Blogs I love: Chatty DM

Musings of the Chatty DM is a blog written by Philippe-Antoine Ménard, an extroverted gamer geek with over 25 years of game master experience. He aims to capture that feeling many get when they enter their favorite gaming shop and are enveloped by conversations from people who love to talk about the games they are in and the ones they wish they were in. He is doing a lot of cool stuff and I enjoy reading his posts on his blog and on Twitter. In addition, I can't wait to hear more about a number of new projects he has in the works. If you need further endorsement, Wil Wheaton recently gave him a big thumbs up on Twitter.

@wilw: @ChattyDM Have I told you how much I love your blog? If I haven’t: I love your blog.

Some Recent Posts

Additional Writing

GM-fu: Session Prep
In addition to the great advice on his blog, you can get even more great advice from this free booklet.

Successful session planning requires inspiration and execution. We will help with both! Learn how to foster ideas, mine tropes from TV and movies, and tailor content to your players with this workbook from the GenCon 2008 workshop. We will also explain how to take those concepts and compose your session notes by creating a development cycle and packing your notes with the essential elements.

From Here to There: A Collection of Nine Traveling Adventures

From Here to There. Because no PC should ever relax.

Published by Goodman Games, this collection is aimed at giving game masters encounters to throw at the party during their travel to or from other locations, such as dungeons. They are meant to be challenging for parties while not taking away from the overall campaign.

For Want of a Story: Rumpelstiltskin

For my current campaign, I used the story of Rumpelstiltskin as a story hook.

Brief Synopsis

For those who are not familiar with the story, it is one of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and can also be found in a number of other countries with the name of the main character changed. In the story, a miller wants to secure the marriage of his daughter to the king so he brags to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Very interested in such a gift, the king calls for her and tells her that if she cannot spin straw to gold for three nights straight, he will execute her. Obviously, the girl is quite upset by this turn of events and begins to cry. A creature hears her cries and agrees to spin the straw to gold for her in return for payment. For the first two nights, this works well, but on the third night the girl has nothing to give for payment. The creature asks her for her first-born child and she agrees.

The king is so impressed he agrees to marry the girl. Some time later, soon after the birth of the first child, the creature appears, asking for his payment. She again cries and pleas with him, offering him her newly found wealth. After a time, the creature relents and tells her that he will allow her to keep her child if she can guess his name in three days.

Knowing she does not have much time, the queen tries everything she can to find out the name. Just before the final meeting, she is able to find out his name and fulfill the challenge.

Incorporating the Tale

I'm not sure why, but I've always enjoyed this tale. It might have something to do with picturing the scene where the queen reveals the creature's name and his subsequent melt-down. Besides my enjoyment of the tale, in many ways, it is perfect for 4e. There are at least two ways of solving the problem, finding out the creature's name or just finding the creature and killing it. The process of finding the creature's name or the creature itself is a great excuse for exploring a local town and its surrounding area. In addition, a number of skills can be used for finding out any information and the skill challenge mechanic can be employed to help frame the game.

For my game, I made a few important changes. I introduced the creature, in the form of a goblin, before the characters even met the female character, Lady Margaret. On their way in between towns, they came upon an overturned cart and a farmer desperately trying to gather his chickens. There was a comic moment where it seemed like one of the chickens was leading other chickens in creating chaos but that is a story for another time. The farmer did tell the group that the reason his cart overturned is because a goblin had ran out from the woods in front of his cart, scaring his oxen. The goblin was repeating a rhyme.

I must not say my first name
for that is the object of my game.
Then that child, I will make him mine
And bring him home to Clementime.

This introduction captures the essence of the story and my players recognized it pretty much right away. Which is great because they then knew what sort of trouble might be upsetting poor Lady Margaret.

One of the biggest changes I made, and probably most important, is I changed the creature's name. My players asked the female character, Lady Margaret, right away if she tried "Rumpelstiltskin." She replied, "Oh, so you've heard the story too." I picked a pretty silly name, A Goblin, in part because it allowed me to let slip the name pretty early, before they even met Lady Margaret. During their encounter with the spriggans, my players asked the one they kept alive if he had seen the goblin, and more importantly, if they knew his name. He replied with something along the lines of "He said he was just a goblin." It was a great who's on first moment. But the name could be anything. When I told my brother my plans, he recommended the character from Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Another great part of this story is that it might seem quite strange to a modern ear that someone would trade their child, even an unborn one, for their life. In my case, I made it even a bit more absurd. Margaret had been upset because she and her now husband, Alric, were very much in love but Alric's father wanted a "more suitable" bride for his son, preferably another member of nobility. Her reason was quite simple. Since she had already heard the story, she thought she had the answer. When it turned out she did not, she was crestfallen.

Finally, I tried to answer the question why the goblin would want a baby. This is where the Clementime in the rhyme comes into play. It turns out that Clementime is really C. C. Clementime, President of Enterprised Unlimited. The spriggans had one of her cards in their treasure.

The back of the card stated that the card should be tapped three times. Doing so turns the card into a catalog of items available from the company. One of the catalog pages has a listing for children with the detail that the company is currently out of stock on that item. [The card itself is based on a card Matt Cutts found in an old book he bought at a books sale.]

Newham Shire Adventure Log: Snakes in a Temple

When we last left our band of noble, and not so noble, adventurers, they had just defeated the evil Oni C C Clementime and her goblin assistant, A Goblin. After killing the goblin, they come downstairs and rummage through the items in the evil doers rooms. In the goblin’s room, they don’t find much beyond the stink of filth and a book, Dragons of Depravity by Friar Hyckum. In Clementime’s room, they find a locked safe. Finnan attempts to disable the safe but takes a blast of fire instead. Inside and unharmed are Clementime’s personal papers. The team grabs these and continues downstairs.

One of the first things they notice upon getting to the first floor is the female lizardfolk who was sneaking through the library with a boy before everything went crazy. Two other lizardfolk, who appear to be her parents, are chastising her, saying things like “Why would you sneak off like that, particularly with a boy you don’t know” and “We thought something terrible had happened to you.” Beyond these three, there is just a general current of uncertainty over what just happened.

The group goes outside to try to retrieve (and probably loot) the body of Clementime. When they get within 200 yards, they see a large creature who looks very much like Clementime, lift a body and sling it over its shoulder. It hears the advancing party members and disappears into thin air.

After talking to the lizardfolk some more, and receiving two more books, The Tower of Lilith and Kalthor the Dragon, the group heads back to town. They stop at the keep to tell Lord Alric and Lady Margaret the news. When they approach the door, the door again cries for the guards once it sees them. Lady Margaret is the first to respond to their request of an audience. There is a dinner party going on and even in her state, she is quite tipsy. Although the sight of the dead goblin has quite the affect on her, she is glad to know that A Goblin won’t be bothering her anymore. Lord Alric is also pleased to hear that things are probably going to be better with the Lizardfolk.

When they return to their rooms, they seem a now familiar sight. Bampfylde Moore Carew is in their room waiting for them. They go over the papers that they retrieved and show Bampfylde the portrait. He recognizes it right away as Aurora Darkmagic, the rebelious youngest daughter of Sirius Darkmagic. He states that there is a reward for her safe return. In addition to that news, the group learns from the letters that C C Clementime was part of a much larger group: her brother, Darius Clementime, ...

After meeting with Bampfylde, the group decides to take part in the festivities going on in the tavern. Through various performances, they are able to raise some gold coins and they use some of them to buy drinks for all those present.

The next day, the group decides to hunt down Aurora Darkmagic. They find the temple she’s been in without incident. When they enter, they are confronted by 2 fire snakes and 2 crushgrip constrictors. While the outcome was uncertain at times, they managed to defeat the snakes and get further into the temple. Deeper in the temple was a locked door. Through it they could hear the cries of a help from what sounded like a woman. Eventually they were persuaded to unlock the door and inside they found Aurora Darkmagic, a bit parched and a little hungry.

Cool Tools: Adopt-A-Soldier, Combat Pad, Flip-Mat Basic and Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles

Open Design Adopt-A-Soldier Program

Yesterday was Veteran's Day here in the U.S. and while we have our veterans and soldiers on our minds, I wanted to share a really nice program with you. The Adopt-A-Soldier Program allows sponsors to purchase a Kobold Quarterly subscription for an active member of the military. The recipient will receive a four-issue subscription (pdf + print) as well as a free copy of New Gods of Mankind, from Dark Skull Studios. Role-playing games are popular among those who serve our country and I think this is a great way to show them that we care.

GameMastery Combat Pad

I already added this item to the Christmas list I sent my parents (by the way, Google Wave is pretty neat for stuff like that). The GameMastery Combat Pad is a great tool for dungeon masters as it helps easy track initiative order and notes during combat. The board itself is a wet and dry erasable board with a steel core so magnets will stick right to it. It comes with 8 player magnets (blue), 8 monster magnets (black), 4 non-player character magnets (green), and 2 each of the round arrow, turn arrow and next turn magnets. There is also a magnet booster pack available. Along with this tool, I also asked for small colored magnet markers thinking they would probably be useful for monitoring conditions and the like in addition to the magnets we use on the game table. One of the reviewers on the Paizo site showed how he used double-sided tape to attach the pad to a $2 Target picture frame so it could stand up on its own and everyone at the table can see it. He also explained that he uses magnetic tape to create personalized magnets for each of his player characters.

GameMastery Flip-Mat Basic

I've owned two of these flip-mats for a few months now and I love them. Unlike my larger battlemat, there are no worries about which markers I use or how quickly I can clean it off. I've had a map drawn on one of these for months and it came off easily. The only downsides of these versus my Chessex battlemat is that they aren't quite as big and they aren't quite as flat. However, I think their strong points more than make up for that. They fold down to 8 x 10 inches and are easily transportable. For DMs who travel to the game location, this means that the map can be drawn before you arrive and placed out on the table. A number of different marker types can be used, including dry erase, wet erase and permanent marker. In addition, I find them much easier to store than my Chessex mat.

Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles

This is more along the lines of my Geek Toys (Or things I want to work into my game) post. This set of wooden puzzles are meant to be solved sequentially, although it's possible to solve them in any order. There will be a total of seven of them, with each of them are based around great moments in science and history. From the description, I believe hints are provided. Some players are really good at role playing or and some are good at tactics, but the game can be a bit light on ways to engage puzzle solvers. Successfully completing one of these puzzles might help unlock a big secret or plot point and hints could be obtained through skill challenges.

  1. Davinci's Secret - The Clue
    Break the codes which will help recover the Secret Scroll that is entombed within DaVinci's greatest mystery, unearthing the clues to Puzzle 2...'The Equation'.
  2. The Equation
    Establish a base by arranging the wooden puzzle pieces within the boundaries. Follow by engaging a piece of DaVinci's Secret to decipher the scientist's formulas which must precede Puzzle 3... 'Legend of the King'.
  3. 3. Legend of the King
    With fragments bestowed by 'The Equation', join the quest to liberate the legendary scroll which in turn will extricate the guide to exploring Puzzle 4...'The Enigmatic Temple'.
  4. The Enigmatic Temple
    According to "Legend", there is but one way to explore this sacred site. Sequestered within the temple walls are blueprints needed to interpret the mystic 'Pillars of Atlantis'.
  5. Pillars of Atlantis
    Divide and align these fallen pillars for guidance towards 'Carta Blanca'. Plans to rebuild are at hand, yet no part of 'The Enigmatic Temple™' can reconstruct the entity.
  6. Carta Blanca
    Map your points carefully to expose 'Carta Blanca's mysterious hidden clues as these determining details will sustain you on your final approach to uncovering the greatest mystery of all - 'Secrets of the Pyramid'.
  7. Secrets of the Pyramid
    Coming Soon

Blogs I Love: Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog

This week's post actually includes two blogs, all done by the same person, Michael Shorten a.k.a. @chgowiz. Michael has been playing tabletop RPGs since 1979, when he bought the boxed Basic set. As his personal blog states, he enjoys sharing the fun of original D&D, one game at a time. In addition to his blogs, he is involved in two campaigns, writes reviews on Game Cryer, is an active user of twitter and provides a number of RPG resources on his personal blog. Besides RPGs, Michael is a former amateur stock car driver and he has served in the US Army and US Air Force. While I don't always agree with him, I always enjoy getting his point of view, especially since it tends to involve being creative and doing what seems right, not necessarily what the books say.

Recent Posts

Chicago RPG Examiner's Articles

Recent Posts

Swords & Wizardry

Michael is a big fan of the Swords & Wizardry game by Mythmere Games. As described on their website, S&W is a "retro-clone" of the original version Gary Gygax published in 1974. The makers of the game create products that support free-form roleplaying games, those where there is a light framework of rules instead of a compendium of rules that attempt to cover every situation. With its lighter rules, the goal of the game is to encourage imagination.

D&D Inspires School Video Projects

It seems a number of students use D&D as their inspiration for school assignments, particularly when they are in video format.

Dungeons & Dragons Project

From YouTube: Student created video which won 2nd place in the State student technology competition 2006. Entered in the Video Production Category. Entertainment.

Day in the life of a Dungeon Master

From YouTube: A school video project. Based on true events.....except when the bears lose.

GeekQuest Parts 1 and 2

The series in incomplete but still an interesting watch.

From YouTube: My final project for TV Field Production at West Liberty State College. Many thanks to everyone who assisted in this project! This was filmed in 1.5 days on pretty rigerous scheduel, and precisely zero budget. Kudos to Stephanie Fenrisson for the Death Knight makeup effects, and Justin Harvilla for the Orc effects. Cast: Andew Coulter / Raetog the Smasher Josh McGowan / Renji Myamoto Stephanie H. Fenrisson / Raxsis the Rogue Jeremey Sweeney / Mortax, Elven Soldier Justin Harvilla: Harv the DM / The Druid (Assistant Camera man) Mandy Conner: The sister / Teeny Matt Villella / The Cleric Gail Walls / The Sorcoress Chris Thoburn / Bob The Death Knight Marc Landon: Hero Goblin (assistant camera man/tree climber)

For Want of a Story: Thor

Thor is the red-haired and bearded god of thunder of Norse mythology. He is the son of Odin and the giantess Jörð. Thor has two sons, Magni and Modi, with his mistress, the giantess Járnsaxa and a daughter, Thrud, with his wife, Sif. The family lives in Bilskirnir, the greatest of all buildings and containing 540 rooms. It is located in Asgard, the capital city of the Norse gods. Thor provides many interesting story lines since so many of his stories feature trickery and cunning in addition to pure physical prowess.

Ways to Incorporate Thor

Close companions can be used by enemies.
Loki was captured by Geirrod and, in exchange for his freedom, promised to bring the giant's enemy Thor to him. Thor is saved by the giantess Grid, who tells him of the plan and gives him the magic items that help him defeat Geirrod and all the other frost giants he could find.
Failure can be success in disguise.
Útgarða-Loki, a giant king, outwits Thor at one point. The king challenges Thor and his companions to several contests and they lose every one. In the first, Thor's swift servant Þjálfi runs a race against one of the king's men. Then Loki is challenged to an eating contest against the king's servant Logi. Then Thor is challenged to lift the paw of a cat, to a drinking contest and to wrestle an old woman. It turns out that none of these tasks were what they seemed. The runner represented Thought, Logi represented Wild-Fire, the cat was an illusion of the Midgard Serpent, the horn was connected to the ocean and the old woman was Old Age. Thor left the contest humiliated but it turns out that in attempting the contest at all and getting as far as he did, he had done deeds worthy of his position.
The mind can be a most dangerous weapon
At one point, Thrymr, King of the Giants, steals Thor's hammer and won't give it back unless the goddess Freyja marries him. Of course, Freyja refuses but they decided, against Thor's initial objections, to send Thor in her place, dressed in her bridal gown. He is able to play a woman well enough to convince Thrymr to have the hammer brought to his "wife."
Recurring enemies are the most fun.
Thor is in a life-long struggle to defeat the Midgard Serpent. Sometimes, he calls out the serpent and other times it appears in places, and ways, he least expects it.
A few details of his appearance make him recognizable
Thor is often represented by his uniquely shaped hammer. The weapon is so symbolic of him that it became a very popular ornament during the Viking Age and is a well-known symbol of Germanic paganism.

