Author Archives: David Hartlage

Three Reasons the Ecology of Monsters Can Make Creatures Worse

During the early years of Dungeons & Dragons, speculative fiction enjoyed something of a fashion for combining science and fantasy, so the popular Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey and Darkover novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley provided scientific explanations for fantasy-flavored worlds … Continue reading

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The True Story of the Cthulhu and Elric Sections Removed from Deities & Demigods

Just a couple of years after its release, the original Deities & Demigods from 1980 became legend. The first copies included sections featuring the Melnibonéan mythos from the Elric stories by Michael Moorcock and the Cthulhu mythos from the tales … Continue reading

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A Dungeons & Dragons Summoning Spell Reference

Many summoning spells in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons explicitly allow the player to choose the creatures summoned. Others only let the player choose from broad options. Typically players choose the quantity and challenge rating of creatures. This reference lists typical … Continue reading

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Should a Dungeon Master Invite Players to Help Create the D&D World Beyond Their Characters?

In 1970, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson joined the Castles & Crusades Society, a group of miniature gamers formed by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. The group imagined a Great Kingdom and parceled out territories to players to develop for … Continue reading

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Unfrozen DMs, Annoying Spells, Dynamic Battles, and More Insights from the Comment Section

Time for another trip to the comment section. The unfrozen dungeon master In The Plight of the Unfrozen Dungeon Master, I wrote about DMs returning to Dungeons & Dragons and adapting the changes in the way folks play the game. … Continue reading

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How to Use the Players’ Metagaming to Mess With Their Heads (and Improve Your Game)

In the original Dungeon Master’s Guide, Dungeon & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax suggested speeding overcautious players by rolling “huge handfuls of dice” to raise fears of nearby monsters. Of course, the characters in the game world never hear the die … Continue reading

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The Plight of the Unfrozen Dungeon Master

If you play Dungeons & Dragons in game stores, you will meet an unfrozen dungeon master. Fifteen years ago, I was one. The first surge in the popularity of D&D started in 1977, when I found the first Basic Set, … Continue reading

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Why Gary Gygax Added Unrealistic Hit Points, Funny Dice, and Descending AC to D&D

In 1972, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson introduced his Blackmoor campaign to co-creator Gary Gygax. The campaign stemmed from Gary’s Chainmail rules, but Dave’s game transformed the rules for miniature-figure battles into something new and irresistible—something that broadly resembled … Continue reading

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The Tangled Origins of D&D’s Armor Class, Hit Points, and Twenty-Sided Die Rolls To-Hit

In 1977, when I first read the Dungeon & Dragons basic rules, the way armor class improved as it shrunk from 9 to 2 puzzled me. Shouldn’t higher numbers be better? Players just used AC to find a row on … Continue reading

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Event-driven D&D Adventures Aren’t About Events; They’re About Villains

The plot of every vintage James Bond movie resembles a role-playing scenario based on an investigation and events. A hook like the theft of an atomic bomb sets Bond into motion. In an investigation, he chases leads from one situation … Continue reading

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