The theme: list ten rules which in your experience help to make a better game. They can be about gaming. They can be about tactics. They can be about GMing. Tongue in cheek is okay, funny is only allowed if it is about gamers and GMs.

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1. Keep the players interested in a reasonably restricted area for the first six or seven levels of experience (can be as big as an entire kingdom), so that venturing beyond it's borders can be plausably more dangerous and more diverse.

2. Introduce NPC's (even if just for cameo roles) who are considerably higher level than the PC's are likely to quickly achieve (9th level in 2nd Ed, maybe 15th or 20th in 3ED). It's important that the PC's won't feel the most powerful people in the world once they reach high level (by edition) and that you can plausibly introduce new high level villians.

3. Major bad guys always have henchmen. Invest in these people. These will be mid-term villians and should be landmark achievements for the PC's to defeat.

4. Don't neglect the softer emotions. Romance can add many dimensions to a game, variety in roleplay and hooks to adventure.

5. Consider the variety of activity within any single game session. If you have an idea for the centre of the nights play, always ask yourself; 'but what happens before then, that is totally different'. Send your players home having had a number off experiences each session.

6. Battles have far more impact when the terrain itself is hostile. A sinking ship, treacherous mountain peak, thin ice or crumbling ruin will up the excitement.

7. Populate your world with real people. Who cares about saving a world full of 'NPC' cyphers? Give people personality from the integrity of the town guard to the zany antics of the trader. Make sure there are people worth saving.

8. Give your campaign world a theme. Whether it's a dying world, a magicless kingdom or a surreal elemental plane - define it in the mind of your players and reinforce this with descriptions of 'what's different from what they'd expect' whenever appropriate.

9. Be versatile. Change pace or activity in a flash if the scene becomes weary. Have the tavern explode, an angel appear, an enemy arrive or the sun go out. Dullness is the enemy.

10. Be versatile number two. Whatever the PC's decide to go - go with it. Make it up if need be or take a break but never force a particular activity or direction.

The Ten Commandments of Character Creation by Grindle

...Or building a better character in 10 easy steps.

1. Thou Shalt Know Thy Character

This is pretty self-explanitory. Who is your character? What are their likes and dislikes? What was his/her childhood like? What does he/she feel strongly about? These are sample questions, to help you concentrate on your character. Once you understand your character, then you can begin 'creating' them, numbers-wise.

2. Thou Shalt Not Change Thy Mind

Once you have a character concept, stick to your guns. There is no such thing as a 'stupid' character concept. While the original concept may alter and grow and evolve, the idea itself should never change. Seeing a character through from start to finish produces a much more satasfying end result, as there is more of an emotional and temporal vestment in the character.

3. Thou Shalt Be Unique

This is absolutely fundamental to being a good player and having a good, believeable character. No two people are alike; the same goes for players. While there may be racial tendencies to act a certain way or hold a certain mindset, there is no 'general' or 'average' character. Besides, you'd not want to play something so boring. It's unrealistic and worthless.

4. Thou Shalt Not Min/Max

This is a horrible habit, one that has most people fighting their instinctive urge to play the best of the best. You shouldn't try to be the best you can be. That's far to unrealistic. Just as normal people have strengths and weaknesses, your character should, too. Powergaming detracts from gameplay. Nobody cares that you can kill a 9th level monster at 4th level without breaking a sweat. It's not fun, and it ruins the game for everyone.

5. Thou Shalt Not Think Of Combat

This commandment is very much like the previous one, but different in some important ways. Dungeons and Dragons is a ROLE-PLAYING GAME first, and hack 'n' slash second. Combat is added in to create moments of particular excitement. I realize there are more rules for combat, and that it is a major aspect of the game. But inter-player relations are more imporant than battle. While there are more rules for battle, it should not be the main focus of your game, especially character creation.

6. Thou Shalt Not Deliberate on one area

While all aspects of a character are important (skills, feats, etc.), you shouldn't detract time from one to focus on another. What this does is creates strange imbalances within the character. Besides, if you truly know your character, then this should all be relatively easy, and then you can focus on truly becoming your character.

7. Thou Shalt Build To Personality

This commandment also ties in very closely with its predecessor. Your character has certain things that interest them, just as people in the real world do. For instance, if you happen to be a painter, or a writer, or other such thing, then you will tend to focus your time and energy perfecting your 'craft'. Your characters are no different. Perhaps they have a penchant for instruments, so they might take a point or two in a Perform skill. It adds originality to the character.

8. Thou Shalt Keep Theme In Mind

This is rather fundamental. In general, D&D is a game based in historical fantasy. There are no modern conveniences. A caveat of this commandment is that your character will not know anything in a numerical sense about the game. They'd know what I'd call 'real-world statistics'. For instance, they know that a greataxe does more damage than a longsword because it's heavier and has more leverage for striking, not because it's 1d12 damage versus 1d8. They do not talk about spell durations, damage dice, or hit points, because they do not know about them.

9. Thou Shalt Know The Rules

I don't mean every rule in every book. I mean knowing enough about the common rules and formulas that you shouldn't need to look up everything. You should know the rules for AC, what some common combat modifiers are, what abilities affect which skills, things of that nature. You should be able to make your way around the books well enough that you'd know the general area of where to look when you actually need to look up a rule.

10. Thou Shalt Make Bookmarks

...Or, Thou Shalt Make Quicksheets. When I first started playing, all my books were riddled with post-it notes, detailing certain areas of interest for when I needed to look something up. This way, I didn't have to search for a specific page; I just opened to the corresponding post-it, and the ruling was there. This makes spell look-up very simple, too. And there are lots of well-written quick-sheets around the internet, all displaying useful rules and caveats.


Grindle, Mercenary Extrodinaire

Classic 10 commandments of blunders not to perform « Reply #2 on: February 21, 2004, 11:47:12 PM »


Classic GM Blunder #1: Failing to provide enough motivation for characters to go on the adventure. While forcing players to do things is never a good idea, a character needs some motivation to do things in the game. If the GM does not provide enough motivation, the players could easily go off on tangents that they find much more interesting. FIND THE CHARACTER'S HOOKS AND USE THEM TO PULL THE CHARACTER INTO THE STORY.

Classic GM Blunder #2: Failing to pace the story well. The GM must keep the story going, giving the players something to do or react to. Every scene has a purpose and a way to lead into the next scene. KEEP THE GAME MOVING OR THE PLAYERS WILL GET BORED.

Classic GM Blunder #3: Making NPCs more important than PCs. The player characters are the protagonists of your campaign story. If they are not, why should they play? GMs sometimes love their NPCs a bit too much, allowing them to save the players, show up the players, or make the PCs useless and unimportant. IF A GM IS WRITING THEIR NPC'S STORY, WHY SHOULD THE PCs SHOW UP?

Classic GM Blunder #4: Failing to engage the Troop in the fictional world and the campaign. The GM is the author and narrator for the campaign story. If you were reading a story and you don't like the characters, the supporting characters were flat, and the setting was grey and lifeless, would you keep reading the book? Probably not. Why would you keep playing a game with the same failings? Players need to know about the game world, interact with colorful characters, encounter dramatic events, and encounter interesting things. PROVIDE THESE THINGS FOR THEM.

Classic GM Blunder #5: Failing to entertain the players. There is a reason it is called a game. The point of the game is to enjoy yourself. If players are not having fun, they have no motivation to come to your game. Run the kind of game the players want, with the kind of scenarios they want, with the kind of subplots they like. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE PLAYERS WANT: ASK!!

Classic GM Blunder #6: Failing to know the rules: The Game designer can only write so many rules; the publisher can only publish so many. There is no way to make rulings for every contingency in a game. That is what the GM is for. The GM must know the rules and be able to interpret them for any situation. They must be fair in their handling of the rules. They must know the rules so well, they do not have to think about them, so they can use them and still concentrate on the game story. KNOW THE RULES OR DO NOT GM!

Classic GM Blunder #7: Failing to listen to the players. A Game Master should listen to their players, determining what they like and dislike about the campaign, the game, and the GM's play style. By responding to player comments, the GM can provide the kind of game the players will enjoy and improve their own gamecraft. LISTEN TO YOUR PLAYERS, THEY ARE YOUR AUDIENCE AND YOUR STAFF.

Classic GM Blunder #8: Failing to be prepared. A GM should spend some time before the game session to organize thoughts and notes, prepare any scenes or opponents, and plan out story lines. Do not take away play time by spending time at the session to do this. Even if you are of the 'wing it' school of game mastering, some preparation will allow for easier, faster, and better play. A LITTLE PREPARATION GOES A LONG WAY!

Classic GM Blunder #9: Allowing the Dice to rule the scene. Dice are used to resolve conflicts and make the RPG more of a 'game'. In roleplaying games, we also tell stories. Sometimes the dice generate responses that do not fit the GM's desire for the campaign saga or scene. If it is in the best interest of the game, change the results to better fit the story. WHO IS IN CHARGE? YOU OR THE DICE?

Classic GM Blunder #10: Failing to improve your your gamecraft. Roleplaying games are not static, they are always changing. What challenged and amused your players a month ago might not do it now. The way you presented information a few months ago is now old hat. Gamecraft is like an actor's craft, except it includes things that authors, storytellers, and wargamers do. Always strive to do it better than you have before. Find what works at a given time and do it. A LITTLE EFFORT TOWARDS SELF IMPROVEMENT GOES A LONG WAY!

MoonHunters Top Ten Pieces of Game Advice for GMs

Mostly aimed for GMs, sorry

1) Never game with anyone you wouldn't spend 4-8 hours intracting with doing something else.

2) Learn what each player really wants in a game. Do what you can to give it to them. (If you are a player, learn what everyone wants/ needs, even the GM, and do what you can to allow it to happen.)

3) When create a general setting in a given genre, make sure the players know the setting and genre AND embrace it.

4) Character creation is a group affair AND must be done with deep GM involvement. The players should work together to determine who and what their characters are, as well as linking each character to the others in the group. The GM should help players tie their characters to the world and the other characters. If a character does not fit the game or is disruptive, it is your, the GMs, fault.

5) Each character needs one or more major plotlines attatched to it. Without that, the characters will not last in the campaign.

6) Find ways to keep each character AND player motivated.

7) All bookkeeping must be done out of game time.

8) The GM must keep notes on every aspect of the game. Those notes must be reviewed regularly. This helps keep you both organized and focused, even if you are ad libbing the game.

9) Control each scene in the game. Each game scene should have a purpose that furthers the campaign. Each scene should be on the beat, bouncing between action and development.

10) GM the game, you would like to play in.

1. Order the Pizza and eat before the game otherwise plan on a break.

2. Always have enough Big Red or Earl Grey iced tea premade. Fine, whatever beverage you like.

3. Chips, cookies, candy. Finger foods that won't interrupt a game. Long games make people hungry. Rather listen to bags rustle then players complaining they are hungry. Forget the diet, it is game night!

4. Get rid of or hide distractions. These include any console video games, family members who plan on watching TV loud, annoying attention hunting pets.

5. Have enough extra (graph)paper and pencils/pens for everyone.

6. Make sure everybody has immediate access to the playing area especially if you use miniatures. Those that are not in 'the circle' tend to feel/get left out.

7. Get a selection of music picked out before hand and set it on autoreplay. Avoid having to change discs or giving the players opportunities to choose music.

8. If there is a new player, have them come early to go through all the newbie questions and initial character creation that will stall the start of the game.

9. gotta be 2 more



Think about what you want to say before saying it and then use all your literary talent to dazzle me with words.

Keep an eye to what?s current. Try to remember that time passes differently in the game world.

Give us the little details of yourself including mannerisms, habits, and appearances.

React as if it was really you in there and not just some construct of character sheet and modem.

You must love your character as you love yourself and therefore you must care for your character as you care for yourself.

Get to know the other characters and react with them on a personal basis. Remember the action in this game is the interaction between the participants.

Use all your imagination and act out in detail what you see.

DONT WORRY ABOUT BEING WRONG. We all are at times as it's part of the learning experience.

Know your character! Be able and ready to prove you are the best you can be.


Look at your maps often.

Make notes to yourself if you need to and for heavens sake make hardcopies of all the messages if you can.

Listen to the . Hear what I have to say.

And lastly be yourself. Your race and class are abstractions. What I want to see is the people.

rules swiped from

They are applicable to any communal production, like an APA or this site.

The 10 Commandments

The The Rules of APAcalypse

These rules were designed to help things run a little smoother among the members of the APA. We've tried to keep the number of rules down so that they're easy to remember and don't conflict.

Table of Contents

Thou Shalt Participate

Thou Shalt Contribute Gaming Material

Thou Shalt Contribute Thyn Opinion

Thou Shalt Not Snark

Thou Shalt Only Be Censored When.

Thou Shalt Pay Taxes

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Thou Shalt Not Infringe

Ninth and Tenth Commandments

First Commandment: Thou Shalt Participate

At the beginning of every two months, the Chroniclers gather in order to bring together reports from the different realms. Membership in these Chronicles shall begin with a guest appearance. The new member must contribute in the issue following his guest appearance before he is considered a member. By the production of the third consecutive issue, minimum activity is tabulated - and those not present with five (5) pages Mailing Comments and ten (10) pages gaming material, the land belonging to those individuals shall become public domain.

Second Commandment: Thou Shalt Contribute Gaming Material

The Chronicles of the APA are dedicated to the art of role-playing in all its forms and implications. The subject matter included within the articles must, in one form or another, deal with role-playing. This may include reviews of games, campaign notes, character and item creation, explanations and expansions on existing systems, hints on running games and campaigns, fiction and graphic art, and, finally, whatever else you can justify in good conscience to the members of the Chronicles as gaming related material. Furthermore, each issue shall embrace a theme that you may or may not adhere to in your contribution. The option remains yours.

Third Commandment: Thou Shalt Contribute Thyn Opinion

Over the course of the three issues between tabulation of contributions, you shall write a minimum of five pages of comments dedicated to the advancement of others, otherwise know and mailing comments. These said pages shall offer testament to the members of the Chronicles on your thoughts of their work. This is meant to offer constructive support to the writers and artists of these Chronicles and to show your care in reading or reviewing their work. The abbreviation RAEBNC (read and enjoyed but no comment), common in other similar Chronicles, shall have no place in these pages - and neither shall any of its countless variants. All members deserve true comment on their work.

Fourth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Snark

Be sure to discern the Chronicler from their work. Remember that you must criticize the work of others in these Chronicles. Do not make judgments or derogatory comments about your fellow Chronicler's character. Should you, or yours, feel that a snark has been placed upon you, seek the aid of the DM's at once. Anyone found guilty of the offense of Snarking will be given a private warning. Anyone receiving two warnings, from two separate incidents, in twelve months will have their most current issue's contribution not count towards Minimum Activity of these Chronicles. Upon a third offense within 12 months, the member will be asked to leave the lands.

Fifth Commandment: Thou Shalt Only Be Censored When.

All those present within the realms are adult in body if not (we hope) in mind and attitude. Sexually related gaming material and art are not excluded. However, as Caretaker of the Realm, I will not allow the presentation of any material that subjects a member of either gender, race, religious orientation, sexual orientation or beliefs to humiliation or verbal or visual 'Bashing.' THESE ARE CHRONICLES OF NEUTRAL GROUNDS. These Chronicles will NOT be used as a vehicle against any member of this Realm (see Snarking) or members of any group outside this one.

Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Pay Taxes

In order for the Realms to survive, each member is asked to pay a yearly pittance to help cover common expenses. for an APA this is binding costs and shipping costs. For RPG sites it might be server fees.

Seventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Steal

All scribes and artists of this land hold their work in great esteem. All material, unless otherwise stated, is Copyrighted to the author of that Chronicle. No material from another author can be duplicated and presented as your own work. If you are found guilty of this, you will be asked to leave the Chronicles. No content, however, is meant as a challenge to any preexisting copyrights.

Eight Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Infringe

The Realm you have chosen is sealed and all activities within your own border is limited only by your imagination. However, you may not cross over your border into another's Realm without the express permission of the person whose borders you wish to cross. Those not wishing to participate in any activities, games, or wars based on the map of the Realm shall be free to do so.

Ninth and Tenth Commandments

These are the rules to come, the limits to be set. If necessary, these will be filled by the consensus of the Lords and Ladies of the Chronicles.

'Golden Age of Detective Stories'

The Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction

It became very popular in the 1920s-30s to list rules about proper detective fiction. Fun to do that, especially since it inspires debate

I would appreciate public comments about this, so please post replies to the Mysterylist Forum: Bulletin Board or else send e-mail to Grobius@Sprynet.Com. Click here for a printable version.


Here is Fr. Ronald Knox's famous Ten Commandment list for Detective Novelists (copyright © 1929 Ronald Knox and Pope Somebody):

1) The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

2)All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

3)Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

4) No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

5) No Chinaman must figure in the story.

6) No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

7) The detective must not himself commit the crime.

8) The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

9) The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

10) Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

You will note, of course, that every one of these commandments has been violated at one time or another in a classic mystery novel.

PS: Here is the oath, composed by G. K. Chesterton, of membership in the famous British Detection Club: 'Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?'


This is presumptuous, but here is Grobius Shortling's Revised Version:

1) The criminal must be somebody mentioned in the story. (This is absolutely essential, otherwise the book cannot be called a detective story. The other bit about 'sharing thoughts' is too strict, but a writer should still be cautious because an outright authorial deception must be avoided.)

2) Supernatural elements are allowable for atmospheric or plot reasons, but they must play no part in the actual solution of the mystery.

3) Secret passages or hidden rooms are all right (if the setting allows it), but do not deserve to be used as an explanation of the murder method.

4) Avoid unknown Amazonian arrow poisons or newly invented Death-Ray machines, unless as an author you are qualified (scientifically) to justify it (i.e., if Newton had written a mystery based on his laws of Optics, that would be OK, but don't presume to invent a poison if you don't even know that aspirin can be fatal.)

5) Do not use 'foreigners' or other aliens as major characters unless you have some real understanding of their culture and mind-set, and they have some relevance to the plot beyond exotic obfuscation.

6) Avoid accidental solutions, as they are hardly fair in a story of deduction and the presentation of real clues. And please do not inflict on the poor reader one of those mid-book 'Mon dieu, how could I not have seen that before' exclamations which sit like undigested food until the end of the mystery.

7) The criminal should not be someone you have intentionally presented as totally trustworthy. (If he/she is a liar, at least provide some clue to give the reader a chance to spot that.)

8) All clues must be revealed, although it is perfectly legitimate to disguise them. (But I would draw the line at basing a clue on some misspelling of a word, American vs. British usage, for example, because most books are hardly proofread any more.)

9) There should but doesn't have to be a 'Watson' or some observing point of view that sees but misinterprets the events under investigation. (Only common sense, otherwise where is the drama?)

10) Do not try to fool the reader with improbable impersonations, such as a woman posing as a man or vice versa and getting away with it by consummate acting ability, especially when they are deceiving people who know them well. (This doesn't even work in Shakespeare.) Especially avoid wigs and false whiskers!


A few more caveats based on this reviewer's prejudices (another 10 Commandments):

Do not try to confuse the reader with elaborate timetables based on train schedules, etc., as there is no guarantee that things like that would ever work out for even the carefullest murderer. (Sod's or Murphy's Law.)

Avoid having your Prime Suspect turn out to be the culprit after all, because this is ultimately disappointing (unless you are clever enough to totally reshuffle motives and alibis).

Do not present an 'impossible crime' situation without at least attempting to verify its plausibility by experiment. Also try to avoid using an accomplice to abet the criminal's illusion. (That's OK for stage magicians with their assistants, but spoils a mystery plot where the villain has to deceive the detective, almost, but without cheating. It makes a lot of sense, too, if you are a villain, not to risk collaboration.)

The murderer should never turn out to be somebody incapable of committing the crime, at least as presented in the lead-up (i.e., invalids in wheelchairs, morons, a person in an intensive-care ward, an astronaut who happened to be in orbit at the time).

A conspiracy involving a hired hit-man, or a mysterious Illuminati cartel, does not belong in a true detective novel. This also includes situations where several suspects are independently up to no good and just happen to be on the scene at the relevant time. (Sod's Law, again, and a very mechanical manipulation of coincidence for supposedly dramatic purposes -- this won't fool anybody and should be dismissed as mere padding.)

No faking of fingerprints or other forensic details. In spite of their portrayal, even the police a hundred years ago were not as incompetent as they were made out to be. Nowadays, if you want to commit a murder, forget trying such a thing, unless you can afford a good lawyer to screw up the expert witnesses at your trial!

If you are going to talk down to the reader (who is an ignoramus, whereas you are a genius), via your detective, make sure your facts are correct. Twaddle about Egyptology (curse of the pharaoh, etc.) is unacceptable. Informative facts about some obscure subject, however, are beneficial.

Do not present your detective as an ineffectual fool or allow him or her to show any signs of not being superior to the reader or the 'Watson' (except to the extent that the detective can have misjudgements and miscalculations for the sake of 'bonding' with the reader). An incompetent detective is an actor in a comedy, not a detective story.

Get your details of real police policies and forensic science up to date as far as you can. Unless the book takes place in the classic stranded house-party tradition, there is no way an author can get away with ignoring public procedures, no matter how gifted the detective.

Finally, a personal peeve: Don't have a large cast of characters and refer to them all by their Christian names, such as Evelyn, Jane, Meg, Charles, and Chris. Who in the hell are you talking about?

Grobius Shortling (July 4, 2001)


A classic readers' guide was published in 1941 (Murder for Pleasure © renewed 1968 Howard Haycraft) and while dated is one of the best treatises on the subject. Haycraft's 'Rules of the Game' chapter expounds in greater detail than a simple decalogue. Here are the sub-sections (paraphrased or reinterpreted, not quoted in full -- just to provide the flavor):

*Structure and Sources: Mainly keep in mind that the plot comes first and that the actions of the characters are 'retrofitted' into it, which is how a detective story differs from a crime novel where of course the characters themselves drive the plot. Any central pivot, such as an expertise about some unusual subject, is up to the author -- as long as it is accurate.

* The Need for Unity: In other words, make the story fit the devised crime. A person -- detective, suspect, witness -- should not act out of 'character' just because the plot demands it. In that case, it is better just to redesign the character.

* The Detective: This is almost axiomatic -- one must have a detective who is distinctively defined, preferably a series detective (which saves having to create a new one for each book -- easier that way both for the writer and the reader and engenders a familiarity that ensures comfort and a market for new books). Initially defining a detective whom readers can 'identify' with as a familiar friend is one of the hardest things, apart from plotting, for a detective novelist to do, but once done removes the burden of re-explication.

* Watson or Not?: Discouraged now because it is trite, but if you have to have one, make him a total opposite of the detective -- e.g., Archie Goodwin vs Nero Wolfe.

* Viewpoint: Standard literary practice, whatever the genre. There has to be a consistency of delivery for the story, no matter what technique is used (first person, omniscient, point-of-view, whatever).

* The Crime: There really must be a murder, or at least a major felony -- otherwise, what's the point? Who's ripping off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly the business of a mystery novel.

* The Title: 'The best advice to the author faced with the selection of a title is not to worry about it.' Having a good title and basing the book on it is like the tail wagging the dog. 'Nuff said.

* The Plot: Keep it flowing from one thing to another and don't get sidetracked into dead-ends. Well, that's common sense for all fiction.

'Had I But Known': That has always been a bugaboo among mystery fans since Mary Roberts Rinehart and earlier. It is the ditzy heroine sneaking into Bluebeard's chamber even if she has been repeatedly warned not to. It is the kid's action when told 'Whatever you do, don't climb on the railway tressle.' Does not belong in a detective story. (Can be fun enough in a gothic romance or horror novel or something of the sort.)

*Emotion and Drama: Of course for dramatic reasons there has to be some of this for the sake of interesting the reader, but for the most part remember that this is a novel of detection, not a love story.

*The Puzzle Element: Don't make that the whole story; this is not a crossword puzzle.

* Background and Setting: Basically, the author should be familiar personally with the location. If you were in Aruba for three hours on a cruise ship trip, don't set your novel in Aruba based on that. Use real settings when possible, for verisimilitude, and be accurate. And, PS, don't borrow somebody else's setting, such as Wuthering Heights.

* Characters and Characterization: Not all of the players need to be fully defined -- puppet roles are fine (cops, servants, etc.) -- but at least the detective, the murderer, and preferably the victim should be convincingly realized. Is this obvious or what? But a lot of formula mysteries totally ignore this precept.

*Style: Avoid corniness, pretentiousness, and overwriting. (Duh...)

*The Devices of Detection: Don't be so elaborate as to make the daenouement incomprehensible. Beware of ignorance of the simple rules of evidence and forensics. (Then follows a whole list of things to avoid, like tobacco ashes, locked rooms, footprints, etc., but that is just HH's judgment based on what were cliches then. If it works, then it's OK, right?)

* Physical Boundaries: This is basically advice on how long a mystery novel or story should be. Times change -- sometimes very lengthy, sometimes very short, now lengthy again (because of the high cover cost of a book these days -- padding out an extra couple hundred pages, which isn't that more expensive production-wise, makes the reader think it's worth the money).

*Some General Considerations: Basically extols the existence of bodies like The Detection Club in England, which encouraged new ventures in this genre, and was a professional forum for both established and hopeful writers. MWA encourages this now in

All of these are found at"'>>

Originally post @

The 10 Commandments Of The RPG Player

By Doug 'Wraith' Lochery

RPG players of the world, I summon thee here to give audience to my words of wisdom. That which you term your 'hobby' is a subtly balanced game that, when upset, can easily die a horrible death and become naught more than a nuisance. This is a shame, as RPGs are one of the most involving and fun hobbies to be found in all the worlds.

Below you will find Ten Commandments that form a code of conduct for the players of our RPG hobby. These commandments are guidelines intended to allow our game to retain its subtle balance and therefore continue to be a source of fun for all involved. I beseech thee, players of the world, to adhere to these principles in your own ways and adhere to them well.

Heed these words and you shall enjoy your games and retain the balance.

The Summary

Thou Shalt Create a Suitable Alter-Ego

Thou Shalt Be Prepared

Thou Shalt Be In-Character Whenever Possible

Thou Shalt Not Rules-Lawyer

Thou Shalt Not Damage the Fun of Thy Fellow Players

Thou Shalt Be Courteous

Thou Shalt Speak Thy Mind

Thou Shalt Heed the Word of thy GM

Thou Shalt Involve Thyself Whenever Possible

Thou Shalt Have Fun And Avoid Burn-Out

COMMANDMENT 1: Thou Shalt Create a Suitable Alter-Ego

In order to participate in an RPG you, as a player, must give yourself a way of interacting with the imaginary world that will be the boundary within which you play. Obvious words, I know, but in order for the game to run along smoothly, the vehicle that you create for interacting with the game world must be suitable.

'Suitable?' I hear you scoff, 'Whatever does he mean?'

Many RPGs have suffered because the players created characters to play that didn't suit the game's setting, the GM's scenarios, or the make-up of the party. Getting your character right is essential for suspension of disbelief and proper immersion in the roleplaying experience.

The solution to creating a suitable character is information:

Talk to the GM about the sorts of races and societies in the game area.

Talk to the other players to see what sorts of characters they're playing.

Once the information is gathered, select a character that could be in the game area and one that would feasibly be in the company of the other characters in the party.

Once the party of characters is created, get your heads together and make up backgrounds for the characters and a short history of their acquaintance.

Add to the finished background a breakdown of the character's personality and link that persona to events within the background. Again, conversing with the GM about societal views and conditions on the game world can help you add a lot of believability to the character.

Doing this adds a lot to both continuity and depth of the game, and will go a long way to helping everyone suspend disbelief during scenarios and making the experience a lot of fun.

When creating characters there are a couple of tips that help the process along:

Don't exclude the GM from the creation process. The GM has a much better idea about the game world than you do and will always have a good idea or two about how you can get what you want into your character without sacrificing believability.

Set aside a game session for character creation. Creating a good, suitable character can take up a few hours sometimes. Plan your time in advance.

Create characters as a group. Get the other players together to create characters. This way, ideas can be bandied about between you all and the group background can be that much more cohesive.

Less can be more! Don't create a 12 page essay on your character. Map out his main characteristics and leave the rest for development during the game. There are two reasons for this: one is to save yourself work (as characters can die suddenly), and the other is to allow yourself room to develop the character in the direction you want and have fun with it.


COMMANDMENT 2: Thou Shalt Be Prepared

When you go to a game you want to get straight into the action, don't you? A lot of games are held up by poor preparation of games materials beforehand by the GM but an equal number of games are held up by poor preparation on the part of the players.

Help get things going quickly and smoothly by preparing yourself for the game. As a player, you have certain items that you generally must have in order to play. Miniatures, character sheets, dice, stationery, and snacks all figure into this, so grab them all and make them available for use beforehand so that retrieving them isn't going to eat into game-time. Nobody likes to wait for Disorganized Dave as he trawls through his car's glove box for his character sheet so that he can find out what his climb walls skill score is, least of all the other players.

As a player, you should have a credible character created and ready for play before a new game begins. Prepare this character before the real game is about to start, preferably on a night prior to the date of the game (see Commandment 1).

As a player, you should prepare yourself mentally to be able to 'get into character' easily. Review your character notes and look forward to the game.

As a player, you should be able to play from game session to game session as if your group hadn't stopped, or else clues, actions, maps, and such are forgotten and lost. Prepare by reviewing your notes and discussing past sessions, and any continuing missions or tactics, with the other players before the game.

These are just a few ways to prepare, but I think by now my point is made. Player preparation is the key to quickly starting games.


COMMANDMENT 3: Thou Shalt Be In-Character Whenever Possible

In case you hadn't noticed, the games you play are called ROLEPLAYING games. By definition, that means that within the game you have to PLAY a ROLE.

Roleplaying is a bit like acting. You act out your character's reactions and decisions. A lot of games only require the character acting bit during serious conversation scenes when the GM is trying to gauge the attitudes of the party (or when he's trying to have a bit of fun). This shouldn't be the case. Act out your character whenever possible, as this lends substance to the idea that your character 'lives'. It helps the other players (and the GM) suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves more in the experience.

For an example:

Two PCs enter a tavern. A large burly orc bars their way to their table. The first player says to the second, 'Get ready to attack him' and the second player says to the GM, 'My character asks the orc to move and attacks him if he doesn't'.

On the other hand:

Two PCs enter a tavern. A large burly orc bars their way to their table. The first player says to the second, 'Garak nudges Calthanus and mutters 'Ready thy sword. There may be trouble''. The second player says to the GM, 'Orc! I ask thee to move thyself from my path. You are blocking my way. Or would you like to taste my steel?'.

Which of these two versions of the encounter sounds more like a role playing game? Play in character as much as you can and the game will gain greater depth for you and those participating with you.


COMMANDMENT 4: Thou Shalt Not Rules-Lawyer

Rules-Lawyers. GMs hate them and players dread them slowing down the game. Nobody really likes them so don't be one. In order to avoid being one, I suppose I'd better explain what one is. Okay, here we go.

A Rules-Lawyer is an individual player who likes to challenge the GM on various rules calls and action resolutions. The rules-lawyer usually knows (or believes he knows) most, if not all, of the rules quite well and thinks that by arguing with the GM over the correct application of the rules he is making the game 'better'. Some rules-lawyers simply try to nit-pick the GM's judgements in order to get advantages for their character. Others believe their interpretation of the rules is the 'right' one and the only way the game should be played. While these arguments over the rules are resolved, the game invariably has to be stopped.

It doesn't take a genius to see that a rules-lawyer can stop a game often and easily with his arguments. This can have a disastrous effect on the believability and survival of the game itself, as players get bored and annoyed with the stoppages. While it is OK to challenge the GM about his rulings sometimes (see Commandment 7) it is not OK to spoil the game for the other players and try to 'take over' the game from the GM (see Commandments 5 and 8).

The message is clear. Don't be a rules-lawyer.


COMMANDMENT 5: Thou Shalt Not Damage the Fun of Thy Fellow Players

Another easy one that is more common sense than anything else.

Everyone at the game table is there to have fun. Avoid doing anything that takes fun away from your fellow players or your entire presence at the game is pretty much pointless.

Commandment 4 details one way to ruin people's fun, but there are other ways you should avoid:

Don't make fun of players' characters and ideas - it isn't funny to make others feel small (see Commandment 6).

Don't throw dice at or be abusive to the other players.

Don't continually stop the game by leaving the table, rules-lawyering (see Commandment 4), telling jokes to the players, or having a side conversation unrelated to the game.

Pay attention to the GM's words and the other players' actions so you don't have to get them to repeat themselves.

These are just a few things to think about, but as with Commandment 4, the message in indeed clear. You are there to have fun and so are the other players. Bear that in mind, and if you doubt see Commandment 6.


COMMANDMENT 6: Thou Shalt Be Courteous

This commandment is simple: be polite. Show common courtesy to the other players in the group and your GM. You'd be surprised how much of a difference such a thing makes.

There are a few courtesies common in RPG gaming that you can observe to help make things run smoother:

Don't speak over another player.

Allow others their turn to speak.

Don't get in another player's way.

Ask before using an item that doesn't belong to you (be it dice, pencil, or snack).

I could list about 30 others but they all just boil down to common sense. The reasons for according other players with courtesy and respect are obvious - if you don't, frustrations will arise, tensions will build, arguments may erupt, and the game will suffer. Always remember why you are gaming (see Commandment 10) and observe the fact that the other players are there for the same reason.

In short, show the other players and the GM some courtesy and respect and everyone will be happier.


COMMANDMENT 7: Thou Shalt Speak Thy Mind

Why must you speak your mind? There are several beneficial reasons for you to speak up during game-time. The thing to remember here is: Don't be shy. The other players and the GM are not going to maul you for speaking, so don't worry.

The first thing you should speak up about is when you have an idea during the game. Your characters are talking to a merchant that you think is dodgy? Fine. Speak up. You think that the back wall may hide a secret door? Fine. Mention it. You really think that you should avoid the town of Blargle? Fine. Tell the others. The GM will not act against you based upon your comments (if he's doing his job properly!) and your ideas may spur the party on to greater deeds. So speak up.

The second thing to speak up about is when you disagree with the GM. There will be times when the GM says or does something that isn't quite right, and it's fine to mention it to him. A GM should always try to please his players and isn't out to get you. He won't be offended by any complaint you have to make and will try to amend the action, rule, or game to suit the players. Mistakes can be made, since GMs, too, are only human. Please bear in mind that when mentioning faults to your GM, you should remember Commandments 4 and 8.

The third thing you should speak up about is if one of the other players is offending you, bugging you, or otherwise spoiling your fun (point such individuals at Commandment 5). Whether you mention this annoyance to the GM or the player himself is up to you, but don't let it drop. Speak up and allow the game and your fun to continue.

These three things, as always, are just examples of times when speaking up is an advantage. The only thing to remember when exercising your right of free speech is Commandment 6. So go on. Speak your mind.


COMMANDMENT 8: Thou Shalt Heed the Word of thy GM

The GM is there to arbitrate your game. GMs have to make all the decisions that aren't made by your characters. They control everything in the game world that isn't your character. They also create and run the scenarios that your characters find themselves in. With all that it's no wonder that the words that issue from the GM's mouth are important.

There are two main reasons why should heed the GM's words:

1) The GM gives information about what's going on in the game ALL of the time.

GMs will slip small clues into 'flavour text' and characterizations into NPC dialogue. An attentive player can use these tid-bits to solve puzzles, gain advantages and otherwise get his character through the game more successfully. Players that don't listen to what's going on will find that they quickly lose grasp on what's going on, miss clues, and struggle to keep up, thus slowing the game down for all. Commandment 5 gives a reason as to why this is unacceptable.

2) The GM handles all of the 'behind the scenes' calculations and rules.

If the GM says something, it goes. Players who do not accede to the GM's rulings will cause arguments, slowdown, and a loss of fun for all. Again, see Commandment 5.

It is worth noting that while it is perfectly okay to challenge the GM over rulings (while heeding Commandments 4 and 7), it is not okay to continue to challenge him once he has put his foot down. Just accept the GM's ruling and get on with the game. Keep playing, life's too short.


COMMANDMENT 9: Thou Shalt Involve Thyself Whenever Possible

This commandment may seem strange to you because, after all, by playing the game you are involved with it.

Just sitting down and participating in a game isn't really enough. To really enjoy yourself and make a real roleplaying game of it you must actively try to involve yourself whenever you can. Don't just sit there and wait for your GM to wade through a page of text and then ask, 'What do you want to do?' Use your character whenever the opportunity arises. After all, the emphasis is on ROLEPLAY, isn't it?

If you take charge of your character and use it whenever the opportunity presents itself, it will set an example to the other players. You will find that they, too, will start to roleplay their characters more during the game, adding to the feeling of immersion in the game world for all involved.

Actively involving yourself can be done outside your character as well as in-character during a game. GMs have an awful lot of work to do to make the game run smoothly, and any help you can give your GM will be very much appreciated. Offer to help with the bookkeeping, organization, map-making and other game-related tasks whenever you feel you can help, and always give your GM ideas for races, adventures, character classes and types, professions, skills, spells and anything else you think of (see Commandment 7).

Everything you involve yourself in and help with is something less for the GM to do, and will help speed things up. The less your GM has to concentrate on, the more time he'll have for creating wonderful adventures for you to get your teeth into.


COMMANDMENT 10: Thou Shalt Have Fun And Avoid Burn-Out

The most obvious thing to say but also the most forgotten sentence in the history of RPGing is: You play the game to have fun. There, I've said it. Now I feel better.

With all the work that a GM puts into the game and all the time and energy players expend to make characters, having fun can sometimes be forgotten as the reason behind it all. If for any reason you are not having fun playing, then you should identify why and do something about it. If the reason cannot be resolved, then you should stop playing. There is no point in doing something you are not enjoying.

Player burn-out is something that can make the game stop being fun. Burn-out is a term that is used to describe when players have basically become sick of playing, either through an intense gaming schedule or unusually long game (the term is used in other ways, but this is the most common usage of the phrase). Avoiding burn-out is the responsibility of not just the GM but the players too. A few quick tips to make sure burn-out doesn't hit you are:

Insist to your GM that you take regular breaks during the game and make sure he is aware of your preferred length of game (see Commandment 7).

Don't play too often. Once or twice a week is enough for most players.

Switch games systems once in a while, or change existing characters for a new party in an ongoing campaign. A change can be as good as a rest.

Avoid playing when you're really stressed-out or angry about something.

Player burn-out can also be caused by frustration with the game in some way. To avoid causing others frustration, always remember Commandment 6, and to avoid misunderstandings always use Commandment 7. Make sure that you are playing a game that suits you, look forward to playing, and heed the commandments above. This will give you a much better chance at having fun.

My final piece of advice is: Relax. As you are here to have fun there is nothing to get stressed about. Is that game ruling annoying you? Relax. It's only a game. Has the evil overlord foiled your well-laid plans? Relax. It's supposed to be a bit of fun. The moment you get stressed about something is the moment the game stops being fun. Most RPG gamers hate their hobby to be called 'just a game' but at the end of it all, no matter which way you look at it, a game is exactly what it is.

First Posted at


Maggott's Overly Bitter Commentary on GMing Habits

Disclaimer: Maggott is not God. This ruling has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court, despite several appeals by the Church of Maggott. This article mostly represents his own bitterness and shouldn't be construed as anything else. Nonetheless, we at the Compulsory Disclaimers Board acknowledge he has some cursory experience with the activity known as 'Role-Playing', and thus his ramblings may contain some small shred of wisdom among with the venemous offal of this article. Wise readers will see these as guidelines and warnings rather than hard and fast rules, with the obvious exception of rules one, four, seven, and possibly two. We don't know why, but we believe those rules are utterly inviolate, and should be followed no matter the cost.

Okay, now that the Compulsory 'We dismiss everything you say' Disclaimers board has had their legally obligatory say...


This is rule #1, because it has happened to me so very, very many times, and never fails to give me dark and morbid thoughts of drowning my GMs in a giant tank of congealed pig fat.

This is rule #1, because there is nothing lamer than having your characters fight and lose to the villain just to have the same NPC come in and save the day every single time.

This is rule #1, because if every important NPC you ever make has the same name, powers and general appearance, you need to LET GO OF THE PAST.

This is rule #1.

Playing NPCs like they're your own characters is bad, because too many GMs just lose themselves in the joy of traipsing through their game world in God-Mode using their all-powerful NPC that they don't even have to roll for. (You'll note that if such people DO roll, it's because they can't see any chance of failure, and nine times out of ten will fudge the roll if it somehow manages to fail) If you're going to use your old characters as NPCs, they should never be more powerful than any one of the players (Preferably, they should be weaker). They should roll and fail just like everyone else, and should NOT be more critical to the plot than the players are. And above all, never, NEVER have a PC-turned-NPC upstage the players. Too many GMs decide to play their favorite character and blow away everything to prove how cool they are, just because they have a super-powerful character.

It's not just old GM PCs, either. GMs can sometimes grow overly attached to NPCs, or make them right off the bat 'To be really cool'. Any NPC who is described by the GM as 'So cool' can pose a threat to the fun of the game.

Here are a few warning signs that you may have this problem:

If you have NPCs in two different campaigns with the same name who are not actually the same character

If you have an NPC in different campaigns who IS the same character, but in different campaign worlds

If you have NPCs in multiple campaigns who have the same abilities and personality and tend to show up a lot

If an NPC destroys the 'boss' character at the end of the campaign instead of the PCs doing it, while the PCs are present (This is a dead giveaway)

If an NPC is in more than 1/3rd of the battles and consistently does more total damage than the most powerful PC

If you *ever* use the words 'so cool' in describing any of your NPCs to *anyone* (I don't know what the connection is, but it's a powerful one.)

2. THOU SHALT NOT THROW OVERWHELMING NPCS AROUND LIKE CANDY. (Also known as the 'Mad Wizard Kidnapping Rule')

There are always people who can vaporize the players. There are always people who can enslave their whole country, capture them, take all their stuff and reduce their total XP to 1, and not even have to roll to succeed.

Those people should not be in your game.

Godlike NPCs should be the stuff of legend--you shouldn't have ANY random wizard or dragon be able to cream the players or render them helpless without even taking a turn. Plot convenience is one thing, but hyper-powerful NPCs are overused to an extreme. In reality, almost no one is infallible, or undefeatable, or even capable of picking their nose without a chance of screwing up. NPCs should be the same way.

Hyper-powerful individuals are excruciatingly rare, and aren't as insecure as normal people. They wouldn't have to prove their power to the PCs the way the GM always makes them do. What's more, overwhelmingly powerful people are overwhelmingly conspicuous unless they make a continuing effort not to be (And that effort would require NOT displaying their power to every group of adventures they encounter).

An NPC who could cream the players should at least be someone they've heard of before, so there will seem to be a small sense of justification in their minds that they're involved in something bigger than an uncreative plot-hook. You can even turn this to your advantage--tell stories in the first few adventures of legendary figures and powerful individuals, THEN send the players up against them. It will be much more memorable than 'Yeah, we were kidnapped by an insane mage and/or Balor AGAIN...'


A lot of people like fighting enough to want to spend a half hour of gaming time killing a pack of giant spiders that have no connection to the plot just so they can get XP. And a lot of people don't.


This is a well-known problem, but people keep forgetting it for some reason. Rules are a way to keep the game reasonably consistent. They're designed so that you don't have to think of every detail in common combat, and so the players will have a fairly objective way to know what their characters can do and how well they can do it. They're there to add a sense of unpredictability and suspense, and to make combat interesting, and they reduce the level of GM Fiat. But they're not the defining factors of roleplaying, and shouldn't ever stand in the way of logic or player choice.

Most GMs have overcome this problem--they're willing to let their players try new things. But they often try to apply pre-existing rules to them that are often inappropriate.

For example:

In 2nd edition D&D, if you put a pistol to someone's head while they were sleeping, and pulled the trigger, some GMs would say 'Roll to hit.'. That's bad. Some would patronize you by saying 'Okay, you can't miss and put the barrel up to his temple, roll damage. 7? Okay, he wakes up.' This is worse.

(Granted, in 3rd edition D&D, if you do it while they're sleeping, the GM will say 'Okay, it's a coup de gras, and that's in the rules. He's dead.' But that's what we call a 'Band Aid'--solving a specific instance of a broader problem. In 3rd edition, if there isn't a skill or a feat for it, your character will never learn it...)

And a called shot to the head should never, EVER roll for double damage, even if that's what the rules say you should do for called shots, and even if it's specifically what it says you should do for called shots to the head. Having 120 hit points against a 2d8 flintlock pistol shouldn't allow someone to survive being shot through the BRAIN. That's what we call 'Lame', and robs players of any sense of realism or control over their character's world outside of the rules. Never let the rules fly in the face of logic.

(This may seem obvious to a lot of you, but you'd be surprised how many GMs have told me to roll damage after I made a called shot to someone's unarmored forehead. Out of all of them, only one had a good excuse.)


The converse of using rules to screw the players is ignoring rules to screw the players. Rules are a good way to keep the GM from overstepping his bounds.


This doesn't apply to roleplaying in the Star Wars universe so much as it applied to playing in the Star Wars universe four or five years ago. Remember? The good old days, when it was Rebellion vs. Empire, nobody had ever heard of Admiral Thrawn or Naboo or Rogue Squadron, and Jedi were supposedly more rare than kryptonite?

Remember the last few Star Wars games you played during that time period? Where *all* of the characters were Jedi Knights and kryptonite was sold in 2-litre bottles at 7-11?

It may seem like letting players play what they want is always the best policy, but this isn't true. It's USUALLY the best policy. There are exceptions. There are many times when allowing certain players to play what they want will make the game less fun for everybody else. You shouldn't let players play exceptionally rare or powerful character types, because you're going to end up with:

An entire party of exceptionally rare and powerful PCs which means you'll have to respond with an array of exceptionally rare and powerful NPCs (You should NEVER have 'Sith Lord' on your random encounters table)


A party of one or two exceptionally rare and powerful PCs, and the rest of the party, who is annoyed and resentful of the fact that one or two of the PCs get all the action.

OR, in an example that happened to me, you'll get one player who's the only NON-JEDI in an entire roleplaying group, INCLUDING the NPCs, and as a result, that player will be impotent and ignored, despite being origional and having a very well-fleshed character against a backdrop of almost shamefully generic jedi characters (every single one of them wielding a purple goddamned lightsaber). This is very annoying as well. Which leads us to...


You shouldn't always favor the one player who chose your favorite 'Custom prestige class' that you made up.

You should not favor the good characters over the evil characters or vice-versa. (This happens a lot. You'd be surprised.)

You should not inordinately favor the berserkers over the charisma-weasels or the charisma-weasels over the berserkers.

You should try not to favor your girlfriend. It WILL be obvious to the other players, and it WILL annoy them. (If she gets huffy about her character being drawn and quartered, she's obviously not a true gamer, and you'd be better off with a REAL girl. One who runs her own MUD on the side, and has huge knockers. And so long as we're fantasizing, unicorn horns make great hood ornaments.)

In fact, let's just give that one it's own rule:

6B. DON'T LET YOUR GIRLFRIEND PLAY. EVERYBODY HATES THAT. LET'S JUST MAKE THAT A RULE FROM NOW ON, SO WHEN SHE BITCHES YOU CAN SAY 'Sorry, honey, it's a rule among Gamers, and if I break it, Maggott will come out of the closet and take my balls. From you, if necessary.'


This one shouldn't require much explaination, especially for those of you who have tried to join e-mail games. (EVERYBODY who's done it knows what I'm talking about...) But I'll explain it anyway, because there are very, very few e-mail GMs who have picked up on it:


Because it will.

Nearly every e-mail game fizzles out in two weeks or less, often because the GM just stops posting. E-mail GMing is probably the hardest kind there is (I've run one of my games for going on six years now, I know how hard it is), but you should know what you're getting into *before* you try. The most frustrating part of e-mail gaming is drop-outs: players drop and GMs drop. If you're a GM, realize that two thirds of all the players who join your game are going to be dillweeds and drop without warning within two weeks. And, if you're a GM, realize you're even more of a dillweed if you do it. If you must end a game, then SAY SO. Don't just stop posting--at least TELL your players if you're going to end it. That is the only honorable way to escape this clause, and if you don't, you are an honorless dog who will be devoured in the afterlife by rabid 0-level kobolds with infinite armor class.

(Likewise, if you're a player and you're going to drop, TELL THE GM. Even if you have to make up some flimsy excuse because you don't want to tell him his game sucks, tell him you're dropping! Fear of confrontation doesn't make you any less of an honorless dog.)

If you're not going to end it, then POST!! Intending to post for two weeks and then forgetting forever WILL NOT SAVE YOU FROM THE DEVOURING KOBOLDS.


Keep the world consistent. A redneck in the bar should have exactly the same stats regardless of what level the players are. Nothing makes a player feel like his gains are wasted like making him 20th level and then putting him in a totally random barfight where, somehow, all the 17-year-old skinheads have 95 HP, an attack bonus of +15 and 3 attacks per round. (This is a true story.)

If all the fights are going to be the same no matter how powerful you are, what's the point in progressing? You can make a game challenging without abandoning common sense. If you MUST make the skinheads pose a threat, swamp a PC with thirty of them.

This is a HUGE problem in D&D3E, because the dice mechanics break completely if difficulties and character levels are not adjusted to each other. If I see one more abandoned storeroom door with a lockpick DC of 45 just because my skill is 35, I'm going to kill someone.

Think of the last time you assigned an 'Average' DC for a high level character. Was it roughly ten points above what their skill was? Yeah. I thought it would be. Stop it.


Many of us have had this experience--we join a game that's supposedly set in the Starcraft universe, where we all get to play Protoss Templar and Terran Marines and Zerg Buttocks-monsters and all that fun stuff. Suddenly, during your first adventure, you encounter a thus far unheard-of race called the 'Shal-Tan', which, over the course of nine adventures, you find out are not only more powerful and influential than the Zerg, Protoss and Xel'Naga combined, but that you can't walk two feet without running into.

The GM has made up this race, you see, and they are 'So Cool' that he has made them the focal point of the adventure.

Where's the problem?

The problem is, it's not so much a campaign as a GM ego trip. It's overbearing, and you aren't giving the players what they wanted. Changing campaign worlds to suit games is fine. Adding to them is fine, too--I personally have probably messed with game worlds more thoroughly than any mortal on Earth (In fact, if there were one rule which would make me a total hypocrite, it would be this one). But make it plausible, and don't destroy any of the origional premises that people enjoyed about the world. If you want to throw in the Shal-Tan, fine. If you want to make them the focal point of the campaign, even that's fine. Just don't be so dad-blamed obvious about it. Don't throw them in because they're a really cool race that you thought of all by yourself; throw them in because they will enhance the game's dynamics. Play as if they weren't there, and introduce them gradually--if you make them the focal point of more than one sub-plot within the first three adventures, you're overdoing it. You should add to the game world, not replace it just because you had a really cool idea.

It's really fun for GMs to do, but it sucks for players, and almost never makes sense. If whatever you added was really that prominent, it would have been noticed before. (And 'They're super secretive!' doesn't hold water when the players run into them every game.)


You create a starship captain. You spend hours on the character, and hours on thinking up his ship. You establish a whole story behind how he got it, the adventures it has taken him through, and the names of all the crew. You base your entire character concept on a swashbuckling, adventurous starship captain who would sacrifice his life to save his beloved ship and crew. Then, during the first adventure, the very first thing that happens is the ship gets blown up and all the crew killed or captured because it provides the GM with a convenient plot hook, and because he doesn't want the PCs to have their own ship yet. (True story.)

This is bad.

Take another player, one in some sort of horror/supernatural campaign. She spends her time designing a cute, loveable telepath who thinks the whole world is flowers and sunshine, and gears up to have a great time portraying her as naive and kind but gradually turning more and more fearful of the evils of the world, even going so far as telling the GM what kinds of things might finally send her off the edge. The GM, since he wants to run a dark campaign, decides that, rather than letting her play her character as she wants and saving this information for a dramatically appropriate moment, decides to dump it all on her during their first gaming session, in the first five minutes, along with a bunch of other horrible things, and then informs her that her character has post traumatic stress disorder, has been turned into a vampire, has no telepathic abilities, and wants nothing more than to kill her family. He then hands her a totally new character sheet that has the vampire stats he wanted her to have, and says 'Write your character's name on it. Only now she calls herself Blackraven.'

This is also bad.

Changing a character for plot reasons is often overwhelmingly tempting for GMs, but it pisses players off to no end when it happens too fast, particularly when you get a player like me who has learned to predict that a PC with a ship will have it destroyed or stolen in the first adventure *every time*, and that cheerful characters in a dark campaign setting will be tortured or have their parents and friends murdered the first adventure *every time*. It stops being a motivating factor and starts being stupid really quickly. If you want to be safe, here's a good rule: Don't ever change anything about the character's background for at least two adventures. If it's really important to your plot that you do so, it's not hard to just tell the players that bad things are going to happen in the first adventure that might take their toys or family members away BEFORE they make their character. You can be generic so long as you acknowledge that you're being generic.


If You mapped it on graph paper, and:

The players must explore it one room at a time, and:

Your PCs are courtiers, nobles, inventors and other creative non-combat characters:

Then: Throw it out.

(Unless your players are dungeon-crawler types, dungeon crawls suck.)

10 Commandments of Roleplaying

Ten Commandments of Role Playing

by Jim R. Majorowicz

I do not agree completely with these rules, but they are admusing and a lot of fun to read.

Reprinted without permission. If someone who knows Jim reads this, let him know so I can ask.

Currently posted at

Whether you're just starting out in role playing games (RPGs) or an advanced player or game master, you should hold these rules to be self-evident. A beginning player should follow these commandments to better prepare him for the trials his character will face. The advanced player should already be following them.

1. Thou shalt not split the party.

This is the most important rule. Any party that wants to split up is suicidal. Any GM trying to split up the party is committable. Not only is this a very easy way to die, it's very stressful on the GM. This poor individual will have to be in two places at once. Any time you split the party, the GM must (or should) split the players in order to keep them from playing on the other group's knowledge. To give you a good idea of why you should never split the aprty, watch any teen horror flick. You know the type, the teens have gone to party in some secluded spot or at someone's house or in a campground and then find out that some axe murderer has escaped from the nearby mental facility (or morgue if a sequel). Of course one of them is missing because we just saw her get whacked with a weedeater in a previous scene. Biff, the good-looking blonde leader guy who's gonna get it in the next scene says 'Hey dudes, there's an axe murderer loose around here, so let's split up so he can kill us all one at a time.' Of course he actually said they should look for Buffy because she doesn't know that Jason is out there, but it amounts to the same thing.

Your party strength lies in your numbers and diversity. I've never been in a game session in any game system taht one character class could do everything by himself if the game wasn't designed that way. (Solo campaigns have a different set of rules to follow.) A party of adventurers implies a group of diverse individuals that need to rely on each others' strengths and protect each others' weaknesses.

To illustrate this point, let's take a standard party of AD&D adventurers; Kur'Ush (pronounced 'crush') the fighter, Jonpaul the cleric, Gandalf the mage (don't tell me you never named a mage Gandalf or a variant thereof) and Ash True the thief. Let's assume that Kur'Ush and Jonpaul both wear chainmail, Ash wears leather armor, and poor Gandalf wears some old dusty grey robes. (Nobody ever said that every PC has to be an original idea.) In the final encounter in the old musty dungeon scenario (nobody said DM's were creative all the time either), the party encoutners an evil mage who has along for protection his pet rust monster Rusty and four zombies (the last party of adventurers). Gandalf and Ash can handle Rusty, while Kur'Ush takes out the evil mage, and Jonpaul takes care of the zombies. The reason the last party lost was because they were all fighters and they split up to chase after two kobolds three levels up.

2. Thou shalt never, ever, not in a zillion years, split the party.

This rule cannot be stressed enough.

3. Thou shalt not steal (from the party)

In order to keep harmony in the group, this rule is a must. I don't care if your character is a fighter or thief, stealing from the party is a big no-no. Almost as big as splitting the party.

Let's go back to our original group of adventurers and introduce their respective players. Kur'Ush is run by Nick who loves to smash things even when he's not roleplaying. Jonpaul is run by David, a relative newcomer to roleplaying, so he sits back and lets the others guide the way. Gandalf is run by Eric, an experienced roleplayer who has seen and done it all (or at least he thinks so.) Ash True is run by Charlie, the type of guy who if he used his street smarts on the streets instead of roleplaying, would either be living on the French Riviera or in jail for mail fraud (the type of roleplayer that asks three seemingly harmless questions at the beginning of an encoutner and then hits the GM with the solution of the year.) The DM's name is Jim, not that it matters, but it's about to appear again.

Ok, now during this adventure into the dusty old dungeon the party has gathered some treasure. What they don't know is that Ash, who was elected treasurer, (because nobody else stepped forward), has been keeping the choice gems for himself. (Charlie in a secret note to Jim rationalized it by saying that it was payment for being treasurer, as well as hazard pay. After all, isn't it Ash who takes all the risks with the traps attached to the locks?) Now for game purposes Jim decides that he will make a non-weapon proficiency check (Sleight of Hand (Rogue & Illusionist 1nwp, others 2nwp) DEX 0). Ash has a Dexterity of 18, so it's not likely to be noticed. However, after defeating the evil mage, our heroes sit back to relax and go over the treasure, which is when Kur'Ush discovered a sizable ruby (which he had been eyeing for some time) missing from the loot. To understand what happened next we must step out of the game and into reality. As Jim quietly explained to Nick that the gem Kur'Ush had wanted was missing, Nick being the hothead he is jumped out of his chair and lugned across the room for Charlie's throat. It was only Eric's quick thinking (probably brought on by self-preservation as he was lounging in the sofa between Charlie and Nick) that averted disaster. After tempers had cooled a discussion took place to attempt to ascertain if this rule (which was drawn up as part of the party charter) had been broken. Ash managed to fast talk his way out of it by convincing the party that he never stole from them because he had taken the items in question before party treasure had been ascertained. (A fine point, mind you, but hey it's only a game.)

Now I'll bet you're thinking, what kind of idiots let the thief keep track of the loot? Well, the answer is trusting ones. Nick, Charlie, Eric and Jim have played together before with Charlie running the thief. In 2nd Edition AD&D, a thief is given points to add to his thieving abilities. Charlie had never added one point to Ash's Pick Pockets roll. Not once. He decided early on that Ash was not going to be a common thief, but someone who relies on his wits and abilities to get by in the world. In other words, Ash is a con artist, and second-story man. (Much like Charlie, but you didn't hear me say that.)

4. Thou shalt never deal with any creature that starts with D

This includes Dragons, Demons, Devils, Drow, Duergar, Djinn, DMs, etc. Mainly due to the fact that most of them are evil, but also because they would love to just do you over. (Which is why the DM is listed.) When at all possible, just avoid them. Just keep in mind what happens when you make a deal with the Devil.

5. Thou shalt never touch, pick-up, or come in physical contact with any round glowing green objects

This one may not make sense if you haven't seen the movie 'Heavy Metal', or read any of the magazines. The Loc-Nar is a round glowing green object. Anyone who came in contact with it was either disfigured or destroyed by it. I ran a party through a scenario where they ran into the Loc-Nar, and it was a mistake. If they didn't die, they turned green and evil and eventually killed each other.

6. If someone asks if thou art a god, thee must respond YES

Although I've never actually had to use this one, it's a good rule of thumb. Anyone who's ever seen the movie Ghostbusters knows what I'm talking about. However, proving the fact might prove difficult unless you're a 30th level wizard.

7. If, it seems, a little easy, methinks thou should be a bit queasy

This little limerick is one of the most overlooked rules of roleplaying. I've seen parties of idiots... er, adventurers go blindly into traps, dead ends, or just the wrong way because it was the path of least resistance. This is especially true if you're near the end of the adventure. If you're getting close to the treasure and feel you haven't earned it, look out. There is probably some nasty surprise waiting just around the corner.

8. If it looks like a trap, smells like a trap, and tastes like a trap, it must be a trap

I've been in adventuring parties that have fallen into traps so obvious that I made notes ot the GM that I was going to be as far away as possible when they (the other adventurers) set it off. To prove how greedy players are, I once set a trap with a neon sign (literally) over it. They still set it off. I don't care how good your character is at finding and/or removing traps, eventually he's gonna slip up. A lot of times I've designed traps just to get the characters interested, but with nothing behind them. Be sure you have to go through the trap before you go through.

9. If thou art in doubt, thou shall run away

An adventurer who fights and runs away shall live to adventure another day. I've always found in my playing that if I don't know what it is, I don't want to mess with it. GMs who run campaigns that involve other GMs tend to invent their own monsters to add that spice of variety that every campaign needs. I've run, or run into; vorpal dust bunnies, a tarrasque polymorphed into a rabbit (remember Monty Python and the Holy Grail?), a plethora of variations on standard themes (different types of orcs, goblins, trolls, etc.) and even an Ahohwaxaaarytzuq (a very bizarre creature that never looks the same twice. Of course the name is never spelled the same way twice either, but always pronounced 'thing.' The whole thing was created to give use to useless 30-sided dice.)

10. Thou shalt always listen to the great philosophies

These include; 'Whatever can go wrong, will,' 'Murphy was an optimist,' 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it,' 'Plan ahead,' etc. If it seems appropriate, it probably is. These philosophies were written for a reason. They're true. Anyone who lives by these tends to keep from getting flustered, and any player who uses them tends to be happier with the results. Of course it goes all for naught if you ignore the biggest one of all, 'be prepared.'