How might you use parts of the mythology of Thor in your campaign?

Cool Tools: Burst and Blast Templates, Dwarven Forge, and Fighty

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Burst and Blast Templates

One of the guys in my gaming group, @TheMikeKatz, bought these burst and blast templates and they are pretty useful. They help us to easily know if a particular target is within reach and we can leave the burst squares on the table to signify areas affected by lingering spells. The same company also makes condition tile sets to help track conditions but we don't own these and I'm not sure how they work in actual game play. Having the color tie to the player rather than the condition helps with the issue of remembering who exactly caused the condition and makes it easier to say things like, "Hey, it's the end of your turn, do any of these conditions go away?"

Dwarven Forge

Yes, they are expensive. But even more importantly, they are freaking awesome. The envy of many a DM, Dwarven Forge sets help answer simple questions like, are there any candles in the room, where exactly are those pits of lava, and are there any girls there? These sets aren't for everyone as some people would rather be limited by their imagination instead of the amount of money they have and whether or not the piece they want is available. But for the rest of us, we either already own them or continue to drool. Mike Shea, @SlyFlourish, has some great tips for incorporating them into your games. And if you haven't seen Gabe's post on using mirrors and lasers, you need to check it out now. We'll still be here when you get back.

Cavernous Passasge SetCavernous Passasge SetMedieval Building SetMedieval Building SetDen of Evil: HellscapeDen of Evil: Hellscape


Ok, this last one isn't quite fair as it's only really available to Google Wave users, but it's still awesome and I just had to gush about it. Daniel Clery, @exedore6, created a Google Wave gadget that allows one to create a virtual battlemap. More details on Fighty are available via the Save vs. Geek blog but these sorts of hacks are exactly why I love my industry so much.

Podcast Playlist: Fear the Boot

Fear the Boot (FtB) is a podcast, blog and forum site for discussing tabletop role-playing games. The podcast is released on a weekly basis and is generally about an hour to an hour and a half long. While some of the hosts vary between episodes, they all are pretty opinionated in differing ways but know how to have a civil discussion in the meantime. In addition to their podcast episodes, they have a great blog. I particularly enjoyed the post, NCIS as a model for an adventuring group.

Current Cast

Recent Topics

More Information


Blogs I Love: newbie dm

The Newbie DM blog has a lot of great information, some of which I've pointed out in previous posts. The man behind the blog is also quite active on twitter, @newbiedm.

A number of other sites have picked up on the awesomeness that is his blog. Wired's GeekDad blog included this blog on its list of the five great RPG blogs. His post about creating custom tokens was republished in OPEN GAME TABLE: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 1.

Some Recent Posts

The Ghost King by R.A. SalvatoreThe Ghost King by R.A. Salvatore

Current Contest

As a bonus, is running a contest for a signed copy of “The Ghost King” by R.A. Salvatore. He is looking for readers to email him with their best hand-drawn sketch of Drizzt and his black panther Guenhwyvar. Microsoft Paint is also fine, but if it looks like a 3D render or something similar, it will be disqualified. The person who draws his favorite sketch will win the book. He is encouraging everyone, regardless of skill, to enter. The contest ends Friday, November 6th at 11:59 PM Eastern time and all entries may be posted on his site.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that he also started a great new DMs group on the Wizard's Community Site.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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