September 30, 2008

RPG Blog Carnival Continues...

Well, I'm very happy to report that my idea for the RPG Blog Carnival has taken off. The second round of the carnival has wrapped up over at The Flumph Sanctuary where the topic was "HOMEBREW". It was a huge success, with something like 40+ entries. Now, there's a schedule for future RPG Blog Carnivals #3 (october) through Carnival #6  (january) and some of the 'bigguns' of the RPG Blogging Community have taken notice and are participating.

The schedule for upcoming carnivals and the closing summaries for past carnivals can always be found at the permanent site I set up: The RPG Blog Carnival blog. (a blog about a blog carnival... heh)

The 3rd RPG Blog Carnival is expected to be announced over at the Musings of a Chatty DM in a couple days with the topic  "Super Heroes in RPGs". More details will of course come from Phil over on his site: so stay tuned! Looking forward to it!

In the meantime, here's a quick review of the current schedule for upcoming RPG Blog Carnivals:

Already Completed:
  1. August 2008
    The Core Mechanic
    Character Death, Resurrection, and The Undead
    Start - Close
  2. September 2008
    Start - Close


  1. October 2008
    Musings of the Chatty DM
    Super Heroes in RPGs
  2. November 2008
    The Dice Bag
  3. December 2008
    Critical Hits
  4. January 2009
    New Year's Gaming Resolutions
If you are an RPG blogger and would like to participate in the RPG Blog Carnival - please head over to THIS PAGE and sign up.

Meanwhile -- make sure you VOTE for the 'official' logo for the RPG Blog Carnival. Voting Closes on October 4th!

September 29, 2008

D&D Flamed by Boise State Newspaper

The ultra-geeks among us have Google News feeds for key words like "Dungeons and Dragons" or "Role Playing Games" because... you wouldn't want to miss anything, right? OK, ok... maybe its just me; but I digress. One of the interesting side effects of this sort of ultra geekery is that it also serves as a surveillance mechanism - you can spot any article from anywhere instantly that maligns our much beloved hobby and then venture out and destroy the evil where it rests. (insert sarcasm here)

Here's an example:
Truth or Dare: A romantic evening with Dungeons-and-Dragons Boy
by SHANNON MORGAN, Editor-in-Chief

Now, Boise State's Independent Student Newspaper may not be the pinancle of news sources - but nonetheless this was somewhat funny to read. Says Ms. Morgan,  
"I went on one such date with a man I’ll call “Dungeons and Dragons Boy” (I’m certain if you look under his bed you’d find a blow-up warrior-princess doll, underneath stacks of old dragon posters and Halo figurines)."
Crap! She's figured us all out! Then she goes to say,
"All this dude contributes to the world is an encyclopedic knowledge of D and D and a habit of getting girls drunk on dates so it’s easier to get in their pants. Creepy!"

Its really worth the read. She's probably one of the best student journalists on the planet...

So - to Ms. Morgan: I'm half-thinking I'll devote an entire blog roll just to your stupid anecdotal stories about dating and being a such a superb scholar at Boise State. In fact, I think I'm going to have to request to be added to your LinkedIn network as well - I'm sure the 3 people in your network are just as insightful as yourself. Thank you.

On a side note: WHY god oh WHY are so many D&D fans really such dumbasses... someone should remove that guys D&D license. LOL...

Core Survey #1: D&D Insider!!!

OK, I'm playing around with Google Documents and I want to try out some new features of Google Spreadsheets: the survey/form tool. I'll report the results once I've closed the polls in two days.

I hope this works! I'm not sure how the layout will look in all browsers... like I said this is a test of sorts.

September 28, 2008

Core Lists: Rituals Updated

The Core Lists:Rituals has been updated to include Category and Market Price data for all 109 Rituals currently found in among the numerous published materials for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Hopefully this will help some DMs out there, or maybe an indy software developer like could do something useful with it.

An excel file, as well as an interactive online version of the list, is available on the Core Lists website.

How could you use this new data? Well, I for one - when using the 4E 'parcel system' for loot - like to switch out Ritual books or scrolls for the monetary priced items. Having the market price info lets me do this MUCH faster than before.

Until next time - game on!

September 26, 2008

Around the Blogs...

According to my Google Reader, there's an average of 243 posts per week on the RPG Blogger's Network. Who the hell has time to read all those? I get a ton of mileage out of their website, but even I can't cover everything. Nonetheless, here are some of the posts that stood out to me this week:
  • D&D 4E Online Resources
    • An excellent post with link backs to a vast array of online tools for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Something everyone should bookmark.
  • Notes & Nostalgia
    • Information management for dungeons masters. How many of you still use pen and paper? (i do...)
  • Rust Monsters: Not for the Wuss at Heart
    • Fear in game play. How can you really get your players scared...
  • Adventurer's Vault
    • Asmor's scripts for 4E are a huge HUGE time saver. Now his two treasure generator scripts include all the juicy bits from the Adventurer's Vault as well. 
  • Randy Beuhler's D&D Insider News #8
    • How could I possibly leave this out!? The RPG Blog Carnival wraps up today, and hopefully we can expect a summary for the carnival soon. DonnyTheDM's idea of choosing "HOMEBREW" really took off - at last count I found over 40 posts from various participating blogs. The next carnival will be announced soon!
    • OK, this is a shameless plug, but the contest closes up today and voting begins tomorrow morning. Make sure you send in your entry NOW (see original post). The winner gets an gift certificate, and everyone who enters will receive a coupon book of Natural Twenties.

September 25, 2008

Randy Buehler: Please Read This

Over at the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons Insider News page, Randy Buehler turns the table on the community in his article by asking us a few questions. What's not clear to me is who he is addressing; but let's just assume he means everyone. What is also not clear to me is what the point of the News was... to ask for community advice about the layout of the DDI website and to plug the Facebook app? Aren't they launching DDI in less than one month?

Here are my comments to some points he made, and my replies to his questions:

"This playtest [of the barbarian] is a perfect example of the kind of "Insider" access that you'll get as a subscriber. "
So, we get to pay for beta-testing something. That's a novel idea... Maybe you should just role it out to RPGA to test it - that's what has been done in the past. Oh wait.. you likely have corporate amnesia about that.

"I'm not super interested in arguing about whether we're actually doing what we said we're going to do."
Oh? Well, that's OK. How about a polite, honest, and open discourse on the topic? Would that be alright? I'll have my people call your people. KK?

"Are the updates too hard to find?"


"Is our schedule too difficult to follow?"

"Is it good to see the Table of Contents ahead of time because it promotes interest and discussion, or is the tease a net negative?"
Come on! Are you kidding?

"Is our website navigation so confusing that you didn't even know there was a Table of Contents or thrice-weekly content updates?"
Its fine, I've seen worse.

"These are issues that we're actively debating right now as we plan for the medium and long-term future of our website."
Wait... so... aren't you launching DDI in 1 month? And you currently you do not have a medium or long term plan for DDI? What the heck? That's... an interesting business model...

"In closing I want to give an update on our 5-week old Facebook application, D&D: Tiny Adventures."
I see.. so is this the real point of the "update'?

I don't see what the heck the point of this news update was for.  Is the layout of the D&D website such a major issue that he needs to turn to his community for feedback? Why not ask us for feedback on the DDI product itself - and how we are perceiving it out here in on the Netz... 

The Kingship Chronicles: Introduction & Chapter 1

So, I've avoided talking about the D&D campaign I am running. Why? Well, because I have this notion that campaign logs are ... well ... usually boring to read. No offense to any blogger who is writing a campaign log as part of their blog's material - but I rarely enjoy reading the campaign logs. There are a few that do keep me interested, Blacktree Chronicles is an exception and one that I follow, but usually I click "next" in Google Reader when I see a post about someone's campaign. I'm probably missing lots of juicy tid bits and material for my own blog by skipping over them, but I can't read everything... Of course, this also implies that if I were you, I would not be reading what I'm writing right now. So, hats off to anyone who is still reading this! Thank you for your support! You are clearly better gamers than I! =D
The Kingship Chronicles: Introduction
Now a little about my campaign, The Kingship Chronicles, which will be blogged in 'chapters' corresponding to individual game sessions.

Game System & Setting
4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons set in 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms (The Great Dale currently). The campaign style is set to feature an epic story arc mixed with a sandbox campaign to fill in the gaps.

The Characters
Mina - female half-elf rogue
Von - male dragonborn warlord
Vashti - female eladrin wizard
E - female tiefling warlock
Crushington - male human fighter

The characters are played by four players and Crushington (aka 'Crush') is a floating character that is played by a different player each week. The campaign started with the characters all at L1 - we wanted to get a feel for 4E from the ground up.

The Backstory
The campaign is set in The Great Dale in the FRCS. My own conception of these lands is that they are a bit like the wind-swept highlands of Scotland, minus the majestic shorelines and mirror lakes. Its a sparsely populated, lawless land dotted with 'clan holds' and a few tiny villages. Actually quite a nice fit for the "points of light" model proposed in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The central characters (E, Vasthi, and Von) represent all the new races in 4E - and the trope I used to make this work is that they are the foster children of two retired adventurers (Tharn and Zendra Griffenheld) who own a ranch and a whiskey distillery near the town of Benzentil. The three orphans were literally found on the doorstep in baskets as infants (I know, cheesy trope) and raised by the two ranchers. By the time the campaign starts, each of these characters is in their early twenties and who their biological parents are is still quite a mystery.

