were resistant to the idea that you need any rules to roleplay at all, that it can just happen on top of anything.  That's a post for another day, but I thought I might offer an example of rules that would push players to do more social interactions in-game.

What was really enlightening about Trollsmyth's posts for me, was not that rules shape behavior--that system matters-- but that the rules often shape behavior indirectly.  In other words, if you want players to interact socially you can't just give them XP to do so, it won't work well.  Instead, we need to break down what we mean by "interacting socially" and try to implement rules that will promote, or afford, that behavior.

With the caveat that I've never played any of the World of Darkness games and am very happy with the exploration of old school D&D, I think when people talk about social interactions they mean:
  1. learning about npcs and their desires through conversation
  2. utilizing information learned from npcs to make things happen
  3. investigating npc-npc relationships
  4. building a web of npcs to interact with and gain information from
  5. joining guilds/factions and climbing up through their hierarchies
  6. utilizing guild/faction affiliations to make things happen
    Phew, that's a lot of stuff.  But I think we can do this.  

    I love using simple materials we all have around the house and have experience with, so we'll use playing cards. I think Zak may have mentioned NPC reactions with cards briefly, but I've been intrigued with the idea since I heard a game used cards to resolve pc/npc interactions (was it Shadowrun?). Last caveat, I know this is a simplistic view of humans and their motivations but we have to start somewhere and hopefully complexity will emerge from the simple system.

    Okay, the players want to enter somewhere but Bob the guard is tasked with keeping people out. What to do, what to do? Here's what you do:

    Draw 5 cards, 1 up and 4 down.
    The first card is public knowledge, the next three are private knowledge and the last card is a deeply held secret.

    To get what they want from Bob the players will have to either threaten him, bribe him or convince him with a rational argument.

    What is Bob susceptible to you ask? The suits tell the tale:
    • : Wealth, power and advantages dealing with acclaim, fame and prestige.
    • : Love, lust and approaches to life dealing with the appetites-- but also nostalgia, security, and comfort
    • ♣: Threats of violence and harm, fear, dread
    • : Reason, rational arguments involving laws, systems, explanations, and examples.
    Let's follow peoples' expectations and say low cards are weaker. So, with a two of hearts, it appears Bob is really vulnerable to some aspect of that realm.  Players can determine this by briefly observing him or interacting with him.  Maybe he's a ladies man, checking out every female that walks by.

    If players start following him around or asking questions of people that know him, the DM will flip over those private cards.  Maybe one card for each lead investigated. These investigations reveal:
    So, after a little poking around it seems Bob is susceptible to rational convincing, but because the 9 is the same suit, like a flush, it strengthens his resolve here. The 7 offers some possibility of bribing him but it will be more difficult than utilizing his weakness in hearts.

    The hole card, that last secret, should be difficult to find. Traditionally it is the npc's diary, maybe they talk to themselves when they believe they are alone, or talk in their sleep.  And in fantasy games these could be discovered through magic or mental powers such as ESP.
    The 2 probably puts the nail in any attempts at reasoning with Bob.  Perhaps he is affable and listens politely (the appearance of weakness with the discovery of the 3), but is just too dumb to understand the players' arguments.  But the knowledge of all his traits does not undermine the idea that he is susceptible to persuasion through hearts.

    So, knowing this what do players do?  What is the mechanism for resolving the outcome of interactions?  Two things spring to mind:  First, you could convert player stats to card equivalents.  I think subtracting 5 might work: a pc with an 8 charisma might just be able to personally seduce Bob (8-5 =3).  Strength could apply to ♣, Intelligence to .

    But what about the guild and faction interactions in our list above?  That's the second thing: give members of organizations certain leverages as they advance through the ranks.   Cutpurses in the Thieves Guild might have access to 3, 3♣, and 3.  A Mages Guild member accessing their archives might wield a 10 in examples and anecdotes.

    I think this would push players to investigate people rather than places (discover npc cards), use what they learn to interact with them, get involved in organizations (to have access to powers greater than their stats and personal wealth allow), and continue interacting with npcs even when the short term events are finished (Bob may be useful to apply pressure to another pc in the future, or in advancement in some organization).

    I also think the abstraction of the four suits leaves a lot of wiggle room for creative players.  Maybe players think to influence Bob by bringing around one of his old war buddies, this would fall under s as well.


    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Curse Lifted

    Our doughty adventurers:

    Toral DP
       Tory hireling
    Z F
       Mika hireling
       Fabrino hireling
    Derek F
       Jimbo hireling
       Ziegfried trained baboon
    Alamon DP
       Morag hireling
    Darius F
       Pegleg Penny hireling
       Mr Pugglesworth talking dog
    Yestlick MU

    Hearing rumors of a fabulous shield embossed with gold coins, the party searched Nidus for two day before finding one of the original vendors where they had spent cursed gold coins.  They bought the shield and noticed an animal arena across the way.

    Bets were made, several folks lost money as a kudu gored a camel.  Toral began prying the coins off the shield as they watched, but one popped off into the arena, luckily Derek sent his baboon to fetch it before baskets of rattlesnakes were poured into the arena.  A tortoise did not fare well against them.  And the final round was a great grizzly against a bull walrus, the bear was the bloody victor.

    After a few more chores, such as Darius finally ridding himself of his troublesome chalice, the party headed back to the sodden temple to put the cursed coins back into their place and hopefully lift the curse.

    The trip was uneventful except on the way out, one of the fly priests asked Derek to assist him with matters in the temple.  Derek resisted what was apparently a glamour and the party readied their weapons, but the fly-armed man seemed to disappear.

    Back in the fresh air again, they felt the curse lifted!  Their oozing cuts and wounds tingling as they began their natural healing process.  Back to Nidus for rest and prayers for healing.  Finally, after weeks of being on edge the party was back to full health and capable of natural healing again.

    They decided to head back to the sodden temple again to investigate a portal that they had opened but never entered long ago.  It had an ancient clay seal.  The problem is that the lower levels are partially underwater and recent tremors seemed to have sunk the temple even more.  The party brought along a canoe.

    There was a lot of engineering and logistics they led to naught.  After tying ropes to the canoe and shuttling the big party across trap infested waters, and then stripping of armor placing it in the canoe and swimming into even deeper water, the party was set upon by spider-geckos.

    These creatures are not much to fear by hardened veterans, but with the party armorless, swimming, unable to use shields and most weapons, it meant chaos and an end to the expedition.  Fabrino and Yestick both had close calls and barely escaped with their lives.  The party decided to turn back at that and head for the safety of Nidus.

    Some Thoughts

    First, some little notes: the talking pug puppy was a birthday gift for Darius' player, she seemed to love it.  Z was desperate to save his hireling Fabrino, unconscious, floating face-down in the water-- because he'd seen a favorite hireling fall to her death into the Maw just recently.

    The party seemed frustrated they didn't get farther into the temple, but it balances with the palpable relief they felt earlier when the damn curse was lifted (they been cursed for ~6 weeks real time).

    Now two major DMing puzzles.  Lesser one first:
    1) I don't think I've ever read any DMing guide mention what to do with parties travelling through previously covered dungeon terrain.  These folks had been a certain way so many times that rolling to open doors, etc. was boring, so I just rolled 4 encounter rolls-- 2 going in 2 going out-- and handwaved the rest.  That's fine.  It worked.  It makes sense for the DM to make a judgement call to keep things paced briskly.  And yet it worries me a little.  What if, for instance, I'd though "Uh oh, they're getting frustrated trying to get this big party through the water here" and handwaved that?  I think I'd lose the real sense of accomplishment they'll feel when they finally get somewhere, and take away the motivation they feel because they really want to beat the damn water now.

    But wait a minute, the difference is simple isn't it?  In an exploration game new places always trump something seen many times.  So I probably made too much of this.

    2) I mentioned in a previous post that, because the party was looking for cursed coins they'd spent, it seemed like a cool opportunity to have at least one end up overseas.  And I felt a little uneasy about that; isn't that a little railroady?  Anyway, I never prepared my sea travelling encounter tables and such to my liking, they've been cursed for weeks, and we're going into the holiday season with few sessions for a while, so I had the guy sail back to Nidus bringing the coins right into their grasp.  Right decision?  I don't know.  Better than a half-assed ocean voyage I suppose.

    Is this a problem because I'm wanting to play a sandbox style game but I haven't yet given them a sandbox?  They don't even have a map of the local environs!  I guess what I wonder is where to trust the emergent storyline that is bound to be interesting in ways none of us can predict, and when to nudge the events in the world as DM because I see a narrative opportunity.  I feel like I may have pondered this somewhere before-- it has to do with players having a choice?  Anyway, I'll stop here and go drink some more coffee.  Hope you're all having a nice December.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Animal Arena

    Weeks in the making, with a cast of hundreds, I bring you Animal Arena!

    Resplendent in silks and hennaed patterns, radiant with gilded hooves and tusks, the animals are led into the amphitheatre to the peal of bells and horns. And those placed together are often so exotic and absurd, it all seems more a holy pageant sacrifice or display of decadence than a fighting event.

    In a nutshell:
    • roll to see which of the almost 100 animals will enter the arena
    • Each has an attack die of different strength-- roll these to see which bests the other
    • Three rounds determines the winner
    We had a session last night that involved a kudu goring a camel, a tortoise bitten to death by rattlesnakes, and a grizzly fighting a walrus. Players seemed to enjoy it.

    Okay, it's still Beta if you want to bet on the outcomes.  I envision players getting to bet at the announcement of the first animal, at the end of round 1 and at the end of round 2.  But the odds should really adjust based on the attack power of each animal involved and how the rounds have gone so far.  Unfortunately, I am neither mathematician nor bookie.  Maybe someone can offer a system/chart of odds I could include in a revision.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Sacrificial Stone

    Serendipity: searching books for nautical charts of islands to find a sweet illustration of an aztec sacrificial stone in a book about traveling the mediterranean.

    Bonus points for the author name of Hezekiah Butterworth.  Book here

    Apparently the stone is currently in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico. Here is a pic.

    I'd want to edit out the modern stuff in the background, but I thought I'd give it too you relatively unaltered. Public Domain. 

    Still Cursed

    Toral DP
    Alamon DP
    Darius F
    G F
    Z F
    various hirelings

    The party knows now that a merchant carrying the last cursed coins they need has left on a ship.  Poking around the harbor, they found prices for passage to be be very steep (and they spent most of their wealth acquiring the other cursed coins).  So, they decided to make another foray into the catacombs near the mouth of the Maw.

    After the past few sessions of trudging back and forth with only a few rats to dispatch, the blood started pumping again when they encountered a Man of Wounds. They were befuddled and kept trying to hit it with weapons.  It wasn't doing too much damage, but you must remember 3 of the party members are cursed to be unable to heal.  Toral finally asked for a miracle, and the AllFather held the creature.  G wrapped a rope around its neck and, time running out dragged to the edge of the Maw and pitched it in.

    Whew.  Then they encountered a Woman of wounds much farther in with less chance of a miracle.  More experimentation was tried: no, burning oil didn't seem to affect it; yes, arrows stuck in it with no effect. While warriors engaged it all sides, shields breaking left and right, Alamon managed, after several attempts, to spike its feet to the ground.  The party backed off and left it there.  But no sooner than they had caught their breath than several dog-sized black ants attacked.  One of Torals sturdy woman warrior hirelings was laid low before they bested the insects.

    After looting many of the catacombs' loculi they returned to the stairs and were leaving the Maw when a strange, black hummingbird creature approached.  G eventually skewered it with an arrow, but not before Z's beloved, beareded hireling Pita, fell to her doom.

    All in all the party lost to hirelings and gained only a few odds and ends of armor to sell.  They found no where near the asking price for passage and may go back and try to negotiate with the ship captains.

    Some Thoughts

    Yes, Hireling death is important.  After Z watched his die he said something to the effect of: "Man, if my character dies I would just stop, I like him too much."  Which sounds to me like he had experienced a littl vicarious death dread.

    Thanks to Roger the GS; the Man of Wounds worked brilliantly: the party was puzzled, frightened, and ultimately pushed to not one, but two creative solutions.  It was exciting for me to watch.

    I made a few jokes about Shopping & Dragons-- apparently an abstracted, chaotic city that involves a gambling game to find stuff works.

    Exploration needs some fast-paced tension to go with the slower moving, contemplation and decision making.  It also needs fear, or exploration is just time consuming.  Combat with creatures supplies both nicely.  Combat with strange creatures does it even better.  I imagine the early dungeoneers must have had similar experiences when encounter the first rust monster or ooze.  When players no what it is, time to invent something new for them to encounter.

    As far as logistics, for less experienced DMs, here is how I handle combat:  Group initiative every round, I go in order around the table asking for player actions (if you have a bunch of combats you can go in the opposite order so the same person isn't always first), I count to five on my hand for the player to tell me what they are doing.  Keeps things fast, tense and abstract.  I'll ask players to describe the result of their attacks at times, but I find I'm better at describing crits because I've been paying attention to the whole combat and have a feel for what is most dramatic.  An example, Z rolled a one while fighting the ants and saw his bastard sword fly into the nearby Woman of Wounds.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Dictamnus albus

    Another wierdity of the world I hadn't heard about until recently, a real-life burning bush:

    From Wikipedia:
    "In the summer months, the whole plant is covered with a kind of flammable substance, which is gluey to the touch, and has a very fragrant smell; but if it takes fire, it goes off with a flash all over the plant."