Life Needs Things to Live: A Meditation on the Raven Queen, Reframing via Critical Role and D&D, and Living by Kit Winter

Content Warnings: mentions of suicidal thoughts; depression (mention); death and dying; PTSD mentions

Official art of the Raven Queen’s ascension to godhood, by Jessica Nguyen from “Exandria: An Intimate History” (Sx61) at 3:24

I have had clinical depression and anxiety for about 29 years. Three-fourths of my life, just about: depression shapes my brain and body more persistently than my own cells, as at least my cells die and renew every seven years. I am built out of pressure cookers and emotional trauma, and I say this not out of pride – mental health is still stigmatized immensely – but so people can understand how important it is for me to engage that part of me in a healthier way.

I did not believe I would make it to age twenty, then twenty-five. I spent a couple of years couch-surfing because I would rather risk homelessness, I would rather risk trying to live, than to return to situations where I knew I would want to die every day. Due to my longtime struggle with depression, as a result I have periods in my life where I was not the best to others either. While the process of living accumulates small regrets and things not chosen, or paths accidentally fallen into, a lot of depression advice talks about memory: remember when you were happy, when you were content, when you felt capable. At risk of sounding like an emo poem, the reality of my life is that I do live in memory, in shadows, but also trying to do what I can to value the life I have now. And it is a struggle, make no mistake.

There’s still stigma about mental health but there’s also more awareness of it. Therapy used to be a horrid whisper in the 1990s, and while there are still fears about it, there is more acceptance of a more holistic wellness approach. Medication can work for many people, even though it might take some time to figure out which one works best for that individual. Therapy can add to someone’s tools, and to help over time to add “tools” in a mental and emotional toolbox. But a surprising thing I found came from Vampire the Masquerade, and from the live-play series Critical Role. In this case, I want to draw attention to two things. The first is due to Critical Role: it originally used Pathfinder and then Dungeons and Dragons for its setting (Note 1) and as such used established deities in those settings when appropriate. Within both 5th edition D&D and Critical Role, the depiction of a newer deity called the Raven Queen (Note 2), is what I want to concentrate on here – as the Raven Queen’s domain in Dungeons and Dragons was established as between life and death, a domain of regret and memory (Note 3). The second is reframing the narrative; reframing is exactly what I did, in this case, and is often used under direction as a tool for dialectal therapy, among other therapeutic tools, though due to how ancient storytelling is, similar techniques are often used by individuals without realizing it. After all, if we can read stories about heroes overcoming odds, we start to believe that maybe we can overcome odds in our daily lives too. The adage that if we repeat a story long enough it becomes true is also borne out in marketing and propaganda; the case of the “hot coffee case” in the 1990s is often thought of as a non-therapeutic example of this, the power of story, where people often thought it was a frivolous lawsuit because that was the story McDonalds lawyers were so good at tapping into. Stories are powerful, and not just for entertainment to pass the time.

Fan art of the Raven Queen and Vax’ildan, by Mikael

In Critical Role, the Raven Queen is depicted as neutral. She is not evil. She is enigmatic. She is terrifying also, associated as she is with death and as a result, confronting one’s own mortality, confronting one’s own regrets and farewells. In the depiction from Legend of Vox Machina (specifically Season 2, which is based on the Vox Machina campaign from Critical Role), the Raven Queen is associated with death, blood, and she is always seen masked, as well as associated with the corvids you might expect. But as the story progresses, the Raven Queen is seen more as one of the loneliest of deities – a former mortal who the other deities do not necessarily trust, new to the pantheons of deities.

There is a famous sequence in the story of the live-play, as Campaign 2 wraps to a close, of the new champion of the Raven Queen having snowdrop flowers in his path as he departs the mortal realm and says his goodbyes. This is alluded to in the Tal’Dorei Reborn campaign book set after the events, where the champion Vax’ildan has become a celestial figure guiding souls to whatever might be their next destination after death and tries to make it gentle whenever possible. While scary and shadowy, in the end, these figures are depicted as not evil. Dreadful, maybe, considering their domain; but like other fictional depictions such as Death in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman books or series, or perhaps Sir Terry Pratchett’s depiction of Death from the Discworld books –  the Raven Queen is seen as empathetic, if harsh.

This depiction of a fictional deity bears a lot of resemblance to the faith of Santa Muerte – while seen as terrifying or suspicious, the real-life faith of Santa Muerte encompasses many more than just people who are involved drug trafficking or law enforcement as might be the initial stereotype. LGBTQ+ people  often also gravitate towards this faith, as death is the great equalizer in many cultures – the archetype of a constant, dread companion. While a deep discussion of Santa Muerte is not within the scope of this article, one of the best books in English is Dr Chesnut’s book “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte the Skeleton Saint” and his articles.

I am not of color, but the archetype of Holy Death, of the shadow of death being a constant companion, is a powerful one. Especially for someone living with depression as long as I have. When you have been shaped by trauma and depression these things are familiar, even if my approach to them needs to change; what served me when I was ten years old, or what served me when I was homeless, is not necessarily the best approach for me now. Using fictional stories as a form of engagement is not new: much research around things like people who are fans of horror or crime procedurals have noted that engaging with even violent or traumatic material on the person’s own terms, in a safer space like fiction (TV, film, games), can be part of an effort to engage with their own concerns. The prime example of this effect is the film Godzilla, which used a lot of material that reminded its original Japanese audiences about air raid sirens, firebombing, and destruction thanks to the atomic bombings; but once Godzilla appeared, it went from traumatic war film to a safer space that it was science fiction, it was entertainment, it was a monster that could be defeated. That, and if your personal demon has a face and in a game you can punch it, there can be some catharsis. I don’t recommend exposure right out of the gate – the important thing here is that the individual retains their agency, engages with the material on their own terms. (Note 4)

I credit Critical Role’s depiction of the Raven Queen – and the inclusion of the figure in 4th and 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons – as a way for me to engage with the world even when everything seems to be on fire. When I feel like a dumpster, myself- I have sought therapy, I have sought putting more tools into my toolbox for coping mechanisms. And while due to my history certain things might be considered “red flags”, and while there is still a tension between mental health care and affordability, a tension between my own agency and wanting to do things like writing advance health directives (Note 5), I have looked up the Order of the Good Death. I have researched the medieval European idea of memento mori, and while I do not need to be reminded that death comes for us all, and nor am I particularly Christian at all unlike much of the medieval reminders were framed, I can try to use these reminders to live life to the fullest. Instead of living to die, I can try to care about my life now. To tell people I love them, to try and reach out as I can. That, also, comes up sometimes in Critical Role: the bonds and connections we make with others, however unlikely, and that advice and encouragement can come from unlikely or unexpected sources.

It definitely has, in my case.

To add to this, in the past couple of years, there have been efforts to use directed tabletop gaming in therapeutic environments, often guided by a therapist or social worker who also holds the relevant licensures for their area (as well as often trainings in using such games for therapeutic reasons). The focus might range from improving social skills to addressing mental health or life changes, from an intended audience of kids and teens to an intended audience of adults. While my experience was not one of these directed experiences, the following resources may be useful to those wanting more information on directed therapy:

While the quotation attributed to G.K Chesterton about dragons and that dragons can be beaten would fit here, instead I’ll use another unexpected Critical Role quote: “Life needs things to live”. And despite all the everyday pains that life brings, Critical Role and D&D have helped me reframe my depression. It is still there, but it has gone from a terrible and persistent dragon to something of a known entity; gone from a nightmare to something I can put a label on, to something I can approach differently with the power of story.

-Kit Winter


“Liebeck vs McDonalds’: the Hot Coffee Case”. American Museum of Tort Law.

  • Note 1: Critical Role is a live-play/actual-play which originally derived from a Pathfinder 1st edition game among the voice actors; they switched to using Dungeons and Dragons for their system and setting, modifying it to suit the world of Tal’Dorei. More information can be found via Darrington Press itself. There is also the Legend of Vox Machina animated series on Amazon Prime, which is adapting (as of this writing) two storylines from Campaign 1 of the live play (Vox Machina – Campaign 1). For more information on Critical Role and its various endeavors, including Darrington Press, please go to the official Critical Role site:
  • Note 2: There are differences between how the Raven Queen is depicted from 4th edition to 5th However, the persistent lore depictions depict her as a mysterious figure in a shadowy realm associated primarily with regrets, memories, and the spaces between life and death. She is also associated with souls, even though a longstanding deity in D&D lore is also associated with being a neutral deity of death/the afterlives (Kelemvor).
  • Note 3: This association is even called out in several official 5th edition adventures, such as the Riddle of the Raven Queen adventure, with “Shadowfell effects” – among which may include persistently feeling like all is hopeless, which is extremely evocative of depression and despair to those who already live with it.
  • Note 4: This kind of approach requires agency and intention. Exposure therapy of just shoving someone dealing with depression and trauma into a dangerous situation often backfires, especially if it is not from the person themselves. This is also why content warnings are a thing, as are safety tools, in tabletop gaming (and growing more common in TV and video games as well).

Note 5: Writing wills and advance directives are typically included in good advice, but people with a history of depression are often flagged or involuntary put in crisis care if they pursue such advice, due to writing wills/advance health directives and related paperwork sometimes being a sign of immediate suicide plans.

Gardens of Fog – By Take This.Org

Welcome back!

It’s been a while since we’ve updated this page. You can find more of our work happening at

Keep on the Heathlands is now officially a part of High Level Games and we recommend you check the site out for great content from great people.

Over the years Keep on the Heathlands has done media with and for several groups and the other day we got the notification that a mental health focused module was being released by Take on the DMs Guild.

Gardens of Fog

From the Press Release

This new charity D&D adventure module was created in collaboration between Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo, Clinical Director for Take This; Bill Benham, associate producer for Wizards of the Coast; and Hannah Rose, best-selling author of such Dungeon Master Guild material as the College of the Opera and Cartographer subclasses. In “Gardens of Fog,” a dear friend lies stricken, a prisoner in their own mind. The locals are baffled, unable to provide aid, and without your intervention, your companion is surely lost. Steel yourself, enter the realm of the mind, and face the struggles within. This D&D module contains a complete adventure, monster encounters, information on how to take on anxiety and depression in the real world, and a new character subclass inspired by Take This’ mascot: the psychomancer! It’s dangerous to go alone, so grab your party and face these challenges together! Win or lose, Wizards of the Coast and Take This strive to aid gamers, and game makers alike, who face their own monsters.”

This sounds like it is right up our alley!

You can watch groups stream the game here.

  • Rival of the Waterdeep on June 22nd, 12pm-3pm PDT.  Joining moderator Surena Marie will be Carlos Luna, Cicero Holmes, Tanya DePass, Shareef Jackson, and Brandon Stennis

  • Clinical Roll on June 24th 5pm – 6pm PDT.  Clinical Roll will feature mental health professionals in the games community. They include Megan Connell, PsyD, ABPP; Adam Davis, MEd; Adam Johns, MA, LMFT; Jack Berkenstock, MHS; Rachel Kowert, PhD; and Raffael Boccamazzo, PsyD.

“About Take This Inc.

Take This is a mental health non-profit that provides resources, guidelines, training, and support that is tailored for the unique needs of the game development community and embraces the diverse cultures and issues of the game community.  Take This helps those who suffer by letting them know that they are not alone and providing information on treatment options and how to find help. Take This’ key programs are its AFK Room Program at conventions, its mental health consulting program for game developers, and its ambassador program for streamers.  For more information, visit

Why We Game

I have a friend of mine who games because he’s a born storyteller. He’s one of the smartest people I know and while he’s sadly fallen into the trap of many smart people, the need to be right or at least never appear wrong, he’s at all times an insightful and thoughtful human being. He inspires me to think.

Storytellers Vault

I have a friend of mine who games because it’s a world he controls. He’s been given the short stick his entire life; his body betrays him, his parents were demanding and never supportive, and he’s struggled for everything he’s got with never a complaint. He inspires me to endure.

I have a friend of mine who games because he wishes he were an anime character. He dismisses his body and thinks little of tradition of any kind. He wishes to live in a world of wacky comedic situations, resilient heros, big eye ladies, and the rule of cool. He inspires me to find my joy.

They, and we, all game for so many different reasons; we’re complicated creatures, we humans. Why? Why is gaming something that’s become not just a release and a community for those who don’t quite fit elsewhere but a mainstream product? The ever increasing popularity of all types and kinds of gaming, from classic board games to hundred million dollar video games begs the question. Why? Are we humans pre-programmed for games? Are we so in love with our evolutionary advantages of planning, foresight, insight, and reason that we must create additional worlds to exercise them?

