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Role-Playing Repertoire: Building your game music library

August 12, 2013 Comments off

Creating the right mood for a game can be key to getting your players to enjoy that game to its fullest. While Black Sabbath will do for a beer and pretzels board game night, the perfect song can telegraph what you’re trying to establish with your game and transport your player into the world you’re trying to lure them into (so you can kill them).

By way of example, several weeks ago we did a conversion of the Slave Lords modules for Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) which went over pretty well. To start The Funnel (where you make 3-4 zero level characters and see who survives to first level), I started the players at a wedding of the beautiful Miller’s daughter to the tavern owner’s son. As the wedding reception got started, I played this old chestnut from the original Conan the Barbarian Soundtrack by Basil Poledouris (an absolute must have by the way).

When slaver pirates attack, the would-be heroes have to fight off the raiders to buy the other villagers time to escape. After being captured, they mutiny and wrest control of the Slavers’ ship as it drifts into the harbor of Highport. It was then I played this piece which, to me, perfectly captured what I was going for as they viewed the scenes on the streets and docks of the approaching slaver city (taken from the Borderlands video game soundtrack).

And with that, everyone was there. Right there with me as to what the world was going to feel like and the direction we were going.

Sometimes you can stumble across these sorts of things, but for the most part, it takes listening to a wide variety of instrumental music (soundtracks, mainly) and categorizing things into either specific scenes (somewhat challenging) or by building your repertoire for broader categories of music.

I’ve made, lost, changed, and remade numerous lists since my mix-tape days, but largely you can do whatever you think you need based on how much work you want to put into it. At a minimum, you should have Combat Music and Non-Combat Music. However, if you care to listen to and sort some songs, additional folders for Exploration, Chase scenes, Exposition, or downright Creepy music are good selections.

If you really want to go for broke, however, Spotify is your new best friend. It contains a vast collection of music, which is fully searchable. There are some downsides:

1) It links through Facebook, (Like us here BTW) so you’ll need to have a Facebook account to use it , even if it’s not one you use for anything other than Spotify.

2) The advanced features cost money, but allow streaming through other devices offline.

3) While it maintains a vast and ever growing catalog, there are limits to what’s available on it at this time.

In my opinion, the features and deep catalog greatly outweigh these shortcomings. You can search for other people’s playlists and share your own playlists, add music from your own hard drive that can’t be found in Spotify’s catalog, and you can play these lists on ipads and other devices, so you can take your game music out of the house.

Currently, I have playlists for sci-fi/shadowrun combat and downtime, as well as fantasy oriented playlists for town, creepy stuff, adventure, exposition, and combat. I then cull from there to make adventure specific playlists.

So, to get you started, here’s a few of my songs from Spotify. Feel free to share yours!

ADVENTURE – anything from dungeon crawling downtime to wilderness exploration

Trevor Jones – Elk Hunt
Trevor Jones – Munro’s Office/Stockade
Midnight Syndicate – Cathedral Ruins
Midnight Syndicate – Shadowed Grove
Midnight Syndicate – Descent into the Depths
Midnight Syndicate – Heroes’ Valor
Midnight Syndicate – Relic Uncovered
Midnight Syndicate – Beasts of the Borderlands
Midnight Syndicate – Cathedral Ruins
Midnight Syndicate – Shadowed Grove
Midnight Syndicate – Meeting of the Acolytes
Midnight Syndicate – The Revenants
Midnight Syndicate – Called From Beyond
Midnight Syndicate – Across the Chasm
Midnight Syndicate – Cemetery Gates
Midnight Syndicate – Exodus
Midnight Syndicate – Dark Legacy
Midnight Syndicate – Theme to the Rage
Midnight Syndicate – In the Forest Deep
Midnight Syndicate – Dr. V’s Lab
Midnight Syndicate – Don’t Go in There
Midnight Syndicate – Uncle Ben Montage
Midnight Syndicate – Crash Aftermath
Midnight Syndicate – Uncle Ben Under the Winnebago
Midnight Syndicate – The Waterfall
Midnight Syndicate – Meet Dr. V
Midnight Syndicate – Kiss the Monkey
Midnight Syndicate – Dr. V’s Theme
Midnight Syndicate – Realm of Shadows
Midnight Syndicate – Born of the Night
Midnight Syndicate – Legions of the Dead
Midnight Syndicate – Eye of the Storm
Midnight Syndicate – Solemn Reflections
Midnight Syndicate – Nightstalker
Midnight Syndicate – Noctem Aeternus
Midnight Syndicate – Sanctuary
Midnight Syndicate – Into the Abyss
Midnight Syndicate – Masque of Sorrow
Midnight Syndicate – Forbidden Crypts
Midnight Syndicate – Shadows
Midnight Syndicate – Soliloquy
Midnight Syndicate – Beyond the Gates
Midnight Syndicate – Eclipse
Midnight Syndicate – Prisoner of Time
Midnight Syndicate – Druids
Midnight Syndicate – Mansion in the Mist
Midnight Syndicate – Forgotten Path
Midnight Syndicate – Time Outside of Time
Midnight Syndicate – Fallen Grandeur
Midnight Syndicate – Hands of Fate
Midnight Syndicate – Mausoleum d’ Haverghast
Midnight Syndicate – Family Secrets
Midnight Syndicate – Vertigo
Midnight Syndicate – The Watcher
Midnight Syndicate – Cellar
Midnight Syndicate – Cold Embrace
Midnight Syndicate – Harvest of Deceit
Midnight Syndicate – Grisly Reminder
Midnight Syndicate – Deadly Intentions
Midnight Syndicate – The Lost Room
Midnight Syndicate – Living Walls
Midnight Syndicate – Return of the Ancient Ones
Midnight Syndicate – Prelude
Midnight Syndicate – Troubled Times
Midnight Syndicate – The Fens of Sargath
Midnight Syndicate – Stealth and Cunning
Midnight Syndicate – Eternal Mystery
Midnight Syndicate – Craft of the Wizard
Midnight Syndicate – Secret Chamber
Midnight Syndicate – Lair of the Great Wyrm
Midnight Syndicate – Ancient Temple
Midnight Syndicate – Army of the Dead
Midnight Syndicate – Ruins of Bone Hill
Midnight Syndicate – Awakening
Midnight Syndicate – Graveyard
Midnight Syndicate – Unhallowed Ground
Midnight Syndicate – Crypt of the Forsaken
Midnight Syndicate – Winged Fury
Midnight Syndicate – Blackest Rose
Midnight Syndicate – Ravages of Time
Midnight Syndicate – Undead Hunters
Midnight Syndicate – Vampyre
Midnight Syndicate – Halls of Insurrection
Midnight Syndicate – Cage of Solitude
Midnight Syndicate – Residents Past
Midnight Syndicate – Phantom Sentinels
Midnight Syndicate – Gates of Delirium
Midnight Syndicate – Procession of the Damned
Midnight Syndicate – Room 47
Midnight Syndicate – Alternative Therapy
Midnight Syndicate – Ebony Shroud
Nox Arcana – Blackthorn Asylum
Nox Arcana – The Nameless City
Nox Arcana – Legacy of Darkness
Nox Arcana – Necronomicon
Justin Caine Burnett – Opening To Profion’s Dungeon
Justin Caine Burnett – Breaking Into The Magic School
Justin Caine Burnett – Council Of Mages
Cris Velasco – Borderlands
Sascha Dikiciyan – Welcome To The Bunker
Cris Velasco – Exploring Overlook
Cris Velasco – Into The Rift
Cris Velasco – Into The Depths
Cris Velasco – Lost
Cris Velasco – The Covent Gardens
Cris Velasco – For The Living
Klaus Badelt – One Last Shot
Hans Zimmer – Jack Sparrow – Score
Hans Zimmer – Davy Jones – Score
Hans Zimmer – I’ve Got My Eye On You – Score
Hans Zimmer – Tia Dalma – Score
Tyler Bates – Prologue
Tyler Bates – The Mill
Tyler Bates – The Mask/12 Years Later
Tyler Bates – Freeing Slaves
Tyler Bates – Death Of A Priest
Tyler Bates – One Way Ride
Tyler Bates – The Temple
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Wild Lands of Zelata
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – Night of the Serpent
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – Field of the Dead
RMaster – Theme Song – From World of Warcraft 2
Harajuku Nation – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Sons of Skyrim
Inon Zur – The Chantry’s Hubris
Inon Zur – Mages In Their Chantry
Inon Zur – Ruins Of Ostagar
Inon Zur – Enter The Korcari Wilds
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Strength And Honor
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Reunion
Michael Hoenig – Leaving-Home
Jerry Goldsmith – The Cave Of Death
Jeremy Soule – Thornwood Shadows
Jeremy Soule – Thus Spake Tippy
Jeremy Soule – Poe’s Nightmare
Jeremy Soule – The Zodiac Islands
John Ottman – Jack and Isabelle – Theme from Jack the Giant Slayer
Cris Velasco – Into The Rift
Cris Velasco – Respite
Cris Velasco – Into The Depths
Cris Velasco – Lost
Cris Velasco – Remember The Dead
Bear McCreary – A mysterious Jungle
Bear McCreary – Altar Sacrifice
Bear McCreary – Crash Site