The Beginning
The hook that started the whole campaign went something like this: E, Vasthi and Von are hanging out on an ordanary saturday night at the ranch. heir friend Crush arrives on horseback with news that the town of Benzentil is being raided by some kind of aweful horde of living trees. Enter sub-plot #1: The Blightspawn Army. Their father, Tharn (a rogue), is currently out of town visiting the far away city of Uthermere (more about that later). Their mother Zendra, however, is an accomplished wizard and regular do-gooder type. She rides off to help defend the town without hesitation and orders her (less experienced) children to stay at the ranch in case of trouble. Of course, they disobey her and leave for the town about an hour later to 'help'.

Along the way they have their first battle (and our first 4E combat): the four of them vs. about 20 blightspawned skeleton minions. It was a precious moment becuase none of the players own the Monster Manual or the DMG - so they knew nothing about minions and their lovely 1 hp. Truely one of those rare "WTF!" moments. After rolling over them, the party moves into town only to get ambushed by three highway men looking to exploit the chaos brought to the region by The Blightspawn Army. After dealing with the highway and teaching them a lesson - the four characters finished the ride into town only to discover that a horrid curse had befallen their mother.

More on that in the next update.

September 23, 2008

Cashola, WotC Corporate Amnesia, and a big disorganized rant...

This post was prompted by a post over at The Geek Emporium, "The Evils of Making Money?", where I was going to leave a HUGE comment - but then decided to politely leave it here instead. And then.. it turned into this big rant.

In his post, Tomcat says:
"The term “sell out” is always a problem for me. Companies exist to make money. We all need to step back and stop criticizing the companies that succeed in that goal. Instead, we need to criticize with our wallets when we disagree with a company’s practices. Really, that’s what they’ll listen to anyways. Wouldn’t you?"
Personally, I don't have a problem with a game company trying to make tons of money - I mean.. they are a COMPANY, it is what those entities DO. Of course, market forces will always push and pull - and our money is our vote.

In this regard - I think this will be the last version of Dungeon & Dragons that WotC produces. The changes are too great, they have lost a huge part of their fan base to their own Frankenstein (d20, OGL, and 3E). The company, in my opinion, is addicted to publishing new shiny things that were already printed before. After all, PUBLISH OR PERISH is the mantra for people in my field and for publishing companies. They HAD to make another edition of D&D to stay profitable - otherwise they were just going to run out of expansion products and ideas.

What they really need to do is completely change their business model (DDI doesn't count - that's vaporware). More and more gamers are turning to the internet and not to published hardback books for their materials. The RPG bloggers network alone provides me with enough material for more campaigns than I could ever run in my lifetime! And then.. there's bittorrent. Come on, how many of you have REALLY paid for all your 4E books? But i digress...

While I'm ranting, I figured I should throw these other things out on a separate note: The following things can be very annoying about said company (WotC):
  1. Making and hyping a new revision of a product simply because the old revision has saturated the market and you need new buyers to stay in the black (4E D&D)
  2. Ignoring a 30 year tradition of game rules and making new ones simply to sell the new product to the old audience (4E D&D; ok.. i like 4E - but it should have been called something else like "LaZzors & Clerics" or something)
  3. Killing a product with a 30-year tradition (or two), then rewrapping them as a new product while hyping a third product that will never see the light of day and charging people more for it (Dragon, Dungeon, DDI),
  4. See #3 and add in that the RPG community is doing it without them (Kobold Magazine; and see Mad Brew Labs recent post)
  5. A company that thinks it can control a market (the fan-base) for a product that is based on creativity and rule bending. Good luck. (the new GSL)
I believe the #1 biggest problem with dungeons & dragons products is that there is a revolving door of developers on the payrolls at WotC - and in any organization that has revolving door of core staff members there is always a major problem is a loss of corporate knowledge (and I do not mean corporation knowledge; I mean organizational memory).

The current DDI debacle is one prime example - do the current developers even know what happened with FLUID and the previous attempt at "shiney new cool software for D&D that has laserbeams"? Anyone else remember "Master Tools?" IT FAILED and should have been listed on the failblog.

I will leave you with a few more questions:
  • How many of the current people who work on the development of 4E D&D worked at WotC while 3E was in development?
  • How many worked there while 2E was still around?
  • Is there anyone there who used to be a TSR employee?
  • Any 1E developers still involved with D&D?
I think not.

I believe Wizards of the Coast suffers from corporate amnesia - can someone please help them?

Unnatural 20 - a blog about monsters

RPG Bloggers network wins again... today I added another excellent blog to my Google Reader: Unnatural 20. The blog seems to be focused on simply providing new monsters for people who play 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Check out some of their Weekly PDFs - they are superbly written and well-organized; not to mention imaginative - like the Dragon Snail.

September 22, 2008

Monsters, Terrain, and Histograms...

