6 Popular Things in D&D That I Fail to Appreciate

I’m used to having fringe tastes: I love Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy, and science fiction. These days, none of these passions rate as weird, but only because of a recent flip in popular tastes. As a teen, all these interests struck people as childish escapism. Worse, I failed to appreciate sports. Now books with dragons top the bestsellers, comic book movies get nominated for best picture, and I feel grateful for the change, but if I need a reminder of my weird tastes, I can just look at all the progressive rock in my music library. Giants may not be strange any more, but Gentle Giant still is.

Even in Dungeons & Dragons, I fail to appreciate things that normal fans like. In this post, I confess to six lapses in taste. As with my last post on this topic, this is a cry for help. Help me understand the appeal of these 6 aspects of our hobby.

1. Game worlds that unnecessarily make adventuring a common profession.

D&D’s original dungeon below the ruins of Blackmoor Castle drew so much traffic that a fairground filled with “hundreds of fabulous deals” catered to incoming adventurers. Turnstiles blocked entry into the dungeon (1 gp admission). Dave Arneson’s exhaustion with all the players insisting on dungeon crawls rather than Napoleonic naval battles drove him silly. In the Forgotten Realms, entry into Undermountain also costs 1 gp, but The Yawning Portal sells drinks rather than I-survived-the-dungeon t-shirts. As campaigns grow, adventurers start seeming common, so dungeons charged admission in the grand campaigns run by Dave and Ed Greenwood. Nowadays, so many adventurers crowd the Realms that they need a league.

The League’s version of the Realms really does teem with adventurers, but in home games I don’t understand the urge to elevate adventurer to a common profession.

If your D&D campaign just includes a few players, why cast them as a common rabble of wandering treasure hunters? I would rather picture the player characters as heroes of legend. Between all the time we spend waiting our turn and finding our place in the crowd, we play D&D to feel exceptional. Most campaign worlds only include 3-7 players—ample room for each to stand out as extraordinary. So why work to make adventuring seem common?

2. Characters with full names from the modern world. I’ve played D&D with Chuck Norris, Bob Ross, Walter “Heisenberg” White, Maynard G. Krebs, and many others. No, my time as a D&D blogger hasn’t landed me in games with famous and often fictional people. At my tables, players have used these names, and often these personas, for their characters. Sometimes the tone of a game fits sillier characters and everyone loves it. I want to play in a game with an entire party patterned after Muppets. Other games include cooperative storytellers crafting characters and their world. Showing up with Bill S. Preston Esquire may strike the wrong chord.

Still, I get the appeal. Some folks play D&D to hang with friends or to battle monsters, but pretending to be an elf feels awkward. Instead of an angel and a devil on their shoulders, these players have a class clown mocking Butrael’s elven name and a gym teacher saying, “Grow up!” So playing Burt Reynolds from Celene feels like taking a safe seat with the wise guys at the back of class. Players who adopt a modern persona for an elf in Greyhawk get to join the fun while declaring themselves too cool for the silly play acting.

The popularity of modern names and personas leaves me conflicted. Many players feel an affection for, say, Keith Richards and relish playing him as a swashbuckling pirate. I hate squelching the fun, particularly if it means dragging someone out of their comfort zone. That said, when I ruled to block real-world names from my game-store table, players thanked me.

Instead of writing a modern name atop your character sheet, just mash it into something like Bureyn. Dave and Gary’s players did it all the time.

3. Bungee monsters in multi-table adventures. Multi-table epic adventures join a ballroom full of adventuring parties together to battle for a common goal. Often these adventures assign one DM to take a monster from table to table, interrupting play to trade rounds of attacks. Like jumpers at the end of a bungee, these monsters plunge suddenly into a scene, and then snap away. Adventure authors hope these monsters unite the tables in a battle against a shared foe. Some players seem to like the surprise breaks from a session’s rhythms. High-damage characters particularly seem to enjoy vying for the highest output.

For me, the attacks just make an unwelcome interruption. These monsters’ sudden appearances typically defy explanation, so they destroy any sense of immersion. Also, the damage dealt to the bungee monster never matters; they always have just enough hit points to visit every table.

4. Adventures with carnival games. One shtick appears so frequently in organized play adventures that it must be popular. The characters visit a party, festival, or carnival where they compete against non-player characters in in a series of mini games: The dwarf enters the drinking contest, the bard tells tall tales, and the barbarian does the caber toss. For adventure writers, the device offers a simple way to let players flaunt their skills, presumably boosted by ample roleplaying. I know many people enjoy the setup, because I’ve heard players rank carnival-game adventures as favorites.

Nonetheless, I rate “carnival games” with “jumped by bandits” as easy ways to puff an adventure to fill a longer session. (At least the carnival games add variety.)

