Category Archives: Dungeons and Dragons

Nebulons

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Part of the Traveller Role-Playing Game is dealing with alien races.  So, as a game master for the Traveller Adventures back in the 1980’s, I had the opportunity to create alien races of my own.  Truthfully, the alien Telleron race that I created for the novel Catch a Falling Star already existed in my cartoons and fiction stories before I began playing the role-playing game.  The Nebulon Race, however, was invented entirely for the game.  Only later did they become a part of my fiction.

Space Cowboys3  So, what are Nebulons?  Gyro Sinjarac on the left in the picture is an example from Aeroquest of a Nebulon.  They are aliens who are human in every respect except for their blue skin.  Interestingly they can even successfully interbreed with Earther humans.  This is apparently due to either the evolution of Nebulons from Earther explorers, or, more likely, the galaxy being seeded with Earth humans and Earther DNA by the mysterious alien race known only as “the Ancients”.  What is not debatable is that Nebulons have unique skin.  The blue skin with high levels of natural copper sulfate in it has evolved as a protection from interstellar nebula radiation.  No one who has learned their language and studied their culture has ever identified a planet of origin.  Instead, the Nebulons have been a space-born race since humans first encountered them, travelling in  their symbiotic space-whale space cruisers.  They are a mysterious deep-space race of alien beings who use organic symbiotes,  in other words, living creatures, as their pervasive technology.

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Junior Aero makes an excellent example to use to explain what Nebulons are.  You can see by this picture that not only does he possess the Nebulon blue skin, but also the bright yellow hair, the red heat-transfer cheek organs, and the small stature that makes them easily satirized as “Space Smurfs” in honor of Peyo’s beloved blue comic characters.

The Nebulons as a race are often cited as evidence of the evolutionary trend of intelligent races towards neoteny, the retention of childlike features into maturity and adulthood.  Even the oldest and the most physically fit of the adult Nebulon population resemble children and young teenagers rather than Arnold-Schwarzenegger-like humans.   But believing them to be soft and weak like children is a mistake that often yields tragedy for those who contend against them, especially in battle.  The Nebulons have often fought in space wars like the 5th Unification War, both for and against the human-led Imperium.

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But the Nebulons are not automatically at odds with humanoid races in any way.  They are generally happy in demeanor and temperament,  easily befriending other races, even the snake-eyed Galtorrian humans that tend to dominate the Imperium.  They seem to be particularly fond of Pan-Galactican Space Cowboys, having helped them during the border conflicts with the mysterious race known as the Faceless Horde.

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So, there is a glop of information about an alien race from my science-fiction comedy writing that you can sort out as you like, and can probably learn from as a science fiction writer yourself.  They are probably an excellent example of what not to do when creating a science-fiction-style alien race of your own.

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The Encounter

Life, like a good Dungeons and Dragons game, is basically controlled by rolling the dice of random encounters.  Even if there is a great over-arching plan for this reality in the brain of the Great Dungeon Master in the Sky, it is constantly altered by the roll of celestial dice and ultimate random chance.

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Thusly, I managed a D & D encounter in the middle of the night last night.

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I generally have a sleeping skill of only +1.  That means, that if sleeping is a simple skill, I can add my +1 to the roll and only have to get a 6 or higher on a twenty-sided dice.  At 3:10 a.m. I rolled a 3.  I had to get up and wander bleary-eyed to the bathroom, a -2 for terrain effects to successfully to make it to the bathroom and pee through a prostate that is swollen to the size of a grapefruit, most often a difficult task, requiring a 15 on a twenty-sided dice.  I got lucky.  I rolled a 19.  Then, on the way back to bed, the dog rolled a natural 20 on her get-the-master’s-attention roll and let me know she had to go to the bathroom too.

I have to tell you at this point, that since I am trying to be more of a nudist, I seriously considered taking her out naked (by which I mean me, not her).  Dressing up in the middle of the night can be daunting.  And no one was going to see in the dark of the park at 3:15 a.m.  But I thought it probably wasn’t a good idea to go adventuring without armor in the darkness, so I at least put on shoes and a magic +4 bathrobe.

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So, we went out to let the dog poop in the park, a thing she can do profusely on a roll of 3 or higher.  We got it accomplished with little fuss.  Oh, there was some complaining and growling, but the dog managed to ignore me when I did it.  Then we had to find our way safely back to the house, and bed…. but we had a random encounter roll that didn’t go in our favor.  I am always on the lookout in the dark for aliens or black-eyed children or even the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  But what I got was the monster from under the bridge.

One of the denizens of the city suburbs that most enjoys the nightlife in the city and thrives even though it isn’t human is the horrorific creature known as a raccoon.  She’s a sow that I have seen a number of times before at night.  She lives under the bridge in the park and often has three or four cubs trailing behind her in the spring.  And she has nothing but contempt for humans with dogs.  She immediately launched into her fear-based hiss attack.  And coming from a possibly seven-foot tall monster sitting atop the pool fence and hissing in the night, it seized the initiative with a very effective attack.  She rolled an 18.  The attack succeeded.

I tried the ever-popular pee-your-pants defense, but failed, rolling a 2.  The reservoir was previously emptied, and I wasn’t wearing pants.  The dog bolted for the kitchen door and dragged me with her.  Her magic bark attack wasn’t even tried.  We were in the house before my heart skipped its third beat.

Surviving the encounter in this way is probably good for the heart.  It beat really hard for a bit and got thoroughly exercised.  But I went back to bed and reflected on the fact that random encounters like that are entirely dependent on the roll of the dice.

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Traveller

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For much of my role-playing-game lifetime, I did not play the actual Dungeons and Dragons game.  I played with a lot of kids from my classes in the South Texas middle school where I spent the majority of my teacher-life.  And while most of my players were Catholics, it was the Southern Baptists, including the county sheriff, who were intent on policing what kind of thought went on in the minds of the people in their town.  D & D had demons and devils in it.

So, I had to make a significant shift in my story-telling games.  The Baptist preacher’s son and the sheriff’s son were two of my most avid players.  I also had the high school physics teacher’s son on my adventurers’ team.  So, we turned wizards and warlocks into astrophysicists and mad scientists, rogues into space scouts, and knights into space knights.  We started playing Traveller, a science fiction role-playing game.

That is where the stories that eventually became Aeroquest came from.  My players instantly took a liking to the game and star journeys into the unknown reaches of the Spinward Marches, a fictional region of the Orion Spur of the Sagittarius Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy (our actual address in space).  Real science, astronomy, physics, and biology went into adventures that were easily as swashbuckling and exciting as Star Wars, Star Trek, and every other sci-fi show we stole ideas from.

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The stars were the limit with a simple gaming system that required only a set of six sided dice and lots and lots of graph paper… and plenty of imagination for fuel.

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Dragon Paffoonies

Part of the joy I find in the family Dungeons and Dragons game is in making Paffoonies, the story-based pictures that illustrate and elucidate the characters and other things that enter spontaneously into the game.

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I don’t invent every part of the image and concept myself.  Some inspiration comes from the game books and published adventures, while others come directly from the players and the way their imaginations shape characters and events.

Many of the Dungeons and Dragons Paffoonies began life as character sheets.  That’s why there are numbers, strength numbers, intelligence numbers, character levels, dexterity, skill sets, and magic items listed all around the character image. They more or less morphed over time into illustrations done in colored pencil on colored paper.

I enjoy drawing wizards and apprentices, warriors in action, castles, and dragons.  I have used the game as an extended excuse to draw vast quantities of them.  And now I have a resource to mine for Paffoonies to lace my blog with.  They provide a sort of sugary spice that I love the taste of, and I will continue to share them until the end, even if they disagree with you and give you reading indigestion.

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I am working on a new piece that is D & D Paffooney- related. I will keep you apprised of the the progress here until it is finished or until you get fed up with it.  Whichever comes first.

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Paffoonies are my own thing… pictures and stories melted together… loony, cartoony, balloony, pink baboon buffoons brewed together in a big pot.  And I will continue to use them for acts of Dungeons and Dragons nonsense.

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Star Wars Aliens, Mickified

I spent a good deal of my time as a game master for the Star Wars role-playing game in creating alien characters that fit the movies, the books I read in the Star Wars series, and the game materials.  In this post, I will give you a mini-gallery of the aliens I drew for the game.

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Chee Mobok was a space trader who had a problem with his own ego.  He believed that he was a genius at language and could speak any language he had heard a handful of words from.

The Galactic Common speakers were always laughing at the things he said.

Huttese speakers like Jabba the Hutt were always trying to kill him for say precisely the wrong thing.

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Hethiss was the Jedi Master when my son’s Jedi character was still a padawan learner.

He was wise, but unable to keep his student from doing things in violent ways when a diplomatic solution was called for.

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Merv was a potential terrorist and a suspect in a series of murders on a water planet.  He was, however, the good badguy character.  You know, the villain who has a heart of gold and whose actions redeem him in the end…  As opposed to a bad goodguy who seems to be a hero and ends up betraying everyone.

 

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Fisonna was a street kid from the same planet and same race as Hethiss the Jedi master.  He had the potential to become a padawan learner.  But he also used his Force skills to pull pranks on serious adults.

 

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Odo-Ki was a Gotal with the ultra-sensitive cones on his head.  He had a limited ability to see behind walls and predict the near future.

 

 

 

 

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Nadin Paal was an actual pirate and terrorist with no redeeming qualities at all.  The best thing about him was, that when the time came, he blew up really nicely.  A colorful fireball.

 

 

 

 

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Kehlor was a Herglic, one of the whale people who required specially built extra-large space ships and accommodations.   He was also a gifted pilot.  You can see that he wears the uniform of the Trade Authority.

 

 

 

 

 

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And finally, Klis Joo was a Duro and a Jedi, a gray alien with considerable Force powers.

 

There were many more drawings like this as well.  But these are some of the best ones.

 

 

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D&D Saturdays

In honor of all the years I spent playing dungeon master on Saturday afternoons, I am posting pictures to keep the posting of D&D stuff on Saturdays as a tradition.  I really am a bit too achy and ill to post any old orc and ogre stories today.

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Dragons

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Dragons in the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games are the central monsters of the story.  In our Eberron campaign they not only rule an entire mysterious continent, but they are credited with the very creation of the world and everything.  Not only monsters, but also gods, is a pretty big order for a   character to fill.

Skye, the Blue Dragon to the left above is a dragon who believes that human people are the most important part of fulfilling the Dragon Prophecy.  Therefore the characters can rely on him as an ally, and sometimes even a patron.  He is a blue chromatic dragon with lightning breath, and the Blue Dragon Aureon, his great great grandfather,  is an important leader of the god-dragons worshiped as the Sovereign Host.

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Phaeros, the great crested red dragon, is a servant of chaos who actively opposes all that is good.  He works with orcish dictators and priests of the Dark Six to accomplish vast swaths of damage, destruction, and war.

He is a big bad villain that has to come at the end of a campaign, because dragons are not only powerful fire-breathers with monstrous monster-damage capability, they also know far more magic than even the wisest of wizards.  My players have not crossed him yet, but if they start finding the missing dragon eggs, that will happen soon.

You may notice that my dragon pictures are mostly coloring-book pictures repeated with different colors, but in many ways dragons are like that.  They all have the cookie-cutter qualities of a dragon, but with different-colored personalities and powers and ideas of good and evil.

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Pennie is a copper dragon with divided loyalties and the soul of a clown.  She never takes the adventure at hand too seriously.  But if she decides to help the player characters find the missing dragon eggs, no ally will prove stronger and more helpful than her.  And she knows things that the players need to learn from her to find the missing eggs.

So dragons come in many forms and personalities.

In fact, the search for the missing dragon eggs will be critically affected by the fact that the eggs have all five hatched and dragons instinctively protect themselves when young by using their polymorph self magic to become some other creature.  And someone has implanted the idea of using human form as the default even though the wormlings have never actually seen a human being in real life.

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This is a double portrait of Calcryx, both as a white dragon wormling and a young girl.

So, playing games with dragons is fun and archetypal story-telling, and I will continue to do it, even if it means getting burned now and again.

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Call of Cthulhu

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I feel the need to take up the subject of a role playing game that I planned for and played to a limited degree, but explored to the point of insanity.


But I am recovering now from the double-danged downers of taking care of my bankruptcy case and paying off a surprise new tax penalty that nearly sank my little boat. Therefore, I can’t go into this in depth until my mind is more fortified against the depredations of Yog Sothoth.
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So, next week I will begin talking endlessly and listlessly about the infinite insanity of Call of Cthulhu, the role-playing game. In a gibbering, half-insane manner, I will describe the playing of a game where you confront the depths of human darkness in an indifferent and terrifying world. And I will attempt to explain why a school teacher in his right mind (as much as a middle school teacher can be in his right mind) would ever take up such a game. So, stay tuned to Mickey the Dungeon Master’s silly little Saturday D&D blog.