After a stupidly huge amount of time devoted to late night (and very early morning) data entry - the new version of Monsters & Terrain Core List is now completed (version 2). Both an online version and a downloadable Excel file is available. The new table includes the following information on 671 monsters from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons:
  • Name, Level, Group Role, Combat Role, Leader, Size, Origin, Type, Keywords, Climate, Terrain, and Source Material.
The climate and terrain data was pulled from previous editions of D&D (3rd edition and even older), and I used my best judgment for this information whenever a monster was truly new to 4E (i.e. no previous info available).

The source material for Version 2 of this Core List is derived from the following materials (with a count of the number of monsters for each):
  • Adventurer's Vault (11)
  • Dragon #364 (19)
  • Dragon #365 (6)
  • Dragon #366 (5)
  • Dragon #367 (6, incomplete - the issue is not fully released yet)
  • Dungeon #155 (11)
  • Dungeon #156 (12)
  • Dungeon #157 (19)
  • Dungeon #158 (10, incomplete - the issue is not fully released yet)
  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (55)
  • H1 Keep on the Shadowfell (3)
  • H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth (14)
  • H3 Pyramid of Shadows (11)
  • Monster Manual 4E (489)
Finally, (ok here comes the REAL geekery) ever wonder what the distribution was of monster levels in Dungeons & Dragons? Well, now this - and all kinds of other useless statistical analysis - can be done with ease. Viola:
Heh... how about that...

[1] The image of the kir-lanan was done by James Zhang in the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

September 20, 2008

Rituals & Monsters Core Lists Updated

The Core Lists: Rituals table now includes a total of 108 Rituals for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The list was recently expanded to include those featured in the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide.

In addition, I've added the 10 new monsters from the The Shadow Rift of Umbraforge adventure, found in Dragon #158, to the Monsters & Terrain core list.


[1] The image is by the artist MIGUEL COIMBRA and is taken from the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide.

September 19, 2008

Hero Forge Tools for 4th Edition in Beta Testing (FREE)

UPDATE, May 13th, 2009 - Read the interview with Robert Daneri, lead designer of Heroforge 4E, exclusively here on The Core Mechanic.

I "rediscovered" HeroForge this weekend - and I'm happy to report they seem to be making nice headway towards a new HeroForge 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Character Generator. Currently, it is in beta testing, and it looks WAY better than the character generator available from Wizards of the Coast's D&D Insider... oh wait, they haven't released one yet... [snarky snark!]

I'm also really enjoying the 3.5 Town Generator (there's actually two of them) and a few other of the Hero Forge tools from 3rd edition. Real nice, major time saver - catalyst for the imagination if you know what I mean.

Check out character generator - its FREE CHEAP and looks very promising. Here are some screen shots:

click for bigger

I also want to throw in a shout out to It's a low-post rate RPG blog, but there's some good stuff over there (including this link to an old WotC City Builders Web Enhancement that I forgot about).

This post was all the result of reading Cole's excellent post on "Creating City Maps". Thanks Cole!

D&D Insider Delayed Again - I CALL VAPORWARE!!!

"...So September is the last full month of the free trial and this month’s compilations will be the last full free issues of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines that we make available. We probably will not be done testing our Ecommerce and Entitlements system in time to launch by October 1st, so you’ll probably get a couple of extra articles for free as we continue to publish three times per week..."
And... did you notice that you'll be paying for the service before all the features are ready? I really, truely hate being a naysayer here - but the fact that you are going to be paying for the things are are available now, while the character creator is still being developed, is a total pile of crap.

In case you missed that last point: I CALL BULLSHIT! VAPORWARE!

"...After we launch our D&DI subscription service, the Character Builder will become our #1 priority. First up will be a public Beta test, then a commercial release, and then our development efforts will move onto the Character Visualizer..."
Are they kidding? The best part is that all the other tools (Dungeon Mapper?) they previously promised are not even mentioned.

September 18, 2008

Its the money, stupid!

Just because this seemed so damn timely... albeit off topic, I had to post this here:

Core Lists: Monsters & Terrain - Update not quite ready

OK, I'm chipping away at the latest version of the Monsters & Terrain Core List - it's proving to be a seriously boring and daunting task because I've decided to change the layout of the table. I'll summarize all the new additions, and changes once its complete, but for now suffice to say that the next version will include a number of additional (filtering) columns for
  1. size
  2. origin
  3. type
  4. keywords
  5. group role
  6. combat role
  7. and whether the creature is a leader (L) or not.
The group / combat role and leadership column was previously on the table, but it was concatenated as one field - making sorting a pain. The new layout separates all those data types out. So, all together this data, coupled with the terrain / environment data I've gathered from previous editions of the game (where possible), should be a nice resource for DM's looking for monsters to fit their homebrew campaign world, setting, or adventure. Or - anyone looking for data to dump into their own project.


real example of recent use:
"Ok, i need a list of all the creatures in the Underdark that have the "fire" keyword that are below level 11... ok done. And it took me about 5 seconds."

