Author Archives: David Hartlage

The Pros and Cons of D&D’s Ability Checks

In the early years of Dungeons & Dragons, players searched by telling the dungeon master where they wanted to look, and then the dungeon master told them if something was there. The game resolved most actions using back and forth … Continue reading

Posted in Advice, Role-playing game history | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Ability Checks—From the Worst Mechanic in Role-Playing Game History to a Foundation Of D&D

Dungeons & Dragons makes ability checks a key part of play, but these checks took years to enter the game. How did ability checks advance from house rule, to optional rule, to a foundation of fifth-edition D&D? Before D&D added … Continue reading

Posted in Role-playing game history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Lack of Ability Checks Shaped How People Originally Played Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons includes three types of d20 rolls: saving throws, attack rolls, and ability checks. Saves and attacks come from the original game, but ability checks first got a name 12 years later. Ability checks began as an obscure … Continue reading

Posted in Role-playing game history | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Running Scenes and Summaries that Invite Choices and Reveal Characters

My last post explained how scenes and summaries allow game masters to speed past uneventful time in the game world and focus on the action. This post offers more advice on running scenes and doing summaries. Running a scene Before … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Use Scenes and Summaries to Focus on the Best Parts of a Role-Playing Adventure

This started as a post on pacing until I checked other game masters’ advice on pacing and discovered that nobody discussed the same topic. Some “pacing” advice helps GMs run at a brisk tempo. For that, see my posts on … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God Changed D&D Adventures For Good

When Dungeon issue 116 ranked the 30 greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventures, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God landed at number 19. Ed Greenwood summed the 1982 adventure as, “Detective work, hunting for villains, some monster-bashing, and a … Continue reading

Posted in Role-playing game history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why Dungeons & Dragons (and Role Playing) Took Years to Leave the Dungeon

The Dungeons & Dragons game’s original 1974 version offered two types of adventure: dungeons and wilderness. In such site-based adventures, players’ decisions about where to go set the course of the adventure. These adventures revolve around on a map with a … Continue reading

Posted in Role-playing game history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What I Wish the Player’s Handbook Had Explained About Some More D&D Spells

In my last post, I offered some extra explanation for common spells that called for it. This post covers more spells. Hex Until Hex ends, the caster deals an extra d6 damage every time they hit the hexed creature with … Continue reading

Posted in Advice, Rules | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

What the Player’s Handbook Should Have Explained about 6 Popular D&D Spells

Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons features popular spells like fireball that leave little room for interpretation, but others that require extra help. Some spells only become clear after you chase rules in other parts of the book, others make key … Continue reading

Posted in Advice, Rules | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

How to Say Yes Without Turning Your D&D Game Into a Joke

In my last post, I explained how challenging myself to say yes to players made me a better dungeon master, even though I sometimes said no. Sometime in the 90s, I returned gaming conventions after more than a decade away. … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments