Tag Archives: RPG

An ENT By Any Other Name

Cheers everyone, Mac here from Dark Elf Dice. The other night I had an opportunity to chit-chat with my sister-in-law from Seattle. JoAnne is a doctor, and she had called long-distance to speak with my wife about gardening. I answered the phone and had a chance to talk with her about the new house she recently purchased.

“So how’s the neighborhood? Are you getting to know the people on your block?” I asked.

“The neighborhood’s great, but I really haven’t had a chance to meet my neighbors. Between work and moving it’s been crazy. The only person I know is an ENT who works with me in the clinic twice a week.”

This is not the ENT you're looking for.

Eee-Enn-Tee… ENT? What the heck was she talking about? I admit that I’m not the sharpest sword in the sheath when it comes to medical jargon, and all I could picture was a giant, talking tree. “So, they have ENTS in Seattle?”

“Of course.”

I scratched my head, more confused than ever. “I suppose the Pacific Northwest weather agrees with them. What with the heavy rain and all. If I were an ENT that’s where I would like to live.”

There was a long pause before JoAnne said anything. “You have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

I admitted my ignorance and JoAnne patiently explained that an ENT was an “ears, nose and throat” doctor. This made sense, but I have to say that I felt I twinge of disappointment that there weren’t any real ENTS in Seattle.

After turning the phone over to my wife, I reflected on the use of acronyms and abbreviations and how we use these unique terms as a matter of convenience to simplify phrases or names. Take for instance FAQ (frequently asked questions) or DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) — these are common acronyms that we’re all familiar with and that I’m certain we run across from time-to-time. Things get fuzzy though when acronyms or abbreviations are used by different groups of people — terms can take on entirely different meanings. Is a CD a “compact disc” or a “certificate of deposit?” I suppose it depends on whether or not you’re speaking with a Beatle’s Fan Club member (check out the fab bootlegs!) or a bank manager.

Game night just got a lot more interesting.

In the world of RPGs (“role playing games” — not “rocket propelled grenades”), we use a lot of acronyms and abbreviations to help facilitate game play. See if you can decipher the following:

On Saturday, the gang headed over to Gandalf’s house to play D&D 4e. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this latest edition, but I’m an old school gamer and still pine for the days of AD&D. I didn’t want to start a debate over which game was better (the WotC version or the classic TSR version), so I kept my yap shut.

Once we arrived at Gandalf’s, Frodo volunteered to act as DM. I had to suppress a groan — Frodo was always losing things (even the gold ring his uncle had given him), but no one else stepped forward for the job. I suppose if he didn’t lose his DMG we’d be all right. The rest of us acted as PCs, and I rolled up a dwarf fighter. I wanted to be an elf fighter, but Legolas insisted on being the elf, so I let him (besides, my DEX score was pretty low and I’d make a miserable elf). I briefly toyed with the idea of being a druid, but I didn’t like the idea of starting a first level character with a low HP number (not to mention a low AC as well). So a dwarf it was. My STR was a 17 so I received an awesome BtH modifier.

Our PCs began their adventure in an inn named the Prancing Pony. Almost immediately there was trouble. We ran into a group of nasty trolls looking to bash a few heads. Unfortunately, our party was outnumbered and I was expecting the worst. Luckily for us, a NPC who worked at the inn helped us sneak out a back door through the kitchen. Once we escaped the inn and tasted the cool, night air I thought our troubles were over. On the way out through the kitchen though, my dwarf ate an entire plateful of salmon mousse (unknowingly made with canned salmon) and I had to use a d20 to make a saving throw against poison. Fortunately, my dwarf survived (just barely), but our party gained no XP for our hasty (and inglorious) retreat.

Could you find and decipher all the acronyms and abbreviations? Good for you! Give yourself a pat on the back and a 100 gp bonus. You deserve it. If you want to see more unique gaming acronyms and abbreviations take a look at this cool list. This is a fairly exhaustive list and there’s a lot here I’ve honestly never used or seen before. Also, check out this week’s installment of That’s How We Role. Until next time people!