September 17, 2008

RPG Network vs. Blogrolling...

Some of you...

OK, who am I kidding?

None of you noticed it, but I recently made some fine tuned changes to the sidebar column on this blog (the skinny right column). I used to have a nav section titled "The Longest RPG Blogroll Ever" - but then RPG Bloggers Network came out and sorta made my blogroll look, well... silly. So, I removed it - and then moved somethings around.

Added a RSS feed for RPG Bloggers Network, New products from, and the latest Dungeons & Dragons posts direct from Wizards of the Coast.

All this stuff is way below the fold - but for some reason I'm still thinking about it. I mean I had "The Longest RPG Blogroll EVER!"... it was a coolio 42 blogs long... i'm kinda missing it... even thought its kinda pointless

Or is it?

OK - I'm going to add back my blog roll - but I need a show of hands. Who wants to be listed?



[then a BIG cane comes out from off-stage...]

OK, I'll go back to data entry my secret project.

September 15, 2008

Big Core Lists Update

Well, my Core Lists seem to be a useful thing to people - I've received a fair number of comments supportive of the project (even some emails), and my Google Analytics data tells me that the pages are being viewed often (the Monster & Terrain page gets more hits than this blog already, heh... go figure). I'm going to keep working on this to 'catch up' with what has been published thus far - so for a few days you'll probably see more info about the Core Lists project and less about the other things I want to work on. Once I'm caught up with the current state of what has already been published for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (both by WotC and Indy publishers; thanks Gomez for the suggestion), I'll return to normal broadcasting. So, here are the updates I'm managed to gather in the last day or so:

  • I've added link box on the right side of the page with all the links to the Core Lists in one place. Currently, this link box points to HTML pages - but I could change it to an Excel document download. Would that be preferable?
  • The Core Lists: Adventures now includes source links back to publisher websites so that people can easily find them when they want.
  • I've added new monsters to Core Lists: Monsters & Terrain. It now includes all the new 4E monsters from all issues of Dungeon and Dragon eZines, as well as from the H1 - H3 adventure paths. Where possible, I've included the monster terrain data taken from 3rd edition (or even older) sources so that people can continue to use the lists for random encounters tables, or just for ideas. The list now includes 650 different monsters!
Well... I'll keep at it. Let me know if you would like anything changed around (formatting, layouts, data included, etc).

[1] The inset image is a "Tomb Tapper" (aka Thaalun) taken from the AD&D Forgotten Realms Supplement "The Winds of Netheril" as drawn by Jesús Redondo. The monster was recently reintroduced in the recent 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

RPG CARNIVAL LOGO CONTEST - Win Prizes, Bragging Rights, and a Free Critical Hit Coupon

[rerun of the second announcement]

Earlier this month I announced a new contest here at The Core Mechanic: The RPG Carnival Logo Contest. So far, I've received two excellent entries from Reis O'Brien @ Geek Orthodox, and Greywulf @ Greywulf's Lair. In addition, Bartoneos (of Critical Hits fame) and Jaytori (Tenletter) are also expected to submit something to the contest. While four players seems to be the magic number for D&D party's - for logo contests...

More and More and More is better!

So... I want to urge everyone to submit their coolest logo for the RPG Blog Carnival! And, to help things along - not only am I throwing in $20 at for the winning entry - everyone who submits anything will also receive a FREE SIGNED CRITICAL HIT COUPON!!!

click for bigger

That's right... this nifty coupon can be yours to hold and to keep close to your heart. Imagine what could be accomplished with this:
So... to top all these great prizes you'll also get bragging rights. No doubt everyone at your FLGS will bow to your greatness as the winner of the RPG Blog Carnival Logo Contest!

So, here are the two entries I've recieved thus far. Please - NO COMMENTS or VOTING! Hold the voting till the end of the contest (last friday in September).

Greywulf @ Greywulf's Lair

Reis O'Brien @ Geek Orthodox

I love what I've seen so far, but let me see more entries! I wait patiently for your coolness...

September 14, 2008


Another list, Core Lists: ADVENTURES, makes its way into my little data project. As usual, you can expect this list to be updated as new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons adventures are published by WotC and (hopefully) independent publishers. Currently, the teeny-weeny list contains the 12 adventures from the Core Adventure Path (H1, H2, etc), and from the various Dungeon eZines that have come out since June. Its a start I guess.

Click the link above for a full screen, or just check out the embedded version below.

September 13, 2008


I've released the first version of Core Lists: Templates, which will be updated to include all the templates for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons as they are released. Currently, the list includes 28 templates from the:
  1. Dungeon Master's Guide,
  2. Dragon #364, and
  3. Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
So, this makes three Core Lists thus far - I hope they continue to be a helpful resource for some DMs out there looking for more options. In any case... click the link Core Lists: Templates for a full screen view or just scroll around in embedded version I have crammed onto the page below.

Leave a comment, and let me know if there's anything I should be doing different or whateva...

September 11, 2008

Defining SANDBOX Gaming: What's it to you?

OK, there's been much buzz about so-called "sandbox campaigns" in the RPG blogosphere recently. There have been some posts directly focused on the topic, and many others that bring it up while talking about something else. From all this I think there's a need for clarification. Some bloggers think sandbox games are for 'lazy GMs', while others think 'it too time consuming to GM a sandbox game'. Other differences are between sandbox campaigns being 'too pre-planned' vs. 'too open-ended'. Many of these viewpoints seem contradictory. Here's a short list of all the ones I've 'starred' in my Google Reader over the last few months:
And, while leaving a comment on one post on the topic over at RPG Diehard, I found myself thinking that people obviously have different viewpoints on what a 'sandbox' campaign is and is not. Sure, there's a Wikipedia page that covers the basic idea of nonlinear gameplay, but its more directed at video games - not tabletop RPG games.

Maybe I'm the weirdo... to me a "sandbox" game is one where the world is open to explore - the environment and the character development is the focus, not some super EPIX storyline (although these can be woven into it). Also, sandbox games do not have to be well developed before the start of play - a sandbox can be improvised to suite the player's interests just as well as other game styles.

So, I'll ask the readers here: What is a 'sandbox' campaign to you?

[POST POSTING EDIT: I added the link to after I published this]

September 10, 2008

Core Lists: MONSTERS - Updated

Just a quick note today. I've updated my "Core List: Monsters" to include 61 additional monsters found in
  • Dragon #364 (19 monsters)
  • Dungeon #155 (11 monsters)
  • Dungeon #156 (12 monsters)
  • Dungeon #157 (19 monsters)
The terrain data for each of the creatures are based on my best guess from existing data and past editions, since 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons does not include terrain information in the stat blocks. The addition of terrain data should assist Dungeon Masters using the Interactive Table with placing these additional creatures in their planned or random encounters. All the new additions should also be reflected in the linked interactive table. And, for the studious: I did not include every single new creature found in the above sources. Unique or setting specific creatures were generally omitted; and there's obviously more data to add to the list (FRCS book, other Dragon mag's, etc). Finally, if something is not working - please let me know.

September 9, 2008

Upcoming - Help me prioritize

OK, so real-life has bogged me down from being able to post my benchmark daily posts. My apologies to anyone who actually reads this blog. After looking over my notes in my moleskin - I can see that I actually have several projects due to see some face time on this blog; but I guess I'm having a bit of writer's block. Maybe you can help me figure out which of these projects I work on first, then which second.

The Core Mechanic's Unfinished 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Project List
  • Core Lists. I've already released two Core Lists, but the Monsters' Core List needs more updating to include all the creeps from recent 4E versions of the DRAGON and DUNGEON ezines. Also, I want to create lists for the community of powers (at-will, encounter, daily, etc), magical items, traps, and feats. Why? I dunno - I'm sure you can find a use for them.
  • Core Threats. I came out with The Dead Queens of Morvena a few weeks ago, and recently Caretakers. I have a number of ideas for additional creeps - but given how easy it is to put together custom creatures in 4E - I'm not sure how much mileage these creeps would get from the community. If there's interest - then I'm definately willing to make more of them.
  • Core Conversions: Early on in this blog I set out to convert 3E things to 4E (monsters, templates, etc). Would you like to see more of this?
  • Developing The Dead Queens. This was actually a suggestion my wife made. I believe I have a good foundation for more material related to this series (The Fetherruin, the tombs, who was the king, what happened to the Incabus, etc). Would you be interested in seeing more of this?
  • Tinglefoot, Tinglefoot, Tinglefoot Cube. I recently posted about my recovery of an old adventure idea I submited to DUNGEON some 5 or 6 years ago - but failed to follow up on. This is a good possibility for something completely different.
  • Troupe and Entourage Gaming Review. I've collected a sizable list of online resources about this style of gaming, and posted about it twice before as well. I even bought a stack of old White Wolf magazines on Ebay so that I could get my hands on an article written by Jonathan Tweet about Troupe Gaming from 1987 (White Wolf #21). This method of gaming has been increasingly intriguing to me lately - I'm thinking a review. Would this be interesting to any of you. 
Let me know what you want to see. Blogging about D&D is a new side of the gaming dice I have only recently explored and I'm not sure what I'm doing right and where I need improvement. Your feedback would be a big help.

Thanks! Until next time - GAME ON!

September 8, 2008


We throw away the key.
That which remains ought not leave, even for the gods.
Now awakened, the caretaker waits only to snuff out the flame of life
if ever life finds him.
Blessed is this grave.
Sacred is this ossuary.
Never to be disturbed again, we leave him here to serve his final sentence.

