Graham Robert Scott is a former journalist and newspaper editor. In fact, he’s what one calls an “award winning journalist.” Of course, most journalists can say that, as there are many chapters of the SPJ and many award categories. It’s pretty easy to win an award. Suffice it to say that Graham has the usual stacks and boxes of awards you haven’t heard of, and none of them are on his walls. One of the awards, otherwise quite expensive, misspells “excellence.”
If it’s any consolation, the journalists who handed it out were properly horrified.
Today, Graham trains teachers to teach writing. He also conducts research on ways to apply new discoveries in the learning sciences to the teaching of writing. Most of his research, like his older news stuff, is written under the professional nick-name “Gray Scott,” and you’ll sometimes see other people on this site slip up and refer to him as “Gray.” That’s what his friends call him.
Graham has published some game materials under his full name, including “Thirds of Purloined Vellum,” a 1st-level Forgotten Realms city adventure in issue 88 of Dungeon back in 2001. However, most of the third-party publishers he started working with in the mid-2000s went out of business. He’s starting to work with some new ones now, and hopes he doesn’t jinx them.
He also has written a short fantasy novel, available in ebook format, titled Godfathom. The novella started out as a column, here, but he got carried away and when he realized he had 20,000 words, he published it online through Smashwords and Scribd. Check it out. It’s never going to be a best-seller, but it has a bard as a villain, and a kind of cool interpretation of how vicious mockery might work.
Ludus Ludorum Articles by Graham Robert Scott
A discussion of city population generators and demographics. Highlights the need for better customization based on assumptions about world design. Includes a sample “generator” in Excel format and descriptions of five sample cities.
A sample village in response to Wallace Cleave’s article about the medieval village, using the Ludus population engine to set up Mistmill.
A D&D character at three levels: 1st, 5th, and 10th. Graham takes a random set of (pretty bad) dice rolls and builds a character out of them. The end result? A barbarian with a 4 Constitution. Advice: Read the back-story before you laugh at him.
A commentary about what Graham sees as the “divine mini-me” problem of most clerical role-playing: Clerics often end up being caricatures of the gods they worship. To broaden ideas about divine spellcasting, the author proposes five alternative models for clerics, none of which would require more than creative reinterpretation or re-description of the current mechanics.
A D&D character at three levels: 1st, 5th, and 10th. Galatherina embodies one of the five ideas for reinterpreted clerics suggested in Graham’s earlier article, “Tremble! I Am the Mini-Me of Thor!” She’s a knight who has been dragooned into divine service by a god bent on reforming her–whether she likes it or not.
A D&D character at three levels: 1st, 5th, and 10th. Bettelfegne continues the series on clerics started by “Tremble! I Am the Mini-Me of Thor.” He’s a semi-divine being–a member of a race that only appears to be human, and which is inspired in part by the character of Gandalf. And yes, Gandalf is probably best described as a cleric.
A brief tour of third-party sites that we’ve found helpful in the build up toward D&D 5th edition.
A profile of fantasy artist Laura Bevon, with inspiring samples of some of her work.
Some house rule suggestions for dealing with nights when the dice seem absolutely determined to wipe out the party.
The tale of Brunt the Half-Ogre — a PC in a former campaign who once memorably improvised weaponry when disarmed.
Graham describes a dynamic new pantheon for the clerics in his Dice Unloaded series to worship, and sets them within the same region and culture as his five sample cities for the Ludus Population Engine–a region he now calls The Vorago.
Graham draws on scholarship of cognition to suggest ways a Game Master can make Intelligence checks not just more realistic–but more fun and interesting, too.
A D&D character at three levels: 1st, 5th, and 10th. Mitra continues the cleric series started with the “Mini-Me of Thor” article. This time, we use the cleric rules to make a character whose divine power comes from within–because she’s a demigod. If this sounds like power-gaming, take a look at the explanation and character description.
Osiris. Odin. Anubis. Gods of death aren’t necessarily evil. A death domain cleric need not be evil, and his or her granted powers shouldn’t have to be either. This column sketches out a possible variant to the official Death domain, for those campaigns with neutral gods of death.
A profile of illustrator Joseph Garcia, with samples of his “Lunchtime Sketches” series of character portraits.
An option for clerics.
Ways to speed up game play.
Why asking players to read rules aloud might help clear up the sorts of weird rules arguments groups often find themselves mired in.
What can you learn about swords from YouTube and other online videos?
Beware of those who peddle grand but simple claims. Why a recent archery video shouldn’t pass your smell test.
A six-part series on some simple scenarios that new or harried DMs can use with almost no prep, and keep using session after session, sometimes in combination with each other. Includes:
- The Nostalgia Crawl
- The Tarterian Highway
- The Sandbox Campaign
- Glen Cook’s Goblin Recon
- The Arena
- Blending Scenarios & Other DM Advice
Explores ways to deal with high-quality but nonmagical items.
Why it might be better to design characters with two alignments than with one — one to represent a person’s innate, natural inclinations, and a second to reflect aspirations or social codes he or she tries (not always successfully) to follow.
An understanding of the allure behind the “you all meet in a tavern” opening can help you design better non-tavern openings. There’s a reason the tavern trope is so common.
Continuing our series on reskinnings and reinterpretations of the cleric, Raicho is a recusant — a kind of mercenary to the gods. He’s easily our most controversial entry in the series. His entry opens with a short story that people seem to like, though, even if they aren’t sure about this kind of cleric. He’s presented here at three levels: 1st, 5th, and 10th.
Skill challenges were a good idea, but needed some design tweaks. This piece diagnoses what the problem was and recommends a new way to think about them. This article forms a kind of set with Graham’s earlier work, “Smarter Intelligence Checks.” Along with his article on how to rethink demographics, these three seem to be the ones authored by Graham that we see cited most often outside of the Ludus site.
The last in Graham’s series of reskinned and reinterpreted clerics, Arethkayn is the last in a family line with its own set of patron gods and goddesses, on a campaign of vengeance against those who overthrew her house. In addition to the stat blocks and explanation in this article, Graham wrote a novella about Arethkayn, titled Godfathom, which you can find available for free on most ebook sites other than Amazon (which won’t publish free books). The previous link goes to the Barnes & Noble ebook version.
This entry in the “Character!” series focuses on a fellow named Jacker who has some of the worst, randomly rolled stats imaginable: 5, 6, 12, 8, 4, 6. Graham uses Jacker, and an opening short story about him, to illustrate some creative ways to interpret bad stats. A low Intelligence statistic doesn’t have to mean you don’t know anything, and a low Charisma score doesn’t mean you don’t have a kind of charm….
Let’s stop treating player knowledge like it’s always a problem.
Although it’s space opera, Anne Leckie’s epic SF bestseller has a lot of cool ideas to inspire D&D game masters. Armies of lich clones, anyone? What about thinking fortresses or hive-mind corpse soldiers? This article features a new magic item, the Scepter of Slujitori.
Angry GM is right: Don’t spend time creating (or using) needless rules. Rules are for resolving uncertainty about PC actions at the table.
Historically, most soldiers were conscripts and cheaply armed. They may not be a mortal threat to your PCs — but they can present a heck of a moral challenge.
A legion of hobgoblins exists that shuns armor and heavy weapons. Meet the monks of the Blackwool Legion.
When a lich’s body is defeated but its phylactery isn’t destroyed, that abandoned corpse can still cause problems…
There’s absolutely no reason all of the clerics and paladins of a particular god should get along with each other. In fact, adding religious schisms to your campaign can add high-octane fun.
What to do about meta-gaming based on player knowledge about monsters and the world.
Rolling dice is fun. Players like to roll dice because it gives them a sense of agency. They’re captains of their own fates. But sometimes the number they see on the die tells them more than the GM wants them to know. If the player rolls badly while checking for traps and is told he’s confident there are no traps, then the player now suspects a trap. A cryptocheck is a quick way to handle such situations: the player rolls but cannot learn anything from what he or she sees on the dice.
Farron is a dangerous but useful NPC — a black market provider of magical items who can hold a grudge …
Lord Blot is a sentient sphere of annihilation — and an expert on ancient, magical lore. So PCs might want to talk to it. But there’s a catch: Lord Blot only gives out information in trade for new information. And it only trusts information that it digests. So the party is going to have to feed it something. Or someone.
In an analysis of official pregenerated characters, I found that Strength was the most common dump stat. Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom tended to be favored stats. While it’s certainly possible that these decisions aren’t typical of players in general, I suspect they are, in fact, fairly representative. If so, the pattern reinforces some points I’ve made previously about how many adventurer-class NPCs might exist in any given population.
A short, simple primer for new game masters — because we kept stumbling across new gamers who were asking for such a thing.
Any look at historical sources — including the older editions of D&D! — will tell you that the sling is a much, much better weapon than its 5th edition stats indicate. Here are a few simple tweaks that can bring it up to snuff without unbalancing the game.