Someday We’ll Be Mindflayers

I’ve been thinking about the recent “revelations” that Facebook, Google, and every site monitors your information. It’s not a surprise, I mean, we gave it to them. I’m not complaining, I’m just musing.

Facebook monitors everything that gets sent on Facebook Messenger. I feel bad for whoever’s job it is to sift through the millions of dick pics.

Google: You know things about me that I don’t even know. You might be my soul mate.

And someday we’ll be Mindflayers.

To the confused, let me explain. Mindflayers  (or Illithids) are a species of monster in D&D. They have squid heads and tentacle mouths, incredible psychic powers, and are connected through the Hive Mind. They’re also one of the evilest and most powerful species in the game. They stun you with their psychic blasts and then suck out your brain with their tentacle mouths. Or they destroy your mind and make you a slave, massaging the Hive Mind for the rest of your life (See R.A. Salvatore’s “Exile” for Drizzt Do’Urden fondling a giant brain). They can even travel through space in special ships. Want to make your players shit themselves? Throw some Illithids at them. Even the Drow give them a wide berth.

mind flayer

We already have the Hive Mind. It’s called the Internet. It gives us access to all the knowledge, information, and communication we need (and some we don’t). We have psychic powers. It’s called Social Media. We can communicate from across the world while sitting on our toilets. And we’re only becoming more connected. The Hive Mind knows all of our shit. It has our dick pics. It knows our desires. It gives us what we need, and we give it our devotion.

Someday we’ll be truly connected. The question is how much of ourselves do we lose in the process?

Then again, the Illithids don’t seem to mind. Pass the brains.

Psst…Hey…Check out my historical fantasy, The Watchmage of Old New York. It’s only 99 cents for another week, and available in paperback too! It’s not like anything you’ve ever read…well…it had words and pages, so a little like things you’ve read. But it’s a time period that few books have tackled, and it’s a damn good story, with a 4.8 star rating on Amazon. Also, there are flying dogs, rabbis with terrible jokes, and dangerous bunnymen. None of those are that important to the plot, but they’re fun.

Watchmage black

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Cats of D&D

There’s a phenomenon going around that I can’t get enough of. It’s called “Cats of D&D” and it’s…well…you can figure it out. Kittehs, D&D references, and pretty much everything I could hope for. Here are some of my favorites:

gif dnd cat paladin

This is so fake. No cat is Lawful Good

Continue reading

My Geekiness Runneth Over

Woot! D&D AND WWE’s TLC (and S) today and tonight!

Also, if you didn’t see NXT’s [R]Evolution last week, you missed the best ppv of the year. I don’t want to give anything away, but it started with Kevin Owens (Steen), climaxed with Neville and Sami Zayn, and ended with the best heel turn since Shawn Michaels kicked Marty Jannetty through a plate glass window.

I’ll leave you with this ear worm. OLE!

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

5 Low Level D&D Monsters Made Deadly

I love Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old (I’m 39 right now), and hopefully I’ll play until I die (or drop to negs). D&D has been a major influence on my writing. Not that I rip them off, but the skills I learned helped with world building, narrative flow, and especially character development.

I enjoy being a PC more than a DM, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some excellent DMs over the years. That said, I love coming up with great scenarios for combat. As one of my DMs said,”it is all about the setting and the dynamic of the landscape.” I agree, but it’s also about customizing monsters (in logical ways) to make them unique and deadly.

In this post, I took some low level monsters–the kind a party would face at 1st to 3rd level–and souped them up. With these changes, they can be deadly to any size party of much higher level. Enjoy.

(some contributions are borrowed from gamer friends John B and Osvaldo O.)

RUN AWAY!!!

1) Kobolds. Bah, Kobolds are basically xp machines for low level parties. 4 HP, a mediocre AC, reduced damage, there’s not much to intimidate the PCs here. Just kill the rat-dogs and loot the bodies.

Answer: Rogue Levels. Kobolds have two distinct advantages: numbers and dexterity. If you put them to use, they become very deadly. Have them surround the PCs, two kobolds can fit in one 5ft box, so you can get up to 16 (!) in there. Give a few of them a rogue level or even two. They now have Sneak Attack, and since a surrounded PC would be flanked, they always get that damage bonus. Their numbers will make casting difficult (taking out area-affect spells), and 2nd level rogues get Evasion. Imagine the look on players faces when they’re facing down a pack of Kobolds that can cause 11 points of damage with one hit. Smile and laugh.