COMBAT – ‘Nuff Said

Trevor Jones – Fort Battle
Trevor Jones – Massacre/Canoes
Horner, James – Horner: Attack on Murron [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: Revenge [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – ‘Sons of Scotland’ [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: The Battle of Stirling [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: Falkirk [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Mornay’s Dream [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Midnight Syndicate – Ride to Destiny
Midnight Syndicate – Skirmish
Midnight Syndicate – Heroes’ Valor
Midnight Syndicate – Beasts of the Borderlands
Midnight Syndicate – Forging the Scarab
Midnight Syndicate – Injecting the Formula
Midnight Syndicate – Birds of Prey
Midnight Syndicate – Surrounded
Midnight Syndicate – Showdown in the Lab
Midnight Syndicate – Gor
Midnight Syndicate – Final Confrontation With Dr. V
Midnight Syndicate – Into the Abyss
Midnight Syndicate – Forbidden Crypts
Midnight Syndicate – Cold Embrace
Midnight Syndicate – Gruesome Discovery
Midnight Syndicate – The 13th Hour
Midnight Syndicate – Skirmish
Midnight Syndicate – Heroes’ Valor
Midnight Syndicate – Deep Trouble
Midnight Syndicate – Beasts of the Borderlands
Midnight Syndicate – Lair of the Great Wyrm
Midnight Syndicate – How Strange…
Midnight Syndicate – Army of the Dead
Midnight Syndicate – Final Confrontation
Midnight Syndicate – Welcome
Midnight Syndicate – Dark Discovery
Midnight Syndicate – Unrest in the East Wing
Justin Caine Burnett – Thieves’ Fight
Justin Caine Burnett – Battle On The Rooftop
Justin Caine Burnett – Fighting Profion
Justin Caine Burnett – Antius City
Justin Caine Burnett – On The Run
Justin Caine Burnett – The Maze
Justin Caine Burnett – Damoadar’s Curse
Sascha Dikiciyan – Removing The Bandit Threat
Cris Velasco – Burning Rubber And Shooting Bullets
Cris Velasco – Fighting Sledge’s Minions
Sascha Dikiciyan – Smoking Out The Bunker
Cris Velasco – Fighting Krom And His Gun
Cris Velasco – Trash The Bandits Some More
Cris Velasco – Trash The Bandits
Cris Velasco – Fight For The Crypts
Cris Velasco – The Dawn Of War
Cris Velasco – Bedlam
Cris Velasco – Ambush
Cris Velasco – The Battle Begins
Cris Velasco – The Battle Begins
Klaus Badelt – The Black Pearl
Klaus Badelt – Will And Elizabeth
Klaus Badelt – Swords Crossed
Klaus Badelt – Walk The Plank
Klaus Badelt – Barbossa Is Hungry
Klaus Badelt – To The Pirates’ Cave!
Klaus Badelt – Skull And Crossbones
Klaus Badelt – Bootstrap’s Bootstraps
Klaus Badelt – He’s a Pirate
Hans Zimmer – Jack Sparrow – Score
Hans Zimmer – The Kraken – Score
Hans Zimmer – Dinner Is Served – Score
Hans Zimmer – Wheel of Fortune – Score
Hans Zimmer – I Don’t Think Now Is the Best Time – Score
The Last Samurai – Spectres in the Fog
The Last Samurai – The Way of the Sword
Tyler Bates – Egg Race
Tyler Bates – Cimmerian Battle
Tyler Bates – Prison Interrogation
Tyler Bates – Off With Their Heads
Tyler Bates – Horse Chase
Tyler Bates – Outpost
Tyler Bates – Oceans Of Blood
Tyler Bates – The Dweller
Tyler Bates – Skull Mountain
Tyler Bates – Wheel Of Torture
Tyler Bates – Zym’s Demise
Tyler Bates – Skull Mountain
Tyler Bates – Wheel Of Torture
Tyler Bates – Zym’s Demise
Movie Sounds Unlimited – Conan the Barbarian – Main Theme
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – Day of Wrath
Yvonne S. Moriarty – The Battle
Yvonne S. Moriarty – The Might Of Rome
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Barbarian Horde
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Hook
Howard Shore – The Black Gate Opens
Michael Hoenig – The-Last-BattleMichael Hoenig’s work is found on the Baldur’s Gate games, available on GOG.com for a pittance
Michael Hoenig – The-Gibberling-Horde
Michael Hoenig – Swords-Against-Darkness
Michael Hoenig – Hobgoblins-And-Worgs
Michael Hoenig – Gorions-Battle
Michael Hoenig – Giant-Spiders
James Newton Howard – The Skyboat
Michael Kamen – The Cardinal’s Coach (Estampie)
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Willow – Main Themes
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad – Overture
Michael Hoenig – Fighting-For-Survival
Michael Hoenig – Bandit-Melee
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Riddle of Steel (Riders of Doom)
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – The Kitchen (The Orgy)
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves – Main Titles
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Clash Of The Titans – Main Titles, Love Theme & End Titles
Howard Shore – The Riders Of Rohan
Howard Shore – Helm’s Deep
Howard Shore – Minas Morgul
Howard Shore – The Black Gate Opens
Jerry Goldsmith – Viking Heads
Jerry Goldsmith – The Horns Of Hell
Jerry Goldsmith – The Fire Dragon
Jerry Goldsmith – Swing Across
Sam Hulick – I Will Watch Over the Ones Who Live On
Jeremy Soule – Rise of Valgore
Jeremy Soule – Trolo’s Complaint
Jeremy Soule – Ahab’s Abyss
Jeremy Soule – Bonus Track
John Ottman – The Battle
John Ottman – Chase to Cloister
Bill Brown – Reincarnation of Tragedy
Bill Brown – Apocalyptic Divine Evil
Hyobum Lim – To The Evil’s Cathadral
Cris Velasco – Fight For The Crypts
Cris Velasco – The Dawn Of War
Cris Velasco – Bedlam
Cris Velasco – Ambush
Tyler Bates – Prologue
Tyler Bates – His Name Is Conan
Tyler Bates – Egg Race
Tyler Bates – Fire And Ice
Tyler Bates – Cimmerian Battle
Tyler Bates – The Mill
Tyler Bates – The Mask/12 Years Later
Tyler Bates – Freeing Slaves
Tyler Bates – Prison Interrogation
Tyler Bates – Monastery Approach
Tyler Bates – Off With Their Heads
Tyler Bates – Horse Chase
Tyler Bates – Death Of A Priest
Tyler Bates – One Way Ride
Tyler Bates – Outpost
Tyler Bates – Fever
Tyler Bates – Victory
Tyler Bates – A Kiss
Tyler Bates – The Temple
Tyler Bates – Oceans Of Blood
Tyler Bates – The Dweller
Tyler Bates – Skull Mountain
Tyler Bates – Wheel Of Torture
Tyler Bates – Zym’s Demise
Tyler Bates – Conan Returns Home
Bear McCreary – Village Attack
Bear McCreary – Archon
Bear McCreary – Taking Flight