-- Wodan Alberich, Prayer to Vecna - God of the Dead.

are undead guardians of sealed tombs, crypts and catacombs. They are doomed to shuffle about for eternity; cleaning the stone walls, polishing the valuables, and maintaining the burial crypts. The Caretakers overseeing this wealth also tirelessly wait for anyone who might seek to plunder their charge.

The Caretakers usually appear gaunt, with sunken lidless eyes that flicker with a faint blue flame. They are adorned with the ceremonial robes and sandals of their burial, which are often exquisitely well made and quite valuable. Unlike other types of more common undead, they keep their ceremonial robes clean from dust and dirt by means of their supernatural ability to clean, fix, or mend most lightweight materials, even those of exceptional craftsmanship. Thus, the wealth that is often buried with those able to afford a Caretaker remains in exquisite condition for hundreds of years, looking as it did the day it was buried.

L5 Soldier, XP 200

Medium natural humanoid (undead)
Initiative +6
Senses darkvision, Perception +12;
HP 66; Bloodied 33;
AC 21; Fortitude 18, Reflex 16, Will 17
Immune disease; Resist necrotic 5; Vulnerable radiant 5
Speed 6

Claws (standard; at-will) * Martial: +13 vs. AC, 1d10+5 damage.
Patient Decree (standard; at-will) * Arcane, Psychic: Range 10, +10 vs. Will, 1d6+4 and the target is slowed until the end of the Caretaker's next turn.
Baleful Sorrows (standard; recharge 4-6) * Necrotic, Psychic: Close burst 2, +8 vs. Will, 3d6+3.
Willful Purpose (minor; daily): The Caretaker may use its Patient Decree power as a free action.
Corpse Play: Caretakers recieve a +10 bonus to Stealth when attempting to pose as a motionless corpse. Even if detected - upon close inspection, a Caretaker may be indistinguishable from a normal corpse (Perception DC30 to tell the difference).

Skills Stealth +11
Alignment Unaligned
Languages common
Str 20 (+10)
Dex 13 (+6)
Wis 15 (+7)
Con 18 (+9)
Int 13 (+6)
Cha 15 (+7)
Equipment ceremonial burial robes.

Caretaker Tactics
These eternal sentinels will pose as burial corpses as soon as they sense the tomb they are guarding has been opened. Their attack will be sudden and they will immediately use their daily power Willful Purpose to attack multiple targets. The creators of Caretakers also usually instruct them to focus on lightly armored enemies (i.e. rogues first; defenders class-types are usually attacked last). In addition, Caretakers will also couple their attack with the springing of a trap or other deadly feature of the tomb.

Caretaker Lore
Characters know the following information with a successful Religion or Arcana check.
  • DC 15 : Caretakers are the eternal guardians of tombs for wealthy aristocrats, merchants, and adventurers. Where there is one, often many are found cleaning, maintaining, and protecting the tomb.
  • DC 25 : Caretakers will often pose as corpses in an attempt to catch intruders off-guard; waiting to attack when you least expect it.

September 5, 2008

Core Lists: MONSTERS

So, in continuing my obsession with data collection and entry - I'm sharing my 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monsters list I whipped up via Google Documents. What you may find interesting is that I have merged the 'lost' 3E terrain data with the new 4E monsters, so that you might use this info to create your own wilderness / random encounter tables. I've also added an interactive table that lets you home in on just the data you want. My longer term plans are to develop an online tool that organizes this data into random encounter tables on the fly using Google Gears and the Google Documents API. In the meantime, the low-fi crunchy version might still be helpful to some of you... click link below

I've also crammed a version of the document into this blog page below as a preview. The full window view is way better.

My Core Lists: Rituals is also available.

Please let me know what you think! Should I continue doing this? Useful? Useless? Call for feedback.

Also - I'm a novice javascript coder - but I have about 10+ years with PERL and mySQL - so I'm thinking its just a matter of syntax (=easy). But, if anyone would like to collaborate on a project using Google Gears and the Google Documents API, please contact me.

September 4, 2008

The Adventures of Finieous Fingers And Fred And Charly

Click the toon for a bigger view
The Dragon #3, 1976
by "J.D."

Oh, come on.... its a CLASSIC!

Dragon magazine was, at the time, called "The Dragon". It had a whopping staff of three people. Rereading these old issues makes me want to support the new, independent mags all the more. Like Kobold Quarterly and Fight On!

Or... is the RPG blogging community the new 'zine for the industry?

I'm a marked target... Now what should I do?

I want to raise a question to all the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons DMs out there: how do you handle marked monsters and NPCs on the battlefield? Do they "know" they are marked? Do they just keep attacking whomever they please (and suffer the consequences)? Do they change targets and focus on whoever marked them?

Here's the problem: in my campaign I have a 'cardboard' character who is the only fighter in the party. His name is Crush. In strict 4E terms, he's the 'defender' of the group and since I'm the DM as well, I have to play him kind of ... you know... dum dum. The problem I run into is when he marks a target using his class feature Combat Challenge. I usually just have the monster he marked change focus to attack him instead, but my wife raised the question the other night "Why does that zombie have to attack Crush? Maybe he doesn't care that he's marked... i mean.. he is a Zombie, right? Muhhhh Bwraaaaaiiinzzz...."
... Admittedly, my usual choice may be residual fall out from playing too much Warcraft for the last 4 years (thank the gods I quit) ...
So... since 'marking the target' is a relatively new concept in D&D, how do you handle it?

September 3, 2008

Core Lists: RITUALS

Data, charts, figures, numbers, lists, crunch, crunch and more crunch. I love this part of RPGs just as much as anyone. Probably more so, since collecting data is what I do for a living (see my other blog). For Dungeons & Dragons (or any RPG for that matter), I for one love nice and tidy lists of things. So, in a new series I'm starting, "Core Lists", I'm going to start providing links to some of the lists on Google Documents that I already maintain for my own use. I'm hoping that
  1. you will find these lists useful,
  2. you will correct me if I'm wrong, and
  3. you will let me know if I missed something.
OK - the first list in this series is: RITUALS. Click the link below to open a new window.


Here is the same list embedded and crammed into this 468px wide column...

I have plans for lots of these. I also plan to update them when I can from both official and unofficial sources. So, leave a comment here and let me know what you think. Also, since I'm using Google Docs to maintain these lists, collaborations are easy to set up. If you are interested in helping me put some useful lists together for the community - please contact me and let me know by email (jonathan DOT jacobs AT gmail DOT com).

The Dead Queens of Morvena Summary PDF

I no doubt had fun writing up The Dead Queens of Morvena and, since I received some encouraging feedback from a few readers, I decided to package up the miniseries into one PDF document. I gave the text a once-over to fix up some minor grammar issues and clarify a few sections, but for the most part it is more or less unchanged. The statblocks also have been cleaned up and now use the cool 4E logo's for the abilities, etc. You can download the file here at the new Google Sites wiki I've set up for this blog: The Dead Queens of Morvena Draft1. If you like it, and would like for me to develop it further, please drop me a line by email or leave a comment. I also love constructive criticism, so please suggest any changes you may have to improve it.

Until next time: Game on!

September 2, 2008


Wohoo! The RPG BLOG CARNIVAL that I started last month seems to be taking off! The second round of the carnival has already started, and is being hosted by Donny the DM over at The Fine Art of the TPK. The topic is HOMEBREW, and from what I have seen across the RPG blogosphere, it already looks like it is going to be an even better success than the first round.
If you are reading this and don't know what the heck a blog carnival is, then check out the first announcement and the links therein. For the rest of you: lets make this even better!
So - starting today, I am sponsoring The RPG Blog Carnival Logo Contest. Submit logos for the RPG Blog Carnival (square, rectangular, whatever format you want) until the last Friday of the month. Either leave a comment here to URL pointing to the image files you create, or just email them to me (jonathan.jacobs AT gmail DOT com). I will post them here at The Core Mechanic as a gallery and set an anonymous voting system once the contest is over. Everyone can vote for their favorite logo for a week or so. The winner of the contest will get:
  1. bragging rights;
  2. have their logo used on tons of participating websites; and
  3. a $20 gift card!
I know that a $20 gift card is not much, but I figured it is always fun to win something. So, I hope this will generate some buzz and even more involvement by fellow bloggers of the community.

Send in your logo design now! Leave the URL in the comments section of this post or email it to me!

... hopefully this won't fall flat on its face! haha!

September 1, 2008


I [cough] stumbled... [cough] ... on this while searching through the blogosphere... (/wink)

Some people are really pissed that Wizards of the Coast cut the Rust Monster from the new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. This creature was one of the original, classic creepy creatures from the old school pre-AD&D days.

I wont go into too many details as to WHY the Rust Monster, or Ol'Rusty, is so important to Dungeons & Dragons. Instead I'll point you to these excellent resources:If you're a blogger, and want to help support our cause - then please post this badge up on your site and link back to this page for people to sign the petition.

So... please head over there and sign the petition right now!


Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Module Cover Art

Sometimes I just miss the simple straight forward approach of the 'modules' from days long gone (read: 'adventures' to all you younglings). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the heyday of the game - where most players did not even use miniatures, the supplemental 'splat books' were lightwieght, and the adventures were loose. Everything seemed so homegrown; even the official products. Remember all the cartoony B&W line art? It was like Gygax was the artist...

So, here's my tribute - to the adventures I remember well, 20 years later. Enjoy them... and let me know if seeing these lost covers strikes a chord with you (as it did with me).

(click on the thumbs for big)