When I play D&D, I like to make game-altering decisions while (imaginary) lives hang in the balance. Competing for an (imaginary) blue ribbon feels like a disappointment. Much of the fun of roleplaying games comes from making choices and witnessing the consequences, but carnival games lack interesting options. Players only need to match the game to the characters with the best bonuses. Deciding not to enter the gnome wizard in the arm-wrestling competition hardly rates as deep strategy. Also, although adventure authors surely contrive to make the carnival shape the next encounter, I’ve never managed to pretend the mini games affect the adventure—aside from offering a route to end it and go to lunch.

5. Using miniatures for the wrong monster. During my last convention, I learned that I can easily become confused. Let me explain. Almost every dungeon master brought miniatures. Wonderful, right? Miniatures add visual appeal to the game. Dungeon masters who cart an assortment on a flight, and then daily through the convention center show a commitment that I value.

But no DMs carried minis that matched the monsters in the adventure. Every battle started like theater during a flu epidemic. “Tonight, the role of Lareth the Beautiful will be played by a grick. The roles of the goblins go to a barmaid, a shadow demon, and a hell hound.” I could never remember what figure represented what, so the miniatures proved a distraction. I spent two turns stabbing someone’s flaming sphere. By the end of the con, I wished for numbered bottlecaps that I could keep straight and I fretted that a miniatures fan like myself could fall so far.

To be clear, I’m only griping about games where the tracking the jumble of miniatures demands a cast list. I enjoy D&D games with coins, skittles, and pure imagination.

6. The dragon-slayer pose on page 7 of the second-edition Player’s Handbook. Many D&D fans rate this picture as a favorite, so why do I hate joy?

Most folks see the characters’ pride in slaying a baby dragon as humorous. I cringe in vicarious embarrassment at the pose. I like my dragons fierce, so the pitiful, dead one feels as sad as a pretty bird broken by an office window. And cameras don’t exist in the D&D world, so just what are these “heroes” posing for? Nobody paints that fast. See When D&D Art Put Concerned Parents Ahead of Players.

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Related: 9 Popular Things in D&D That I Fail to Appreciate

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48 Responses to 6 Popular Things in D&D That I Fail to Appreciate

  1. Josh says:

    point 6: I’m one of the ones who love it. They seem like real people, each different and interesting in his own way. The mage isn’t old. Nobody’s half dressed. The dragon’s of a size that would pose a threat to normal people and level 1’s. It’s a good level 1 accomplishment. And as for the pose, I assume there are a lot of unlisted utility spells, including one that takes the image in a caster’s mind and transfers it to paper. It’s a level 2 spell. Colored prints are level 4.

  2. Rob says:

    Great article as usual, though I was a little disappointed to hear that prog rock hasn’t hit the mainstream again yet. It’s time will come.

  3. marcus says:

    I hear you on carnival games not giving the players a lot of agency, but I think they have their place. Specifically, at the beginning of an adventure with kids-or-otherwise-new-to-the-game PCs. It’s basically a fun little way to get the PCs to “learn” their character sheet. I’ve run two games for a groups of kids. In the one I didn’t start with carnival games, the first couple of sessions were dragged down with “where’s my AC?” questions. In the one I started with a carnival/scavenger hunt, not only did the kids mostly know where everything was on their sheets (“ooh! my ranged attack is _here_ where I used it to play the ring toss”), they also knew a bit about the town they were in, which gave them opportunities for choice later (“let’s go check out the apothecary shop we saw during our scavenger hunt”) and introduced them to a variety of NPCs they could interact with (“hey, is that the old guy from the library we saw trying to hide from us?”).

    • Adam Yardley says:

      I like carnival games, although I take the author’s point about how if they are inconsequential and entirely self-contained the fun fades fast.
      They are a lovely way to do a game-like transition into downtime, to do a Happy Hamlet Ordinary Life introduction or denouement.
      And I have one more point, a new insight gained since I read the first Harry Potter to my daughter:
      Gryffindor winning the House Cup was more exciting to her than fending off Voldemort.
      I mean Yes. Voldemort is an undying evil force of malice and hatred. Yes, Voldemort’s horrible arcane desecrations destroy the pure and warp the weak, so knocking him back for a year is excellent, well done Harry.
      But the idea that you could Win School was bouncing-on-the-couch, wide-eyed thrilling!!
      Soooo now I know that somewhere deep in many people is the urge to excel at the mundane as well as the epic.

  4. Creeper Jr. says:

    1- Sometimes it can be fun to work as part of an Adventurer’s Guild or against an adversarial adventuring group. Depends on the scope of the campaign, though.

    2- I much prefer to play as Ed or Allan or something known than D’Uraz or Eowarn. PCs mimicking known personalities would get old at the table, but that’s my go to trick for NPCs.

    3-Agree wholeheartedly.

    4-Eh.They’re fine every once in a while. Best if used to introduce townie NPCs that will relevant to an actual adventure.

    5-I’m a mini snob, too. But I try cut people some slack here. Minis are expensive. I don’t need minis to match exactly, but I find it incredibly helpful if there is some sort of rhyme/reason to it. My portable mini kit includes: 4 goblins, 4 guards, 4 archers, 2 mages, 2 knights/fighters, 2 rogues, 2 large green slaad, 2 giant spiders. Each mini has a color-coded base accent. This doesn’t take up too much room, is relatively cheap to put together, and allows us to quickly identify enemies with sort-of-thematic minis.

    6- That’s not too bad. I can’t find my 2nd Ed PHB or context, but it seems to be a low level party. My players were super excited to defeat Meepo’s white dragon wyrmling at level 1/2. The staged style is common in fantasy art (Dragons of Autumn Twilight is iconic), and references lots of not-modern art ( Washington Crossing the Delaware, Napoleon Crossing the Alps )

  5. Adam says:

    I’m new to the Naperville area and would love to join your game! I’m very experienced with 5e, but have never played AL. Would I be allowed to make a lv 8 character and jump into your game, or do I have to work my way up somewhere else from lv 1?

  6. Andy Butula says:

    1) Because it makes sense. Adventuring is insanely lucrative; mid-tier adventurers exist in an entirely different economy than the rest of the world, and by level twenty they will have power, prestige, and luxury comparable to most monarchs. Sure most of them will die before they get to pick an archetype, but as it turns out afterlives are generally well established facts in game worlds, as opposed to objects of faith, and knowing you’ll go straight to a literal, verifiable paradise takes a lot of the sting out of dying young.

    2) I’m right there with you on this one though. Players are free to base their characters on existing properties, but they need to file the serial numbers off and slot them into the world we’re playing in.

    3) Never seen this, but it sounds like ass.

    4) Come on, it’s a classic! Everyone needs down time, and giving the players some activities to engage in can give the less confident ones a way to RP beyond “You’re at the camp fire, talk about stuff. And go!” It’s also a great way to drive home to the players just how far they’ve (presumably) come as their danger-honed skills blow the locals out of the water. You can use it to define the characters as well; how do they react to their sudden local celebrity? Are they shy? Magnanimous? Bullies?

    You can also use an impressive performance as a hook to get them onto the radar of patrons, enemies, quest givers, etc.

    5) Suck it up. Minis cost money. If it bugs you so much, ask them to use dice for the “multiple copies of trash mob” monsters. You can also use larger “size” dice for the more impressive monsters; goblins are the d6s, hobgoblins d8, the bugbear is the d10.

    6) Yeah, you don’t like the joke. That happens.

  7. Ginasteri says:

    Generally speaking, it sounds like you have more issues with organized play than “what others like that I don’t”. I get it. I don’t play AL anymore. Still play and love 5th though.

  8. Morten Greis says:

    1) I dislike the concept of professional adventurers so no societies of pathfinders, leagues of adventurers or guilds of explorers in my settings. It does not suit my concept of fantasy.
    2) My D&D games almost always set in the Mystara setting, so historical names are used all the time. It gives us pronounceable names, and yet stays in the realms of fantasy.
    3-5) these are things I have yet to experience.

  9. alphastream says:

    I just really like hearing your pent-up rage, David. What else is behind that serene smile?

    • Here here! I’m somewhat disappointed that you didn’t let loose the dogs of war and tick off MORE! Let’s have at it, man. Bring it!

      For example, you touched a well-deserved nerve with #6. Personally, I am appalled at the atrocious typesetting and editing that plagued the 4th Edition hardbound books. It’s like the products were cranked out of MS Word.

      And don’t even get me started with 5th Edition’s indices!

      I am not afraid of hearing your wrath. If anything, I enjoy reading it because you articulate it so well.

  10. Mathilda says:

    Sounds more like a polite way of saying “I hate what everyone else thinks is fun so that means I’m doing it better.” Its amazing the similarities between old school nerds dealing with new fans and Brooklyn hipsters.

    • John says:

      Really? It doesn’t even remotely seem like that’s what David is saying. You’re allowed to not like things. He never said or even implied anything about the people who like the things he doesn’t. He admits he’s in the minority and even called them “lapses in taste.”

      Talk about forming a circular firing circle trying to get rid of gatekeeping…

  11. Frank Foulis says:

    #5 I try to bring a mini for the correct role they will be playing. If I do not have it I go for the closest look too it. I loath using candy for minis and I will now no longer play with DMs who use them. It has ruined my immersion to the games I have played in. One was an 8 hour open and I was turned off completely by it.

    There are anime shows I watch in fantasy worlds where the role of adventurer is a profession. Some or super serious and others are a comedy. One has a character who refuses to pick a class and just stay as an adventurer just to dabble in every class. That multiclasser who wants to take everything and be the true jack of all trades.

    But the role of adventurers fits in my view. I do not like when players sit down at my table with a brand new character and have this rich backstory that has them being this well traveled and well experienced character and then gets frustrated when their character does not match their 1st level 5e character.