Click on comic to enlarge


The Golden Age of RPG Games

Hi gang, Mac here from Dark Elf Dice. Last Friday I was busy counting inventory for a new shipment of dice we received when Calvin (one of my cheeky employees) referred to me as the “old man.” At first, I didn’t know who he was referring to. I stopped my counting and looked over my shoulder to see if someone else had walked into the room. No one had of course. It was just me, Calvin, shelves loaded full of rpg dice, and a nickname that I didn’t think I’d ever hear in my lifetime…

I hear it all the time, but I'm NOT He-Man!

Now don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing the matter with growing older or being considered old for that matter. It’s just that I’ve only had one other nickname in my life. In grade school I was known as “Lightning” because I could run faster than my classmates and won all sorts of ribbons for track and field (I suppose you could say my agility score was a natural 16 — not bad for a gawky kid who had no greater ambition than to play Atari 2600 after school and watch Thundarr the Barbarian on Saturday mornings). I have to be honest though — it’s a little hard jumping from “Lightning” to “Old Man.” To make matters worse, I read that Mark Hamill just turned sixty years old this week. Somehow, I just can’t wrap my brain around Luke Skywalker being sixty. It’s like an evil Sith Lord mind-trick…

Oh well. As Calvin stocked the shelves, grinning to himself at his perceived cleverness and listening to his iPod, I realized that he was correct in some ways. Even though I’m only in my forties, in his teenager eyes I am the “old man” and always will be. I also realized that I felt a little sorry for Calvin. He may not realize or appreciate it, but he missed out on one of the greatest decades ever — the 1980’s.

Take heed 'cause he's a lyrical poet

All right, I fully admit the 80’s weren’t without fault (Vanilla Ice and parachute pants anyone?), but if you were a gamer the decade was righteous. Dungeons and Dragons became a part of our very culture and literally hundreds of companies (both large and small) were creating role playing games and unique gaming accessories. Just flip through a back issue of Dragon magazine from this era and take a look at the obscene amount of companies advertising not only their products, but gaming conventions as well. The 1980’s were in fact the golden age of tabletop role playing games, and I’m afraid we’ll never see the like again.

Which brings me to something that I wanted to mention. Much of the success of role playing games (both from the 1980‘s and today) can be attributed to Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s safe to say that Dark Elf Dice wouldn’t be in business today if it wasn’t for the creative genius of this one man. It was with pleasure then that I learned that a Gary Gygax memorial is in the works in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The project is moving along and the memorial will be placed in Donian Park. Stefan Pokorny (founder and chief sculptor of Dwarven Forge) has volunteered to sculpt the memorial (apparently the design will include a castle turret with a bust of Gary on top and possibly a dragon wrapped around the turret). You can read more about the project by going to the Gygax memorial website.

Until next time faithful readers! In the meantime check out this week’s installment of That’s How We Role and our blog poll.

Click on comic to enlarge

That’s How We Role

Hi everyone, Mac here from Dark Elf Dice. We’ve been missing in action for the past few weeks, but believe me it’s been for a very good cause. Everyone here has been working feverishly to put the finishing touches on the Dark Elf Dice website. Five months ago, we began a complete website redesign with the customer in mind. When we first started the project,  I thought it would take thirty days or so to jazz everything up. Boy, was I wrong! Once we started making improvements we had a hard time stopping. Not only have we made the site easier to navigate to find what you’re searching for, we’ve literally added hundreds of new rpg products. Some of the new products that I’m personally excited about include our even greater selection of rpg dice (including the d3 hybrid dice and metal dice), our expanded dice bag collection, and the addition of more role playing game books and board games (including a game I’m really psyched about called Castles and Crusades — I plan on writing more about this game in a future blog post). If you haven’t had a chance to test drive the new website yet, take a look when you have some free time. We think you’ll like what you see.

Also, during the last few weeks we secured the talents of the up-and-coming cartoonist, Jordan Smith. Jordan has created an exclusive weekly comic strip for our Dark Elf Dice blog entitled That’s How We Role, a comic about the adventures (or should I say misadventures) of Marco the Mysterious, Princess Serenity, and Boris Warmaster. Jordan is an avid gamer himself (no posers here!) and his work has recently been published in the Zenith newspaper (a comic strip called Candance ‘N Company). We’re excited that Jordan has come on over to the “dark side” and joined the Dark Elf Dice team. So with that, I’ll leave you with the first installment of That’s How We Role. Enjoy this week’s installment and keep on gaming!

Click on comic to enlarge.

Moonstone Dice Contest Winner

Happy Labor Day weekend! I just want to take a moment and thank everyone who entered the Moonstone dice giveaway. We had a lot of fun this week and recorded a total of 97 entries. I wish we had enough Moonstone dice to give to each and everyone of you, but alas, there can only be one contest winner.

And that winner, as decided by random selection at Random.org, is…

Karla Pickford

Congratulations Karla! You now have a brand new set of rpg dice to use on game night. We can’t guarantee that you’ll always make a successful savings throw or perception check with the Moonstone dice, but we do guarantee that they’ll look fantastic as you roll them across the table.

Thanks again everyone! We had so much fun that we’ll do it again next month. If you follow us on Facebook you’ll have an opportunity to pick the dice we giveaway. Stay tuned!

Indigo -- The Newest Moonstone Color

One last thing: if you think you just can’t live without a set of Moonstone dice we recently added two brand new colors on our website: red and indigo. For the next week you can save 10% off the sale price of these dice by using the coupon code MOONSTONE.

Moonstone RPG Dice Giveaway

Moonstone Dice

Moonstone Dice

All right! Hang onto your pointy wizard hats because it’s time for another Dark Elf Dice giveaway contest. We ran a poll on our Facebook page earlier this week asking our fans to choose between three sets of rpg dice for the prize. The hands down favorite was a set of eerie, translucent Moonstone dice! As always, we have super quick and easy entry rules for this month’s contest and you can earn 2 entry points + 1 super cool bonus point for a maximum total of 3 entry points. The more entry points you have the better your chances of winning this month’s giveaway, so here goes.

Entry Points for Non-Blog Subscribers

Not a Dark Elf Dice Game Night: The Blog subscriber? You can earn up to two entry points by doing the following:

  • Leave a comment for us on our Dark Elf Dice blog (Earns 1 Entry Point): You can earn one contest entry point by simply leaving a comment on this blog post. Just go down to the bottom of this post and click on the comments section (located directly below where it says “Rate this”). Your comment can be as zany as you’d like, but it must have the words “Moonstone dice” in it. Some examples: “I’d like to enter the Moonstone dice contest,” “Give me some Moonstone dice,” “My grandparents went to New Jersey and all they got me were Moonstone dice,” etc.
  • Subscribe to our Dark Elf Dice blog (Earns 1 Entry Point): You can earn a second contest entry point by becoming a subscriber to our blog. Before you subscribe we encourage you to take a look around. If you like what you see, sign up at the top right hand side of the page where it reads “Email Subscription.” Once you sign up you’ll receive notifications of new blog posts by email (roughly once or twice a week). WE HATE SPAM MORE THAN LIVER AND ONIONS and will ABSOLUTELY NEVER use your email address for spam. Our blog subscribers are our friends, and friends don’t treat friends like garbage.

Entry Points for Current Blog Subscribers

Already a current Game Night: The Blog subscriber? Cool! You can earn two entry points by doing the following:

  • Leave a comment for us on our Dark Elf Dice blog (Earns 2 Entry Points): You can earn 2 contest entry points by leaving a comment on this blog post. Your comment can say anything, but you must use the initials “BS” (the “BS” stands for “Blog Subscriber”). Some examples: “I’d like to enter the contest BS,” “Really cool dice BS,” “This contest is total BS,” etc.

Super Cool Bonus Point

This bonus point can be earned by both non-blog subscribers and blog subscribers. All you have to do is:

  • Share this contest with others via Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Press This, Reddit or Google+ (Earns 1 Entry Point): Share this contest through any of the sites listed. Simply click any of the social bookmarking buttons below this post. To get credit for your entry you just need to tell us in your blog comment that you shared the contest.

The Moonstone dice contest runs from August 27 through September 3, 2011. During this time we’ll collect each individual’s entry points (remember, you can earn up to 2 entry points + 1 bonus point) and the winner will be determined by random selection at Random.org. We’ll announce the winner on Sunday, September 4 on our blog . Best of luck everyone!

Don’t Game On An Empty Stomach! 5 Quick and Easy Snacks

Hi everyone! Jackie here from Dark Elf Dice. Mac is off this week so I’m guest writing this week’s Game Night: The Blog post. Mac told me to write about anything I wanted. “Anything” is a pretty big field, so I decided to narrow the post down to two things I really enjoy: role playing games and food. I love exploring dungeons and I love to cook. Who knows, maybe I’m part hobbit. So here it goes…

Even Stooges get hungry!

It’s game night, and you’ve invited some of your friends over to your place for a good old fashioned role playing game. You’re totally psyched and can’t wait to start playing. You have the game mat laid out, the miniatures, your rpg dice and everything is all set….suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. Your guests have arrived, and you all settle down for a great evening of fun. Then Moe comments offhandedly, “Man, I sure am hungry.” Your other friend Larry nods in agreement. “What’ve ya got to eat??” he asks eagerly. “I hope it’s something good,” says Curly.

You stop to think a moment, realizing that you don’t have anything in the fridge worth sharing, and you’re quite frankly too embarrassed to offer everyone some old KFC leftovers….

As silly as the above scenario sounds, I contend that snacks are an important part of gaming. It’s hard for your friends to fully appreciate the fighting prowess of your elf warrior taking down a band of owlbears when your stomach is rumbling so loud it sounds like a freight train. So, here are five quick and easy snacks to have on hand the next time you invite your buddies over.

Chips Ahoy!

– Chips. I think chips are the most common snack set out during game night. Everyone likes them, especially if you have dip, but there IS a downside to this flavorful snack. No, I’m not talking about the recent Harvard study that says potato chips are one of the culprits of steady weight gain throughout life (like it takes an ivy league professor to figure that one out!). No, I’m talking about the seasoning and grease that coats your fingers and runs the risk of messing up your wonderfully painted miniatures. Not only that, but if you’ve got four or more people crunching on chips during your game, it can be unnerving and make it difficult to hear what’s going on. Still, chips are always a popular choice (even with the downside). Just make sure you have plenty of napkins available. For a less messy alternative, try pretzels or nachos.

– Cookies. I don’t think anyone can pass up a good cookie. Cookies are another nice snack to put out for your guests during game night. Chocolate chip is probably the most popular, but if you want to try something different, peanut butter, sugar, and double chocolate cookies are very good, too. In fact, we have a recipe for double chocolate cookies right here on our blog.  Just make sure you have a gallon of milk handy! Nothing sadder than eating cookies without a cold glass of milk to go with it.

– Veggie tray. Okay, I know what you’re thinking…why a veggie tray? Isn’t game night a great excuse to eat junk food? While chips and cookies taste good, a veggie tray is a nice healthy alternative. Carrots, celery and whatever else you can think of make a nice veggie tray. Pretty much any vegetable tastes good with ranch dip, or even by itself. Nicely arrange your cut veggies on a serving plate and your guests will be impressed!

Say cheese!

– Cheese and crackers. All right, I’m from Wisconsin. If I didn’t mention cheese in a post about food I’d be violating at least three state statutes. Wisconsin is the dairy state and we wear wedges of cheese on our heads (yeah, I know is sounds crazy, but it actually is sort of fun!). Take it from this “cheesehead”: slices of colby, cheddar, or monterey jack are an awesome snack when parred with your favorite crackers.

– Pizza. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like pizza? I didn’t think so! It doesn’t take long to heat up a few frozen pizzas for a group of hungry gamers. No frozen pizzas on hand? No worries! Just call your local pizza joint (most deliver). If everyone ponies up a couple bucks you’ll have enough cash on hand for a large pizza or two with extra toppings. Just remember the napkins — pizza is another snack with the potential for disaster. Nothing like pizza sauce dripped on the pages of your Dungeon Masters Guide to give it character.

