Posts Tagged ‘TARGA


Baby Killer Frogs Rescued from Blackmoor Dungeons

Here's where it all began.

The Second Annual Dave Arneson Memorial Gameday (NYC Branch) was a rousing success, and a great conclusion to TARGA’s International Traditional Gaming Week. Having been out to Gary Con at the start of the ITGW and then organized four different games for the Gameday (plus helping put together fifth table of George Strayton’s 4E conversion of Temple of the Frog when the first one filled up) leaves me with a lot of ordinary day job stuff to catch up with, so I’ll let other people’s posts tell most of the story.

Here, then, are actual play reports from the excursion into Blackmoor Dungeons that I ran using Daniel Boggs’ fascinating Arnesonian proto-D&D rules, Dragons at Dawn:

Rock-god of the Red Box littleidiot wrote:

I got to be a magic user with plate mail and sword. A novelty. Not that he could wield that sword to save his life. At will Lightning bolts and fireballs was also nice. I got to strangle people with their own hair, save amazonian babies and get a sh*t load of gold. Unheard of in any other ‘early edition’ I’ve played. Oh and the amazonians were played by, well, an amazonian. Seriously, she must have been 6 foot tall.

My Amazon ringer was weisse_rose, the intrepid player of Lydio the Spider Dwarf in the White Box campaign, who very kindly agreed to be typecast when she fortuitously arrived right after the dice told me that the 11 warriors right next to the room of the giant frogs were all women. I decided that they were survivors of the destruction of the Temple of the Frog, so their “babies” in need of rescuing were carnivorous frogs bred to take over the world. Whether this juxtaposition of maternal affection and razor-sharp batrachaian teeth also counts as typecasting is for more enlightened observers to determine: I’m just glad that the “you meet one or more females in a dungeon” scenario didn’t end in violent betrayal as usual, perhaps because weisse_rose’s PC glow smoothed over that little misunderstanding about the man-eating pony-sized babies.

Here’s aldarron‘s recap from the Blackmoor boards:

In short: it was awesome. There was quite a turnout, so much so that at times it was hard to hear over all the other games. Tavis ran a great game with lots of creative takes on the old Blackmoor dungeon and he did a magnificent job of debuting the Dragons at Dawn rules I put together. There were eight of us playing and every class from the ruleset was represnted except “Sage”. I was particularly impressed with the Merchant character and how well that was played as well as other characters clever use of their stats like “Appearance” in gaming situations. The group made it past the Elves using some fast talking and slight of hand and found our way into the dungeon. There were encounters with some intimidating undead, a lot of passage exploration and secret doors and some not always successful negotiating with the bad guys encountered. We did strike up an alliance with some warrior women on the third level and had just gotten into a fight with some theurgistists when unfortunately I had to leave to catch the bus back to Schenectady. All in all the event was an excellent tribute to Arneson and kudos to Tavis for organizing it.

People chose their own classes, so I had nothing to do with the diversity – in fact I said “the choices are warrior, wizard, and some other stuff,” but people wanted to know about the other stuff regardless! There was indeed one sage – Ed’s character, the Count Ed Vainglor. He was the one who kept crawling off on his own, and at the end (after aldarron left) he managed to talk one of the valkyries into telling him how to contact Sir Fang. So the rats appear, and then four bats circle around him, and then one lands and turns into Fang’s vampiric ogre companion:

“What do you want, mortal?”

“I seek an audience with Sir Fang,” says Ed.

So Fang lands and assumes human shape: “I admire your courage. What do you have to offer me?”

“Companionship,” says Ed. “Give me the gift of undeath and I will accompany you until the end of time.”

“As you can see, I am not without companionship. What skills will you bring to my entourage?”

“I am an expert in poetry and literature,” Ed replies confidently.

“Ah! Do you hear that, ogre? No longer will you have to carry the burden of making intelligent conversation that is so difficult for you! You are welcome indeed among my children of the night.”

It was an great moment for Ed and sages everywhere, and word has it that becoming a vampire is Ed’s eternal goal as a player so I’m glad to have seen it fulfilled!

One interesting thing was that the group really focused on Sir Fang, I guess because they had heard from the elves that he was the reason they were making everyone drink holy water etc. before entering the dungeon. I’d worried about how huge and open-ended the dungeon was, making pacing difficult for a one-shot four-hour game, but the initial mention of Sir Fang proved to be a powerful nudge that beautifully set up Ed Vainglor’s vampire apothesis as one climax to the session. Eric’s memorable character Bloodgrave, cleric of the Starving God and wearer of the futurisitic battle armor and shield from the Temple of the Frog, was also all in favor of seeking out Sir Fang, but it’s probably for the best that their choices of the many, many possible directions for exploration led them to the set of rooms that created the interesting Amazonian plot and enabled another great Arnesonian climax: helping return frog-babies to their loving warrior-mommies, while burdened with 260 lbs. of gold apiece.

I didn’t manage to kill any PCs, but I did get a rarer privilege for a DM: having a player who was new to roleplaying! He’d learned about tabletop gaming from the Robot Chicken and Penny Arcade actual-play podcasts, and I was honored that the Arneson Memorial Gameday provided an opportunity for him to see what it was all about. He went out to dinner afterwards with Joe_the_lawyer and some of the players from his Castle Zagyg game, and it was great to see him swapping war stories just like an old-timer. The birth of a new gamer is a glorious thing, and less dangerous to witness than the birth of a giant carnivorous frog.

My very amateurish video of the Gameday can be downloaded from The first shows the players in my Blackmoor Dungeons event, and the cover of the Dragons at Dawn rules we were using as a recreation of Arneson’s early ’70s proto-D&D. The second video tours Mark’s Pallid Plague, then Joe’s Castle Zagyg, then George’s Temple of the Frog.

P.S. A Chicagoan I met at Gary Con II told me that the Comeback Inn, the famous tavern detailed in Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign and shown in the inset map above, was based on a real pub of the same name in Melrose Park that Dave used to visit.


Announcing the 2nd Annual Dave Arneson Memorial Gameday

I’m pleased to announce that on Saturday, March 27th we will be celebrating Dave Arneson’s seminal contributions to adventure roleplaying by getting together and playing games in his honor!

This date is chosen to fall at the conclusion of the International Traditional Gaming Week, organized by TARGA, the Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Game Association. The week begins on March 21st with GaryCon II, which I’m also excited to be part of; I’m very happy to have the ITGW bracketed by events remembering these two sadly departed heroes of the polyhedral dice.

Thanks to the generous support of the Compleat Strategist, we will be meeting in the gaming space of their New York location:

11 East 33rd Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenue)
New York, NY 10016

Games will begin at noon and wrap up at 5, to allow time for cleanup before the store closes at 6.

I’m hoping we will once again have a variety of games, since Arneson’s legacy reaches beyond Dungeons and Dragons and encompasses all of us who like to get together with friends and imagine that the fate of our imagined adventures will be determined by the roll of a dice. If you’d like to run a game, just send an email to with the title of your game, the minimum and maximum number of players, and a brief description. I’ll post mine in a week or two as an example.

If you’re in travel distance of NYC, I hope to see you on 3/27/10! If you’re too far-flung, why not run a local event during the International Traditional Gaming Week? Let me know what it is, and I’ll add it to the list of ITGW events.


Running a Con Game pt. 1: Whaddya Want?

So you’re interested in GMing a RPG at a gaming convention! That’s awesome, both because Gary Gygax himself identified this as a way to ascend the higher levels of Role-Playing Mastery, and because as it happens I have to get ready to run a series of games at Anonycon in Stamford, CT on Dec. 4-6. So by writing a series of how-to blog posts using my own process of prepping for this event as an example, I’m hoping to trick myself into doing this work. Thanks for playing along!

The first step is to ask yourself “what do I want to get out of this experience?” When I take that advice, here are my answers:

1) I want to learn and get hands-on experience with Metamorphosis Alpha. I played the hell out of its successor, Gamma World, but the original rules and setting (available at that link as a free .rtf file) remain excitingly unexplored.

