Thursday, March 28, 2024

When The Student Is Ready....

This afternoon's blog post prompted DM Escritoire to make the following comment:
I love it when one of the good guys goes off. Alexis was similarly inclined earlier this week.
Which, of course sent me over to the good Mr. Smolensk's blog to catch up on the last few posts I've missed (busy life...same old, same old). Here's what I read:
This is why I haven't written of late. Not because this shit is just recently out here, but because I've reached a point where the thing that I love, the thing that I have a passion for, has become the only thing for which the internet is a complete waste of my time. I don't know, maybe there are home renovators in the world who can no longer watch home renovation videos, or read home renovation books. Maybe there are knitting fanatics who would rather cut their throats before reading one more "Knitworld" magazine or watch one more amateur drop a stitch. Maybe that's how it is for other people. I don't know. I've done an awful lot of cooking. I'm not the greatest cook in the world; I don't think I'm the greatest DM either. Then again, I can watch a cooking video. I can still enjoy watching someone cut a watermelon into odd shapes. 

But I cannot watch another fucking video about D&D. Of any kind. I can't listen to anybody for more than about 20 seconds. I just want to scream.
There is more...much more. But mainly Alexis is simply giving voice to frustration...a frustration that I think (if I grok what he's writing) that I share. It is the same frustration that led me to pick up that stupid book in the game store Wednesday...the book of idiotic essays that set my teeth on edge and made me decide to write my own frigging "How To" book.

It's the frustration of wanting more knowledge about a thing (in this case, Dungeons & Dragons) and searching in vain for anything...any all. And finding nothing. Just...nothing. 

Because I've reached a point now,  in my life, in my calling (and please let me be clear: it is a Calling, I have accepted this, it is my calling to be a Dungeon Master, for whatever reason) where I know more about this game than all but a handful of people on this planet. A bold statement, an arrogant statement...but I'm pretty fucking convinced it's accurate. 

And I'm not even a great DM! When Alexis wrote:
I'm not the greatest cook in the world; I don't think I'm the greatest DM either.
It nearly echoed my planned introduction for the guide book:
"I do not profess to be a great DM; I simply admit to being a competent DM."
Competent. That's it. That's all I am. Google define's the word as:

"having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully"

That's it. I'm a competent Dungeon Master. I won't even profess expertise in other RPGs. Just D&D.

With regard to competence, I am not alone. There are a LOT of competent DMs out there...though probably not nearly as many as there should be...and I am one of them. And I am proud of that.

But when I say that my knowledge of this game exceeds that of all but a few people on this planet, I'm not talking about mere competence in the doing of something. I am a seeker: a seeker of knowledge, a seeker of more than the simple understanding of "how to be a DM." I want to know as much about this game as I can...I am constantly searching for new information, new understanding, new "stuff" to fill in the gaps and cracks of my comprehension.

And...there's just not that much out there. Not much that I haven't already pursued, purloined, and integrated. 

That's what I'm running up against; that's my frustration that (I think) matches, at least in part, something like what Alexis expresses. There's nothing more (or very, very little). I am a thirsty man unable to slake his parched throat...because my cup is already full.

It is time for me to stop searching for knowledge. I already have enough knowledge.

NOW, all that's left is to teach, to coach, to share what I know. Which I've already been doing...just informally. That's...small change. Small stakes. Not putting myself out there. Not submitting myself to true judgment and ridicule. 

To put it another way:

The apprentice is learning competence.
The journeyman has demonstrated competence.
The master can teach competence.

I have not yet (so far as I'm aware) taught ANYONE how to be a competent Dungeon Master. Not even my own children. I am my own estimation...a "master" DM; only a journeyman. Only a competent one. Which is still pretty groovy...I get to run solid D&D!...but I am Called to do more.

So silly. It's just a game. 

But what a game!

In other news: the Seattle Mariners dropped their opening day game to a TERRIBLE Boston Red Sox team tonight, 6-4, going 8 for 34 and drawing only one walk. Garbage. Per my usual tradition of the last couple years, I will refuse to wear any M's gear until they are above .500...maybe by Easter Sunday? We'll just have to see.

F***ing Idiots

Started a post on Monday that was fairly wistful. Started a post on Wednesday that was more nostalgic. Started a post this morning that was full of irritation and ranting...real piss and vinegar stuff, calling out people, naming names, etc.

I ain't posting any of that. Heck, I ain't even going to give you summaries.

Here what I'll say instead:

Let's for the moment assume that you wanted to read a book explaining the path to being a great Dungeon Master. Because (let's say) you really like Dungeons & Dragons, AND you're the person (for whatever reason) that ends up in the Captain's Chair, more often than not. AND you've decided that, hey, maybe I could use some notes or insight or gosh darn instruction that might help polish my game. A handbook of practical information, untethered from considerations of rules and mechanics (as one finds in the DMG) yet structurally sound, applicable, and good for reading/reference. Something containing a paradigm that makes use of the BEST information found on various blogs BUT CONDENSED, in a way that meandering bloggers just can't seem to get going. Something with a table of contents, perhaps.

Let's say, as a thought exercise, that you wanted that. And let's say there WAS such a book, available in paperback and audio and ebook format...a platinum best-seller on DTRPG with a (near) 5-star rating and a ton of positive reviews and accolades. And let's say you bought it and opened it up to that table of contents...a table of contents that featured multiple authors giving essays on various aspects of running the game. Would you hope and expect to see chapters with these titles (in this order):

"Making Players Shine"
"Creating a Fun and Inclusive Game For All"
"GMing for Kids"
"Giving Initiative: Engaging Shy Players"
"The People At The Table"
"Advice for New GMs"
"Tips for Long-Time Gamemasters"
"Planning Your Campaign in Four Stages"
"Character Love Interests"
"Gamemastering on the Fly"
"One-Shot Adventures"
"Winning Player Investment"
"Knowing the Rules vs. Mastering the Game"
"The Art of Theatrical Gaming"
"Laughter, Cellphones, and Distractions from Serious Gaming"
"Roll With It! What to Do When It Doesn't All Go As Planned"
"Feasts and Famines: Handling Large Groups or Just One Player"
"Ditching the Miniatures: Playing A Smoother RPG"
"Getting Things Going Again"
"Dealing with a TPK: How to Save Your Players, Your Campaign, and Your Reputation"
"Moving the Perspective"

Really? This is going to show me how to be a Dungeon Master? 