    In the Realms and in AL I do not see it as there is this big professional adventurers. If there was every adventure would need a rewrite to include the line “We requested the best but unfortunately all we could get to find this lost caravan and fend off the tides of doom at the hands of this world ending catastrophe were you 7 adventurers”

    I treat every group I run in AL as they are the only group in the area capable of helping. It is like Star Trek, they are the only ship in the quadrant to deal with the crisis. I only worry about the group at my table, they are the heroes and if an adventure had a previous link to another group something bad befell them and if anyone is at the table from that group their comrades met a terrible fate, even if they did not.

  12. Terry Todd Adolfson says:

    1. In my home games we have a habit of saving orphans (everyone tells the pirates they are orphans). Most recently a character started a order (like a knightly or paladin order) to train young nere do wells to defend others ect. That would be like an adventures guild.

    I have played in campaigns where players wanted to switch back and forth between characters so a guild made sense.

    The idea is a little more Victorian but a gathering of people who might have other professions but get together to adventure and discover in a not so secret society ( league of extraordinary gentlemen, kingsman, maybe even harpers in the forgotten realms) seems fun. All reasons why rat catchers might be a profession in a home game.

    2. I would not play or play with Bob Ross. But sir Robert is a name I and my fellow players can pronounce, remember, and be less likely to make fun of than Imsmeleesrus the elf (pronounced im smelliest)

    3. Outside my experince.

    4. It makes the world real. People played games sang songs danced and had carnivals from time to time. If you have carnivals games. Players are foing to want ti play them so you need to be ready for hiw the game works as a dm.

    5. As said before me mini cost money. I try to go with theme goblins are minions orge is the boss robe guy is the wizard. Even if they don’t perfectly match.

    6. I felt it showed a wasted story. Thats why i never use younglings dragons is games i run. Yeah we beat up a toddler doesn’t feel heroic.

  13. Anthony Berardine says:

    Is it the silly mini-games of said festival/carnival that you dislike or the idea as a whole? Being that adventures or “heroes of legend” would even bother stopping to take a gander? I rather like the idea of holidays, festivals, carnivals, the mysterious EGG who delights in quizzing players about pole-arms and giving out prizes for correct answers, heck I plan on even having a traveling wrestling show. While I don’t bother with the mini-game aspect, I do think players enjoy a break from the doom and gloom of carrying the weight of the world on their backs.

  14. wayne meadows says:

    Here are my thoughts.
    1. I agree. I believe Rangers may move from place to place along with Druids. Sometimes even going so far as to create rumors about the “protectors” in an area. But other adventurers are pretty rare in my games.
    2. My players know not to even try using modern names. I’m a stickler for creating a real person for you to be in game.
    3. I’m a play at home with my group type but have been to a few big games that did this. It drove me up the wall.
    4. Most of the time I won’t use carnival games. That said for special holiday games I will. Christmas weekend we played and it was a drunken fight carnival in a dwarven city. The players each walked away with a fun 1 off game and had earned some respect from the dwarfs of that city.
    5. I don’t mess with minis and have no real experience so no judgement. Yet I could see it getting annoying really fast.
    6. Just so much no on that pic. I took a lvl from a character who mimiced it.

  15. Shinji Takeyama says:

    Adventuring as a relatively common profession is only problematic if you don’t consider you don’t and shouldn’t stand out just for being alive. I think the concept of there being others of your ilk helps feed the idea that you have to do more to stand out and to truly rise to a legend status. Calling yourself a hero by default before any action has taken place doesn’t make sense to me.

    I think if it helps a player keep in character or identify themselves…or even just have more fun I don’t mind it to a degree…though if they are going to borrow from pop culture, I’d hope at least for a relatively clever name. I played with a Dr. Cottage once with a limp, sarcastic irreverent wit, and medically themed spells. It was fun.

    Mini games and carnivals i think are fine. Help break up some monotany or the weight from a previous session.

    The rest of your points though i do mostly agree with lol

  16. Erhan says:

    All this seems to be issues from a game becoming to big, been dming a group for 2 years on a weekly basis and never run into any of these other than having something that is close to the monster pawn but not exact, but it still gets the point across

  17. DacholaEtecoon says:

    I am having a hard time understanding the bungee monster. Can you give a more concrete example?

    • Miss the old days says:

      When you play in the big organized epics for adventure League they do a multi-table adventure. I played in one with 14 tables to several with 8 to 10 tables. And there is a BBEG who has a set amount of hit points (David the author has played in one or more that has a fluffing DM playing the BBEG it seems) and goes from table to table randomly with a die roll or some other mechanic (I played in one and the ancient green dragon never came to our table). This BBEG/DM comes to your table and jumps into your ongoing combat for a round or two and if not in combat, it starts combat. One I played in the story fit it well, the DM played it well, and it made sense and really added an epic feel. I miss the days of Tim Kask’s Dragon magazines when he never had “one single column inch of negative in their” as the man himself once said at a convention panel.

  18. Point 1: when starting a campaign at level one, awkward and fumbling and getting owned by wee goblins, it seems silly to me that you would start as heroes of legend. I view most campaigns as the legend that forges your characters into heroes.

  19. More preaching than a cry for help….and I say AMEN ! Completely agree with all concepts. These breaks from immersion spoil the game. If you do want help…accept some advice that I ignore….stop trying to convert people to your clearly superior play style and be more selective with your players.

  20. tur6hlj says:

    you whine a lot…

  21. 1. In games I’ve played, “Adventurer” is seen by NPCs as something strange and foreign, yet completely understand folk legend and tale.
    That said, I find it difficult to believe that a seasoned and battle hardened legend would be at lvl 1 or 2 without being some kind of deceptive scheister.
    The best part of DnD is the ability for the world to respond to your choices as a player, unlike a video game where only finite concepts can be implemented. The adventurers story of riding to prestige is an easy one to slot yourself into.

    2. I’ve not played any games with pre-existing famous names and adopted personalities, that sounds really mood killing.
    I myself prefer to look up a name generator based on race and class, or pour through suggestions from the book, and use what I find as inspiration for a name that tonally fits but isn’t super weird or strange. So right now I’m running around as a Tiefling Druid named Torment Damakos (or “Two-Door Torment” as I’ve most recently acquired as a nickname) and as weird as a name like “Torment” is, I also find it hilarious and get a kick out of it, and my fellow players enjoy taking the name and playing with it. Win win.

    Maybe for a one off I wouldn’t mind a Christopher Walkin or Gilbert Gottfried in my party, I couldn’t take Nichole sessions of that though.

    3. Never experienced.

    4. These micro games are everywhere though. Like a session or two back one of our players started playing a game of dice on the docks with nothing but NPCs. Why? Because that characters flaw was a gambling addiction. So it made sense.

    They’re harmless if a little annoying / boring for others to sit through

    5. Im the type that tries best to strive for accuracy but in a world as organic as DnD, it’s damn hard to have a proper representation for everything. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with Skittles and bottle caps.

    6. I’ve not seen this, but I never owned my own PHB until 5th.

  22. Patrick says:

    1) Yea I dont get it. But doesn’t rub me the wrong way either
    2) Not a fan of it. But most of the people I’ve grouped with use fully new and unique names
    3) Never been to one of those
    4) Content should be matched to player interests since we do this for fun. Sounds like that’s just not for you, and that’s ok. (E.g. naval battles are boring to others).
    5) I played with my friends as a kid long before anyone had or could afford minatures. Combat was never even on a the map. When we eventually had a few they were a luxury and most monsters were a number on a scrap of paper. To me, it’s a funny concept that they would *need* to exist, let alone match up, in a game of imagination.
    6) You should see the shot from the next day when Mom catches up with them

  23. Stephen Henderson-Grady says:

    The only things I fail to appreciate involve someone at the table either not trying to have fun or trying to hurt someone else’s fun. All these things you list are either fun in the right situation or benign, and I’d hesitate to game with someone who had a big problem with any of them.

  24. IN Southern says:

    Does anyone have source on this picture?

    I can’t seem to find it anywhere and I’ve found digital versions of what seems to be the “correct” book

    It had no pictures inside it at all 😂

  25. Dan Gunther says:

    I totally agree with you on the first point. I vehemently loathe the idea of adventuring being a common everyday profession, almost as much as my visceral dislike of magic item economies and magic being common.

    Whereas you dislike the wrong mini for monsters being used, I am a huge proponent of theater of the mind, and see minis as an undesirable tool of last resort. I find the use of them detracts from the experience, takes away from the imagination, worse slows down gameplay – a perspective that gets reinforced every time I use minis, whether as a player or GM. But that’s me, so take it with a grain of salt.

  26. Nemesor says:

    1) I think you’re looking at this all wrong. First, I enjoy occasional games like this simply because I don’t want every game to go the same way. I don’t want every character I play to wind up being some legendary hero. Sometimes it’s fun to play a game where people just aren’t impressed by you.

    Additionally, this opens up a lot of story telling opportunities. In Forgotten Realms, adventurers play a major part in politics, the economy, military actions, et cetera. Use the setting to justify new elements to shake things up. Maybe recently some new dungeon was found in the area, adventurers picked it clean and destroyed the economy by dumping their loot in town, so now there are laws against adventurers selling anything in towns and you have to find a way to offload treasure. Maybe rural towns like the adventurers because they keep them safe but the big cities hate them for the political instability they can cause, or vice versa. I would say try using the idea not just to have it in there, but to actually shape some part of the game.

  27. Ramien Grey says:

    1) If done well, it can help build a feeling of a larger world around the players – including rivals or peers who understand the characters. Think of all the small quests that low-level characters help out with and then fade to the background once the PCs outgrow them – Someone should be picking up the slack and helping keep the bandits, brigands, etc., at bay, and places that are having troubles should at least have some people who are willing to pick up arms and defend their friends and family. Another parallel would be comic book superheroes – most of the time they’re acting on their own, but there’s always other heroes out there taking care of other threats. Admittedly, this works best for relatively low stakes games – once the world-ending crisis comes about, either there needs to be more tasks ‘off screen’ for any other heroes to handle, or they need to be removed from the central conflict somehow.

