Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Random d12

Here is random d12 from my collection.  I'm hoping to resume regular posts soon.  Happy Wednesday and game on!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Custom Game Store Dice

I haven't done a Rolling Wednesday in a while.  Today I want to show what I think is a cool idea, making custom dice for a game store.  I have some dice where the owners have put the logo of their store on the six side of a d6.   I'm not sure how much it costs to order a batch of custom dice but I think that this is a great way to advertise a store.

These are from the Dice Dojo in Chicago. Illinois

These are from Excalibur Comics, Cards, and Games in Shreveport, Louisiana
Gamers always need more dice and custom dice are great conversation starters.  I approve of game stores advertising with dice.  Game on!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Move is Done!

This summer we moved to another state.  I wrote a blog post with some advice on moving a large game collection.  The move is done and I have some more advice.

1.  Do your research!  We went with a broker instead of a regular moving company.  We did this to save money.  In hindsight we would not do this again.  All a broker does is hire a cheap mover to move your stuff.  These cheap movers are often of dubious quality and operate in the grey areas of moving laws and regulations.  I don't think our move would have been perfect if we went with a mainstream company, but I definitely would not use a broker again.

2.  Be prepared for stuff to get messed up!  Before the move I read many articles on how to pack.  They said things like, "Label boxes with fragile tiles TLO for top load only."  I wrote TLO on many boxes.  When the movers showed up they did whatever the hell they wanted.  They ignored labels and put boxes where ever they wanted.  They didn't even have stickers to mark our stuff.  If there is something that is extra-special, take it with you and don't let it go on the truck.

3.  Get heavy duty boxes!  I bought moving boxes from various stores.  When I was at Lowes there were two kinds, regular and heavy duty.  The heavy duty boxes were about double the cost of the regular.  However, they are worth it for keeping your stuff in good condition.  As I stated above, the movers threw boxes into the truck with no regard for what was in them.  Almost all of the regular boxes were sunken in by the end of the move.  This resulted in some bent books and game boxes.  The few heavy duty boxes that I bought kept their integrity.

You could say that the Axis got "crushed."  Despite the battered box all of the game components were unharmed and are in playable condition.
Moving is rough.  Next time I have to move I will do things differently.  Now we are set up in our new place and are in the process of adjusting to our new lives.  Hopefully when things are more settled I can post more.  Game on!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Suspense & Decision Magazine issue 17 is out, and I have an article in it!

Suspense & Decision is a free web-published magazine dedicated to play-by-mail gaming.  Play-by-mail is an old school style of gaming.  Flying Buffalo, publishers of Tunnels & Trolls, started out as a play-by-mail company and is still running games today.  If you want to gain some insight into the current state of the play-by-mail hobby, Suspense and Decision is a great magazine to read.  Issue 17 is out and I have an article in it.  It is a review of Duel2, a pbm game run by Reality, Inc.

You can download the latest issue, or any of the back issues, from  You can read my review of Duel2, which is a great game for people who have never tried play-by-mail.  Personally, I am intrigued by the ad on page 27 for something called Dark Commonwealth.  It appears to be a pbm role-playing game in supernatural Olde England.  Go grab a copy.  It's free!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

State of the Blog: Not at Gen Con Edition

This blog has been silent for a while.  The last post talked about how I was packing up my sizable game collecting in preparation for a move.  Well, we have moved to our new destination.  However, we still do not have our stuff.  In fact, we have been without our stuff for 48 days.  I will not bore you with the effects sleeping on an air mattress is doing to my spine or how many cooking uses I have come up with for aluminum foil.  We have been existing in a state of limbo, hitting the point where we have begun to think, "Perhaps we will never see our stuff again."

While all the lucky gamers are running around Gen Con looking at the new edition of Twilight Imperium or Paizo's new sci-fi rpg Starfinder, I sit in a bare room typing this post.  I did bring my Magic the Gathering cards with me, as well as a copy of the new Conan rpg and my copy of Star Fleet Battles.  I didn't pack the Magic cards because I wanted to have something to play while our stuff was in boxes, and the Conan rpg and Star Fleet Battles arrived in the mail after our belongings were carted off.  However, without a table or a group, these games are sitting in the closet.  Also, my energy has been drained by the move and it has been hard to think about gaming.

I am still playing two PBM games, Hyborian War and Starweb.  I hope to head down to the local game stores and play some Magic, but right now we are at the mercy of other people's agendas and schedules.  In fact, this move reminds me of an online Diplomacy game that I am playing.  I have one Austrian army that is being pushed around between Italy and Turkey.  Maybe one day I will get one of my home centers back, just like one day we may get our stuff delivered.

I hope this post leads to more.  Good luck and good gaming to everyone! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Moving Your Game Collection!

There hasn't been a post for a while as we are in the process of packing up our house.  So today's post is a warning to all the collectors out there.  Moving a huge game collection is no joke.  Here are some tips.

1.  Stop buying games right now!

Seriously, do you need more games?  How many rpg splat books do you own already?  Look at your collection.  Have you played all of those games?  Start enjoying what you have.  At the very least think about buying PDFs instead of game books.  I will admit that while I have been packing I have received my copy of the new Conan rpg and a copy of Starfleet Battles.

 2.  Give games away!

I did follow this rule.  Are there games you will not play again?  Games you won't play?  Spread the love and give them to someone who will enjoy them.  Sell them, trade them, give them to a teacher. Every game out of the collection is one less game you have to pack up.

3.  Use all available space!

There is a popular board game podcast called The Dice Tower.  The host, Tom Vasel, moved a large game collection from South Korea to Florida.  I listened to his podcast during the move and he talked about fitting games inside other games.  Think about all the empty space in those game boxes.  Shove a few card games in there.

In the above picture I have placed the My Little Pony ccg inside a wargame box.  Strange bedfellows for sure, but the more I can condense the better.

Here is another example where I fit my Heroclix maps inside another wargame.

For all of you who have moved a game collection, I salute you.  It is a tough task.  I leave you with a few more photos of the job.

 A table full of games!

So many they spill onto the floor!

A tightly packed box!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Quickest Kickstarter Ever!

I got my Diminishing Knight dice in the mail last week!  I would have posted them last Wednesday but I already had a post ready to go.  They are nice and big and I even got a cool fridge magnet.  Hats off to Black Oak Workshop.  This is one of the fastest Kickstarter fulfillments I have ever had.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rolling Wednesday:

There are various dice rollers on the internet.  Today I wanted to share one of my favorites,  This site is actually a site for generating random numbers.  They explain how most computer programs use pseudo-random methods to create random numbers. uses "atmospheric noise" to produce truly random results.  There are some great articles explaining how the site works and how it achieves randomness.  My favorite is the article that shows two bitmaps side by side; one generated by and one by the Microsoft Windows random number generator.

There are two ways that you can use as a dice roller.  They have a dedicated die-roller page, where you can roll up to 60 six-sided dice at a time.

I rolled boxcars on

If you want to roll other types of dice then you have to use the integer generator.  You can have it generator a number between 1 and 20 for a good old d20 roll.

I've set it up to generate a d20 roll.  Note that you can have it generate more than one number at a time.
I rolled a 4 has other great uses.  You can use it to randomize lists, shuffle a deck of cards, pick lotto numbers, and even white noise.  I use it in education to randomize lists of students and answer choices.  They have an app that you can download.  The app has a coin flipper that allows you to pick different coin images.  You know nerds made it because one of the coins that you can use is Two-Face's double-headed coin.  The app gives you the coin flipper for free and for a small fee you can unlock the other features.

Two-Face's coin on the app

Rolling character stats on the app is a cool website and it is worth a visit to see what it can do.  I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Stone Dice

Today's dice is a set of stone six-siders that I picked up at the Natural History Museum in Houston.  They are nice and hefty.  I don't dare roll them because I am afraid that I will either break the dice or the table.  They look cool and make great props, though.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Round Dice

This is a round die.  It belonged to a pair but I lost the other one long ago.  The die has a weight inside of it.  You roll the die and the weight eventually brings it to a stop.  I loved my round dice when I was a kid.  I thought they were really neat.  The problem with them is that the results are not always clear.  Sometimes they will stop "in between" numbers,  Anyway, it is a cool die to have in the collection.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

State of Gaming: Play-by-Mail

I have been very busy.  Real life events are drastically cutting into gaming time.  I would love to have 3-4 hour chunks of time to dedication to a board game or an rpg session.  Instead, I am getting 15 minute chunks of time sandwiched between frantic activity and exhaustion.  I began some play-by-mail games in order to get my gaming fix while real life devours my time and energy.  They work well because in my 15 minute chunks of free time I can prepare my turns, send them off, and then all I have to do is wait for my turn results to arrive.  I am currently playing two games and I signed up for a third.

"Your play-by-mail turn has arrived!"

Duel2 is a game of gladiator combat run by Reality Simulations.  In the game you have a stable of five gladiators in a fantasy world.  There are elves, orcs, and other fantasy races but magic and spells do not factor into the gameplay.  Each turn you pick one to five of your gladiators that you wish to fight.  You arm them and pick their fighting strategy.  You can also challenge warriors and avoid challenges, which adds some strategy to the game.  Each turn you receive a print-out describing the fights.

I like the game.  It is simple and fun.  I have graduated from the newbie arena and am currently fighting in Aruak City.  I plan to write up a review of this game soon.  If you are new to play-by-mail Duel2 is a a great game to start with.

Hyborian War

Hyborian War is a war game that is also run by Reality Simulations.  As the name suggests it takes place during the Hyborian Age created by Robert E. Howard.  Each player controls a kingdom, and you have the choice of playing a large, medium, or small kingdom.  I am currently ruling Punt, a small kingdom.  This game is a grand simulation.  You engage in diplomacy, spying, and warfare.  When battles occur you decide how to line up your troops, what strategy to use, and what spells to cast.

The big draw for this game is that it takes place in the world of Conan.  According to the rules Conan wanders around the map and can show up in your kingdom.  The game is a good low-fantasy wargame.  I have the found the rules to be a tad confusing but I am having fun with the game.  If you sign up to play I recommend the site  It has forums for people playing Hyborian War and is full of advice and strategy tips.  You will need to register for an account to view anything.


Starweb is a science fiction exploration/wargame run by Flying Buffalo.  I have read the rules and signed up for a game.  That brings me to one of the downsides of play-by-mail, waiting for games to start.  It can take months for companies to have enough players sign up before they can start a game.  I encourage anyone reading this to try a play-by-mail game if only for the reason that we can get some games started faster!

Starweb is a game in which space travel takes place through a series of warp gates.  You spend your time exploring gates, taking over planets, and battling and trading with other players.  There are different roles, for example you can play a race of killer robots or a group of religious fanatics a la Dune.  There is an interesting game mechanic where each player bids a certain number of points at the beginning of the game.  Those numbers are averaged and then the game's stopping point is set from that average.  When the game starts I will post more about my experience with it.

I have been happy with my play-by-mail experiences.  If you want to learn more about the state of play-by-mail gaming check out the following resources:

Suspense and Decision

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Pizza Dice (and more!) Kickstarter

This is another shout out for a dice Kickstarter.  Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo (the company that publishes Tunnels and Trolls) is doing a Kickstarter to make more of his pizza dice.  Pizza dice are a product that Flying Buffalo sells.  The idea is that you roll the dice and they tell you what pizza toppings to get.  The faces of the old pizza dice were printed.  The esteemed Mr. Loomis is trying to raise money for a mold, so that the new pizza dice will be engraved.

The old pizza dice.  The new ones will have the words engraved in the faces.

You don't just get two pizza dice with this Kickstarter.  For ten dollars you get ten dice.  Two pizza dice, five adventure dice (for generating things like traps and treasure), a nuclear die, a monster reaction dice, and a fast food die.

My description does not do this project justice so please check out the Pizza Dice Kickstarter.

I will end by saying that I have been ordering products from Rick over at Flying Buffalo for ten years.  He has some of the best gaming products for the best value around.  His customer service is excellent.  Plus, he sells one of my favorite rpgs (Tunnels and Trolls!).

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Adventures in Free Gaming: Federation Commander - First Missions

I love free games.  This week I got to play another free game that I downloaded off of the internet.  It is called Federation Commander - First Missions.  Federation Commander is a streamlined version of the Star Trek inspired wargame Star Fleet Battles.  Just like Star Fleet Battles, the game's publisher has posted a beginner version of the game online.  I have posted before about Star Fleet Battles.  My advice is to start with Federation Commander first.

Federation Commander: First Missions is a 34 page PDF that contains all of the rules, maps, and counters that you will need to play the game.  The rules include a Federation and Klingon ship and two scenarios.  The rules are a stripped-down version of the Federation Commander rules, as rules for drones and seeking weapons (missiles) are removed and some of the more complex movement rules are missing.  However, this does not diminish from the rich tactical experience that the game provides.

The game simulates space combat between a Klingon and Federation warship.  During the game you use energy to power your ship's movement and weapons.  The game reminds me of Car Wars in that you pick your speed and then that speed determines on which part of the turn you move.  The game is very tactical as maneuvering your ship correctly can mean life or death.  Weapons have certain firing arcs so you want to be in the right position to send your photon torpedoes down your enemy's throat.

The two ships fight it out.  These counters are actually from the Star Fleet Battles PDF.
Energy is the currency of the game.  Your ship produces energy from its warp engines.  Energy is used for movement, firing weapons, and reinforcing shields.  This will put you in situations where you will have to make tough choices, such as do you save energy for firing your weapons or do you use it to repair that damaged shield?  Also, if your engines take damage then you will produce less energy.

My Klingon Battlecruiser
This game makes me feel like I am a true spaceship captain.  I have to manage my ship while trying to outfox my opponent.  The PDF comes with two scenarios.  One is a ship vs. ship duel, which is what we played.  The other is a convoy scenario.  The PDF is easy to read and contains counters and a hex map that you will need to print out in order to play the game.  My only complaint is that the PDF has a decorative border running down the side of each page.  The border is a black strip with stars on it.  It may look nice but it eats up ink when printing, so I went to Kinko's to print out my copy.

My opponent shortly before being disintigrated
If you are into Star Trek or space combat then I would check this game out.  Also, if you think Star Fleet Battles seems too complex then try out Federation Commander first.

Federation Commander: First Missions

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Slot Machine Dice

Appendix F of the first edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide has rules and descriptions for gambling games that can be used in a campaign.  Gygax included two ways to model a slot machine using standard six-sided dice.  I was able to take this concept and improve on it.  I have a set of dice with slot machine symbols on them.

I pulled these dice out during a Hackmaster campaign.  The characters were in a city that had a large gnome population.  The gnomes were specialists at making all sorts of magical and mechanical devices.  The tavern that the characters were in had a slot machine.  I passed over the dice and let the players wager their gold.

The dice themselves are white plastic six-sided dice.  The symbols are printed on the sides.  I acquired them in a set that contained 5 different dice games (poker dice, put and take, bowling dice, slot machine dice, and standard six -sided dice).  The slot dice were a nice little prop to add some flavor to a standard tavern scene.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Random D4

Here is a random four-sided die from my collection.  This one is white with red numbers.  I find the d4 to be the most mystical die, due to its pyramid shape.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cool Resources on the Internet: The Tower of the Elephant

Many tabletop gamers are also fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian.  The Conan stories are listed in the venerable Appendix N in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide.  Howard published numerous Conan stories, and writers such as L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and others have added to the cannon.  Marvel comics produced a great run of Conan comics and the excellent black and white magazine The Savage Sword of Conan.  Dark Horse Comics has reprinted many of these and continues to produce new Conan comics.

Marvel's adaptation of "The Elephant in the Tower" form The Savage Sword of Conan

Today I want to talk about the Conan tale “The Tower of the Elephant”.  This is a classic D&D adventure story, as it involves Conan breaking into a wizard’s tower to steal treasure.  I think that this is one of the reasons tabletop gamers find Conan to be such an alluring character.  Conan behaves more like a D&D character than many other fantasy heroes.  He steals, he is always fighting, and he generally looks out for himself.  I am writing about this story because there are some cool free internet resources available for gamers that relate to "The Tower of the Elephant".

I. The Story
According to Wikisource, “The Tower of the Elephant” is in the public domain.  I highly encourage you to support authorized editions of Howard’s work such as The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.  However, you can click on the following link and read the story for free:

II.  The D&D Adventure
Mongoose Publishing put out an adventure for their D20 Conan rpg called Conan and the Tower of the White Elephant.  That module is currently out of print.  However, the excellent D&D fanzine Footprints has an issue in which someone wrote an adventure based on the story.  The issue is free and it is stated out for Basic D&D, AD&D, and most retro-clones.  Make sure to check out other issues of Footprints, as they are full of awesome material for your fantasy role-playing games.  Here is the link:

III.  The Text Adventure Game
Any gamer who is old enough to remember descending armor class should be familiar with text adventure computer games.  These were games where you read a paragraph and then typed in your instructions using certain commands.  Zork is one of the earliest and most famous, although I had fun playing the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy game when I was young.  Someone has created a free text adventure game based on “The Tower of the White Elephant”.  The link is below:

IV:  Cromcast Podcast
I would be remiss if I did not mention the Cromcast podcast.  The Cromcast is a show dedicated to the fiction of Robert E. Howard and has many shows about Conan.  Their main page can be found at Episode number 3 is about “The Tower of the Elephant”.  This show is where I found out about the text adventure game. You can listen to it by clicking on the following link:

Cromcast Episode 3

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Jade Gaming News RPG Character Dice

Today I will be showing the RPG Character Dice that I recently ordered from Jade Gaming News.  These dice are sold in two sets, one for 3rd edition D&D and Pathfinder and one set for 5th edition D&D.  The sets include two six-siders with alignments, an eight-sided die with races, and a twelve-sided die with classes.  I ordered the factory reject 3rd edition set and a jumbo race die.

I rolled a chaotic evil dwarf fighter!
The factory reject dice were cheaper than the regular set and I am very happy with them.  I haven't examined them closely but I don't really see any obvious blemishes or defects.

I got a lawful neutral elf sorcerer!
These dice are cool and I don't think that I will ever get tired from rolling up random character options.

I love the halfing graphic
 The race die is hefty and has nice graphics.  It is 24mm and well made.

Half-orc!  Take that 2nd edition!
You can order your own sets at the Jade Gaming Shop.  Prices are in Canadian dollars.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Gamescience D12

Today we have a Gamescience twelve-sided die that I rescued out of the bulk dice bin at my FLGS.

Look at that shiny orange die!

The die is a nice clear orange.  I really like the way that it looks.  It is not inked, but I don't think that I will ever want to ink it.  The die has a jewel-like appearance that would be marred by the inking process.

You can make out the tell-tale spruce mark that Gamescience dice have.
If you don't own any Gamescience dice I would definitely pick some up.  Head on over to their website and browse.

They have tons of other stuff, including TWERPS, a role-playing game that only has one stat.  Check them out.

Friday, March 3, 2017

State Sanctioned Looting

I recently took a graduate class on the Age of Napoleon.  Napoleon is a figure that I have heard much about but knew very little.  One of the main books for the class was Napoleon: a Life by Andrew Roberts.  This is a thorough biography of Napoleon that I would recommend to those who are serious about the topic.  It is a hefty, 926 page book that is full of detail.  One of the interesting facts that I learned is that when Napoleon conquered Italy he took vast amounts of paintings, manuscripts, sculptures, and other art pieces back to France.  This continued throughout his campaigns.  One of the most famous and culturally significant items taken was the Rosetta Stone from Egypt.  This gave me the idea that if you are running a dungeon looting campaign, have the party be sanctioned by a conquering force to go and “acquire” artifacts of value.  

The Rosetta Stone, worth 10,000 xp

Here is the campaign idea.  The group is attached to an invading force.  Perhaps it is an army liberating the land from the Lich Lord’s undead hordes.  Maybe the army is just conquering a neighboring province for the king that the PCs owe allegiance.  The characters are sent on missions by the leader of the invading force to find certain artifacts.  They have to explore the Dungeon of Despair, avoid traps, kill monsters,  and locate the mythical Sword of Soul Rending.  If you need some more role-playing and intrigue, then send characters to a recently liberated town.  They need to question the locals and find the Tome of Eldritch Power.  They will have to search for clues while dealing with tensions between collaborators, hidden rebels, and local townspeople just trying to survive.

The main thing that you can get from this plot is a legitimate reason as to why the characters are running around and stealing treasure.  Instead of being random murderhobos, the characters have some real authority behind their actions.  They have a group in power sanctioning them and they have to deal with the consequences of that position.  They can appeal to their leader for help and supplies.  They also have to deal with mobs of angry peasants who just had their fields burned down and who don’t give a damn about the King’s Order of Writ that the characters have.  This idea could easily be applied to other genres such as science fiction and steampunk.  Good luck and happy looting!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Rolling Wednesday

Today we have a six-sided die with a skunk on it.  That is all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: The Diminishing Knight Die Kickstarter

I have been trying to cool it on Kickstarters this year.  However, I do love dice and I was intrigued by the Diminishing Knight Die Kickstarter.  I researched the company and they have come through on their past projects.  For $10 you can get a pair of their dice.  I will admit that I had a brain fart when I looked at their campaign.  I thought, "Huh, that is neat.  The dice have a picture of a knight losing his limbs one by one.  That is cool."  It took me a little bit of time to figure out the reference.  I backed for a pair.  Check them out.

It's just a flesh wound!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Using Codes in Your Games: The Playfair Cipher

Today I would like to talk about using codes in you role-playing games.  I once read some advice that said giving players a code to solve during the game would bog everything down.  Players would whine that they would just want to make a skill roll rather than try to decode some jumble that you prepared for them.  I agree with 70% of this statement.  In my opinion the appropriate place for codes in you games is in between sessions.  Send your players a coded message a few days before game night.  This will pique their interest and get them psyched up for the session.  I even have a code that I would suggest that you use.  It is called the Playfair Cipher.

I first learned of the Playfair Cipher when I read the book Maelstrom by Paul Preuss.  This is the second book in the Venus Prime series, which is a set of science fiction stories based on concepts created by Arthur C. Clarke.  The main character in the Venus Prime books is a woman who is enhanced with cybernetics and uses her powers to solve mysteries.  The author included a scene where two of the characters exchange a message using a Playfair Cipher.  Preuss even includes an explanation of the Playfair Cipher in the back of the book.

The Playfair Cipher involves picking a five letter word as a key word,  This key word is then used to arrange the alphabet into a grid.  The message is then turned into code using the grid.  To code and decode the message, all you need is the key word.  I think that this is an apt code to use with your role-playing group because it is fun to send then a message with a key word themed to your game.  Also, there are websites that will code and decode Playfair Cipher messages for you, so if your players are too busy with school/work/family life they can pop the key word and message into the site and have it decoded for them.

So how does the Playfair Cipher work?  First, you need a five letter key word.  I am going to encode a message for a Delta Green game so I will use the word DELTA as my key word.  You will then make a 5x5 grid of the alphabet with your key word being the first row.

D  E  L  T  A

DELTA is the first row for our grid.  You then write the remaining letters row by row, omitting letters that are already in the key word.  Standard practice for Playfair Ciphers is to combine I and J into one letter.  So the next line of the grid would look like so:

D  E  L  T  A
B  C  F  G  H

Notice that D and E are left out of the second row since they are already in the first row. You would continue in this fashion until you write the entire alphabet in your 5x5 grid.

D  E  L  T  A
B  C  F  G  H
I  K  M  N  O
P  Q  R  S  U
V  W  X  Y  Z

Notice that the J is missing.  That is because I and J occupy the same place and often people will put IJ in that spot on the grid.

Now you need your message that you will code.  My message will be "Innsmouth has fallen".  First, take the message and divide it into blocks of two letters.  There are a few rules you must follow.  If a block of two letters contain the same letter, then they need to be separated by an X.  Also, if the message contains an uneven number of letters place an X at the end.  Therefore, our message -


would be broken down into:

/in/ /ns/ /mo/ /ut/ /hx/ /ha/ /sf/ /al/ /le/ /nx/

The crux of the Playfair Cipher is that every combination of two letters has a corresponding combination located in the grid.  Therefore, if you can recreate the grid then you can decode the message that was encoded using that grid.  Here are the rules for encoding messages with a Playfair Cipher.  If the two letters are located in the same row of the grid, then substitute each letter for the letter to its right.  For example, the first block "in" would become "ko".  If the letters are located in the same column, then the letters are substituted for the letters in the spot below.  The next block, "ns", would become "sy".  The letters "mo" would become "ni", as the grid wraps around and "i" is considered to the right of "o".

The next rule is a little tricky.  Let's say two letters don't fall in the same row or column.  Let's look at the third block of letters, "ut".  The U and T form the corner of a rectangle in the grid.

*  *  *  T  A
*  *  *  G  H
*  *  *  N  O
*  *  *  S  U
*  *  *  *  *

The "u" and "t" are replaced with the letters in the corresponding corner of the rectangle that is created.  Thus, the "u" would become "s" and the "t" becomes "a".  So "ut" becomes "sa".  The next block in the message, "hx" would become "fz".

*  *  *  *  *
*  *  F  G  H
*  *  M  N  O
*  *  R  S  U
*  *  X  Y  Z

Continuing with these rules, the letters in the message encode to:

/ko/ /sy/ /ni/ /sa/ /fz/ /oh/ /rg/ /dt/ /tl/ /my/

Then you just string them together and you have your encoded message:


To decode the message you take the key word DELTA and make the grid.  Use the rules for encoding in reverse (i.e. letters in the same row move to the left, letters in the same column move up, etc.) and you can decode the message.  Ignore extraneous Xs and you have your decoded message.

I know what you are thinking.  Your players are too lazy to go through all that trouble.  My answer to that is that there are handy websites that will decode the message for them.  The one that I like is  Head on over to the site, change the encrypt setting to decrypt, type in DELTA for the alphabet key, and paste in the coded message where it says "your message".  The site also has a nice explanation for using the Playfair Cipher in case mine was too confusing.

Teach your players the Playfair Cipher at your next session.  Tell them that you will be emailing them a coded message before the next game session.  Send them this message:



Tell them that if they greet their handler with the correct message in-game they will get a special weapon/item.  The feeling of intrigue will help build excitement before the game.  

I would practice doing a few ciphers on your own.  I had to do two or three to get the hang of them.  Use the rumkin website to check your work.  Then use coded messages in your campaign!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Mystery Die

Today's die is a wooden six-sider that I picked up while cleaning up at my in-laws.  It measures 15mm.  One side has a purple dot, one side has a black dot. two sides have a green dot, and two sides are blank.  It is well used.  I have no idea where it came from.  My guess is that it is from a European family game made in the 1980s.  If you know what this die was originally used for, please comment.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Model Review: SD Gundam Ex-Standard GN-001 Gundam Exia

Today I am going to talk about something a little different, but still just as nerdy as the other things I discuss on this blog.  I am going to review a model kit.

Recently I purchased a model kit from my local Hobby Town.  A friend of mine told me that he has been building Gundam models and he invited me to a model building day.  I went down to the store to check it out.

I used to build models when I was a kid.  I loved snap kits.  I was less of a fan of kits where I had to glue the pieces together, and I was not a fan of having to paint anything.  Gundam models seem to be made for nerds like me.  Most are pre-painted or use stickers.  Most kits have snap-together pieces that do not require glue.  Also, they are giant robots!  I have seen a few Gundam episodes to understand that the franchise is about giant fighting robots.  I was intrigued so I asked my friend some questions and I picked up a Gundam kit to take home.  The one I chose was called "SD Gundam Ex-Standard GN-001 Gundam Exia".  The kit cost $6.99 plus tax.

Picture of the box

The kit came with five sprues and sheet of stickers.  Did I mention that I hate stickers?  Luckily I enlisted the help of my ten year old daughter.  The only tool I used was an X-Acto knife and my daughter used a pair of tweezers for the tiny stickers.  First, the stickers were surprisingly easy to use and looked good on the model.  Second, the pieces were very forgiving and easy to fit together. Third, once the model was together the completed figure had great articulation.

The finished product

This model was a total win.  I had no experience with the whole Gundam model experience before building this.  I will definitely buy another one.  The kit was a great value.  The box said for ages 15 and up but my daughter did %80 of the building.  There was no glue, no mess, and I got to spend the evening building a cool robot with my kid.  I rate this model a win.


Easy to build
No glue or paint required
Final figure has articulate


The store only had one in stock otherwise I would have bought more!

I do know that Gundam kits can get more expensive and more complex.  I would definitely recommend this particular kit as a great entry point.  Go Gundam!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: A D6 Inside a D6

Today's die is a six-sided die inside another six-sided die.  My wife got this for me at a Montessori convention.  The outside transparent plastic cube is 30mm and the white die enclosed within appears to be 16mm.  The idea is that you can roll one die and get the result of rolling two dice!  I like using it as a gelatinous cube miniature.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Witch and Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Winter Witch

Winter Witch:  My second review for the 2017 Witch and Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham is a fantasy novel set in the Pathfinder world of Golarion.  The beginning of the book starts with a pseudo-viking village being attacked by minions of of the winter witches.  They are looking for a child who is born with magical abilities.  We get a nice action-packed battle scene.  The book fast-forwards fifteen years as the sister of the magical child has traveled south on a mission to secure her rescue.

Winter Witch reads like a fun role-playing campaign.  The main characters join a caravan and trek to the frozen north to the city of the winter witches.  There are lots of standard fantasy tropes with interesting twists on them.  There is a magic school originally built for gnomes, marauding nomad warriors for the characters to fight on their trek,  and the titular winter witches.  My favorite part of the book is how one of the characters uses drawing and art to cast magic.  This book is a quick read full of fights, magic, and spellbinding places.   I recommend it to fans of fantasy and Pathfinder.

Gaming Inspiration:

If you are a Pathfinder fan then this book will give you background information the cities of Korvosa and Whitethrone as well as the winter witches themselves.  If you are not a Pathfinder player this book is still full of useful items for a fantasy game.  You can use the characters as NPCs and use the locales in your own campaign.  I would steal the art magic that one of the main characters uses for my game.  I give this book 2 natural 20s.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: Misprinted Dice

Today's die is a weird misprinted six sider that I found at my local game store.  I was digging around in the bin of single dice and I found this red d6 that captivated me.  I really liked the color and the design.  When I started to roll it while gaming I noticed that the die had some problems.  One side was blank and it had three pips embossed on two sides.  Also, one side bulges out.  I'm not sure what I will do with it.  I like the red too much to get rid of it.

It's unique.

From one angle it appears to be normal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rolling Wednesday: A Huge d12

This is a twelve-sided die that I took from a copy of the board game Global Pursuit.  I usually don't like to split up components from a boxed game.  However, this d12 was too enticing and I can always replace it with a regular d12.  The twelve-sided die has such an awesome look to it and yet it is one of the most underused dice in role playing.  Whenever I have an opportunity to roll a d12, particularly for damage, I make sure to use this giant dodecahedron.

Now that is a barbarian hit die! 
Next to a U.S. quarter for scale

Monday, January 23, 2017

Witch and Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead:  My first review for the 2017 Witch and Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison is the second book in her urban fantasy "The Hollows" series.  I reviewed the first book, Dead Witch Walking, back in 2015.  Dead Witch Walking set up the series as it ended with Rachel Morgan severing her official ties with law enforcement and becoming an independent runner.  The Good, the Bad, and the Undead starts with her working on her own.  Rachel is a witch who lives with her vampire roommate/business partner.  They run Vampiric Charms, a private investigation/bounty hunter firm located in Cincinnati.  In this book Rachel has to track down a killer who has been targeting ley line witches.

Harrison adds more depth and background to all of her characters in this book.  We learn more about Rachel's history as well as the world of the Hollows, where vampires, witches, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures exist alongside humans.  One of the strengths of this series is how Harrison explores the practical and legal matters that have arisen because of this arrangement.  For example, I like how demons are not held accountable for their actions in court, since when a pact is made with them that are compelled to complete it.  Thus they have a status similar to weapons.  Another thing I like about the book is the humor and levity.  The fun parts help to keep the story moving along quickly.  I enjoyed the book.  My favorite parts of these books is Harrison's world-building.  My only criticism is that the main mystery is solved but its solving felt anticlimactic.  I would recommend this to fans of urban fantasy.

Gaming Inspiration

This book and series is great inspiration for anyone running an urban fantasy campaign, particularly one in which supernatural creatures exist in the open.  Harrison provides some fresh takes on familiar creatures.  Vampires exist in living and dead versions.  The rules for dealing with demons  is explored more in this book.  These rules are perfect for any game that features demonic pacts.  If you need some fresh takes on urban fantasy, particularly with how legal and bureaucratic issues would intersect with the supernatural, the Hollows series is a great place to look.