My own experiences make me think the low hanging fruit of escapism gaming comes from mental health needs, the change of our society from struggle to ease, and the dissatisfaction of humanity in this age of refined higher education requiring frontiers.

Dungeons and Dragons was developed in the mid-60’s during a time of changing attitudes and life-styles. I know, I know, the same could be said of just about any decade or era in American history. But let’s break down some numbers? Yeah, you love numbers. The 1950’s and 60’s were a time of rapid infrastructure construction and massive population boom. Immigration saw over 36 million immigrants enter the country during those two decades and a birth rate that started at 22+ per thousand in 1950; the immigration numbers wouldn’t be matched again until the mid-90’s through the late 2000’s while the birth rate has never been matched since. However, by the end of 1970 immigration had dropped off by ~20% and births per thousand had dropped to 16. The exhaustive construction continued on into the late 70’s and created an infrastructure and population support that lasted well into the 2000’s before upgrades became a necessity; also, they are still needed but, you know, politics, am I right? We transition from the loud car with a family of seven covered in dust trekking across the midwest to a population of city dwellers purchasing food at the market and sitting at home watching television.

That, in my opinion, is when the Itch started. You know the Itch. It’s the thing that makes you want to scream at your boss when they say conference calls are really important to the success of the company and your personal phone call about your kid getting into a fight at school should take a back seat. It’s the feeling that there’s a horizon to explore, a frontier to conquer, even though you can’t find one. The Itch is the response of a primarily primitive lizard and monkey descended neural chemistry reacting to a living standard so high no human being in history could comprehend it. Maybe royalty. Yes, you live like an ancient king, even in your crappy apartment with your two cats, you enjoy a quality of life they simply lacked the mental tools to conceive of.

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

The Itch, albeit in a undeveloped state at the time, combined with his own love of games lead Gary Gygax to write that first draft of Dungeons and Dragons. As the Itch has grown in complexity with our own increasingly domesticated lifestyles so too has our own need for escapism, for that feel of new horizons, of adventure, and most importantly, that feeling that a person can make their own destiny, build it with their own hands that frankly is sorely lacking in modern society; the feeling of achievement. Ever wonder why Microsoft called them Achievements? They’re not dumb and they didn’t pick it at random. They want you to feel exactly that, achievement, when that shiny little icon appears on your screen accompanied by the happy little tone. What better way to get players to feel what you want them to then to tell them what the feeling they need to feel is?

We wear masks, different masks for different people. It’s a survival mechanism that every human uses but only those of us treading darkness have become it’s masters. We switch between the lying faces and the lying mouths from one social group to another like a dashing squirrel. We leap through the front door, land, taking in the environment, the people, pull up the right face for them. Then we skitter from room to room, switching between always on the move to avoid long conversation to hiding in the shadows, behind a cluster of people, or in a difficult to reach corner of the room.

We’re home, cold coffee sits on the desk, the steam long since passing up into the air and gone into memory. We hear the door open and put on a face, a mask, that at least gives the impression that you’re engaged with what’s around you. That you haven’t been staring at the screen, sitting in your chair, maybe your hand is actually on the mouse of the keyboard but you haven’t clicked or typed in tens of minutes. It isn’t until you hear the keys in the door that you rouse yourself and open something, anything, just to look like you’re engaged with what is there. You choose this, instead of engaging with the whirlwind in your mind, the endless spin cycle of terrible thoughts, worries, and choices.

You don’t hate your family at the holiday party, you don’t even dislike them. You just can’t seem to really understand why they’re so happy about a new suit your uncle bought. Everyone looks at you expecting a similar response and you give them what they expect. The disingenuous words coming easily after all this time. A master of faking happy, of faking “ok”, has made you and me an expert at tricking the normal people into thinking that we really are, maybe not as much as they, but close enough.

These moments are becoming increasingly common and until we have a method, an ethic, a lifestyle in the real world that compensates for the disappearing horizon we will ever turn to escapism and all the wonder, imagination, and stories that come with such a life. Gaming isn’t a cure for the veil of depression that seems to be spreading across the land but it is a treatment and like all treatments for all ailments we need to watch it, support it, and be aware of the impact and role that gaming plays in our world. Don’t dismiss this hobby out of turn, it can and has lifted up many from a dark well. I include myself in that category. This past year saw me diagnosed with depression with manic tendencies and anxiety centered around attention and crowds. Gaming became both the distraction it’s always been but also a life line. A light in my darkness that saw me through another bad day.

Good luck and good night.

World Building in 500ish Words: Genre

Welcome to the second installment of World Building in 500-ish words! This post will be looking at genre selection. A lot of people when designing their game worlds simply think “Oh yeah, it’s a fantasy world.” and promptly leave it at that. In reality, the genre, or collection of genres, of fantasy that you choose is going to have a great effect on you game world’s feel, magic, monsters, peoples, and tone. Now, many reading this will have had the experience of a sudden tonal shift in a game, that immersion breaking moment when it snaps to something completely outside the realm of its usual feel. By carefully selecting and building your genre, you can avoid that, and craft a better experience for yourself and others.

Storytellers Vault

“Fantasy” is an insanely broad genre, encompassing dozens of subgenres, and with crossovers with a number of other genres like horror (Vampire: Dark Ages), romance (Blue Rose), and even science fiction (Shadowrun). So picking your subgenres and crossovers (if any) at the point of creation is key. Broadly, most fantasy RPG worlds fall into three categories:

  • Low Fantasy: these are gritty worlds with gritty themes. These worlds tend to be very close to the real world in flavour, with little magic, few monsters (and those that exist are truly terrifying), and non-human races are bordering on legendary. These are also often the realm of historical mythology inspired adventures and worlds. Think Beowulf, Usagi Yojimbo, or Game of Thrones.
  • “Standard” Fantasy: in many ways, this has become the default for what people think about “fantasy gaming”. Monsters are common(ish), magic is known but not necessarily common, and seeing non-human races isn’t an unusual experience. Think Record of Lodoss Wars, Rat Queens, or Dragon Age.
  • High Fantasy: this is buckle up and get your cowboy hat territory. Worlds in this genre are about as far from “real world” as you can get. Floating castles, magitech mecha, and airships are just another day on these worlds. Monsters are everywhere, your neighbours proably aren’t human, and magic is ubiquitous (replacing technological development even!). Think Final Fantasy, Overlord, or World of Warcraft.

Now, crossing over with these are what I call (in this case), the “flavour genres” for fantasy. These are things like horror, exploration, dark, grim dark, romance, science fiction, mystery, drama, and so on. These are going to act later as your plot development bases, and help guide the players when they’re making their characters and coming up with their backgrounds. By selecting one or more, you also refine your own idea, taking it from its raw state to something more workable.

It’s a key thing at this point, especially if you’re developing a world for play, to communicate the kind of world it is to the people who will be playing in it. This also ties in with the next post, which will be looking at tone as a feature of world development. I’ve already mentioned it a few times here, but it deserves its own complete examination. So stay tuned for the next installment of world building in 500ish words!


Graeme is a long-time gamer who has been writing critically about gaming since 2013 at his blog, POCGamer. He and his family live in the North Okanagan area of British Columbia. When not at work, writing, or gaming, Graeme can be found reading, scuba diving, or watching too much YouTube. In addition to his regular life, Graeme is a veteran of three overseas tours as a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces. Follow him on TwitterFacebookYoutube, and see his original and ongoing posts at bis blog, POCGamer. Contact him here.

Creative World Building In 500-ish Words

World Building

D&D is famous for its campaign settings, the detailed, premade, adventure worlds it has produced over its tenure as the most well-known fantasy RPG. The 1990s were by far the greatest heyday of this, with groundbreaking settings like Dark Sun, Birthright, and Planescape joining more traditional settings like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk in the minds of gamers across the world. But D&D is equally famous for its homebrew, the rules and things created at game tables by DMs and players alike using the D&D framework. The most famous, and infamous, of these creations are homebrew campaign settings.


Homebrew campaign settings have a mixed reputation in the gamer community because of the very spotty nature of their quality of world building, ranging from light modifications or reskins of existing campaign settings to nightmarish making it up as they go things to kludged together affairs with poor internal consistency to publishing ready affairs. This means that gamers have inconsistent experiences, resulting in the hugely differing opinions on the topic. To me, the issue is that worldbuilding is not a skillset that most have, and when combined with the biases and influences we have about “fantasy”, fantasy worlds, and cultures that inspire us, the results can be disastrous.


So, the goal of the upcoming collection of serial blogs is to explore how to build a quality campaign setting that you and your players will love. One of my biggest lessons learned as a DM is that presenting a solid, internally consistent, developed campaign setting to your players is a huge step towards getting them not only immersed in the game, but also to getting them to commit to the game. At least half the effort of being a DM is in the world building, and it sets a foundation to build the rest (plots, encounters, treasure etc…) from.

World Building Is Important

So what makes a good campaign setting?

  • Solid planning. It’s possible to “do it live” and make it up as you go along, but only a handful of truly herculean DMs I’ve met can keep track of it all and make it make sense. Planning out your world makes things much easier in the long run.
  • Internal consistency. When a world doesn’t make sense within its own rules, players get frustrated and lose interest in banging their heads against the walls of random and arbitrary DM decisions.
  • Interest blending. Good worldbuilding combines the familiar with the new; the former sets a comfortable baseline that the players will recognize, and the latter draws their interest and inspires action.
  • Nuanced cultures. D&D has a history of taking an uneven approach to developing the cultures and peoples of their worlds, relying on the player and DM “knowing” how things are. Approach each culture from the ground up, avoid tropes and stereotypes, and your players will love it.
  • You can make the best campaign setting ever, but if your players can’t read it, it’s just a collection of notes. There needs to be a player’s guide to get your ideas out there.


Now, with all that said, please join me as I go through the processes of building different kinds of campaign settings to meet the needs of different playstyles and levels of creativity.


Graeme is a long-time gamer who has been writing critically about gaming since 2013 at his blog, POCGamer. He and his family live in the North Okanagan area of British Columbia. When not at work, writing, or gaming, Graeme can be found reading, scuba diving, or watching too much YouTube. In addition to his regular life, Graeme is a veteran of three overseas tours as a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and see his original and ongoing posts at bis blog, POCGamer. Contact him here.


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The Ferryman: An Introduction to Curse of Strahd

I recently started DMing Curse of Strahd, the 5th edition re-introduction to Ravenloft, based on the classic Castle Ravenloft module by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. To say I’m a huge Ravenloft fan is a slight understatement. The AD&D Ravenloft books were some of the few I have ever owned, I purchased nearly every 3.0 and 3.5 Ravenloft book that was produced and I ran 2 fairly long campaigns in the world.

Images used are owned by Wizards of the Coast: Buy Curse of Strahd from your local gaming store, buy WOTC products, and support their artists and writers. The written work in this piece is covered under the Open Gaming License, as I understand it.

5th Edition is cool, and I wrote about Advantage/Disadvantage a few weeks ago. That being said, I haven’t played or run many games yet. I actually purchased Curse of Strahd well before I knew I’d even run it. Heck, when it came out, I was in my last year of Grad School, and there was zero chance I was running or playing any role-playing game. It didn’t matter, I wanted to own a copy of this game. Ravenloft was my jam, man…

Well, last week I finally got the chance to introduce a few friends to Ravenloft and 5th Edition. I wanted to create a short introduction that was deeper than the “Mists Take You” option, but slightly less in-depth than some of the other opening options in the book.


What follows is an introduction to Curse of Strahd which I welcome you to incorporate into your own game if you’d like.


The Ferryman: An Introduction to Curse of Strahd

For 3-5 1st Level Characters

5th Edition D&D




You are settled in for the night at the Wizard’s Wand, a tavern on the edges of Lake Galifar in Aundair, near what used to be the city of Arcanix. The mood in the tavern is muted, a few other patrons are sitting drinking their ale speaking rarely to one another. Since Arcanix disappeared, things have been looking more and more like war. No one has proven that the disappearance of Arcanix was performed by Brelish agents, but more and more hawks in the nation are pushing to attack SOMEONE for the event.

Six months ago, a great fog, much like the mists that surround the Mournland of former Cyre flowed off of Lake Galifar and surrounded Arcanix. That night it seemed to choke out the city, and when the sun rose the next day, the city had vanished with the misty fog.


The party has known one another for some time, either having done some minor adventuring with one another, or as children growing up in the area. You trust one another, and that trust is important. War is coming, and you need someone to trust when war is on the horizon. It has been a pleasantly warm summer.


Scene 1


As you drink your ale, the door to the tavern swings open. A man, dressed in thick winter cloak, boots, and hood strides in. As he does so, a thick fog accompanies him. The mists seem to creep toward the other patrons of the tavern, stopping short and then receding as if they were hands scraping the floor. There is not a drop of sweat on the man as he steps up to the bar, in fact, he looks frigid. He takes off a frost coated glove and slides an odd looking silver piece across to the innkeeper.


Any party member that looks out the window will see the streets are filled with fog, so thick they can no longer see to the other side of the street. Some of the mist curls around and for a moment, a spectral face will appear and loom toward the player character. A character with the ability to sense undead or see into the ethereal realm will see the streets filled with ghosts and skeletal spectres.

Not Yuri

If the players do not initiate contact with the strange man, he will turn to them and begin to stare. Eventually, he will stride toward them with purpose.

The man is Yuri Iljavanovich. Yuri speaks with a thick accent, clearly not from any of the Kingdoms of Khorvaire. He will ask the characters questions about their lives, what do they do for work, if they are looking for jobs, where they grew up. If a player is a Cyran refugee, he will pay particular attention to them. If the players turn his questions on to him, he will respond with the below.


“I am from a place called Barovia, which has been conquered by a demon. We are seeking those who would help us. You all had something, perhaps a look, about you that made me think you would be interested in helping. We are slowly being hobbled by the devil, and need some fresh blood who can fight against him. The devil keeps us from leaving Barovia, only a select few have been able to escape, and even then, not for long.”


Yuri will admit to being a Cleric of Ezra. “Ezra is our Guide of the Mists. She allows those of us who worship her to briefly escape the clutches of the Devil Strahd. With this lantern (which he’ll hold up and appears to be a normal gas lamp) we are able to use the Mists to travel to other places. The devil forces our return though, and we can only bring people in, we ourselves cannot escape, though of course, I would be able to return you here if you choose.”

If the players choose to accompany Yuri, have him instruct the players to put warmer clothing on, as Barovia is in the middle of a harsh winter. If the players choose not to follow Yuri, you may of course ensnare them with Mists when they leave the Wizard’s Wand, or not, the choice is yours.


Scene 2


When the players leave the tavern with Yuri, the mists seem to part only slightly from himself and the party. He turns the lantern on, and the fog recedes a few feet. If asked, Yuri will tell them the journey will take a minimum of three days in the mists. If pressed, Yuri will tell the party very little about Barovia, except that the Devil Strahd is a great beast that feasts and hunts his people. They have tried to fight him themselves, but have always failed.


The Mists wrap around the characters and they are quickly far away from Arcanix, Aundair, and even Eberron. The thick fog wraps around them, masking their journey, and they cannot even see if they are on a road, and it appears they are simply walking within dark clouds. Eventually, they will come to a clearing, after almost a day’s walk. Before them will be a few large boulders and a makeshift lean-to. A fire pit has been used recently, and the Mark of Ezra is painted on a boulder facing the party as they arrive.


Either before bedding down, or in the morning, run the first encounter.


Encounter 1

Though the mists are not quite as close as they were while you were walking, they are still close and it is hard to see far from your resting place. The fire isn’t really warm, but it gives you something to crowd around. Everything around you seems to devour your body heat, and you find yourselves shivering with little provocation. Sleep helps, but standing watch is a thankless job. Yuri ignores any request to join a watch rotation, he goes immediately to sleep.


As you gaze into the fog, you smell the thick scent of pine and then you hear an odd sound. Scrape, thump, scraaaapppeeee, thump, scrape, thump. The sound seems to both echo and be muted. It becomes louder, and stronger, and finally, the mists peel back farther. You can seen pines all around you, and 10 – 15 feet away, are 3 Skeletons. These skeletons are wrapped in the remains of Cyran armor, holding rusty swords and tattered shields. One skeleton has on a thick iron boot, which appears to be some form of prison gear.


Any magic used against the skeleton with the boot only causes half damage. The boot is immune to all magic, but it incredibly heavy and largely useless to the players. If hit with any spell that is force related, like lighting or eldritch blasts, the boot will glow with runes describing its use to restrain magic using prisoners. The skeletons laugh every other turn in which they are hit for damage. This laughter sounds like dried bones hitting against each other.


During the fight, Yuri will be praying in incomprehensible gibberish. He will not attack the skeletons. They will generally avoid him, unless one of the players intentionally pushes him into their path.


After this encounter, Yuri will finish praying and will ask if the characters wish to continue along their journey. If asked, he will say that he knows that there are many undead in the area wearing similar clothes to these skeletons, and he believes they are related to the a group of refugees that entered Barovia a few years ago. They call themselves Cyrans, and a few have integrated into the local population.

Scene 3

On the second day, have the party reach a river. Yuri seems shocked and concerned when you reach the river. You can see a rope has been cut that used to cross the raging river. There are no mists around the river area, which is odd, as the mists hang thick not 500 feet or so on either side of the river.


“There used to be a ferry here, it looks like someone cut the rope.” If pushed, he will suggest heading north, as there is the possibility of another way to ford the river in that direction. He will refuse to try and wade or ford the river without a rope and boat. If the party constructs a way across at this point, hold the next encounter until they reach the other side. If the party heads north, or south, run the following encounter there.


Encounter 2

Please take your time….

Whichever way the party chooses to go, they will hear the same horrid skeletal laughing from their last fight. This warning will allow them to attempt to sneak up on the enemies. They will crest a small hill, and then be able to see through the trees, that there are 3 figures crowded around one another, swaying, making an eerie creaking laugh. When the players get within sight of them, they will notice 3 zombies, wearing the same outfits as the skeletons, with similar weapons. If the players have not crossed the river, the zombies will be guarding a boat which is attached to another ferry line across the river.


Once the players have defeated the zombies, they will be able to commandeer their boat, or, if they found another way to cross the river, they will find a small pouch of silver coins. There are 7 pieces of silver in the pouch. This pouch will be in the boat, and can be found by attentive characters or by Yuri at the least opportune time. If Yuri finds the pouch, he will inadvertently scare the characters who will have to make a strength check to keep hold of the ferry rope.


Scene 4

My favorite vampire meme

Night will fall, and players will be able to rest again at another similar way station to before. In the morning, Yuri will wake the party and push them to continue on. As they crest a high hill, they will see the valley of Barovia spread out before them. A dark shape takes flight from Castle Ravenloft in the distance, and a thunderstorm can be heard from far away.