    2) Totally agree, except for games that don’t take themselves seriously. Of course, overblown fantasy names can be just as bad.

    3) No opinion, never actually had to deal with those at conventions

    4) It’s great for downtime – something between adventures because even heroes need a break now and then. Why not introduce some new NPCs that will become important later? Or if your setting’s higher-fantasy, come up with some games that use that to be more than the standard games?

    5) Mostly agree, although as someone who’s had to substitute minis due to only being able to carry so many or realizing I need a half-dozen of one type while only having 5, sometimes logical substitutions are needed. Maybe a zombie’s doing double duty as a skeleton, or an orc snuck into the goblin horde because I was one short. Or it’s just cost or time prohibitive to get one very specific mini that will only get used once. That last point is a lot less true nowadays, but back in the day there were fewer options for minis. (And now I need to go sort mine, thanks for the reminder)

    6) Ah, yes, the Elmore painting. Yeah, I feel sorry for the little guy too.

  28. alphastream says:

    Okay, here’s a more serious comment to your cry for help.

    Adventurer profession: I completely am with you that my ideal D&D is where the players are special heroes doing important work. At the same time, there is the logic of it. If so many people are true characters with class levels, they would band together, form guilds, and cause both problems and solutions. Factions like the Harpers are the soft way to handle it. Less profession and more along the lines of a guild. Factions can be very interesting when done well, creating intrigue and competition while giving characters purpose. It’s been implemented to various degrees in organized play, with Living Arcanis and Eberron Mark of Heroes likely being the best attempts. In Living Arcanis a table’s Factions could drastically impact how an adventure played and result in table antics that would draw a crowd to a table to witness the compelling drama!

    Progressing further we could get to the level of the absurdity described in the Dungeonomics blogs on Critical-Hits, where adventurers drastically change the financial and geopolitical landscape. I’m not going to try to sell you on that idea, but if we move back several steps to where adventurers would band together not just out of heroic need or divine happenstance, but for profit, we can get to Acquisitions Inc. What AI does best is give adventurers a reason to care beyond the heroic, because for a lot of players that can get old. But, you can have both. Like many a good rogue, you can be in it both to get a pot of gold and to save the world. Better even, rallying together around a franchise finally delivers on that age-old D&D goal of having your own castle or other structure that you would grow over time. It’s been shared that the AI book has rules for building and advancing a franchise. That can be really compelling for many players and a cool departure from being a lone group of heroes helping other institutions.

    2. Characters with modern names.
    In college half my players used PC names like “Ididda Yomama,” so I really am okay with modern names. Sure, I would rather they did not exist. However, for some players I think this helps them get a concept going. Maybe playing Anaken Cloudwalker is what they need, today, to have a cool character name together. You just might be witnessing an awesome player, moments before they form. It’s like seeing a star born from a cloud of energy. Did I sell you on it? Probably not.

    3. Bungee Monsters at Multi-Table Events.
    I’ve written these, though they aren’t my favorite device for the reasons you mentioned. I think they work best when they are in small pods. The blue dragon in Confrontation at Candlekeep works well because it makes sense (you have 4-6 towers and parties at each tower, the dragon flying in between), it is announced dramatically (so everyone gets the concept from the start), it is central to the action (no one is forgetting about the dragon), and it lets players interact with it once it leaves their table (they can jump on it or fire at it, at the risk of failing at their table). With the second Open I tried to create a different experience, one that still made sense and which provided a combination of combat, skill, and risk-reward. I would tweak it further if given the chance. All of that is to say that I think these can be done well. I think DM David is exactly the kind of person who could come up with a cool version and submit it to an Epic author.

    4. Carnival Games.
    I hear ya. At the same time, I think they can offer a lot of activity in a short time and offer something to every player. Very few things can do that. It would not be hard to have the accomplishments of the PCs impact the rest of the adventure. Shot that apple in the contest? You get advantage later when you have to shoot a thin rope to cause something to drop. Outdrank everyone? You can smell which of the elixirs is a poison in the witch’s challenge. Etc.

    5. Minis
    Hey, I’m a minis snob too. But, sometimes a DM wants to buy a box of minis or two and try to use that purchase for their efforts. I get that. I still think it beats Starburst, but maybe that’s because I don’t super love Starburst. If the monsters are Belgian truffles, or Ferrero Rocher, sign me up! Here again, we can imagine we are witnessing the beautiful creation of a nascent miniature collector. They will go from this table to assemble an army of awesome minis on a bed of Dwarven Forge. It’s like seeing the Future unfold before us!

    6. Dragon
    I see it as a comedic piece. They feel so proud. That’s exactly how low level characters feel. It’s great art for that reason.

  29. Scott Lurker says:

    Weird flex, but okay.

  30. John Pile says:

    6 – Exactly! This is what I have thought since I first saw it (30 years ago?? [Damn I am getting old]) and it makes me cringe everytime it pops up online.

    My hope is that the momma dragon is just around the corner and this is one of those “famous last pose” kind of things.

    If you’re curious, you can find it on Larry Elmore’s website.
    http://www.larryelmore.com/store/DRAS/dragon-slayers-and-proud-of-it

  31. No No says:

    #7: “Why do new players suddenly feel like my lawn is a good place to meet? I keep turning the sprinklers on but they just won’t leave, and besides, how do you even roll a d20 on AstroTurf?”

  32. Nate Bellon says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, Sandy, but wasn’t D&D developed originally to be played with any old random mini, where players were encouraged to make and modify their own monsters?

    As rules on top of Chainmail?

    How about non-sanctioned minis that OG monsters (like the rust monster or bulette) that were designed specifically around the look of commercially available toys from the time?

    Play how you wanna play, but don’t spend too much time dumping on how others want to play. Elitism in model gaming was one of the reasons it were developed in the first place.

    • IN Southern says:

      I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I think he means the circumstances where the dm places down models for a human wizard, a tiefling, and orc, and 3 skeletons and says “these are all goblins”
      And then places down a few more random models saying their orcs, and then another couple and saying their hobgoblins.

      His issue isn’t with improvised or different minis, or even incorrect ones. It’s with having an inconsistent mishmash of random minis on the table, but representing other groups. Because then he needs to remember which wizards are goblins, and orcs and whethrr its the tiefling archer that’s the hobgoblin or the tiefling ranger.

      Simply put, he doesn’t understand how you are able to play a game and maintain immersion when you need to constantly be checking and double checking what each randomly selected mini represents.

      Which i agree with. I haven’t played with minis before but would like to, and I don’t have the money to buy all the correct exact models for everything. But it doesn’t cost a lot of money to just get a large bag of counters to use, which is easier to remember than randomly selected minis

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  34. Brock Savage says:

    1. This seems to go hand-in-hand with settings where the supernatural is banal and people have jarring modern outlooks on life. I totally get it, cutesy and inoffensive settings like Forgotten Realms are more accessible and newbie-friendly than say, weird fantasy inspired by Lovecraft and Howard. I like to imagine a typical adventurer as an amoral treasure hunter in the spirit of classic swords & sorcery but my preference is hardly the correct or best one.

    2. My players are often new to the hobby and none of them have ever done this but I don’t play with random people I meet at the FLGS, either. Personally, I find experienced players who consistently engage in silly behavior that breaks with the campaign’s themes to be somewhat disrespectful/trolling.

    3. Is this some kind of Adventurer’s League thing? It sounds like an annoying and intrusive gimmick.

    4. I agree with another poster who advised that one use of mini games is to introduce players to a new system. It doesn’t match up with what my players would consider fun but I support good ideas that make D&D more accessible to new players.

    5. I agree that having grossly mismatched minis defeats the purpose and one might as well use theater of the mind or tokens. Many players, such as my wife, are tactile gamers and an important part of their experience are the minis, maps, props, etc. that bring clarity and immersion. I try to respect their preference.

    6. That art is far too cutesy, modern, and silly for my taste but everyone is entitled to their own vision of D&D. My taste leans more towards the weird fantasy art of Erol Otus.

  35. timothypark says:

    As always I enjoy your blog posts and share many of your outlooks. (y’old grognard you …) 🙂

    Just a thought on #1, while reading it occurred to me that I have been an adventurer in this world and timeline, real life. I was fortunate in my early twenties after college to wind up on two occasions in Asia with weeks or months free and enough in the bank to let me wander as I wished.

    Granted I did not once delve, nor did I battle dragons or oni, or match wits with a tanuki (well, there was that one time … I swear my friend’s father *was* a tanuki, in fact it was his nickname and he was proud of it, but that’s another story … ).

    What I did encounter in my wanderings in Thailand and Japan were *other adventurers*. Frequently gathering *at inns*. Occasionally forming groups and setting out on side quests and such. That such was the case didn’t dawn on me until today reading this installment of your blog.

    The blatant turnstiles and admission fees of Blackmoor, not so much, but it is realistic in places in this world to encounter a concentration of adventurers.

    It was not the only such situation I encountered but a guest house (inn) in Kyoto in 1984 comes strongly to mind. A common room with simple foods and refreshments, humble rooms in a jumble surrounding. Reasonable rates for a safe if humble accommodation and a place where others like you gravitated and you could socialize. It was not the only such place in that city or in that country. Once I was onto them and how to seek them out they were not only practical but *necessary*. The advice exchanged in the common rooms was priceless. And the camaraderie was one of my greatest joys in travel.

    Out of the total population we certainly weren’t many, but a place like the Fallen Tower does not seem so strange to me after some of the places I’ve been.

    And yes, they came complete with adventures and random encounters.