Getting to run the game you want to play is a great reason to volunteer to GM at a convention, Gentle Reader. If the RPG you crave isn’t on their schedule already, step up and run it yourself! Of course, if you’ve had problems finding people who want to play Super Awesome Let’s Pretend Time: d1,000,000 Edition among your usual group, recruiting players will still be an issue. The smaller the convention and the more obscure your passion, the bigger this problem will be. Future posts in this series will focus on ways to draw folks into your game.

2) I hope to do some playtesting of MA’s new edition, which uses the D&D 4E ruleset. That’ll mean doing things like having 4E characters mix it up with MA monsters and visa versa, as well as converting the original-edition MA characters to the new rules to see how well it preserves their spirit.

My motivation here is gets it exactly wrong. Good advice would have you playtest your adventure before you get to the con, not conduct playtesting once you’re there. For the Forgotten Heroes tournaments I helped create for Goodman Games and run at Gen Con, we ran the adventures multiple times beforehand with different groups in NYC. You don’t have to go that far, but it’s easy and recommended to take an adventure your regular group liked and use it as the basis for your con game, or slip the material you want to run at the con into your ongoing campaign.

3) I want to explore the mysteries of the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, which is fascinating to me because it was part of my first-ever experience of D&D and remains deeply strange: the pyramid seems to have been constructed as a forward-only time travel device and contains a tiny silver floating thing labeled “NEDRAW II” that I only recently realized is a link to MA, which speaks volumes to me about the early days of TSR history and the links between the first-ever fantasy and science fiction RPGs.

OK, I approve of my motivation here. Since it’s up to you what to run, why not choose something you have a personal connection to? If the mojo of your adventure is meaningful and exciting to you, your players are likely to be inspired by your enthusiasm.

4) I want to game with strangers and learn from their play-style.

This is especially valuable for playtesting, but I give this desire two thumbs up. Playing with groups whose approach can be totally different from your own can challenge your assumptions, and conventions are great for that. It’s an essential educational experience for every gamer. Pardon me while I flip through Master of the Game in search of textual support for this bold claim!

5) I want to help advance the outreach efforts of TARGA, the Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Game Association.

If you’re running something you think is a traditional RPG (read: specifically old-school, not just “is still played on the tabletop like they did last millennium”), you should want to help support TARGA too! More generally, it’s a good idea to see if you can link up with a publisher or organized play group, like the Kentucky Fried Gamers. Doing so can help you find players (the publisher may help promote your event, gamers may choose your game because they recognize your sponsor’s name). You may also be able to get some goodies like freebies and flyers to hand out to your players, prizes to award, a T-shirt, hat, or badge for you to wear, etc. Many publishers have demo teams devoted to this kind of thing that you can join, and you should go ahead and write to anyone you can think of who might be interested in supporting your event.

Here are some of the things I don’t want:

1) I don’t want to have a good time. I hope it happens, but it’s a secondary goal for me at Anonycon.

What I’m going to be doing at Anonycon- running four games in three-and-a-half different systems, related only by their themes – is insane and approaches making sense only in light of my non-fun objectives.

Don’t try this at home. Why are you doing this if not to have fun? Although, one of the ways to not have fun GMing at a convention is if you don’t get enough players for your events. Running the same adventure multiple times is easy because you get really practiced by the end of the con, which helps run it smoothly even when you’re worn out. And it’s enlightening because you get to see how different groups approach the same scenario. But it does mean that if you find some players who like your style, they can’t stick with you because they’ve played the adventure already. Doing related adventures using the same system and same pregen PCs is a good middle ground.

2) I don’t want to impress people with what a great GM I am.

One of the many reasons that convention games can go bad is that the GM is trying too hard. If what I want is to impress people, I’m likely to talk too much, sucking all the air out of the room and not leaving space for the players to, y’know, play. And if my motives for running a game are all about my greatness, there’s a pretty much 100% chance that I’ll be crestfallen when the players don’t shower me with praise. I’m going to show up and do my thing the best I know how. If the other folks at the table pick up on the example I’m trying to set and run with it, awesome! If not, maybe I’ll learn something for next time.

Part 2 of this series has advice on coming up with titles for the events you want to run!

Past Adventures of the Mule

January 2023

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