X-Treme Dungeon Mastery

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Advice and help for the dm who needs to be more extreme!

Transcript of X-Treme Dungeon Mastery

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    As for making a pretty map, there are a num-ber of really fabulous mapping programs available tocreators of adventure games. Tracy prefers Profan-tasy's Campaign Cartographer and Fractile Terrainsoftware packages. Although by the time you actuallyget around to reading this part of the book they'veprobably developed an entirely new set of softwaretools and possibly three more operating systems.

    Putting it all together: the adventuretext

    You've got the tools, you've even got all theparts. Now you have to put the whole thing togetherinto a working, well-oiled, and functional machine. lthelps if you have a plan and an instruction manual.

    The first thing you should consider is that a writ-ten adventure is a one-dimensional string of informa-tion (text) used to transform a two-dimensional mapinto a four dimensional dynamic state.

    Fine, we'll explain this for the lower level XDMsiust reading this book for the first time. lf you alreadyknow what we're sayin& you'll iust have to be pa-

    tient while the rest of the class catches up. Text is onedimensional information.. You have to read it in a lineand in sequence for any meaning to come out of thewords. You cannot read a word on page ten, flip backto page one for another word and then to page six andexpect the randomly chosen words for form a cohesivesentence. Charu are also essentially one-dimensionalas well.t Tables and maps make a fine show of step-ping things up into the second dimension (height andbreadth). These together are the completed design, the"map" to the game experience, which in reality is fourdimensional-a imagined state of existence, which notonly has the three classical dimensions of width, depth,and height, but all of which are forever moving forwardthrough the fourth dimension of time.

    It's a real challenge to figure out how to do thateffectively.

    It is these very limis in dimension that poses theheart of any approach to writing down a game design.The first thing you need to decide in your adventure,then is which is the more important dimension in yourgame: space or time?"

    Organization: Time vs. SpaceThere are two basic guiding options when you

    try to write down your adventure which you can easilychoose between by asking your self this question:

    ls the primary motivating force on the characterslimited options or limited time?

    The first is called an option lock while the secondis called a time lock.

    l. Option lock This means that the options avail-able to the players will diminish over the course ofthe adventure until they literally run out of op-tions. Players who are making their way throughan underground dungeon are primarily faced withan option lock; there are only so many places that

    * OK, whiney physics people, we know that the text exiss in the thirddimension physically. The ink, no matter how thin, has its own threedimensional space and the page ceruinly has a thickness beyond is widthand height. We're not talking about the physical properties of the page,we're talking about the dimensions of the information itself, Feed that toSchrddinger's cat . . . who may or may not be around to chew on it.t For you game design challenged, new XDMs, a "chart" compares oneset of numbers to a matched pair of results. A "tdble" cross references twofields (across the top and down the side) to find the result at the intersectionof the two fields. Now you can refer to charu and tables correctly andnot have people snicker behind your back any longer at game designconferences.


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  • they can go and even though they are free to wan-der around all they want, no one wants to go backto an empty room. So they keep exploring untilthe limit of their options is reached and they frnallyarrive at the end of the adventure.

    Option lock deal more with space and choicesthan with time. Classic dungeons and outdooradventures in a closed matrix with well definedboundaries are both examples of option lock envi-ronments. No matter how long the players wanderaround, eventually they will run out of optionsfor places to visit. In this type of adventure thebest approach is to make your text refer primarilyto maps and locations independent from timedevents.

    2. Time lock This means that the clock is ticking onthe bomb and that the amount of time availablefor the characters to solve the problem will dimin-ish with every passing second. This is, obviously, abit more urgent on time constraints for the play-ers. lf your players suddenly wake up and discoverthey are standing next to a thermonuclear devicein the 100 kiloton yield range in the middle ofthe New Mexico desert with a loud voice count-ing down from the ten minute mark, and nothingfor transportation but the Red Ball Jet sneakers ontheir feet . . . that's a time lock for you that noamount of running away will solve.

    Time lock relates more to time than to space oroptions. You will need locations and, no doubt,maps, but the primary concern of the adventure-the very heart of your organization of the text-willneed to center around sequences of events andtheir relationship to choices.Now that you've frgured out the general approach

    to your adventure (linear, open, or closed matrix) andis primary concern (option or time locked) it's time getthe whole thing organized.

    Tricks of Adventure WritingThe Script

    All XDMs know that the text of your adventure isa script. lt's a reference work that isn't meant to be readbut a guide to performance. This means that writinga good adventure has more to do with technical writ-ing than it does with creative writing. While there are

    certainly a lot of creative elements in an adventuremodule, it's all about the performance in the end.

    When you write your adventure, it is moreimportant that it is organized properly than howflowery your purple prose flows on the page. Orga-nization and ease of reference are the watchwords.It's your performance from these notes that mattersmore and the more organized your script the betteryour performance.

    Cut ScenesYou're an XDM, a master of the game! Why

    overburden yourself with mundane deuils such as,say, doing the exposition for your adventure? Whyshould you do all the work while your players iustsit around the table pretending that they hear whatyou are say, but all the while are secretly wishing youwould stop reading that long description text and geton with bashing in the heads of a few monsters?

    Hey, why is that your problem?We humbly suggest that you use scripts and

    cut scenes to get you through those awkward mo-ments.

    A cut scene is a video game term for a se-quence inside the game over which the player has lit-tle or no control. They are primarily used to advancecharacter, plot, or background issues inside the game.They also provide texture, flavor, and atmosphere forthe game. You might think of these little scenes asthose same long, boring descriptions that you've beengiving in every game. Until now.

    We suggest that you script these cut scenesand have your players perform them. You can evenproduce these as cut sheets-copies of the scriptwhich only have the spoken lines for each of the play-ers on them.

    lmplied StoryActors on a stage are often encouraged to look

    not just over the audience but to gaze to the left orright of the proscenium. This effectively extends thestage because the audience, following the sightlines ofthe performer's eyes, believes that there is more inthe character's world that is contained on the stageiself.

    This is also true in the descriptions that youwrite for the various encounter locations in your

  • adventure. Most of the writing in encounter locationsis dull and dry stuff, but the description text is yourone opportunity to imbue the encounter with sights,sounds, smells, all the emotion and sense that bringsa place to life in your players' minds. lt is helpful,then, when considering what to put in these piecesof descriptive text, to look "beyond the proscenium"and extend the encounter through the use of impliedstory.

    lmplied story means placing descriptions in-side the text that hint at greater events that have hap-pened here in the past. Try the following examples:

    As you open the door, you see that the backof it is charred. The room beyond appears to bethe remains of a library. The books here are allcharred, standing on shelyes that skew away fromthe black crater in the center of the room.

    What happened here? Who did this? Are theyanywhere around or is this somethingthat happened long ago?

    What about this de-scription:

    The mummifiedremains of a womanIay atop an altar. Onrhe sfairs below it, twoskeletal figures lay frozen inthe grip of combat, their rust-ing armor all that remainsof their clothing. One'sbony hand grips wispsof hair on his oppo-nent's skull whilethe other's handwraps around hisenemy's throat, Bothhold short swordsin their remain-hands, plungedthrough one anoth-er's ribcages.

    Who were these people? Why are they here? Whathappened?

    Remember that it is the nature of humanity tocomplete stories-especially where none is given. Everytime players are confronted with what looks like a storythey will complete it in their minds, making up whatev-er pleases them to fill in the gaps and make it complete.The wonderful thing about this is that it involves theplayers more completely because it engages their imagi-nation, allowing them to actually contribute somethingof their own creativity to the adventure.

    FoundationA good mystery story includes a surprise ending at

    which you can look back and say that all the clues werethere all along.

    In storytelling, we call that foundation. You lay thefoundation for the work that comes later in the telling.The same is true in designing role playing adventures;you cannot have a monster that no one hasseen before and has never been mentioned

    jump out of nowhere and


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  • expect that creature to make sense. So if you havean ultimate bad guy at the end of your adventure,somebody better be talking about him very near thebeginning.

    MisleadingDetail calls attention to itself in a role playing

    game. The more detail you give something, the morecertain the players are that there is something importantabout what you are describin& otherwise you wouldn'tbe describing it! The other part of that axiom is thatdetail slows down the game, but this is something youcan use to your advantage by purposefully misleadingthe players with detail.

    For example, in the classic adventure Ravenloft byTracy 8t Laura Hickman,' the prevailing overburdeneddescriptions, which are pervasive throughout the text,lend an air of impending doom. Detail calls attention toiself. This means that if you t:tke the time to describesomething, then it must be important to the players.Players, of course, pick up on this early in their gam-ing-which means that you can use it against them, iust

    as Rayenlofr does. Two examples: In one of the earlyencountered hallways is a suit of armor. This is de-scribed in detail, and it is noted for the players that,while the rest of the hall is frlled with cobwebs anddust, this armor is shining and clean. This, of course,freaks out players because it is so out of place. Butthe truth is that there is nothing wrong with the ar-mor. lt's just there to freak players out.

    lust as quarterbacks in American football alwaystry to use at least one running play early in a set ofdowns,t one of the techniques you should use as anXDM is to occasionally-not always but occasionally-pick something in the adventure and then describe itin intricate detail. Then, as players ask you questionsabout it, always secretly roll some meaningless diceand then look at the ceiling for a moment beforeanswering with something like, "No, you don't seeanything unusual after inspecting the thirty-foot tallclay statue of the grim man whose eyes stare down atyou with hollow coldness despite the oppressive heatin the room. . . at least for now!"

    That's called "keeping them honest."

    * 496s and 349'h level XDMs who, as you might have guessed, are thetwo premiere adventure game designers alive today.

    t lf you are unfamiliar with American Football then you are either fromsome nation other than the United States or have been living too long inthe basement.


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    IHnrTERBGHT: {LL THE Qevn's A $rncrIt isn't whether they live or die, it's how you PLAY their game.

    Gameplay, the XDM tlfay!There is nothing like a game, nothing in the world!

    When you're playing an XDM-run game, that is. We'reulking a no-holds-barred, pedal-to-the-metal, full-throttle adventure that grabs player characters by theirbent-armor chest plate and drags them into the heart ofexcitement. How do you get to this place? You need acommitted XDM.

    An XDM game is more than a game-it's a perfor-mance, a fully-orchestrated improvisational theater withyou as the combination director and main actor. Yourplayers in the game only have to worry about portray-ing one character; you have to take all the other parts aswell as fabricate the setting (through your descriptions).You also set the pace of the game and story; keep a pic-ture in your mind of the interactions of all the perform-ers; and interpret the results of physical, social, emo-tional, and ethical consequences of character actions; allwhile simultaneously adiudicating game rules.

    That's what being a true XDM is all about!

    XDM: The Modern BardFrom our very beginnings as human beings, we

    have been storytellers. As we have pointed out previ-ously, story is hard-wired into us as humans. We per-ceive the world through the lens and framework of

    story (see "Narrative: How We Make Sense of theChaos" on page 29). As early humans struggled tounderstand the world around them, they had sto-rytellers who would pass down the stories of theirancestors and people, defrning their heritage and pastand instructing their future generations on the theirsociety's social norms. This may first have happenedaround the communal frre or inside a protective cave.Storytelling is at the heart of the human experience.

    Down through the millennia, the technologies fortelling stories have changed greatly, but the need fortelling stories has remained the same. Bards and story-tellers wandering across the face of the world broughtnews and philisopies from far away and, with them,the first instances of cognitive dissonance-challengingthoughs and behaviors locally. Magicians, too, begantouring the world with their acts, bringing wonder andspectacle to storytelling. The Greeks formalized story-telling into dramatics and plays. These forms eventu-ally led to Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, Rogersand Hammerstein, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

    Radio allowed the sound of storytelling to bebroadcast over large distances to mass audiences andthe radio play was born. Movies similarly allowed thevisual scene of storytelling to be conveyed to largeaudiences as prins would be sent across the country.Quickly both were melded together into the "talkies"


  • Trading Company,. or import store and find someinexpensive oddity that you can work into yourgame.Then put the secret message inside that ob-iect.

    Go Multimedia In an age where everyone seemsto have access to a video camera, editing equipment,and the flrm belief that their video (unlike the resf ofYouTube) is actually good. .. well, this leads to all kindsof possibilities for producing your own exposition videowhich you can show to your players through the "magicwindow" or whatever you decide to call your televisionor computer monitor.

    However you decide to handle exposition, remem-ber that it should always be broken up whenever possibleso as not to slow down a game.

    Dramatic Pause: Pace in the GameYour mastery of storytelling can make or break a

    game, and your mastery over your voice will make orbreak your storytelling.

    Picture yourself stuck in a seat in the middle ofa large venue full of people. An expert or authority issunding at a podium in front of you speaking on a sub-iect that is absolutely fascinating-to them. You might beinterested in the topic, but the speaker has a voice withonly one level of pitch, one tone of delivery and onecadence in their voice.+ They go on, and on, and on. . .the same voice, the same pitch, the same relentless pacebetween their words.

    It's like water torture.Each day, unfeeling game referees are subiecting

    thousands of innocent game players to these inhumaneexperiences for hours on end. There is no respite orrelief for these gamers, many of whom know of no othergaming existence.

    But there is something you can do to help.No, you do not need to send us money monthly

    to adopt one of these unfortunate gamers,t but you doneed to be aware of the power of varying pace and vocaldelivery in performing your game.

    We're not talking about what you are saying (that's

    * This mention of the Tai Pan Trading Company was made withoutpromotional consideration ... but we're not above taking it, should they offerus compensation for it.f You might consider thinking of Ben Stein playing the teacher in 'Ferris

    Bueller's Day Off' at this point for inspiration.+ Although we are considering setting up a mostly not for profit foundationto assist these unfortunates.

    in the next section) but we are talking about how yousay it.

    Let's start with some basics that you will com-monly encounter in role playing games:

    Dungeon Crawling When your players are justmoving through enclosed spaces and you havesome description you need to give them, con-sider lowering the volume of your voice slightlyand speaking in slower, hushed tones. Not onlywill your quiet voice have a tendency to bringdown the volume of the player's voices but theslower pace will serve you shortly.

    Foreshadowing and Anticipation When somethingbig is about to happen to your players-whetherit is good or bad-you should give your playersa dramatic heads up for the hair on the backof their necks. Lower the volume of your voiceand slow down the pace perceptibly. Speak yourwords with emphasis, as though each one werevital. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense,so wisely said, "There is no terror in the bang,only in the anticipation of it." lf you are goingto give your players a really good scare, thenyou have to allow them to anticipate it, andthen relieye them of it for a split second beforeyou hit them from behind.

    The motion picture Alien for example makessure that you are afraid long before you get achance to see the monster. Music and moodysettings, allow you to be steeped in anticipationbefore the monster ever even appears. Your ad-ventures need to make use of the same anticipa-tion. The use of long and elaborate descriptionsat such points will heighten anticipation whileautomatically slowing down the game.

    And ... Action When the players suddenly frndthemselves in dire distress, you must make itdire! The pace absolutely must increase tremen-dously at this point and the pitch of your voicerise in the excitement. You cannot expect yourplayers to be excited if you do not convey itwith your voice. Everything must happen fast.

    Here's the real problem: combat in role play-ing games-the one moment in the game that


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    absolutely requires speed-is invariably the mostcomplicated, overburdened, and system-ladenpart of the rules. The system asks you to slowdown precisely at the moment you must speedthings up. This is the dilemma of the ages. Butwe're going to address this in "off-loading" onpage 64.

    What you must achieve during any actionsequence is a high degree of energy in yourportrayal and as much color in your descriptionsas you can manage at that level of speed. Ratherthan simply interpreting players' success orfailure in combat as "a hit" or "a missr" do yourbest to describe the results in graphic terms suchas "your cutlass slices into the side of the Orcwho howls in agony!" or "Your cutlass strokegoes wide, slamming against the table withenough force to slosh ale out of the mugs."

    Purple Prose: How Not to Read DescriptionsOne of your responsibilities as an XDM is to

    "paint the scene." This means that you are responsi-ble for giving the descriptions that make the universecome alive in the imagination of the players. Whileyou can do a number of things to help you in thisosk (such as creating exact miniature representationsof the areas your players' characters are exploring),the most-used and basic tool in the XDM's arsenal isexpositional description: just conveying to the play-ers what their characters see through your words andgestures.

    Many adventures, including yours, will probablyinclude descriptive text. This is important because whilethe rest of the encounter description will probablyinvolve rules-intensive (and rather dry) materials relatedto the mechanics of running the encounter, the descrip-tive text is the one chance you have to convey all theambiance, nuance and color that this particular encoun-ter involves.

    The problem is that most game referees iust readthis text verbatim from the words printed on the page,which usually makes them as dry and lifeless as the rulestext.

    Descriptive text, even the most prosaic, shouldnever be read verbatim by an XDM. Instead, the XDMshould read the text beforehand to get a sense of theoverall picture that it is trying to convey and then, inher own words describe the area to the players. By do-ing so, the XDM has the picture of the area in her mindand can address with her description any questions thatthe players may have. This is important so that you canmaintain the effect, tone, mood, and ambience of theencounter long after you have run out of the descriptivetext on the page. And speaking of the "picture". . .

    Keeping the PictureAny XDM worth his level should practice main-

    uining the "picture" at all times. This is a flight schoolterm where pilos are asked to keep a mental picture ofthe space around their aircraft in mind at all times. Inrole playing games, the relative positions of the playersand their surrounding environment can be of great help





  • to the XDM in maintaining a consistent and believableexperience for the players. This is especially true whenthe mechanics of a game start interfering with the verisi-militude' of the experience.

    For example, if the combat mechanics of yourgame require that all combatants take turns bashingeach other, it can begin to sound ridiculously tediousrather than exciting. For an example, a quote fromStephen Leacock'sr Nonsense Novels, Guido the Gimletof Ghent: A Romance of Chivalryz

    First Guido, raising his mace high in the airwith both hands, brought it down with terrible forceon Tancred's mailed head. Then Guido stood still,and Tancred raising his mace in the air brought itdown upon Guido's head. Then Tancred stood stilland turned his back, and Guido, swinging hrs macesideways, gave him a terrific blow from behind,midway, right centre. Tancred returned the blow.Then Tancred knelt down on his hands and knees andGuido brought the mace down on his back. lt was asheer contest of skill and agility. For a time the issuewas doubtful. Then Tancred's armour began to bend,his blows weakened, he fell prone. Guido pressed hisadvantage and hammered him out as flat as a sardinecan. Then placing his foot on Tancred's chest, heIowered his vizor and looked around about him.

    Combat in most role playing games comes acrossvery much this way because everyone takes turns bash-ing each other.

    However, as an XDM, if you can maintain the pic-ture of all of the characters and creatures in the combatand take into account their actions as a whole then thedescription of the combat (and the results) can becomefar more dramatic. Rather than doling out damage oneslug at a time, have all your players make all their at-tacks-in turn if you like-and all of the creatures theyare attacking make their own attacks. Keep track of thedamages done in sequence and get these mechanics allout of the way as quickly as possible. Then (and only

    * Verisimilitude is the appearance of being true or real; likeness orresemblance of the truth or reality. lt is a very big word to be used in roleplaying games, but since the level of realism in games is of almost obsessiveconcern to gamers, you should spring this word on them now and thenwhenever they sun quoting rules at you.t Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was Canada's premiere lecturer,humorist, and author. His Nonsense Nove/s remain fun to read today. He isthe favorite author of Tracy Hickman - go frgure.

    then) do you describe the combat in full, taking intoaccount the fact that some people launching theirbows from the back of the party might be interferedwith by those in front of them, that a completelyfumbled blow by the knight in the front of thegroup might well affect the two companions who arestanding on either side of him. The picture will beconstantly changing-with the pace that matches yourgame.

    Polling and Shifting EmphasisWe've also mentioned this before ("Executing lt

    All in the Game: Polling and Juggling" on page 27)but it is so important that we needed to mention itagain here. You have many different types of playersin your game and each of them have different needsthey are looking to be fulfrlled. Whether they arewarrior, social, or thinking players, each one will beIooking for some different aspect in the game playthat will satisfy them.

    You should constantly be polling the players asto whether their needs are being met. This is alwaysdone silently and will require you to develop someobservational skills regarding your players. Are theygetting bored? What works for them? As an XDM,you must be prepared constantly to shift the empha-sis in your game to that which will bring your play-ers along with you. lt's a balancing act not unlike astand-up comedian trying to figure out which jokesare working with that particular crowd on that par-ticular night.

    OffloadingAs an XDM, you have a lot on your plate.

    You're responsible for keeping the game pace up,iudging which characters live or die, weaving a tapes-try of the experience by creating and describing set-tings, and playing the paru of all those "extras" thatkeep appearing around the player's characters.

    So why should you do all the work?Any game mechanics or busywork chores that

    you can offload onto your players you should offloadand right from the very beginning. Why should youperform all the heavy calculations because yourplayer has a plus-this sword and is minus-that whenfrghting canaries? lt's their complex character; letyour players do the heavy lifting. Have them tell youwhat you need to know: what number they have to


  • {nrHE Qevm's n $rncr

    roll in order to succeed. They should tell you howmuch damage they think they did. You can alwayscorrect that if necessary.

    Players should be in charge of their own map(especially if they get it wrong) and they should keeptrack of their own treasure (what the XDM giveth,the XDM can taketh away).

    When you are working with players who are newto role playing gaming, then you'll need to help themout and tell them which dice to roll. But soon enoughyou'll train them right and they'll be whitewashingthe fence. for you in every game. Never do any morework as an XDM than you must.

    Smell of the Grease Paint, Roar ofthe Orcs

    Showmanship during game play is one of themost important things you can learn. lf you want thequickest way to improve your game, learn how topresent the game better. lf you learn only one greatand important truth about gaming from this book letit be this:' As in Tom Sawyer getting all the other children to white wash hisAunt Polly's fence in Mark Twain's novel, Iom Sanyer. lf you still don'tundentand this reference then I have a fun fence I'd like to show you.

    An XDM is an actor playing the part of anXDMi.

    This means that all the rules of rhetoric and thes-pianism+ apply to you. To make this as painless as pos-sible we have constructed a list of some things to workon and keep in mind.

    | . "Umm" Don't say "ummmt' . lt's a bad habitthat everyone falls into. You are performing here.When you say "Ummm" it sounds like (and prob-ably means) that you don't know what you aretalking about. Eliminate this word (and similarverbal crutches) from your speech as much as pos-sible.s

    2. Speak clearly and with emphasis. No one wantsto play a game with a mumbling fool. To entertainyou have to be understood.

    3.Acting is not so much acting as it is reacting.True acting isn't really acting at all. lt's reactingto the elements that affect it. People are this way.Something happens and you react to it. Yourreaction makes other people react. How theyreact makes you react. And on and on it goes.Don't think this means losing control. lt doesn't. ltmeans understanding what the correct reaction anNPC, environment, or you personally should haveto a situation. Did a player do something funny?Laugh-loud. Make him feel good for contribut-ing to the entertaining experience of the game. Doall drunks in taverns react the same when they arepushed. No! And don't always let some die tellyou what they do either. You know this NPC, actfor him.

    This idea brings us to a very important place.Did your players just blow up a silo? What is thereaction of the NPCs in the area? What did theexplosion do? What about the smoke? Someonemust have seen it. How you as an XDM react tothis is key. To be honest this is the most importantthing in the book. And we will discuss it adnauseam further below. lt's that essential.

    f Thk is actually a slightly altered bit of plagiarism. The real quote is "Amagician is an actor playing the part of a magician." lt is accredited to JeanEugdne Robert-Houdin, the father of modem maglc. But that doesn't makeit any less true for XDMs.* Insert old and tasteless ioke here.5 lf you ever catch one of us saying "Ummm," we dld it on purpose andare allowed to'cause we make the rules.






    4.Acting is not making faces. When playing the roleof an NPC, don't fall into the old trap that actingsad means making a sad face. Depression meansnot eating, not sleeping well, and probably an at-tempt to hide it. Again, if the NPC is sad, how willhe react to that sadness? Everything is a reaction. Agood XDM will show an emotion, not iust say thatthe character is crying and then speak for him ina weepy voice. He will understand why the NPCfeels that way and act (react) accordingly.

    Ethics, os "Try telling THAT to anAngry Mob!"

    One last thing to consider as you iudge yourgames as an XDM: the ethics in your game must beconsistent, functional, dynamic, and have consequences.

    Here is an example from a typical role playinggame. The names have been changed to protect thepeople who may yet purchase this book:

    The thief comes in through the gates ofthe city. He walks up to one of the locals andasks, "Excuse me, where is the richest part oftown?" The local woman smiles and pointsdown the road. "Right down there! Turn left atthe golden statue and you can't miss it." Thethief steals the local woman's purse and followsher directions. He arrives at the golden statue,steals it, and then ftnds the richest home on theblock. He enters the front door and encountersa blind and deaf retainer. He sneaks into thehouse, discovers l0,OOO piece of gold, steals it,and thensneaks out, of the house.

    Wow. How droll. Heart pounding excitement.Let's try this again:

    The thief comes in through the gatesof the city. The city guard-much heartiermen than one might suppose-tpy him atonce and drag him into a corner, questioninghim thoroughly. They deuin him in the ciAdungeons for a week before letting him go witha stern admonition.

    Well this seems more likely, doesn't it? I mean theguy is a thief. He continues on.

    The thief, recently released from the citydungeon, walk up to a woman near the maingate of the city and asks, "Excuse me, whereis the richest part of town?"

    The woman's eyes narrow as she looks athim, "Why doyou ask?"

    oOh,' the thief says, thinking on his feetfor the first time, "it's my Uncle, He sent forme and he happens to live in the richest paftof town, so I'm trying to find him."

    The woman, still squinting at him says,"Indeed, and what is the name of yourUncle?"

    "Uh... Frank/' the thief repfies with asmile. The woman calls the city guards whodrag off the thief to the city dungeon.

    This is a city, isn't it? People here are suspiciousof each other and ceftainly suspicious of a completestranger. This woman probably lives in the city and nomore wants a thief here than anyone else. OK, we'lllet this one go for now.

    "Uh... Frank/' the thief replies with asmile. The woman does not call the city guardbut says, "lt's near the center of town. Youhad best find your uncle right away. The cityguards don't take kindly to outsiders." Thethief nods, then tries to steal her purse. Thewoman fights him for it! She starts beatinghim on the head with her purse, screaming forthe guard. Others in the square rush to heraid, and they starf beating on the thief . Thereare cries to hang him from the cW gatesl Heis only saved because the City Guard rescueshim, drags him off to the city dungeon where,a year later...

    So much for that simple purse snatch. Maybe hewon't try that. He'll iust go for the big score instead.

    The thief makes his way to the goldenst fue and attempts to steal it..,

    Have you any idea how much a golden statuewould weigh? He can't take it anywhere without awagon and a team of draft horses. Forget the statue. . .

  • An rHE Qenm's n $race

    The thief finds the richest home on thestreet. Dodging a far more vigilant group ofcity guards, he waits until night and managesto make it into the front door of the house.He encounters the recainer who is blind anddeaf-but not stupid! He sounds the alarm!The thief grabs a golden candle stick-theonly treasure at hand-and leaps out the backwindow. The guards are back there, too! Hequickly throws open the cover to the sewer,Ieaps down into it, and tries to make his wayout. He is lost in its maze of tunnels, gets ter-ribly sick, and at last is forced to come backout to the surface - where the City Guardsare waiting for him. They saw where he wentand knew it was only a matter of time. Thethief is hung by his wrists from a wall in thedungeon. . .

    Now, isn't that more exciting? That's adventurelthat's action! That's dreadfully hard on the characterin the game, but he had it coming.

    The point here is that games played withoutinternal ethics are boring. lt's like Superman withoutKryptonite. lf you can get away with anything insidethe game then where is the challenge, the danger, thethrill?

    Jarod, Tracy Hickman's son, once had a groupof his iunior high school friends come to his houseto pfay in his dad's Ravenloft adventure. Admittedly,these were iunior high school boys, so just how muchcould you expect from them? Anyway, we gave themall characters with swords and the adventure began.

    These boys managed to make their way intotown and followed the sound of a woman weepinginconsolably in the upper floor of her home. Theyfound her there, sobbing over the fate of her lostdaughter. Well, these boys had made a lot of troublecoming into town and a mob was gathering outside.Mind you, you'll not find this written in the module,but it made sense in the setting that the townsfolkwould gather because the XDM was keeping thewhole picture in his mind during the game. Seeing themob ouside, one of the boys decided the best way toescape the situation was to throw the sobbing womanout of the window to distract the mob.

    You can guess what the incensed mob did! lt

    was the frrst time Tracy had ever seen the lynching ofplayer characters.

    The point here is that games without internalethics, without socially enforced consequences for theactions inside the game, are boring. Worse, they teacha falsehood, that we are not responsible for our actions.XDMs always play the ethics inside their game to theabsolute hilt not just because it makes for more excitinggame play, but better people after the game is done.

    \N\,l , l\i



  • -rrr,4


    h,YOU ?ON'T! ,llY


    fHnnrun\frwr, fivrNc rHRoucH THE fipvoruuoNWhat to do when your players turn uglier than they already are!

    In any XDM game there is the possibility, nomatter how remote, that the players may actually at-tempt to question the authority of the game referee. Asabsurd as this appears on the face of it, there are indeednumerous reports of such events actually taking place.You may never have occasion to come across a playerso foolish as to attempt this but, should you somehowfrnd yourself in this situation, there are a few techniqueswhich you can use to stave off the unthinkable.

    The fack Bauer RulePlayed superbly by Kiefer Sutherland,. lack Bauer

    is a counter-terrorist agent for a secret United Statesagency on the TV show 24. Because the show's entireseason takes place in 24 contiguous hours of non-stopaction, Jack Bauer has little time to enter into overly-lengthy negotiations with the terrorists that he counters.Whenever he senses that he has gotten everything hehas out of them and that they are simply stalling fortime, he has a universal solution to the problem.

    * Who also voiced the part of Raistlin in the Dragonlance: Dragons ofAutumn Twiligftt movie.

    ]ust shoot 'em.r

    As an XDM, when confronted with a playerterrorist who is trying to hold your game hostage tosome obscure rule that he or she insisg you followand who is willing to enter into protracted negotia-tions while holding all the other players of your gamehostage to incessant yammering about how he or sheis being wronged ...

    You're the XDM. Just kill their character.+Drop a safe on them out of a clear blue sky.

    Hey, it could happen, and should. Have the groundbeneath their feet open up from an earthquake andswallow them whole. A vortex opens up and instantlyteleports them to an alternate universe where therule they are quoting actually works. . . far from yourgame.

    Problem solved.

    f Disclaimer: We do not advocate or condone in any way the actualshooting of players or anyone else for that matter. Role playing games andfantastic television shows may pretend to bump off characten nightly, butthe only gun in a game room should be locked safely in your imagination.{ Disclaimer: When we say "kill their character" we do not intend or inany way mean to portray that you should enter into any sort of characterassasination on the actual player themselves no matter how deserving.We wish to clarify that you are to kill their character in the game.



    The Australian RuleA newly initiated XDM in Brisbane, Australia

    who attended the Cencon OZ Convention there in2008 actually gained a level on the spot for comingup with this rule. lf he ever buys this rules book, heautomatically gets an additional mo levels.'

    Pop Quiz: A player at your table staru quotingverbatim to you an obscure rule that contradicts aruling you have just made. She reads out of the rulebook to emphasize her point and looks entirely smugabout her ability to use an index. What do you do?

    One solution might be what we now call theAustralian Rule. You simply reach across the tableand uke her character sheet from her, placing itentirely out of her view. You then say to her,

    "From this moment on, you play your characterwithout ever looking at your character sheet. Youcan still play the same character, but terrible thingswill happen to it if you make a mistake on any ofyour statistics, rolls, or items."

    Punish the character whenever the playermisquotes any of is statistics or calls for an item thesheet does not have. Kill the character if the playermakes a big enough mistake. You might be merci-fuleventually and tell the player you will return hersheet if she will put down her rule book and neverlook at it again.

    We would have called this the Turnabout lsFair Play rule but we think Australian Rule soundsever so much classier.

    There's ALWAYS Another Rule, R.uleOne of the great things about having so many

    different role playing games around with exceedinglycomplex rules sets is that there are literally too manyrules for any one human to keep track of at onetime. lt's like advanced mathematics: so long as youtellsomeone you are applying a rule from a differ-ent branch of the science there is little they can doexcept helplessly whimper.

    So if someone starts quoting rules at you thatare meant to question your authority, assert theirown player superiority, or simply mess with you asan XDM, you don't have to take it because there's

    r But we're not giving him his money back for the book. Just the extralevels.

    ALWAYS another rule that you can apply ... even if youhave to make it up.t

    To assist you in mainuining control of your XDMgames{, we provide you now with the handy QuantumUniversal Incredulous Rules and Knowledge Generator,or QUIRK Generator. (see page 70) This handy tablewill allow you, with the surreptitious roll of a few dice,to create a reasonable-sounding rule, sure to confoundany rules-lawyer player who is trying to hiiack yourgame.

    All you need to do is roll four times, once foreach column, and combine the phrase in order fromA through D. Then make up whatever you want abouthow it supporu your position.

    Example: A player challenges you, quoting somerule about how halflings get a + 5 bonus when usingcooking tools as siege weapons. He is getting belliger-ent and challenging both your authority and abilitiesas an XDM. You decide magnanimously not to use the

    f Please note that the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons DungeonMasters Guide contained, in an obscure place in that labyrinthine tome, arule that said, "Regardless of anything written in these rules, whatever thedungeon master says is the rule supersedes the rules written in this book." lfone were to consider the logical extension of this simple phrase then therewas no need for any of us to buy all those book aftenvard since we couldmake up any old rule we wanted. Your word as XDM remains law in therather limited universe of your game so make the most of it and lose theguilt over using this chan.f And put these uppity players in their place.

    AOv t




  • lack Bauer Rule because the player happens to be thebrother of a woman you're hoping to date. So you say,"Ah, but you're not taking into account the ..." thenyou rofl four d2Os. The results are | 5, 3, 7, and 18.You then continue with "... Updated Tools vs. lmpactFAQ." You then explain that this rule-which yourecently received with your updated game materials andthe pfayer obviously does not yet have-completely ex-plains why his particular halfling is at this moment beingcooked by the monster in his own frying pan.

    The XD2O Rulelf you wisely choose to play your game using

    the XD20 system it will be hard for a terrorist to takeover the game, since he doesn't understand the rules,and the XD20 system is so heavily dependent on theXDM anyway, that any rules basher would be at aloss.

    lf you are playing another system and are havingtrouble with players who want to run your game foryou, we suggest switching over to the XD20 systemuntil your players either have learned better mannersor decide that they prefer this game after all.

    Roll (1d20) ColumnA




    1111 New Weapons vs. Armor Modif iers Table

    2112 Revised Creature vs. Stats Adjustments Chart

    3113 On l ine Tools vs. F in i te Sl id ing Scale Variant

    4114 Official Comparative Speed Spectrums Appendix

    5 l1s Updated Blast Radius and Range Modif iers Module

    6116 Corrected Magic vs. Trajectory Supplement

    7117 Advanced Divine Aid vs. lmpact Rerelease

    8/18 Designer's Action and Penetration FAQ

    9119 Or ig ina l Author 's Character vs. Player Intent Published Errata

    10120 Canonical Chaos Theory vs. Quantum Reality Beta Test






    f unnrER TEN: Af,\lospHEREEnough Fog, Lights, Music, md Lasers to-cause All Manner of seizures.

    Beyond Sanity and at the Edge of Reality-TheUITIMATE XDM Theatricat Setup-

    You will need a buddy and a pyrotechnician tobe managing things from a control center. They willhave access to all your lights, sound, lasers, holograms,fog, and fire. Your buddy will mess with the first five.The pyrotechnician will mess with the last one-andprobably eat your food..

    SoundI . Use as many speakers as your receiver can take.