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NPC’s (Non-Player Characters)

In Dungeons and Dragons games you are trying to bring characters to imaginary life by getting into their deformed, powerful, or magic-filled heads and walking around in a very dangerous imaginary world.  You have to be them.  You have to think like them and talk like them.  You have to love what they love, decide what they do, and live and die for them.  They become real people to you.  Well… as real as imaginary people can ever become.

But there are actually two distinct types of characters.

These, remember, are the Player Characters.  My two sons and my daughter provide them with their persona, personality, and personhood.   They are the primary actors in the stage play in the theater of the mind which is D & D.

But there are other characters too.  In fact, a whole complex magical world full of other characters.  And as the Dungeon Master, I am the one who steps into their weird and wacky imaginary skins to walk around and be them at least until the Player Characters decide to fireball them, abandon them to hungry trolls, or bonk them on the top of their little horned heads.  I get to inhabit an entire zoo of strange and wonderful creatures and people.

Besides the fact that these Non-Player Characters can easily lead you to develop multiple personality disorder, they are useful in telling the story in many different ways.  Some are friendly characters that may even become trusted travel companions for the Player Characters.

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D & D has a battle system based on controlling the outcomes of the roll of the dice with complex math and gained experience.  In simpler terms, there is a lot of bloody whacking with swords and axes that has to take place.  You need characters like that both to help you whack your enemies and to be the enemies you get to whack.  There is a certain joy to solving your problems with mindless whacking with a sword.  And yet, the story is helped when the sword-whackers begin to develop personalities.

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Crazy Mervin, for example, began life as a whackable monster that could easily have been murdered by the Player Characters in passing while they were battling the evil shape-changing Emerald Claw leader, Brother Garrow.

But Gandy befriended him and turned him from the evil side by feeding him and sparing him when it really counted.  He became a massively powerful ax-whacker for good because Gandy got on his good side.  And stupid creatures like Mervin possess simple loyalties.  He helped the players escape the Dark Continent of Xendrick with their lives and is now relied upon heavily to help with combat.  He was one of the leaders of the charge on the gate when the Players conquered the enthralled Castle Evernight.

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Not every NPC is a whackable monster, however.  In the early stages of the campaign the Players needed a magic-user who could read magic writing, use detection spells and shielding spells and magic missiles, and eventually lob fireballs on the bigger problems… like dragons.

Druaelia was the wizard I chose to give the group of heroes to fulfill these magical tasks.  Every D & D campaign requires wizarding somewhere along the way.  And Dru was a complex character from the start.  Her fire spells often went awry.  When Fate used a magic flaming crossbow bolt to sink a ship he was defending, killing the good guys right along with the bad guys, it was with a magic crossbow bolt crafted by Druaelia.  Her fire spells went nuclear-bad more than once.  She had to learn along the way that her magical abilities tended more towards ice and snow than fire.  She learned to become a powerful wielder of cold powers.  And while she was comfortable in a bikini-like dress that drove the boys wild because she grew to love the cold, she didn’t particularly like the attentions of men and male creatures that went along with that.  More than one random bandit or bad guy learned the hard way not leer at Dru.  There are just certain parts of the anatomy you really don’t want frozen.

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The Player Characters will need all sorts of help along the way, through travels and adventures and dangerous situations.  They will meet and need to make use of many different people and creatures.  And as Dungeon Master I try hard to make the stories lean more towards solving the problems of the story with means other than mere whacking with swords.   Sometimes that need for help from others can even lead you into more trouble.

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But as I am now nearing the 800 word mark on a 500 word essay, I  will have to draw it all to a close.  There is a lot more to say about NPC’s from our game.  They are all me and probably are proof of impending insanity.  But maybe I will tell you about that the next time we sit down together at the D & D table.

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Saturday D&D Posts

I chose Saturday to talk about family table-top story-telling adventures because Saturday is a lazy day of recovery for the week.  It needed to be about easy things to write about that I love to do.  Playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games are definitely things I love to do.  And I love to draw D&D characters and monsters.  These posts would be a way to do picture posts that are relatively easy to do.

It gives me a chance to recapture and retell some of the spontaneously-created stories of adventure I have told over time.  I like telling stories about dragons and wizards and heroes and villains. I glory in it.

And Saturday D&D posts give me a chance to show off my game miniatures and castle constructs, some of which are merely collected, but many of which I painted or constructed myself.

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So, this is my D&D post about writing D&D posts.  I enjoyed sharing it with you.  And it is easy to do.  I am basically lazy on Saturdays.

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