My friend Tommie Johnson is a big fan of the more obscure monsters from Dungeons & Dragon history. Some of those such as the vegepygmy, garbug, and froghemoth have been brought back from obscurity and reintroduced in D&D Gamma World with new 4th-edition compatible stats.

Plucked from the pages of the original Fiend Folio, I now present Tommie’s version of the kamadan, a strange spotted cat with snake tentacles on its shoulders. There’s even a bonus version that’s an elite monster instead of a normal one, which can be used as a boss or miniboss in a campaign.

Originating from the many, many Aztec-dominated timelines, the Kamadan is a jaguar with around four to seven snakes surrounding its face. It was intended to be a tribute to reconciliation between the warring religions of Quetzalcouatl and Texacatlipoca, showing a balance between the Jaguar and the Plumed Serpent. The “breathing sleep gas” part was just added because it looked cool.

Of course, things went awry, and now they’re stuck in Gamma Terra. They have an intense magnetism that can serve them well in trying to rebuild the lost empire that they so yearn for, taking ruins from their dominant worldline and rebuilding them into grand temples, or else just repurposing existing structures for their own purposes (Rumor has it the head of the Mafia at the Luxor is one). Their favored Cryptic Alliance is the Restorationists.

Download the Kamadan stats now!

Expect more monsters from Tommie soon!

 

On the official Dungeons & Dragons website, there’s part four of an ongoing "tutorial" series about teaching kids how to play D&D. This one’s called "D&D Kids: Punishment."

In it, the author — who is apparently a professional "teacher of RPGs" in Israel — talks about how to punish and humiliate children between the ages of 7 and 11 who don’t fit his idea of what a roleplaying game should be.

Suggested "verdicts" for these "crimes" (the terms are his, not mine) include public humiliation, loss of experience points, character death, and ostracization from the gaming group (called "exile" by the author).

He accomplishes this by applying labels to children, such as "The Astronaut" (for a child who is unable to quickly grasp the complex rules of D&D), "The Crybaby," "The Cheater," "The Serial Character Changer" (a kid who dares to "care more about experiencing different classes and races than about character development"), "The Hyperactive" (with a note to make sure that you can tell who is not just an "attention grabber" but "genuinely hyperactive" — do people even use these words about kids in this day and age? — who might "go bananas"), "The Joker" (who gets compared to Batman’s sociopathic foe for being silly at the game table), "The Chaotic-Stupid" (who deserves character death and return at lower level), and "The Antagonist" (who should just be banished for being a threat to the DM’s authority).

Now, there’s a long history of categorizing gamer types, not always in the most attractive way — I remember the old "Real Men / Roleplayers / Loonie / Munchkin" stuff that I first saw on USEnet in the 80s. Most of this stuff consists of stereotypes and insults coupled with "old school" "hardcore" "grognard"-style gaming advice. (You know, where Gary Gygax tells you that you must punish players who, I dunno, don’t recognize his initials in the map or something.)

Modern gaming has gotten away from the more destructive uses of these categories, and recent advice — such as that found in the 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 — focuses not so much on judging and condemning players, but recognizing that different play styles and play goals exist. The best advice sections give hints and tips on how to keep everyone happy within a campaign by understanding what your players are hoping to achieve and realizing that their desires are valid and reasonable.

This "D&D Kids: Punishment" article doesn’t do that. In a move that would be out of place in gaming if applied to adults — let alone children! — the author suggests stripping characters of experience points, levels, and characters for not playing Dungeons & Dragons as seriously as he thinks they should be playing it.

Rather than giving advice on what’s going on in a kid’s head when he or she engages in potentially disruptive behavior — and suggesting ways to work with whatever desires the child is expressing — the article focuses almost entirely on the idea that it’s the role of the adult Dungeon Master to inflict punishment on the children.

The first subheading of the article is "The Cracking of the Whip" — and the staff at the WotC website decided it was appropriate to illustrate this article — about kids! — with an angry demon wielding a flaming whip and a sword.

I object to this guy’s namecalling categorization of young children this way; I’m offended by multiple things throughout this very problematic article. I’m frankly shocked that Wizards of the Coast decided this was worth publishing, since it goes against their current DMing philosophies for playing with adults, let alone with children.

I know for certain that I would not want the author ever attempting to teach my nephews how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Oh, and don’t think I didn’t notice that he only refers — throughout the four parts of this "tutorial series" — to boy players and never girls. He talks in one part about when it’s appropriate or not to give slaves to childrens’ characters as loot/alternate rewards ("slavery is a touchy subject best avoided with younger gamers"), but he never addresses in any place how to deal with a group of mixed genders of children.