CREEPY

Midnight Syndicate – Nightfall
Midnight Syndicate – Entering the Crypt
Midnight Syndicate – Alchemist’s Chamber
Midnight Syndicate – Tear of Osiris
Midnight Syndicate – Shadows Descend
Midnight Syndicate – Inside the Scarab
Midnight Syndicate – Lullaby
Midnight Syndicate – Darkness Descends
Midnight Syndicate – Return of the Apparition
Midnight Syndicate – Haunted Nursery
Midnight Syndicate – The Night Beckons
Midnight Syndicate – Theme to The Dead Matter (Vampire\’s Kiss)
Midnight Syndicate – Soliloquy
Midnight Syndicate – Theme to Journey Into Dementia
Midnight Syndicate – The Drawing Room
Midnight Syndicate – Footsteps in the Dust
Midnight Syndicate – Veiled Hunter
Midnight Syndicate – Sinister Pact
Midnight Syndicate – Catacombs
Midnight Syndicate – Unseen Eyes
Midnight Syndicate – Spectral Masquerade
Midnight Syndicate – Haverghast Asylum
Midnight Syndicate – Adelaide
Midnight Syndicate – Non Compos Mentis
Midnight Syndicate – Infestation
Midnight Syndicate – Morbid Fascination
Midnight Syndicate – Revelation
Nox Arcana – Threshold of Madness
Jeremy Soule – Darkwood Vault
Jeremy Soule – The Cave
Cris Velasco – The Covent Gardens

EXPOSITION

Horner, James – Main Title [Braveheart]
Midnight Syndicate – Soliloquy
Midnight Syndicate – Prelude
Midnight Syndicate – Troubled Times
Midnight Syndicate – Secret Chamber
Midnight Syndicate – Ruins of Bone Hill
Tyler Bates – Prologue
Harajuku Nation – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Sons of Skyrim
Inon Zur – Dragon Age: Origins
Inon Zur – Mages In Their Chantry
Inon Zur – The Dalish
Michael Hoenig – Night-on-the-Plains
Various Artists – 06 – John Whelan – Eileen Ivers – Trip to Skye
Sam Hulick – Wake Up
Sam Hulick – An End Once and For All – Extended Cut
Jeremy Soule – Poe’s Nightmare
Jeremy Soule – The Menagerie
Jamie Christopherson – The Beginning of Gracia
Bear McCreary – Da Vinci’s Demons Main Title Theme

TRAVEL – For those chase scenes or overland journeys, I’ve found this is more appropriate

Trevor Jones – Main Title
Trevor Jones – Top Of The World
Randy Edelman – The Courier
Horner, James – The Legend spreads [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Midnight Syndicate – Ride to Destiny
Midnight Syndicate – City of Sails
Cris Velasco – Legends
Cris Velasco – Our Hero
Klaus Badelt – The Medallion Calls
Klaus Badelt – One Last Shot
Hans Zimmer – What Shall We Die For – Score
Hans Zimmer – One Day – Score
The Last Samurai – Taken
The Last Samurai – Safe Passage
The Last Samurai – To Know My Enemy
Tyler Bates – Monastery Approach
Tyler Bates – A Kiss
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Wild Lands of Zelata
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Lure of Atali
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Waterworld
Inon Zur – Dragon Age: Origins
Inon Zur – The Dwarven Nobles
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Strength And Honor
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Alexander (Titans)
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Waterworld
Howard Shore – The Return Of The King (Featuring Sir James Galway, Viggo Mortensen, And Renée Fleming)
Various Artists – The Butterfly
Michael Kamen – The Cardinal’s Coach (Estampie)
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Column of Sadness (Wheel of Pain)
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Jurassic Park – Main Themes
Jerry Goldsmith – The Sword Maker
Various Artists – The Butterfly
Various Artists – 06 – John Whelan – Eileen Ivers – Trip to Skye
Jeremy Soule – Elegant Plot Exposition Theme
Jeremy Soule – The Zodiac Islands
Bear McCreary – Theme from Dark Void
Bear McCreary – Defending the Ark

TOWN – Downtime, romance, etc.