“Welcome to Barovia, my friends. The Devil Strahd awaits you, I hope you do not make the same mistake I did, all those years ago. Go to the village below the mountain, it is a good place to begin your journey to hell”


The characters turn, and see Yuri become a spectral form before them, he smiles horrifically and lets out the same laugh which the zombies and skeletons made. Then, he vanishes.
From there, have your players follow the road into the village of Barovia.

Advantage/Disadvantage in D&D 5th Edition



I’ve always been a good shot with a bow. Even as an Elven child growing up in Evermeet, I was exceptional. Yesterday was no exception, but I think I’ve taken my archery skill to a new level. We were taking out a hive of Ankheg’s and I was hitting eye shot after eye shot. It was pretty satisfying and though it took us about 3 hours to clear out the entire hive, I didn’t miss a single shot. I wonder if I can talk Marcus and the rest of the crew to head to Waterdeep for the annual Faire. I could use the money and it would be a ton of fun to claim a golden arrow in that kind of event.


Luck just isn’t with me at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m taking on challenges I’m not ready for, of if I’ve pissed off some cosmic being. Worst was when I was trying to convince that local guard to let us pass through the gate without having permit papers. Most of the time, slip a few gold coins in their paws, and walk on through. Well, it was my bad luck to get the one Towney that felt he was making enough cash on his regular salary. Hopefully I get out of prison tomorrow. I think my employer is willing to pay bail… again.

Advantage and Disadvantage

Buy Some Dice

Here’s the easiest mechanic in the world. Roll x dice and if you hit this number, you succeed. It’s the basic premise 90% of role-playing games have used since day 1. Now, games adjust this mechanic in a lot of ways. Skill points give you a bonus, because you have a skill. Obviously, right? There are dozens of ways to complicate this to try and be more realistic or nuanced.

Advantage and Disadvantage still blew me away as an idea when I read it. I’d been gaming for like 18 years when 5th Edition D&D came out and I’d played a lot of different systems, so I really never expected I’d be surprised by something like this. I was. It is a simple, obvious mechanic, and yet, it floored me when I first read about it.

If you don’t know, Advantage works like this, you get two d20s for things you are particularly good at. You roll both, use the better roll to see if you succeed. Disadvantage, roll two d20, take the lowest roll to see if you succeed.

I’m still trying to figure out why this was mind-blowing, but it was. This is a super simple mechanic that says, I should succeed or fail, but there is still a chance I might not. I might have help; GM gives me Advantage. I might have a background that makes it obvious I should be good at something, have Advantage. My life sucks, and I’ve been hamstrung (maybe literally), cool, Disadvantage on your rolls, mate. This is a simple system. The mechanic can be used in a 1000 different situations for 1000 different reasons. That’s what makes it awesome to me.

How do you feel about Advantage?

Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network, and the owner of this site. 

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands.

Is She Hot? The Question Female Gamers Dread

As a female bodied gamer, character creation can be difficult sometimes. No, I’m not talking about the sexist view that women are bad at math, or that complex rules are too hard. I am talking about the answer to the question that I feel most female gamers or female presenting gamers dread. This loaded six word question that means something different when it is asked of a female presenting gamer.


Question: What Does Your Character Look Like?

Yes, when a male presenting gamer is asked this question it means exactly what it means, no hidden subtext. Does Valeros have brown hair or black hair? What armor is Harsk wearing? What instrument is Lem carrying today? All of these are perfectly normal questions with normal answers. However when this question is asked of female presenting gamers, it usually does not just mean ‘What does your character look like’ but another question instead.


Real Question: Is She Hot/Attractive?

How much skin is Seoni showing? What size are Feiya’s breasts? Is Alahazra’s Charisma high? These are a few of the many subtext questions asked of female presenting gamers. Everyone at the table wants to know if our characters are sexually attractive, and if their characters can get with ours. A fantasy takes over in their minds where they feel if they can befriend our character and get with them, that they can get with us in real life. I know many relationships have come about from first starting an in game friendship (including my own!) but that relies on attraction between the parties being mutual, instead of one sided.


Perils of Attractive Characters:

My PFS character Kita (and crappy photoshop skills!)
My PFS character Kita (and crappy photoshop skills!)

Take for example my character Kita. Kita was a Sorcerer in the Pathfinder rules set, so it was beneficial for Charisma to be my highest stat. My first PFS module was The Overflow Archives and I was excited to play in a game at my local gaming shop. In the module there was a section with some fey characters that you could either talk to or fight, and I chose to talk. It was then the party at the table realized my character had high Charisma, and even though they were annoyed I chose to talk instead of fight I was suddenly much more popular. One of the orcs gave me a ride on his shoulders in a flooded part of the dungeon. I got healed almost instantly when I was hurt by the party Cleric.

After the game was over, the Orc player asked me to coffee. I told him I don’t drink coffee so I’d have to decline. Then it was lunch at a restaurant I luckily did not like, so I said no again. Then he asked where I’d like to eat and I walked away, and have not returned to that gaming group. At no point did I learn anything beyond this player’s name, and they knew nothing of me other than my name and that I played a cute female character. They didn’t even ask if I was in a relationship or anything else before making it clear they were looking for a date.


Freedom of Unattractive Characters
Ragin Jane Scarlett, the Woman With No Neck

Conversely to the above, I once played a pirate in the Skulls and Shackles adventure path named Ragin’ Jane Scarlett. She was a Barbarian and guard of her male friend and partner in crime Thomas Stringer. It was often said of Jane that she had no neck, just muscle. She was gruff and unattractive, and had no romantic interest or motherly feelings, and was nothing but platonic towards her adventuring partner. They formed a strong pirate crew and made terror on the high seas for those unfortunate enough to cross them.

No one at this group asked me to coffee, no one flirted with me in character as a veil for out of character. The only ones who made passes at me were a couple NPCs that I scared into submission. It was freeing and refreshing. I’ve played several more unattractive or not specifically attractive tabletop characters, including just playing men instead.  I find that most GMs and players leave alone male characters when it comes to their looks and don’t bring it up as often if at all.


Attractive/Unattractive Characters and LARP

Rook (and more crappy photoshop!)
Rook (and more crappy photoshop!)

At one point in my LARP career, I played an attractive Brujah named Gianna (not pictured) who was a prostitute in her mortal life, inspired by Ros on the Game of Thrones show. Gigi, as her coterie and bloodline called her, wore short shorts that I shyly wore to game with tights under. I posted a selfie in the shorts after game, proud of wearing them. Almost instantly there were comments from the other players about the naughty thoughts they had and what they wanted to do with me. I did not ask for a review of how I looked or how nice the shorts and tights made my butt look. I deleted the picture because of how uncomfortable the comments made me, but I and many female presenting gamers deal with these comments constantly. Some can’t even post pictures of new Pokemon slippers without commenters asking for nude pictures.

I currently play Rook (pictured above), a Nosferatu that I have written about before. Once when visiting a game, I showed up already in costume. No one flirted with me in character because they found me or my character attractive. I looked unattractive with a gaunt face and giant cloak. I enjoyed an evening being able to be unharassed. Once the game was over, I stood up straight and revealed that my body is in fact female. I had several people whom I did not talk to all game tell me that the RP with me was good. They were all male presenting with surprised looks on their faces that I was female bodied. Up to that moment they disregarded me because they couldn’t see my female body, and I loved it.


The Answer: It Doesn’t Matter!

When I’m asked what my character looks like, I sigh.  I am always ready for them to follow up with “Is She Hot?” when I fail (on purpose usually) to mention their attractiveness. I tend to ask them why it matters and most of the time I find that it doesn’t actually matter. These are my experiences, and yours may be different. I feel that if you ask your female presenting friends you’ll find similar patterns of behavior towards their characters. When they play ugly or unattractive characters they will be treated normally. Female characters that are attractive are targeted by others who want to push their fantasies on the character. Perhaps keep this and the follow up article in mind next time you want to ask “Is She Hot?”

Anna uses she/her pronouns and is an avid LARPer.. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community. She’s a console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats. She can be found on Twitter at

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands.

The Tradition of Magic in RPGs – AD&D

So now, after looking at Chainmail, we’ll take a look at 1st edition AD&D. Here, we see a departure from the simple and basic rules found in Chainmail and white box D&D. Here we see a detailed magic system with a more extensive spell list.

1st edition AD&D had a detailed and odd way of providing spells. This is because the rules printed in the Player’s Handbook only give part of the rules for granting spells. The other half is listed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Nowadays this is a moot point, as you can get both books at the same time. However, when they were first released the Player’s Handbook was put out a year before the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

In fact, the first AD&D supplement put out was the Monster Manual which was released in 1977, with the Player’s Handbook following in 1978, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide finally in 1979.

So, as mentioned in the PH (Player’s Handbook) a magic users ability to learn a spell was based on their Intelligence (INT) score. Your INT would determine your % chance to learn a spell.My group? We would roll on the list and any spells in which we passed the percentage to learn roll we would mark those in our books as spells we HAD THE POSSIBILITY of learning, if we came upon them during the course of the game.

Thus, we would go down the list and roll to see what spells we knew. If we didn’t pass any rolls we didn’t get to know that spell. As we understood the rules, our minds could not comprehend the spell or grasp the intricacies of a spell. Once in awhile a DM would be “nice” and allow us to roll through again if we didn’t meet the minimum spell number for our level.

The real issue I had was that last column above “Number of knowable spells per level Maximum”. I didn’t like this. Why? Many times I would be rolling through the spell list in the PH and pass the % Chance to know Any given spell and hit my max number of spells knowable before I had finished the list. NO FAIR!

From a DM standpoint the book didn’t say you had to roll them in any order and I allowed my players to roll them in any order they wished. The rules stated that the Maximum knowable was because your brain couldn’t comprehend any further information. Given that magic users had to memorize the spells and copy them into their spell books, they could only keep so much in their heads.

All of this is great. One thing is never stated though: How many spells a magic user ACTUALLY STARTS WITH AT CHARACTER CREATION! Yep, again. All that rolling for spells above is just to determine if you have the ability to learn the spell, should the opportunity arise. It doesn’t tell you the number of spells you would get. That information was in the DMG (Dungeon Master’s Guide).

The DMG mentioned the spells a magic user would know. Four, is the number of spells a 1st level magic user knew. The first spell it stated that all magic users would know was Read Magic, as how else would you be able to cast any other spells? All other spells fell into three categories Offensive,Defensive, and Miscellaneous. A player would roll a d10 and determine randomly what spell they would know from each of these lists.

That’s how you learned the spells, and of course, you would have to keep the needed components on hand and take the time to memorize each spell first thing each day. There is a sense of nostalgia looking at how this system ran. It is neat seeing how much has changed.


Wonderful Skeletor, we want you to cast that spell. To cast a spell you memorize the spell and use one of your spell slots. Use up the spell slot and that’s it. Well, from a mechanics standpoint you have to wait the amount of time it takes to cast the spell and if there is a saving throw the defender gets to roll.

Really though that is it. It’s not all that bad. Pretty straightforward really. So pro’s and con’s?


Easy, once you fully understand it.

Like most versions of D&D (except 4th) magic casting has changed very little, so you know one edition, you know them all.


The clunkiness of having the spell system separated between the PH and the DMG can cause confusion.

The spell list, while not exhaustive, is not really what I would consider “open”

So, in conclusion, AD&D did a good job of having a robust magic system that did just as it was intended. The Spells were vast, and covered many different styles. Though, for me, the constant spell lists and noting the particulars did get tedious.

For what it set out to do (and still does) the D&D magic system does it very well. There is a reason why so many spells in the game are household names. It is a robust system even with it’s flaws.

Many other games would emulate the groundwork laid by D&D. Even in the early years, games such as Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows, Traveller, and Runequest would expand the ways in which magic, in RPG’s, was used.

Next week we will look at Runequest, 2nd Ed. AD&D, and the Traveler black book. Moving from the high fantasy that dominated the hobby in the early days, sci-fi finally had it’s say in the medium, and it was very different, to say the least.

Scott is a true analog gamer doing everything from pen and paper RPG’s to board games and everything in-between. He started out with Advanced D&D 2nd edition at the age of 10. From there he likes all genres and types, from the well known big names to smaller indie print publishers. Scott is Vice-President of The Wrecking Crew

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands.

The Tradition of Magic in RPGs – Chainmail

No, don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this article, however, with the release of Doctor Strange it got me thinking about the ways that magic is portrayed in our hobby and what I like and don’t like about different magic systems. What makes a good magic system vs a bad magic system? Even more so, what is the evolution of magic in the hobby? There has been a lot of growth from the early days of 1st ed AD&D to modern day games like Savage Worlds or FATE.

