Author Archive

Save Your Game Session: DM Burnout

Posted on June 6th, 2018 under , , , . Posted by

It has happened to us all. You scheduled the game weeks ago. It is finally here. You just worked a gazillion hours or were up to a million o’clock the night before. You are tired, not in the mood, but don’t want to cancel the game. After all, it is sup…

A Dungeons & Dragons Birthday Party

Posted on May 29th, 2018 under , , , , , . Posted by

This past weekend I took part in amazing party for our friend’s son who was turning 9-years old. It all started last year when my wife and I offered the use of the Game Tavern for his birthday. The family lives 6-hours away, but that did not stop them …

Alternate Win Conditions in D&D

Posted on May 15th, 2018 under , , , , , . Posted by

After playing D&D for nearly four decades I have developed some habits as a Dungeon Master. One of them is using alternate win conditions for battles with boss level monsters and villains. Some while back I really became numb to the concept of hit …

Adventuring Gear: The Crowbar

Posted on May 4th, 2018 under , , , , , . Posted by

The Crowbar. It’s perfect for prying open doors, removing nails, smashing glass, using the sharpened end as a chisel, or even an improvised weapon. Is there one in your adventuring pack? If not, there should be.According to the etymology dictionary, it…

Magic Item: Mind Steel Coif

Posted on April 12th, 2018 under , , , , , . Posted by

This very rare chain coif is created by the Githyanki* in the Astral Plane. Legend holds that over the epochs they found ways to avoid the terrible mind attacks of those whom enslaved them. The coifs are crafted from Mind Steel. This priceless ore is s…

The Estoc

Posted on January 23rd, 2018 under , , , , . Posted by

The Estoc, also dubbed the Tuck or Panzerstecher, is a two-handed thrusting sword, from the 14th-17th centuries. To this day the Estoc is often mistaken for a long sword or rapier. This was a weapon made to defeat opponents wearing heavy armor. The bla…

Diary of a Lich

Posted on January 17th, 2018 under , , , , , , . Posted by

          Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est –        Life is more than just being aliveOne of the things I have pondered over the years is what intelligent undead do wit…

Twenty Questions with Rose Estes

Posted on October 23rd, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

In 1983 I was given a few Endless Quest books for my birthday. Already voraciously consuming anything Dungeons & Dragons related I could find, these were a great gift. The idea of a book where you could make story choices and change the outcome was a great concept. After all this was the very spirit of the game, where the players are crafting the story at the table together.

For me the Endless Quest books were just another reason to love the game in the 1980s. I poured over each of them dozens of times, trying every possible outcome. My young imagination was on fire and these little books were fueling it. Now so many years later I have passed the books onto my own children, who similarly have enjoyed them.

Rose Estes was the creator of the Endless Quest series, and a name that will always be dear to me. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rose recently, and would like to share it below.

Twenty Questions with Rose Estes

Grand DM: What was it like working at TSR Hobbies in the 1980s?

Rose Estes: Working for TSR in the early 1980’s was very, very exciting. You knew that you were part of something important and that it was headed nowhere but UP! You never knew what was going to happen from one day to the next, but it was only going to be good in the long (and definitely in the short) run. You had the sense of being on a fast-moving train and all that you could do was hold on tight. It was exhilarating and every morning one wondered and looked forward to: “what will happen today?!”

Grand DM: Did you ever have a chance to interface with Gary Gygax?

Rose Estes: In the early 80’s Gary’s office was only a few doors down the hall and everyone interacted. Gary was obviously leader of the pack, but he was available to all.

Grand DM: I read my first Endless Quest book in 1983. As a young Dungeons & Dragons player, those stories really resonated with me. Could you tell us how the Endless Quest books came about?

Rose Estes: Well, in 1982 I took a leave of absence to travel with friends who were part of a tent circus, I figured that it would make for interesting newspaper articles. I had been with them for only a few weeks when we set up in Decorah, Iowa and went to town to do some laundry. There was a bookcase and books that one could borrow or buy and I picked up one of R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure books. I realized instantly that the books would be the perfect method of explaining D&D to both adults and kids. It had been my job to try to explain the game to adults, most of whom disapproved of the game without understanding it. So, I cut short my trip and called a friend to come and get me.

When I returned I tried my best to convince the powers that be that TSR should do a Choose Your Own Adventure type of book. But the idea met with little interest despite my many attempts to convince them otherwise. Finally, annoyed that I kept on about the idea I was told that if I thought it was a good idea, I should write it myself.

The thought had never occurred to me. I had worked as a journalist, but had never written or even envisioned writing fiction. But I was so aggravated that I did just that, I went home and wrote the first of what would become the Endless Quest series, “Return to Brookmere.” I wrote it longhand on legal pads.

Eventually, the project was introduced at a Random House TSR sales meeting in Puerto Rico in January of 1982. The upshot was that Random House was very familiar with Montgomery’s series and agreed that it was a perfect vehicle for introducing D&D to a wider audience. I was tasked with writing three more books in the next three months which I did, all in long hand on legal pads.

Grand DM: Return to Brookmere is a personal favorite of mine. So much that I have often included the “Ruins of Brookmere” in my own D&D campaigns. I was curious what your inspiration for that story may have been?

Rose Estes: “Return to Brookmere” was actually the first book, not “Dungeon of Dread.” I had lived in the tiny town (pop. 16) of Brookmere high in the mountains of British Columbia, 400 miles north of Vancouver, B.C. for two years in the late 60’s and had always hoped to return. But I never did. So, I suppose subconsciously, it was my way of paying homage to a brief, idyllic time in my life.

Larry Elmore cover for Return to Brookmere

Grand DM: Of all the Endless Quest books you authored, which one are you most proud of?

Rose Estes: Oddly, I have no particular favorite in the series. You have to understand, I had no background in writing, not in journalism or in fiction. I never had any writing classes of any sort and what I wrote came out of my own head, I can’t blame anyone else for it. So, being thrust into fiction with no time to think, plan or even worry about it, I just wrote the books as quickly as I could to keep up with the demanding publication schedule. Each of them, I would later realize, was a learning experience and I did my best to adapt to the needs of the stories.

Fortunately, set up as they were, call and response, so to speak, the story-line and choices dictated what needed to be written, as good as an outline or a blueprint and drove the story from beginning to end. I could not have intentionally created a better teaching tool. I learned from each and every book and so, gradually, my skills improved. I had no time to be fearful or to wonder what the heck I thought I was doing pretending to be an author and writing books! Some years I wrote as many as five books, it was a hectic pace and obviously, it changed my life.

Grand DM:  I’ve heard that you were not a D&D player and it surprised me. It certainly did not seem to affect your ability to create very thematic stories. What was your secret?

Rose Estes: I think this is the most important question you’ve asked. No, I never played the game. I was drawn by the stories but had little to absolutely no interest in all of the dice rolling which seemed tedious and worse, interrupted the flow of the narrative. I realize this is heresy, but so be it.

Few things in my life have had as major an influence on my life and creating the person I am than reading, so, despite my lack of formal training, I am first and foremost, a storyteller and that was always the impetus behind the books. Obviously, the game created the framework and provided both the background and the characters/creatures/action and the E.Q.’s could not have existed without D&D. So, if there’s a secret, that’s it.

Grand DM: Over the years, there has been some controversy over the Greyhawk: Endless Quest books. I know they were published after Gary’s departure from TSR. Fans complain they were not true to the source material. Could you share with us some background and your thoughts on that?

Rose Estes: I’m not surprised that there has been controversy over the Greyhawks and if I could go back in time, I would apologize to Gary and his fans for what I did to his much loved world of Greyhawk. Writing E.Q.’s was far, far different that writing a serious novel. I had myself, left TSR and was dealing with the financial vagaries that are the due of a writer. When I was offered the Greyhawk series, I was not in a position financially to say no, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the skills to do them justice.

The first two Greyhawks that I wrote embarrass me to this day. Frankly, they were awful. And yet, they are the real launching pad for the writer I’ve become. I cut my teeth on them and left them much the worse for being gnawed upon. I apologize wholeheartedly to anyone I disappointed. But, I think that by the time I got to books 6, 7 and 8, they and I had much improved. Unfortunately, most people had stopped reading them.

Grand DM:  I know you stopped writing for a period of ten years because of a terrible motor vehicle accident. Have you recovered from your injuries?

Rose Estes: It’s very strange the way life works. Yes, the accident was a game changer. I sustained a closed head injury that killed the part of the brain that retrieves vocabulary. Isn’t that ironically bizarre?  But, because I had a large vocabulary pre-accident, it might have seemed that nothing was wrong, I could still carry on an intelligent conversation, but it completely altered the way that I thought.

Before the accident I used to have to beg friends like Jim Ward for plots. Post-accident, my head overflowed with plots, ideas of all sorts gushing forth 24/7 and the problem became how to manage and live with my chaotic brain and all that it spewed out. Early days it all but overwhelmed me.

I MUST mention that I might not have survived as a writer had it not been for my longtime partner Tom Wham who helped me write and finish books that were in the works and during this period of time, and Bill Fawcett who gave me work and all but supported me at times. I owe them both a huge debt of gratitude. Over the intervening years, my brain and I have reached somewhat of a truce. It grudgingly allows itself to be caged when I have to concentrate on life and in turn, I allow it to run rampant after I’m done working. It’s a strange existence being both jailer and prisoner contained in the same body.

So yes, with caveats, I have recovered. I began writing again in 2004 and wrote three books of nonfiction on the evolution and development of various dog breeds. Writing nonfiction is easier than writing fiction.

1982 Endless Quest Ad

Grand DM: Dungeons and Dragons is now enjoying what many consider to be, mainstream popularity. Obviously social media and shows such as Game of Thrones have brought in new fans. Will we see any more writing projects from you that are fantasy related?

Rose Estes: Several years ago, I was contacted by Ryan Schifferin (through Facebook!) who offered me the opportunity to write a story using characters of his creation. It was great fun and I gained a lot of confidence in doing so. Then, this year, I wrote a story for an anthology called Sisterhood of the Blade for Jonathan Thompson and Ed Greenwood, who were kind to invite me to be a part of their project.

I have not contacted any of the main stream publishers whom I wrote for, nor do I have an agent, so I am just feeling my way forward. I’m currently writing a digital E.Q. type book for Randy Price’s company 2 Kings.

I do have several plots that are swimming around and demanding loudly that they be written, but I am having trouble constraining them to short formats like E.Q.’s, they all aspire to be novels. Not sure what will happen there.

Grand DM: The Endless Quest books were translated into 28 languages and have sold over 16 million copies. That is really a stunning accomplishment. If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be, and why?

Rose Estes: Advice to my younger self…..I wish I could have told myself to relax and enjoy the moment more than being so focused on plans for the future. But I probably wouldn’t have listened.

Grand DM: At the end of Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton has a list of interview questions. He always credits them to French novelist Marcel Proust (1871–1922). I would like to ask you those questions.

Rose Estes: Sounds good.

Grand DM: What is your favorite word?

Rose Estes:  I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that in the Chinese language, disaster and opportunity are the same word. Since my life has often been defined by both, I’d have to say that is my favorite word.

Grand DM: What is your least favorite word?

Rose Estes: I have several words that are my least favorites, all equally disliked: Li Berry (instead of library, and I admit to disliking people who can’t be bothered to say it correctly. SMIRK (frequently over-used and used incorrectly). Amazing! Awesome! It would me everything to me! All are totally overused words and phrases and have become all but meaningless.

Grand DM: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Rose Estes: Creative turn ons: Beauty. New thoughts, generally gained from television or books that explode in my brain and consume me. Emotionally: music and interaction with animals. Spiritually, music, watching the ocean which is at my doorstep and the night sky.

Grand DM: What turns you off?

Rose Estes:  Being told that I can’t do something. Intentional meanness of spirit.

Grand DM: What is your favorite curse word?

Rose Estes:  I rarely curse, I’d rather find words that mean what I think.

Grand DM: What sound or noise do you love?

Rose Estes: Music, a cat’s purr.

Grand DM: What sound or noise do you hate?

Rose Estes: The sounds of politics for personal gain, greed, destruction of all that is good that so many have strived for, cruelty, ignorance, racial division.

Grand DM: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Rose Estes: When my late husband Gary Hauser, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006,  I took over running his gallery, thinking it would only be until he recovered and returned. Unfortunately, that never happened. As I’d never even thought of having such a business, I was at a loss. His advice was for me to follow my passions. Which I did with his full support. It has enabled me to explore and collect some of the most interesting objects from around the world, which seem to delight and resonate with large numbers of interesting people. The objects and the people allow me, at this late date in my life, to vicariously travel the world. The sculpting of animals is simply a private passion.

Grand DM: What profession would you not like to do?

Rose Estes: I would hate and be incapable of working with anything mathematical, analytical or rigidly formatted.

Grand DM: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Rose Estes: “Well done, you made a difference in children’s/animal’s lives.”

Twenty Questions with Rose Estes

Posted on October 23rd, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

In 1983 I was given a few Endless Quest books for my birthday. Already voraciously consuming anything Dungeons & Dragons related I could find, these were a great gift. The idea of a book where you could make story choices and change the outcome was a great concept. After all this was the very spirit of the game, where the players are crafting the story at the table together.

For me the Endless Quest books were just another reason to love D&D in the 1980s. I poured over each of them dozens of times, trying every possible outcome. My young imagination was on fire and these little books were fueling it. Now so many years later I have passed the books onto my own children, who similarly have enjoyed them.

Rose Estes was the creator of the Endless Quest series, and a name that will always be dear to me. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rose recently, and would like to share it below.

Twenty Questions with Rose Estes

Grand DM: What was it like working at TSR Hobbies in the 1980s?

Rose Estes: Working for TSR in the early 1980’s was very, very exciting. You knew that you were part of something important and that it was headed nowhere but UP! You never knew what was going to happen from one day to the next, but it was only going to be good in the long (and definitely in the short) run. You had the sense of being on a fast-moving train and all that you could do was hold on tight. It was exhilarating and every morning one wondered and looked forward to: “what will happen today?!”

Grand DM: Did you ever have a chance to interface with Gary Gygax?

Rose Estes: In the early 80’s Gary’s office was only a few doors down the hall and everyone interacted. Gary was obviously leader of the pack, but he was available to all.

Grand DM: I read my first Endless Quest book in 1983. As a young Dungeons & Dragons player, those stories really resonated with me. Could you tell us how the Endless Quest books came about?

Rose Estes: Well, in 1982 I took a leave of absence to travel with friends who were part of a tent circus, I figured that it would make for interesting newspaper articles. I had been with them for only a few weeks when we set up in Decorah, Iowa and went to town to do some laundry. There was a bookcase and books that one could borrow or buy and I picked up one of R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure books. I realized instantly that the books would be the perfect method of explaining D&D to both adults and kids. It had been my job to try to explain the game to adults, most of whom disapproved of the game without understanding it. So, I cut short my trip and called a friend to come and get me.

When I returned I tried my best to convince the powers that be that TSR should do a Choose Your Own Adventure type of book. But the idea met with little interest despite my many attempts to convince them otherwise. Finally, annoyed that I kept on about the idea I was told that if I thought it was a good idea, I should write it myself.

The thought had never occurred to me. I had worked as a journalist, but had never written or even envisioned writing fiction. But I was so aggravated that I did just that, I went home and wrote the first of what would become the Endless Quest series, “Return to Brookmere.” I wrote it longhand on legal pads.

Eventually, the project was introduced at a Random House TSR sales meeting in Puerto Rico in January of 1982. The upshot was that Random House was very familiar with Montgomery’s series and agreed that it was a perfect vehicle for introducing D&D to a wider audience. I was tasked with writing three more books in the next three months which I did, all in long hand on legal pads.

Grand DM: Return to Brookmere is a personal favorite of mine. So much that I have often included the “Ruins of Brookmere” in my own D&D campaigns. I was curious what your inspiration for that story may have been?

Rose Estes: “Return to Brookmere” was actually the first book, not “Dungeon of Dread.” I had lived in the tiny town (pop. 16) of Brookmere high in the mountains of British Columbia, 400 miles north of Vancouver, B.C. for two years in the late 60’s and had always hoped to return. But I never did. So, I suppose subconsciously, it was my way of paying homage to a brief, idyllic time in my life.

Larry Elmore cover for Return to Brookmere

Grand DM: Of all the Endless Quest books you authored, which one are you most proud of?

Rose Estes: Oddly, I have no particular favorite in the series. You have to understand, I had no background in writing, not in journalism or in fiction. I never had any writing classes of any sort and what I wrote came out of my own head, I can’t blame anyone else for it. So, being thrust into fiction with no time to think, plan or even worry about it, I just wrote the books as quickly as I could to keep up with the demanding publication schedule. Each of them, I would later realize, was a learning experience and I did my best to adapt to the needs of the stories.

Fortunately, set up as they were, call and response, so to speak, the story-line and choices dictated what needed to be written, as good as an outline or a blueprint and drove the story from beginning to end. I could not have intentionally created a better teaching tool. I learned from each and every book and so, gradually, my skills improved. I had no time to be fearful or to wonder what the heck I thought I was doing pretending to be an author and writing books! Some years I wrote as many as five books, it was a hectic pace and obviously, it changed my life.

Grand DM:  I’ve heard that you were not a D&D player and it surprised me. It certainly did not seem to affect your ability to create very thematic stories. What was your secret?