    I made a friend of a landscape architect from Washington State in Kyoto my first night there. He had been studying for three years in Japan and trying to visit the most significant gardens. One defied him: the high priest’s private garden at Kiyomizudera. He shared that my first night. That he was soon to have to return to the US without a glimpse of that one garden. (You had to apply and receive an invitation to get to see it. He’d been denied.)

    I’ll not relate the whole tale but I set out the next morning to wander a new and strange city. By a literal fluke the Imperial Palace (normally closed to visitors) was wide open for a rare holiday. I entered. I encountered a beautiful local woman who wished to practice my language and we agreed that if she would help me read and understand what I was looking at I would be happy to help her.

    Only she was part of a larger group who were taking advantage of the holiday to see the Palace, but were about to go to Kiyomizudera. Would I care to join them? Sure, it’s a very famous and amazing temple built into a mountainside. Gotta see it.

    Only these people are *connected*. So we get to Kiyomizudera and an acolyte starts our tour with the high priest’s residence. Which happens to look over the garden that my new friend had been trying to visit for three years. I shot all my film for him. Was gifted postcards with professional photos of the residence and garden by the acolyte. Parted company with the group and my new Japanese friend. I savored the temple setting, wandered to get dinner and “returned to the inn”. And there I met my landscape architect friend. And casually put the packet of postcards and two canisters of film on the coffee table in front of him.

    All true. All random encounters. I started and ended my day in the company of “proifessional adventurers”. I didn’t realize I’d been given a quest when I set out that day but …

    I think I get to say that I entered a forbidden temple garden and returned with the treasure.

    So I guess I can’t complain too much about settings like #1. They exist. In our world. 😉

  36. #5 is just unreasonable. Not everyone has the perfect set of minis for any occasion, or even basic occasions. If you’re not into mini-collecting, you probably just have a random assortment of minis from randomized packs.
    My father has numbered his minis for easy reference, and that’s a good idea for anyone who doesn’t want to…you know…just ask “Is this goblin a goblin, or is it Steve?”

    #1 is very situational. It’s basically required for default game settings, where you need to be able to fit dozens of adventures in with room for any the DM wants to homebrew, plus all the facilities adventurers on any of these adventures could need. It would seem odd if a world full of adventure and designed for adventurers didn’t have any.
    However, if you’re building a world for a specific plot, you can just not do that. Design the world with what it needs for your adventures and your adventurers, make sure there aren’t other problems that need adventurers to solve, and you’re golden.
    An adventurer-filled world seems silly, but if you’re building a world for all adventurers, it needs to be able to fit all adventures in a way a custom world just doesn’t.

    No comments on the others.

  37. David Lanier says:

    I agree these things are of no interest to me either. I’ve been playing for 40 years.

    I think the issue is more deeply rooted.

    It has to do with how this generation of players grew up. Everyone is included…

    That is the mass market.

    Which as a business WOC would be foolish not to exploit for profit because in the end even if they love the game it is a business first.

    Why else would they create a new starter solo adventure to introduce noobs to the game?

    Me I think AL and the rest of it has created a different concept of what the game is and as a result older DMs are giving in and saying if I want to play I have to cater to this…

    Then the rules are viewed as commandments by inexperienced players who have not even bothered to read the books because there is an “official” adventures league with codified rules so the experience is fair and balanced etc…

    Then the present designers are viewed as geniuses that know how to balance everything!!!

    So in short, the problems or 6 items we both find “strange” have far deeper roots.

    But there is hope. I run two old school campaigns and am teaching folks how to design a world, etc.

    In the end fun is the goal !

  38. On #6, I dig it simply because of the scale of it. It’s the fact that it doesn’t *look* impressive that sells it.

    Here’s a team of adventurers that have just managed to defeat a flying, heavily-armored whirlwind of claws and fangs, out-think probably half the party, and oh yeah, shoot acid or poison gas out of its face at regular intervals. They’ve probably done this on behalf of the local peasants that the thing has been terrorizing. In the course of it, they also collected a nice little box of gold and jewels.

    It’s not a big dragon, no; but it’s plenty dangerous for five lower-level adventurers (it’s certainly a very real threat for any non-adventurers in its territory!) And it’snot a big crate of gold, sure… but gold is gold, and you don’t need a whole lot of it to be stinking rich (again, especially not at the lower end of the levels)

    It’s just the fact that it’s *NOT* a team of thews-and-thighs adventurers decked out in laser swords and armor carved from the teeth of the gods, fighting a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier atop a Duckburgian pile of loot that makes it good. It’s a reminder that the title creature i nthe game don’t have to be kept behind lock and key for epic-level adventurers, that seemingly “small” threats and “small” rewards can both be much bigger than they appear.

    Those five adventurers look tired as hell, but they’re going to be the Big Damn Heroes that the local townsfolk remember for DECADES, and they’ll live like kings off that chunk of wealth, even if only briefly… then it’s on to the next town, the next adventure, and the next treasure…

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