11. When all else doth fail, bribe thy GM

Although not actually a commandment, it is something to keep in mind. Of course I've never met a GM worth his salt that took bribes. But, I've never met a GM yet who didn't mind when you shared your munchies with him.

About the author: Jim Majorowicz has been a GM for 8 years, and a player for 10. A student at the Oregon Institute of Technology, he has made these observations over the years, and has implemented them as the '10 Most Needed Tips for New Gamers in the Game Players Alliance,' a gaming club at OIT



'How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Game'


10. Thou shalt not intentionally try to kill a PC because of spite.

9. Thou shalt not wrest character control from a player.

8. Thou shalt not play favorites.

7. Thou shalt not let NPCs be more important than PCs.

6. Thou shalt not tantalize and then take away.

5. Thou shalt never say, 'That's for me to know and you to find out.'

4. Thou shalt not take out stress on the group.

3. Thou shalt not plagiarize UNLESS I can get away with it.

2. Thou shalt never put the game ahead of the players

1. Thou shalt not play if I don't believe I will have fun.


10. Thou shalt not take another Player Character's attitude personally.

9. Thou shalt not fib rolls.

8. Thou shalt not lie about my character's skills.

7. Thou shalt not BECOME my character.

6. Thou shalt not take out stress on the group.

5. Thou shalt not try to sabotage a group (unless part of the game story)

4. Thou shalt not attempt nor conspire to kick another Player from the group.

3. Thou shalt not date another Player.

2. Thou shalt not strut.

1. Thou shalt not play if I don't believe I will have fun.

Campaign Website Tips

From: Ruben Smith-Zempel


One of the greatest ways to increase player interest and

impart knowledge is via a campaign website. You don't have

to be a technical master to create a useful site, either.

Here are a few tips to help with creating a gaming website.

1) Write a mission statement.

Sit down and take a good 15 or 20 minutes to decide what it

is you want your site to do for you and your players. Write

a good, concise mission statement or outline detailing what

you want it to do. Pick a theme, use it, and stick with it.

You want to create a uniform theme and purpose to your site.

Doing this in the beginning will save you from a lot of

unnecessary work later on down the road.

2) Consider your audience.

Is your site for only you, your players, or for everyone in

the whole wide world? Your audience will determine what you

put on the site. If you want a mobile source of DM only

info, you should probably password protect your server. You

can also do away with any kind of graphics or 'window

dressing,' as you are the only audience. If the target is

for players, you need to make sure not to post anything that

the players shouldn't know (such as monster stats). Finally,

if the audience is everyone on the net, make sure you

provide some information that will interest everybody and

keep them coming back (easier said than done).

3) Consider your friends' bandwidth.

Ask your gaming group if they have access to the internet,

and at what speed they have access. If most of your friends

are on dialup, you should probably think about using very

few graphics (which take a lot of time to load). Try to keep

the files as small as possible. No one wants to wait around

5 minutes while your dazzling display of Photoshop prowess

slowly creeps across their screen.

4) Spellcheck and proofread.

Use a program to spellcheck what you write before you post

it (I use Word, then cut and past it into my web editor).

This will weed out any obvious spelling mistakes. Beware the

add button and custom dictionaries. We tend to use a lot of

words that come up incorrectly spelled, such as spellcraft

or spellcaster. If you add these to your custom dictionary,

make darn sure they are spelled correctly before you do it,

or your mistakes will not show up again.

And lastly, once you run things through spellchecker, read

through it once or twice. You will often find things poorly

worded or items that were missed from the spellchecker.

5) Update frequently.

Once you start a site, make sure to keep it up to date. Try

to update it before each gaming session to give players a

good chance to look at it. Usually, your players will remind

you (I darn near get lynched when I am late updating).

6) Avoid frames.

When formatting your page, refrain from using frames. These

can often do funny things, will not work on older browsers

or PDAs, and generally tend to fubar things. Tables or CSS

are a much better bet.

7) Make a template.

When you create your page, make a template. This is a blank

site page that only has your banner and navigation menu on

it. Save it as a template and keep it on hand. This will

come in handy down the road when you decide to add more new


8) Left to Right, Top to Bottom.

When designing a site, keep in mind that we are trained from

a very early age to read things left to right, top to

bottom. This gives you tremendous power over your readers.

The more important a thing is, put it farther to the left

and as high up as you can. This is also the reason that most

people put a navigation bar to the left side of the page.

9) Good things to include.

* Campaign maps

* House rules

* Past adventure synopses

* NPCs

* World information

* Lists of what the party has

10) So there are only 9, forgive him. These are good tips.

For an example of a gaming website, check out

Because sometimes net searches come up strange...

The ten commandments of Emails and Posts

This is good for Larps, Gaming sites, and so on

THOU SHALT include a clear and Specific subject line.

THOU SHALT edit any quoted text down to the minimum thou needest.

THOU SHALT read thine own message thrice before sending it.

THOU SHALT ponderest how the recipient(s) might react to thy message.

THOU SHALT check spelling and grammar.

THOU SHALT not curse, flame, spam nor USE ALL CAPS.

THOU SHALT not forward any chain letter.

THOU SHALT not use email for any illegal or unethical purpose.

THOU SHALT not rely on the privacy of email, especially from work, but THOU SHALT respect the privacy of others.

When in doubt, save the message overnight and reread it in the light of dawn before hitting the 'send' button.

And here's the Golden Rule of Emailing:

That which thou findest hateful to recieve, sendest thou not unto others!


Just thought I'd share, and see what other people have. Note these assume mature gamers. Munchkins especially are man-handled (though min-max gamer types aren't discouraged, just the extremes).

1) I'm the GM. What I say goes, and bugger the rules if need-be.

2) Of course you can appeal. I may even referse things and go back in time. But if the appeal is denied, that's that. Move on.

3) All character knowledge is shared with all players. You are assumed to know the difference between what you know and what your character knows, and play accordingly. I grant there is some value to an RPG in keeping secrets, but I think the time lost in note passing, walking out of the room, etc, is worth much more.

4) I will not run evil characters. Ok, maybe the occasional one-shot, but I have no interest in a campaign of that sort. If you get your jollies that way, go play diablo or thief, or run your own campaign.

5) I will not run men playing female characters. Most men do it very poorly, and anyway if you feel the need to pretend you're a female from time-to-time, please don't do so in my presence.

6) Don't simply ask "Is there a fork in the room?" Tell me why you want the fork, what you're thinking, and maybe even if there isn't a fork there'll be something else you can use. Of course this is just an example, please extrapolate to other situations.


1) Have fun. If its not fun, don't play

2) Its everybodys game, suggest things and they'll more than likely come to pass in one way or another

3) I'm there to have fun too, not just to facilitate for you, please remember that

4) What I say goes unless I'm being an idiot

5)Play in genre. If you're a hero, you don't loot the houses of the village you just saved

6) Seperate IC and OOC knowledge, if you can't, don't play.

7) Stay in characcter/ don't disrupt the flow of the game as much as possible.


1) The game is supposed to be fun. If you're not having fun, please tell me so I can see what we can do to fix it. If your fun has to come at someone else's expense, you are not welcome in my game (and probably not in my home).

2) Do not do anything illegal while in my company. (Minor traffic infractions will tend to be overlooked) Do not tell me what illegal things you choose to do out of my company.

3) Keep OOC and IC knowledge seperate. Sometimes, I'll keep secrets from other players, but when it's too much trouble, I won't. My general guideline is what's more fun for the group as a whole.

4) The responsibility of making this a good game falls to all of us. Your jobs are to show up on time, to make up a character who is good for the game overall, and to play your character well. My responsibility is to show up on time, and be prepared to run a good game.

4a) I'm really serious about the punctuality thing. Chronic lateness is a sign of profound arrogance.

4b) "A good character" is one who fits into the group in a way that makes for good stories. The PCs don't have to be friends, but they have to be able to work as the protagonists of an ensemble cast story. Mostly, that means they're on the same side.

4c) "Playing well" means portraying your character faithfully, to the extent that a faithful portrayal leads to fun for everyone.

5) I feed on input. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don't like. Tell me what you'd like to see. I'll try to respond by doing more of the first, less of the second, and as much of the third as I can manage.

6) Chip in for snacks.


My old group's rules (I was the usual GM, but the rest of the players had some involvement in agreeing to these):

1. If the GM needs to make a judgement call, he will consult briefly with the players before making my decision. Whatever that decision is, it stands. You can argue later about what should be done next time, but don't interrupt the game with rules-lawyering.

2. If you can't separate OOC and IC information, you probably won't be gaming with us in the future.

3. Your character may be of the opposite sex, different sexual orientation, or whatever. If you couldn't be mature about that sort of thing when the situation calls for it, we wouldn't be gaming with you at all.

4. Never no-show for a session. If you can't be there, tell us in advance so the GM can plan for it.

5. Be willing to host a session on short notice if our usual host can't have it at their house for whatever reason.

6. You will not play a ninja. EXCEPTION: If we're building characters quickly and on an airplane, you can pull the ninja character template out of the book. Just make him a musketeer or something (since the Airplane Session was not set in feudal Japan).

I regrettably had to add:

7. Your character is not Neo. Nor is he Neo with a katana. Make up your own character concept, don't rip one from another work. Especially not one where the world is fundamentally different from the one we're gaming in.

8. Your OOC disputes with another player are not grounds for trying to kill their character. You do not want me to have to figure out what to do about that crap; you won't like any answer I might come up with.


1. You're at the table not only to have fun, but promote fun/entertainment for EVERYONE at the table.

2. It means horribly little to me what your character thinks unless he/she does something with those thoughts. In other words, please don't play the brooder in my games or try to justify incredibly disruptive character actions.

3. By all means use OOC knowledge if it will make for a better story. As an extension of this, if you have an idea for what would be cool, suggest it and we'll see if we can work it in.

This tends to work for my group. I find it tends to promote lots of interest from everyone at the table. I also think some of these would have worked with groups from my early gaming days.


This is guidelines more for the group as a whole than for the GM, but they still apply. I call 'em the Minimum Standards.

Cleanliness. You don't have to be Mr GQ Smooth, but have a shower and put on a fresh shirt. Discover the wonderful modern inventions, deodorant and toothpaste.

Punctuality. Show up on time. If you know you're going to be late, call the game's host and let them know as soon as you do. Don't call half an hour after game start to say you'll be an hour late.

Politeness. Look, nerds lack social skills, let's be honest. But say hello to the host's non-gaming husband or flatmates. Chat about the weather, ask them how their work's going. Don't tell them about the latest episode of Star Drek or your comic purchase. Be friendly. Don't hit on anyone in the house. Say "excuse me", when you fart. All this increases the chances of your being welcome in the house again. Once people are grown ups, one of the major things that keeps them from gaming is a spouse who says, "those guys are weird". Try to change that to, "those guys are weird, but nice".

Preparedness. You don't have to go out and buy $600 worth of game supplements, but every player should have, at the least: pencil, scrap paper, character sheet, dice. Dice are the most expensive of those. My tip is to go to regular game stores, which carry dice at around half the price of roleplaying game stores. The GM should have all necessary books and notes, and is in no way obliged to carry spare stuff for unprepared players.

Don't be an Attention Junkie. Unless you're the only player, the game doesn't revolve around you. Don't nag the GM with endless irrelevant questions about rules and setting. Don't expect the GM to change the rules just for you. There's other players there, too, and they'd like a chance to speak up. In particular, you'll find that younger or female players will tend to keep quiet if there are older or male players present. Shut up for a minute and let them speak up. If they still don't speak up, ask their opinion on things, bring them into it.

Concentration. You're there to roleplay. If you'd rather watch the football or talk to your boyfriend on your mobile or read your comics, go, do that. Go. Elsewhere. Home. Either that, or put that stuff down and pay attention. Is the game boring? Liven it up! Is the GM spending all the time with the Attention Junkie? Remind the GM you're there, that gives them a sense of urgency in dealing with AJ. Do stuff. Otherwise you're just filling a gaming space that could be filled by someone who wants to game.

Bring munchies. Nerds eat junk food. Bring whatever is to your taste, and share it. Ask the host for a bowl for the chips or sweets, or a plate for the cookies. Put them in the middle of the table for everyone to have some. Sometimes people can't get to a store before the game, that's okay. What you can do then is to say that the host, or other designated person, goes and gets $2 worth of stuff per person there; at the beginning of the game, hand them their two bucks, and munch away.

Clean up after yourself. At the end of the game session, pick up everyone's glasses and plates and at least put them in the sink. If there's a lot, just start washing them up. Your host isn't your maid. They've been kind enough to host a bunch of noisy geeks in their home for the evening, the least you can do is clean up your dishes. Similarly, immediately clean up spills, make sure all the cheetos go in your mouth and not down your shirt onto the couch, etc.

Variety. Every fourth session, someone's nominated to organise a different activity for the group. A different roleplaying game, board game, movie, or whatever. You come back to your regular game refreshed, and it also acts to bond the group together as friends, instead of just gamers.

Flexibility. If that key person can't make it, everyone meet up anyway and play something else. Your local sports team doesn't forfeit the game because a single player is missing, why should you?


1. All Characters must be appropriate for the genre/setting. Amusingly unusual characters are fine, but they must still be appropriate. (ie. A single smart "evil" character in an otherwise everyday (ie. neutral) group is fine, a ninja in modern-day england is not)

2. All in caharacter sexual activity will take place off screen. I can cope with being told two characters are sleeping in the same bed, since if I have someting vurst in during the night I need to know that, but actual sexual activity is implicit, not explicit.

3. Do not be intentionaly offensive. Roleplaying a racist character is fine (if approprate to genre/setting), making racist remarks OOC is not. Do not make characters that are unfare stereotypes (this includes 9ft tall blood-drinking shapehifting lizard international financiers who say "oy vey" a lot).

4. If you play a Fae I will slap you. Doesn't mean you can't, but that's the price you have to pay


1) Don't let the rules get in the way of fun

2) If it takes more than 60 seconds to find a rule wing it

3) If in combat your actions suprise me, they'll sure as hell suprise those you are fighting

4) Don't get all anal and argue the fine print.

5) Yes I am open to bribes


Monty Python references are limited to one per player. NO songs. Punishment will be severe.


Be polite.

Know when enough is enough (potty humor, monty python, personal stories, political rants)

Before you attack someone for not respecting your idea ask yourself if you are doing the same.

Don't complain unless you have a solution to offer. Anyone can be an expert at whats wrong, but the cool guys are the ones who can fix it.

Be open to new ideas. Sure you can roleplay your murderous fixer agent to a T, but maybe there is something more to him that makes him add to the group instead of you running around with a should be an NPC character.

Talk things over. I can't add to the game what I do not know is missing...

Make an interesting character. I really don't want a dwarf with an axe, that's pretty much it, in my fantasy game. If you don't want to play step aside and wait for us to play something you do want.

Walk away clean. If there are fundamental differences in your playstyle and mine then be a man and say so up front before letting things get emotional. I will respect that much more as opposed to trying to adapt to your sabotaging the game in play.

We are not the only game in town, don't force yourself to do something you aren't having fun at, because that makes everything less fun for everyone.

If you don't want to contribute, restrain from consuming. The snacks are happily provided but when the entire candy bowl ends up in your pocket we have an issue. (-:

If you want to drink, moderation is the key. Drink enough to loosen up and get in characer but not so much you don't remember who your character is.

If you smoke, take it outside and pick up after your own butts. I have traumatic military flashbacks of sergeants making me pick up butts after work while they stood on the porch smoking and throwing out more.. so sue me.

If you think I am anal and uptight because I want you to be respectful of me and the other gamers at the table then more power to you. Your more than welcome to find someone who lets you have everything you want.. and the problems that come along with it.

Read the rulebook every once and a while. Learn the rules so you know what your character can do and you understand the chances.

Pay attention to the story at hand. We do not owe each person a recap of where they are every time its their turn.

If you are bored when its someone else's turn take some time to think about how you can play your character better. We have a bad habit in modern life of never examining our own actions and looking for ways to improve. Its amazing how many people we have these days who are naturals at doing everything..

Rules and restrictions on the story do not mean a atraightjacket. If your idea of creative means challenging every stereotype or guideline then you are missing the boat. Rules and restrictions get everyone playing in the same sandbox, what your build with the sand inside is how you express your creativity. Breaking the rules just throws sand in my grass and makes the lawn look sloppy. Don't do it.

If you have to win to have fun then move on. That mindset encourages cheating and argumentative players, not to mention formulaic play where my only job is to feed you victories. Without risk of losing there is not good drama, hence there is not good roleplay.

Most important rule is to have fun. Fun means coming together with friends and ejoying some hours playing together without a bunch of player vs player drama and friction.If you follow the guidelines above then everyone has fun.

People have trouble coming up with 10....

A Gamemaster's Primer

Midori Hirtzel

Any Gamemaster worth her salt knows that there are certain tricks of the trade that make you (to quote a popular comic book character) 'the best there is at what you do.' In the interest of those who are considering taking on this much-hallowed (and often thankless) responsibility, I offer here some tips for good Gamemastering, learned from various sources:


This doesn't mean just the geography (in fact, that's the least of your worries). I'm talking about how things work: does magic work in your world, and if so, how? Who's fighting with whom? Who's in power, and how did she/he/they/it get there in the first place? And how do the players and their characters fit into the whole recipe?

If you can answer these questions, among others, you are off to a good start. Remember, though, that your rules need to be internally consistent, or you'll have a number of bewildered and upset players on your hands. Make the rules and stick to them (at least as much as you can!).


If magical teleportation exhausts the person casting it, then it should always have that effect, regardless of the means used to bring it about or the person casting the spell. This goes for NPCs, too! All things being equal, what effects a PC in a certain way will affect an NPC in the same way (notice, however, that I said, 'all things being equal.'...).


I'm sure everyone's been in this situation before: a character is doing extremely well, and perhaps even going to save the kingdom (or world, or universe), when all of the sudden--POW!!!--a lousy die roll ruins everything, and the bad guys are triumphant after all.

The best solution here would be to totally delete the use of dice altogether, but I realize that this isn't really feasible unless you are playing something like Amber. So, my advice is thus: if the results of a die roll interfere with the story, feel free to ignore it, or roll again. After all, the rules are only useful when they advance the enjoyment of the people playing (and running) the game. Which brings me to my next tip...


This is what one of my old GMs used to call 'The Magic Pencil Rule.' In effect, it states: 'The GM shall adopt whatever she likes from the rules, and shall feel free to erase whatever she does not like.' Or in simpler terms, take what you like and throw out what you don't. I've used this rule to good effect with the Mage NPCs in my Vampire game. Since the magic system from Mage: The Ascension is virtually unplayable for my purposes (along with being confusing and kind of ridiculous in my opinion--but that's a tale for another time), I've taken to using the system from Ars Magica, which suits my world much better.


Don't let the players run roughshod over you, doing whatever they please with impunity. This will create tension and disharmony among the rest of the players (trust me, I've seen it happen), and the game will suffer for it.

It sometimes helps if you have the other players enforce this rule as well. Often they will notice what you might miss, being responsible for every facet of the world. Also, sometimes pressure from fellow players to stop misbehaving will work better than that of the GM.

What about truly immature, petulant players? If you're lucky, they will see the error of their ways and compromise. or discover that the game isn't fun anymore after the GM has grown a spine. If neither works, you may have to request that they not participate again. Whatever the case, stick to your guns; it's YOUR game.


I guess what I'm saying here is that you should be able to GM off the top of your head. Face facts: it's an unspoken law of gaming that no matter how well you plot out the course of the adventure, down to the tiniest and most minute details, one or more of the players will do something that blows your whole scenario right out of the water. When that happens, you can do one of two things -- punish said player severely both in and out of character, then rant and rave about how s/he 'ruined everything,' alienating your other players in the process (this example is taken from a game I actually played in, by the way); or you can come up with another plot and continue the game.

Which do you think is going to encourage your players to come back?

Okay, so maybe the scene described is a worst-case scenario, but the advice still holds. Forcing players into a plot isn't fun for them or you. They resent being 'railroaded,' and you will have to beg or browbeat them into doing your bidding. Like I said, not fun for anybody.

If a player blows your whole adventure away, don't panic. Just take a breather, see if you can't come up with something else, and try to salvage what's left of your plan if you can. Maybe the encounter with the evil cleric can be changed to a fight with an anti-paladin down the road a bit. As I've mentioned in another column, retrofitting is perfectly acceptable when you GM.

I hope that these tips have helped any aspiring GMs out there, and given you some renewed hope; no, you're not alone!

Heinlein says:

There are countless rules for writing success, but the most famous ones, at least in the speculative-fiction field, are the five coined by the late, great Robert A. Heinlein. He only wrote 5, but since it is Heinlein, it is worth 10.

Rule One: You Must Write

It sounds ridiculously obvious, doesn't it? But it is a very difficult rule to apply. You can't just talk about wanting to be a writer. You can't simply take courses, or read up on the process of writing, or daydream about someday getting around to it. The only way to become a writer is to plant yourself in front of your keyboard and go to work.

And don't you dare complain that you don't have the time to write. Real writers buy the time, if they can't get it any other way. Take Toronto's Terence M. Green, a high-school English teacher. His third novel, Shadow of Ashland, just came out from Tor. Terry takes every fifth year off from teaching without pay so that he can write; most writers I know have made similar sacrifices for their art.

(Out of our hundred original aspirant writers, half will never get around to writing anything. That leaves us with fifty . . .)

Rule Two: Finish What Your Start

You cannot learn how to write without seeing a piece through to its conclusion. Yes, the first few pages you churn out might be weak, and you may be tempted to toss them out. Don't. Press on until you're done. Once you have an overall draft, with a beginning, middle, and end, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to see what works and what doesn't. And you'll never master such things as plot, suspense, or character growth unless you actually construct an entire piece.

On a related point: if you belong to a writers' workshop, don't let people critique your novel a chapter at a time. No one can properly judge a book by a piece lifted out of it at random, and you'll end up with all sorts of pointless advice: 'This part seems irrelevant.' 'Well, no, actually, it's very important a hundred pages from now . . .'

(Of our fifty remaining potential writers, half will never finish anything leaving just twenty-five still in the running . . .)

Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order

This is the one that got Heinlein in trouble with creative-writing teachers. Perhaps a more appropriate wording would have been, 'Don't tinker endlessly with your story.' You can spend forever modifying, revising, and polishing. There's an old saying that stories are never finished, only abandoned, learn to abandon yours.

If you find your current revisions amount to restoring the work to the way it was at an earlier stage, then it's time to push the baby out of the nest.

And although many beginners don't believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable. Some small-press magazines do this at length, but you'll also get advice from Analog, Asimov's, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(Of our remaining twenty-five writers, twelve will fiddle endlessly, and so are now out of the game. Twelve more will finally declare a piece complete. The twenty-fifth writer, the one who got chopped in half, is now desperately looking for his legs . . .)

Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market

This is the hardest rule of all for beginners. You can't simply declare yourself to be a professional writer. Rather, it's a title that must be conferred upon you by those willing to pay money for your words. Until you actually show your work to an editor, you can live the fantasy that you're every bit as good as Guy Gavriel Kay or William Gibson. But having to see if that fantasy has any grounding in reality is a very hard thing for most people to do.

I know one Canadian aspirant writer who managed to delay for two years sending out his story because, he said, he didn't have any American stamps for the self-addressed stamped envelope. This, despite the fact that he'd known dozens of people who went regularly to the States and could have gotten stamps for him, despite the fact that he could have driven across the border himself and picked up stamps, despite the fact that you don't even really need US stamps, you can use International Postal Reply Coupons instead, available at any large post office. (And those in Toronto can buy actual U.S. stamps at the First Toronto Post Office at 260 Adelaide Street South.)

No, it wasn't stamps he was lacking, it was backbone. He was afraid to find out whether his prose was salable. Don't be a coward: send your story out.

(Of our twelve writers left, half of them won't work up the nerve to make a submission, leaving just six . . .)

Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

It's a fact: work gets rejected all the time. Almost certainly your first submission will be rejected. Don't let that stop you. I've currently got 142 rejection slips in my files; every professional writer I know has stacks of them (the prolific Canadian horror writer Edo van Belkom does a great talk at SF conventions called 'Thriving on Rejection' in which he reads samples from the many he's acquired over the years).

If the rejection note contains advice you think is good, revise the story and send it out again. If not, then simply turn the story around: pop it in the mail, sending it to another market. Keep at it. My own record for the maximum number of submissions before selling a story is eighteen, but the story did eventually find a good home. (And within days, I'd sold it again to a reprint-only anthology; getting a story in print the first time opens up whole new markets.)

If your story is rejected, send it out that very same day to another market.

(Still, of our six remaining writers, three will be so discouraged by that first rejection that they'll give up writing for good. But three more will keep at it . . .)

#6 comes from Robert J. Sawyer, one of the most successful Canadian authors ever. I am including it because he wrote these five rules down on his website

Rule Six: Start Working on Something Else

I've seen too many beginning writers labour for years over a single story or novel. As soon as you've finished one piece, start on another. Don't wait for the first story to come back from the editor you've submitted it to; get to work on your next project. (And if you find you're experiencing writer's block on your current project, begin writing something new, a real writer can always write something.) You must produce a body of work to count yourself as a real working pro. #

Of our original hundred wannabe writers, only one or two will follow all six rules. The question is: will you be one of them? I hope so, because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it.

Twain's Rules of Writing

(from Mark Twain's scathing essay on the Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper)

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

(Like Twain could ever be constrained to 10)

An author should

12. _Say_ what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. Eschew surplusage.

15. Not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.

(Borrowed nicely from )

10 commandments of combat

Originally in Inside Kungfu Sept 2003

1) The Law of Intent

The primary purpose of combat is to defeat the enemy. If you are doing anything else, be prepared to lose to the person who is doing it.

2) The Law of Pragmatism

Use any means available or necessary to achieve this primary purpose. Surivival is the only 'right' answer.

3) The Law of Control

An enemy need only be defeated to the extent that he no longer poses a threat. (Knock him down, take him out, and if he is worth killing... do it later).

4) The Law of Chaos

Every combat is different, get over it, and embrace each fight as unique.

5) Archilles's Law

Though the means of victory against any given adversary may not be secure nor known, no enemy is invincibloe even thoug the predominate variables of a siftuation may dictate this inaccurate interpretation. (I think this is the longest single sentence I have ever typed), As every foe has a strength to be avoided, so it has a weakness to be equally exploited.

6) The Law of Deception

If the opponent does not know what is really going on, he can not really deal with the situation.

7) Law of Environment

One must take into account the type and condition of the terrain when fighting. If not, your biggest opponent might not be the person you are fighting, it may be the world around you.

8) The Law of Efficiency

Do nothing which is of no use in defeating the enemy. Unless you have unlimited endurance, waste no time or motion.

9) Murphy's Fear

Expect that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Get over it, be prepared for what really happens, and fight like your life depends on it... because it does.

10) Yin and Yang

To every attack there is a counter, to every counter, there is a counter, to every lock there is a break. In short, you might not know it, but maybe you can invent it. The solution is often found within the very problem itself.

These strike at what this thread is about. But they are so darn funny.

Top Ten Signs You Play Too Much ADnD

1.Someone says 'Why do you have all those numbers tattooed on your hand?', and you reply 'Those aren't tattoos, they're die imprints.'

2.Your elven fighter has had sex within the last six years - and you haven't.

3.You decide to play a zombie, just so you and your character can have the same skin color.

4.You've been surviving so long on Doritos, Coke, and pizza that your body now contains more plastic than your dice.

5.You can recite, verbatim, every single rule from the DMG, but you can't remember how many kids you have.

6.You sign personal correspondences with your character's name.

7.After months of work, you have made up the entire dwarven language - words, rules of vocabulary, the whole lot. You are bilingual, and can now speak fluid dwarven. Your friends stare at you strangely, and no one will sit on the same side of the table as you.

8.Drug addict and alcoholic friends of yours often stop you to say 'Dude, get a grip'.

9.Your 'If I won the lottery' plans involve creating: (a) a really cool AD&D room, or (b) hiring actors to play monsters so that you and your friends can play AD&D for real.

10.You'd rather get a natural 18 when rolling character statistics than win the lottery.

Top Ten Signs Your DM is Too Easy

1.The red dragon suddenly develops a chest cold, and cannot use it's breath weapon.

2.Your party sneaks into the lich's secret dungeons. Luckily for them, the lich has been born-again, and sent all his undead minions off to do charity work for the poor.

3.The phrase 'Oh geez, what do I need with another +5 vorpal longsword' is used during game play.

4.Your cleric is on a first name basis with his god, because of all the times the god has had to pop in to save the cleric's butt.

5.Any major city has at least one 'Ressurect-a-matic' on every street corner.

6.All the city's guards are first level, and are easily spooked by the flamefinger cantrip.

7.Bubba the Mighty, the most powerful and evil mage in the world, has a soft spot for fast-talking halflings. Instead of casting meteor swarm and annihilating the party, he decides to teleport away.

8.The party is dividing treasure. The fighter says 'Ok, who wants the staff of the magi? Anybody? Anyone at all? Ok, we leave it leaning against a tree stump.'

9.The DM uses a four sider to roll monster attacks.

10.The gods in your campaign worship the player characters.

Top Ten Signs Your DM is Too Hard

1.You've been playing for 3 weeks, and have 76 dead characters.

2.You're playing in Darksun, but still only use Method I to roll characters.

3.Your fighter gets a bit tipsy, and piches the barmaid's bottom. The barmaid pulls out her bow and her arrow of fighter slaying.

4.Your 15th level thief just had the snot kicked out of him by an eight year old girl.

5.There are lethal traps on every latrine door.

6.Most peasants have 20 hit dice, and many know the power word, kill spell.

7.Somehow you've done it. Your party has slain Emberburn, the most fearsome and powerful Red Dragon the DM has ever created. The DM stares at you in shock, still staring down at the '1' he rolled on the dragon's last attack. After poking him in the arm for five minutes, chanting 'horde....horde.....horde....' over and over, he looks up at you. The look of surprise fades, and an evil grin replaces it. 'As it happens,' the DM says with glee, 'the dragon had cast project image just before the party entered the cavern...'.

8.Your mage has an argument with a local spice merchant. Finally, annoyed to the breaking point, he casts charm on the merchant. Sadly, the merchant is a retired 22nd level elven mage. Shaking your head, you reach for the statistic rolling dice once again...

9.Trees can, and often do, explode in huge, 20d6 hit die fireballs. No explanation is ever offfered.

10.Regular rabbits are gone. They have been replaced by the killer-rabbit from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.

Top Ten Signs It's Time to Get New Gaming Books

1. Most of your player's handbook's pages are stuck together with coke, mouldy pepperonis, and chocolate smudges.

2. Your books are a bacteriologists dream.

3. When you try to pick up your book and it disintegrates into a pile of dust.

4. When running games, you have to invent rules from your book because it's no longer legible.

5. Household pets keep trying to eat your Monster Manual.

6. When you turn the page, sometimes it flies across the room.

7. Your first edition DMG has a large brown wear-mark where 'lucky' dice rolls have been done over the years.

8. You can't tell one book from another - you have to go by thickness.

9. You like to sit on your book because its biothermal heat keeps you nice and warm.

10. When you spill coke on them, it doesn't show because the paper is so brown with age

Top Ten Signs You Just Met the Main Bad Guy

1.Your assassin henchman just wet his pants

. 2.The ancient red dragon you had just been fighting says 'S**t, I'm out of here!' and flies away.

3.The bad guy just laughed evilly, and seven birds fell dead out of the sky.

4.The DM chuckles, and says 'I spent seven hours rolling this guy up'.

5.The bad guy burps, and a human toe flies out of his mouth.

6.The DM plays a tape of scary organ music, and starts talking like Boris Karloff.

7.The bad guy is dressed all in black, but has one of those little yellow smiley face buttons (DMs can be sooo sarcastic).

8.You point your wand of fire at him, and it melts.

9.The bad guy keeps Elminster in a cage, and occasionally pokes him with a fork.

10.After the battle, the only Player Character to survive is the one that stayed back in town with the flu.

Top Ten Signs You Pissed Off the Villagers

1.The 'interesting new stew' you've been served at the inn smells suspiciously like sewage.

2.One ripe apple at the market place costs more than your last spellbook.

3.They're building a gallows outside of your room at the inn. They try to tell you that it's 'modern art'.

4.One of them asks you for a donation for the 'Hire Some Thugs to Kill the Adventurers' fund.

5.Someone glued a spike to your saddle.

6.At bed time, your goose-down pillow explodes. The innkeeper says that the pillow was made from the feathers of very angry geese.

7.People keep providing you with gifts of horses, and maps out of town.

8.The mayor declares a special 'Murder of Foreigners is No Longer Illegal' day, in your honour.

9.Arrows keep appearing in the dirt at your feet. Local villagers shake their head, and claim that they are fast-growing weeds.

10.The villagers hire a band of trolls to rid their town of adventurers.

Top Ten Signs You Can No Longer Trust The Thief In Your Party

1. Your characters often get sharp pains in their backs (followed by profuse bleeding).

2. After dinner, your PC often gets indigestion, followed by nausea (followed by death).

3. Thief always wants to take first watch, then can't be found in the morning.

4. Valuable items keep disappearing from your fighter's cloak (the one with the large side pockets).

5. After battles, the thief often regretfully explains there's no treasure (but seems to have difficulty walking).

6. Your PC's gold seems to be taking on a slight greenish colour.

7. Healing potions do very little to heal your character (and taste kinda watery).

8. Thief always hangs back in battle, and complains he 'just couldn't get into the right position'.

9. Strangely, everyone has a hangover the next morning except the thief.

10. The chance of a PC dying from 'food poisoning' seems directly proportionate to his wealth.

Top Ten Spells That Never Made It

1.Berman's Death-to-the-Caster.

2.Power word, fart.

3.Gelatinous Shell (immediately surrounds the caster in a gelatinous cube).

4.Safe fall (like feather fall, but makes you weigh as much as a 12 ton bank vault).

5.Polymorph Udder (a highly specialized spell which only affects female cattle).

6.Stinking Klaus (summons a fat, smelly German business man, who chases your enemies while eating an Oktoberfest sausage and belching).

7.Magnetskin (a variation of stoneskin - makes the caster's skin magnetic, giving all metallic weapons a +10 bonus to hit).

8.Meatier Swarm (large chunks of ground chuck rain to the ground).

9.Polymorph any Omelet.

10.Fireballs (sets the target's testicles on fire - very effective, but a bit too kinky for TSR).

Tips & Tricks for Becoming a Great DM!

(okay, it is not 10, so shoot them, not me)

1) Know The Rules

First off, make sure you know the exact rules and rulings which you plan to enforce within your campaign. Nothing is worse than a DM that's says 'Hold on, I'm not sure, give me a second'. This inevitably causes your players to become bored with the game. This is the number one reason why would be great players, decide they would rather do something else than play another dull game with the DM who thinks he knows everything. First impression is everything if you want to keep good players and excited gamers. Read all the source books you can read. Most importantly the DMG, PHB, Monster manuals, Tome of Magic, and the Unearthed Arcana.

2) The Basics

The second thing I should mention is the basics, yeah the basics. Get good at running a basic game! Start out with a few races, a few classes (fighter, Cleric, Magic-User etc..) and a simple plot for the PC's to figure out and conquer. Don't get all flustered by adding to many unique races, classes, rules and plots into a game too fast. Simple is fast, fast is fun!

3) CLOF Important

This leads me into the next 'DON'T DO DM' situation. Most DM's suffer from chronic lack of flow syndrome, also known as CLOF! Yes, CLOF is a DM's greatest enemy. Most DM's can't run good game sessions because their to busy reading monsters, looking up rules, debating situations etc... This will only lead to you, the DM sitting alone in that dark room wondering why everyone feel asleep. Do you blame them? NO, it's your fault. Make sure you always take general notes before the game starts. Here's what I write down (always!);

- Monsters encounters (or encounters in general), the possibilities of each encounter, the number appearing, the weapons they use (if any), the treasure they have (if any), their alignments, XP value of each monster, dmg attack, spec attacks, spec defenses and any other small details that keep monster manuals closed.

- All the plots that could swing the game in different directions. More detail the better.

- All Adventuring NPC's, same for these people. The more detail the better......NPC's are what give the game life.

- A complete list of magic items, treasure and monetary that might be available to PC's during the adventure.

- Sketch out any maps that may make explanation faster and easier, visualization can NOT be replaced

4) Don't Argue!

OK, onto the next 'DON'T DO DM' rule. Don't argue with your players! This must be practiced with caution. As the years pass and your DMing skills become finely tuned, you can enforce this rule with much greater efficiency. At first it will be hard, not to smash Jeremy in the face cause he has no idea what undead clerics can and can't turn etc. However if your not sure then you better make sure for the next game session. Make a call, don't back down from your decision unless you have no recourse. A weak DM will get pushed into doing things they don't really wanna do. It's better to make the call, then study up after the game and see if you made the right one. Keep the game going, fast remember......other players wanna play too!

However, DM's are often confronted with the LOD (Life or Death) situation. Yes there will be times where the player who is about to lose his character, because of the DM's judgment will argue to the bitter end that he's right and your a moron. In this case the DM should call a time out, read up the rules fast and let others go to the bathroom etc....Or! Put your nose to the grindstone and make your ruling based on your DM credibility. Then if your wrong, your wrong and you just learned a very valuable lesson. Yes, DM's are human. If your right though, you just moved up one point on the DM scale and your players will have more respect towards your future judgments.

5) Arguing Players

Got a player who loves to argue? Well here's how to fix his/her little red wagon. Every time this player refuses to play on and except your ruling. Prove him wrong and dock experience. Yeah, take 1,000 XP off every time they argue. That will force them to become better players. They will learn to keep their mouths shut, because if they don't they will be first level, while all the other PC's will move on and become successful adventurers. ALTHOUGH YOU MUST KNOW YOUR RULES WELL! Try to save all arguing for after the game. This is often the most desirable way to discuss rules of the game. Remember the DM's word is final

6) Creativity Within the Game

Creativity is a wonderful thing. If your not very creative then don't DM, stick to playing the game instead of trying to create something your not capable of. If you do think your creative, make your games fun, make your players think, make them wanna play again. If all you do is say roll, OK, roll, yep, OK, roll, OK, yep, got yeah, cool, roll, 10 dmg, roll, 7 dmg etc......then your not playing AD&D right. AD&D falls in the role-playing section for a reason. Roll-Playing means to act out, to express a characters actions and intentions. If this is not in your game then why play.......get those players to give you feedback. Give them feedback also. Don't say 'hit, you take 7 dmg' say ' Drax, while attempting to launch yourself over the Ogre's mighty axe, an arrow which came from abroad whistles through the air, plunging deep into your upper arm, causing blood to soak through your armor, you suffer 7 dmg'.

Explain your settings in the same manner. Let your players know where their at, explain with great detail their surroundings. Don't say 'you walk into a room, it's 12' by 20', with a door on the western wall' something more appropriate and creative would be ' you kick in the rotted door to find yourself within a cold, damp room. The floor is made of a red encrusted clay, while the walls and ceiling resemble that of simple stone. Moss grows down only the western wall, a faint breeze can also be felt coming from within, perhaps from the door also located on the western wall. As you take your first step, a squishing sound is heard, it's liquid. Your foot presses into a thin layer of water which you now notice on top of the clay floor. What next?' Get it........doesn't that make you excited, yeah that's what I figured.

7) Two Characters

'Can I play two characters?' Sound familiar?.....Yeah! well don't let this happen. Almost every player will favor one character over another. If you believe them to be good enough to handle to characters, don't let them anyway. If their that good they only need one. Over the last 14 years of my DMing career I have only let one person play two characters simultaneously and that was due to the two characters bumped into each other. Although I quickly separated the two and moved the game on. Most players won't be able to handle this effectively, thus slowing the game and removing the fun, exciting pace.

8) Ratings System

Got a player who advances his character in levels just as fast as the rest do, but they don't deserve the benefits. Here's your answer (once again first edition rules!). It's called the rating system and I use it extensively. It prevents the fighter who swung his sword a million times, hit the monster once and advanced a level in the same amount of time that the fighter next to him, who swung his axe a million times and hit every time Who do you think should get the level? You got it! Here's how to make the two fighters advance at different speeds. Give them ratings after every major event, game session etc. Here are the 1st edition ratings commonly used in AD&D.

- E = Excellent, S = Satisfactory

- F = Fair, P = Poor

Use those ratings. Every time a character discovers an important piece of the plot, solves a riddle, hacks a monster down himself. Give them a good rating. Every time a character sets off a trap, kills an innocent, hits a fellow party member, avoids taking part in major events. Give them a bad rating. E being the best rating, while P indicates the worst rating.

Now every time a character earns a level, check and see if they have 3 good ratings (E's and S's) and not a pile of bad ratings (F's and P's). If they have 3 good ratings above and beyond their bad ratings then grant them the level. If they don't have at least 3 good ratings then explain to them that the character has attained the experience required but lacks the knowledge, talent and general skills needed to breach the levels requirements. In other words, they need to learn how to play the character better to advance in level, not just hope they hack down monsters.

P ratings cancel out E ratings and vise versa, F ratings cancel out S ratings, thus making it easier for the DM to keep track of. *NOTE* make the players write these ratings in ink, not pencil. Then they can't mysteriously change. You may also wish to keep track of all the ratings you award.

That is about it folks. They didn't do 2 more.

Guardians of Order Role-Playing Game Manifesto

GoOs website:

1) These rules are written on paper, not etched in stone tablets.

2) Rules are suggested guidelines, not required edicts.

3) If the rules don't say you can't do something, you can.

4) There are no official ansers, only official opinions.

5) When dice conflict with the story, the story always wins.

6) Min/Maxing and munchkinism aren't problems with the game, they're problems with players.

7) The Game Master has full discretionary power over the game.

8) The Game Master always works with, not against, the players.

9) A game that is not fun is no longer a game - it's a chore.

10) A good rulebook contains the answers to all things. When the above does not apply, make it up

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb


This started life as a post to the Charnel House Newcastle Goth club-night forum, but I've since expanded upon it and reproduced it here for your interest. It's Boss Smiley's distilled role-playing wisdom as of June 2005. Enjoy. :-)

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 1

If you *need* more than 1 book to start playing it's too complex

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 2

If a rule is too complex to remember after two beers then it's too complex, full stop.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 3

If you have to interrupt play to flick through a book looking for tables, then its too complex.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 4

A player should need their character sheet, dice and notepaper, nothing more.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 5

The GM should be able to distill the essentials for an evenings play into 3 to 4 pages (adventure flowchart + important NPC/antagonist/hazard stats). Anything more is excessive and will confuse you in the heat of play.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 6

When running an RP combat scenario, battlemats & miniatures are your friends.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 7

If battlemats & miniatures start to distract you or the players from role-playing,then they are no longer your friends.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 8

Unless there's a good reason, assume the PCs can do it (whatever it is).

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 9

If there is a good reason they can't, make sure the players know why.

Nothing irritates more than a blank "You can't" or "You fail".

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 10

People role-play to get away from ordinary life, dull is not fun.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 11

If people aren't having a good time in your games, ask them why. When you know why either change your GMing style, or get new players.

Smiley's roleplaying rule of thumb 12

The GM's decision is final.

The entire site is cute:

edited url

Some of the first

This list is from the early days of the net. It is one of the first lists of DM/ GM advice ever posted. So there are twenty, I am sure it started with ten and kept growing.

DM Advice: All dice rolls are whatever you want them to be.

DM Advice: Cast Detect Magic on a TSR module and it'll explode.

DM Advice: Conan cannot safely be translated to AD&D stats.

DM Advice: Dead monsters are *always* naked and penniless.

DM Advice: Every tavern scene should end in a brawl.

DM Advice: He who buys the pizza, lives.

DM Advice: Lead figures do not taste very good.

DM Advice: Magic items should be as rare as Drow romance novels.

DM Advice: Maps on the table have a tendency to attract soda.

DM Advice: Never grab a miniature after picking your nose.

DM Advice: Never kill a character without first humiliating him.

DM Advice: Never let a monster die without doing some damage.

DM Advice: Never let the PCs get your bag of Doritos.

DM Advice: The only wands are those with 1 charge and sticks.

DM Advice: The rulebook you want is at the bottom of the stack.

DM Advice: The rules shouldn't.

DM Advice: To maintain game balance, all wizards must die young.

DM Advice: Used character sheets make good tinder.

DM's don't lie, they just arrange the facts to suit them.

DM's Lie A Lot. Players Just Cheat.

DM's love a hero; DM's also love a good joke. Think about it.

Dana writes articles for a living, her 10 tips

Originally Posted

By Dana Lynn Driscoll, Editor-in-Chief, Silven Publishing

In my years of working with hundreds of writers on both an academic and professional level, I have found that I keep giving writers the same types suggestions for improvement. These suggestions are general enough to work for all types of writing and can be helpful across the many different genres. Of course I have many more suggestions than what I have listed here, but the ones I have chosen are what I consider to be some of the most important things writers should keep in mind. Furthermore, these tips are so important that, regardless of how long you have been writing or will continue to write, you should never let slip from your mind.

Before beginning the list, I want to define the difference between becoming a good writer (i.e. someone who knows how to write well) and becoming a successful writer (i.e. someone who can earn a living from writing). Becoming a successful writer is a lot like winning the lottery. Sure it takes talent, but I've read plenty of bad books that have found their way onto store shelves and an equal number of high quality manuscripts that will never see print. Being a good writer is something that anyone who works hard enough can accomplish, but being a successful writer is something that is not inevitable simply because you have honed your craft into an art.

I am, by no means, discouraging the writers out there from pursuing their goal of becoming a successful writer. If you have a dream then follow that dream. It is through your own perseverance and dedication that you will see that dream fulfilled. However, know that the market is extremely competitive and the recompense is generally lousy. Just make sure you have a back-up plan to pay the bills in the meantime.

And now without further delay, my top ten list.

#10: Know your weak areas and work to improve them.

One of the keys for becoming a good writer is to know where your problem areas are and to work hard to improve those areas. It is only through a sustained effort to improve your writing will you actually improve. I know this seems like common sense, but so many writers fall into the mold of thinking that they know everything there is to know about writing, and that each and every article or fiction piece they write is a perfect work. In reality, each writer, regardless of how much experience he has or how long he has been writing, has areas that he can improve. How do you find these areas that need to be improved? See tips #9, #8, and #7!

#9: Learn how to read and evaluate your own writing.

An important part of the writing process is for you to learn how to evaluate your own writing. When you go to assess your writing, be sure that significant time has passed (I recommend minimum of 24 hours) since you last looked at or worked on the writing and that you are awake and alert. This will give you a 'fresh' start with the writing and will put a bit of distance between then and now. Find a quiet place and begin by reading your writing aloud as this will give you the advantage of both hearing it and reading it. Reading your writing aloud (or better yet, having someone else read it aloud to you) is a more accurate way to catch mistakes and problems in your writing.

Pay attention to where you stumble while reading, these are areas that may need to be revisited. Look at the piece from every angle and make notes on what you need to do to improve it.

Evaluating your own writing is not an easy process, but understanding the many elements of good writing (organization, topic focus, transitions, wording, etc) will assist you in this task. Regardless of how confident you are in this step, you still need a second opinion.

#8: Ask for other's opinions and take those opinions seriously.

Listening to what your readers say about your writing and taking their suggestions seriously is an essential way to become a better writer. You can begin to do this by asking others to read your writing and provide you feedback. You probably will get the most concrete and helpful suggestions from other experienced writers or editors‚ but don't underestimate the ability of your friends and family to provide you assistance!

When you approach someone who is not an experienced responder, simply ask her to begin by reading your writing carefully. Ask her to make a list about what confuses her, what she has questions about, what she would like to know more information about, and what she thinks was poorly done and well done in the manuscript. If she has questions or confusion, you can use that as a starting point for revision.

A second reason that you always want someone else to look at your writing is that writers are often ignorant of the problems in their own writing. You, as a writer, are coming to the manuscript with a full knowledge base about what it is you are trying to convey. Your readers may lack that knowledge base which will hinder their understanding of your topic. Even in fiction writing this holds true you as a writer may have made assumptions or omissions because you 'already knew that'.A read through by others can assist you in ironing out those issues.

Do be aware that not all criticism is constructive. Regardless of the criticism and comments you get, thank the person and don't get offended or upset. Take each comment seriously and try to make some good come of it. But know that you can't please everyone all the time.

#7: Read and evaluate other people' writing.

It is very difficult to be a good writer if you aren' a good reader. Not only do you need to know how to read and evaluate your own writing, you need to learn how to evaluate, analyze, and learn from others,riting. This is true from both a fiction and non-fiction standpoint. An amazing amount of quality published writing exists out there for you to learn from. You can learn new writing techniques, appreciate the way that an author structures a scene or argument, or discover new topics through reading. And once you have seen these techniques on display, you can work some of that structure into your own articles. I can' stress this point enough to be a good writer, you must also be a good reader.

#6: Choose your topic carefully.

While it is true that some academic or business writing has topics assigned, the large majority of writing you will do will allow you to pick from a variety of subjects or areas. Being careful in your topic selection will assure that you not only write an excellent article but also assure that you are not miserable in the process. Here are some quick pointers on how to pick your topic carefully:

1) Write about something that you are knowledgeable about or willing to research. I don't recommend new writers jumping off the deep end into a topic that may require a significant amount of research. Stick with what you know and slowly branch out into what you want to know.

2) Write about something that you are interested in. If you write about something that doesn't interest you, the writing process will be like pulling teeth and you'll end up with something you aren't happy with. Furthermore, your writing tone will reflect your disinterest in the subject, which will most likely make your readers disinterested as well.

3) Write about something that is fresh. If the topic has been done 1,000 times in the last three months, chances are, nobody is going to want to read it, much less publish it. Fresh topics present a challenge to you as a writer but also give you an advantage over other submissions in the market.

You can see 'On Prewriting' for more detailed pointers on topic selection.

#5: Know how to focus your topic.

As important as picking your topic carefully is knowing how to focus your topic into something that you can write. An all-encompassing topic like 'The Ice Age' is going to be way too much for a 5000 word article and if you do write the article, it will be so superficial and lacking of depth that nobody will be interested in reading it. At the same time, focusing your entire book on, 'The microscopic lichen of the Ice Age? it may be too in depth for anyone but the most dedicated of readers.

The key to focusing your topic is twofold. First, know the word limits you have to work with. Second, and more importantly, know what it is you really want to say. Is your novel going to be about the entire second age of humanity or about three companions living in the end times? Know the story you want to tell or the article you want to write.

When you begin to write always keep your topic in mind. After each page or paragraph that you construct, revisit your topic and make sure that the paragraph or page is further developing that topic in some way. If the paragraph has nothing to do with the topic, then it doesn't belong in your article‚ or perhaps you have constructed the wrong topic!

Being able to narrow your topic into something manageable and then sticking to the topic when you are drafting will end up producing a much more solid, well-written, and strong piece of writing.

#4: Know your purpose for writing.

Knowing your purpose for writing seems like another very basic consideration, but it is one that so many writers struggle with or are unsure about. Knowing your purpose goes closely in hand with picking a topic and sticking to it. When you sit down to write, clearly define your purpose for writing‚ even write it at the top of the page so that you can keep it in mind when drafting.

Is your purpose to write an experimental but interesting article about American cheese? Is your purpose to write something that will get you a good grade or get you into a periodical? Is your purpose to convince your readers to believe your viewpoint? Each of these purposes will result in a very different type of writing, even if the writing is on the same topic.

#3: Keep your audience in mind.

Some theories of reading explain that the reader is as important, if not more important, than the piece of writing itself. A reader brings her experiences, assumptions, beliefs, background knowledge, and education to what it is she reads. It is up to the author to be considerate of that reader while writing. Indeed, audience is a key area that many new or struggling writers fall flat. While it is true that a writer has no way of knowing who her audience is in its entirety, when she sits down to write, she makes certain predictions about who her audience is, what they know, and what she needs to explain.

Inconsiderate texts or articles are those that ignore the reader in the equation. An inconsiderate text may be one in which the material is too easy or explains too much for the intended audience‚ after all, wouldn't you get annoyed if someone attempted to explain the concept of 'cat' and 'dog' to you in an article about animal's eating habits? Is that really necessary? In the same token, you as a reader may get frustrated if a large amount of technical jargon were used when discussing those same eating habits.

If you are writing for a publication, you can ask the editor about the audience of the magazine. He should be able to tell you information about demographics, knowledge base, and education level. This will help you construct an article that is appropriate for that audience.

#2: Learn the value of revision.

Revision is something that is almost always overlooked by new or struggling writers, even more experienced writers have the 'once I write it, I'm done', attitude when it comes to writing. Yet revision, the process of going back through your writing and fine-tuning it, is probably the most important stage of the writing process. It is at this stage that a writer reworks ideas and clarifies points. It is at this stage that a writer can add in new information or reorganize existing information so that it makes more sense. It is at this stage where the piece of writing really starts to come together. Since this stage takes extra work, many don't necessarily see the sense in it. But if becoming a better writer is on your to-do list, revision your writing is key to improving your skill.

Revise your writing based on your own analysis of the writing (tip #9) and through others suggestions (tip #8) while keeping a close eye on your problem areas (tip #10). During revision you need to revisit your topic (tip #5 & 6), purpose (tip #4) and make sure your article fits the intended audience (tip #3). Writers often go through several revisions before they are satisfied with a piece. Each revision can focus on a different element so that the writer is not overwhelmed with all areas at once. As you can see, revision is where it all comes together, its where your piece goes from a draft to a masterpiece.

#1: Write every day.

The most important thing you can do to become a better writer is to write! If you are serious about becoming a better writer, then the only way you will improve is by practicing. Write every day if you have the chance, for a minimum of 30 minutes. Writing is not a science nor is it necessarily an art. It is a skill that can be honed and developed through practice and dedication.


There you have it! My top ten tips for becoming a good writer. If the list seems overwhelming at first, focus on only one tip and slowly expand to add in the others over time. These tips are not the only considerations to becoming a good writer, but they are some of the most important ones and mastering them will get you well on your way. Good luck and happy writing!

For questions or comments, you can contact Dana at or post in the comments section below.

Ten Precepts of Shaolin Fighters Shaolin Kung Fu

Combat arts Precepts of the Shaolin Monastery have come down from generation to generation. Not far from the Main Gate, there was a bronze plate with basic combat precepts written on it.

1. First of all, it is necessary that the body would be agile, quick and energetic. For instance, if you take a step, your hand should make a correspondent swift movement; movements of all parts of the body must be coordinated. When you have to strike, try not to look even at the shadow of your hand, i.e. do not attract your attention to the fist. You must improve your skill all the time, only in this case you will be able to reach staggering results.

2. The second precept: motion and rest of two arms and two feet must be in coordination and in supplement of each other.

Motion of the heart that controls the distribution of 'chi' energy is born in the region of cinnabar 'dantian' field (approximately 3 to 5 cm below the navel). The activity of the 'chi' energy enforces the body to carry heroic struggle and to be valiant like a tiger or a dragon. If force and energy are melted into a single whole in the body, it is demonstrated by the ability to exert astonishing sounds.

3. The third precept of combat arts is as follows:

During a fight all the five elements should represent a unique fusion. In order to understand the interaction of the five elements of nature, one should observe Nature and the arrangement of the Universe around us. If you perceive laws of the birth and the surmounting of the five elements, you will understand the nicety of combat arts. Each of the five elements originates with the single 'chi' energy. This energy is the base of the force which makes the body to act. If you understand their mutual transformation, you could move things weighing thousand of jins (one jin is equal to about 600 g) with one motion of your hand or foot. This precept also demands that blood and 'chi' should be in harmony with each other. If the blood and 'chi' are in harmony and good health, the man enjoys iron health and strength.

4. The fourth rule you must know demands the knowledge the eight-point theory of 'ba tiao'. For instance, you move up and down, retreat, but your retreat appears to be an advance. If you follow this law, your eight successes will become more impressive. Owing to it your movements up will be energetic and your movements down will be pliable and soft, and all the movements will be coordinated.

You must be prepared to meet an enemy who appears, disappears and appears again. Your enemy can be as dangerous as a tiger released from its cage. However, if you are able in an instant to turn about to defend yourself from the front and from the rear, you would look like a divine protector of combat arms who is always protected from all the sides. You should be able to turn very quickly to face an enemy's attack from the left and from the right. If you retreat, you should decoy your enemy into a trap. During an attack fury will be helpful for you. In that case you will look like infuriated tigers and snow leopards. A small birdie which takes its chance can fly over a high mountain.

5. The fifth precept one should know about combat arts is: your gait must be as stout as that one of gods. It is better to make five more steps than to make a mistake by one qun (one qun is equal to 3.2 cm approximately). There are different types of movements during a fight. Measured steps (qun bu) should be separated from each other by not more than three chis (one chi is equal to 0.32 m). In a struggle your life is at stake all the time, that's why you should step carefully and measurably. Steady steps should be separated from each other by five chis, and a too big step is equal to two gongs (in the ancient times one gong was equal to five chis). A quick step (kuai bu) is equal to one zhan (one zhan is equal to 10 chis). As a matter of fact, it is a horizontal leap that is made with energetic force of thighs and feet (i.e. by the whole leg). A spilling step (zhan bu) is a great upward leap to be made, if you are rounded up and you have to break out of encirclement.

6. The six rule is the knowledge of arm and leg work during a fight. The special point with Shaolin combat arts is fist work. The pugilistic methods are such that each punch must pierce the enemy and cut him into pieces. The arm should bend without bending and unbend without unbending so that the enemy could not follow your movements and could never get sight of your punch. Your arms should separate your thorax with a speed of a lightning. Activity and training of sinews determine the force of arms. The punch must be a surprise, so the enemy could not avoid it. The arm must make an accurate cut, obediently flying up and readily, if necessary, going down. Notwithstanding how your body is twisted and your hands are bound by the enemy, there is always a chance to free yourself, like a swallow has always a chance to find water springs. If in a close combat one of the hand is pinned down or both hands are neutralized, you can punch with a stone elbow. Your punch can be directed into the enemy's pudenda from below. Leg movements are more mysterious. There are seven leg works: 'qi' - uprising, 'fan' - overturning, 'lo' - tumbling, 'zhin' - advance, 'ti' - kick, 'qai' - kick, 'zhuan' - kick. All the five natural elements unite into one 'chi', feet act in unison striking from the front and from the rear, so it is impossible to approach you. Step by step and no any sound is heard except sounds of punches of infuriated soles touching the ground after strikes. The legs are like ferocious tigers or dragons in the sky.

7. The seventh rule demands simultaneous advance of arms and legs, because during the fight they act together and depend on each other. If you furiously use only your arms, the result may be only satisfactory; the reason is: when you advance, your feet, arms and torso should act in complete agreement.

One should aim at achieving the following qualities: mind, body obedience, manhood, speed and fury. During an actual fight those five qualities will bring you miraculous results. Mental work - 'gong' means that during a fight one must more depend on one's mind. Body obedience - 'shun' means that one must train his body for a long time to make it natural one. Manliness -'yong' means that one should work out bold plans and boldly realize them. Speed - 'ji' implicates that during the execution of methods of hand-to- hand fighting one must act fast like a lightning. Fury - 'hen' is required only at the moment of your attacks.

You should keep a vigilant watch over enemy's stances and positions and clearly understand them. You must easily find his weak points. You should not rashly start fighting and deliver blows.

8. The eighth precept one should know about combat arts is all-round defense, its distinct manifestations and timely pursuit. If a man keeps in harmony those rule in his actions, he will become invincible. The rule of cover - 'ting' consist in the necessity of permanent protection in the front, from the behind, from the left and from the right. Besides, one must not forget that the enemy can strike from above and from below. The rule of opening - 'kai' consist in the necessity of opening your weak or strong points depending on the situation on the left or on the right and in the necessity of delivering and receiving blows with the support of sinew force. Both fist and palm must be formed during a spurt.

The rule of distinct manifestation - 'zhe' is used for the work of arms, body, head and heart. At the moment of an action there should be a clear and efficient manifestation. If you act, you must be as fierce as a tiger, and if you manifest a sentiment, it must be a frightening fury. Your shout should frighten your enemy. You should be able to win without a fight, only with your loud laughter. This rule consisting of few hieroglyphs is more precious than gold. The rule of pursuit - 'zhui' consists in the following. You should use any opportunity to pursuit your enemy and should not give him a chance to collect himself. As soon as steps become faster, you should use this opportunity to rush to the enemy. If at that moment you act like lightning and thunder, you can take anyone by surprise.

9. The ninth rule which one should know about combat arts is as follows. Three human elements - eyes, ears and heart intelligence must be in harmony. You should have attentive and active eyes and follow any enemy's manipulations all the time. You must prick your ears to sense movements and rest. You should have keen ears to hear voices of tigers and snow leopards from the eight sides of the Universe. The eyes look, the ears listen and they transmit the received information to the heart. If the heart is bright and eyes are alert, you will not commit mistakes.

10. The tenth rule for those who practice in combat arts is as follows. Use your sinews, because 'shen', the ability to use spiritual sources, allows to achieve a great success. Sinews are chiefs of bones. If sinews tremble, 'chi' energy is wasted. Furthermore, sinews are transmitters of information of three senses (vision, hearing and mind). If you are in possession of them, it is a great success.


Shaolin Kung Fu OnLine Library

Those are the Ten Basic Precepts of Combat Arts. To achieve them, one must work a lot. The most valuable quality for mastery of combat arms is persistence. One must persistently engage in pugilistic arms and weapon use. In winter frost and snow are not hindrances to it. In summer one should train himself notwithstanding hot weather, when you are running wet with sweat. Even if you have a headache, you should train your body to make it firm and strong. Do not stop, even for a moment, your persistent efforts to preserve your life and destiny.

One should remember that only the noble men of high morals may be taught the true combat art. On no account a bad man who does not follow true 'dao' (the way) should be taught.

An artifact, circa 1945...

10 Commandments of Gun Safety

Discovered in a Wild Game booklet from Remington Arms

Ten Commandments of Safety

1) Treat every gun with the respect due a loaded gun. This is the cardinal rule of gun safety

2) Carry only empty guns, taken down or with the action open into your automobile, camp, and home.

3) Always be shure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.

4) Always carry your gun so that you can control the direciton of the muzzle, even if you stumble.

5) Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.

6) Never point a gun at anything you did not want to shoot.

7) Never leave your gun unattended unless you unload it first.

8) Never climb a tree or a fence with a loaded gun.

9) Never shoot at a hard, flat surface or the surface of the water (editorial note: bullets bounce or ricochet)

10) Do not mix gunpowder and alchohol.

From Orchomenos's tag line in a DnD forum. The comments showed they thought it was revolutionary.

Melpomene 10-21-04, 04:19 AM

I made this for my potential PCs. Enjoy.

Ten Tips to Having a More Diverse and Interesting Character

1.) Hair and Makeup

a. An important element to having a rich and developed persona is the physical aspect of the character. There are a few (actually 100) aspects of personality in the DMG (page 128) covering elements such as thin, fat, short, tall, lisping, bald, stooping, etc., in addition to a number of other personality linked attributes. Deciding what the character looks like is an important stepping stone in becoming well-rounded.

b. A sword is a sword, right? Well, not really. The look of your equipment is important, as well. Is your armour square or flowing? What is the tone of the metal? Is your sword purely strait or does it have notches? Curves? Barbs? A furrow down the middle to draw blood? Does any of your equipment have runes on it? A suit of armour made by an elf will look distinctly different from one made by a dwarf, or an orc.

c. How do your vices and lifestyle reflect on you? Do you have piercings, tattoos, visible scars, missing body parts (or even just a chunk taken from your ear), a red nose from too much drinking, a beer gut, a gold tooth, a glass eye, a hook-hand, eye patch, self-carved runes or symbols, brands, studs, pock marks, yellow teeth, or any of a number of other maladies?

d. How your character faces the world is important, too. Do you wear your hair up or down? Is it braided? Do birds live in it? Do you keep is short to keep foes from grabbing it? Do you keep it long to taunt them? Do you tuck it back to keep blood out of it? Do you wear a wig? Do you have facial hair?

2.) Your Stuff and You

a. As mentioned before, equipment reflects on you. To this point, there is a personality difference between what people choose to buy and choose to leave behind.

b. Your weapons and armour are the most important things you are likely to carry with you. Armour is locked in place by a number of concerns such as max dex score, class abilities, cost of special materials, and will most likely be decided on practical levels rather than aesthetic ones. Your weapon, on the other hand, is a very personal matter. Even if you plan on breaking every weapon you own (as a master thrower would) your choice of weapon reflects who you are. For example, the difference between a rapier and a scimitar is mostly a matter of preference. A rapier wielder is more likely to be a dashing swashbuckler, while a scimitar swinger will certainly have a touch of Arabian flair.

c. You are also a reflection of the mundane equipment you carry. If you buy perfume, signet rings, scroll cases, vestments, or mundane jewelry, you will certainly alter what your character feels like. An orc barbarian wielding an ax may not feel like it has too much personality, but if it wears perfume to keep away bad swamp spirits, it suddenly begins to feel much more developed.

d. Any magic object you carry aught to make itself felt. Even a hand-me-down cloak of resistance should have a little personality. It is woven from sheep wool, inlaid in green and brown, and just a little warmer than it should be when the wind blows. Giving a little sentence like that to you magic items will make them feel more a part of you. A major item, such as a staff or magic weapon, deserves even more respect.

e. Your clothes will also reflect directly on you. If all your character wears is full plate, this is a moot point. However, since this is seldom the case, decide what garments make up that characters ensemble. Is it flowing or restrictive, does it follow a theme, whats it made of, etc?

f. There are alternatives to the listed magical items in the DMG. Just because its called Bracers of Armour doesnt mean it has to be a bracer. A tattoo of armour is just as good. A scroll of fireball would be just as nice as an incense of fireball. They serve the same function, and make as much logical sense. With the DMs approval, of course.

3.) So, who are you? Yeah, whats your angle?

a. Your character is somewhere in their early adulthood, leaning toward late childhood as they begin their careers. That leaves a rather impressive chunk of time to be filled in. Remember, the standard, Was born, grew up, became an adventurer is not sufficient to be considered well-rounded. Really consider why you took to the path of the adventurer.

b. You had a family. Were your parents nice? Did they approve of your career path? Are they still alive? Do you visit them? Do you have brothers or sisters? What are they like? Are they adventurers? Did you have aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews, cousins, etc.? If youre a half breed or a plaintouched, this is an especially pointed question.

c. Where did you grow up? Did you live in a nice community? Where do you feel at home? Do you still go back? Is there a terrain type that suits you?

d. Where are you going? What are your ambitions? What do you hope to accomplish in life, both personally and professionally?

4.) Aligning the Heavens

a. You should have an alignment somewhere on your character sheet. This is an important part of who you are, because it reflects, to some degree, how you view the world. The keywords to remember (page 89 PHB) are Crusader, Benefactor, Rebel, Judge, Undecided (or Balanced), Free Spirit, Dominator, Malefactor, and Destroyer. If you feel that the word sums you up, go with the corresponding alignment. Remember, good over evil is usually a choice; law over chaos is usually a disposition.

b. Most humanoids are either Neutral Good or Lawful Neutral. If you cant make up your mind, these make very good launching pads to start with, to change and modify as you move into things.

c. Dont be afraid to be evil. Unless you have a paladin in your party, evil a perfectly valid form of alignment. (Or even if you do have a paladin, with DM and players permission, you may sneak him in there anyway, just to make things interesting.) Being evil is harder to keep up than most people realize, but it can make for a refreshing change of pace.

d. Your equipment should reflect your alignment. Paladins would look silly wearing pitch-black full plate. A blackguard would look silly in mirror-sheered mithril. A chaotic character should also look suitably haberdashed and flim-flam to represent their nature. If you look the part, you tend to feel the part more. It is easier to envinsion yourself as a mighty warrior, a champion of good, or a powerful mage if you happen to look like one.

5.) Whos Your Deity?

a. In a world where the gods and other outer forces have a vested interest in the happenings of the mortal plane, deity choice is quite important, even if you arent a member of the clergy. There is only one class which should be without a deity, and thats the druid. Druidic law offers up to a more primeval force in some cases. Otherwise, everyone has someone to pray to.

b. You dont need to be a full-blown devotee to your god (Well, unless youre a cleric or paladin), but you should know at least the lay information on your god. If you worship Corellon, for example, you should know that he put out Gruumshs eye. Furthermore, you should also know what day that was, because there should be a feast to celebrate it. You should also know your gods portfolio, and maybe one prayer to offer when situation demands.

c. Try to incorporate a few stray things into your speech, especially if you have a high knowledge: religion score, which reflect your displaced nature. Changing What the Hell? to What in the Nine Hells? or changing God help us to Pelor help us makes you feel more organic.

d. If your god has a symbol that you want people (or outsiders) to recognize, you dont have to be a cleric to wear it. A good number of Cloaks of Protection will have Pelors or Garls insignia on it. A headband of intellect may bear Boccobs symbol.

6.) Racial Profiling

a. Your character is a product of their race. Even if they have forsaken their heritage, it has still touched them in some way. Monstrous races especially need to think about how they feel about their kinsmen and how they fit into society at large.

b. Does your character have any races they just dont like? Does your character feel more at home with a certain race then another? Does your character tolerate any other races? How do they feel about monsters? Animals? Undead? Everything Else?

c. What kind of society brought this character up? Was it repressive or open-minded? Do they value freedom or order? Do they have progressive or backwater views on politics, gender, or vocation? Are they chased Victorians or reveling partiers?

7.) Whats in a Name?

a. This is just a short and simple tip: Pick a good name! This is harder than it sounds. The PHB provides some good starting names, but you should certainly expand. Try looking in obscure literary and folklore texts to find some good names. Also, if youre still stumped, you can look at random names from books or movie credits. Bob the Fighter is acceptable for a single game session, but Sir Robert Du Nebbel is a bit more imposing.

8.) Speaking of Language.

a. A good chunk of characters will know multiple languages. Wizards and Bards are especially subject to this. There are a few way to use that language as a means of expanding a character.

b. The first things most people learn in another language are some choice curses. People will know you speak aquan if you spout out aquan curses when things go wrong. Also, in times of stress, you might just erupt in a spout of babbling, especially if common isnt your fist language.

c. Also, theres Spanglish. You may mix parts of you language with another. For example, Ooh nobbed him right in the lethrim If you keep this up for long enough, people will certainly know what your multiculturalism.

d. You should also say what you mean if you know the language. A sonnet in common is nice, but it becomes more interesting if its in elvish, Ingan, or Celestial. Or Giant. Or Infernal.

e. Lastly, you dont have to know anything about the language. No one really speaks Halfling, so it doesnt matter. If you want to say that Halflings speak Spanish, elves speak Cantonese, and Celestial is Latin, thats perfectly fine, as long as every other character who speaks it knows whats going on.

9.) Falling in Love is Easy

a. To flesh out a character and make them seem more alive, a romantic interest can add depth and feeling. Note that if youre too belligerent in explaining your romance, you can easily annoy your compatriots. However, saying that My character now has a wife is a little blunt (even if it is a step in the right direction).

b. You can also make overtures to have romance with female (or male, as circumstances demand) party members. This is a common ploy, and you shouldnt feel embarrassed doing so. They may accept or rebuke you as often as you both like. Treated well, this can make a campaign much more interesting.

10.) Being Good in a Team

a. Just a final reminder that, whatever you do, make sure the other players agree and accept it. If you want to play an evil, rude, bigot youre welcome to. Until people start to complain.

From Ian Nobles Sig Line on

Improvise as much as you can

A character sheet is a list of items that tell you what the story should be about

As a GM, say "maybe" and ask your players to justify a "yes"

Immersion isn't a dirty word.

The act of Gamemastering isn't bad-wrong fun.

Shared storytelling is writing by committee and has both advantages and risks

The Ten Commandments of Villainy--minus Charlton Heston

By Theophenes

In the beginning, the darkness came from the valley and spoke unto me, Dost my will? and I asked humbly, I am thine servant Theo, what is thy desire? The Darkness replied. Show them, the true power of the dark side, show them what you have been taught of evil through comic books. Lead them into a land of Mountain Dew and Bugles! And so, I the Prophet received the Ten Commandments of Villainy, to help steer the chosen people from cliches of necromancers and demon lords.

I'm going to discuss making something important to the health and well-being of your campaign. You need to make an adversary. Not just a mere villain, but a dyed-in-the-wool, honest to Pelor son of an otyugh that'll make your PCs cringe with fear, loathing and/or symbolic hatred. So Here is my fairly sensible list of things that are helpful for a good villain.


1st Commandment: Thou shalt not be villainous without motive.

Motive's a big part of the caper. If you want your Big Baddies to be totally awesome, you must think them through at this point first. What do they want? Why do they want it? What are they willing to Sacrifice to get it? Like any PC character with motivations, we're gonna need a backstory, and a class.

Let's say our evil man here is named Thaco (forgive my unoriginality in the name). He's a goblin Sorcerer. Like most Goblins, he was always bullied and treated cruelly by the larger races, and often made as a grunt in small sieges. One day he discover his magical aptitude and the oppressed became the oppressor. He know attempts to unify Goblinoids and other "monsters" into his war machine to retake the world under his banner.

Now we've got his motive and attitude (oppressed with a persecution complex), his plan (take things over), and his method (military conquest, an army led by fear). That was an even two minutes of brainstorming. This attitude will be our foundation.

Note that our "base monster" (a goblin) is very weak here, and did not start in a position of power. He is egotistical, but he's deeply insecure, and is always trying to bully and outdo his opponents though displays in order to prove his superiority. He is not as likely to cut his losses and run as other major villains.

2nd Commandment: Thou shalt always have a plan b.

Make your plans good. Make them deliberate. Make them several weeks in advance. Our evil Sorcerer Thaco got smacked too hard in the first round thanks to a lousy initiative? This is what gaseous form is for. You're arch-villain needs to be able to survive and escape form the most horribly bad thing gone wrong you can imagine, at least a few times, to truly infuriate the players. Leave some treasure and XP behind, but run quickly. I recommend Gaseous Form, Smoke Steps, and teleporting spells, myself. These tools allow a sorcerer to escape his grisly fate without too many problems.

As a sorcerer, he also should probably have a decent charisma and ranks in use magic device, so don't be afraid to throw scrolls, wands, and other random evil artifacts at the players.

Also, consider making them face off against illusions of Thaco at first, before they even really meet him in the flesh.

3rd Commandment: Thou shalt always have minions.

I know the leadership rules are how PCs get minions, but this is one area where I let a Big Baddie be a little better than the PCs. Big Baddies have minions, of differing uses and skills--and I'm talking about more than combat. A good evil mastermind will have more than just minions with high CRs, he'll have minions who can subvert, build weapons, arm the masses, finance operations, and even serve him tea. I love a high-level NPC hired by the Big Baddie to kill the party as much as the next guy, but sometimes it's more handy to have a humble bar-wench and street ear than a CR 10 assassin. Think of the James Bond movies. The villains had all sort of henchmen, from elite killers to low-level thugs, and of course double agents. Think out your minions. A good entourage of minions will help define how your villain works things out.

We've already stated that our boy Thaco here is a goblin who used to work for hobgoblins, and has ascended the rungs of the military ladder to the top of goblinoid society. In this case, it would be wise to stay mostly in theme, having a "secret police" of goblin rogues, and hobgoblins and bugbears for muscle. He may have also recruited other "outcasts" and monsters, ranging from Troglodytes to Orcs, depending on your taste. The key component is the desire of these people to serve their new master unerringly through fear. Like most loyal thralls to a ruthless dictator (I don't care about alignment, probably an evil one, most likely lawful, seeing as it's a militaristic dictatorship), they desire to serve--so they don't end up being fed to his pet Purple Worm.

4th Commandment: Thou Shalt haveth a whole subscription, not just deep issues.

All major Villians must have personalities that are unique and memorable. I'm not very good at quirks, so I talked a good friend of mine into coming up with two without telling him what I was doing. His two were a Fear of Amish people, and Cannibalism (it should be mentioned that you may need to find some really weird people to talk to at random for that method of finding ideas to work I recommend getting some friends at a local community college or mental asylum, but many gaming groups already have this level of nuttiness in the group to siphon off their randomness).

Amish people, form what little I know about them are very spiritual and believe in living humbly without technological dependence, so I would translate this into a fear and hatred of primitive mystics (druids, shamans, dragon shamans, etc.), which he will attack or order the destruction of on sight. We will add this to his back story, by claiming that he was interested in arcane research and alchemy, but the shamans of the tribe ridiculed him and never supported his inventions, which could have protected them form the hobgoblin war-chiefs.

As for the cannibalism, do to his superiority complex, he will only eat inferior, lesser creatures in his mind. A regular punishment for a subordinate's failure is the consumption of a lieutenant's vital organ, let's just say the heart and brain are the parts he relishes the most.

Okay, from those two personality quirks, we can add some depth here. I think there are few things more gruesome than watching a scrying spell on an enemy cut to a meal scene, where it takes them a minute to realize their foiled adversary is now dinner for someone higher on both the command and food chain. This kind of thing will make your players severely worried as to exactly what kind of monster their facing, and if the visions are vague enough, they'll just know it eats its own minions without remorse. This will give them some severely misleading conceptions about their opponent.

The hatred of primitive divine spell-casters will allow a wide range of targets for hatred, and is even better if you have a PC whom Thaco can loathe with every fiber of his being.

5th Commandment: Thou shalt make it personal.

Villains aren't despised and hated for starting wars, or fighting the heroes to the death. They're hated when they cross the line, when they make it personal. Green Goblin wouldn't be half the monster he is/was if it weren't for Gwen Stacey. Chameleon was only a moderate villain, but he was taken seriously when he kidnapped Mary Jane. Lex Luthor's kidnapping of his own daughter was far greater villainy than anything he did to take over the world.

Yes, Thaco's an adversary, but to really make him evil, you need to find someone in the party and give them a true reason to hate Thaco. Killing a pet or animal companion, razing the PC's home village, or even just trying to destroy everything that character holds dear (destroying forests is a really good way to anger a party's druid or ranger. Dragon shamans hate it when draconic races of similar attitudes are being fought and enslaved, etc.). Attacking the things that your PCs love and cherish will cause them a lot of RP motivation to destroy this guy on sight.

Commandment: Thou shalt Monologue. And dialogue. Actually, thou shalt run thy big fat mouth off.

This is important. Every villain's gotta say something good to be truly bad. You have to taunt, goad, and tick off your characters to all ends. Exploit their previous battles, their rage, and even mock their very attitudes:

"You didn't defeat me in The Ruins of Cephalon, you will not vanquish me here!"

"Nice outfit, steal off an ogre? You smell like the Backside o' one."

"You call that a spell? This is a spell, DRUID!!!" (usually said while lobbing a fireball)

The taunting and monologue is equally important during combat. That's why being physically inaccessible while in an epic battle is so useful--it give you time for witty banter. Be sure to have lots of minions to distract them while you trash-talk.

Thaco, like most goblins, has a sick sense of humor, and will often use horrible lines to make opponents cringe or get mad.

"Nothing penetrates the Superior THACO!" (Old-schoolers will snort at this)

"You fight worse than a drunken kobold, and you smell like an ogre's hind quarters."

"You remind of young cliche named Drazz't..."

"Soil yourself yet, low-breed?"

7th Commandment. Thou shalt have many other "boss monsters" before thee.

A good memorable villain will have many schemes, and will almost always have some powerful, deadly monstrosities in his service to help things along--at least one per scheme/adventure, if not more.

Again, relevancy's important. Now we've already described goblin(oid) slaves as the major source of Lord Thaco's dominance. Thankfully, most of these big bad bosses can be easily made through templates and existing monster stats, or character levels, and occasional prestige classes.

Since he has no remorse for abusing lesser races, using templates through horrible magic experimentation to create prototypes for conquest is likely. Some recommendations include:

Half-golem (flesh or clay) Hobgoblin

Half-troll Bugbear

Tiefling Goblin Rogue (given a blood transfer through mystic rites)

Using The Tauric template to graft a Worg's body to a Hobgoblin's body, creating a fearsome leader

A lycanthropic Kobold (were-viper) who has taken levels in rogue.

A Gnoll with ranger levels, serving as a pet to Thaco

A gelatinous Ogre

A bladerager Troll (this is an actual monster, created by foul experimentation on trolls He might have on or two of these, but not many)

Skeletons and zombies of monstrous humanoids, including Minotaurs and trolls, with the occasional gray render zombie or pet guarding a raiding party.

An Athach (because they look more like a magical creature gone awry than anything else.)

The main goal of Boss monsters is to deliver a semi-climactic fight at every adventure relevant to the campaign, at ever CR, so that you've always got options.

8th Commandment: Thou shalt always be as vague and murky as a river of mud.

I'm not saying you shouldn't drop hints, but it may take several encounters with Thaco's troops before the party realizes what's going on--that a goblin despot with immense spell-casting skills was the major villain. Play with the opponent's perceptions of your villain. Make interrogation barely useful. Make the orders covert, and the ideas less substantial. Your villain probably shouldn't unveil himself until he feels somewhat threatened by the party's activities.

9th Commandment: Thou shalt have schemes.

We know the goblin forces of Thaco are organizing for military, so how are they doing it? Raiding caravans for resources? Attacking an infamous castle guarded by the undead in order to acquire a place to rule from? Kidnapping derro and duergar to properly outfit the military war machine? Seeking ancient artifacts of power to increase his own abilities? You must decide what the villain is doing. After all, it's not like these guys sit around and watch soap operas in their lairs until the good guys show up.

Thaco already has magical power, but he needs more troops. So, he goes on "recruiting drives" where he attempt to gain leadership over primitive tribes by raiding local villages to show his prowess as a warrior. After the PCs disrupted one of his raids, he lost some followers, and now is desperate to attack them with some killer shock troops in order to show his skill.

10th Commandent: Death is but a temporary setback.

A good villain can come back from the dead, or merely fake his death. Most people already know about Resurrection form the dead, but fake deaths are less common by villains in most campaigns. Screw coming back as an undead, I want my minion to die in my place. Nothing an illusion spell can't do--or a change of clothes into "leaders' clothing" if they don't know what you look like.

Again, remember that we're being evil here Giving them the false satisfaction of killing the big villain when it turns out they got played, if executed well, has some serous pay-off in RP terms--the party will now truly consider the villain worth more than a second glance.

Thaco, like most mages has many options. He could sell hi soul to a demon lord for resurrection, rely on an evil cleric, or even come back as an undead such as a liche or vampire (a vampire lieutenant is needed for this particular trick to work, claiming he was mortally wounded, and had to make a sacrifice play).

Also as a mage, it's easy to fake a death, either form a simple illusion magic, to a teleport or gaseous form spell before the blast of a spell powerful enough to not leave a corpse behind, to using a minion as a body double. Also, falling off of a steep precipice and vanishing by a magic spell after you hit the water is always a good back-up plan. If there's no water, then simply use a nice illusion spell to make it look like hit the ground when you didn't. Equally helpful.


These Ten Commandments will strengthen your villains, if used well. I hope you use them well. The Darkness knows I will. And I'll cackle when I do so.

Ten rules of economical writing

Original Source: D. McCloskey, "Economical Writing," Economic Inquiry 23(April 1985): 187-222.

From a version by Thomas L. Wyrick, The Economist's Handbook: A Research and Writing Guide. Minneapolis/St. Paul: West Publishing, 1994, p. 65.

Which I got from:

Always good to have some writing guidelines around here. It helps with better submissions.

1. Write simple, direct sentences.

No one is impressed by a sentence they cannot understand. The quality of your economic logic is what counts, not big words or complicated sentences.

2. Rewrite and edit your first draft and your second one, and third,...

Easy writing makes difficult reading. Revise your words if you want others to read them.

3. If its possible to cut out a word (or sentence), cut it out.

Cut material no matter how brilliant you consider it, if it does not advance the topic of your paper.

4. Make sure that every sentence has the three required parts: subject, verb, and object.

When possible, place the main idea (emphasis) of each sentence at its end.

5. Avoid excessive introduction and summary, over-elaboration, or restatement of well-known ideas.

Once you have stated in direct terms what you intend to do in your paper, do it. Many of the things that people write do not move the discussion along to its ultimate objective, but merely take up space.

6. Use active verbs rather than passive ones to add life to your writing.

Delete the word "is" whenever possible and rewrite the sentence using an active verb.

7. Be concrete give examples rather than discussing things in vague terms.

Discuss the supply and demand for gasoline, rather than the supply and demand for good X.

8. Do not use a lot of different words to express the same idea just for the sake of variety.

It is far better to repeat a word than to use synonyms and confuse your reader. Repetition of important terms adds cohesion to your writing.

9. Minimize use of doublets.

Doublets are two words that mean essentially the same thing, used alongside each other in a sentence. Using the same ideas or phrases when a single or solitary one would do is a certain and sure-fire way of writing an unreadable and confusing report. Pick the best word and use it (a thesaurus is helpful here); do not say everything twice.

10. Avoid excessive use of This, That, These and Those.

In most cases "the" will do nicely. Instead of saying "this," try repeating the word it represents instead.

Added after todays HoH

Okay these are not for rpgs exclusively, but we are all gamers here right?

The Commandments of Gaming

I. Gaming is thy holy pastime. Thou shalt not have outdoor activities before thee.

II. Thou shalt not be fanboyish in the name of gaming

III. Remember thou keep holy the game release dates

IV. Honor thy PC and thy console

V. Thou shalt not kill steal

VI. Thou shalt not frag... without gloating in the aftermath.

VII. Thou shalt lose graciously; thou shalt not bitch nor whine when fragged.

VIII. Thou shalt accept thy dice rolls as the will of the Gods.

IX. Thou shalt teabag only in the wake of questionable ownage.

X. Thou shalt not cheat nor support the farming of gold.

XI. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's rocket launcher; thou shalt not covet thy neighbors epic mount, nor his video card, nor his high score.

XII. Know thy group function; thy DPs shalt avoid aggro, thy tanks shall not attempt to DPS, thy mage shalt not forget mana potions, and thy healer shalt not go AFK without notifying the group.

From / Erik David Evens blog

The Ten Commandments of Tabletop Role-Playing Games

I spent many, many years playing tabletop and live-action role-playing games. Many, many years. Years Ill never get back.

But I learned a lot, especially about how to keep a game fun and successful. And now Ive decided to share my wisdom from on high with the Ten Commandments of Role-Playing Games.

Follow these rules, and you will go to gaming heaven. Sin, and burn in the fires of gaming hell.

I am far from perfect. I have been guilty of most of these sins. But in any game I play today, I am a Saint.

Each Commandment is followed by an explanation, or exegesis, by Rabbi Kunochan Ben Tatewaki.

I. I Am RPG Thy Game, Thou Shalt Have No Other Games Before Me

Exegesis: It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to properly prepare and run a good RPG. Gamemastering, when done well, is labor-intensive. If youre not going to dedicate yourself to an ongoing game, then dont play. And once you have committed to a game, and your character is central to the story, you cannot just run off to play Halo, or spend a semester in France, or date girls. Role-playing is a responsibility.

And absolutely, positively dont give up tabletop to play World of Warcraft. These people are traitors, and will be shot. (Full disclosure: I gave up tabletop to play WoW. Gave up LARPs, too.)

II. Thou Shalt Not Cheat, It Is An Abomination

Exegesis: This goes for any kind of game, anywhere, anytime. Tabletop games, LARPS, wargames, card games, computer and arcade games, sports, Chess, Bingo and thumb wrestling.

I have never understood why anyone would cheat. Scratch that - I have never understood why anyone over the age of 14 would cheat. Unlike work or taxes, games are entirely voluntary activities. So cheating at work or on your taxes, while evil, I can get. But why play a game at all if youre just going to cheat? If youre cheating, youre not playing.

If youre cheating for money, say at gambling or sports, then I understand. Youre an asshat, but I understand. But if theres no money riding on a game, then youre just ruining the game for yourself and others. Which means you suck.

Whats that? You cheat to win? If you cheated, you didnt win. Somebody else won, and just doesnt know it. Youre a loser. And if no one else knows, you know. And you care, if you have an emotional age over 14.

What about exploits, such as in computer games? Well, if youre hacking game software for the sole purpose of sharpening those computer skills, then you are a 7334 h@xx0r knock yourself out, sport. If youre cheating to win, then see above.

In RPGs, cheating is a betrayal of everyone else at the table. And if youre willing to do that, then you are a waste of protein. Go feed yourself to the boars.

III. Thou Shalt Not Take Thy Game Too Seriously

Exegesis: There are many ways to ruin a tabletop game or LARP for everyone. But the worst is to take the game too seriously. Nothing is worse than the guy (and theres always one) who, upon losing his character/failing a saving throw/making a bad roll, freaks out and storms out of the room. Thats the end of the game for the night, folks.

Read my lips: its just a game. Now, I know this flies in the face of Commandments I and IX. I never said religion would make sense. But the reason we treat the game seriously is to keep it fun. Take the game too seriously, and its not fun anymore.

You will make a bad roll. Your beloved character will die. The gamemaster will make a bad or unfair call (see Commandment VI). You will lose one of your dice. Another player will do something stupid. Something bad will happen - it always does. Its all part of the gaming experience. If its unavoidable, like a bad roll, then learn to deal with it. If its something that can be helped, like a poor decision by the referee, then feel free to defend yourself right up to the point where youre detracting from the fun of the game. Then stop. Just give in - be the better man.

If youre upset about something, you may consider just going home. Dont it will ruin the whole evening. Unless you can genuinely convince everyone youre leaving for some other reason (hey guys, my girlfriend called, and shes ovulating), then just suck it down for the rest of the evening. If you still have your panties in a twist later, you can stop coming to future sessions.

Everyone contributes to making the game civil, successful and fun. Even you.

IV. Thou Shalt Not MinMax

Exegesis: Everyone loves a rules tweaker. Except we dont.

Heres a news flash, Pacho role-playing games do not have winners. Having the most powerful character is not the point. Tweaking the rules to get powers and abilities the game designers did not intend may be fun for you, but its not fun for anyone else. And it may not technically be cheating but whenever you have to say not technically cheating, youre cheating.

The point of an RPG is to have fun, and to communally tell a story. MinMaxing your character to maximize every possible advantage under the rules does not contribute to either goal; in fact, its detrimental. Its annoying, and it pisses people off. Dont do it.

That doesnt mean you cant design your character intelligently, or take advantage of your superior grasp of the system. Its all a matter of degree. The minute youre detracting from the fun, youve crossed the line.

V. Thou Shalt Not Break The Game

Exegesis: This has always been my great sin intentionally pushing past the limits of what can be done in the game, for the sole purpose of pissing off the gamemaster.

I loved to invent races, powers and abilities the game could not support; devise solutions to problems the gamemaster had not anticipated; drive the party off the main plotline and onto some irrelevant subplot the gamemaster had not planned out. I did these things as a player because I lived for them as a gamemaster. I loved it when players pulled this shit it was a challenge.

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates this style of play. I always frustrated the gamemaster, even my friend did the same thing in my games. Sometime the players found my antics amusing, but often not. Gamebreaking becomes a sin a moment the fun stops for others.

A top-rate gamemaster wont let anyone break his game. Then again, a top-rate gamemaster wont let anyone break any of these commandments.

VI. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Gamemaster and Storyteller

Exegesis: In a role-playing game, the gamemaster/Dungeon Master/referee/Storyteller must have absolute authority. He or she is GOD.

There are two systems whose rules made this perfectly clear; Paranoia and the World of Darkness games. But its true for every game. As sson as the gamemaster loses his authority, the game is over. Nothing is worse than a gamemaster who lets the players walk over him. I should know see Commandment V.

If you dont want to cheerfully accept every single judgment of the gamemaster, good or bad, major, trivial, or whim, then dont play again. Note that I said cheerfully accept begrudgingly following along just makes you a fun-sponge.

VII. Thou Shalt Bring Thine Own Dice

Exegesis: And books and paper and pens and chips and Mountain Dew. A mooch is no ones friend.

Conversely, Thou Shalt Share Thine Dice. Jesus Christ, people, theyre not made of diamond. Share your dice. Lend your pens. Give your friend a Coke. Be a mensch. A miser is as bad as a mooch.

Also falling under this Commandment: Thou Shalt Care For Thy Friends Dice As If They Were Thine Own. Dont lose dice. Dont break or chew pencils. Dont write on the mat with a Sharpie. And for Gods sake, be careful with painted miniatures.

VIII. Thou Shalt Learn The System

Exegesis: This is my other great sin. I have played and even run countless games without ever learning the actual rules. I ran a successful AD&D game for years and never understood the magic system. Still dont. Its not complicated, and Im not stupid. I just didnt want to learn.

But if you dont know the rules, then someone has to do the work for you, and thats not fair. Take care of your own character creation. Do your own bookkeeping. Understand how your abilities work. Otherwise, youre just a douche.

If youre going to play, then learn the damn game.

IX. Remember The Gaming Day And Keep It Open

Exegesis: This is a corollary of the First Commandment. The gaming day is for gaming, and nothing else. Be on time (right, as if gamers will ever be on time), be prepared, and dont plan anything else.

Also: Thou Shalt Not Allow Gentiles To Defile The Temple. The Temple is the game, and the Gentile is your girlfriend, little brother, or some other non-gamer. If someone you know genuinely wants to learn the game if it was their idea then fine. But dont invite your girlfriend to the game just because you promised to spend the day with her. Shes a distraction. Shes an embarrassment. Shes a Philistine.

X. Thou Shalt Not Blame The Dice

Exegesis: Luck does not exist. Read it again. Ill wait.

Probabilities are probabilities. If you roll 3d6, theres a 0.4629% chance youll roll an 18, a 0.4629% chance of a 3; and a 25% of a 10 or 11. Thats it. It doesnt matter what you rolled last time. Youre not on a roll. Theres no good luck or bad. Just roll the damn dice, and accept your fate.

Also, there are no good or bad dice. As long as you bought your dice, and didnt make them in shop class, then they are properly cut and weighted. Any possible variations between manufactured dice are too small to matter. (Unless you bought one of those old-school d100s with the seam around the middle. Thats a novelty die, dude. No one uses that.)

There is no better way to roll than another. If you have some trick that supposedly makes the dice roll better, then you are cheating. See Commandment II.

The point is, if something goes wrong, dont blame the dice. You sound like an idiot. If you must blame something, blame the laws of mathematics.

Bill Gate's Ten

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this!

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time..

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Ten Expanded Rules of Gun Combat

1. Your number one option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

1a. Be courteous to everyone. Friendly to no one.

1b. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

1c. Decide to be aggressive enough, quickly enough.

2. Have a gun.

2a. Preferably, have at least two guns.

2b. Bring all of your friends who have guns.

2c. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.

2d. Carry the same gun in the same place all the time.

2e. Do not attend a gun fight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with less than a "4."

3. Bring ammo.

3a. The right ammo.

3b. Lots of it.

3c. Have speedloads and prepped magazines ready.

3d. Bring extras of those too.

3e. Practice combat reload. ALOT!

4. Have a plan.

4a. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won't work.

4b. Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

4c. "If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan your mission properly."

4d. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

5. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them.)

6. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

6a. "Why did you shoot only once? There's no additional paperwork for shooting someone twice!" -- Firearms Instructor P.O.J.D., MOS debriefing after a shooting.

6b. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

6b. Practice Combat reloads, because if you run out at the wrong time you will have a bad day.

7. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

7a. If he gets off a shot before you get off your second, you are doing something wrong.

7b. If your target gets a shot off at you, and you survive, you need more speed drills down at the range.

8. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.

8b. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.

8c. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect your own flank.

9. Proximity negates skill. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

9a. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on "pucker factor" than the inherent accuracy of the gun. Use a gun that works every time. "All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket."

10. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading and running.

10a. Don't drop your guard.

10b. Always perform a tactical reload and then threat scan 360 degrees.

And remember the rule:

11. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance or tactics. They will only remember who lived.

I was reminded of these rules at

The formatting is mine and the order comes from the snarky advice of my friends who use guns professionally over the years.

This is from my aquaintance Allen Varney, it is not quite 10 rules, but still a lot of fun.


by Allen Varney

1. If it doesn't say you can't, you can.

2. If it says you can't but you argue convincingly, you can.

3. No rule covers all situations.

4. Some people are just plain lucky. Some aren't.

5. However, fortune favors the bold, or at least the entertaining.

6. The best way to solve a problem is to get around it.

7. There are some problems you can't get around.

8. Poor communication produces disastrous mistakes.

9. Sometimes mistakes are more fun than correct choices.

10. Those in authority are human beings like you and me. They treat you better if you bring them food.

11. Honesty is the best policy -- if you're behaving yourself.

12. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

13. A smooth talker is always playing you like a fish on a hook.

14. Enlightened understanding is always the key.

15. Clean up your mess after you're done playing.

16. Planned obsolescence is a potent marketing force. Start saving now for the second edition of this article.

The Ten Commandments Of Priceless Players

Players gamerchick Wed, 2003-01-22 17:59

On this site and elsewhere, tens of thousands of words have been devoted to the art of being a good GM. Tips, tricks, ideas, and strategies for improving your game abound, some valid, some not. But I sometimes feel as though in all that talk about running a better game, an equally (if not more) important part of the gaming experience is neglected. It's true the way in which a GM runs a game contributes a lot to its success or failure, but in the end it's the behavior of the players that really makes or breaks a game. The more I game, the more amazed I am when I see other gamers (some of them very experienced) failing to abide by rules of basic, common courtesy. Perhaps it's not that they're ignorant of these rules, but just that they need to be reminded of them. With that, I bring you my own list of ten simple rules that you, the player, can and should follow to make your games more pleasant for everyone involved. (Feel free to add your own at the end of this article.)

I WILL RESPECT THE AUTHORITY AND THE DECISIONS OF THE GM. I will honor her knowledge of the system and plans for the campaign by understanding when it comes down to it, what she says goes, even if it goes against the way I've done things in the past. If I have a significant problem with any of her decisions, I will wait until the end of the game session to discuss it rather than bringing the game to a screeching halt the moment the transgression occurs. (See Rule #7 for more on this.)

I WILL ALSO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF MY FELLOW PLAYERS. I will look at gaming as a group venture and will treat my fellow PCs in a way that upholds this goal. Though some intra-party conflict can lend a real sense of urgency and danger to a game, I will not take it to the extreme where the intra-party conflict becomes the game. I will observe the Golden Rule and not fold, spindle, or mutilate my fellow PCs in-game without their players' express permission to do so. Also, I will leave in-game conflict at the table and not allow it to bleed over into real life or affect the way I treat my fellow gamers.

I WILL WORK WITH THE GM TO MAKE A CHARACTER WHO FITS WITH AND CONTRIBUTES TO THE GAME. I will ask about issues of game balance and party composition, as well as any no-nos or recommended character components, before approaching the GM with a fully completed character. Under no circumstances will I create a character whose only function is to sow discord and distrust and create conflict within the party, unless the entire group wants me to play this role.

I WILL WORK WITH THE GM'S PLOT RATHER THAN AGAINST IT. When I see something that greatly resembles a plot hook, I will not immediately turn tail and run in the opposite direction, all the while giving the lame excuse that "it's what my character would do." Instead, I will come up with reasons to at the very least approach and consider the plot that the GM has planned, even if this means betraying my character a little bit.

I WILL NOT HOG THE SPOTLIGHT. I will respect the precious time of my GM and my fellow players by keeping them involved in as much of the game as possible. As mentioned in Rule #2, I will realize I am not the only person in my gaming group and will not behave as though I am. I will not split the party unnecessarily, nor will I monopolize the GM's time with private conferences or long conversations with NPCs; if I find it absolutely necessary to do this, I will ask for a one-on-one or bluebooking session in which I can accomplish these goals when the other players are not present. Also, I will not ruin the mood with snide comments when the GM is speaking in-character or describing scenes, and I will gladly allow other players to have their moments in the sun.

I WILL BE A GOOD SPORT. This goes hand in hand with Rule #1. I will not engage in needless rules lawyering or argumentation with the GM or the other players. If I mess up a roll or my character's plans don't work out, I will not pout or throw a fit. Instead, I will complain just a little and then set about making a new plan. I will not whine or gloat unnecessarily about the events of a game session, but accept what has happened, for better or worse.

IF I HAVE A PROBLEM, I WILL DISCUSS IT WITH THE GM IN A CALM AND REASONABLE FASHION. If the GM does something I absolutely cannot abide, I will sit down with him and clearly explain why I disagree with his decision, without yelling at him or insulting him. I will be constructive and offer suggestions, and I will also listen to the GM and accept a reasonable compromise. I will try to be understanding of his needs and not hold out to have all my demands met, settling instead for a mutually acceptable solution. Under no circumstances will I bad-mouth him behind his back or allow all the other players to know about my problem with him before he does. I will wait to do this until after the session has ended or it has reached a breaking point, and I will do it in private with the GM.

I WILL NOT BE A JERK WHEN IT COMES TO NON-GAMING-RELATED MATTERS. I will arrive on time to sessions and stay until the end. If this is not possible, I will inform the GM beforehand. I will respect the space in which the game takes place and abide by any rules that come with it. I will not mooch dice, books, pencils, or other materials for longer than necessary, buying my own when I need them. I will share these supplies with newer gamers until they, too, buy their own. Out of character, I will be polite and respectful. I will pay my fair share for pizza and gas, bring my own beverages unless told to do otherwise, and maybe even bring snacks to share from time to time.

BEFORE I TAKE ANY MAJOR ACTION AS A PLAYER (that is, an action with the potential to change the game dramatically, such as switching sides to work for the enemy), I WILL ASK MYSELF THREE QUESTIONS. Those three questions are: Does it make the game more fun? Does it improve the story? Do these benefits apply to everyone? If I cannot answer "yes" to all three of these questions, it does not matter how much I like the idea or how cool I think "my" subplot would be - I will keep silent and not go through with it.

I WILL REMEMBER THE FIRST AND FOREMOST OBJECT OF THE GAME IS TO HAVE FUN. I will act as though all other rules are irrelevant compared to this one. If I follow this rule above all else, I should be in the clear.