Monday, April 20, 2009

D&D Essentials and Concepts

As a follow up to yesterday’s post discussing Truths and Expectations, I wanted to discuss briefly that other list I threw together during my exploration of D&D concepts and categories.

Sham’s Essentials of D&D

1. Characters (Race/Class)
2. Ability Scores
3. Hit Points
4. Experience/Levels
5. Mechanics/Randomization
6. Adventuring Groups
7. Exploration
8. Hazards/Challenges (Monsters/Traps/Tricks, etc)
9. Treasure (Monetary/Magic)
10. Fantasy Setting (Dungeons/Wilderness)

I began thinking about the concept of D&D in earnest when I learned of Dave Arneson’s passing. I hate to admit it, but I suppose it is human nature to react this way. I did the same with Gary’s passing, reflecting upon his body of work and appreciating it more once he was dead than before. Surely there is a term for this state of mind. The sudden realization that there will be no more. It’s rather pathetic, honestly.

As I mentioned before, the above Essentials were all present in Dave Arneson’s formative Blackmoor games (not to be confused with Supplement II, Blackmoor). From what I gather, much of what is considered D&D was defined by Gary Gygax into the form we recognize today. For that matter, Blackmoor was influenced by Gygax’s own Chainmail game. But as far as the nuts and bolts of D&D, I am under the impression that Gygax applied his vast war gaming know-how to Arneson’s Blackmoor features. Not to say that Arneson was not an accomplished war gamer. The fact of the matter is that Gygax was simply better at explaining things with the written word. And he owned a typewriter, as Dave put it.

Gygax’s Greyhawk campaign, which preceded OD&D, was born of Blackmoor. Gary heard about Dave’s Blackmoor game, and that it used some bits of Chainmail, and he witnessed the game for himself. Gygax returned home and began his own Blackmoor inspired game named Greyhawk. Thus Blackmoor and Greyhawk became OD&D when the two agreed to publish some rules. Perhaps it is best that the events transpired this way. Accomplished game writer meets visionary gamer, and the two agree to turn the idea into a reality.

Unfortunately, Arneson’s planned D&D add-on, Supplement II, Blackmoor ended up being something not quite expected. I cannot remember the exact details, but if I have it right Arneson submitted reams of handwritten notes for the Supplement. The story I hear is that it would’ve taken many man hours to make heads or tails out of the disorganized pages. Someone else extracted some bits and threw a book together, but in my opinion really screwed the pooch. Get your hands on Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign to see what Supplement II probably should have looked like.

Dave later took a position with TSR in what would turn out to be a very short-lived period of employ. It ended rather abruptly, and then the lawsuits began over the future use of the D&D name in other TSR publications. Sadly, history threatens to forget that Dave Arneson created the Essentials of D&D, the concept itself.

The above list must be credited where credit is due. Thank you Dave Arneson for creating and sharing this concept with us. Your presence in the gaming world will be missed, but your impact will never be forgotten. I hope that the next time you log into World of Warcraft, dear reader, you will realize that the concept is all Dave Arneson’s. WoW is an MMO that in fact blends all ten Essentials of D&D together. There would be no such game were it not for that creative college kid from Minnesota who dreamt up the perfect, heady concoction for endless entertainment.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sunday, April 19, 2009

D&D Truths and Expectations

Having considered D&D conceptually or by name only, and explained labels, titles and expectations with the past three posts, I thought it might be interesting to actually put more emphasis on the lists I threw together along the way. Tomorrow Sham’s Essentials of D&D, and today Sham’s OD&D Truths.

Readers will certainly disagree with my lists, that’s a given. The point of compiling the Truths is not to identify what is or what isn’t OD&D. It’s an effort to share what I think the average devotee expects when a game is labeled OD&D. The missing Truth is of course that the Concept trumps the guidelines, and that everything is open for tinkering. If we push that missing Truth too far, there is no point in labeling our games at all. They’re just D&D then. Therefore Concept is not an OD&D Truth. Concept is the motivating force behind the Essentials. For that matter, the lists could be renamed. Truths could be Expectations, and Essentials could be Concept.

If I merge the lists, in other words if I maintain the Truths and pursue the Essentials, I can end up with a heavily tinkered game of D&D which I can proudly declare to newcomers is in fact OD&D. If I begin by designing my game or campaign with the Essentials first but follow the Truths I’d probably refer to the game as D&D using OD&D as a foundation. If I ignore the Truths and combine the Essentials, it’s pure D&D.

Sham’s OD&D Truths

1. Class and Level based Characters
2. Six Cardinal 3d6 Ability Scores
3. Combat Model (including RTH, HD, HP, AC)
4. Saving Throws
5. Spells and Spell Levels
6. Fantasy Milieu (the world and features)
7. "Fill-in-the-Blanks" Design

One of the Truths, the one added in hindsight, creates an interesting dilemma. Around the gaming table, in your personal game, you will organically grow house rules and features unique to your game. This is a feature of OD&D, that the flexibility of the rules allows the players to define them further. You are fleshing out the skeleton as you play. If you compile all of your tinkering and homebrew, even if you maintain the other six Truths, and publish your campaign, it is no longer OD&D. Why? You’ve filled in the blanks over the years. Around the table, it is OD&D. To an outsider, it is no longer OD&D.

From a purist standpoint, and really there shouldn’t be any purism associated with D&D to begin with, anything you change or add makes OD&D something else when taken away from the game table. All bets are off. For example, I create a complex system to handle something not covered in OD&D, but I continue to maintain the Truths. Perhaps I made a six page tactical Combat Procedure. I still used the Combat Model, with RTH, HD, HP and AC, but I went into great depth and homebrewed many unique, complicated rules.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the height of the D&D concept. I relish seeing other referees’ own house rules and tinkering methods. They can call it OD&D around their own gaming table, but if the envelope is pushed too far, from a (cringe) purist standpoint, it is no longer OD&D. BUT, it IS D&D.

It’s amazing what that little O means to many people. And, admittedly, to me at times.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More My D&D

My two most recent entries concerning D&D served to share some of my own evolving theories and opinions about the game. This post revisits a topic I wrote about last year; the question of at what point does tinkering with OD&D turn it into something else? This is one of the problems with using specific labels and titles for your D&D games. As soon as you declare an edition, players will have certain expectations for your game.

I’m aware that my own D&D essentials are not shared by other fans of the game. There are certain features, even in OD&D, that translate to “D&D” for the players. If I tackle the essential categories I shared in the last entry, and homebrew each by tinkering and reworking the rules, I’m certain that other OD&D devotees would say my game is no longer OD&D. As far as I’m concerned, it is still D&D, but this is only due to the fact that I approach the game more so now than ever from the conceptual side. The concept is what I have come to appreciate more than the framework of guidelines presented in 1974.

My point is that by utilizing an exact edition title, I am presumably enforcing more narrowly focused parameters. Even by using the OD&D tag. This theme has been visited by a few threads over at Finarvyn’s OD&D site in the past year. Here, here and here.

But how much tinkering can you get away with and still call your game OD&D? If you fool with it too much you’ll be better served just calling it D&D. Or making up some new name and pretending it’s NOT D&D, even though everyone knows it is. There are countless examples of NOT D&D out there, and everyone knows while they might not be D&D by Name, they are Conceptually D&D. That is, they combine the Essentials of D&D and claim to be some new game.

Apparently, Dave Arneson was the first to define and combine these essential elements in his original Blackmoor games. With Gary Gygax’s input, expertise and organizational skills, the two were able to create D&D. How much of it was Arneson and how much of it was Gygax I’m not sure, but I do find it interesting that the Ten Essentials I wrote in the last post were evident in Arneson's formative Blackmoor. Nonetheless, D&D introduced the concept and this blend of features which still has game geeks such as me writing about it 35 years later.

As usual, I digress. The question at hand is how much tinkering can you do and still call your game OD&D? Last year I summarized some OD&D Truths:

1. Class based Character progression
2. d20 Combat Model
3. Rules as a 'skeleton'
4. Six Cardinal Character Abilities

Yes on Class based Character progression. Yes on Six Cardinal Character Abilities. No on d20 Combat Model. I can use Chainmail 2d6 as well, but I think the point was using the whole Armor Class, Roll to Hit, Hit Dice system, or some reasonable facsimile. So Yes to that. Rules as a ‘skeleton’ is kind of the entire point to this post. Having Rules as a ‘skeleton’ as a truth serves to remind players that the referee will be fleshing out the guidelines and filling in the gaps prior to or during play.

But what about changing OD&D? Even the category OD&D can mean many things. My OD&D game might be limited to Volumes I-III and my homebrew additions, or it might include the Supplements and The Dragon articles. Supplement I, Greyhawk, blew up a lot of the conventions introduced in the first three volumes.

Rules as a ‘skeleton’ looks to be the most important truth now that I look back at that post. But aren’t there other nuances or features found in OD&D that come to be expected in a game described as such? What might those be? Saving Throws. Hit Dice and Hit Points. Spells and Spell Levels. Armor Class.

I can’t think of much else. To make it feel like D&D of course we set it in a fantasy milieu with Classes, Races, Monsters and Treasure that fit that particular theme. A theme which can be tailored or taken from the books.

Sham’s OD&D Truths

1. Class and Level based Characters
2. Six Cardinal 3d6 Ability Scores
3. Combat Model (including RTH, HD, HP, AC)
4. Saving Throws
5. Spells and Spell Levels
6. Fantasy Milieu (the world and features)
7. "Fill-in-the-Blanks" Design

Unlike Sham’s Ten Essentials of D&D, the above Truths are to be used as presented in the original volumes for the game to be called OD&D. These aren't simply categories or features which need to be present, but Truths that should be followed as presented in OD&D. I added number 7 in hindsight, but it's a vital Truth which is spelled out in a few places in OD&D.

Damn it, now there I go trying to label someone else’s game of OD&D.

Remember, no one can tell you how to play D&D. Let the above serve to remind you what outsiders might expect when you tell them you are running a game of OD&D. For what it’s worth, just make mine D&D. As long as I can explore dark labyrinths, trackless wastes, gloomy hollows or lost cities while not becoming some nameless horror's lunch all in the name of gold and glory, I’m in! That’s D&D.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, April 17, 2009

My D&D

As everyone knows I am not a slave to the rules. My favorite aspect of D&D is making things up. Now that I have learned the concept, the one introduced by D&D to the gaming world in 1974, I don’t need to ever spend another penny on anything to continue playing the game for the rest of my life. Everything I create and run using this concept is D&D to me.

Let’s pretend that I learned how to play D&D in 1974. I paid particular attention to the Introduction in Volume I, Men & Magic, and the words: “[These rules] provide the framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity - your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors…”. Notice that the quote says game and not world or campaign. So I grasped the concept and never, ever picked up another game book from TSR or any other RPG company.

The game I end up playing, let’s say three decades later, is D&D to me and my players. Others might see strange house rules and unconventional interpretations, and to them it might not appear to be D&D at all. Such an observation from an outsider would be an opinion based on subsequent events, those that occurred after 1974. Observations based on 35 years of game evolution which have brought about expectations and the need for labels and categories. If my make believe game no longer uses dice, hit points, alignment or character classes, it is still D&D in so far as the original concept was presented over three decade ago.

This is an extreme, unrealistic example of the concept, but one which serves to support the adage that every RPG is really just a house ruled game of D&D.

I like to call my D&D exactly that, D&D; and I like to call my other games by their titles: Gamma World, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, and so forth. So what exactly then is D&D to me? Is it little more than simply the role-playing game concept that it created? As I’ve mentioned before, D&D could’ve been published with no more than a dozen pages from Men & Magic. The amount of pre-game work required by the referee would have been problematic for beginners, to be sure, so the other 100 or so remaining pages in OD&D filled out some of the details for referees. As far as I’m concerned, those “other 100” pages are no more than examples of what a referee can do with D&D.

If I had to distill my D&D down to the essentials, the list would look something like this:

Sham’s Essentials of D&D

1. Characters (Race/Class)
2. Ability Scores
3. Hit Points
4. Experience/Levels
5. Mechanics/Randomization
6. Adventuring Groups
7. Exploration
8. Hazards/Challenges (Monsters/Traps/Tricks, etc)
9. Treasure (Monetary/Magic)
10. Fantasy Setting (Dungeons/Wilderness)

If hard pressed, it comes down to Characters, Mechanics, and Environment. I added the other features which I feel are hard coded into the game. If I left the list simply at Characters, Mechanics, and Environment, I just described every RPG ever made. But hey, that IS the concept. It’s Distilled D&D.

As long as a game embraces these elements I would consider it D&D. And I suppose even a game with no Dungeons at all could still be D&D, even though it pains me to admit that.

Keep in mind that when I say distill my D&D down to the essentials and list categories such as Class or Monsters, it does not mean that one needs to use the published entries. On the contrary, what I am trying to clarify is that the only aspect required is the category itself. I can take these categories and completely homebrew each. If I mix them all together the end result is still D&D as far as I’m concerned.

Being D&D “as far as I’m concerned” doesn’t amount to a hill of beans to others, though. The question then becomes is it D&D in Name Only? If I’ve been running that imaginary D&D game, letting it evolve and change over the past 35 years, I might have something which would be considered D&D only conceptually. I’ve bought into the concept, but I’ve changed or overhauled every guideline found in Men & Magic. The modern term for the above example might be Homebrew D&D, but that’s a rather loose, catchall category.
To me, it is still D&D. Anything which combines the Essentials of D&D is, by all rights, D&D.

What does D&D mean to you?

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's all D&D to me

Longtime readers will recall my posts from last year wherein I spoke about how we played D&D back in the early days. D&D was a catchall term describing whatever edition was being used at the time. At one point back then, the following editions were being actively used by various players: OD&D, AD&D 1E, Holmes Basic D&D, Moldvay/Cook D&D. One could easily move between editions with no issue whatsoever. Most players eventually graduated to AD&D 1E as it was nice owning the large hardcover books. The thing is, due to the methods by which most of us learned to play, few if any really played AD&D 1E by the book. It was just D&D.

The most obvious rules differences in each game of D&D had little to do with edition at all. All of the above mentioned versions had a shared concept which was clearly understood by all involved. Players didn’t seek out particular editions simply because there wasn’t that much of a difference between the way they were used back then. The variations came from the individual Dungeon Masters. It was commonly accepted that each game would have house rules and unique interpretations. I cannot recall many players at that point who cared to point a finger and say “Hey, this isn’t AD&D here!”. It was just D&D. It wasn’t until years later that I encountered rules lawyers who probably knew nothing besides AD&D 1E. Sure I used those hardcover books more than any other in all of my campaigns because they were very useful, but really we could’ve run our campaigns without them just as successfully.

As a culture we feel compelled to categorize and label everything. It’s a requirement when there becomes a proliferation of any item. From art to music, and even D&D now, there is a need to fit things under a title simply to keep them organized. D&D appears to have these categories covered since the editions all have their own names, so it’s not quite the same as pigeonholing music into the Bluegrass category, or Art under the Cubist movement. It’s just that now, with the multitude of editions, there is a need to clarify what is meant when one says D&D.

It’s not enough to simply say D&D anymore. We have managed to classify the versions by edition. For better or worse, we pigeonhole the grand old game of D&D into nice, neat categories. I always played a hodge-podge game, with influences from various early editions, as well as additions from whatever seemed useful or inspirational at the time. Such influences included not only Arduin but later even things from Dark Sun and The Forgotten Realms. I knew no other way to play D&D. Nothing was forbidden, nothing was sacred, and nothing was off-limits or out of bounds. If I wanted to bring some Fascist Ninja Wombats with powers derived from the Champions game, I did so. It was still D&D.

No one should be able to tell you how to play D&D. Each game should feel unique. The experience should be different from one GM to another, and from one play group to another. That is one of the endearing aspects of the game, in my opinion. It’s probably exactly why we were never specific about our games. It was D&D. We didn’t come out and declare we were playing OD&D, or Holmes Basic. We were simply rolling dice and exploring our imaginations.

When pressed about my favorite edition, I answer OD&D. The reasons are simple and quite clear to me now. OD&D exemplifies the pure concept better than any other version. I can get away with a lot more and still declare that I am running OD&D. The original volumes are littered with reminders that the rules are simply guidelines; that each referee should be running the game his or her way. Imagination, creativity and flexibility are the cornerstones of OD&D.

Surely at some point, if you declare you are running OD&D, though, even with these notions ingrained in those little brown books, you are opening yourself up to scrutiny. It’s best to just call it D&D.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fight On Forever!

The modest little old school fanzine Fight On!, only four issues old now, has claimed the top spot in the Lulu Author Sales Contest! Congratulations to Calithena and Iggy Umlaut, as well as to all of the artists and authors who have been a part of making Fight On! so great.

Follow the above link for the official standings. On a side note, Swords & Wizardry Core Rules made what appears to be First Honorable Mention. I'm assuming that means Matt Finch's retro-clone just missed out on that third spot. Quite a showing!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Page Dungeon Contest

Seems my little One Page Dungeon idea refuses to lose momentum. I'm happy to see that the concept transcends schools and is both useful and sensible to various GMs of differing styles. And to think I almost gave up on the idea since I couldn't get the template to work. Chgowiz stepped up, laid it out exactly as I described and off we went. Amityville Mike has been using the concept to great success with his growing megadungeon, Stonehell. I have more plans in the works for the idea, once I get caught up with family and work matters.

In the meantime, I'm happy to announce that I will be helping to judge the first ever One Page Dungeon Contest. I'm looking forward to seeing what other creative GMs do with my concept and template. I'm certain that many of you will surprise me so do your best to knock it out of the park.

The Chatty DM has compiled an impressive collection of sponsors and prizes! And to think it all began with this post a few months back.

Here's a copy and paste of the announcement. I'll throw in a few links at the bottom in order that you might read properly written announcements from guys who aren't training the rookie at work again today!

Announcing the One Page Dungeon Contest

A few months ago, a three headed monster was born in the dark depths of Sham's Grog 'n Blog, Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog and Mike's Society of the Torch, Pole and Rope. We had put our heads together and come up with a neat template to help people create dungeons quickly and effectively, by concentrating on the meat and allowing the user of the dungeon to add in the flavor, fluff and setting.

A few weeks later, that little creation was "discovered" outside of the dark niche by Philippe-Antoine (Chatty DM) Menard who runs a blog called Musings of the Chatty DM. Tapping into the awesome power of a Chatty DM and mixing it with the dark and dangerous creation of the three, something Big and Crazy was born. A Dark and Sinister collaboration was taking place between those of the newer editions and those of the original editions... a collaboration full of Prizes and Fun! The One Page Dungeon Creation Contest!

The idea of the contest is to ask readers to create one dungeon level in an edition-less format (ex: you can name monsters but you don't provide stats for them) using the template and submit it for the contest. We'd judge the entries based on criteria such as 'most evocative setting', 'Funniest entry', 'Most creative use of a Trap" and so on. Once we've named winners, we'll be compiling a FREE PDF of the winners/runner-ups and releasing it to the community at large.

The contest starts today, April 14th and ends on May 14th at midnight. Once the contest is done, 6 judges will scratch their heads and figure out just who stands above the rest. Categories include (but not limited to):

Best All Around (Contest Grand Prize)
Grand Prize Runner-Up: Old School Dungeon Design

Grand Prize Runner-Up: New Edition Dungeon Design
Alternative prize categories: Most Creative Trap, Funniest, Most Gonzo, for example.The judges will no doubt have other categories in their minds, as we have a ton of prizes lined up!

We have several well known RPG bloggers who will be judging, in addition to us:

Sham from Sham's Grog n Blog (
Amityville Mike from Society of Torch, Pole and Rope(
Graham from Critical Ankle Bites (
Dave from (

Contest Rules
1. Participants create a one page dungeon using the template found here. For a contest entry example see here.

2. The dungeon must have the following features:

Name of Dungeon
Dungeon Key (in an edition-neutral form: Description of monsters, Treasure, Traps, etc... No game stats)
OPTIONAL (If you can fit them on one page...)

Wandering Monster or Random Event tables or a list of scripted "events" that can occur over the adventure

Additional descriptions that add to the dungeon, such as detailed description of trap or trick or unique feature.
3. Only one entry per participant. Entry may win grand prize or one of the runner up prizes, plus any number of alternative prize categories.

4. Participants are allowed to modify the template, provided it remains a one-page entry.

5. Submission must be emailed in PDF, Word or Open Office format at the following address:

6. Submitting a dungeon to the contest releases it under the Creative Common Share-alike license (US 2008) with credit to the contest participant.

7. Contest closes on May 14th 2009 at Midnight.

The prizes (oh yes, the prizes!)

Grand Prize
Patron membership of Open Design
Quarterly membership of Dungeon a Day
Fantasy Grounds II Licence
1 year membership to Obsidian Portal
50$ Gift Certificate for PDFs

Grand Prize Runner-Up: Old School Dungeon Design
Bundle of Necromancer games product
Bundle of Brave Halfling Production products
Otherworld Miniatures Demon Idol Miniature
Bundles of Fight On and Knockspell issues
Bits of Darkness Bundle
6 month membership Obsidian Portal

Grand Prize Runner-Up: New Edition Dungeon Design
WotC's Dungeon Delve
Fantasy Grounds II License
Quarterly membership to DungeonADay
6 month membership Obsidian Portal

To divide among other Categories
Kobold's Guide to Game Design
Bundle of Brave Halfling Production products
Bundle of Knockspell and City Encounter PDFs
Bundle of Fight On Magazine (issues 1-4)
Bits of Darkness Bundle
Deck O'Names Set
WotC's Adventures
Otherworld Miniatures - Pig Faced Orcs (Or Box of Minis)
Goodman Games Random Esoteric Creature Generator

Our sponsors!
These prizes have been generously donated by our sponsors - they really are excited about this contest and we hope you are just as excited about their support. Please be sure to show them your support as well.

Brave Halfing Publishings
Fight On Magazine
Goodman Games
Malhavoc Press
Mythmere Games
Necromancer Games
Obsidian Portal
Open Designs
Otherworld Miniatures
Tabletop Adventure

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen those pencils, get out those dungeon mapping tools, grab some graph paper and your favorite beverage and show us what you can do... on ONE PAGE!

If you have any questions about the contest, please feel free to contact either of us: Phil ( and/or Michael (

Good luck... if YOU DARE!

Amityville Mike's Announcement
Chgowiz's Announcement
Chatty's Announcement

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shameless Self Link

I wrote this five months ago and in the wake of Dave Arneson's passing I'm going to copy and paste it below.

What If?

Remember that old Marvel Comics series? No? That’s OK. I’m playing it today anyway here at Ye Auld Grog and Blog. What If…Dave Arneson, rather than Gary Gygax, had wrested control of D&D? What If, by some strange twist of fate, Gary had returned to the insurance business, and left the direction of D&D to Blackmoor’s creator, Dave Arneson?

Less prose and more punch

Less realism and more free wheelin’

Less medieval and more alien invasion

Less tables and more what the f**k just happened

Less concern about standardized tournament rules and more kung-fu theatre

Less D&D is fantasy, and more D&D is anything you can imagine…D&D is a concept; not a place or time in history or mythology

I love me some Gygax ‘purple prose’ as James M calls it. On the other hand, I wonder…What If?

