Author Archives: David Hartlage

The Surprising Trait Fourth Edition Shared With Original Dungeons & Dragons

The first Arduin Grimoire starts by explaining how to play Dungeons & Dragons. Sure it claims to be an explanation of how to play “a fantasy game,” but in 1976, when Dave Hargrave penned the tutorial, the range of fantasy … Continue reading

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My Scheme to Draw Dungeon Battle Maps Without Counting Squares

For my game, I like to draw battle maps of key locations in advance. I use gaming paper or easel pads marked with a 1-inch grid. When I copy an adventure map to a big sheet, I hate counting squares, … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged | 7 Comments

Most Advice for Encouraging Role-playing Stinks, But I Found the Good Stuff

Before I wrote this post, I scoured the Internet for help encouraging Dungeons & Dragons players to role play. Sometimes Dungeons & Dragons players tell me of a session where no one rolled a die because everyone role played for … Continue reading

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The Stories (and 3 Mysteries) Behind D&D’s Iconic Monsters

Like every other kid who discovered Dungeons & Dragons in the late 70s, the Monster Manual suddenly became my favorite book. I studied the pages, and then turned to books of mythology to learn more about cyclopses, manticores, and harpies. … Continue reading

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Are the Authors of the Dungeon & Dragons Hardcover Adventures Blind to the Plight of DMs?

Adventure paths reveal their linear design in the name: They follow a path. In a linear adventure every play group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. For adventure creators, linear adventures bring advantages. … Continue reading

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Inside the Dungeon Tiles Reincarnated Boxes

When the new Dungeon Tiles Reincarnated sets reached stores, they came in the same boxes and the same dungeon, wilderness, and city themes as the old Dungeon Tiles Master Sets. I figured that new covers dressed the same content as … Continue reading

Posted in Dungeon master's tools | Tagged | 4 Comments

5 Situations That Tempt Every Dungeon Master to Railroad Their Players

If you believe countless Dungeon & Dragons adventure reviews, nothing ruins an scenario as quickly as a linear design. In a linear adventure every group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. At best, … Continue reading

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Do Dungeons & Dragons Players Hate Linear Adventures? Not When DMs Avoid Two Pitfalls

A linear adventure is written, or at least planned, so every play group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. In Dungeons & Dragons, linear dungeons set the pattern, with walls and doors that … Continue reading

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The Fun Thing D&D Players Love that No One Mentions and that the Game Almost Lost

Game mastering advice tends to lavish attention on what players enjoy. Things like playing a role, enjoying a sense of power, plotting strategies, and so on. Another pleasure of role-playing games ranks just as high, even though the folks who … Continue reading

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3 Pieces of Dungeon Masters Gear I Love and 1 Failed Experiment

Whenever I unpack my dry-erase maps and tiles, I reveal the remains of past games. Today, this residue includes the usual battlegrounds drawn in 5-foot squares, but also names like Syndra Silvane and Ytepka, experience numbers, damage totals, a sketch … Continue reading

Posted in Dungeon master's tools | Tagged , , | 13 Comments