Trevor Jones – The Kiss
Trevor Jones – The Glade Part II
Trevor Jones – Promentory
Randy Edelman – Cora
Randy Edelman – Rival Walk and Discovery
Randy Edelman – Parlay
Randy Edelman – The British Arrival
Horner, James – Main Title [Braveheart]
Horner, James – Horner: A Gift of a Thistle – A Gift of a Thistle [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: Wallace Courts Murron [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: The Secret Wedding – The Secret Wedding [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: Murron’s Burial – Murron’s Burial [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: Making Plans/Gathering the Clans [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: For The Love Of A Princess
Horner, James – The Legend spreads [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Horner, James – Horner: The Princess pleads for Wallace’s Life [Braveheart – Original Sound Track]
Midnight Syndicate – City of Sails
Midnight Syndicate – Ancient Tomes
Cris Velasco – Respite
Cris Velasco – Remember The Dead
Cris Velasco – Stepping Through The Wardrobe
Cris Velasco – Perfect Neighbors
Klaus Badelt – Fog Bound
Klaus Badelt – The Medallion Calls
Klaus Badelt – Moonlight Serenade
Klaus Badelt – Underwater March
Klaus Badelt – One Last Shot
Hans Zimmer – Two Hornpipes (Tortuga) – Score
Hans Zimmer – You Look Good Jack – Score
Hans Zimmer – Singapore – Score
Hans Zimmer – Up Is Down – Score
Hans Zimmer – I See Dead People in Boats – Score
Hans Zimmer – The Brethren Court – Score
Hans Zimmer – Parlay – Score
Hans Zimmer – What Shall We Die For – Score
Hans Zimmer – Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow
The Last Samurai – A Way of Life
The Last Samurai – A Small Measure of Peace
The Last Samurai – Idyll’s End
The Last Samurai – A Hard Teacher
The Last Samurai – Taken
The Last Samurai – A Way of Life
Tyler Bates – His Name Is Conan
Tyler Bates – Fire And Ice
Tyler Bates – Victory
Tyler Bates – A Kiss
Tyler Bates – Conan Returns Home
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Wild Lands of Zelata
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – Night of the Serpent
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Lure of Atali
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Sands of Forgetfulnes – Tortage Beach
Knut Avenstroup Haugen – The Damp Barachan Nights
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Waterworld
Jason Hayes – World of Warcraft: Seasons of War
Video Games Live – World of Warcraft: Lament of the Highborne
The Stereoscopic Orchestra – World of Warcraft – Son of Arthas
Inon Zur – Dragon Age: Origins
Inon Zur – Elves At The Mercy Of Man
Inon Zur – The Dwarven Nobles
Inon Zur – The Common Dwarf
Inon Zur – The Dalish
Inon Zur – Human Nobility
Yvonne S. Moriarty – The Wheat
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Sorrow
Yvonne S. Moriarty – To Zuccabar
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Patricide
Yvonne S. Moriarty – The Emperor Is Dead
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Reunion
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Slaves To Rome
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Am I Not Merciful?
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Elysium
Yvonne S. Moriarty – Honor Him
Lisa Gerrard – Now We Are Free
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Exodus
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Excalibur
Soundtrack & Theme Orchestra – Theme From Black Robe
Alasdair Fraser – Calliope House / The Cowboy Jig Medley
– Hommlet_Level_loop — This is from Greyhawk: Temple of Elemental Evil available on GOG.Com
– good_vignette This is from Greyhawk: Temple of Elemental Evil available on GOG.Com
Michael Hoenig – Streets-of-the-City
Michael Hoenig – The-Beregost-Night
Michael Hoenig – The-Dream
Michael Hoenig – The-Friendly-Arms-Inn
Michael Hoenig – The-Ladys-House
Various Artists – Carolan’s Ramble To Cashel
Various Artists – Christina
Various Artists – Wayfarer
Various Artists – Simon Wynberg – Strathgarry /
Michael Hoenig – Helms-Temple
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – The Princess Bride – Main Titles
Howard Shore – The Breaking Of The Fellowship
Howard Shore – The Return Of The King (Featuring Sir James Galway, Viggo Mortensen, And Renée Fleming)
Michael Hoenig – Night-on-the-Plains
Michael Hoenig – Safe-in-Beregost
James Galway – Slievenamon
James Galway – The Dark Island (With The Chieftains)
Michael Hoenig – Cloakwood-Forest
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – The Gift of Fury
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Theology (Civilisation)
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Love Theme
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Mountain of Power Procession
Basil Pouledoris – Conan the Barbarian – Recovery
Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – El Cid – Fanfare & Entry Of The Nobles
Howard Shore – Brooklyn Heights Part 1
Howard Shore – Evenstar (Featuring Isabel Bayrakdarian)
Howard Shore – The Steward of Gondor
Howard Shore – Twilight and Shadow
Jerry Goldsmith – Old Bagdad
Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna – The Blood Of Cu Chulainn
Peter Gabriel – The Feeling Begins – 2002 Digital Remaster
Peter Gabriel – Lazarus Raised
Peter Gabriel – Before Night Falls
Peter Gabriel – Passion
Peter Gabriel – With This Love – Choir
Peter Gabriel – Wall Of Breath
Peter Gabriel – Disturbed
Various Artists – The Butterfly
Various Artists – 06 – John Whelan – Eileen Ivers – Trip to Skye
Various Artists – 07 – Alasdair Frasier – Are Ye Sleeping, Maggie
Various Artists – Moving Hearts – Tribute To Pea
Various Artists – Relativity – Siun Ni Dhuibhir
Various Artists – Simon Wynberg – Strathgarry /
Jeremy Soule – Frontier Home
John Ottman – Goodbyes
Cris Velasco – Borderlands
Bear McCreary – Tesla’s Laboratory

Simply Barbaric: The DCC Barbarian

July 29, 2013 Comments off

Converting 1e old school adventures to DCCRPG

July 2, 2013 Comments off
From Dungeons of Dread

From Dungeons of Dread

With the re-release of so much classic material from Wizards of the Coast like Dungeons of Dread S1-S4 and Against the Slave Lords A0-A4, as well as all the PDFs on DnDclassics.com it has never been easier to try your hand at classic adventures that helped establish the game and the hobby. My one issue with playing the classics is having to deal with all the quirks of 1e AD&D. I’d rather not have to deal with separate saves for Petrification, Spells, Wands, etc., descending AC, THAC0, and the like. It is no secret I’m a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I feel combines the best of old school style with the benefit of picking and choosing the best mechanics of all the versions of D&D from the past 40 years.

My current mission is to convert S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth for DCC levels 4-5. I listened to the recent Spellburn Podcast (which you should definitely check out if you like DCC) and they mentioned that roughly 1 DCC level equals about 2 AD&D levels. Thus, with the original adventure for character levels 6-10, I think it should be a good match. My plan is to have the players start at 4th level, then level up to 5th when (if?) they reach the lower caverns. I also plan on having them start out with one +1 and one +2 item. Whether that item is a weapon/staff or armor is up to the player.

I can’t wait to use the very cool magic item creation tables in DCC for both wizard staffs and magic swords. To quote from the DCC RPG book for those unfamiliar, “There is no such thing as a ‘generic’ magic item. All magic items are unique.” When creating a magic item, you roll on a bunch of tables to determine its intelligence, alignment, motivations, banes, and special powers! I’ll also encourage the players to name their weapons and either create or roll back-stories (yes, there is a table for that) as to how they were created and previous owners, etc.

Here is a sample sword: Neutral Long Sword +2, Int 11, Empathic, 3 banes (Serpent – festering wound +1d6 dmg, +1d4 dmg next round, Undead – +1 Crit threat range, Giant – Unerring throw, can be thrown 60′, returns to hand, regular melee dmg) , Special purposes – bring balance to a specific place – Live alone as a warrior-hermit, sheds light 20′ at-will, detects gems within 30′. Now THAT is a magic sword!

I think most monster and save conversion will be fairly easy. For converting descending ACs to ascending, I plan on subtracting 20 from the current AC and making the result positive, i.e. AC 4 becomes AC 16 (4-20= -16). Most saves seem somewhat arbitrary in AD&D (Ah yes, a rockslide. Save vs…..SPELL!?!) So for those I’ll just use what has become common practice in 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4e: Poison vs. Fortitude, Charm/Sleep vs. Will, Lightening/Fire vs. Reflex.

I can’t imagine how this was a tournament module, as the scope just seems daunting to try and accomplish in even an all-day session. For publication, Gary added a very detailed and sprawling wilderness section that was not included at the original Con version, but even still, he does advise this will “likely take several gaming sessions.” It will be a few weeks before we gather our band of treasure seekers and take a delve. Be sure and check back to see how it went!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, DnD, Epic, Lore, Retro, RPGs, Tips

The Art of Fail – What to do when games go bad

May 28, 2013 Comments off

Roper_for_Total_Party_Kill_by_GreenAirplane

Occasionally, a game takes a turn for the worst.

A few months ago, I ran a session of “Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk” for a group, and in the module the Deck of Many Things makes an appearance. The Deck has a reputation for danger, dealing fortune and misfortune indiscriminately, but it’s one of those items that my group has come to eagerly anticipate in a long campaign. Five draws later, we had two characters in the Donjon (trapped in an otherworldly prison) and one character in the Void (reduced to a mindless automaton). Needless to say, it threw a monkey-wrench into our game, and was discouraging to a few players.

Donjon

That’s one type of problem, and we fixed it. I’ll go into how in a minute.

It comes to mind this week because we recently had an incident in our Pathfinder Skull & Shackles game that put us in a similar bind. Our unoptimized party staggered into an encounter grossly underestimating the power and skill of our adversaries, and coupled with some cold dice and optimized villains (common in a Paizo product at higher levels), we were nearly killed to a man. Fortunately we stopped the action due to the late hour, and talked about what needed to happen next. Unfortunately, however, some of the votes as to what needed to happen next were to throw in the towel on the entire campaign.

That’s a different type of problem, and an infinitely more complex one. Perhaps most frustratingly, our issue in Skull & Shackles seems to be that our characters, despite our best efforts, are either not optimized enough to face the anticipated challenges of the modules, or our method of playing them does not rise to the anticipated levels of skill anticipated by the module designer. An architectural problem like that takes some work, but that’s not the only problem.

Long campaigns have a number of difficulties associated with them. I’ve never finished a Pathfinder Adventure Path in less than a year, with one of them lasting over 3 years, and that’s a long time to do anything. There is potential for burnout on your character, on the campaign itself, and sometimes your group. High Level play has a slew of issues that are problematic. So what to do? GM’s and Players both play a role in sorting these things out, but each issue lends itself to different solutions. Let’s take a look issue by issue.

Multiple Character Death

This is sure to put a damper on your campaign fun: Two or Three of your beloved heroes die (maybe permanently) meaning your champions are severely humbled, or maybe your entire cast and party dynamic are rewritten. Both player and GM have a role to play here. Players need to evaluate first whether raise dead / resurrection is the route to go, or if there is a persuasive reason to bring in another character. Death during play is definitely a part of the life of an adventurer, and is part of the process of paying your dues. However, if you can bring in a character that adds to the story or brings balance to the party, and the change isn’t disruptive to play, gauge whether this is your moment. If you don’t have a choice in the matter, is there a way to make a new character that complements the old? Is there an NPC already encountered that would make a fun PC? While there’s little you can do if resurrection or raise dead aren’t on the table, conspire with your GM a little to see what other solutions might be possible that would make for an interesting return or cunning plot development.

In the end, more power lies in the GM’s hands where deaths are concerned. If you’ve killed half the party, either someone got incredibly (un)lucky, or you’ve misgauged the power of your encounters relative to your group. While bad decisions on the player’s part certainly merits the occasional ass-whooping, there is the enjoyability and continued longevity of the campaign to consider. As things turn towards TPK in a long term campaign, the GM’s Toolkit includes pulling back on the optimized use of some abilities: tossing a magic missile when a fireball may dish out 10d6 of campaign ending fury, commanding a charmed PC to attack an ally knowing full well he’ll get that badly needed second save, opting for subdual damage. etc. If it’s too late for that, a dropped PC can be raised or healed by the villains to extract information, letting the play continue and granting an opportunity for the PC’s to salvage the situation.

If there’s no room for resurrection, there’s the occasional wish or divine intervention, opportunities for which might be accrued during play over time to be used at just the right moment. In the case of our Deck of Many Things debacle, we actually played a session where a team of specialists went to free the souls of the trapped card-drawers, making for a fun offbeat extraplanar session that gave players a chance to mix it up with a different PC for 8 hours, and fun was had by all. The nice thing about a fantasy setting is that nothing is impossible with the right factors. A quest to get the item that will allow a resurrection is one good idea away, and may make for an interesting adventure in itself.

Character Burnout

You’ve been playing this damn cleric for 79 sessions and if you cast one more Cure Light Wounds spell you’re going to eat your rulebook. While largely a player problem, this is something your GM can help with, too.

Good character design should help to eliminate the onset of ‘Character Fatigue’ – Motivation, Backstory, Goal Setting all give you a roundness that should transcend function. However, especially with support characters, your most effective routines may be the least interesting. Check with your party and see if there can be some give in how roles are played out. Sometimes a few wands or scrolls can free up spell slots to let you take on the role you’re looking for. Depending on your level, there may be time to multi-class, changing you into the character you want to be.

A GM can help this situation a couple different ways. Work with the player to see what they want out of the game, and shape it to meet their needs. Indulge some of their campaign goals, or thrust them into situations where they are in the spotlight, creating unique opportunities.

Character retirement is always an option, and the GM should be able to create an opportunity to phase out one character while creating a compelling reason to feel attached or trusting towards the new PC (or maybe not so trusting, if your game is a little more sinister).

Campaign Burnout

In any adventure path or long running campaign, this danger is one of the most prevalent. Time passes in game and in real life, and the theme of a certain game can grow tired. Individual modules in a series can linger over frustrating details or hair-pulling monotony in many instances, or just a series of frustrations that make continued play feel unrewarding.

Players can attempt to turn the adventure in a way that is more pleasing to them, but this has very limited utility if the GM is not on board. GM’s, of course, have significant influence on this issue, and need to use their discretion to manipulate the campaign to meet the needs of the players. Ideally, this is done without overly telegraphing the modifications. However, if a particular dungeon crawl is literally crawling then removing or hand-waving a few encounters that don’t progress the plot will not usually be lamented by your frustrated players, obvious or not. Sometimes introduction of another element, such as a rival adventuring party, or some sort of internal dispute amongst your antagonists, can create an interesting way of clearing obstacles or adversaries in the path of your party and get them to the epic finale or wherever they may be heading while creating tension in the process.

I have very rarely had a party complain that something is too easy, but make things too difficult and they’ll tell you. There’s a fine line between challenge and frustration and the GM needs to make sure that the party feels like heroes most of the time and that the story keeps moving. Published scenarios should be used as suggestions, and as soon as the party gets bogged down in them, hustle to the next scene change, or take a pleasant detour into something you know they’ll like, to give them the fresh air they’ll need for another dive into peril.

Group Burnout

This is bad. If you’ve been playing with the gamers at this campaign for a while, either something outside of the game is interfering with the way friends play together, or worse, the way the game is getting played is making people rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes sitting down to an extended campaign can create a meeting of people that don’t know each other that well, and force them to meet repeatedly for 4 hours a week for years. While it is my belief that gaming can bring many types of people together (that being one of the things that is amazing about it), it sometimes does bring people together that just can’t click.

Players need to try to work out differences between each other, communicating their frustrations. Sometimes this is best done through a third party that can play peacekeeper and keep things from getting too confrontational during a session. The GM holds some responsibility to keep the peace and play referee, but sometimes your GM might be your problem.

With any relationship, communication is key, and identifying the grievance clearly and getting it behind you should be your first step. But, if you’ve aired your grievance and the other party can’t or won’t change their ways, make your excuses and cut bait. Don’t sit frustrated or mopey at a table and poison everyone else’s good time. If everyone shares the frustration regarding the single player, GM’s got to be the one to man up and diplomatically give the guy a last chance to shape up or ship out. The Jackass Rule states, “If one person calls you a jackass, ignore them. If ten people call you a jackass, get a saddle”.

If you’re the problem, don’t get defensive. Review your Gaming Ten Commandments. Take it on faith that you are representing yourself in a way that is making you come off negatively, and proceed with awareness that this is what your fellow player or players think, knowing you need to control yourself. You are not the first socially awkward gamer. I promise.

High-Level Play Sucks

Yes. Yes, it does. That doesn’t mean it has to, but you are going to find a lot of frustrations in high level play if you are not ready for it. First, you need to know your character and how it works. Secondly, you’re going to need to spend some time prepping for each game to make sure you know what you’re doing and how to do it. Third, you’re going to need to mark your pages or bookmark your pdf’s for common complex rules issues you know you’re going to run into: if you have an ability that grapples opponents, get your grapple rules ready, marked and reviewed; be familiar with the conditions you impose through your spells and know what spells your going to cast; if you have equipment purchases you want made, email the GM ahead of time to let them know what you want and update your character sheet as soon as you get the okay; get any sorts of buffs or powers outlined. In general, know how to play the game you’re playing and if you don’t know, read the rules.

GM’s suffer greatly under the yoke of high level play. You’re responsible for everything, and theoretically need to know what the players can do as well as all your monsters, traps, and so on. It’s a heavy burden, but one you can bear with the right prep and the right attitude. First, read your printed material if you’re using a module. Paizo has good message boards regarding it’s published material and they might address errata or other questions other GM’s might have had with your specific module. Look up strange powers in the bestiary and make sure you know how things work on your side of the screen.

Since you’re dealing with the same players over and over, it also would pay to read over the classes they’re bringing to the table if there is something they’re doing that confuses you. Sometimes you’ll find they’re mixed up about something and it may speed up game play if you both know how the power is supposed to function.

However, if you get down to the wire and are playing and you hit a complex rules snag, and you’re getting player burnout due to high-level play rules? Dump it. Make a call, and err on the side of player success: They will bitch to high heaven in you kill them through some sort of blown rules call, but few will make a peep at an error in their favor. Ties go to the runner. This works because it makes for a better story when the good guys win, and keeping play moving at high levels is key.

What Else?

There are plenty of other frustrations that can kill a campaign, but GM’s and Players alike need to maintain the polestar of Commandment 10 – Thou Shalt Have Fun. Make sure your fellow gamers are having fun with the campaign and that you’re not having fun at their expense. GM’s, make sure your players are enjoying themselves rather than maintaining the rubric of the module at the expense of their enjoyment. And finally, if worst comes to worst, find a good stopping point, set the module aside for a while, and pull out an old favorite or something new and give it a spin around the block for a while. If you come back to it, great. If you don’t, then at least you’re having a good time moving on to the next adventure.

Dungeons of Dread S1-S4 review

May 6, 2013 Comments off

s_seriesWhen I started playing D&D in the late 80s, I was the youngest kid on the block. One of my friends showed me these crazy looking dice, we sketched out character sheets on notebook paper, and very likely followed very few of the rules. I did learn what Armor Class is, and what Hit points are, and had a fantastic time.

I was just young enough to miss most of these classic adventures gathered in Dungeons of Dread, but interestingly I did pick up White Plume Mountain in a garage sale when I was a teenager, not even really understanding what I had. Unfortunately that was sold along with so many other treasures from my childhood in the “going off to college” garage sale.

In my RPG renaissance of the last few years, I’ve had a great time gaming with a bunch of different guys, but of the main Skyland Games crew, I’m still the young kid on the block. Most of these guys have played D&D almost since the beginning, and have shelves of books and some of these very adventures. I would hear war stories from The Tomb of Horrors, or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but had never played them myself.

This collection offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in D&D lore by collecting classic, iconic adventures written by the pioneers of the game. It includes the lethal Tomb of Horrors, the quirky and memorable White Plume Mountain, the zany gonzo Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and finally a little taste of Greyhawk in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. This hardback format is great for looking through and preserving these in an archival sense, but would be pretty difficult to run from. One of the benefits of the old modules is you can lay them flat behind a DM screen, and show the players the illustrations a bit easier. Also, the maps are at the end of the adventure, so if you are trying to run one of these for a group, I would suggest investing in some page flags so you can easily find those sections while flipping between maps, illustrations, and room descriptions.

Fortuitously, Wizards has released the illustrations for the modules as stand-alone PDFs, making them a lot easier to show to the group. Hopefully, they’ll do something similar for the maps! The maps are in black and white, which I understand from a printing perspective, but they could have earned some serious nostalgia points if they used the original D&D light-blue that was so iconic of the old maps.

If you’re one of the old-guard grognards or a collector and own all these in their original print form, there is no sense purchasing them in this form. If you just missed the boat, or have heard all the old guys talk about how it was when THEY started playing, this is for you. I really enjoy having it on my shelf for reference and inspirational purposes, and look forward to adding the next archive to the shelf, Against the Slave Lords!

Categories: Adventure, Books, DnD, Lore, Retro, Reviews, RPGs

The Strange Case of David A. Trampier

February 18, 2013 Comments off

Grognards and other fans of 1st Edition D&D will remember some of the greatest illustrations in role-playing being drawn by David A. Trampier (aka ‘TRAMP’ or ‘DAT’). The original cover of the 1st Edition Players Handbook, plus plenty of monsters in both the 1st Edition Monster Manual and from the Gamma World Series were his creations. He designed or played a role in design of several games, like Titan and Divine Right, and was the creator of the long running Dragon Magazine comic strip Wormy. I was always a fan of his work, but never connected the dots that this illustration and this comic and this game all were from him, until much later. Trampier was not only in on the ground floor, but was moving to publish his own collected volume of Wormy, when something strange happened in April of 1988…

He disappeared.

Kim Mohan (editor of Dragon Magazine) advised that checks sent to Tramp’s house for work completed were returned uncashed. Phil Foglio (who worked on another strip in the magazine at the time What’s New with Phil & Dixie, and now best known for the excellent web comic Girl Genius) said later, “When an artist’s checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead.”

So what happened? Hit by a bus? Suicide? Those paying attention were baffled by Trampier’s disappearance, though Tom Wham (designer of Awful Green Things from Outer Space and Snit’s Revenge) indicated that he believed he was alive. Tom’s sister, Nina Wham, was married to Trampier at the time, indicating he had reason to know Trampier was still drawing breath. Still, Wham indicated that he himself had not been in touch since 1982.

Barbara Manui & Chris Adams, known for their work with another Dragon Magazine comic “Yamara” started information gathering and discovered the possible reason for the disappearance, which they posted from a verified source (name withheld) on their site here.

To summarize, it states that Tramp appeared to be upset, and perhaps delusional or paranoid in regard to events occurring at Dragon Magazine at the time. It goes on to state that he was an uncompromising and perhaps antagonistic artist that made life difficult for himself at the magazine.

While interesting, it still leaves us the mystery of his disappearance. As I began to research the issue, there still were no leads.

Then, in 2005, a reporter named Arin Thompson with the Daily Egyptian wrote a story titled, ‘Coffee, cigarettes and speed bumps: A night with a Carbondale cabby.’ It showed a picture of a bearded man, arm draped over the door of his cab. It was Dave Trampier, back from the dead.

trampier

This was groundbreaking. This not only proved that Trampier was alive, but that he was living or at least working in Carbondale, Illinois.

Within a short period of time, Trampier’s home address was accessible through the Jackson County, Illinois public records.

It appears that with this reemergence, a number of individuals attempted to contact Trampier. An individual identifying himself under the handle of “Baj” on the message board of Paizo.com indicated that they had contacted Trampier to discuss the purchase of original artwork. This initial contact began friendly, with Trampier expressing an eagerness for others to view his work, but became more withdrawn and negative over time.

Jolly Blackburn of Knights of the Dinner Table fame indicated that he contacted Trampier to make an offer for publishing his original Wormy strips.

“David was very polite but made it very clear he wanted nothing to do such a project and more importantly nothing to do with gaming and asked that I not contact him again. I got the impression his phone number had been passed around in the industry and I hadn’t been the first to call.”

Wizards of the Coast stated in their 30 year retrospective, “Thirty Years of Adventure” that Trampier was alive and well, but no longer worked in the gaming industry.

And that is where it appears it will stay for the foreseeable future. Luke Gygax posted:

“Tramp was a great old school artist and I wish he still contributed his artwork to the genre. Unfortunately he has no interest in gaming or art at all. I do not know what his reasons are, but I know two folks that have tracked him down and offered him work- one is his brother-in-law. He flatly refused both of them and asked them not to contact him again on the subject.” For reasons entirely his own, Trampier does not plan on submitting his work for publication or self-publishing in the foreseeable future.”

Despite this, his devoted fans remain surprisingly active. The Dave Trampier Fan Club Facebook page counts among its members Luke Gygax, Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., Jolly Blackburn and David Kenzer of Kenzer & Co., and Troll Lord Games. It’s a lot of fandom for an artist who hasn’t published a new piece of art in 25 years.

Others pay tribute through homage and imitation, such as Dungeon Crawl Classics featuring of numerous references or parodies of Trampier’s previous work, recalling classic Trampier art to evoke images core to fantasy role playing.

Whatever Trampier’s reasons for leaving, it is clear that his work is loved and appreciated throughout the gaming world, and should he choose to return, he will be welcome with open arms.

EDIT: We are sad to report that Dave Trampier died March 24, 2014 in Carbondale, IL at Helia Healthcare.  He was 59 years old.  Tragically, it appears that immediately prior to his death, he made plans to exhibit some of his artwork at a Carbondale Con called Egypt Wars 2014.  He advised the organizers that he was suffering from cancer, but that he was overcoming it and would need transportation to the convention.  A sample of the art he planned to exhibit is shown below.

The fact that just too late he started to return to the people and fans that loved his work so much absolutely breaks my heart.  But with his passing, we see many in the gaming community that loved him, and with it the promise that Dave Trampier will not be forgotten.

Tramp Art

The Gaming Ten Commandments

December 10, 2012 6 comments

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Veteran and novice gamers alike can find themselves sliding into bad habits now and again at the game table. We at Skyland Games have a real mixed bag at our tables: New gamers, old gamers, and old timers coming back to the game after a long hiatus. We’ve also been playing a lot of Pathfinder Society, which leads to a crap-shoot when it comes to the players you’re sitting down with and what they think makes for good game etiquette.

Even with the grognards, when things get exciting, or boring, or you just get distracted, you might find yourself in violation of one of the Gaming Ten Commandments.

1) THOU SHALT BE ON TIME

Especially with a four hour time slot for organized-play games, it’s disruptive for the GM and Players alike to start late. If you’ve got another slot to get to afterwards, doubly so. But mainly this, slows the game as a whole, and is inconsiderate of everyone else who made it in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, at Skyland Games, we’re all guilty of this one at some time or another.

2) THOU SHALT COME PREPARED

Nothing slows down play like missing your character sheet, not having dice or a pencil, not knowing what your abilities are or how your character works. It creates delay in the beginning for missing character issues, and slows the pace and play of the game at all other times. Any time you slow play due to your own laziness, you’re really wasting other people’s time. Don’t be that guy.

3) THOU SHALT LEARN THE RULES

Or at least try… Pathfinder, D&D 3.5, Champions, Shadowrun…. these systems are not necessarily easy, but you need to know how your character works before you sit down at the table, and know the basics of movement and combat so as to not impede play. Get a book and read it between sessions. Most if not all the material for Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 is online as an SRD. Add to that a variety of apps that pull up the rules pretty cheaply, and there’s really no excuse for not knowing the basics. Worst case scenario: Listen and learn.

4) THOU SHALT NOT CHEAT

The GM might be allowed to fudge some dice rolls, but as a player, for the good of the game, it’s imperative that you let the dice fall where they may. Some of the greatest stories I’ve seen in gaming come from the epic failures and epic subsequent successes arising from the bad roll, the epic mischance, or the divine blunder. We all sit down to see this story unfold organically, and Mulligans must be solicited from the almighty GM. It also puts other players at a disadvantage, and robs the sweetness from victory when it’s built on deception.

5) THOU SHALT NOT TALK OVER OTHERS

Okay, personal pet peeve, but I’ve played with folks that find that box text is a perfect opportunity to discuss character builds, what they ate for dinner, hilarious YouTube cat videos, etc. This makes it hard for others to keep track of what’s going on, distracts the GM reading it, and creates situations where information has to be repeated or explained to the player as the game unfolds. Some players will interrupt and talk over the GM, which is a great recipe for GM vengeance, but also makes for confusion and can damage the flow of the game. When it’s not the GM, it’s someone trying to have fun and tell their story. Don’t ruin it.

6) THOU SHALT PLAY ONLY THINE OWN CHARACTER

You may think you’re being helpful, telling the guy next to you what he ought to do on his turn, but you’re not. You’re probably breaking character, and possibly the laws of physics, by sharing your thoughts out of game, and generally inhibiting the other player and other character by imposing your vision on them. This also slows down the game as the player digests additional information, weighs new options presented through the advice, and quite often creates a need for the player to justify their character’s action. Novice players can always ask for help, and if they ask, give it to them. Otherwise, let ’em take a stab at it, and if they’re going to err, let them err boldly.

7) THOU SHALT ABIDE

Sometimes things get a little heated in real life. It might be over loot, it might be incompatible player personalities, or it might be in-game character personalities leading to some real-life frustration. No matter the cause, don’t let things get to the point where it’s a problem. Each situation differs, but stepping away from the problem and communicating usually does the trick. You want to roll with the punches, which goes hand in hand with Commandment 8 and Commandment 10.

8) THOU SHALT WORK FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME

Every player should work to make the game happen. Someone need a ride? Go five minutes out of your way to help them make the game. Snacks? Drinks? At least take care of yourself, if not everybody. Try to schedule around conflicts, and take affirmative steps to keep game night sacred. Don’t make the GM do all the cat-herding when it comes to scheduling. Return emails about the scenario you want to play. Correspond regularly. Most importantly, when gaming, apply Wheaton’s Law and “Don’t be a Dick”: Don’t fight over loot in game, don’t ragequit when the GM rules against you, don’t pout, and don’t take anything that involves ‘elves’ too seriously. That’s a good life rule, period, actually.

9) THOU SHALT HONOR THY GM AND THY HOST

It is sort of a classic axiom that the ‘GM is Always Right’. I prefer to think of it the way Tony Soprano contests Nietzsche’s hypothesis regarding God being Dead: He may not always be right, but you’re still going to kiss his ass. In the end, the GM can see both sides of the screen, and should (if they’re good at it) keep things challenging, interesting, and fun based on that perspective. Further, a game isn’t a democracy, and a final arbiter has to have supreme authority, right or wrong, so the game can move on.

As far as your host is concerned, it’s easy to forget that someone is cleaning up after you leave. Don’t trash their place, drink the last of their soda, drop food into their couch cushions, or leave your cans scattered and laying about for the ants into get into. Minimal courtesy indicates you should try to leave the space how you found it. If it’s in a game store, don’t bring in outside food and drink if they sell food and drink in store (or you might not have a game store much longer). If you’re in tight confines, make sure you’re maintaining some hygiene fundamentals for the benefit of your fellow gamers and the people who have to live there after you’ve left. Treat your play space better than your own, and you’ll be more likely to be invited back.

10) THOU SHALT HAVE FUN

Sometimes, it can be surprising how this rule gets overlooked, but we game because we like it. Especially in organized play, the objective of achieving a certain level, obtaining certain loot, or finishing certain missions can obscure the fact that the object is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong, and need to reprioritize. It might be because you or your group aren’t following the Commandments, or might be because it’s just time for a change of scenery. But make sure you and your fellow gamers are enjoying yourself, and everything else will fall into place.

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