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, April 9, 2009

R.I.P. Dave

I just learned that Dave Arneson passed away a little after 11 PM on Tuesday the 7th. God Bless his family and friends. Dave will be missed, but he does leave behind works that I shall continue to cherish for many years. Rest In Peace, Dave.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: April Fools' Edition

Every Wednesday, I’ll roll on the table below, and then on the indicated Whimsey Table, and share the exact wording found in my very crude often ridiculous 25 year old handwritten notes from the early 80’s.

Random Whimsey Determination Table (2d6)

2-4 Basic Whimsey Chart (d00)
5-7 New Whimsey Chart (d00)
8-10 Nyark Ripplesnap’s Whimsey Channel (d00)
11 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #1 (d20)
12 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2 (d20)

Today’s Roll: In observation of April Fools' Day, I'm going to transcribe one of the more ludicrous examples my early 80's zany young teen creativity. As with this entire series, I often cringe when I copy those original notes. It is against my better judgment to reveal such silliness from a bygone era. But here goes.

"The target goes under a strange transformation, his hands become duck feet, his feet become snapping crocodile heads, his butt becomes a fat man's face, his eyes are attached to springs, his lips turn black, in his mouth is a mechanical set of chattering teeth, his nose turns into a bright red blinking light bulb, a loudspeaker appears on his head, and all of his items become Lawfully Good aligned. Then, the crocodiles, the man, and the loudspeaker begin shouting out: "Orcus, Demogorgon, Hastur, Cthulhu, Arioch, Xiombarg!" They continue in that manner until someone appears, then they shout "I want to have your Baby!" Then the target is instantly teleported to safety, where the process happens again, but this time, instead of saying all the names, he only says the one of which appeared. If he appears again, they will shout out the afflicted's true name, and then the insult, and then teleport to safety, this time the target returns to normal, all except for his nose."

I'm fairly sure this whimsey was never rolled in play. It's the 20 result from Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2. It was the last whimsey I wrote way back when. It definitely needs to be filed in the WTF Where You Thinking category. Ah well, luckily not everything I wrote back then has become useless.

With that I will prematurely end the current Whimsical Wednesday series approach and begin constructing a new 20 or more result Whimsey Table for use in my modern games. Future Whimsical Wednesdays will feature these until the final table may be presented.

Have a Whimsical Wednesday!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sham's Proposal: A Major Announcement

This past October, on a whim, I decided to write a letter to the offices of Wizards of the Coast (WotC) in regard to their plans for Dungeons & Dragons as published in 1974 by the now defunct Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). Specifically, the first boxed volumes better known as the Little Brown Books (LBB). The publication which is known 'round these parts as OD&D.

My motivation for this initial contact was to encourage WotC to release a 35th Anniversary Edition of White Box D&D that so many fans of the game never really got to experience, let alone see in printed form. If WotC had never been so generous to make these volumes available in PDF to begin with, I doubt I would have ever become so driven. As longtime readers know, I became enamoured with OD&D a little over a year ago thanks to my rediscovery of those innocent little booklets from 1974.

My initial plan was to gather a petition of sorts, a letter with the signatures of many devoted fans who would hopefully be able to convince WotC of the viability of such a release. But where to address such a letter? I began with a fairly generic correspondence to WotC offices in Renton, WA which included my name and email address in an effort to find out exactly how to go about such an inquiry.

I was convinced, at the time, that a slick, fancy reproduction of the White Box, along with some intelligent marketing efforts, would ensure WotC would get a return for their investment. Afterall, there was nothing to write except for an advertising strategy. It seemed fairly straightforward. Design a professional package, call it the "Collector's 35th Anniversary Boxed Set", have some luminary write up a brief introduction and dedication, and watch the boxes sell around the world.

Sometimes you just have to test the waters. Well, much to my surprise, someone in WotC's Sales & Marketing Division actually recognized my name. That my initial inquiry wasn't simply put into the shredder without so much as a "Thanks but No Thanks" form letter is a miracle in and of itself. Sidd Finch was the first to contact me via email, relating to me the fact that he had personally placed my idea in the agenda list for an upcoming D&D Strategic Marketing Meeting. Sidd even addressed me as Sham in the email. "Keep this under wraps for now!" was the last line of that email.

While I was mildly pleased that my little blog here had reached out as far as Renton, WA, I assumed at this point that this was no more than a friendly gesture put forth to appease a fan of D&D whose name had been recognized by the individual finding my letter on his desk one fateful Monday morning.

I had nearly forgotten about the so-called D&D Strategic Marketing Meeting, that is until I received another email (I guess WotC is striving to go green) from Mr. Finch. I was informed that I was being forwarded an electronic Non-Disclosure Agreement and that once signed I would be informed of the results of said agenda topic in that meeting (Don't worry, as of yesterday at 5 PM Pacific Time, I am no longer bound by that NDA). My little idea probably fell flat on the proverbial meeting table, but at least Sidd was willing to share the results with me.

Validating the electronic legalease was undertaken forthwith by yours truly. Days passed, turning into weeks, and it was all I could do to not send Mr. Finch another email. But I waited patiently. Good things and all that, I kept telling myself. It took an agonizingly long 10 weeks, but I finally received a somewhat cryptic email from Sidd.

"Things have hit a snag. Some people that should have kept their noses out of the idea got involved. As of right now the project is still in the Think Tank, being delayed by two factions, the "By The Book Guys" and the "This Isn't WotC Material Guys". I'll keep you posted. Your idea grew some legs, but might die before it gets any farther."

I thought long and hard about this. You mean some of them are actually considering this? Even a faint glimmer of hope was all I needed. Yet I was still under the NDA. Taking a few bold steps, and talking out of my ass, I sent another letter, this time addressed to Sidd's boss, Olaf Priol, Senior Director of Sales & Marketing. What the hell, I thought. Perhaps a slight nudge would push this thing out of the WotC Think Tank and into drafting stages.

I related to Olaf Priol that not only would I be able to have an introduction and dedication professionally written, but I could, through various contacts, amass enough gratis labor from the internet fanbase to formulate a sound advertising and distribution network for the 35th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The catch would of course be that I would require a lifting of that NDA I had signed in regard to such a publication.

Fast forward to March 18th. Apparently my suggestion was just the kind of nudge I had been hoping for. Mr. Priol informed me that the only solution was to hand this project over to capable individuals outside of the Renton, WA corporate offices. WotC was willing to budget an initial investment of $15,000.00 towards this 35th anniversary box. Sales would determine whether the box would become a single printing, or be included in their D&D line for the months of June through December 2009. The NDA I signed was to be lifted on March 31st at 5 PM Pacific Time. All I had to do was sign another electronic document which bound me to follow the WotC copyrights and NOT CHANGE A THING in regard to original D&D.

I am currently recruiting professionals from around the internet to help with advertising, writing an introduction, designing a new box, printing and then distributing these facsimile copies of the White Box under the contractor label which has been formed with the signing of the copyright and hold harmless legal document. The temporary subcontractor division beholden to WotC, named Sham's Campaign (or Sham's Cam for short) will see to the spending of the initial 15K investment to get this thing to a draft state by the April 30th deadline. WotC will then step in to "dress things up" as Olaf puts it. This entails assigning the box a product code, bar code, and holding the rights to last minute artistic box changes.

Sham's Cam is then charged with investing its own capital to see the box printed and distributed. WotC is demanding exactly $7.56 from the sale of each box. I'm not sure how they came up with that figure, but who cares at this point. I've done some initial leg work, and I think the box will be a bit pricey, but it just might be doable with the right number of D&D fan volunteers.

I'll need professionals who can work quickly with very little direction, and are willing to invest their own money in Sham's Cam. This seed money will cover costs which surpass the WotC investment of $15K, and will likely be needed for such things as contracting a printing company capable of producing boxes and booklets, as well as distribution costs. DO NOT send money without first contacting me via email, as Sham's Cam will have a seperate temporary Bahamian off shore bank account set up this week. If the initial limited print run of 500 boxes sells before July 15th, WotC will step in and add more limited runs to carry the project through 2009.

There's one other caveat. We have to name the publication D&D for Dummies.

Oh well, you can't have everything.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee