D&D 30 Day Challenge

What’s the D&D 30 Day Challenge you ask? It’s a September full of sharing! Every day, for the next 30 days, I’ll pose a question for you to answer about your love for the game and the experiences you’ve had playing it. I’ll post mine up front and feel free to post yours in the comments.

Jump in at any time and feel free to share as much as you like (short paragraphs are cool, a couple sentences will suffice, and one-word responses are perfectly acceptable). You’re not compelled to contribute every day, and there’s no sense in answering anything you’d care not to answer, but stay tuned because there’s sure to be some surprising revelations!

1. How did you get started playing D&D?

The first time I ever saw DnD played was in the 4th grade. I had recently moved to a new town in California and during recess, far from the play structures, huddled up against the fence that was the very boundary of our school, a group of older boys were off adventuring in a fantastical land. I had been invited over by their DM, named Darren, who I went to daycare with. Their story telling immediately intrigued me and soon I was having my own adventures and meeting new friends. We played in the library until they found it it was D&D, then we weren’t allowed to play it anymore. But we instead came up with a different game that was basically D&D, called Space Pirates.

2. What is your favorite playable race?

I love playing Dwarves. The accent, the honor focus, the beards, and the heavy resonance in the fantasy genre make them so much fun. They have immediate character, no matter the class, that one can leverage into a memorable experience. I can walk into any game and play a different dwarven fighter each time knowing that every one will be accepted.

3. What is your favorite class?

For me, the first class I played is still my favorite; The Bard! Yes, I’m one of thoooose fan boys however for me, the swashbuckling, rogue skill having, rope trick casting silver tongued party face 2nd Edition Bard that was my first character hooked me from the beginning. Almost every successive character of mine has some of that first PC lingering at the edges or even in the core of who they are. That said, Ranger brings up a close second, followed by a tie for third with Rogue & Fighter.

4. What is your favorite campaign setting?

Though the shiny newness of it may have worn off quickly, Ebberon continues to be my favorite supported Campaign World. The setting is a continent coming out of a century of civil war, the peace still fresh, fragile, and easily ignored by shadowy elements across a dozen governments. This is a world full of cinematic pulp action and intrigue leading to dark realizations. For me, this setting has an internal logic that is unfailing as well. I love all the source material (yes even the Sarlonna book) and do own physical copies for most of them (Forge of War is hot).

5. Do you have a favorite set of dice? Or what is your favorite individual die?

I do, they are banana colored with sky blue numbers. I use them as my Dungeon Master set, currently. My favorite die, however, is a iridescent red d20 that I got with a Magic the Gathering starter deck circ 1996. I never play a character without using that die. For what it’s worth, the d20 is my favorite die in general.

6. Who or what is your favorite deity from D&D lore?

That’s a tough one. I could probably do favorite Deity from each setting, but favorite over all? Wow. Forgotten Realms has the most Gods, Grey Hawk’s got the really Old ones, Dragonlance has (mostly) forgettable ones, Dark Sun doesn’t have any, and Eberron’s Gods never take physical form.

I think Kelemvor might be my favorite. I really like the idea that the God of Death is not Evil, but instead sits in judgement. Still Vecna and Dumathoin run close seconds.

7. What is your favorite edition of D&D?

Now’s as good a time as any, I guess. Original D&D is my favorite edition, though I’ve only played it a handful of times. It must be remembered though, OD&D is the edition that holds the title or at least finds itself in the running for ‘Most House Ruled’, if only because the rules were so scattered. That’s one of my favorite parts about D&D, it can be modded for the specific audience. In spite of this though, each edition has something about it I love. However, I fully anticipate that whatever Project: D&D Next turns into will become my favorite edition. Here’s looking at you 2014.

8. Which one of your characters stands out as your favorite?

Dang, it’s like picking a favorite child. I narrowed it down to a top five list to try and focus on a #1. So, top 5, in order;

#5 – Zak Flourish

My first taste of D&D, the Bard that started it all. Silver tongue, rapier wit, out of the box thinking as well as TPK’d my friends by accidentally igniting a vat of odorless, tasteless oil we were in. Don’t worry, our Kobold companion survived.
2E – Human Bard – Chaotic Good

#4 – Durgan Deepcave

Outcast Scion of the Deeping Hall, 1-Up Mushroom upon his shield, favored the bastard sword over any axe or hammer, ‘Endure!’ his motto. The first character I made after moving to NYC, he was my Living Forgotten Realms go-to, and is the only one on this list I didn’t actually play in an ongoing campaign.
3E/4E – Dwarven Fighter/Dwarven Defender – Lawful Good

#3 – Crun Tatem

My second character. After the ill fated Bard and co, we decided it was high time to Return to the Tomb of Horrors. We started in good ol’ Arabel, coastal city of Cormyr. He was a monster hunter by trade from modest beginnings (illiterate) but somehow became the leader of an amazing band of misfits. He ended up getting aged 40 years, got a strength of 30 & 18 Charisma (as well as a small keep) via a Deck of Many Things, falling deep into Bhaal’s debt (oh yes, we’re old friends), and finally taking the kill shot on Ascerek, that bastard Lich at 4am in my friend Tim’s parent’s dining room to end the campaign… my hand was shaking as I rolled the d8. At the end of it all, he was the least powerful of the band (poor 2E fighters), but somehow was the glue that kept everyone together.
2E – Human Fighter – Chaotic Good

#2 – Grilldoh Tamwar

My most recently retired PC. Dark Sun is a cruel world, it takes a lot to survive the wastes, let alone prosper. One of the most renowned guides and trackers of the Table Lands, Grilldoh traveled further than most upon his journey. A dual wielding dervish, he faced off against a Tembo who he made armor out of, found Religion, became a Ritual Caster,  joined the Veiled Alliance, out witted a Genie (and banished him from Athas), all before transcending the physical realm after saving his party from the Gray (Dark Sun’s purgatory/shadowfell) and then disappearing into it.
4E – Half Elven Ranger (Beast Master) – Neutral

#1 – Dirk Nightbreese

So we come to it. I knew he was gonna be on the list, I just didn’t know where. Turns out, he remains my favorite. It’s tough to pin down a specific reason. He once killed a man in Homlet with a sap sneak attack gone awry. He was the impetuous reckless character who would always leap into combat, get dropped, and so pull the whole group into a pitched battle. Coincidentally his party also died in a TPK, though it wasn’t my fault this time around; deep in the Temple of Elemental Evil, the party had infiltrated and fought our way to the inner sanctum, we were really beat up. So we find a trapped demon who is ready to parley with us regarding information about the leaders of the Cult when our Druid decides to cop an attitude and kick the demon in the head. He attacks us, Elemental goons show up, we all die… save Dirk. Another story for another day.
3E – Elven Rogue – Chaotic Good

9. What is your favorite character concept that you’ve never had the chance to play?

Fun! I normally stick to the “classic” races (though I did once play a Dragonborn Paladin named Jet) so I usually base my concepts heavily on the PC’s Class. Giaco played this Dwarven Barbarian in the Mines of Madness one-shot I ran and something about him just stuck with me. So yea, Dwarven Barbarian. But instead of the normal ‘berzerker’ from the underground halls, I want to envision an actual clan of dwarves who degenerated into barbarism. What would their idiosyncratic customs be? What about their beliefs about their origins? What would this hero even be fighting for? Coming up with concepts is perhaps one of the funnest aspects of D&D. I’ve had friends who spend hours creating characters, rolling stats, and choosing options for PCs they’ll never have a chance to play. At the end of the day, the creative process is it’s own reward.

10. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen in a game? (To the party, players, characters, DM, etc.)

Wow, okay. I’ve seen a monk wrestle a black dragon to the ground and pin him, I’ve seen a thief who stole treasure from the party killed by a necklace of strangulation, I’ve seen a 100 rolled on a % die for a Rod of Wonder effect that disintegrated Zuggytamoy during the climactic battle in the bowels of the temple of elemental evil, and I’ve seen a 12 PCs combat a Frost Giant Jarl and his minions with two DMs running the Encounter at the same time, and lastly, I once saw a Thief psionically infiltrate the mind of a God and then steal one of it’s domains of faith for his own.

11: What’s the best adventure you’ve ever undertaken, or which was your favorite?

One of my favorites was a Live Action Shadowrun game I played at in GenCon in the early aughts. Two other friends participated as well, there were like 50 people and we were split into ten groups of five. Everyone was trying to ‘achieve their mission’ and there was intra-group conflict written into the missions. It turned out that I was assigned the Mafia leader character and my mission was to get as much money as possible for my information. Heaven, simply heaven. For three hours all I did was be in character and talk. By the end of it, Alien-like bugs were popping out of people, the in-game ‘News Reporter’ covering the event turned out to be the bug cleaner, one of my underlings attempted to assassinate me, and basically everyone died. Good times.

12. What is your favorite dungeon type, terrain, or encounter location?
History is key for me as a player. I want to inhabit a world that has tons of ruins from the past, each layered with strata of historical significance that effects who is there and why. So yea, ruins. Libraries, Castles, Cathedrals, Mage Schools, Manor Houses, and any sprawling complex really. What’s most important for me is a place dripping with the weight of past significance; this allows me a platform to make connections with the world I’m in and begin to put my own mark on it.

13. What was or is your favorite trap or puzzle?

One’s I can solve? Seriously though, riddles. Word games. Visual rearrangements. Anything where the trap/puzzle can be solved without making a roll. I also want there to be escalating consequences; the gate with the hydra behind it begins to rise every time you give a wrong answer; that sort of thing. I also like traps that can be disabled, physically, by using logic instead of rolls. I like traps and puzzles that anyone should be able to bypass but that having thief for really makes a difference.

14. Who is or was your favorite NPC?

My favorite NPC, or rather the one that will be with me forever, is a Death Knight.

Though his name will forever elude me, encountering one of these Monsters for the first time; and not in a fight, but in a parley situation, left a lasting impression.

Our group had unwittingly been carrying a scrying stone planted by a rival group of evil adventurers, the Death Knight was a part of that rival group, but hated his so called compatriots so much, he hired us to kill them!

15. What is your favorite undead monster?

I love the Ghoul. I love that causes paralysis and so unlucky adventurer’s get to watch, mute and unable to move, as their flesh gets consumed before them. I love that Elves are immune to this effect. Ghouls are an old school monster that’s never gone out of style. Ghoul packs are fun fights, and if a DM starts to delve into intelligent undead, ghouls can be memorable NPCs. A winner all around!

16. What is your favorite aberration?
Beholders, Mindflayers, and Aboleths, oh my! Aberrations are awesome. They are the go-to for any Chuthuloids one might wanna bring into a setting. I’ve always enjoyed Eberron’s take on Aberrations. Of the three I mentioned, Beholders do take the top tier. I’ve never actually faced one at the table, but I have killed PCs using them at my table. Deadly, gross, and totally unworldly, what a great monster!

17. What is your favorite animal or vermin monster?

The Worg. Does that count? If so, hands down intelligent malicious wolves who let other evil creatures use them as mounts. I love the images this evokes.

18. What is your favorite immortal or outsider?

Hound Archon for the win! I’m not sure what it is, but the idea of an immortal warrior who’s blue and has the head of a hunting dog makes my creative juices flow! I’ve never been able to use one in a game (yet) and I haven’t encountered one, but man I can’t wait!

19. What is your favorite elemental or plant monster?

Salamanders. They’re great fire creatures for higher level adventures; they’re sentient and have an interesting culture as well as being a difficult challenge, particularly their archers. Honorable mention goes to Djins and Effreets.

20. What is your favorite humanoid, natural, or fey monster?

For a long time lower level monsters, your goblins, orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, etc; the classic swords & sorcery beastmen races, if you will, have been my favorites. I’m glad Fey was included here though, because not enough can be said for the edge of the mystical they bring in. I’ve realized that nowadays I skew towards the off beat. Instead of gnoll slavers, let’s make them rock gnomes being mind controlled by quasits on the top of their heads but shape changed to look like toads.

So yea, my answer is probably Troll.

21. What is your favorite color or type of dragon?

Toss up between Silver and Green. Silver is the cooler, more capricious/wacky Blue who’s good and Greens in the haunted poisonous forest are so evocative, I wanna run that adventure right now!

22. What is your favorite monster overall?

My favorite monsters are humanoids. There’s something about an Elf (or human, or dwarf or halfling) that goes bad and turns into a villain. The ‘shadowy reflection’ of the adventurers. Some of me favorite stories are about facing down personal demons personified. But then again… Dragons.

23. What is your least favorite monster overall?

will o’wisps. Don’t get me wrong, in theory I like the idea that an odd flickering eldritch light causes the curious or unwary to find their doom… but just how that doom is manifested falls flat for me. They get their food from the psychic energy of a being who realizes it’s about to die? It doesn’t want to fight you, but if it has to it sends out tiny electric shocks. Seriously, what? This so called monster, on it’s own, is pretty lame. I’d rather the will o’wisp was the tool of another monster, like a hag or a naga or evil humanoid shaman or SOMEthing to make it more than mildly interesting to think about how cool this monster COULD be.

24. What is your favorite energy type?

Sonic or perhaps Thunder, as it’s come to be known. The force of pressurization, so invisible and ephemeral, but deadly. Also, Bard attacks!

25. What is your favorite magic item?

Rods. From the very handy Immovable Rod to the amazingly helpful Rod of Passage to the Rod of Wonder and, yes, even the Rod of Lordly Might. These are not weapons, they didn’t start out as implements, and they’re just basically magic sticks that do wonderous things. Sign me up!

26. What is your favorite non-magic item?

A bag of flour.
Good for many uses; a distraction, covering up blood, aid in locating secret doors, making invisible creatures visible, and baking for friends/allies/enemies to name but a few.

27. Describe a character you want to play in the future.

A cowardly bard. It’s a concept I’ve only begun to explore. The reluctant hero isn’t a new thing by any means, however with all the other ways in which to effect the game world the options of this concept are right where I would want to start such a character.

Day 28. Describe a character that you will never play again

Definitely a difficult question. My mind immediately springs to those character’s stories which are over. Those characters who I’ve left behind. So, in that vein, I present Raz Tallfang, a 3E barbarian/rogue. Early on we plundered a mithral mine and he scored a mithral greatsword to sneak attack with. I really played up the superstition and uncivilized nature of the character; he had a tortise shell that was used for a great many warding rituals, though their power only existed in his own mind. Fun times.

29. what is the number you always seem to roll on a d20?

I feel like I generally roll low however I do notice a lot of odd numbers. Mostly thirteens.

30. Who is your favorite Dungeon Master?

My favorite DM is my most recent. His name is David. The reason he is my favorite is because, unlike Darren my first DM who was my blueprint or Dannny who has been the DM who has pushed me to think the most about my own DMing stylings, David was simply an amazing DM who’s own style is very Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D). Minimalistic rules, stripped down classes, broken mechanics in places, tons of random tables, emphasis on alignment (and the costs of changing alignments), tracking your own XP, deadly as all get out, but always on the player’s side… As a player, he is my favorite DM. As a DM, my favorite DM is Chris Perkins.

About Berling

Ken Breese (he) Writer, Narrative Designer, and Game Master for hire focused on Inclusion, Table Top RPGs, Nerd Culture, Critical Thinking, and the Politics of Gaming.

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