    2. Set your speaker distribution to pump your audiothrough all7 + speakers. The speakers should beplaced in the room so as to completely surroundyour players. Include a big sub-woofer and haveeverything hooked through your receiver to acomputerr.

    * Let him. You don't want a guy who lights fires for a living mad at you,especially now that he knows where you live,f You advanced users can add a mixing board in there ,cause it makes youlook cool.

    f The Dragonlance movle soundtrack is a great resource. Read that againand be sure you know we are talking about the soundtrack-which wasawesome. We have no official comment here about the rest of the movie,S Thk is so you can have your sound effecs play on cue over yourmusic. There are other ways to do this, this is lust the way we have doneit.f Yes this ls stuff found online.

    3. Next, make a playlist of dramatic, epic, and oth.enrrise adventure-esque music+. Use iTunes forthis list-from now on we will call this the ,,musiclist".

    4. Use Windows Media Players to make a playl-ist of sound effecs that will match the upcom-ing events in your adventure. Dungeon doorsopening, armies marching, etc.r Also be sure toinclude frghting/action music in this mix. Fromnow on we will call this the',SFX list,,.

    5. Be sure to keep your music track relatively low.The music list is the soundtrack of your adven-ture and you don't want it to distract from thegame.

    6. Your SFX list should be off, but any given itemon that list can be played to add dramatic and



    relevant effect to the game. ls there a thunderstorm approaching? Can the group hear crick-ets in the freld? ls there an avalanche, dragonbreathing frre, wind in the cave?

    It is important to remember that the audio istotally secondary to what the XDM is saying. TheXDM should never have to yell over his own soundeffecs. Furthermore, the XDM and his buddy mustbe in sync for when a given sound should be played.This comes with practice and experience.

    LightsDramatic lighting is a must. A XDM's go-to

    move with lighting involves the use of a gobo. Goboscreate patterns of light in the air or splashing interest-Ing shapes and designs across surfaces. lf you haveever looked out of your window and seen what is of-ten referred to as "God Light" piercing the clouds ina few of places, well than you have seen a giant goboat work. To make a simple yet effective gobo:

    l. Go buy some black wrap. You can flnd thisonline without any trouble. lt's a lot like tin foilexcept thicker and ... black.

    2. Get a reading light with a clamp.

    3. Pull out a big piece of black wrap andcutout cool designs in it. Remember thatwhat you cut out will be what is writtenin light later. We like to punch a bunchof holes of various sizes into the sheet asthe broken up light streaming across theroom looks wicked cool.

    4. Bend the black wrap around the cone ofyour reading light, placing your design inperfect position for is projection.

    5. Clamp your convened light to somethingnear the ceiling or down near the floorand point it in the opposite direction.Use in a darkened room with just enoughfog to allow your guests to see the effect.

    Other ways to make your tighting more dra-matic.

    A. Use a china ball with a light bulb inside. Thiswill diffuse the light and create a soft look acrosseveryone in the room that is fantastic. Movies usethis all the time.

    B. White Christmas lighs. Hang some black nettingabove your gaming area and weave your lights onit. Who can forget this old yet golden gem? A bitcliched perhaps but still cool looking.

    C. Use reading lighs or floodlighs to create dra-matic light and shadow against walls, large sheetsthat hang and drape in cool ways. The ripples inthe sheet or in the textured paint will create coolshadows.

    Dimmers and switches are easy to wire and every-thing should be hooked back to your control center.Your buddy is there at the right moment to shut off allthe lighs, dim the lighs, turn on the gobos. . . what-ever effect is needed.

    LasersThe Poor Man's Laser ShowIt's easier to create a sweet laser show than you

    think. Be careful that you set your laser display up sothat it can't get in anyone's eyes.




  • [/rnunrEXDM

    I . Get a hand held laser-not one of those that burna hole in your skin. The green kind are easier tosee but a bit more dangerous and expensive. NeyerIook directly at a laserl' Even the lasers that areweak and diffrcult to see can do damage after onlya few seconds.

    2. Get a pen spring. This is a little spring like whatyou would frnd in a "clicky" pen.

    3. Get a small mirror. No bigger than two inchesacross.

    4. Attach the mirror to the spring and the spring tosomething heavy, a block of wood should be fine.

    5. Set your laser pointer so that it's pointed at anangle to your mirror.

    6. Add some fog to a dark room and give yourspring mirror a flick. This looks way cool.

    Other cheap ways of doing super cool lasershows

    A. Buy some diffraction grating (you can find itonline) and attach it to a slow turning motor. Thediffraction grating will split your beam in to severalbeams at various angles. Add another rotating dif-fraction grating (in the opposite direction) whichslightly overlaps your first grating, and you've gotyourself a freld of laser beams going every-which-way, yet moving in a pattern.

    B. Attach a small mirror to an old speaker (not thescreen, but the actual speaker). Point your laser atit and play something trippy for music-driven lasereffecs.

    C. Attach a small mirror to a PC fan at a slightangler. Fire your laser directly at it. The laser willbounce off the mirror creating a cone. This is thepopular "time tunnel" effect. As always be sureto add fog.

    D. Get a piece of textured glass. Different textureswill give you different results. Attach the glass

    +Duh.Not while it's still in your PC.

    to a slow spinning motor and shine your laserthrough it onto a wall. You can get really amaz-ing patterns this way.

    All of the controls for your laser spectacularshould be routed to your control center.

    HologramsOkay, what we can do isn't technically "Holog-

    raphy." The truth is, this is better. Believe it or notthere have been ways to make realistic three dimen-sional proiections since the l8O0's. Our favoritemethod for doing this sort of thing is with the Pep-per's Ghost principle.+ When you look out a windowat night you can see your reflection-even if there isa full moon out. ln the reflection you look like youare standing outside the window in a semi'transparentstate. Pepper's Ghost uses the same principle. lf youhave ever been to the Haunted Mansion in DisneyWorld/Land, you have seen this spectacular illusioncome to life with the ghosts in the large dining room.Here is what you should do to get the same effect inyour game location. For the purposes of this explaina-tion we are assuming that you are builiding a set largeenough for a human-sized ghost. The instructions canbe scaled down for smaller illusions.

    First, frnd a place in your house that makes an"L" or cross shape. lt could be a hallway that has aroom halfiA,ay down it, or three rooms that are con-nected to each other, or even something as simple asa doorway. Build a "black art" set like the one seenon page 8 7 but without the platform-just a big blackvoid. Depending on the scale of your illusion theset could be big or small. Your set should be in theadioining room or space-somewhere the players can'tsee.

    Second, go get as big a piece of clear Plexiglassas you can frnd. lt needs to be at least the heightfrom your ceiling to the floor and longer than thelength of your set. lf you can't get a piece of Plexi-glass that big, get a smaller one and mask the edges ina creative way so that no one can see them or suspectthem. Set that giant piece of acrylic glass at a fortyfrve degree angle to the black art set.

    It is very important that you light the area

    * Originally called the "Dircksian Phanusmagoria"-a trick of optlcsinvented by Henry Dirks and further developed by lohn Henry Pepper inthe 1850's.



    behind the acrylic glass iust right. The lighting inthis area should be dim but not dark. A bit brighterthan candlelight perhaps. Be careful, you don't wantany light to shine on the glass iaelf since the specu-lar highlighs will be a dead giveaway. The black artarea should be lit by lighs hooked to dimmers andmasked off with some black wrap. The lighs will becontrolled by your buddy at in XDM centralcommand.

    Place chair B behind the Plexiglass and asimilar black chair A in the black art area. Testto make sure that the distance from the blackchair to the glass is equidistant to the distancefrom the glass to the normal chair. This is easyto test. Have someone sit in chair A. Look intothe glass from where your players will be sitting.lf he looks like a ghost sitting in chair B, you'vedone it. If he looks like a guy floating in front ofor behind-move chair B back and forth until theillusion is perfect.

    Now you're ready.

    l. Make sure no one goes down that hall orinto that room. As funny as it would be tosee them just slam into an invisible wall.

    2. Have your ghost actor in the black artarea, iust sitting there until it's time. Maybeyou could convince the pyrotechnition todo this, since he isn't busy iust now. Yourghost should be in a costume (nothingblack, unless you want to do a floating spirithead, which maybe you do) and wearingmakeup.

    3). When you want a ghost to appear in thechair, your buddy in the control booth williust turn the lighs up a bit in the black artset. The brighter the lights, the more solidthe ghost becomes. Have the ghost deliverhis message and then vanish from whence itcame.

    Be sure to use two dimmers. Once yourghost has appeared, fade one up and the otherdown. Then vice versa. This will create more ofan ethereal effect as parts of the ghost fade inand out.

    You can do more with this of course. We like tohave the spirit interact with things that are behind theglass. A bit of thread, and some good timing, can makeyour ghost knock over a vase or even the chair he wassitting on. You can have the players ask him questionsbefore he vanishes in an instant.



  • [rnvarEXDM

    FogThere isn't much to say here. Fog machines are

    actually quite common now days. Go to any Target atHalloween and you will frnd both floor foggers and airfoggers. Keep in mind:

    l. You want to get water based fog, not oil based.(Much easier to clean up.)

    2. You can make your own floor fogger with dryice, a large drum and a heating element, but theyare not as safe or even usually effective.

    3. Smoke machines will set off your smoke alarm.

    4. As always make sure fog can be controlled fromyour master hub at command central. You arerunning a game and don't need to be thinkingabout the lights, music, fog, and what not.



    -/ FOe! I -\

    HOPE IIIAI'S AS gAOAS 1HIS [email protected]


  • [rnnnnrEXDM

    Flash PaperA.K.A. "Burning Carpet"

    The XDM arsonist's best friend is flash paper. lt isgreat stuff. lt feels a bit like rough tissue paper and canbe folded and written on. When lit, it bursts into brightflames, leaves no residue, and is spectacular to see. Youcan frnd flash paper at any good magic shop. They sellit in large sheets and in little packes. You will usuallyget a better deal by buying it in the big shees and thencutting that sheet up as necessary. The best thing aboutFlash Paper is that it is relatively' safe. lf you do decideto do anything in this chapter despite our many warn-ings that you shouldn't.i This is a good bet.

    When you get your flash paper it will be wet. lustleave it lying out under a fan for a short time. lt will dryout quickly. Always store it in a cool place and inside aplastic container. Never leave it in a hot car, or near awindow. The stuff wanfs to burn+.

    Uses for Flash PaperCut out a piece of flash paper about 2" x 4"

    should do. Wad the paper up into a ball. Leave a littletab for you to pinch with your left hand. Hold a lighterin your right hand. Use the lighter to light the flash pa-per at the balled up end. The moment it is lit,s toss theflaming ball up and away from you. This is like throwinga real-life frreball. lt looks amazing.

    You can wrap flash paper around things like play-ing cards, coins, glass, etc. The flash paper will burn butthe obiect will not.t

    You can buy a flash paper launcher. Yes they exist.* Note that since we're talking about fire here. When we say ,,relatively

    safe" we mean in comparison to such things as nitroglycerin, fuel/airexplosives, and military-grade incendiary ordnance.f Did we mention that fire is uncontrollable, unpredictable, and downrightdangerous? lust thought we should mention this again. lf you iust have tohave a flaming effect, then flash paper is as far as you really need to go. Oh,and did we mention that frre is uncontrollable, unpredictable, and downrightdangerous?f Curtis notes: When I was twelve I almost burnt down my parent,shouse with this stuff. I had a pad of flash paper. I removed one piece andattached it to a regular piece of paper, then lit it. The flash paper went poof.It vanished, leaving the paper to burn slowly. I panicked and dropped theflaming paper-onto the pile of flash paper. WOW WHAT A BLAZEI Theblaze freaked me our even more, so I pushed the flaming flash paper off mydesk and onto the floor. Fortunately, it burned down after a moment ortwo, leaving a puddle of melted carper as a reminder not to do really stupidthings.5 When we say "moment" we seriously mean moment. lf you wait fora confirmation from your friend that the flash paper is lit, you will have afireball in your hand instead of in the air.f Don't do this with the flash paper around regular paper because theregular paper will also bum. See the previous footnote on when Curtis wastwelve. Yes, apparently he really was that stupid. Learn from his mistakes,grasshopper, and be wise,

    Our favorite is the Mestopholies Fire Ball Launchercreated by Jim Pace. lt not only will launch a ball offrre from your hands up to fifteen feet away, but alsohas a reel, so that the device will leap back into yoursleeve the moment after you use it. This allows yourhands to be displayed as empty. The MestopholiesFire Ball Launcher can be found online at www.iimpacemagic.com. While you are there, be sure tocheck out his other fire products including fire wallets,invisible torches, and the like. Great stuff.

    How to Make Flash Paper:lf you need flash paper, iust go buy some. You

    will save time, money, and fingers. But for the sake ofcompleteness, and against our own better iudgment


    we provide you with the following recipe.Go get some I anc I

    We're kidding.



  • [/rnunrEXDMexplosion happening during your game. What crary sortof RPG has explosions? Our kind!

    This isn't the sort of thing that you would do whilesitting around your mother's kitchen table, or actuallyinside any moderately sized enclosed space. Only use aflash pot in a parking lot, your drive way, or an audito-rium-some large open space-and always with severalfire extinguishers at hand.

    Truthfully, flash paper is better suited for roleplaying games. Flash Pots are more applicable to LARPsor other games that are played over large spaces. lt isimportant that you get your mother's permission to usethese if you are a male under fifty years of age..

    als here, but great when properly used. Only use insmall amounts in a flash pot. lt's usually made up of- Go online and you can find itin various colors and forms.

    Black Powder (for smoke):Black powder is actually safer than flash powder.

    lf you want your flash to have a small burst of flameand a big puff of smoke this is your stuff. Again addsome I for even more effect.

    (for sparkle):Look for I online if you want to iazz

    up your flash pot explosions with frery bits of sparkle.Again, it's best to just buy the stuff. We've seenmethods to make your own involving a coffee grinder,a rock tumbler, and a myriad of other things, but werecommend iust going online and buying the profes-sional I That way you know it wiil work,and you don't have to worry about buying a powderthat isn't fine enough.



    2. The essential and most dangerous ingredient-

    3. Tissue paper. The facial kind would be frne herebut make absolutely certain that it contains noI

    4.Visco "Safety fuse".

    5.A #10 size can. This is the size can you frnd inrestaurants and bulk food stores.

    What you will do:Step 'l: Dig a little pit that you will set this thing in.

    Do not make it too deep.

    Step 2: Punch a hole in the can using a sharp awl.iIt needs to be iust big enough for the Visco fuseto fit through.

    Step 3: Put your fuse inside so that one end isin the middle of the bottom of the can. Theremaining length should extend outside the can.It is a safety fuse so it will burn slowly, but wedon't trust you, so use more than you think youneed.

    Step 4: Pour your legally obtained -into the can. lt doesn't need to be much, butyou shouldn't be able to see the bottom of thecan when ttre I are spread out. Neyeruse more than the precisely described amount.

    Step 5: Cut out a circle of tissue paper the di-ameter of your can and place it over your

    ;,*=;,1:T'#"""u'n"ni"iili*,,,oblowup the can, killing you, and your dog, andyour neighbor's dog, too).

    Step 5: Carefully pourinto the can on top of your tissue papermaking absolutely certain I. Neyer

    As it has safety in the title, we are allowed to print this.Awls can be dangerous. Use awls with caution. Never run while

    olding an awl. Never allow small children to play with an awl. Neverllow pes near an awl. Do not attempt to use an awl while under thetffuence of certain medications. Do not drink and use an awl.

    frll the can more than two thirds of the wayuD at the mostr or else the whole thinc will

    Step 7: Make sure the area is clear. Be carful thatno one is going to walk up at the wrong momentasking, "Hey what-cha got in the can?" Assumingeverything is safe, I and get away toa minimum disteance of 45 feet. You will feel theheat of this thing! The I will ignitewhichwi l l b lowtheEinto the air and, at the sarRe time, set the resultingcloud aflame. The result is nothing short of spec-tacular.

    The Armageddon HellstormA.K.A. "NSA Blackops Hitlist"

    Have you ever been running a game for yourfriends and thought, "Boy! | really could use a realis-tic volcanic-inferno that engulfs entire city blocks in ahighly-concussive fireball. That would be the perfectend of tonight's adventure!"

    Well, of course you have! Who hasn't?Our solution to this pressing question is the Arma-

    geddon Hellstorm Display.Here is the simplest way to build one out of

    materials you probably have around your own home:

    After your plane lands you will cross the border intoI there you wiil find some lyans.When you talk to the Ivans be sure to ask forthe weapons grade I and not the I thatthey try and pass off as the real I.

    Nexr, wrtn tNrrNr l E L,.KE you genry I

    f Can you use the I in here too? You bet. Sprinkle some inas you pour in the I for a little extra glimmer in your bang.5 And we're not kidding! It will do this and probably much worsel

    First, obtain a microwave safe casserole dish.



  • [frnnnerEXDM

    a minimum dis-

    It is fun to pretend to do things like this, butthat is the entire point of role playing games-toimagine things. Indeed, the greatest display that youcould ever create will never rival the imaginationof your players. You should first and foremost relyon them being imagnitively enthralled by the game,rather than tricks and gimmicks-especially dangerousones.

    lf all else fails, remember that this informationwas given to you by non-certified pyro-magic guys ina book about gaming. We're magicians, should youreally trust us?

    tance of five miles.

    [o,EI',,Vl NOT OETT\NO



  • f,umrenf{trlVE: WoNorRs oF THE QonsDie tricks and other pointless miracles to bewitch the senses and impress dates.

    Contact lugglingNothing will make you look more like you have

    mystical powers beyond what this world can manifestthan contact iuggling. lt is an art that when success-fully performed will mesmerize your gamers and helpbreak down the walls of reality. Unfortunately it is, farand away, the hardest thing you can learn from thisbook. Contact juggling can take years to master forsome, and many years for others, but don't worry,most of you will give up long before then. Still, forthe few brave XDMs who survive, you will have anamazing tool that you can use during character mono-logs, plot exposition, and anytime you feel bored andjust want to show off your awesomeness.

    What the heck is it? For many of you, it willsuffrce to say that contact iuggling is what you sawDavid Bowie perform with a small crystal sphere in theftlm Labyrinth. For the unfortunate few of you whohave never seen the musical with ]ennifer Connellyand a barrage of Muppet goblins, let me do my bestto describe it. (Contact juggling, not the movie, whichwould do nothing more than make you say, "Peoplepaid money to see that?" But listen here buddy, youpaid good money for a book about how to be an"xtreme game mastet," so let's not throw stones.)

    They call it contact juggling because the ball

    never leaves contact with your body. Instead the ballrolls fluidly from one side of the hand to the other andback again in an organic and hypnotizing motion. ltmight then roll down your arm, across your chest, andonto the back of your other hand. Again, the ball neverleaves contact with your body. Witnesses sometimesdescribe it as watching a bubble float effortlessly fromhand to hand in smooth, sweeping motions.

    Contact iuggling was developed by Michel Motion(who also performed it for David Bowie in the movie)and has since grown so popular that almost every pro-fessional juggler will use elements of it, even during aregular "toss juggling" demonstration.

    There are various patterns and moves associatedwith this form of juggling. These are usually divided intogroups such as palm spins, body rolls, walks, holds, andso on. Here we are primarily concerned with the iconicmove known as "the butterfly."

    PreparationProfessionals sometimes disagree on the best way

    to learn, however, most of them recommend startingwith a practice ball specifrcally designed for contact iug-gling. The Mister Babache Contact Ball is such an itemwith a relatively low cost, large size, and light weight.However, feel free to use anything you can frnd. A

    6 't t tY -

  • [JrnnnerEXDM

    small silicone ball is also a viable option. Curtis startedwith a clear acrylic ball. These have a bit of weight tothem and can break things when dropped (things likelamps, windows, and feet), but when you're watchingyourself in the mirror, it looks way cooler than somelame plastic ball. You may also consider starting witha pool ball, as it has a similar weight to it but is lesscostly to damage. Finally, no matter what ball you usebe prepared to drop it over and over and over again.Dropping is the only thing you will know how to do re-ally well from the start. Congratulations.

    The ButterflyIt looks like a dance. In fact, it is named after

    a Middle Eastern dance that looks a bit similar. Themovements are a tad awkward to learn and even moreawkward to put in motion, so it is usually taught inparu then combined to create the whole. So, take adeep breath as we start you on the path few XDMs willdare to tread.

    l. First, you should get used to holding the ball onthe back of your hand. This is done by placingthe ball in the "cradle". The cradle is made upof the frrst, second, and third fingers. The secondfinger is below the other two, creating a dip or gapbetween them. The ball is then primarily balancedand held by the first and third frngers.

    Once you are in this position you need to getused to the feel of holding the ball there. Moveyour hand around so that the ball rolls over yourknuckles and then back into the cradle. Thenquickly shake your hand left and right, up and

    down, and any other direction you can, againwhile still ending with the ball in the cradle.

    2.The next thing you have to learn is how to holdthe ball in "home position." Hold your mainhand (whichever hand you write with) so thatthe palm is facing the floor iust below shoulderlevel, the arm parallel with the chest. Your elbowshould be slightly below the wrist and the handa comfortable distance from the body (aboutfour or frve inches should do it). The fingers arepointed to your left if you are right handed. Theball should be in the cradle. This is the inside or"home" position.

    3. Now toss the ball from home position up intothe air iust a little and catch it back in the cradlewith the arm still in home position. Continueto do this until you feel comfortable with largetosses and can get the ball back into the cradleeven if it moves out onto the smooth part of thehand.

    4. Now move your hand so that the palm is hori-zontal to the ceiling. Your arm takes the shape,more or less, of a server carrying a tray. This is"outside" position.

    5. Practice your tossing exercises in ouside posi-tion as well. lt will be much easier.

    6. Now the time has come to put the twotogether. This is where our method of teaching


  • WoNosRS oF rHE Qons

    varies from others. Others tell you to now tossthe ball from ouside position to inside position.Going back and forth always making your tosssmaller and smaller. Instead: Try rolling the ballin home position with a movement of your wristand elbow over your fingertips and into yourpalm in ouside position. This probably won'twork, but it will at least give you a better ideaof what we are attempting to accomplish. Next,pick the ball up off the floor and put it back inhome position. This time, roll the ball up intothe air off your fingers and catch it in ousideposition. Then do the same thing back to home.

    The focus here is rolling the ball and learningto control its motion. Practice this, making themotion smaller and smaller until you are givingthe ball iust enough energy to go over the top ofthe fingers and roll down into outside position.Repeat this step until both directions are second-nature and the ball never leaves contact withyour hand. lf you do, you will be performing ahalf butterfly.'

    7. Now learn to do it with the other hand.

    8. Before we continue, let me say that if you'vereally made it this far, congratulations. Once youcan do half butterflies in each hand you need to

    t This does look better as you get more height and more of the ball isnvealed. Still, it's harder. The cheap way of doing lt is to make the ball rollfrom the cradle up and lust in-between your first and second fingers. Doing this(eates a track that greatly helps keep the ball under control. Practlce whileslnlngon the couch. The arms of the couch wlll keep the ball from rollingtoofar away from you and makes practice in general more comfonable

    Half Butterfly

    put them together to form the full butterfly. Thiscan be done in many ways but the coolest way(and consequently the hardest way) is by doing theback-to-back transfer.

    Hold the ball in home position with your mainhand. Now put your other hand in home positionin front of that. You are going to roll the ball outof the cradle down the smooth part of your handover the smooth part of your other hand and intoits cradle. Practice this by simply moving the backhand underneath and in front of the hand that justcaught the ball. By repeating this over and over,you will not only get a hang of it but when donefluidly it's a trick known as the staircase.

    CHEAP TRICKTo make back-to-back transfer easier, shorten

    the distance the ball rolls on the smooth partof the hand. lf you must, roll it from cradleto cradle over the knuckles. Keep workingon making that disunce longer, as it loola farmore impressive.

    You could, of course, iust skip the back-to-back transfer and use the palm-to-palm which issimpler. This is done when the ball is in outsideposition. The hands move to meet in front ofthe body (your fingers pointed away from youthis time) and the ball is rolled into the palmof the receiving hand. That hand then movesback to outside position and does is half of thebutterfly.


  • [JrnunrEXDM

    9. Once you have the back-to-back transfer down,it's a simple matter of transferring the ball andcontinuing the butterfly in the receiving hand, thenreversing the motion to the other side, and so on.In the full butterfly, the ball should never stopmoving. lt is one fluid, continuous motion and is awonder to behold.

    10. lf you get that down, tryputting a small routine together.Start by doing a half butterfly,then moving to the other sideand doing a half butterfly in

    that hand. Next, move into afull butterfly mixing palm-to-

    palm transfers with back-to-backones. Then a staircase, and endback in your starting hand with the

    ball beautifully displayed at thefingertips. lf you feel like it,

    throw in the following cheaptrick, as it will draw somegasps when done right.

    CHEAP TRICKIn the middle of a butterfly or half

    butterfly try this: Move from ougide toinside position, only don't roll the ball tothe back of your hand. Instead keep it therein the palm.

    Granted, if something isn't done, the ballis destined to fly directly toward the nearestfragile obiect. So press or hook your thumbto the back of the ball and press it againstyour hand. The thumb should end up nearthe bottom, but not at the bottom, of theball. This creates the illusion that the ballis stuck to the hand and defying gravity.Tilt your hand iust slightly toward yourbody if necessary to help hide your thumb.Continue back to outside position and thenbutterfly as usual. The pacing of this isimportant. Just keep the movement of thehand and arm consistent with the rest ofyour butterflies. lt's funny and when doneright, a touch disarming.

    FinallyContact Juggling is a hard thing to learn and

    entire books have been written on the subiect. lf youwould like more information than we have room toprovide, including tricks with multiple balls, bodyroffs, walks, and much much more, check out ContactJuggling by James Ernest. There are also a number ofDVDs and other resources out there, so feel free toGoogle it.

    AppearancesEffect: The XDM walks over to a corner of the

    room and stands on a platform which you can seeunder and to the sides. He lifu a large sheet up intothe air and drops it dramatically, revealing a long lostplayer, an NPC come to life, or the pizza dude. Allwith the help of a little black art.

  • WoxosRS oF rHE Qoos

    It isn't actually as pagan as it sounds.. Magiciansfor generations have amazed the public and accom-plished all manner of feats using this ancient tech-nique. In fact it is still used in fantastic multimilliondollar illusion shows today, from David Copperfreldto Criss Angel. You can do the same thing in yourgarage for around 30 bucks.

    lmagine the stars at night. Now place a brightstreet light in the middle of that scene. Can you stillsee stars around it? The dynamic range of your visionis not large enough to make out both the dim starsand the bright light all at once. So if there was a per-son draped in black behind that light, you wouldn'tbe able to see them either. Taking this basic principlea bit further, it becomes possible to vanish, float, andbasically do anything you want with a bit of blackcloth.t

    lmagine a stage where the entire background isdraped in black velvet. A bright white ball is in themiddle of that stage. Dim lights surround the areapointing to the audience, subtly blinding them. lf ablack velvet-covered stick were to move that whiteball around the audience would see nothing morethan a white ball floating in a black void. This is abit obvious, but, when used more subtly, can reallyamaze an audience and, yes, even a gamer. But, heyeven if they don't freak out, it's about entertainmentmore than amazement in the XDM business.

    Crash Course in Black ArtFirst you, are going to need a lot of black cloth.

    lf you are rich (or own a velvet factory), then gettingyards upon yards of the perfect black material shouldnot be a problem. The rest of you have to settlefor the blackest felt you can find. The differencelies in the "reflection coefficient" each of yourmaterials possesses. In other words, how much lighta given obiect will reflect. Some of the finest blackvelvets will have a reflection coefficient of as little as.04o/o.+ Whatever the little Iight leftover (like that* Although, to be fair, more than one spiritualist cult has used thistechnique to strike fear into the hearu ofcrippled children and orphanedwidows. This is only okay if your game is being played by iust such agroup,i Only from the perspective of the audience, and only when on a blackan set. Robbing a bank with a black sheet on your head will probably lustget you shot.{ The New Make-up of Magic, Micky Hades, 1974, P.37,

    .O4o/o) must be compensated for by the use of blindinglights, also called "blinders." These lights are pointeddirectly toward your audience and act as the streetlight did in our example above. Good black art will useblinders as subtly as possible.s For example, in a stageillusion Curtis once created, the blinders were nothingmore than the one set of rear lighs slightly loweredand angled toward the audience, thereby giving theimpression that it was merely back lighting for the scenewith no ulterior motive.

    One way to further frll in the black void and in-crease the dynamic range of your setting is to use black/UV lighs. The florescent bulb variety are the best,however, the cheaper bulbs you flnd in a ioke or partyshop will work as well. By adding florescent materials tothe scene, the dynamic range increases due to the glowthat overpowers the darkness of the black material. ltcan be diffrcult making this work right, as some dust willglow under black lights as well. Keep a lint roller handy.

    How do you use black art in your game? Say thatyour players have entered the realm of doom and abeautiful magic spirit appears to tell the group what todo next. Forget telling them about it. Let's do it.

    The first thing you will need to build is a back-drop that is all black. We'll leave this part mostly upto you, however we will mention that some PVC pipe,buckets full of rocks, and some clamps can get the iobdone quickly and cheaply. You will also need to coverthe floor with the same black material, at least the areabeneath and around where your platform will go.

    $ Despite the name, "blinders" are NOT meant to permanently blind youraudience.



  • Next, you need the platform. This is the stand thatyour spirit will appear on. A good cheap option is tobuild a makeshift stage out of four or more cinderblocksand a large piece of plywood. Atuch your black mate-rial to the back of your plywood and have it hang downbehind your cinderblocks. Now place your blinders,perhaps add some fog and lasers, and you're done (seethe picture on page 87).

    Have your assistant get into position behind yourblack aft screen (the black material attached to yourboard). She can crawl there from a hole in the back-ground, or iust be lying there waiting all night until hermoment arrives. When the time comes for the spirit tomanifest herself, simply hold up a cover of some kind(usually a cloth) and, when she steps into position, letit go. Naturally, you will want some story to go alongwith all of this. Making people appear is all frne anddandy but a reason for all your odd actions is prefer-able.

    Cards aren't only Collectables

    Use the Force...*The first thing, and probably the most useful, you

    can learn about card magic is the force. A "force" isa handy way to make someone "randomly" select thespecific card or object that you secretly want them to.Yes, it really is a sort of ledit thing. We will go over themany advantages of the force in a moment, but first goget a deck of cards and follow along.

    The "Cut a Little Deeper" ForceA handy way to force someone to "randomly"

    select the card that you secretly want them to, viacutting. The name iaelf implies what you will be do-ing. You have them cut the deck, but not too deep.The first cut is placed face up on the deck then you askthem to "cut a little deeper" and turn all of those cardsface up on top of the deck. Finally, you ask them tospread through the now face-up cards until they get toa face down card. This, you tell them, is their random-ly-cut-to card. Handily enough for you, it also happensto be the original top card of the pack.

    * We swear we have never heard of this Sar Wars you speak of... despitewhat we may say elsewhere in this book. Please George, don't sue us.f l'm sorry George. I can't seem to shut up.

    The "Criss-Cross" forcetStep 1: Have someone cut the deck but not com-

    plete it.

    Step 2: Place the cut-to portion on top of the otherhalf as if you were to naturally complete the cut,only instead place it on top crosswise. Here saythat you will "mark" their cut.

    Step 3: Allow a moment for time misdirection.Then lift the crossing half off the bottom half andturn over the "cut-to card" this, again, is the topcard of the deck.

    The "Touch" ForceSo you have learned how to have them cut the

    cards to force them, but what if you want to do thathandy magician thing where the cards are spread be-tween the hands and they iust pick one? Try this:

    Preparation When no one is watching, get yourforced card to the top of the deck. Let's say thatyou are using the six of diamonds.

    Step 1 Hold the cards in your dealing hand andstart to deal off a few cards into your other hand.(For simplicity let's iust assume you are righthanded.) You should now have a few cards inyour right hand and the rest of the deck in yourleft hand. Do this as you say, "Let's have youpick a cerd."

    Step 2 Without pausing, start to spread the deckfrom your left hand into your right-over thethree or four cards already in that hand. Allyou have to do here is keep this stock of cardsunderneath the spread cards. You can do this by

    { This was invented by Max Holden in 1925.lt doesn't matter how oldit is, iust how well it works.

  • keeping the right fingers wrapped around themand allowing the spread cards to glide over thefrngertips. Say something here like, "ln fact, youcan choose from anywhere in the deck just touchany card you like.".

    Step 3 Continue to slowly spread through the cardsuntil your victim touches a card. Separate thecards below the place they indicated. You arenow holding about half the deck in one hand andthe remaining balance of cards in the other withthe touched card at the bottom of the right handspread.

    Step 4 Now, use the cards in the left hand to closethe right hand's spread over your concealedpacket of cards. The concealed packet combinesnaturally with the other cards and everything isheld together

    t Be sure to emphasize "touch" since if they pull a card out you,rehosed, You can also have them iust yell stop, which is usually easler insituations with lots of people and large tables.

    Step 5 Once the right hand packet is squared' (andyou are confident that the cards are all generallyaligned), tilt your right hand up and show thebottom card to the spectators. . .err players.+ lfeverything has gone according to plan this shouldbe the original top card: or the six of diamonds.

    Now What?So what can you do with a forced card? We can

    promise you that the most amazing things you haveever seen with cards were accomplished with a force.From a selected card appearing on the other side of agfass window to a "freely" selected card being predictedyears in advance, a card force was behind it all. Beloware some of the things that I like to do with it. As youread these please do so with XDM eyes and try to seehow these effecs can be used to entertain your playersin the natural course of a game.

    Hickman's Spectator Cuts the Aces"Spectator cuts the aces" is a very old magic

    theme, a problem that some of the finest minds inmagic have struggled to accomplish. The problem isthat you need to somehow finagle the end result (thefour aces) even though the cards are under the controlof the volunteer almost the entire time. This usuallymeans that the magician has to perform some absurd orawkward move in the action of turning the four cut-toselections over.

    This is, of course, when all the heat is on and rare-ly in magic do you want to perform the secret action aseveryone watches the exact place you do it. This is whywe have misdirection. Unfortunately, in this effect youreally can't misdirect too much because any directionaway from the cards is a bit conspicuous, and your goalis not to lead them away from the effect, but fowards it.

    Still, as we said before, many magicians have comeup with astounding ways of performing this particularfeat. However, none of them meet the directness thatwould come from the spectator actually cutting to theaces with no sleight of hand from the magician. Let mepresent to you Hickman's Spectator Cuts the Aces.

    The Secret: They actually cut to the aces.Mind blowing isn't it.

    f You may wish to give the right-hand packet an additional tap on the topto square them all the way around.f I like to turn my head away to emphasize that I couldn,t know whichcard it is.

    QOv t


  • [JrnuerEXDM1l

    The question is, how? Well if you didn't skip theabove, then the answer shouldn't surprise you becauseit's really simple. In fact, we can sum it up by sayingthat it's a combination of two Cut a Little Deeper forcesand a Crisscross force. When you combine them in aparticular way, you get a very deceptive piece of magic.

    Preparation Place three aces on the top of the deckand one ace on the bottom.

    Step 1 Tell the player that he is going to play a quickgame of "Texas Smoky" with Jack the Grifter.The winner gets whatever is relevant to the story,maybe a talking kangaroo.

    Step 2 Have the spectator do the Cut a Little Deeperforce twice. Each time place the cut-to card facedown and to the side. Remember to place the re-maining face-up cards back into the middle of thedeck face down, leaving the top and bottom cardsalways the same..

    Step 3 End by doing the Crisscross force. In theaforementioned "moment of time misdirection"show that the first and second cards they cut towere aces. Then move back to the "marked cut."Pick up the top half with your right hand an