If, like me, you need to cleanse your palate after slogging through "D&D Kids: Punishment," check out this recent BoingBoing post by Enrique "NewbieDM" Bertran, "I turned my 4-year-old daughter into a Dungeons & Dragons geek." That’s the kind of introduction I hope more children have to this hobby.

03/17
2011

So you need a monster to challenge your uber tier Gamma World characters? Look no further! Adapted straight from 1st Edition Gamma World, here’s the death machine!

“20 meters long, 9 meters wide, 4 meters high, with many knobby projections all over,” the death machine is the ultimate enemy for your adventurers.

Download the Death Machine’s stats here!

 

Download the Uber Tier Characters rules here!

A recent thread on the official D&D Gamma World forum inspired me to finish writing up my rules for higher level characters.

While the D&D Gamma World game only allows character advancement to level 10, the related Dungeons & Dragons game goes up to level 30 in three tiers: Heroics (1 to 10), Paragon (11 to 20), and Epic (21 to 30).

These house rules expand D&D Gamma World to level 20 by introducing the Uber Tier (11 to 20).

Uber tier characters:

  • Continue to advance in level as before, gaining 5 hit points per level, as well as level-dependent increases to attacks.
  • Gain permanent Alpha Mutations which don’t change at the end of rests or due to Alpha Flux.
  • Gain additional Uber Feature choices while advancing in level.
  • Continue to gain Vocation Feats. Uber tier characters invariably have multiple vocations.
  • Do additional damage with basic attacks.
  • Pick a Survivor Path which gives them access to Survivor Path powers – novice, utility, and expert powers that aren’t based directly on their origins.
  • Gain Survivor Path traits including critical hit benefits at 13th and 17th levels.
  • Increase one ability score – based on Survivor Path – at 12th level and again at 18th level.

Survivor Paths in Uber Tier

Download the Uber Tier Characters rules here!

03/07
2011

Tip Jar

I’ve added a new Tip Jar sidebar to the blog via PayPal; if you’ve enjoyed and appreciated the free content here (especially the Gamma World material), why not make a donation of a few bucks? It’s cheaper than having to actually buy this stuff, right?





The D&D Gamma World book doesn’t give much advice on when to give out rewards to players, apart from experience points.

Non-experience rewards in Gamma World can be several things: a draw from an Omega Tech deck, one or more rolls on the Ancient Junk table, ammunition, or other useful items.

The D&D Essentials Rules Compendium provides a model for a reward system, and that forms the basis of the rewards table for Gamma World.

Download the Gamma World Rewards Table!

For my current Saturday game of D&D Gamma World, I needed some pirates. Yarr! So I spent some time making up stats for them, from the simple (cyborgs who pew pew you from a distance with laser eyes) to the complex (Captain Zanzibar Sirocco kind of scares me). I also found some nice CreativeCommons-licensed artwork, including a bear pirate. Yes, you read that right, a bear pirate.

So in this PDF you’ll find stats for a complete crew of mutant pirates along with their ship and their raiding skycycles. And a mutant bear sky pirate. Enjoy!

Download the Sky Pirates here!

The D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 introduced the concept of monster themes – groups of statistics that can be used to flavor “stock” monsters to give thematic unity to an encounter.

You can use the concept of monster themes to adapt D&D monsters from various sources – such as the D&D Essentials Monster Vault – for use in your D&D Gamma World game.

Choose an appropriate theme for the monsters you want to use, and then select one to three powers or traits from the list for that theme.

Here are three themes you can use in your campaign: cyborg, radioactive, and alien.

Download GM Advice: Mutating Your D&D Monsters here!

Here’s a new origin that uses the vocation rules from Legion of Gold. Or maybe I just liked typing “Expert Expert” for the expert power.

EXPERT

You’re the best there is at what you do.

Other people have luck. You have skill. Or rather, skills – more of them than the average inhabitant of Gamma Terra, that’s for sure. You could be a beast-riding bounty hunter, a spice-trading naturalist, a storytelling mad scientist, or a marauding soldier of fortune. What you do doesn’t matter as much as how well you do it – and there are none who do it better than you.

Download the Expert Origin now!

Following up on a conversation I had tonight with my housemate, here’s a Roger-Rabbit-inspired origin for D&D Gamma World:

Download the Animated Origin Here!