For an added laugh, have the encounter in the dark, where the Kobold’s Darkvision gives them a big advantage. When PCs fight, they almost always set down the lantern. Have a Kobold kick it over. PCs also drop their packs in a fight. Have a few Kobolds steal the packs and retreat for even more hilarity. Even if they kill all the Kobolds, they still have to find the thieves that took their stuff.

gif dnd cat paladin

2) Wild Dogs or Wolves: Dogs and Wolves aren’t monsters, but they’re a fairly common encounter at low level. They don’t have many HP, and they don’t do extraordinary amounts of damage. Wolves are more difficult, but nothing a low level party can’t handle.

Answer: Group Tactics and Trip. Both species are pack animals, and this is how they fight in the wild. Wolves already get Trip, but give it to the dogs too. Add Group Tactics (BAB +1 for everyone with GT fighting the same enemy, up to +3) to Trip and they will pull your PCs to the ground and have their way with them (not like that). Wolf pack tactics are a beautiful thing.

Note: Some party members might have qualms about killing animals. Attack them last, eat them first.

Gives Me XP

3) Goblins: Goblins are the whipping boy of the D&D world. They pick fights with every race, and almost always lose. Only their prolific breeding keeps them around. Despite this, Goblins have a wicked, crafty intelligence and love traps and ambushes. A good DM uses all of this.

Answer: A Bard. Bards are so versatile, they’re perfect for any trap. Besides a variety of spells that can confuse or disable PCs (Daze, Flare, Sleep, Cause Fear, Simple Illusions, etc) they have the excellent Inspire Courage song. There’s no set amount of creatures this can affect. It doesn’t matter if they are 5 or 50, as long as they can hear the singer, they get a +1 to saves, attacks, and damage. This counts for missile weapons too. As with the Kobolds, you can have them fight in the dark, though I prefer missile attacks from concealment like trees or bushes. Add some wolf riders to keep the PCs off the missilers, and you have a killer encounter.

One tip, have all the goblins sing, and dress the Bard the same as the others. This way, the PCs can’t target the Bard specifically.


Apparently Jareth the Goblin King has some Bard levels.

4) Zombies. Everyone loves fighting Zombies. They have a good amount of hit points and damage resistance, but they’re slow and have a poor BAB. Zombies can be trouble for a party without a Cleric, but a Turn Undead ability usually takes care of them.

Answer: Water. I never understood the Slam or Weapon attacks for a zombie. I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies and the attack is always the same: grab and bite. A variation of this would be “grab and drown.”

The undead don’t need to breathe, but PCs do. Have the zombies pull them to a watery doom. Use enough water to drown a person, but not so much that the zombies can’t reach the PCs from the water’s bottom. A shallow pond or swamp works well.

From a cinematic POV, imagine swimming across a darkened lake, only to have corpse-like hands grab you from beneath and pull you under. Scary stuff, right?

As for using Turn Undead, it’s up to the DM. Do you have to see the creatures to turn them, and can you do so without being able to speak? A good grapple might keep a PC from reaching their holy symbol too. We may be 70% water, but it’s better on the inside than out.

I like playing a cleric sometimes.

5) Lizardfolk. I am partial to lizardfolk, probably because I’ve been playing one as a PC for the past 3 years (maybe 4). Lizzies are tough, but their lack of tactics in the wild limit the challenge toward PCs. From the D&D wiki: Lizardfolk fight as unorganized individuals. They prefer frontal assaults and massed rushes, sometimes trying to force foes into the water, where the lizardfolk have an advantage.

The obvious answer would be to give more sophisticated tactics (like the zombie drowning scenario from above), but I drew from real-world culture for a different solution.

Answer: Poisoned Weapons. Lizardfolk are swamp dwellers and there are plenty of poisonous animals/plants in the swamp. There’s no reason why they can’t harvest and use poisons. Human cultures have been doing it for thousands of years.

Lizardfolk could put the poison on javelins or darts, or even (and this would be pretty awesome) their claws. Lizardfolk get the very awesome claw, claw, bite multi-attack. If it’s a poison they have natural immunity too (and I imagine there to be several poisons like this) they can dip their claws in the swampy goodness. Given the many different types of poisons, the possibilities are endless. Personally, I would use paralyzing or strength-sapping poison and then have the lizardfolk drown them in the swamp or eat them alive. I’m a twisted bastard.

So there you go, five scrub monsters turned into PC killers. Use with caution, challenging a party is fun, causing a Total Party Kill is not.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. I also suggest picking up my latest novel The Watchmage of Old New York. Set in 1855 Manhattan, it’s a blend of vivid history, in-depth magic, gumshoe mystery and fairy-tale fantasy. It’s based on the original serial at Jukepop Serials, where it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

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You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so people seem to like it. 

SoS Practice Ad 2 

Geekin it Up

It’s time for my bi-weekly DnD game. Last time we had a major battle, this time we deal with all the fall out. It’s gonna be bad.

The thing that I like best about this campaign is that the players have to face responsibility for our actions. We’ve already become wanted in our home country. it doesn’t matter if the people we fight are bad, they’re still people and the law protects them too.

Too many games are hack and slash with no worries or complexity. Our game is the opposite.

Time to bust out my dice. TTYL

Better Writing Through D&D

Dungeons & Dragons turned 40 this year. Since its beginnings, over 20 million people have rolled a 20-sided die and failed their damn Saving Throw. I’m not sure if D&D was the first RPG, but it’s certainly the best known and most popular. It survived horrible mismanagement and many different editions (let’s never mention 4th Edition i.e. tabletop WoW), but it still remains my favorite hobby and the primary influence on my writing skills.

Do you find it weird that I credit D&D for helping me write well? Then you’ve never played.

Still Life With RPGs

It’s hard to remember exactly where I was first exposed to D&D. I suspect that it was the old cartoon, which holds up surprisingly well today. It might have been the board game Dungeon, which was so much fun. I wish I still had it.

I do remember the first time I played. It was 4th grade. I recently moved from the Bronx to Rockland County, a suburb of New York City. I was without friends and completely out of my element. I broke my collarbone just before school started, so while everyone else was at recess, I had to sit with the teachers. It was not a good way to make friends.

A kid named Marc was just as unpopular as me, but he has this really cool game. You got to make up a character and go on adventures and stuff. It was all in your imagination, and it was fun. I was instantly hooked.

And we need more Mountain Dew!!!

In high school, I found more gamers, and people got worried. I went to a special school for the “bad kids” and there were already rumors about how D&D made you worship the devil (assholes like Jack Chick didn’t help). I met a crazy bastard named Kevin there, and he got me back into the game. We used to play at lunch until the school banned the game. Fucking bullshit!

btw: Kevin is still a crazy bastard, but I love him like a brother. You better read this fucking article, man!

In college, I found the group that I still play with today. The game became less about smashing shit and more about character development. The world we play in, Aquerra, a creation of my (often referenced) friend Osvaldo, was rich in detail and complexity and like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even better, every character we created and adventure we went on added layers of detail to the already laden world. Aquerra is also where the term Watchmage comes from, though my version and Osvaldo’s have little in common.

Not only have these gamers become my closest friends, they are also very talented roleplayers and world builders. I consider them my mentors as I developed my own writing skills.

D&D: Writing Class With Mountain Dew

Every writer should play roleplaying games.  I don’t mean video games like WoW or Skyrim, I mean the good, uncut stuff: Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, Champions…but mostly D&D.

I’m not the only writer that feels that way. Jon Favreau also credits D&D for honing his skills, and several creative types like George RR Martin, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen Colbert and Robin Williams were also players.

Role playing games teach you how to build a character the only true way: by becoming him. If you want to write a convincing character, you have to climb into his skin. Learn to think like him, act like him. Have him interact with other characters, before you actually start your story. You have to treat him like a real person. Only then will you know his heart.

DMing will make you a master world builder. For RPGs, you have to build a world for your PCs and NPCs to live in. If you can building a massive campaign setting for a game, you can build one for a story.

Running adventures teaches you about plot, pacing, and when to increase or decrease tension (an article from me about pacing is coming next week). With experience you learn when to ratchet up the drama, and when to ease up. You learn plot points, and if you really analyze it, you learn the Hero’s Journey.

Embrace Your Inner (and Outer) Geek

When I was young, playing D&D made you an outcast. I already had serious issues with bullies (ironic since I was so much bigger than everyone), so I hid my hobby. I played in basements with other outcasts like me. We were united in our game, and united in our persecution. But god forbid someone found out.

We’re in a geek renaissance right now, and it’s a beautiful thing. People love comics and scifi/fantasy. You don’t have to be embarrassed of your Star Wars toy collection anymore. Yet for some reason, D&D still gets mocked.

The horror…the horror…

Enough of this! OUT OF THE BASEMENTS AND INTO THE STREETS!

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t equate this to the gay rights movement, but until D&D is as accepted as other geek hobbies, no geek is free.

I think we need a sponsor…maybe Mountain Dew.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!