3e’s level 8 and 9 cleric spells

June 29th, 2014 by paul

In the transition from second edition D&D to third edition, lots of rules were re-examined. For instance, why do clerics only have seven spell levels while wizards get nine?

In older versions of D&D, clerics were half-casters, half-fighters. In OD&D, for instance, clerics didn't get a spell till second level, and they topped out with fifth-level spells and 15 total spell slots, while wizards had twice as many spell slots and sixth-level spells.

The 3e designers decided that clerics were full casters and should get level 9 spells. In the long run, that would lead to complaints that clerics were now as overpowered as wizards: maybe both should have been capped at 7th level spells! In the short term, it meant that the 3e designers had to write a bunch of new level 8 and 9 cleric spells. That was a tall order, considering that the level 7 spells let you spawn natural disasters, resurrect people, and summon Asmodeus. Where do you go from there?

The designers used a couple of strategies: 1) promote 7th level spells to higher levels; 2) move spells over from the wizard spell list; 3) create super-powered versions of existing spells; and 4) actually make up new spells. Let's go over all the new spells.

SPELLS PROMOTED FROM LEVEL 7:

Earthquake and Firestorm moved to level 8: These spells indiscriminately kill lots of people in a huge area. Don't worry, the mass-slaughter gap in the level 7 spell list was replaced with a new spell, Mass Inflict Serious Wounds.
Symbol of Death and Symbol of Insanity moved to level 8: Actually, 2nd edition has one tidy wizard spell, Symbol, with lots of options, and a more limited clerical version. 3e divided the wizard spell up into 8 spells from levels 5 to 8 and made it available to both classes. I prefer a single spell to spell list bloat, but fine.
Astral Projection and Gate moved to level 9: These ultimate planar travel spells let you go visit Zeus if you want, or make Zeus come to you, and deserve to be bumped up to level 9.
Energy Drain moved to level 9: In 2e, this was actually the reverse of the level 7 spell Restoration. In 3e, Restoration was left at 7 but the reverse was moved to 9 (because people hate energy drain).

SPELLS COPIED FROM THE WIZARD LIST

Antimagic Field copied from wizard 8 to cleric 8: Because both magical disciplines should be able to build annoying trick dungeons. It would be cool if the wizard version only cancelled divine spells and the cleric version only cancelled arcane spells, but alas, I was not consulted.
Summon Monster VIII, Summon Monster IX: The 2e Monster Summoning spell chain, seven spells, was expanded to 9 spells and copied to the cleric list. This whole series has always felt to me like spell bloat, never more than in 3e.

"GREATER" VERSIONS OF EXISTING SPELLS

Create Greater Undead, level 8: Skeletons and zombies? Peh! This spell lets you raise shadows, wraiths, spectres, and devourers. How often has your 2e cleric lamented, "Oh for a devourer to call my own!" Prayers answered!
Cure/Inflict Critical Wounds, Mass, level 8, and Heal, Mass, level 9: In 3e, the traditional Cure Wounds spells were given out earlier, and the high-level gaps were filled by "Mass" versions of each spell that let you cure the whole party at once.
Dimensional Lock, level 8: This is a puzzler. 2e and 3e both have the sixth-level spell Forbiddance. As far as I can tell, Dimensional Lock is a less powerful version of this lower level spell - smaller area, more limited duration, and it doesn't damage your enemies. It seems like it should be a 4th-level spell.
Planar Ally, Greater and Spell Immunity, Greater, level 8: You get more hit dice on your yugoloth and more spell levels in your /ignore list.
True Resurrection, level 9: First there was Raise Dead. Then Raise Dead Fully in the Greyhawk supplement, renamed Resurrection in AD&D. 3e added True Resurrection, which you can cast on some random guy you never met who died ten years ago. So right now I could cast it on Richard Pryor or Pat Morita, if I had a spare diamond worth 25,000 GP.

ACTUALLY NEW SPELLS

OK, here it is, the meat of the matter: the all-original 3e cleric spells! Was it worth the addition of two extra spell levels? Let's find out!

Level 8: 2 new spells!
Cloak of Chaos/Shield of Law/Holy Aura/Unholy Aura: I'm counting this as a single spell, though it's listed four times, one for each cardinal alignment. This gives you buffs against attackers of the opposite alignment: mostly boring stat boosts to AC and saves and stuff, but attackers also get one cute themed debuff: confusion for Cloak of Chaos, for instance. This isn't a very exciting spell, but considering all the save or die spells in 3e, the bonus to saving throws might be important in some bizarre theoretical metagame.
Discern Location: This lets you find a guy, like, "Where did Pat Morita go after I resurrected him?"

Verdict: New level 8 spells: not that great.

Level 9: 5 new spells!
Etherealness: Previous editions let you travel to the Astral Plane but there was no spell that took you to the Ethereal Plane. How did players of previous editions steal all the Leomund's Secret Chests?
Implosion: This spell lets you kill a guy every six seconds. OK, that seems like a true level 9 spell!
Miracle: The divine version of Wish is cool because you're humbly asking your god for something, not casting a spell and feeling entitled to it. It's arguably the only religious spell in the entire cleric spell list. I can imagine a cleric variant who got this spell at level 1, and no other spells.
Soul Bind: This permutation of the earlier-edition Trap the Soul is necessary to counter the new True Resurrection spell. It makes True Resurrection impossible on a specific dead guy. So you could cast it on Pat Morita if you'd really prefer I spent my 25k diamond resurrecting Richard Pryor.
Storm of Vengeance: You'd think this would be an upgrade of the level 8 Fire Storm, but like Dimensional Lock, it's something of a downgrade. Fire Storm does 17d6 or more damage to everyone in one round. Storm of Vengeance has a big list of fiddly effects over the course of 10 rounds, some of which are situationally useful (like deafening people, creating concealment) but the damage output is lower. What Storm of Vengeance really has going for it is area. It covers something like 16,000 5-foot squares. So if your enemies are standing really far away from each other, you can probably still deafen them.

Verdict: New 9th level spells: Some are decent! Implosion and Miracle seem appropriately hefty.

missing fields on the 1e character sheet

June 23rd, 2014 by paul

In the player-creation process as detailed in the 1e Players Handbook, you roll your stats, choose race/class/alignment, and then "establish your character," which means 1) making up a name, 2) writing a will, 3) renting an apartment, 4) buying equipment, 5) meeting the other PCs, and 6) acquiring hirelings. In my new-school experience, 2) and 3) never happen, but I'm totally on board with them. Here's the passage from the PHB:

ESTABLISHING THE CHARACTER

By determining abilities, race, class, alignment, and hit points you have created your character. Next you must name him or her, and possibly give some family background (and name a next of kin as heir to the possessions of the character if he or she should meet an untimely death) to personify the character. Having done all that, your Dungeon Master will introduce your character to the campaign setting. In all likelihood, whether the locale is a village, town, or city, your character will have to acquaint himself or herself with the territory.

The first step will often be getting into the place i.e. a gate guard demanding to know what business you have in the town or city. Thereafter it will be necessary to locate a safe and reasonably priced place in which to lodge - typically an inn of some sort, but perhaps a rented cot, a loft or even chambers at a hostel. Since the location selected will have to serve as base and depot, it must be relatively safe from intrusion or burglary. Once a headquarters has been found, your character can set about learning the lay of the land, and attempt to find the trade establishments needed to supply the desired equipment for adventuring. Perhaps it will also be necessary to locate where other player characters reside in order to engage in joint expeditions.

In any event, your character created, personified, and established will be ready to adventure once equipment is purchased and relations with other player characters are settled. If player characters are not immediately available, or if they are not co-operative, it is advisable that men-at-arms be hired. Hirelings of this sort, as well as henchmen (q.v.), are detailed in the sections entitled HIRELINGS and HENCHMEN.

Fiddling with D&D logistics like that is a strangely soothing activity. I'd be fine if "choose next of kin" and "pay for lodging, secure it from burglars" were as classic parts of character creation as "buy equipment" and "meet other PCs in tavern."

(This style of D&D reminds me of The Three Musketeers. It's a very AD&D book. The characters are greedy: the name for the era's gold coin, "pistole," occurs more than 100 times in the book. In Chapter 1, d'Artagnan enters the gates of Paris and rents a garret. Next, he locates the other player characters (by dueling with them). Finally, he engages a hireling (on credit). There's even a chapter called "Searching for Equipment.")

I think there was an early, unofficial D&D character sheet that had a blank for "next of kin". A good start, but not far enough. If this stuff is really part of character creation, the official D&D character sheet should also have spaces for Street Address and Rent. Is the 5e character sheet finalized?

the implicit DM’s turn in OD&D

June 16th, 2014 by paul

In OD&D, there's a phase of the game that's never mentioned in the rulebook, but still exists: the DM's turn.

Remember that D&D's direct predecessor was Chainmail, in which players alternated turns. D&D is a different type of game, but it might have taken Gygax and Arneson a little time to realize how different. Some traditional ideas, like opponents alternating turns, still linger. I think that if you imagine that the DM and the players alternate turns, it makes some troublesome terminology and some confusing passages make more sense.

In The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures:

Movement is in segments of approximately ten minutes. Thus it takes ten minutes to move approximately two moves - 120 feet for a fully-armored character. Two moves constitute a turn, except in flight/pursuit situations where the moves/turn will be doubled (and no mapping allowed) ... At the end of every turn the referee will roll a six-sided die to see if a "wandering monster" has been encountered.

What? What's a move, and why do you get two (or more) per turn? Why not just say, as does AD&D, that you move so far in a turn, and you check for wandering monsters after two turns?

And what about this passage about wilderness travel:

Turns: Each move will constitute one day. Each day is considered a turn. ... Wandering monsters: At the end of each day (turn) the referee will check to see if a monster has been encountered.

Why does a day need to be considered a turn? Why not just call it a day? After all, "turn" is already the term for 10 minutes in the dungeon. Why redefine it?

It's because D&D is a game, and a game needs turns. In a game, at the end of your turn, you cede control to the next player... in this case, the DM.

During the players' turn, the players initiate all the actions. They open doors. They enter hexes. The DM can still react, of course, possibly with deadly effect. Traps might be sprung. An entire battle (at ten rounds to the turn), with the players and the DM's monsters alternating actions, might take place, all during the players' turn. But generally the players are walking around and messing with static monsters on a map.

At the end of the players' turn, the DM gets to do some initiating. Both inside and outside, the term "turn" is defined by monster checks. In other words, after the players have a chance to move, the DM has the opportunity to introduce "wandering monsters" - moving monsters which force the players to react for a change. If we step back and think of D&D as a board game, and the DM and the players as adversaries (and many passages in OD&D suggest that they are!), we might imagine D&D as an asymetric game, sort of like Descent, in which the "Overlord" is explicitly give a turn and limited agency to play evil tricks on the players, or maybe like Dungeon World with its advancing evil fronts.

The "turn" becomes less and less important in later editions, but it's emphasized several times in OD&D. And I can see how it can be useful. In later editions, the DM is often expected to play a pretty reactive roll. After designing the adventure, the DM sometimes does little more than run monsters and adjudicate traps and puzzles. But it's useful to explicitly give the DM a turn every once in a while, after, say, ten minutes of dungeon exploration, or a day of overland travel, to check for wandering monsters; take a minute to think about what the bad guys are up to; or think of new challenges to throw at the players.

basic d&d will be the 5e SRD

June 9th, 2014 by paul

Lots of questions were raised by WOTC's vague promise of a "program" for third-party D&D publishers. Will there be something like 3e's open-source-style OGL license? Something like 4e's limited and revocable GSL? An "app store" model where products must be approved by WOTC?

To me, one key piece of evidence suggests that pretty much everything in the free "Basic D&D" PDF will be open content, making Basic D&D the 5e equivalent of the d20 SRD.

A preamble first: The d20 OGL license pretty much gave away the store. Most of the PHB is in there, apart from character creation, leveling, and a handful of iconic and original D&D monsters: beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, displacer beast, githyanki, githzerai, kuo-toa, mind flayer, slaad, umber hulk, and yuan-ti. There's really no point in 5e trying to protect any OGL monsters, since they're already basically free content. But WOTC probably doesn't want to give away anything ELSE to Pathfinder and other competitors. So if there's ever a 5e OGL-type open license, we'd expect it to exclude the beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, etc.

OK, here's my evidence for Basic being released under an open license. In last week's live Q&A, Mike Mearls listed a bunch of the "iconic monsters" in the Basic PDF. He read a pretty big list: chimera, centaurs, orcs, ghosts, giants, mages, acolytes, warriors, mummies, ogres, skeletons, ochre jellies, dragons, giant spiders. Notice anything missing? How about any monsters from D&D's non-OGL list: beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, displacer beast, githyanki, githzerai, kuo-toa, mind flayer, slaad, umber hulk, and yuan-ti?

Apart from dragons, the beholder is arguably D&D's most iconic monster - it's the 5e Monster Manual monster - so its absence from Basic's list of "iconic D&D monsters" is striking. Its absence really makes sense only if everything in Basic has to be open content.

I don't necessarily think that 5e will use the OGL itself. There might be more carefully-worded protections against competitors. But I do think that the license will be free; it won't require WOTC approval like the 4e GSL; and it won't be arbitrarily revokable without cause like the GSL.

There's one problem with my theory. I doubt the 5e license will be MORE permissive than the OGL. We know that Basic will include character creation information, and character creation and leveling hasn't been released under any previous license.

I bet that character creation/leveling details will included in Basic but be specifically excluded from the license. That would be pretty easy to do. For instance, in the 4e Player's Handbook, the character creation info and leveling details are all in Chapter 2, "Making Characters." The 5e Basic equivalent of the "Making Characters" chapter might be specifically excluded from the new license. Everything else in Basic will, I predict, be fair game for use by third party publishers.

How sure am I in my hunch? Sure enough that I'm going to prepare my next D&D publishing project for 5e.

More 4e errata! Player’s Handbook art

June 6th, 2014 by paul

Fourth edition came under a lot of flak for its endless rules errata. If you kept up with all the updates, your copy of the PHB had scribbled corrections in each page. However, an errata document was never issued for the art.

PHB4CoverWith 4e at the end of its run, here is an errata update for all the art in the PHB. Please make the following changes.

On the cover:

The female wizard should not have her boobs AND her butt facing the viewer. Replace her with a Strong Female Character.

The male dragonborn fighter no longer has rivets in his armor shaped like lucky charms.

Erase the F tattooed on the female wizard's forehead. Change it to an A+

Replace the dwarf fighter in the background with a halfling thief (the party should probably have a striker).

Inside the book:

Religions

uuOn page 22, Moradin should no longer use the same symbol as the Unitarian Universalists. They might get mad if their symbol is co-opted by an imaginary dwarf god. No, wait, we just checked with them and they're fine with it.

Character Races

letoOn page 42 (Half-elf), replace the picture of Jared Leto with a picture of a half-elf.

On page 34 (Dragonborn) move the male dragonborn one inch higher so you can't tell whether the female dragonborn has boobs.

dragonborns

The badass dragonborn in ruby armor on page 101 has been informed of the existence of the badass dragonborn in ruby armor on page 6, and has killed him and taken his stuff. The dragonborn on page 101 is now wearing the ruby ring. Page 6 should now have a picture of a dragonborn in an open casket, with a dwarf in the background leading a Unitarian Universalist funeral service.

Character Classes

rogue1Page 122, rogue powers: replace the rogue doing the action hero landing (one palm on the ground, one leg cocked, one arm cocked) with a picture of Black Widow from Iron Man II.

On page 148, the warlord with seemingly unnecessary spikes on the right side of his helmet, on his left gauntlet, and on his right boot is now being threatened by a very tall monster to his right, a medium monster to his left, and a very short monster to his right.

rogue2Page 195, feats: replace the rogue doing the action hero landing with a picture of Black Widow from Iron Man II.

Feats:

Page 203, paragon tier feats: The picture of the fighter running away from a red dragon should be moved to the cover of the 1983 Mentzer red box.

General Errata:

bellyYou may draw supplemental belly shirt/sideboob armor on any of the female adventurers on the cover and on pages 4, 34, 40, 46, 48, 50, 96, 103, 129, 171, 191, 213, 234, 296, and 313, and on the male adventurers on pages 58 and 234.

the first zombie apocalypse story?

May 29th, 2014 by paul

Zombie stories have been around for a while: the D&D zombie descends from the Hiatian version, a dead person raised by necromancy.

The current, highly successful "apocalypse via fast-spreading zombie disease" meme is pretty new, and it's eating the Haitian/D&D version for breakfast. D&D might have backed the wrong undead horse here. George Romero's 1978 Dawn of the Dead might have been the first zombie-apocalypse movie that explicitly used the word "zombie." (Night of the Living Dead, 1968, called them "ghouls." And D&D ghouls might owe a lot to Night of the Living Dead.)

The essential elements of the "zombie apocalypse" story are, as far as I can tell:
1) Nearly everyone is turned into a zombie.
2) Survivors scavenge supermarkets or camp out in the woods and blow zombie heads off with shotguns.
3) No one is purposely animating corpses. Zombie-itis is contagious.

Minus the word "zombie", this story is a little older than Night of the Living Dead. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, 1954, is often mentioned as the first zombie apocalypse-type story, although its bad guys are called "vampires."

I think that Walter M. Miller might actually be the first writer who wrote a really modern-style zombie apocalypse story. In Dark Benediction (1951), the monsters are called "dermies," and they're not quite as simplistic as your World War Z/The Walking Dead brain chewers. Still, apart from the word "zombie," it's got all the apocalypse phobia/survivalism fantasy/xenophobia it needs to be an official part of the genre.

Here's a chunk of the first page. Watch it hit all the highlights:

Always fearful of being set upon during the night, Paul slept uneasily despite his weariness from the long trek southward. When dawn broke, he rolled out of his blankets and found himself still stiff with fatigue. He kicked dirt over the remains of the campfire and breakfasted on a tough forequarter of cold boiled rabbit which he washed down with a swallow of earthy-tasting ditchwater. Then he buckled the cartridge belt about his waist, leaped the ditch, and climbed the embankment to the trafficless four-lane highway whose pavement was scattered with blown leaves and unsightly debris dropped by a long-departed throng of refugees whose only wish had been to escape from one another. Paul, with characteristic independence, had decided to go where the crowds had been the thickest—to the cities—on the theory that they would now be deserted, and therefore noncontagious.

The fog lay heavy over the silent land, and for a moment he paused groping for cognizance of direction. Then he saw the stalled car on the opposite shoulder of the road—a late model convertible, but rusted, flat-tired, with last year's license plates, and most certainly out of fuel. It obviously had been deserted by its owner during the exodus, and he trusted in its northward heading as he would have trusted the reading of a compass. He turned right and moved south on the empty highway. Somewhere just ahead in the gray vapor lay the outskirts of Houston. He had seen the high skyline before the setting of yesterday's sun, and knew that his journey would soon be drawing to a close.

Occasionally he passed a deserted cottage or a burned-out roadside tavern, but he did not pause to scrounge for food. The exodus would have stripped such buildings clean. Pickings should be better in the heart of the metropolitan area, he thought - where the hysteria had swept humanity away quickly.

Suddenly Paul froze on the highway, listening to the fog. Footsteps in the distance—footsteps and a voice singing an absent-minded ditty to itself. No other sounds penetrated the sepulchral silence which once had growled with the life of a great city. Anxiety caught him with clammy hands. An old man's voice it was, crackling and tuneless. Paul groped for his holster and brought out the revolver he had taken from a deserted police station.

"Stop where you are, dermie!" he bellowed at the fog. "I'm armed."

You know what would be a fun D&D campaign? Not the classic "zombie outbreak in a fantasy world:" fantasy worlds are pretty well equipped to handle zombies. Imagine instead a "D&D heroes appear in a modern-day zombie apocalypse" game. (Old-school games are full of these types of stories: in Gygax and Arneson's games, D&D characters sometimes appear in space or in Boot Hill, and German tank units appear in the midst of fantasy battles.) The apocalypse story is based on the conceit that most modern people can't hack a true emergency. Imagine six battle-hardened D&D characters - including a cleric with Turn Undead - finding themselves in a bleak zombie fiction like, say, The Walking Dead. They'd own. It would be interesting to see if they could turn the tide.

wild grassland encounters

May 21st, 2014 by paul

Non-cultivated grassland is a hard terrain to get a handle on because we just don't have a lot of it in the modern world. Africa is a good place to look, along with frontier America.

You need to come up with some reason why any grassland hasn't been snapped up by farmers, herders and empire-builders. One possibility is that it's defended by something - nonhuman nomadic tribes, giants, dinosaurs, dragons - too scary for armies to deal with. Another is that it used to be civilized and it's been conquered by forces of chaos - orc hordes, undead. In the latter case, the plain is a likely location for dungeons and ruins. Each large area of uncultivated plain probably has its own story.

Here's my random encounter table for grassland. Asterisks are for new monsters that I haven't actually designed yet (I like to make up monster stats on the fly, inspired by evocative names.)

Unending Plain1 Unique monster. You must invent it on the spot, or pull it out of some sourcebook the players have never seen. The PCs will never meet another one of its kind.
2 nomadic people (human barbarian, elf, halfling, centaur, *runner, *ostrichtaur)
3 civilized people (caravans, bandits, armies, pioneers, *landsailors, *city that walks)
4 animal (lion, cheetah, antelope, ostrich, snake, toad)
5 giant herbivore (buffalo, ox, mammoth, elephant, aurochs, rhino, bronto, *mushroom walker)
6 horde (orc, gnoll, hobgoblin, undead)
7 dire animal (*war lion, *saurus, *insect steed, sabertooth, al-miraj, giant toad)
8 dangerous flora (*slumberwood, *green fuzz, *swordgrass, *purpleflower queen)
9 ambush animal (cockatrice, basilisk, ankheg, bullette, trapdoor spider, *flying viper)
10 dog (hyena, wild dog, blink dog, worg, *wicked fox, *hunger hound)
11 fairies (*grass people, *butterfly folk, *mouseling, naiad)
12 swarm (bugs, stirges, *bloodbirds, *singing ants, *undead vermin, *manswarm)
13 sinister ruin (dungeon or underground dweller, troll, ogre, demon, undead, cultists, *crawling cairn, *wild gate)
14 wild steed (horse, pony, giant rabbit/butterfly/bee/grasshopper/kangaroo, *zebracorn)
15 weather (storm, tornado, *firestorm, *vortex, *starfall, *stinking cloud, *cloud chariot, wind walker)
16 flyby (dragon, griffin, hippogriff, *flying turtle island, *air whale, *giant falcon)
17-18 signs of the recent passing of 19-20
19-20 the thing that prevents this plain from being cultivated (hordes, giants, dinosaurs, dragons, undead, beholders, *mad colossi, *sunwraiths, *fire cattle). Once you've chosen it, all 17-20 encounters for this grassland relate to this threat.

D&D analysis of some crazy ad in the subway

May 16th, 2014 by paul

There were about 1000 copies of this promotional flyer in my subway car:

revjohn1

click to enlarge

This guy's clearly a snake oil salesman trying to prey on those in need. And he wastes a lot of paper. But I'll say this for him.

He's a level 11 cleric.

Here's the spell breakdown:

revjohn2

click to enlarge

a unified notation for ascending and descending AC

May 1st, 2014 by paul

I like to make system-neutral stuff. I don't particularly like writing "AC 8 (12)" or "AC 12 (8)" or "AC: as leather armor". Here's my proposal for a terse way to write any-edition Armor Class: Just write the AC bonus. Thus:

AC: +6

I think it's pretty intuitive that this guy's AC is 16 in 3e (counting up from 10), AC 4 in 1e (counting down from 10), and AC 3 in Basic (counting down from 9).

This system doesn't collide with any other notation. "AC: -6" has meaning in other systems but "AC: +6" doesn't.

It also works within the expectations of each edition.

  • 3e+ prefers addition to subtraction. Converting +2 to 12 is barely even addition; it's more like squinting.
  • Old editions don't see what's so hard about subtraction.
  • Let's throw another system in here. ACKS uses ascending-from-0 AC. So all it has to do is ignore the plus sign.

    Monster publishers: if you like it, start using it. If it needs a name, I suggest "Unified AC Notation" and you can link to this page.

  • stand up for the little guy

    April 24th, 2014 by paul

    You may have heard about the fcc's latest threat to net neutrality.

    It's worth it for us, as blog readers and writers, to make our voice heard over this particular issue. We benefit from living in this special time in history when people can easily communicate with each other without having their conversation moderated by third parties. We don't need to hope that our little communiques get into the Forum in Dragon Magazine, or wait for APA newsletters to be mailed by overworked enthusiasts. Our exposure to new D&D ideas is not limited to those endorsed by Gary Gygax or Mike Mearls in TSR- or Wizards- published books.

    Here is the email I sent to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler (Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov). I sent similar emails to Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov, Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov, Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov, and Mike.O'Rielly@fcc.gov

    please stand up for net neutrality

    Hi Tom,

    I note with sadness that the FCC is proposing to give "special access" to internet content providers who pay more. In effect, this penalizes the small websites, web resources, startups, and e-businesses that make the internet special.

    I strongly urge you to reconsider this position. Do you want to be the FCC who supports everyone's equal access to the internet, or the FCC who allows big corporations to squeeze out the little guys?

    Hoping for the best,
    Paul Hughes

    Joesky tax: although net neutrality seems important to me and my hobby now, it might not be the issue that defines the age. In the D&D world, for every ancient threat that is once more rearing its head, there must be a bunch more that never really went anywhere.

    In case your players' History checks are getting dusty, here's a dungeon for you. Upon its gate is written, in antique Common, "HE WHO BLEATS THE BLEAT OF COWARDS SHALL BE THE MEAT OF STRONGER MEN."

    A hard History check reveals that, four hundred years ago, the PCs' country made peace with a neighboring country. The peace was not universally accepted, and a popular ballad called the peace proclamation "the Bleat of Cowards." Few now remember the war or the ballad.

    The dungeon was once a compound of rebels who wanted to extend the war. It contains a mix of rotten war equipment, singleminded undead locked in history, and traps.

    Protecting the keep's treasure is a Magic Mouth which asks a series of seemingly nonsensical questions: "Are ye with Bruno or the King?" "Did Harold die in vain?" "Shall the Cuperdines enter the confines of the city?" Correctly answering the questions requires a) a hard History check to determine the historical context of the question and b) the knowledge that the dungeon's inhabitants were pro-war. If the players don't know the answers, they may guess or head back to the city to hit the library.

    If a PC answers a question incorrectly, he or she is turned into a sheep. The Magic Mouth will then recite some gloating speech about "Thus shall your insides match your out, and King Cuperdine shall have mutton for dinner" that really only made sense at the time.

    The sheep curse requires a Dispel Magic or a very hard Arcana check to lift; possibly the sheep PC will have to be taken to the city for expert treatment. If it's market day, the sheep PC might get mixed up in someone else's herd! But don't extend this too far: the sheep player will want his or her body back at some point.