With tax, the price of the book runs a bit under $22...a little more than $1 per essay. That wouldn't be an unreasonable price...if any of these essays looked worth reading, I suppose, if I'm bring perfectly honest, I do have some curiosity about one or two of these...what could a four page essay tell me about handling "large groups or just one player," for example, that couldn't be said in four sentences? Hold on, let me give it a try:
While D&D can be played with as few players as one (or even none, should a DM want to use the random dungeon generators, wandering encounters, and treasure tables to play an abridged "solo" game), the game functions best with a number of players, working in cooperation. Challenges will need to be adjusted based on the player number: I've found six to eight player characters to be optimal, and groups with fewer players benefit from a number of NPC companions that can fill the ranks to this number. Over the long term, campaigns can sustain play from a huge number of players, but practically speaking, it is difficult for a DM to manage a table with more than nine players at a time, slowing play substantially and diluting the play experience for all. If you have such large groups, it is best to run multiple sessions of smaller parties, rather than huge groups at once.
That's not bad for a first pass. I's about all that needs to be said, really (perhaps a footnote regarding large campaigns with multiple DMs).

But...whatever. Curiosity is about the only reason I could see myself spending money on this thing, because none of this looks like solid, practical information. In fact, much of it looks incredibly counter-productive and terrible advice; I could easily see individuals incorporating this nonsense into their DMing producing games that are far worse than what it would have been without these "tips."

Here's an excerpt from the first chapter (I'll remove some of the excess padded word count that adds little-to-nothing):
"...we're there to make the players shine and the world come to life, and the nice thing about doing so is that both activities feed into each other. The more engaging the world is, the more players feel encouraged to get involved and make their characters shine. The more the PCs shine, the more engaging the world becomes.

"GMs can make players shine by giving them as many chances as possible to succeed and look cool while they do it. That's it! ...

"Thinking of GMing as a service job helps make the game as great as possible for all of the players. If your focus as a GM is on your players and their awesomeness, and you are constantly engaged in making "shine moments" happen whenever they can, then you create a positive feedback loop: Players work to do cool things with their characters, you make the world react in a cool way to what they do, the whole table celebrates the cool moment as it's happening, and the loop continues. Players get more invested in the game, the world, and the story, and contributing more great ideas and story grist as a result. Everybody wins!"
Sure. Dance monkey, dance. Feed the narcissism at your table. 

The chapter continues with telling the DM to celebrate good dice rolls when they occur, to use elaborate descriptions of how awesome a player succeeded at their skill check or attack roll, so that the player can feel special and shiny. This is shitty, shitty advice. Just what, do you think, you're communicating? Hey, anyone remember Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey? Here's a comparable quote:

Children need encouragement. 
If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess.
That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.

Yay. You picked up a 20-sided die and rolled a high number! Let's celebrate! You're really good at rolling dice! Glad to have you on the team!

Now, hold up a sec. Probably there are DMs out there who could benefit from some advice on managing players at the table: understanding the difference between DMing kids and adults, or extroverted individuals and introverted, and the general nuts-and-bolts of acting as a facilitator/referee for group dynamics at the table. Sure. But that's ONE CHAPTER, and (for my money) probably not a terribly large chapter. The fact is, being able to manage group dynamics effectively is DMing 101, and if you need a whole lot of training on that, you're probably NOT cut out to be a DM.  Sorry.

Tuesday, I had lunch with Rob, my oldest friend (we've known each other since preschool). It's been roughly fifteen years since the last time we got together; a lot has changed for the both of us in that time. For one thing, he's playing D&D now and is, in fact, acting as the Dungeon Master for his group. This despite never having much interest in the game in the past (to be clear, we played other Classic Traveller...and hex-n-chit war games. D&D was just never his thing). Amazing, quite frankly...never thought I'd see the day. Gave us PLENTY to talk about, even after catching up on all the fifteen years of history we'd missed.

He is, of course, playing 5E "but only because that's the version my game group wants to play." Never heard that before. He ended up becoming the Dungeon Master after the first session and "the DM decided she really preferred to be a player and not a DM." He says he enjoys the role mainly because it has stopped him from having to answer the question 'what do you want to do?' He'd much rather react (dance monkey!) to the players than have to generate his own proactive action. 

[comes from playing a directionless game with no focused objectives, I suppose]

Rob is VERY new to D&D...he doesn't know anything about 2nd or 3rd or 4th edition D&D, for example, though he has heard of Matt Mercer (*sigh*). He found my perspective on the"intriguing," to say the least; especially what the game is, what it does well, and how best to use it. "I might have to invite myself to one of your games," he said. Yeah, probably, should. 

It's too bad he lives in Everett. 

See, Rob is now the ripe old age of 49 and a half...some of the joy of Dungeons & Dragons. "Some" being the operative word, because there's also's like he can see the potential, but just can't grasp it. Like he sees there's an answer, but he doesn't know the right question. He knows people are having fun with the game, but he's not quite sure he is having fun...or (perhaps) not quite sure he's having the kind of fun that he wants to have. Or feels he could have. Or even knows what it would look like to play enjoyable D&D.

Is "fun" on the chapter list for the aforementioned 'gamemaster guide?' Hmm, let's see:  "Creating a Fun And Inclusive Game For All" would seem to suggest something about "fun," including "fun for the DM" (I mean, I'm just inferring that from the "For All" part of the chapter title). Hmmmm...reading through the chapter, the answer would be "no;" it's just about understanding and recognizing issues of diversity and privilege and being understanding of people's feelings, maybe using an "x-card," setting boundaries, etc.

Um. Okay. I guess that's good advice to being a better human being, but it's not really giving me information specific or pertinent to running Dungeons & Dragons. Again: small chapter on how to run a table: good. Maybe a couple sentences about not being an asshole or allowing people at your table to be assholes to each other. But this is really remedial shit, and if you need a six page tutorial on the subject, you've probably got bigger fish to fry, life-wise.


Anything about running a long-term campaign or the benefits thereof? No. Anything about commitment to world building and the mindset necessary for engagement? No. Anything about studying real world history, politics, sociology, mythology for the betterment of your campaign world? No. How about the absolute importance of knowing and understanding the rule system being used, in order to provide the players with consistency and a referee that they can trust? No, in fact we get gems like this instead:
"Understanding when to strictly apply rules instead of maintaining game fluidity is one of the true marks distinguishing the novice GM from the master GM...the GM has to learn how to balance the impacts of ruling on the fly to ensure that the game continues without making it "too easy" as well as ensuring that the carefully-crafted player character abilities are not swept away and ignored.

"Game play can be improved in both the short term (flow) and long improvised decisions. To master the game, you, the GM need to be agile enough to decide when to just make a decision rather than go with the rules or rulebook...

"...What is important is that you spend game time actually playing, and not consulting rulebooks every 15 minutes. True mastery of tabletop roleplaying means that a GM has control of the table...this, in my humble opinion, is best accomplished by maintaining game flow and progress.

"One of the most definitive differences between modern games (such as Pathfinder and 5th edition) and the old style games (like OSR games) is that in the former, rules and not pure rulings govern play."
What in the actual F is this guy talking about? Are you f**ing kidding me? You know, I happen to play an "old style game;" it's called first edition AD&D. "Pure rulings?" Are you a f**ing idiot?

Yes. The answer is yes. He is a fucking idiot.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I said at the beginning of this post that I was NOT going to rant. But that was before I started digging into this thing, this boondoggle of an "advice" book. It is full of shit. Just dreck. Reading it will make any novice DM stupider and less competent or (at best) do ALMOST NOTHING to improve their ability to run the Dungeons & Dragons game.

And I am angry. I am angry that there are smart, enthusiastic people out there who want to play this game, who want to RUN this game, who want to be Dungeon Masters, who are not getting the help they need. Who are instead given dreck like this. That and a thank you from WotC for buying their a product and a middle finger for those asking for some solid advice.

Yes, I'm angry. I'm angry at myself. I should have already written a book on how to run this fantastic, amazing game. A helpful, no-nonsense, non-padded book. Something that ANY novice DM...middle aged, like my buddy, or kids like my own...could benefit from. Man, I've wasted a bunch of my time. 

That's the next project. That's the new project. Everything else is getting back-burnered.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Adding Psionics

Another "Friday Funday" post...which is to say, random musings that folks might check out later this weekend as Fridays are (notoriously) slack for reading.

I was considering writing about my current "house rules" (because there are so few these days), and skimming my last post on the subject was struck by something that has NOT changed since I posted it; namely, that I haven't yet added psionics to my game. I have, more or less, gone back to "straight AD&D" I think it might be time (finally) to bite the bullet and just go ahead and do so.

Turns out I've written about psionics before, and reading back through these posts I see my thoughts on the topic haven't changed much since 2009. The main difference between then and now is that I was struggling to figure out a way to implement psionics into the B/X game system; now that I'm playing AD&D, the mechanics are already a part of the system.

So why haven't I implemented them?

Reflecting a bit on the question, I think the main reason has been a little intimidation (or laziness). I am already running AD&D very well, thank you, using the vast bulk of the Rules As Written. But adding psionics requires me becoming intimately familiar with a number of sub-systems that I have let fall by the wayside, left to gather dust for DECADES.  Jeez. I'd have to RE-READ (Heavens!) the Appendix A of the PHB, and familiarize myself with the psionics section of the DMG combat section, not to mention reviewing the psionic wandering encounters...and probably skimming the half dozen psionic monsters in the MM just to remember what I once knew.

Mm. That's not really all that much. I think this IS laziness on my part.

Of course, there's always the "fear" that psionics will "break" the game, even though I don't recall this ever having been the case. My own (vastly over-powered) character back in the day made LIBERAL use of his potent psionics...and still died more often than any other PC in the game. 

[yes, favorite characters still die in 1E games...sometimes MANY times. It's why it pays to have SOME friends who will do the work of reviving you]

Psionics (as others have pointed out) add "flavor" to the game...and complication...but they're not destructive, and they open new avenues of game play, adding richness and (possibly) depth. 

And it's not terribly difficult. I mean, we ran the game with psionics just fine back in the day, and we couldn't even drive then. Just a matter of re-familiarizing myself with rules I haven't used in (35!) years, that's all. And making all our new PCs check for psionic potential; hm, let's see:
  • H Paladin (I13, W15, Cr17): 2% chance
  • HE* Thief (I14, W12, Cr13): 0% chance
  • E Magic-User (I16, W14, Cr14): 0% chance (because he's an elf)
  • H Fighter** (I13, W16, Cr16): 1% chance
  • G Illusionist/Thief (I16, W13, Cr11): 0% chance (because he a gnome)
  • H Cleric (I14, W16, Cr 14): 1% chance
Those are pretty slim odds we'll see ANY psionic-wielders in our game at all. And, yet, I wouldn't put it past my players to roll a double-0 when checking (we have, after all, seen TWO characters with 18/00 strength since we started playing AD&D). 

Yeah, I'm kind of getting excited at the possibilities. Even though psionics DO add some extra "oomph" to a character, it just means they have A) extra survivability (always welcome at low levels), and B) some additional ways to approach challenges (one of the same reasons I like my house rules for magic-users). 

Yeah, time to get off my ass about psionics. Oo-oo...just the thought in implementing (re-implementing?) them has given me some ideas for my campaign! Now I'm getting excited!
; )

* I allow half-elves to gain psionics due to their partially human heritage (and we always played that way, back in the day). Yes, I still have ONE type of "half-human" left in my campaign (as noted before, my "half-orcs" are just orcs). This Friday fun post was almost a discussion on race in AD&D, because I have a lot of things I want to write/discuss on the subject, but I'll save that for another day.

** This is my son's "bard-in-training." Just wanted to note the funny bit: he's named the character "Landon Jr." after my old bard character. Very amusing. It'll be interesting to see if he inherited his "father's" psionic power.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Filling Holes

 Two more "capsule reviews" of NAP entries and then some comments (maybe):


A moderately good adventure. Highlights include a nice, sensible map with the illusion of verticality (rather than practical verticality) and clear, usable text with tight themes. It has received excellent reviews here, here, and here.

Written for levels 8th - 10th, this straightforward tomb includes a lot of undead monsters and appropriate traps for this level range (disintegration rays, 6d6 attrition, pop-up banshees, etc.). The adventure nerfs turning with a -2 penalty, but communicates this from the outset, which should be a clue to experienced PCs to stock up on barrels of holy water and protection from undead scrolls.

It's not bad, it's just not that spectacular. It's written for OSRIC, so perhaps that explains some of the oddities (like "hill giant skeletons" that are somehow more powerful than standard "monster zombies," or little inconsistencies with magic item values). I feel like a lot of this can be bypassed in a party with a 9th level magic-user and cleric, and maybe that's the point. There's some whimsical fantasy elements here that don't make a lot of sense (the iron golems, the giant king and his (human?) wife), but I know the standard line: "It's D&D, it doesn't have to make sense." I'm okay with letting some things slide.

Treasure is quite light for the level range. Because characters in this level range have the resources to power through standard dungeons, I'm inclined to halve the normal amount I'd expect for a 30 room adventure: call it 750,000 x.p. worth of treasure, for a six PC operation. Unfortunately, even if you acquire every last scrap and SELL all the magic items (some of which are quite nice: a cubic gate, a dwarf thrower hammer, a mace of disruption, etc.), you're going to net less than 400K...and retaining/using the magic items will mean taking home barely 150K. 

However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that MOST of the magic items are directly applicable to the circumventing the tomb's dangers: oil of elemental invulnerability, the aforementioned magic weapons (good against both undead AND giants), a scroll with spider climb, knock, and detect magic, stashes of holy water, etc. The dungeon is designed like a puzzle of moderate difficulty, where solving things in the correct order make it a lot easier than a straightforward "bashing;" but it feels like the scale is off a bit, and successful parties are going to walk away with a NUMBER of very powerful, very rare items.

This adventure is 'okay.' I can place it in a a small section of the Snake River canyon. Probably won't do the whole "golem smashes bridge thing" which is kind of silly given the PCs should have a method to climb (or fly!) up the cliff face and all this does is prevent the golems from getting to the tomb-robbers (also, a 2d6 damage fall is nothing to a party of 9th level characters). The -2 "defilement" penalty to turning attempts doesn't mean much when a 9th level cleric automatically destroys wights and turns ghasts (half the wandering monster table)...I might change how that functions. Maybe. 

DUST & STARS (Settembrini)

This is a tough one. It appears that it suffers from being translated from a previous (German) text. Having met Settembrini, I can attest that his command of English is excellent, but this needs a little editing for coherence.

I'll not prolong this one: it's not going to work for my campaign. There is a LOT of campaign-specific backstory to this one that simply won't function in my world. The author has re-skinned a lot of D&D's fantasy to function in a weird sci-fi fashion and while I appreciate that (I do that myself), it is very specific in its "lore"...basically, his re-skins don't match with my own.

Also: don't like the giant serpent folk (sorry). Also: don't like the cataclysmically explosive potential of the "star pump." Sorry: I intend my world to far outlast the player characters, and I don't relish the idea of blowing it up or turning it into a post-apocalyptic hellscape.


Treasure amounts are fine, given the "cheats" in area K (i.e. DM gets to make up how much the rare elements are worth/valued...potentially "millions"). But I'm not going to use this one so it doesn't matter. Space/time wars are cool and DO fit with the ancient history of my campaign world...but the details of that history are lost in the depths of centuries and the specifics are unnecessary for the campaign to progress. 

Sorry, Settembrini: probably won't be testing this one any time soon. You can read the more detailed, original review here (and, also, Bryce's gushing). 

SHIP OF FATE (Yours Truly)

As my players are currently in a land-locked, desert region, this one isn't going to work in my campaign as currently constructed. ALSO: I don't anticipate the PCs reaching the requisite levels for at least a couple years. 


Mmm. Ten "AD&D" adventures read. Six deemed "usable." Of those, only TWO are properly stocked, treasure-wise.  That's...not a lot, considering I had a pool of 19 published NAP entries from which to draw. NAP entries that received fairly high marks from all the reviews I've seen.

What does that say about the "standard fare" these reviewers are usually subjected to?

I'll admit that I am a crank, a curmudgeon, and an elitist snob. Perhaps some of the OTHER (non-AD&D adventures) are better written, better adventures. Perhaps. But they're still not written for 1E, so how good are they? How good can they be? Good enough to make up for the deficiencies inherent in running a campaign using a lesser (OD&D, B/X, etc.) ruleset? I know there are plenty of DMs out there who run a much more "loosey-goosey" game drawing pieces from ALL the various editions of D&D that have been published over the years, but (and I know people will object to this statement) that is a pretty miserable way to run a D&D campaign

If you disagree: that's fine. If you're having fun, running your OSR/edition-agnostic campaign...well, that's all the evidence to the contrary you need. I can only say: I doubt I would be having as much fun at your table as you do. 

So I guess it's on me? 

But would you be disappointed at my table? Now THAT is an interesting question. And maybe the answer would be "YES," especially if you were used to (and had an expectation of) playing tieflings or dragonborn or being able to cast magic missiles "at will." Yeah, if you needed those kinds of 5Eisms to have a good time, you'd probably HATE my game. 

But, then, you'd probably NOT be the kind of person I want at my table.

All right, that's enough for now; I've got a lot to do today.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024


Before I continue with my (what used to call) "capsule reviews" of the NAP entries in the (ostensibly) AD&D category, a few notes: 

  • We did NOT have a chance to begin Lair of the Brain-Eaters Sunday was a VERY long day for the fam, and we went out to dinner and then relaxed on the couch, watching the Oscars. My players DID have a chance on Friday to create new 1st level PCs for a NAP specific run, so we are ready to go. Party will consist of a fighter (bard-in-training), paladin, thief, cleric, magic-user, and an illusionist-thief (two humans, an elf, half-elf, and a gnome). Easter break is coming up and we ain't going nowhere so I'm hoping to get a good pile of gaming in.
  • RE the Oscars: I've seen most of the nominated films at this point and so was rather disappointed with most of the results. Oppenheimer is a well-crafted film on a difficult subject, but it failed to move me (in fact, it took multiple nights to watch it, because it put me to sleep). Nah. Also: it is a damn crime to put Barbie into a Best Adapted Screenplay category. Also: I obviously need to see Poor Things (don't even remember hearing about this movie). Also: Ryan "Triple-Threat" Gosling was robbed.

Okay, enough prattle...on with the read-throughs!



This entry is listed as No Art Punks, both in the initial review and the book's TOC, but it clearly bears the title Fugitive Gold! at the top. I mean, it's not bolded or italicized or anything...but, then, neither is the No Art Punks "title" printed beneath it. Not much for fancy formatting this one...which doesn't bother me overmuch (just by the way), but...well, who cares about the title, anyway.

This adventure"pedestrian." At best. It has a spectacular, isometric map that will prove difficult to use in play, though not unusable. I dread the thought of printing it (my old printer doesn't do color), and having to pen in the numbers (which are fairly faint in the image). 

Except that I probably won't, because I'm not feeling this one. 

My first thought upon reading it is that this was done by a kid...maybe a teenager or (more likely) an art student in their early 20s. It's better written than what I would have done as a teenager, but it's not great, and it exhibits hallmarks of youthful exuberance and a lack of sophistication. Take away the carefully crafted map and the complete sentences and it's only a slight step up from "random dungeon." No, that's probably too harsh.'s something I would have done in my youth (again, I'm talking my 20s). A good one to give my kids to run, maybe. But it's not my cup of tea.

Written for PCs of levels 4th-5th, it's got 43+ encounters. Treasure is abysmally low: under 44K with just a smattering of magic items (about a dozen, only a third of which are permanent, nothing over +2 and a couple couple cursed items to boot). Things like "scroll with one spell (clairvoyance)" or "short sword +1/+2 vs. burrowing mammals." This is chump change that does not raise the treasure count to an acceptable minimum (something in the 120K+ range). One piece of treasure is a 10,000 gold piece emerald that can ONLY be acquired by a "very small halfling" or through use of a potion of diminution (or similar, presumably).  There is no such potion in the dungeon, meaning its quite possible that ONE-QUARTER the treasure will be unobtainable. What's more, the emerald is magical and if submerged in water (the labyrinth is a series of sea caverns with a lot of water), it "screams like a banshee killing everyone all within a 50 foot radius." Okay, pal.

No, this adventure isn't good. There is an optional timer on this one that, if botched, results in the players facing a hostile 18 HD titan, his undead storm giantess consort, and four (undead) giant hetmen (no stats provided for undead giants). If you don't use a timer than there's a good chance the bad guy still activates his infernal machine and summons the Bigger Bads in 1-3 days that summon typhoons and wreck the coastline. Eh. No. Titans aren't angry "storm gods." Storm gods are storm gods. And facing 18 HD titans shouldn't be a "fail state" for an adventure aimed at PCs of 4th-5th level (let alone angry storm gods). This is dumb. 

Which (*sigh*) doesn't mean it's bad. You can have a lot of fun running a "dumb" adventure. It's beer and pretzels night! It's a break from more "serious" fare. It's White Plume Mountain. Etc.

But I'm not throwing it in my campaign. Sorry.  Maybe something for someone to run at a con with its delightful little encounters: ogres selling rat-on-a-stick, leprechauns doing their BS antics, etc., etc. But it's pretty long for convention time slot. Eh. Pedestrian.


This one is a tough one to judge.

Zisch has put together a really nice adventure site. It's a little whimsical in an EX1: Dungeonland kind of way (understanding that I don't own EX1 and haven't even looked at in decades...) but it is tightly themed and put together...for the most part...with care and attention.

It's also a "whackier" form of D&D than what I tend to run. Puns and "in-jokes" abound, as is (in some parts) pointed "zaniness." That's not to my taste, but I may be in the minority here; I realize that a LOT of early D&D included the zany, and many old school aficionados think of this as a feature of old edition play. "Why so serious, bruh?" The problem (for me) is that there comes a point where zany tips the game into the realm of farce, at which point no one at the table (DM or players) take the game terribly seriously. And if we're not going to take the game seriously, I really don't have time to run/play the game; I'm a VERY busy guy.

Hoosegow, however, doesn't have TOO much of this. The mine section is good. The tower is a little weird (guards on the roof but they have to go through the warden's bedroom to get there? Hmmm...). It's kind of unclear why there even IS a warden still, since the alchemist has vanished...? I mean (re-reading the background now) I guess the lycanthropes just "moved in" recently; so why bother taking up the title of High Commissioner? There are some inconsistencies here.

Also inconsistencies with regard to the system. The alchemist proper has been polymorphed into a homunculus which, first, no...that's not how you create homunculi...and second, there's no explanation of how or why this came to be. Which, okay, fine, it's a mystery, but so many other parts of the adventure are explained and functional. Mostly...I mean, there's a giant skeleton dead so long that "only a very high level cleric could cast speak with dead" to question it. How long is that? Note to the designers: the PHB lists maximum lengths of time a corpse can be spoken with based on clerical need to be so abstract (since you're designing this for AD&D)...just tell us he's been dead X number of years and we can find the info ourselves.

Lot of puzzles in this thing...lot of puzzles. And a lot of potions and potion mixing. A lot of NEW potions and special magic items in general (not sure how this skirted under the NAP contest stipulations, but, whatever...). I don't get the Plentiful Potions Prototype,are we just supposed to make shit up if they try different formulae other than those listed? Um...huh? Likewise the Potion Mixing Machine references the potion miscibility table in the DMG, but functions why bother referencing the table? Puzzling puzzles. Along with all the random writings and text the PCs will find in this adventure (much of which is nonsensical), this is likely to be a looong adventure of clue tracking. Which also isn't (usually) my style of dungeoneering.

The adventure was tested for 5-6 character parties with an average level of 7. For an adventure this size, (60 encounters, not counting random ones) I'd hope for 400K-500K in treasure, probably? Enough for players to level up at least once and make a good dent in the next level, so AT LEAST 400K...something like 70K-80K per character.  Total treasure (not counting magic which, naturally, falls mostly in the "potion" category): 167,205. Maybe that gets boosted by various art pieces that had "price tags" attached to them (it wasn't clear from the text if these items were ACTUALLY valuable), but that would only add a few hundred extra gold pieces. The players would find a better use of their time hunting giant dragonflies in the mountains for their fancy chitinous hides.

Speaking of magical's really annoying not to include SOME sort of formatting to distinguish magical items from mundane...italics, bolding, underlining, something. Really annoying. Yes, this is a usability issue, not a design issue, but it's really tough to be reading through a text block of alchemical equipment and things like a beaker of plentiful potions isn't highlighted in some fashion (i.e. nothing indicates to the DM/reader that the item is MAGICAL...I just know it is because I've been playing for decades and have some memory of most of the items in the DMG). Same with monsters that don't reference where they're from...great use of obscure critters (fire snakes, stone guardians, spriggans, etc.) but if you're NOT going to detail their special abilities and whatnot in the text, then please provide a reference for me to look them up. Irritating.

However, flawed or not, there's a lot of good thought and craft in this adventure. It's a tad whimsical for my taste and the alchemical puzzles are a bit over the head of my players (the oldest of whom is 13), so fitting it into my campaign is a slight conundrum. There are, of course, plenty of mountains in the Idaho Deathlands, so it would be easy enough to stash...but it's a little too LONG to be a "side jaunt" and a little too light on treasure to make it really worth questing for. I think I'll locate the compound somewhere northeast of Mayfield, Idaho (the wikipedia entry calls Mayfield a "ghost town" but there's more historic data of the town available online for interested folks), and seed a few rumors of the Hoosegow's'll be a good location for magic-users seeking rare spell components (once they have a few levels under their belts) or ingredients for enchantments.
; )

Monday, March 11, 2024

Rougher & Smoother

 Just continuing where I left off:

UNDER MT. PEIKON (anonymous)

Ostensibly written for levels 3rd - 8th, this adventure is unusable.

Total treasure count is less than 14K, not counting (limited) magical items. I'm thinking 70K would be more appropriate. But that's not the main issue.

This adventure is all over the place; creative, sure, but it shows a profound lack of knowledge...or the base presumptions of AD&D. This is "OSR" (a non-edition), not 1E. Poor format, layout, etc. makes this too much work to read, parse, and re-work.

I will be skipping this one.  Sorry.
: (


Much better; Zherbus knows his stuff.

My comments on the original review were somewhat uncharitable; now that I have the full text in front of me, I can give the thing a more thorough analysis.  This adventure is pretty solid.

Written for characters levels 3rd - 4th, play-tested with two groups (one with four players, one with five), and roughly 60 encounters long; I'd be looking for this thing to provide at least 60,000 x.p. worth of treasure over its length. Total cash is (on average) a bit more than 30K, but there are a LOT of magical items in least 34, by my count, many of which are permanent in nature and quite valuable in terms of x.p. (a cloak of poisonousness, for example, still has a sale value of 2,500 gold...all x.p.).  I don't have an issue with the treasure stocking.

Nor do I have an issue with the threat level which, for the most part, is quite 'par' for an experienced party of 3rd and 4th level killers. Yeah, there's a cursed vampire and a ghost, but both have alternative methods of dealing with them...same with the harpy nest. For the most part, this just good, stouthearted D&D.

The adventure DOES suffer from being large and sprawling, making it difficult to parse and grok at times, but that's the main challenge in using it...little things that won't be discovered without a couple reads. For example, there's quite a lot of mummy rot in the adventure: something that's tough for PCs less than 5th level to deal with (since they don't have access to cure disease). And yet, careful reading shows that there is a 6th level cleric ("Lowrine") in the nearby town of Mirfield, easily reached within a day from any location on the map; these are the things the DM needs to be aware of when prepping the module. Fortunately, being a 22 page PDF, the adventure can easily be printed, bindered, and separated by section for ease of use. Yeah, it's a little challenging to render it useful, but it is still very, very functional scenario.

Will probably locate it somewhere down by Bruneau, Idaho, or possibly farther east at Glenn's Ferry (though I was planning on keeping that for something else...). Regardless, this is one of the last "wet areas" before the Great Dry Expanse; a suitable location for the "carcass of Hope."
; )


Another excellent AD&D adventure, this one penned by an acknowledged master of the system. A couple annoying quibbles aside (the use of UA-isms like social class, the appearance of the B/X bone golem in an AD&D work), this is a solid entry for PCs of levels 3rd to 5th. Here's Prince's review.

These days I am less comfortable with humanoid lairs as simple places to sack and despoil, but Trent provides plenty of reason for doing just that: these particular goblinoids aren't exercising a live-and-let live policy with the local humans, but are raiding river traffic, making deals with wererats, and getting involved in kidnapping schemes. Plenty of reasons for players to go there and do that "D&D thang" even if you (like me) have axed alignment from your game.

The scenario is written for 5-8 characters of levels 3rd-5th and is composed of some 44 encounters. Something on the order of 70K in treasure would be appropriate for an adventure this size, and an eyeballed 63K figure (not bothering to include the magical offerings) shows that Mr. Smith and I are on the same page in this regard. It is definitely worth the players' time and efforts.

Good maps, good scenario, good interactivity (lots of different things for players to do), disparate factions that make sense in relation to each other, and even a bit of the so called "weird" that everyone seems to rave over with an ancient subterranean god-force. All excellent.

Placement is tough for my campaign setting...a lot of waterfalls in Idaho, but there just aren't any in near proximity to the part of the world in which my players will be adventuring, certainly none as tall as the 500' Melonath Falls (Goat Peak at 650' is actually taller, but it is waaay up north in the mountains). However, if I cut the scale in half (1 square of the map equalling 10', rather than 20') and then use artistic license to "stretch" some real world locations a bit, I can shoehorn the location into Big Fiddler Creek Falls, some 40 miles east of Boise. The falls are five miles away from the town of Prairie, Idaho...a mountain town so small it doesn't even rate a page on wikipedia...a perfectly reasonable stand-in for Trent's hamlet of Veirona (described as a "glorified logging camp"). I doubt Prairie is much more cosmopolitan as the info I found for it on the interwebs suggests it doesn't have a single storefront in the place.

Big Fiddler Creek Falls: my version of Melonath.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Rough Start

Some of my thoughts on the (AD&D) NAP adventures, as I read through them in preparation for running them:


Adventure is written for PCs of levels 1st - 3rd; actual number of party members is un-listed, but the playtest group has five names. Five sounds about right.

This low level adventure is pretty sparse...sparse on hooks, sparse on treasure, sparse on on antagonists (both number and variety). You can read Prince's review here.

29 encounters over three levels is a good number. Maps are...odd. Two entrances into the dungeon site, but the main entrance to the main section (20 out of 29 areas) is the lowest level...the other two levels are above? So how deep does that initial stairway drop into the bowels of the earth, in order to have two levels of architecture above?? Especially as that main level is described with 25' ceilings. Magical D&D, I guess.

Treasure is under 8,000 g.p. worth. I'd want at least 10,000. Very few magic items, unless you count "enchanted brains" (consume as potions). Assume the x.p. value is the same as a potion? But will players recognize this as "treasure;" hard to see them deciding to eat cerebellum, especially given the degeneration of the brain-eating cultists. Not very portable items, either. Even if the PCs detect them as magic, they're probably going to figure it as some sort of trap, rather than a reward. 

Not much danger...small variety of monsters, and all fairly weak...good for 1st and 2nd level players. Traps on the other hand are crazy. Illusionary floors over bottomless pits, 300' chasms, a trapped "front door" that has a 50% chance of inflicting 2d6 damage in a 10' radius (tough on 1st level characters), a second entry contains THREE damage-dealing trap rooms in a row. To be fair, the latter is unlikely to kill all...or even most...of the party, even if bumbled through...and should the party enter that way, they face only four skeletons before a HUGE payday (a room with 4,000 g.p. worth of unguarded treasure, plus the necromancer's spell book!). 

Not how I'd design it.

I think I'll put this one just outside of Boise...that's the current starting location for my players' new low-level characters. Still plan on them finding their way into the desert, but this will be an all right warm-up. Also goes along with that DCC "Lankhmar" adventure I picked up a while back (and converted to AD&D)...makes a good follow-up scenario.


Adventure is written for "4 - 6 characters of levels 2 - 4 (plus henchmen)." The summary section at the end implies that the party be about 10 strong including henchmen...which may actually be appropriate given the danger level of this adventure (see below). Here's the initial review.

The summary is a godsend, providing treasure and x.p. counts for all of the 25 encounter areas plus wandering monsters. Slight adjustments are necessary (the x.p. value of a scroll of possession is 2,000, not 200; also, I don't award x.p. for spell books recovered), but it generally does all the work for me. For a party of five 3rd level characters, I'd be looking for around 20,000 x.p. worth of treasure...but if you're talking TEN characters, you'll be wanting more in the 40K range. Considering that you'll probably lose AT LEAST three or four characters in this deathtrap, 30K would probably be fine, and the mark of 26,614 hit by Arcane Font looks pretty darn close. 

That number, however, is a trifle misleading. No less than 5,450 x.p. of that number comes from wandering monsters (there's a drow on the run being pursued by a bugbear bounty hunter and its hobgoblin gang), and it's quite possible that NONE of this will be discovered: neither group has a camp in the dungeon, or any way to track/locate them other than a 1 in 8 chance on the wandering monster table. In addition 4,000 g.p. of the treasure is tied up n two immense bronze statues/cressets, each weighing 1,500 pounds...trying to get those out of the dungeon will be a helluva' feat, let alone getting them to a place where they can be sold to a collector. At least the drow's magical items aren't labeled as the normal dark elf stuff that dissolves in sunlight; yes, one could assume that's the case (subtract another 3K+ from the treasure total), but I probably wouldn't...I'd also probably change the creature to a non-dark elf on the run (because I haven't introduced drow to my players as of yet).

SO...17K of probable, recoverable treasure...which is still okay for a group of four surviving (3rd) level PCs. Which is (maybe) the BEST you can expect to walk out of this place. While the place is light on monsters (only one-fifth the encounter areas have set creatures), they are VERY ROUGH encounters for a group of this level: 10 large spiders, 12-16 grimlocks, a carrion crawler, and an intelligent, evil plant capable of making up to 19 attacks per round (minimum of 8) at range. 1d6+2 of those attacks (30' range) carry a save vs. poison or be mind-controlled effect, that is likely to turn a low-level party's henchmen into turncoat murderers. I can easily see ANY of these four encounters ending in a TPK.

This scenario will be well-placed outside of Mountain Home, Idaho...a quite suitable replacement for the "meager farming village of Blightmor" on the road to the southern wastelands. Probably I'll re-skin the humanoids as human bounty hunters (with the same hit dice) and leave out the whole Underdark political shenanigans. The PCs themselves might be bounty hunters hired to bring back Drannon the elf (all the elves in my campaign tend to be on the shady side of the law) having to contend with the rival the players incentive to seek out that extra treasure stash if they know the runner is packing goodies. Of course, they'll probably bumble into a pack of grimlocks and get wiped out...

Last thing: I also HATE the magical effect of the namesake font...I do not want characters gaining the ability to cast magic-user spells, even at the cost of a few ability points. No. Fortunately, I'm not sure how any party is going to get past the killer plant (but you never know)...I would probably have the effects, good and bad, fade with time. Poor Vezzelar, being a mind-controlled slave of the plant master, has no choice but to continue his regular baths.
; )

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Reading NAP

I should probably pen a Blood Bowl post discussing the Seahawks transition away from Weird Boy Pete Carroll and the cutting of the oft-maligned Jamal Adams, etc. But the NFL off-season is long...I'm sure there'll be time for that. Instead, allow me to wax on about adventures.

Specifically, the adventures found in No ArtPunk volumes I and II.

I've discussed Prince of Nothing's NAP contest before...both what it is and why I find it valuable, as well as my own participation in this (now annual) event. What I haven't done is played any of the entries/winners...well, except for play-testing of my own submissions. Heck, I haven't even given a deep read to the books; I've only skimmed them.

And that's a shame. I've said before and I'll say it again: you need to play an adventure to really understand how it works and whether or not it's any good. Adventure gaming, as entertainment, is an experiential medium. Adventure cobblers are not (or, rather, should not be) writing adventures just to provide lonely souls with fantasy reading material. I know that, within the hobby as a whole, there is a certain amount of joy in this practice (both the writing and the reading), but that's not what the D&D game was designed for; it was designed to be played...a fact that is too often forgotten, or lost.

SO, I've decided that, despite my limited "free" time (free what? are you kidding?), I am going to make an effort to read and examine these winning NAP entries, and attempt to play them in my own home campaign...assuming I can find a place for them in my home campaign. This is probably a stupid assumption and I should simply continue with my ongoing DESERT OF DESPAIR project (a rewriting of the old I3-I5, Desert of Desolation module series). But, well, someone's got to do it. And then blog about it. Since no one else is (or very few people), I might as well do something to "contribute" to the cause.


BUT...I won't be putting ALL of these adventures on the docket. Between both NAP volumes there were a total of 19 winners (with a super-secret-sexy 20th "honorably mention" by Yours Truly that continues being brought up on podcasts despite not making it into either book!). Of these 19, only NINE were written for AD&D with a 10th written for OSRIC (1st edition's original retroclone), and given my limited time, I'm not going to waste it doing conversions.

Well, maybe, but only in exactly TWO cases: Dashwood's City of Bats looks really delightful (I, of course, have a soft-spot for Mesoamerican themes) and is written for AEC (Advanced Edition Companion) Labyrinth Lord, and Chomy's Caught in the Web of Past and Present was recently converted (by him) to AD&D...I might just go purchase the updated version, but only because I've met Chomy and he's a swell guy who did not run over me with his motorcycle and leave me in a ditch.

First things first, though, and I am going to be reading the adventures that were ACTUALLY written for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Going in "level order" these are:

The Lair of the Brain Eaters (1st - 3rd) by D.M. Ritzlin
The Arcane Font of Hranadd-Zul (2nd - 4th) by Daedalus
Under Mt. Peikon (2nd - 8th) by anonymous
The Carcass of Hope (3rd - 4th) by Zherbus
Fraction Mayhem of Melonath Falls (3rd - 5th) by Trent Smith
No Art Punks (4th - 6th) by Peter Mullen
Alchymystyk Hoosegow (7th) by Alex Zisch
Tomb of the Twice Crowned King (8th - 10th) by Hawk
Dust and Stars (9th - 12th) by Settembrini
Ship of Fate (10th - 14th) by JB

[eh, you know what? I don't need to read that last one]

[Web of Past and Present is for levels 4th - 5th, while City of Bats is for levels 4th - 6th, just by the way]

So, semi-deep dives first. I know that some of these include the dreaded (*shudder*) Unearthed Arcana rules in their games, but so long as I'm not needing to delete major portions of the adventure (cavalier NPCs or whatnot), I don't anticipate there being much of a problem. But that's why I need to do the read-through. The main areas I'm concerned with are "theme" and "fit" (since I'm throwing these into my campaign world) as well as PRACTICALITY...which, generally, means treasure counts.  Here's the rule of thumb:
  • 30(ish) encounters requires enough treasure to level up an ENTIRE PARTY of the average given level range.
  • If the party size isn't listed, I default to SEVEN characters.
Anything less than that is probably not efficient enough for use (really), but I understand that lack of treasure is pretty endemic to adventure writing these days. I will still make an effort to run all of these, regardless (well, depending on how light the load actually is) least until my players get bored with a lack of loot. Again, hard to judge without actually RUNNING the things...

There it is: a new D&D project on the horizon. I might post (okay, I'll probably post) what I find in my readings before I run the adventures. But, yeah. Let's play some D&D. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

"Memorable Encounters"

Oh, boy. Feather ruffling time.

I don't care about writing memorable encounters. Writing adventures is NOT about writing "memorable encounters." Trying to design "memorable" encounters is the DM-equivalent of the player twinking out over how to use their kewl powers in some super-awesome combo.

No. Just no.

People need to trash the "video game thinking." Video games are not the origin of this concept, but they have far and away been the proliferator of it. Stop thinking like you're designing a video game. OR, if you really must: go design video games. Video games love (and desperately need) "memorable encounters."

D&D does not.

I'm looking back, over my many decades as a DM and a player, and trying to recall "memorable encounters" and I'm pretty much drawing a blank. Really: I'm coming up with zero. Certainly nothing that was set up to be "memorable." There are, of course, things that are memorable, and they fall into three general categories: situations, successes, and failures.

Successes are times when the PCs had a "big win." I've noted some of these on Ye Old Blog over the years: things like slaying the naga in N1 or offing the gender-bent Strahd in my re-skinning of I6. 

Failures are usually amusing (to me anyway) TPKs and pyrrhic victories; I've sometimes blogged about these as well, including parties (well, what was left of them) fleeing White Plume Mountain with their tails tucked between their legs. My own journey through Q1 (as a player) resulted in a rather memorable failure, just by the by.

Situations are something else completely...I think I'd best define it as "player manufactured drama." Players bumbling into some sort of predicament, based on ignorance, lack of leadership, or ridiculous in-fighting of some sort. In my youth (before I 'wised up') this sometimes (often?) led to some sort of PVP...but not always. Sometimes, "situations" just involved PCs trying to Rube Goldberg their way out of some sort of silliness. Yes, it makes for a "memorable" event.

These are the things that are remembered: successes, failures, and silly situations. Not encounters. Encounters are a dime a dozen. It's not about what the encounter IS...not about the types of creatures or NPCs or their combination of attacks. It's about what happens DURING the encounter and the RESULT of the encounter...maybe. A fight with kobolds that ends in a TPK is memorable because we got gaffled by a bunch of tiny dog people with spears...not because of the monsters' special abilities or any sort of tactical BS. 

You do NOT need super special snowflake set-piece encounters to have a memorable game of D&D. Forget that noise, because making it a priority is a distraction from what makes ACTUAL memorable D&D play. Memorable D&D play comes from playing the game HARD, with CONSISTENCY. It is about applying PRESSURE via the rules at hand. It is about creating scenarios that drive PLAYER ACTION, and then following that thread ruthlessly...for good or ill. Sometimes the players win and they take away a big pile of treasure with lots of cheering and hollering. Sometimes the players lose and everyone has to roll up new characters (at least now they can try playing a ranger...or whatever).

For my players, there are only a couple things I care about them remembering at the end of the day:

#1 I want them to remember their character and their character's journey. NOT because the character has a cool backstory or story arc or blah, blah, blah. I want them to remember (with fondness) their dwarf or paladin or WHATEVER and feel a sense of pride (if the character was successful and had a long career) or wistful sadness (if its career was cut short by some untimely demise). Because, in the end, the character's journey is the player's journey.

#2 I want them to remember me, as a Dungeon Master: that I challenged them and pushed them and played HARD with them and allowed them to EARN Every. Thing. They. Got. 

Because THAT, my lovely readers, is what D&D is really, really all about. That, my friends, is what makes the game great. Playable content and a well-run game is all that's required to make a game memorable. DMs that are "firm but fair." Worlds that are consistent and have verisimilitude. Play experiences that players get lost within.

Yes, encounters are a large part of the D&D play experience. But it's not the uniqueness of an encounter that makes it worth remembering (if it is worth remembering). Rather, it is the interaction with that encounter, and what the consequences of that interaction might be...and those things can't be scripted, only played. 

You want a memorable script? Write a screenplay.