Newsletter #4 – Anonymity

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Anonymity breeds bad behavior. When we play tabletop games, our aim is to have a gaming experience that brings us closer to our friends and, in the end, forge an emotional connection. Online games and large-scale gaming conventions both add on a layer of anonymity that is a detriment to the quality of games, tabletop or otherwise, and an obstacle to this emotional connection.

Over the past few decades, as computerized technology and casual usage of the internet has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, this truism has become more and more self-evident. We have been joking about this aspect of gaming culture for years (

It’s tempting, awful tempting, to take the quick and easy route of gaming; the path of least resistance, the lazy route, and the bare minimum. It’s hard to maintain friendships, to plan games around people’s schedules, to make new friends when others must depart, to negotiate with the non-gamers in our households over what night it’s alright to bring everyone over for beer, chips, and dice. But when we don’t put in this effort and instead settle for a quick and easy online game, a barrier to human interaction is added into the equation. For many, the argument is that online is the only way they can game. That some gaming is better than none. Defy Danger demands the best, and does not accept these excuses.

Anonymity is also the downside to typical large gaming conventions. When you’re in a pool of tens of thousands of gamers together; there’s no incentive to act well, and no detriment to acting poorly. Odds are that you will never see any of the people at any given gaming table ever again. Players are free to behave badly with little or no repercussions – you’ll never be called out on your misdeeds later. Players also have little or nothing to gain from good behavior – you’ll never get a warm invite to a future game from any of these random strangers. Defy Danger demands the best, and does not accept these excuses.

Defy Danger is different by only designing for face-to-face adventures and purposefully limiting the number of attendees at our events. During the long-weekend events, every player may not get to be in a game with every other player; but we all share food, drink, and unwinding time together. At a Defy Danger event, you can’t hide from the results of your actions, nor can those results escape you. A person behaving poorly must face the social ramifications of any disrespect they show immediately, but will also reap the rewards of camaraderie through shared experience and the bonds of friendship.

No one has infinite time to play this great hobby. So, take a moment and ask yourself how you want to spend what time you do have – with an ocean of forgettable players cloaked in anonymity, or with a select band of friends and those soon to be.



Of all people, Chris Hardwick is doing it right with Force Grey: Giant Hunters.

These recorded D&D sessions are done well. The Dungeon Master here, Matt Mercer, doesn’t pull punches at all, to the point where major player characters are killed. The DM is a voice actor by trade, so he does voices and acts out all the characters, but he doesn’t overdo it. They’re here to play a game, not listen to a fairy tale. He doesn’t monologue with each character. He provides curt, to the point descriptions, some banter if the players keep talking, and then moves the plot along.

The vast majority of recorded D&D games, whether it’s text, video, or audio-only, are boring garbage. Even the ones with poplar celebrities and industry leaders are unimaginative wastes of time. Give FG:GH a chance.


PUZZLE – Seven Demon Skulls

This puzzle is designed to reward those players who have dedicated themselves to learning the forgotten lore from the dawn of Dungeons & Dragons.

You come upon a thin cold iron rod driven into the ground, raising up to the height of a man. Etchings along the rod split it into six sections. At the bottom section, a small skull of a vulture-demon has been impaled. Laying on the ground nearby are five other skulls, each with a small puncture hole in the top: a large skull of a demonic hound, a large demonic skull with great spiraling horns, a large skull with the features of a demonic boar, a small skull of a demonic frog, and a small skull of a demonic elf.

The skulls belong to the following demon types, in the order described:

  • Vrock (Type I)
  • Glabrezu (Type III)
  • Balor (Type VI)
  • Nalfeshnee (Type IV)
  • Hezrou (Type II)
  • Marilith (Type V)

An easy skill check identifies the names of the demons that once owned the skulls and that the Balor is a Type VI demon.

A hard skill check also identifies that the Vrock is a Type I demon.

When all six skulls are impaled on the cold iron rod in the correct order (Vrock – Hezrou – Glabrezu – Nalfeshnee – Marilith – Balor), the skulls and rod sink into an opening in the ground which then raises up to reveal the God-Slayer Bolt-Action Nailgun.

When all six skulls are impaled on the cold iron rod in an incorrect order, a wraith-hand chain lightning spell is triggered, arcing out from the rod and attacking each dungeoneer to deal lightning damage as well as imposing negative energy drain.

SOLUTION: The skulls must be impaled on the cold iron rod in the order of their Demon Type, starting with the Vrock (Type I) and ending with the Balor (Type VI), as per D&D supplement Eldritch Wizardry (1976).

EXPERT-LEVEL CHALLENGE: The cold iron rod starts without any skulls impaled upon it. The Vrock skull lay on the ground beside the others.

MASTER-LEVEL CHALLENGE: In addition, the puzzle takes place during a brutal combat challenge with unending swarms summoned from the fiery depths of Hell. Solving the puzzle is the only way to stop their incursions.

