September 30, 2010

Compiled Table / DM Screen

In my experience, the only thing I really need from a DM's Screen are Skill DC's and damage expressions by level; coincidentally, everything that DMG p.42 originally set out. Here's what I've been using as a screen, printed out and glued to a peice of posterboard. Simple, easy, elegant.
I think that there are a lot of DM's out there who use the screen like Linus (from Peanuts) uses his blanket. It's a tool to hold on to, a physical object which gives you a form of emotional protection. The DM Screen might as well be called a shield; it protects the DM from the judging eyes of the players. It's an emotional brick wall. When you up alone at the head of the table, running the show for everyone's amusement (more on that on another post), it can get extremely intimidating. The screen gives you that demarkation, a symbol of authority that lets the DM rule from afar.
Years ago, I briefly played in a D&D game in a public place; the back end of a coffee shop. The shop itself was great. I always really appreciated how accomodating there were to us and our weird hobby, and I always made sure I repaid that kindness with buying coffee and snacks from them during the session. I normally don't support gaming in public, I feel like it inhibits your creativity, roleplaying, and downright sillyness of a game by having strangers able to peek in on you. People did, in fact, ask questions to us while we were playing. One woman in particular asked something that always stuck with me and really struck a chord. She pointed to the DM at the time and asked, "Why is that man hiding from you?"
And there it was, the DM is hiding. He wasn't playing a game with us, he was playing a game at us. In the whole Gygaxian-TPK kind of vibe. The screen, it had set up our mindsets to be that way.
And so in this phase of my life, I use a flat "screen" that lays down next to my notes, or propped up off to the side, and I face my players eye-to-eye.

September 28, 2010

Encounter: Momma Mia!

Here's an encounter I ran back in March of this year. I wanted a break in the gritty and grim dungeon crawling, and so had the PCs come upon a kitchen area, stocked with a mad Halfling chef, his crew of cronies, and an unholy abomination: The Lasagna Golem.

The original inspiration for this was a Side Trek adventure put out by WotC in the 3rd Edition days about a wizard and her chef husband who were tripped up by a mischeivious imp. There was a calzone golem in there. I ran the side trek on multiple occsaions, and everyone always had a good time with it.

This encounter also gives the Dungeon Master a great opportunity to stretch their silliness factor and come out with funny names. I always thought Halflings would be more entertaining if they all spoke in Italian accents, so when I ran and wrote this, that's what I had in mind.

Also a note, I always print out the known terrain elements (wheel of cheese, etc.) for my players in very large font and have them on the table as soon as Initiative is rolled. I find it best to let everyone know way up front exactly how everything is going to work.


Hi, and welcome to Page 42!

These days, it seems like everyone and their mother has an internet outlet into D&D; blogs, campaign websites, etc. In many ways, it is a golden age. I wanted to share my own explorations of D&D, particularly the more creative stuff that I've come up with for my own home campaigns. So, this blog will function as a repository of different things that I've designed that are not what you would find at most other D&D blogs. I want to stretch the limits of what D&D 4E can do, and help other D&D players out there begin to stretch their imaginations as well.

What you'll find here are new terrain features, mechanics for items, allies, and vehicles, and diverse encounters for you to strip down for your own game and use at your liesure. The blog is named Page 42, because I want to expand on the great premise that DMG42 started. I want to have a treasure trove of creative ideas for dungeon master's to prepare for and players to be inspired by.