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Joining the Party: Campfire Tales
Tracy Hurley

F or a game as centered on creativity and storytelling as Dungeons & Dragons, it's not surprising that we have a number of gaming tales we share with each other. As with many stories, some are meant to merely entertain while others are meant to teach us important parts of our history, our culture, and—perhaps—how to get out of the dungeon with our loot and lives!

Here are some of D&D's better known gaming stories.

Head of Vecna

Most have heard about the fabled Hand and Eye of Vecna, artifacts that promise great power and secret knowledge. Their original owner, Vecna, a Greyhawk wizard-turned-lich, has a long and storied history in D&D, including his feud with Kas the Destroyer and his current place as a god.

Let's say you've heard of the Whispered One. You knew of the artifacts, which were parts of his body requiring that you first sacrifice your own. In your travels, you then come across rumors of an unknown artifact, the Head of Vecna. Imagine what could be yours if you just claimed it for your own! That's the set-up for the infamous Head of Vecna tale (scroll down for "An Important Safety Tip"), one so well known it even spawned a D&D 3.5 quest.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

While this is not a specific story (along the same lines as "never split the party"), it too has a well established home in D&D lore as player advice. At its heart, it's a simple reminder that the Dungeon Master is the god of the game world, with the ability to make and unmake. While commonly attributed to the Tomb of Horrors, the comic Something Positive made it famous. Viva la revolution!

Eric and the Gazebo

One of the risks (and sometimes joys) of theater of the mind-style play is when the DM describes an object or uses a word that is unfamiliar to a player, and the player reacts in strange and interesting ways. Such is the case with Eric and the Gazebo, a story made famous by Richard Aronson in the mid-1980s. In this story, the DM describes a gazebo to the player, Eric, who is perplexed by this unfamiliar creature.

Tucker's Kobolds

Few kobolds are as feared as those envisioned by DM Tucker. In his editorial in Dragon #127, Roger Moore relates the story of kobolds that use guerilla tactics to harass a higher-level party of PCs. Until the editorial came out, many believed that some monsters ceased to be a threat after a certain level—especially something as lowly as kobolds, a common 1st level creature. Of course, those players had never met these kobolds, creatures that would find any advantage in the terrain and took their jobs as dungeon defenders seriously. Not only did Wizards of the Coast republish the story in Dragon #400, but similar themes arise in other stories, including Chris Perkins' "Surprise! Epic Goblins!"

"I'm Attacking the Darkness!"

I'm ashamed to admit I had originally left this Dungeons & Dragons parody sketch by the Dead Alewives off my original list. Thankfully, many people on Twitter were more than happy to cast magic missile at the darkness and offer me some Cheetos and Mountain Dew. The sketch is so popular, it has its own entry on Know Your Meme.

Two prolific sources of D&D stories are Order of the Stick and Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT). What are some of your favorite D&D campfire tales?

Tavern Tales

  • What happens when you give a low-level goblin dungeon minion a quill, some paper, and enough privacy to write down his thoughts? Find out in "Oh, I'm Going to Get Killed Any Minute Now"
  • Athletes from different sports, and sometimes from different roles within the same sport, do not look the same or go through the same training. How does your fighter train? How is it different from the monk?
  • "No man is an island." That quote from John Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions encapsulates how interconnected we all are. As this article from Dungeon Mastering points out, even the orphan has relationships to others and those ties can provide motivation and story hooks for players and DMs alike.
  • Two parties enter, one party leaves? Well, maybe not quite, but you can have some fun pitting two groups against one another.
  • Want to introduce a friend to gaming? In "Bringing non-gamers to the gaming table," Andy gives advice to stack the deck towards success.
  • Dungeon Masters can always use new sources of inspiration. Troll in the Corner suggests everything from Wolfram Alpha to Corbis Images.
  • Recently, Mike Shea of Sly Flourish took a survey of DMs to figure out how they prepped for games, and posted his results.
  • Player journals, especially ones written in-character, can be a great prop at the table and keep players interested. Why not provide them with some extra XP for keeping them?
  • Finding the balance between dialogue and description isn't always easy. Create comics out of your scenes and see where your balance lies.
  • Looking to try a mini-campaign, one that lasts weeks instead of years? Mike Shea has some tips for running them on the blog.

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About the Author

Tracy Hurley is a D&D blogger, podcaster, and freelance game designer. On any given night, there is a 50% chance you will find her on Twitter as @SarahDarkmagic, a 10% chance you'll find her on the Tome Show, 4Geeks4e, or the DM Round Table, a 25% chance she's home plotting world domination with her husband, and a 15% chance she's planning a sneak attack. She is rarely surprised, never flat-footed, and uses Encounter powers as At-Wills.

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