Need More Demons?: Go check out Brandon Reinert’s amazing portfolio at


  • The Stone of Truth is hidden away in the Hall of Philosophers and can only be acquired by divulging the true name of the Blessed Fire Djinn.
  • Transgalactic outlaws wish to enlist an “inside man” to help steal an Argent Matrix from the Tissue Vaults of Croan-Dhenni and slip past their robotic Cyber-Inspectors.
  • The weeping portal in the Gallery of Dead Kings leads to a vault containing the vorpal khopesh.




A new champion approaches!

Brendan Flattery had this to say from last month’s design challenge, crafting a classic logic and deduction puzzle and wrapping it up it a description of terror:

The metagame is activated upon drinking from the chalice. When a player does so, three translucent images, faintly glowing with oscillating blue and red lights, will appear in the air above the altar:

  • A Sword, gleaming so brightly with the spectral light that it illuminates the entire room. Its hilt and crossguard are made of a severed demonic hand.
  • A Throne, of an ancient curule shape, backless and with a curving seat shaped from the stone of a long fallen meteor.
  • A skull, plain and cleaned of all flesh, though with lights shining from its eyes that pierce you with a knowing gaze.

The eyes of the cadaver will then open, and it will speak in a hushed, raspy tone: “choose thine aspect in a game of chance, though it matters little what choice thou makest. Throne commands Sword; Sword smashes Skull; Skull outwits Throne. Win and the secrets if this dungeon are yours; lose and the denizens of this place will know you inside and out.”

The corpse’s eyes then close and it speaks no further.

Place a card corresponding to each image on the table face up and have a player take one. Take the remaining two, and shuffle them. Have the player take one of these at random, and reveal to all.

Resolve the metagame as per a rock/paper/scissors balanced mechanic, though with one option removed by the player to avoid stalemates. When the player makes a choice, the corresponding spectral image will disappear, and the other two will begin circle each other, getting closer and more rapid until they merge into one image (the random card) with a bright purple flash.

If the player wins, they will get the boon outlined below. Otherwise, the bane curses them until removed or death.

Boon: the dregs of wine at the bottom of the chalice will begin to shine with a bright bluish white light that also courses through the veins of the player who drank. S/he gains the moniker of Haruspex, and the ability to read auguries from the entrails of the elven corpse. The player can either gain 2 new rumor cards, or may ask a yes/no question about the area once every 24 hours, so long as the elven corpse is preserved and intact. S/he also gains the ability to grant disadvantage to any one attack in the next 24 hours, even after seeing the results of the triggering attack.

Bane: the dregs of wine at the bottom of the chalice will begin to shine with a dark purple light. Simultaneously, the same light can be seen coursing through the veins of the player.

From now on all creatures in the dungeon will have advantage on attack rolls against this player, and will target him/her mercilessly until death. S/he will also have disadvantage on all attack rolls for 24 hours (reveal the natures of this bane only when they become pertinent).



Demogorgon stalks the halls of the deepest level of your dungeon, terrorizing all dungeoneers. It springs to attack!

Based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset, describe one or more unfair, overpowered, game-breaking special attacks or other abilities that Demogorgon uses, using game mechanics to reinforce your theme and narrative.

4 thoughts on “Newsletter #4 – Anonymity

    Anthony Franchini said:
    August 14, 2016 at 2:28 am

    Design challenge:
    Demogorgon gains the following legendary action

    Mutagenic ooze spray
    Demogorgons’ tentacles peel open, revealing bloated purple glands which spray mutagenic ooze on all within 90ft of him. Creatures must make a DC25 Constitution saving throw or immediately growth a second head, a demonic mirror image of its original head. The head is warped and insane, granting disadvantage on all checks as it tries to wrest control . On initiative 11, the head bites at its counterpart: +15 vs. AC. On a hit, the target is DECAPITATED and the insane head takes control of the body. A round later, it explodes and is replaced with a Balor.


    Anthony Franchini said:
    August 14, 2016 at 2:36 am

    Design challenge, entry two! Why? Because I was fucking inspired and this definitely belongs in the category of “unfair and gamebreaking”.

    When Demogorgon is reduced to 248 hit points, its skin burns off in an inferno, dealing 100 fire and necrotic damage to all within 60 ft (no save). The Cybergorgon loses its gaze attacks but gains the following:

    Its tentacles are replaced with four tentacle mounted soul-driven BFG9000s. Ranged weapon attack, range 50. +20 vs AC, hit: 82 (6d20+16) bludgeoning and fire and force damage. He can figure all four as an Action. The target is disintegrated if its hit points are reduced to 0.

    His demonic titanium skeleton raises his AC to 30.

    When reduced to 0 hit points, the Abyssal shard encased warpfire engine inside the Cybergorgon erupts, dealing 500 radiation damage to everything within a ten mile radius.


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