Do you have a favorite snack for game night? Leave a comment in the reply section below and share your ideas with your fellow gamers 🙂

Using Props to Jazz Up Your Role Playing Game

Last month for my birthday my wife surprised me with tickets to a play at our local community playhouse. The theater has always fascinated me and I have the greatest respect and admiration for actors and actresses as they move about the stage reciting their lines with ease. Alas poor Yorick, I know me well and I know I’ll never have the chops to make it on the stage (me acting? it’s painful just to think about), but I believe I could be a decent director. A director’s purpose is to see the big picture and control the creative aspects of the play — everything from the players blocking, to lighting, to set design, etc. In many ways, a director envisions and creates the world the players act in — just like a Dungeon Master or Game Master. And like a good director, a DM needs to bring his world to life and create a vibrant environment his gamers can play in. There are many ways to accomplish this, but for the purpose of this post we’re going to examine the use of props and how they can be used to jazz up a role playing campaign.

Release your inner Batman with a towel cape

When you were a kid, did you ever play “cops and robbers” or “army” with your neighborhood friends? If so, you were role playing — and you didn’t even need to use funny rpg dice or character sheets! My favorite game was Batman. Sometimes my kid sister was Robin (but more often or not it was Scuppers — the family dog). The game was sweet, but what made the game even sweeter was when my mother pinned a bath towel around my neck for a cape. It didn’t matter if the towel was ratty, or pink, or had a floral design printed across it, because for that brief moment in time the towel was a cape. I was given the simplest of props and my imagination did the rest…

The point is, your props don’t have to be elaborate. It would be super cool if everyone at the table had a theatrical costume to wear (can you imagine playing the Star Wars rpg and everyone had Jedi robes or Storm Trooper armor? Brilliant!), but a Hollywood wardrobe just isn’t practical (or affordable) for game night. Just presenting your players with a simple prop is enough to nudge their imaginations and will do the trick nicely. For example, in a few weeks I’ll be running a Serenity rpg campaign (science fiction role playing set 500 years in the future). The PC’s are all crew members of the Hard Days Knight (a dilapidated freighter ship) and they will be presented with the following:

  1. Dog tags they can wear around their necks, personalized with the ship’s name (this is probably the most elaborate of the props, and it set me back $30 or so on eBay, but I thought it cool enough to warrant the expense). The dog tags help to reinforce the fact that the PC’s are all members of the same crew. Like the towel I wore as a kid, the tags will give the players’ imaginations something to chew on and make the world they explore more real.
  2. Nothing like cold, hard cash to pique the imagination...

    Colorful currency used to purchase goods, weapons, etc. I thought about simply having the PC’s keep track of money on their character sheets like I do in most rpgs, but the thought of using printed bills as a prop just seemed more natural in this particular game. The only thing harder than making a buck in Serenity is keeping a buck, and having printed script the players can fold and keep in their pockets will help everyone visualize the hardscrabble universe they’re gaming in. I could have designed my own bills, but luckily there’s a strong Serenity fan base and gamers more talented than I have created beautiful money to be shared and printed with a color printer. Check out the gorgeous work showcased on the CS|RPG fan-based site as an example.

  3. Maps, licenses, ship’s documents, etc. Again, like any good prop, maps, licenses and papers for the Hard Days Knight will give the PCs something tangible to hold onto and present to authorities at the appropriate time. The PC’s are adventuring in a universe hamstrung by government bureaucracy. Nothing like paperwork to help illustrate that “The Man” has his eyes on you at all times. Think IRS, but think bigger.

These are just a few personal examples of props that I’ll be using for a specific game. I’ve known DMs to use costume jewelry, old trunks, silk scarves and all sorts of odds and ends  for Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. Attics, basements and rummage sales are great sources for props. Remember, items don’t have to be elaborate to jazz up a role playing game and it goes without saying to forget about real weapons — knives, swords, etc . Keep it simple (and safe) to inspire your PC’s imaginations. Peace out and keep gaming!

Have you ever used props to jazz up a role playing game? What have you used? Share your ideas in the comments section to inspire your fellow gamers. Also, if you like this article please rate it and share the love by Tweeting, Digging, StumbleUponing it, etc.