Rose Estes: I think this is the most important question you’ve asked. No, I never played the game. I was drawn by the stories but had little to absolutely no interest in all of the dice rolling which seemed tedious and worse, interrupted the flow of the narrative. I realize this is heresy, but so be it.

Few things in my life have had as major an influence on my life and creating the person I am than reading, so, despite my lack of formal training, I am first and foremost, a storyteller and that was always the impetus behind the books. Obviously, the game created the framework and provided both the background and the characters/creatures/action and the E.Q.’s could not have existed without D&D. So, if there’s a secret, that’s it.

Grand DM: Over the years, there has been some controversy over the Greyhawk: Endless Quest books. I know they were published after Gary’s departure from TSR. Fans complain they were not true to the source material. Could you share with us some background and your thoughts on that?

Rose Estes: I’m not surprised that there has been controversy over the Greyhawks and if I could go back in time, I would apologize to Gary and his fans for what I did to his much loved world of Greyhawk. Writing E.Q.’s was far, far different that writing a serious novel. I had myself, left TSR and was dealing with the financial vagaries that are the due of a writer. When I was offered the Greyhawk series, I was not in a position financially to say no, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the skills to do them justice.

The first two Greyhawks that I wrote embarrass me to this day. Frankly, they were awful. And yet, they are the real launching pad for the writer I’ve become. I cut my teeth on them and left them much the worse for being gnawed upon. I apologize wholeheartedly to anyone I disappointed. But, I think that by the time I got to books 6, 7 and 8, they and I had much improved. Unfortunately, most people had stopped reading them.

Grand DM:  I know you stopped writing for a period of ten years because of a terrible motor vehicle accident. Have you recovered from your injuries?

Rose Estes: It’s very strange the way life works. Yes, the accident was a game changer. I sustained a closed head injury that killed the part of the brain that retrieves vocabulary. Isn’t that ironically bizarre?  But, because I had a large vocabulary pre-accident, it might have seemed that nothing was wrong, I could still carry on an intelligent conversation, but it completely altered the way that I thought.

Before the accident I used to have to beg friends like Jim Ward for plots. Post-accident, my head overflowed with plots, ideas of all sorts gushing forth 24/7 and the problem became how to manage and live with my chaotic brain and all that it spewed out. Early days it all but overwhelmed me.

I MUST mention that I might not have survived as a writer had it not been for my longtime partner Tom Wham who helped me write and finish books that were in the works and during this period of time, and Bill Fawcett who gave me work and all but supported me at times. I owe them both a huge debt of gratitude. Over the intervening years, my brain and I have reached somewhat of a truce. It grudgingly allows itself to be caged when I have to concentrate on life and in turn, I allow it to run rampant after I’m done working. It’s a strange existence being both jailer and prisoner contained in the same body.

So yes, with caveats, I have recovered. I began writing again in 2004 and wrote three books of nonfiction on the evolution and development of various dog breeds. Writing nonfiction is easier than writing fiction.

1982 Endless Quest Ad

Grand DM: Dungeons and Dragons is now enjoying what many consider to be, mainstream popularity. Obviously social media and shows such as Game of Thrones have brought in new fans. Will we see any more writing projects from you that are fantasy related?

Rose Estes: Several years ago, I was contacted by Ryan Schifferin (through Facebook!) who offered me the opportunity to write a story using characters of his creation. It was great fun and I gained a lot of confidence in doing so. Then, this year, I wrote a story for an anthology called Sisterhood of the Blade for Jonathan Thompson and Ed Greenwood, who were kind to invite me to be a part of their project.

I have not contacted any of the main stream publishers whom I wrote for, nor do I have an agent, so I am just feeling my way forward. I’m currently writing a digital E.Q. type book for Randy Price’s company 2 Kings.

I do have several plots that are swimming around and demanding loudly that they be written, but I am having trouble constraining them to short formats like E.Q.’s, they all aspire to be novels. Not sure what will happen there.

Grand DM: The Endless Quest books were translated into 28 languages and have sold over 16 million copies. That is really a stunning accomplishment. If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be, and why?

Rose Estes: Advice to my younger self…..I wish I could have told myself to relax and enjoy the moment more than being so focused on plans for the future. But I probably wouldn’t have listened.

Grand DM: At the end of Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton has a list of interview questions. He always credits them to French novelist Marcel Proust (1871–1922). I would like to ask you those questions.

Rose Estes: Sounds good.

Grand DM: What is your favorite word?

Rose Estes:  I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that in the Chinese language, disaster and opportunity are the same word. Since my life has often been defined by both, I’d have to say that is my favorite word.

Grand DM: What is your least favorite word?

Rose Estes: I have several words that are my least favorites, all equally disliked: Li Berry (instead of library, and I admit to disliking people who can’t be bothered to say it correctly. SMIRK (frequently over-used and used incorrectly). Amazing! Awesome! It would me everything to me! All are totally overused words and phrases and have become all but meaningless.

Grand DM: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Rose Estes: Creative turn ons: Beauty. New thoughts, generally gained from television or books that explode in my brain and consume me. Emotionally: music and interaction with animals. Spiritually, music, watching the ocean which is at my doorstep and the night sky.

Grand DM: What turns you off?

Rose Estes:  Being told that I can’t do something. Intentional meanness of spirit.

Grand DM: What is your favorite curse word?

Rose Estes:  I rarely curse, I’d rather find words that mean what I think.

Grand DM: What sound or noise do you love?

Rose Estes: Music, a cat’s purr.

Grand DM: What sound or noise do you hate?

Rose Estes: The sounds of politics for personal gain, greed, destruction of all that is good that so many have strived for, cruelty, ignorance, racial division.

Grand DM: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Rose Estes: When my late husband Gary Hauser, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006,  I took over running his gallery, thinking it would only be until he recovered and returned. Unfortunately, that never happened. As I’d never even thought of having such a business, I was at a loss. His advice was for me to follow my passions. Which I did with his full support. It has enabled me to explore and collect some of the most interesting objects from around the world, which seem to delight and resonate with large numbers of interesting people. The objects and the people allow me, at this late date in my life, to vicariously travel the world. The sculpting of animals is simply a private passion.

Grand DM: What profession would you not like to do?

Rose Estes: I would hate and be incapable of working with anything mathematical, analytical or rigidly formatted.

Grand DM: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Rose Estes: “Well done, you made a difference in children’s/animal’s lives.”

Tomb of Annihilation: Mundane Dangers of Chult

Posted on September 27th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

With the release of Tomb of Annihilation, I wanted to expand some on the dangers within a jungle setting. So I decided to base a few adventuring challenges off real life. While fantastical flora and fauna is expected in a game such as Dungeons & Dragons, sometimes the mundane is just as deadly. Below I have listed some things that could happen to player characters as they explore the wilds of Chult. As a Dungeon Master, these occurrences will help you bring the environment even more to life.

Biting Midge Swarm

Although their average life span is only a few days, biting midges are not to be ignored. They are most active around dawn and dusk, and congregate in vertical columns, or swarms. They are commonly mistaken for mosquitoes by the unwary traveler. Female midges voraciously bite because they require blood to help form their eggs. The swarms are attracted to both humanoids and animals because of carbon dioxide generated by their breath. They are also very in tune with the smell of natural body odor and sweat when hunting for blood.

For this iteration, the swarm is considered a hazard. A living creature encountering a Biting Midge Swarm must make a DC12 Constitution saving throw or become Prone for one minute. This saving throw may be attempted again at the end of their next turn. For every round a creature is within the biting swarm, there is a 15% chance they contract a disease. Roll 1d4 on the following table to determine the disease:


1.    Shivering Sickness (Page 40, ToA)
2.    Sight Rot (Page 257, DMG)
3.    Cackle Fever (Page 257, DMG)
4.    Sewer Plague (Page 257, DMG)

What preventative measures may be taken?

Aside from using magic, such as a Gust of Wind spell, the following are some mundane tips:

  • Insect Repellent (Page 32, ToA). Caveat: This will not keep the whole swarm away, but reduce Prone time by half on a failed save.
  • Face Net. Advantage on Saving Throw against becoming Prone. Disadvantage on Perception checks.
  • Citrus or Smoke. Good for camps to keep swarms away, but may draw the attention of other things!
  • Yeast in the blood. This may just be a local myth, but some suggest midge hate the flavor. But hey, another reason to enjoy dwarven ale!

Infections

Listed below are two types of common infection within the jungle. In fact, they are so common that a party resource such as Lesser Restoration may be drained quite often.

Fungal (jungle) Rot: This occurs when the character’s feet are exposed to constant moisture and humid conditions. Each day a DC12 Constitution saving throw is required, to avoid bacteria infecting saturated feet. On a failed save, raised ulcers or carbuncles form in one day, causing terrible pain. Characters at this stage gain one level of Exhaustion. Within 1d4 days the feet will swell and gangrene will set in causing another level of Exhaustion. If this is not treated within a reasonable time (DM’s prerogative) with healing magic, amputation will be required. For this reason, it’s common to see foot amputees in Port Nyanzaru, most of which are foreigners.

What preventative measures may be taken?

Dry your feet. This can be done manually, or even with a Prestidigitation cantrip. Characters who do this daily gain advantage on saving throws against fungal rot.

Nyanzaru’s Revenge: This condition comes with a fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and the abrupt onset of diarrhea. They won’t be laughing long after their characters are infected with it. With dehydration a constant threat (Page 38, ToA), characters in Chult are drinking all the time. Any ground or river water which is consumed without first being boiled is considered contaminated. In addition, the unsanitary handling of food can also cause this condition.

Any time a character consumes water or foodstuffs which is potentially contaminated, they must succeed on a DC15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure they have Nyanzaru’s Revenge, and gain a level of Exhaustion. The condition will then last 1d4 days, with subsequent saving throws allowed. For each new failure, gain another level of Exhaustion.

What preventative measures may be taken?

  • Avoid food and water from shady street vendors in Port Nyanzaru or neighboring villages.
  • Be certain any drinks were created with boiled water.
  • Be very, very nice to the Dungeon Master.

Tomb of Annihilation: Mundane Dangers of Chult

Posted on September 27th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

With the release of Tomb of Annihilation, I wanted to expand some on the dangers within a jungle setting. So I decided to base a few adventuring challenges off real life. While fantastical flora and fauna is expected in a game such as Dungeons & Dragons, sometimes the mundane is just as deadly. Below I have listed some things that could happen to player characters as they explore the wilds of Chult. As a Dungeon Master, these occurrences will help you bring the environment even more to life.

Biting Midge Swarm

Although their average life span is only a few days, biting midges are not to be ignored. They are most active around dawn and dusk, and congregate in vertical columns, or swarms. They are commonly mistaken for mosquitoes by the unwary traveler. Female midges voraciously bite because they require blood to help form their eggs. The swarms are attracted to both humanoids and animals because of carbon dioxide generated by their breath. They are also very in tune with the smell of natural body odor and sweat when hunting for blood.

For this iteration, the swarm is considered a hazard. A living creature encountering a Biting Midge Swarm must make a DC12 Constitution saving throw or become Prone for one minute. This saving throw may be attempted again at the end of their next turn. For every round a creature is within the biting swarm, there is a 15% chance they contract a disease. Roll 1d4 on the following table to determine the disease:


1.    Shivering Sickness (Page 40, ToA)
2.    Sight Rot (Page 257, DMG)
3.    Cackle Fever (Page 257, DMG)
4.    Sewer Plague (Page 257, DMG)

What preventative measures may be taken?

Aside from using magic, such as a Gust of Wind spell, the following are some mundane tips:

  • Insect Repellent (Page 32, ToA). Caveat: This will not keep the whole swarm away, but reduce Prone time by half on a failed save.
  • Face Net. Advantage on Saving Throw against becoming Prone. Disadvantage on Perception checks.
  • Citrus or Smoke. Good for camps to keep swarms away, but may draw the attention of other things!
  • Yeast in the blood. This may just be a local myth. But hey another reason to enjoy dwarven ale!

Infections

Listed below are two types of common infection within the jungle. In fact, they are so common that a party resource such as Lesser Restoration may be drained quite often.

Fungal (jungle) Rot: This occurs when the character’s feet are exposed to constant moisture and humid conditions. Each day a DC12 Constitution saving throw is required, to avoid bacteria infecting saturated feet. On a failed save, raised ulcers or carbuncles form in one day, causing terrible pain. Characters at this stage gain one level of Exhaustion. Within 1d4 days the feet will swell and gangrene will set in causing another level of Exhaustion. If this is not treated within a reasonable time (DM’s prerogative) with healing magic, amputation will be required. For this reason, it’s common to see foot amputees in Port Nyanzaru, most of which are foreigners.

What preventative measures may be taken?

Dry your feet. This can be done manually, or even with a Prestidigitation cantrip. Characters who do this daily gain advantage on saving throws against fungal rot.

Nyanzaru’s Revenge: This condition comes with a fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and the abrupt onset of diarrhea. They won’t be laughing long after their characters are infected with it. With dehydration a constant threat (Page 38, ToA), characters in Chult are drinking all the time. Any ground or river water which is consumed without first being boiled is considered contaminated. In addition, the unsanitary handling of food can also cause this condition.

Any time a character consumes water or foodstuffs which is potentially contaminated, they must succeed on a DC15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure they have Nyanzaru’s Revenge, and gain a level of Exhaustion. The condition will then last 1d4 days, with subsequent saving throws allowed. For each new failure, gain another level of Exhaustion.

What preventative measures may be taken?

  • Avoid food and water from shady street vendors in Port Nyanzaru or neighboring villages.
  • Be certain any drinks were created with boiled water.
  • Be very, very nice to the Dungeon Master.

Three DM Lifehacks You Should Consider

Posted on September 14th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

After sitting behind the DM screen for many years you learn a few things. As a Dungeon Master, I’m always on the lookout for cheap, but effective ways to improve the tabletop experience. Listed below are three DM Lifehacks I think will benefit you, but…

Tomb of Annihilation: Cinema Treasure Inspiration

Posted on September 13th, 2017 under , , , , , , . Posted by

Ta Prohm Temples of AngkorWith Tomb of Annihilation being released, many adventurers will be braving the dangers of Chult. For the uninitiated, Chult is part of the Forgotten Realms setting. It’s a land of savage monsters, poisonous flora and fauna, an…

Review: DM’s Screen Reincarnated/Tomb of Annihilation Dice

Posted on September 11th, 2017 under , , , . Posted by

I have been using a Dungeon Master’s screen since 1983 and have more iterations then I can count. One of the big disappointments with 5E has been the lack of a useful screen offering. Because of this most DMs have just created their own DIY solution, w…

Twelve Magic Torches

Posted on August 15th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

A while ago I posted some information on how to add torch creation to your campaign world. With 5th edition, one of the things that seems to have been cast aside is the common torch. In the early days of Dungeons and Dragons they were a staple. Now …

The Great Ziggurat of Draconis

Posted on August 8th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

I have awakened from my long blogging slumber! This past weekend was Ultracon 6, our friends and family convention. The theme for this year was a sunken city named Draconis, which had risen for various campaign reasons. We had fifteen players, in three…

Review: D&D Character Sheets

Posted on June 21st, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

So, this past weekend I decided to pick up new Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets. Even though I can print character sheets to my heart’s content, it just seemed like a fun thing to do. Part of me was hoping to stir up old nostalgia, back when cha…

Throwback Thursday: Gaming Unplugged

Posted on May 18th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

UNPLUG definitions.disconnect (an electrical device) by removing its plug from a socket.remove an obstacle or blockage from.relax by disengaging from normal activities.Looking that those definitions, I can’t help but to think back to simpler times. Bac…

I was a 10-Year-Old Dungeon Master

Posted on May 10th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

It was the summer of 1984, and I sat at the dining room table writing. Ironically in the background, the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts played on the television. My imagination was on fire since later that day I would be dungeon mastering some neigh…

Need a Dungeon Master?

Posted on April 18th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

So, you want to play D&D but there are no Dungeon Masters in your area. There are plenty of characters all dressed up with nowhere to go? Then it’s time to become the Dungeon Master yourself! For many people, just the idea of taking on this respons…

Surviving the Tomb of Horrors

Posted on April 6th, 2017 under , , , , , , , . Posted by

While looking through my copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal I felt compelled to blog about the Tomb of Horrors. Well here is the bad news, you probably won’t survive! There are some things you need to consider before sitting down to play the Tomb of…

Review: RPG Coasters 2, Cthulhu.

Posted on March 20th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

Alexander Ingram has just launched his second RPG Coasters Kickstarter! The theme this time? Cthulhu. For the uninitiated, the name is pronounced in some circles as kuh-THOOL-hoo. Now be careful when saying that to loud, as it may awaken H.P. Lovecraft…

Be Kind, Please Rewind

Posted on February 28th, 2017 under , , , . Posted by

Don’t worry as I’m not referring to the Blockbuster VHS tape motto from yesterday. Rather to think back to when some of us started playing Dungeons & Dragons, so long ago. You know, those early years when the game was new, and we were still learnin…

Review: Demon Idol Dice Cup

Posted on February 21st, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

Today I received arguably one of the coolest pieces of game swag I own. This is a custom-made leather dice cup by Foster Leathercraft. This cup is an alternative to a dice tower or tray since you can roll the dice into the lid. As you can see the front…

Stranger Things: Giant Spider

Posted on February 6th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

So, last night the Stranger Things season 2 trailer aired during the Super Bowl and left all sorts of questions. As a D&D player all I have been focusing on is the massive spider creature. I quickly took to Twitter and G+ to see what fan theories e…