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Gender, Race and Dungeons and Dragons



The elephant is in the room. The revival of all things D&D has been an invigorating blast in the last year or so, and it is heralding a wave of creative imagination from people of all backgrounds. D&D is not just the realm of geeky straight white boys, it has opened up to everyone.

This is an unabashedly good thing, but it’s just a start.

What has been percolating on the edges of the D&D Renaissance is a realization that the game, created by (I presume) straight white men, was a product of its time, and as a result will have “baked in” gender and race assumptions that might be worth exploration.


I agree with this, and I welcome the exploration. Some of it is already apparent to me. Despite the presence of monsters, Dungeons and Dragons has people in it too, and how those people were depicted reflected the sensibilities of the time. Settings like Greyhawk may have had a large dose of Eurocentrism, but settings like Al-Quadim and Kara-Tur s…
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D&D as Genre Emulation I want to start a series of posts talking about first edition Dungeons and Dragons as the “ur-game”, or the game to be used in multiple genre’s or settings. Think of GURPS, one role playing system that encompasses multiple game settings or themes. People think of D&D as exclusively a fantasy game, but it is so much more than that.
D&D has an image as being somewhat “medieval” English/Germanic, knights and wizards and all that. The game emerged from medieval wargaming roots in a game called Chainmail, so the connection is pretty intuitive. The genre, essentially medieval warfare with magic grafted on top, is often referred to
as “high-fantasy”,think Tolkien. Harry Potter has purloined some of that mystique and wrapped it up in postwar English class consciousness, but the dressing is still there (suits of armor and such at Hogwarts, dragons, elves, etc.) for a medieval setting. There is a line for some people from Tolkien to D&D, call it the “high fan…
Describing the World

D&D is a game meant to simulate or model something. Original D&D was based off a wargame called Chain Mail, and wargames were meant to model, somewhat imperfectly, medieval combat between soldiers, cavalry and siege engines. D&D added magic and monsters to the mix, so the “realistic simulation” was abandoned in favor of simulation of pulp novels and fantasy literature.
You might not know it with all of the setting specific games like Lankhmar, Conan, Call of Cthulu and Middle Earth Role Playing out there, but D&D was meant to emulate them all.

In any simulation there will be a mismatch between what the player knows and what the player’s character knows. One of the most obvious places where this is an issue is the question of what the character experiences. Your character sees things, you only “see” what your character sees when your DM describes things to you or shows you a picture.
Your character would obviously get a lot more out of the environment…
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Your players likely enjoy playing games other than Dungeons and Dragons, and their characters probably like games as well, games are universal.

So there really should be more gambling and game playing in D&D. There are some modules with gambling rules in them (The Secret of Bone Hill comes to mind), and the first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide even has games listed at the end.

So I’ve done two things, I’ve brewed up a few games for you to use in your game, and I have some suggestions on how to incorporate existing games into your D+D.

1. Play the Game
First off, don’t simulate games with rules (e.g. “your character has a 2 in 6 chance of beating Ogwallow at cards”), actually play the game.

2. Dice Games!
They already love rolling dice, and think of a group of mercenaries, or orcs for that matter, shooting dice. It’s practically a fantasy trope.
The names are meant to be D&D themed, but you can obviously change them to fit the flavor of your campaign.

Orc Bones - every player antes -e…
Moving it Along
I thought I would dedicate the first content post of the blog to something useful to budding game masters out there. 
I recently heard about Burning Wheel’s “Let it ride” mechanic (apologies if I get this wrong, I’m just reporting what I saw). In that system, you get one shot to apply a skill to some task, if that fails, you are done, you don’t get to keep trying over and over. So say you were playing a thief picking a lock on a door, or a fighter trying to break in a door, you would get one chance and if you failed it would be beyond your ability.
For lack of a better term I will call this a negative game mechanic, it restricts the players in some way to achieve an end, in this case to keep them from essentially gaming the system by trying something over and over again. D+D is a game after all, and sometimes you have to move it along or it becomes dull for the players.
Negative game mechanics are legitimate and useful, and are folded into the game everywhere. For example,…
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This is the first post of Black Dragon Games Blog, Dweller of the Forbidden City. A few words about the name.

My favorite early edition module is Dwellers of the Forbidden City, it was based off a Conan story called “Red Nails”, and it has a ton of atmosphere. The last time I ran the module the evil wizard that runs the Forbidden City of mutated snake men escaped the party and became a memorable recurring villain.

This module taught me the value of alliances, my group formed an alliance with a pan lung dragon in the module in order to have the chops to win. It was a classic early edition move, when you are outmatched, find some help!

I will be using this blog to give gaming tips, suggestions for how to DM games successfully, some world building advice, inspiration for gaming and whatever else comes to mind.

The background art for this blog is a Roger Dean piece, “Dragon’s Garden”, which I think nicely captures the atmosphere I want.

Here it is in full:



Cheers,
Ian