For myself, I have always gravitated to the magic user in RPG’s that offer them as a class option. For me, it was a mix of describing the awesome effects of the spells and also the system that was used for magic.  Some systems are very complex and involved with rigid lists and names and others, very loose allowing for endless customization with an easy open system that ended up being complex far beyond what I thought was possible.

Looking back on my years of games, there are a few standout games that really made me rethink what can be done with magic. For me, these games are in order: AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition, Shadowrun, Ars Magica, TORG, Mage: The Ascension 20th anniversary edition, and FATE Core. This is the order I was introduced to each of these systems, not the order they were released. Nonetheless, each of these systems showed a new and exciting way to implement magic. AD&D of course, was the granddaddy of RPGs, as it came out of miniature wargaming, specifically Chainmail, which itself included two Wizard spells in it’s second edition.

chainmailIn fact, Dungeons and Dragons started as a Chainmail variant. I found it very interesting that Chainmail, and D&D by extension, were heavily influenced by Tolkien with such a rigid rules set that didn’t leave much room for variation. In my youth, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, including The Hobbit, every year from 5th grade until I graduated high school. With such a love for Mr. Tolkien’s work AD&D was a big deal and I found myself wanting to devour any book I could get my hands on.

Of course, while I read these books hungrily in my early days, it was not much of a game when we did play.

GM: What do you want to do?

Me: I want to go to the bar!

GM: Okay you’re at the bar.

Me: I ask the bartender for a quest.

GM: Okay, he asks you to find a mystical magical sword.

Me: I accept

GM: Okay you are now at the cave that has the sword.

Me: I go in.

Etc, etc, etc.

All this talk of magic, and after looking back through my books, got me really looking at how magic is used in RPG’s. This in turn led to many hours spent reading through different editions of many books and really taking a hard non-biased look at their different magic systems. So, over the next few weeks, I will look at different game lines and look at how magic was used. Both good and bad points of the magic systems will be listed and an overall history will be given of the systems covered.

white-bookWe shall start AT THE BEGINING with Chainmail. Where there other RPG’s before this? Why, yes. However, most of these were Fantasy Wargames and not commercially available. From an “RPG” viewpoint, Chainmail is the first, and even then, most would point to White box D&D as the first true pen and paper RPG, as we know them today.

Without Chainmail there would be no D&D. Back in 1968, Gary Gygax saw a game of Siege of Bodenburg being played at the very first Lake Geneva Wargaming Convention (Gencon). Siege of Bodenburg didn’t include any magic, however, it revolved around two players using 40mm Elastolin miniatures played on a 6×6 board. Gygax inquired about purchasing these figures. This led to many different rules revisions over the next few years. The chief among them being the new ruleset that Gygax and his partner Jeff Perren created and published in their Castles and Crusades Society fanzine The Doomsday book.

All of the work that was done fine tuning that ruleset brought Gygax and Perren to the attention of Guidon Games. Guidon hired him to create a ruleset for a new gameline they wanted to release.

One of these three games would become Chainmail.

As noted above, Chainmail included two magic spells in its second edition, which was released in 1972. It also covered magic armor as well. The rules for the game were straight forward overall, just rolling and consulting charts to see what hit and what didn’t. Not complicated at all, really.

Humble beginnings indeed.

Pros and cons of Chainmail:


It helped to give us D&D

Simple system (if you can call it a magic system)


Non really. I mean it’s not a “magic system” per say.

It was in 1972 however, that TSR product designation 2002 was released and gaming was never truly the same ever again. D&D had arrived. D&D’s magic system draws heavily from The Dying Earth series of stories by author Jack Vance, in particular, the notion that magic users could only memorize so many spells per day and once they used them, they forgot them. In fact, the style of magic is referred to as Vancian magic. Looking at the Wiktionary definition of the word it fits perfectly with what the D&D magic system does:

Vancian magic:men-and-magic


  1. A form of magic based on the existence of spells that must be prepared in advance, for specific purposes, and that can be used a finite number of times.

White box D&D (as it is called nowadays) was a collection of three books:

Men and Magic

The first of the three books included in the white box are where magic spells are listed. The classes, all three of them;  Cleric, Fighting-men, and Magic User.The races listed were Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halflings. Only three alignments were given: law, chaos, and neutrality. While the magic user does have magic spells they were handled very differently. Magic users max out at 6th level while Cleric’s max at 5th.  Spells used a spell slot and the defender got to make a saving throw. Overall, the game took it on faith that the player owned a copy of Chainmail and used those rules. However, an “alternate system “was given in the appendix of the book for dealing with combat, roll a 20 sided die and compare to a list of AC values. If it hit, then roll 1d6 for damage. That’s it!

monsters-and-treasureMonsters and Treasure

The second book covers well…monsters and treasure. Of note for this blog, are the magic items. The Flaming sword and Brazier of Controlling Fire Elementals were introduced in this supplement. Dragons were here, as well with alignments as we know them today.

The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures

Lastly, this book was divided into two parts. The first one provided details on designing dungeons and even included the first published dungeon with multiple levels and wandering monsters. The other half of the book detailed running games outside of the dungeon and even suggested the use of Avalon Hills Outdoor Survival game from 1972.

Together these three books made up the white box and the first iteration of D&D. There were further supplements, notably Blackmoore and the original Greyhawk setting. These introduced further information. Like in Greyhawk, supplement spells for 8th and 9th level for Magic Users and  6th and 7th level spells for Clerics were introduced.

Pictured below are the spells for both Magic Users and Clerics.





















From the table above, one can see that early lists included a lot of staple spells that have become  household names that everyone knows today. An interesting point to note, there are rules regarding “evil” clerics. I like that, even in these early days, there was this sense of good vs. evil built into the game world. Knowing that some of your spells would not work due to a “balance” of a “force” makes me happy.



A bit on the complex side however the system’s staples were here.

Tables? It has tables. Lots and lots of them!


Spell lists. Customizing was not something that was done during this edition.

Tables? It has tables. Lots and lots of them!

Next, we’ll look at First Edition AD&D



Scott is a true analog gamer doing everything from pen and paper RPG’s to board games and everything in-between. He started out with Advanced D&D 2nd edition at the age of 10. From there he likes all genres and types, from the well known big names to smaller indie print publishers. Scott is Vice-President of The Wrecking Crew

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands.