Richards's page

23 posts. 1 review. No lists. No wishlists.


Weirmonken: Thanks for the extensive list! I'm sure that represents an awful lot of time and effort on your part, and I certainly appreciate it.

To answer your specific questions:

weirmonken wrote:
How did you get involved in puzzle design?

I've enjoyed puzzles for as long as I can remember. As a little kid I liked doing mazes and find-a-word puzzle books, got into crossword puzzles when I was a bit older, and currently enjoy sudoku puzzles. I remember freaking myself out when I was about 8 years old and on a cross-country camping trip with my family, looking at the name "PONTIAC" on the car driving in front of us, and realizing it was an anagram (although I wasn't aware of that word at the time) of "CAPTION."

As for puzzle design, the original "Challenge of Champions" adventure was my first real stab at puzzle design for an RPG. The core concept is something I took from "Project X," a leadership challenge that they send you through as an Air Force Captain when you attend Squadron Officers School. It's a series of challenges, usually of the "get from point A to point B in so many minutes using only the equipment provided" sort, and you get graded not only on your ability to meet the goal but also on how you work with the other members of your team, make use of the provided equipment, etc. After going through it myself (which was definitely my favorite part of SOS), I wondered if such a concept could be carried over into AD&D.

And I'll let you in on a little secret: although I had been playing AD&D for years at that time, I was fairly uncertain just how one went about writing an adventure that was specifically geared for "X level." (Remember, this was before the concept of Challenge Ratings.) One of the reasons the "Challenge of Champions" series was designed to be for characters of any level was because I wasn't sure just what level it was appropriate for otherwise.

weirmonken wrote:
Do you have any suggestions for DMs who want to design their own puzzle elements into a scenario?

The best advice I can give to a budding puzzle-writer is to be familiar with the types of puzzles that might be appropriate. For me, with the "Challenge of Champions" series, the first thing I do is decide whether I want a unifying theme. Usually, this is the final scenario, which often hinges on the names of the previous scenarios in the challenge (and then using a word-based puzzle for the last scenario). In such a case, I need to design the last scenario first, so that I can then figure out a way to create the other puzzles with names that are useful for the solving of the last scenario.

Another useful way to generate puzzles for RPGs is to pore through the magic items and spell descriptions and see if there's a "hook" that can be used to generate a puzzle. Often, this is using the spell or item in a way it's not usually intended, or focusing on a lesser aspect of the spell or item. (For example, rope trick is best known for its extradimensional space, but it's also a perfectly good way to create a vertical anchored rope for climbing.) Don't forget the cursed items, too, as some scenarios involve trying to figure out which of two identical-looking items is the "good" one.

weirmonken wrote:
Are there any books you found particularly helpful in this regard?

Not off the top of my head. I remember there was a good article in Dragon some years back by Mike Selinker that had some very useful advice for puzzle design in dungeons, though.

weirmonken wrote:
Do you have any further plans to write material for RPGs?

It's funny in a way, but when I was at the peak of my Dragon and Dungeon freelancing I was between campaigns and didn't have a gaming group for the most part. Of course, this gave me plenty of time for writing articles and adventures for publication. With the advent of 4E and my unwillingness to move on from 3.5, my freelancing came to an abrupt halt, but at around the same time I started up my present campaign, and the extra time I've had to write adventures for my home group is something I wouldn't have had if I were still freelancing at the same rate I had been. So it's kind of balanced. Of course, the adventures I write now are very focused on my particular gaming group, and aren't fit for publication in their current form. (I wrote a really cool tomb delve, for example, but it had a puzzle door that involved the names of various deities in the Greyhawk pantheon, so that's out.) I had pretty much figured my freelancing days were over, but with your list above, who knows? :) Thanks again!


I just discovered this thread today and it brought a big smile to my face (since that's where I tend to keep my smiles), as I have had some similar thoughts of my own in recent months.

James Jacobs was very courteous in his disclaimer above (thanks, James!), but truth be told I share a lot of his concerns. The "Challenge of Champions" series DID seem to work best in the AD&D 2E days, and it has been increasingly difficult to come up with new additions to the series in a 3E world. (Disclaimer of my own: I'm still playing 3.5, not because I dislike Pathfinder but because I - and my players - still enjoy 3.5 and I have enough 3.5 material to tide me over probably for the rest of my gaming career. I do own the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and both Bestiaries to date, however, and will be purchasing Bestiary 3 upon its release.) "Challenge of Champions" is also admittedly an acquired taste, and not the sort of thing that everyone enjoys, so I can certainly understand James' disinclination to want to publish another entry in the series.

But my players still enjoy them, and so half a year or more ago I set about to write "Challenge of Champions VII," with the following thoughts:

  • I'm going to write this for my own campaign's use anyway, but it would be cool if I could also get it published.

  • Wizards of the Coast is out, as they'd only be interested in 4E material and I have absolutely no desire to learn 4E.

  • I'm not really aware of any third-party publishers who still print 3.5 adventures.

  • My best bet would therefore probably be Paizo; luckily, I have the core rules and could probably convert any 3.5 "Challenge of Champions" adventures I write to the Pathfinder rules.

  • If I take this path (no pun intended), I'll need to steer clear of word-based puzzles (as I know I'll probably have to get this past Sean K. Reynolds, and he hates those), and I'll need to come up with a new name for this (as mentioned above, Wizards of the Coast now owns the "Challenge of Champions" name).

  • As long as I'm renaming it, I might as well come up with a new reason for having this series of contests rather than using it as a test sponsored by the local Adventurers Guild.

So, with all that in mind, I came up with a new concept: a group of dwarven clerics creates a testing facility to hone the skills of their flock; each scenario would be similar to a "Challenge of Champions" scenario but would have a "lesson" at the end of it, demonstrating a dwarven truism. There would be twelve tests in all, and due to typical dwarven pragmatism there wouldn't be any of this "fake danger" nonsense; if a scenario called for you to fight your way past a summoned monster, you'd have to fight your way past a summoned monster, not an illusion of a summoned monster managed by a Guild proctor who told you when you were "dead."

Writing it for my own campaign was easy enough, as I used the 3.5 rules that I'm familiar with. However...

  • I found it too inhibiting to remove word puzzles from my arsenal. I enjoy word puzzles, my players enjoy word puzzles, and I know many gamers also enjoy word puzzles, and it just seemed silly to avoid all word puzzles so that I might have a better chance at getting this published in various languages. (Sorry, guys, but my home campaign took precedence; it wouldn't have turned out as cool as it did if I avoided all word puzzles.)

  • Many "Challenge of Champions" adventures have a final scenario based on the previous scenarios (or, more accurately, the names of the previous scenarios). This proved to be the case with this adventure as well - and to make matters worse, it has an English-based word puzzle at its root.

  • To make matters even worse to non-English speakers, I created a poem inscribed at the beginning of the twelve challenges that gave a hint as to what the contestants would be encountering along the way, and the best way to make it through the challenges. As I'm an English speaker (and writer), the poem is written in English (although in the game world it's written in Dwarven; I have absolutley no compunctions about hand-waving the fact that the rhyme and meter both translate effectively when read in the Dwarven tongue). But this no doubt makes it even less attractive to Paizo.

Eventually, I opted not to even bother trying to get it published, for the reasons stated above. As a result, it's still firmly ensconced in its 3.5 rules and name, "Moradin's Forge." (Obviously, had I submitted it to Paizo it would have had to undergo a name change, probably to whatever the Moradin equivalent is in the Golarion campaign world.)

Sorry to have typed all of this up for you to read just to get to "but it doesn't look like I'll ever publish it," but that's where it stands. On the plus side, though, my players went through it and enjoyed it. (We only have one dwarf in our campaign, a cohort to our half-orc barbarian, so I had the party discover a sentient dwarven holy symbol in a dragon's hoard in a previous adventure, and after the dwarf wore it for a week and the holy symbol deemed him worthy it transmitted the location of Moradin's Forge into his mind.) As a "scoring system," the Forge gave each player a free weapon property upgrade depending upon how close they matched the dwarven ideal.

In any case, thanks for the kind words about the now-defunct "Challenge of Champions" series, and happy gaming, all!


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
That's a specious argument. Nobody's expecting us to create a new language just for gaming and only write and speak in that.

Hence my use of the phrase, "Taking Sean's attitude to the extreme case...." I'm not advocating that we need do this, or implying that you're advocating that we need do this, just pointing out just how far into the realm of silliness this attitude can be taken. My whole point here is that it shouldn't matter if a puzzle is based on the English language (or any language), since we can all agree that the PCs are all using whatever in-game language is appropriate.

Plus, getting all bothered about the PCs not speaking English means that you really shouldn't use rhyming riddles, another staple of RPG puzzles (a staple you yourself put to good use in Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad)...unless you assume that the rhythm, cadence, and rhyme patterns are similarly replicated in the language the PCs are using, in which the case becomes moot.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

However, there *are* sayings in English that (1) are anachronistic, (2) rely on Earth history and therefore don't make sense in a non-Earth world, and (3) are especially reliant on nuances of the English language. I think as a publisher we should avoid those things, because

(1) Something like "The buck stops here" only makes sense in countries where "buck" is a synonym for "dollar," and Golarion doesn't use dollars, so a sourcebook that had a character using that term would be awkward.

(2) Likewise, "Remember the Alamo!" is an Americanism, and makes little sense outside the USA, and even LESS sense in a world where there is no Alamo. Sure, you could hand-wave it and say, "oh, the character is just referring to something equivalent to the Alamo massacre in Golarion," but that just means it's "okay" to have a guy in an otherwise-serious campaign that talks like a California surfer "because that's the equivalent of what people from Rahadoum talk like, dude."

(3) Translating palindromes and such, which you already commented on. Some word puzzles are easier to translate than others; I'm just saying it's a bad path to start walking down. Puns also fit in this category.

I agree with everything you've said there...but it's largely irrelevant to the case at hand. You seemed to be "dinging" Jesse's puzzle because its answer is based on the English spelling of the numbers 1-10; I, in turn, was just pointing out that

(1) the fact that the GM and players are using English to work on the solution to this puzzle is irrelevant if we all agree that the PCs are working in their appropriate language; and

(2) the puzzle, as written, has an elegant solution that transcends any individual language: push the buttons in alphabetical order of the numbers 1-10 as they're spelled out as words. The fact that different languages will have different solutions doesn't matter; the players are solving it in their native language, and the PCs are solving it in theirs.

Obviously, we have different views on the appropriateness of language-based puzzles. I can see your point (and agree completely) on the inappropriateness of building puzzles based on English axioms, puns, anachronisms, and historical facts that haven't happened in the game world, but I have no problem with using the English language as the basis for a puzzle, if it makes sense that the in-game language would follow suit.

Jesse's puzzle, I contend, meets that requirement.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I don't like puzzles that rely on a word's English spelling, or synonims, or palindromes, or anything like that because the character's aren't speaking or reading English. Also, Paizo's books are translated into other languages, and this sort of puzzle doesn't translate literally--they'd have to rework it to suit their language.

I have never understood this line of reasoning. Puzzles are a staple of many adventures, and to strike wordplay-based puzzles from the GM's repertoire seems unnecessarily limiting. Taking Sean's attitude to the extreme case, we would then have to forbid any player handout printed in English (or the appropriate language for the players in question) because the characters aren't speaking or reading English. Should we then devise, say, a separate language - complete with alphabet, grammar and syntax rules, and so on - and use that language exclusively when playing a campaign in that region? I don't think it's a problem at all to jointly agree among players and GM that while they will be doing all of their communicating in English (or whatever their native language happens to be), the PCs and NPCs are all conversing and reading in the appropriate game language suitable to that campaign region. And therefore, when the PCs are up against a word-based puzzle, we can all just assume that while the players are reading and solving that puzzle in English (or whatever), their PCs are dealing with the same puzzle concept in their own appropriate language.

As for the concern that Paizo products are translated into other languages, I'll grant that this is a more relevant issue, since - to give two of Sean's examples - synonyms and palindromes aren't going to necessarily translate well between languages. (Although they've translated some of Shakespeare's plays into the Klingon language, while preserving the iambic pentameter structure, so it's probably not impossible - but I digress.) However, I would argue that in this particular case, the concern is negligible; the puzzle's solution consists of simply spelling out each number and then activating them in alphabetical order. While it's true that Jesse's specific solution was given in English, and that the, say, German solution would be a different one, it's not going to be difficult at all for a German GM to derive the appropriate German answer to the puzzle. (Actually, I imagine it would be the task of whoever's translating the Paizo product into German in the first place, but the concept still stands.)


I'm in the process of updating this very adventure for my group. Of course, I use a "most default Greyhawk" campaign world, so Oghma has become a lesser deity of knowledge, and the PCs have been commissioned to check out the ruins of this "rumored keep of knowledge" and bring back any books/scrolls/whatnot they can find to the Temple of Boccob in Greyhawk City.

Topside, I pretty much kept the monsters as-is, using the current version of the heucuvas, and choosing some specific wandering monsters in the ruins (ones I happen to have suitable figures for: giant centipede, giant spider, and carrion crawlers).

In the sublevel, the first thing I did was cut the rooms down to 8x8 instead of 16x16. This was a matter of practicality, as I realized I'd only be able to get a single 16x16 room out of a sheet of standard-sized posterboard, and didn't have anything large enough to carry such large room tiles safely to the game in any case. 8x8 seems like it'll work fine: there's plenty of room for the PCs to move around in, and I just tried to keep the same basics of each room. The doors are all still in the middle of the walls, so they straddle two adjacent squares, but that shouldn't be a problem.

I scrapped the classed NPCs in the lower level, as I don't want that many people down there at once to have to keep track of, so I replaced them with a single doppelganger who will be taking the form of the PCs' hireling, whom they left upstairs with their horses. He'll concoct a story about having been overrun by a pack of displacer beasts and having barely escaped down the stairs and getting lost in the rooms, so the players will have something to worry about after the adventure is over.

Having cut down the room sizes, I cut back a lot of the plant monsters in the hydroponics room. I think I'm just going to use a shambling mound and some violet fungi and call it good - the original room looked to be a bit labor-intensive as far as keeping track of all those monsters at once. (Oh, and I had a scrap of green posterboard just the right size, so I made up two versions of that room tile: a green one for the "foliated" original version and a white one for the "defoliated" one; the latter one has the red scroll markings visible.)

As for the duplication of the guardian beasts, I'm a bit concerned that that may get boring, but I haven't decided just what to do about it yet. (We ended the last session with the PCs going down to the second level.) I did generate 3.5 stats using the abishai entry from "Monsters of Faerûn" and the guardian daemon from "Tome of Horrors," which I'll definitely be using, but I may just decide that not as many books are protected that way, especially not the ones that don't hold the pages needed to reassemble the control book. I may throw on some extra sepia snake sigils or exploding rune spell traps to take their place; that way the original Oghma cleric will still have protected his books, but not in such a repetitive fashion, and it'll make for a faster game session that way. (I'm fighting a timeline here, as my youngest son goes off to college in a couple of weeks, and we want to finish up this adventure before he leaves.)

As the PCs discover the "rune pages," I'm giving them a token that has the appropriate English letter on it - again, for the sake of time, I'm not going to have them decipher what each rune really stands for.

I think that's about it. We'll see how it goes, hopefully the weekend after next.


And this is the article's author, reaping great benefit from the previous post. :)

A few comments about your inputs:

Challenge 1 - Well, I suppose that depends upon the level of the creator of the boots of levitation - they should, after all, support 100 lbs/caster level, according to the levitation spell description. But still, no matter - I'm glad your team found another way to solve the scenario!

Challenge 3 - Good call on the Knowledge (arcana) check. I'd have hated for them not to have followed the "school solution" because of a possibly incorrect assumption on the part of the author.

Challenge 4 - Technically, your team's solution wouldn't have worked: the scenario specifies that "both the 'Y' end of the staff of divination and the blade end of the ranseur are too wide to fit through a ring gate." But hey, as long as you all had fun with the scenario, the solution really isn't all that important. Apparently the proctors in your campaign used a slightly narrower ranseur than their counterparts did in other campaigns - no big deal.

Challenge 6 - This brings great joy to my evil little DM's heart. :)

Challenge 8 - I loved the paint-eating story!

Challenge 9 - Cool story, and had it worked out, that would have been a perfectly valid way of getting the "old maid" at least onto the platform. How were they planning on getting her out of the cage, though?

Thanks for the "field report" - I love hearing how people do on these Challenges.


The original manuscript didn't have wooden pegs - it had four shuriken, instead. The solution was to wedge the ring gate in place by sticking the shuriken into the fork of the wooden staff, holding it in place.

I'm not sure why the shuriken were replaced with wooden pegs. Perhaps the editors felt having the shuriken as starting equipment was too great an enticement to have the PCs throw them up at the tag in hopes of cutting it free...? (Naturally, this would also entail having to have the PCs dodge the shuriken on the way back down, what with gravity being a law and all.)


Heh heh heh...yeah, my two sons gave me grief over the Horseshoes scenario, too. They HATED it! Oddly enough, though, they managed to get to the point at the end of the instructions where they found out that all of their time up to that point had been wasted, and they still had time enough to recover and complete the scenario.

As for the Daern's instant fortress, one of the ways I come up with scenarios is to page through the magic items in the DMG and spells in the PH and come up with what I hope are cool and different ways to use them. I had been wanting to use the Daern's instant fortress for awhile now, and thought the Egg Toss would give me a good chance to do so. Apparently I should have polished that one up a bit more....

Oh well, I can only pledge to try to do better with Challenge of Champions VII. (I've already got a germ of an idea for a unifying theme for the scenarios in that one.) Of course, as the Challenge of Champions tend to be published every two years, I'm afraid you'll have a bit of time until the next one.

In the meantime, though, have you sent your players through "Gorgoldand's Gauntlet" yet? It was written for 1st-level PCs, but it's similar in nature to the Challenge of Champions series (although the puzzles aren't part of a contest; they're part of a sort of testing ground that was taken over by some nasty jermlaine). It was in Dragon Annual 5, and also appeared on the free CD-ROM that was given away with issues of the magazine some years back.

jow - In response to your concerns:

Scenario 1: Nothing is preventing your PCs from crossing the pit in the fashion you described...or at least the first PC. Mess up in throwing the boots of levitation back to the other PCs across the 30-foot-long pit, though, and they probably won't be joining the first PC. :) Seriously, though, it's a valid (if potentially dangerous) approach to the scenario.

Scenario 2: Nowhere in the scenario does it say that the buckets weight 5 lbs. I think you were focusing too hard on the part where it says the ducks cannot "hitchhike" in the buckets (while the buckets are being magically manipulated via a mage hand spell by one of the PCs), because the weight of the duck and the weight of the bucket together exceeds the 5-lb. limit of the spell.

Scenario 3: The Daern's instant fortress was designed a little different from the norm specifically so as not to harm the contestants. (I did it this way thinking from the point of view of those who run the Adventurer's Guild, not wanting to harm - or kill - their potential or actual members.) However, I saw no need to point out the differences to the players ahead of time - they can use the item's description in the DMG as written. As for the acceleration of the roofline - well, if you're going to use real-world physics against me, I'm going to have to concede defeat. :) Honestly, I didn't worry about it - it's magic.

Scenario 4: On page 94 of the magazine, it specifically states: "The staff of divination is 7 feet long, with a forked tip." The information is provided to the DM so he can provide it to the players. It was not intended that the players should have to ask if this was the case.

Scenario 6: Horseshoes of a zephyr "allow" the horse to float above the ground, but the description in the DMG doesn't state that they always do so. Perhaps it's just the way we've always used them in my own experience, but we always just assumed that the power "kicked in" when necessary or when desired. I assume the horse is more "comfortable" touching the ground, but if ridden over a pool of lava, the horseshoes' power would kick in (either automatically or because the horse at that point was thinking to himself, "Uh, no thanks on the lava bath, pal"). Apparently my own assumptions about the horseshoes' powers are not universally embraced, and for that I apologize. I'll have to scour the magic item descriptions a bit closer in future to prevent such a recurrence.

Scenario 9: I...have no argument here at all. My goof.

In any case, I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of the adventure, and I'll try not to make the same mistakes next time.


That sounds pretty cool, Tiger Lily. If you end up doing it that way, let us all know how it turned out!

Another way I've heard people run it is to have two teams, with one running through scenario #1 (while the other team is banished off to another room), then the second team goes through scenarios #1 and #2, then it's back to team one with scenarios #2 and #3, and so on. That way no one team is always going first. On the down side, the team not currently running through the scenario doesn't get to watch the other team, which is a definite advantage your way of doing it has over this way.

I once ran my two sons through one of the Challenges of Champions (III, I think), each one solo and running the 4 pregenerated characters, just because they wanted to see which of them could get the better score. Oddly enough, my older son won, even though in normal play it's usually my younger son who comes up with the best strategies for whatever adventure they're going through.

Well, I might be slightly biased, but I also think this would be a cool product. :)

Incidentally, the fact that the first four Challenges of Champions were written for AD&D 2nd Edition isn't an insurmountable problem: I'm standing by willing to convert all of the previous scenarios to 3.5 should this hypothetical compilation project ever get the "go ahead" nod from WotC/Paizo.

Johnathan M. Richards
Author, Challenge of Champions series

If you look at the dates when those issues were published, you'll see that they come out about every two years. "Challenge of Champions V" was published in 2004, so in theory, "Challenge of Champions VI" would be published sometime in 2006, if the pattern holds.

Fortunately, I've already got 5 of the 10 scenarios figured out so far for "Challenge of Champions VI." My goal is to have the entire adventure finished and submitted to Dungeon by the end of the year.


Here's another thought - maybe that would work best for the April issue every year, since those issues are usually at least partly humor-based anyway. I'd take even one Monster Hunters Ecology a year over the current, well, none ever.


Mr. Schneider,

As the "guy who handles Ecology articles," you're definitely the person I want to ask this question: Any chance that there might be a return to the old "fiction and footnote" format of old any time soon? Or perhaps, instead of having you convert the Ecology articles completely back to the "fiction and footnote" style, perhaps a better question might be: Is there any chance you would be interested in an occasional "fiction and footnote" style Ecology article if it also incorporated the specific sidebars (Knowledge tables, past appearances of the creature in question) of the current style? Perhaps featuring, oh, I don't know, a band of Monster Hunters or something?

And would it help if the individual asking the question had written more of the Ecology articles on that comprehensive list you posted than anybody else on the planet?


I'm actually working on "Challenge of Champions VI." I haven't actually written anything down at this stage, just tinkered around with the possible scenarios. However, the new format of the magazine brings with it some pretty stringent word counts, which may cause me some difficulty. (I'm hoping for some leeway if I need it based on the fact that these adventures are suitable for use with ANY level.) Still, my plan is to have "Challenge of Champions VI" written and submitted by the end of the year, which could mean a 2006 printing (if it's accepted).

Before the switch to a monthly format, the early "Challenge of Champions" adventures not only came out every other year, but every 11 issues. That started out as a coincidence, but became a personal goal for me.

Oh, and I'm due to retire from the military in Feb 07. After that, I hope to increase my magazine article/adventure submissions (at both Dragon and Dungeon) significantly. Should I ever end up shackled to a typewriter, my favorite fast-food of late is from Runza's. :)


I, for one, would be interested in an Ecology of the Eyeball. Have you sent in a proposal to the editors?


Here you go:

Dungeon #58: Challenge of Champions
Dungeon #69: Challenge of Champions II
Dungeon #80: Challenge of Champions III
Dungeon #91: Challenge of Champions IV
Dungeon #108: Challenge of Champions V

As for Challenge of Champions VI...I'm working on some ideas, but I probably won't have anything ready to submit to Dungeon until early next year at the earliest.

Glad you enjoyed them!



Yeah, that adventure was a blast, even though we did end up with a TPK and it sent my campaign reeling off into a completely different direction for many, many sessions. Rather than abandon the campaign after their deaths, I figured that since they died right there by the Deadgate, their souls were sucked into the Abyss. The PCs "woke up" at the feet of Orcus himself with no memories of their past lives. Orcus informed them that they were demons who had failed in an attempt to overthrow him, that he had wiped their memories of their treachery and trapped them in the bodies of humans, and that they had to earn the right to regain their true demonic bodies by performing missions for him. They spent the next four or five adventures stealing powerful items for him, and once they finally regained their memories and escaped back to Oerth, they had to pick up where they left off. They managed to destroy the Deadgate the second time through, and they've spent the rest of the campaign so far trying to undo what they did while they were working for Orcus. (Right now, they're on their way back to seal off a planar rift they helped open up between Oerth and Gehenna, while trying to track down the succubus and marilith they summoned and set free on Oerth.) They're still being pursued by the awakened dire wolf of the NPC druid that died with them (unfortunately, they both were "left behind" during the escape back to Oerth and are still working for Orcus), and my players have unanimously decided they want the campaign to end at 20th level with a final showdown with Orcus himself.

I can honestly say that "Headless" has by far had the greatest impact on my campaign to date!


Dark Lurker of Psionics wrote:
Of all those on that list, the Sheet Phantom stands out as what an Ecology article should be. It took a silly monster and turned it into a serious undead threat.

Hey, thanks! I was rather pleased with how that one turned out myself.

As a side note, the name of the old miser who became a sheet phantom in the story was originally called "Old Man Rickenbacher," but Dave Gross - then the editor of Dragon - said it sounded too much like the guitar, so I should name him something else. Oddly enough, he didn't like my next suggestion ("Old Man Stratocaster-With-A-Whammy-Bar") either, so "Old Man Scaumble" it was.


For future reference, here's a list of all of the Ecology articles that have been printed in Dragon over the years. "AnX" refers to "Dragon Annual X," where "X" is the annual number.

72 - Piercer
73 - Catoblepas
74 - Bulette
75 - Mimic
76 - Beholder
77 - Unicorn
78 - Mind Flayer
79 - Treant
80 - Doppleganger
81 - Basilisk
82 - Peryton
83 - Stirge
84 - Trapper
85 - Ixitxachitl
86 - Slithering Tracker
87 - Dryad
88 - Rust Monster
91 - Leucrotta
92 - Ettin
93 - Eye of the Deep
94 - Chimera/Gorgimera
95 - Cockatrice
96 - Gulguthra
97 - Gorgon/Gorgimera
99 - Will-o-wisp/Boggart
104 - Ochre Jelly
106 - Maedar/Medusa
107 - Sea Lion
109 - Displacer Beast
114 - Remorhaz
115 - Harpy
116 - Minotaur
117 - Anhkheg
119 - Korred
120 - Gas Spore
122 - Rot Grub
123 - Leech, Giant
124 - Gelatinous Cube
125 - Greenhag
126 - Shade
127 - Yeti
131 - Aboleth
131 - Hook Horror
132 - Aurumvorax
133 - Carnivorous Ape
134 - Red Dragon
135 - Cave Fisher
137 - Carnivorous Plants
139 - Spectator
146 - Dragons (2nd Ed.)
151 - Kappa
151 - Yuan-ti
152 - Umber Hulk
153 - Manticore
155 - Satyr
156 - Behir
157 - Wemic
160 - Gibbering Mouther
161 - Griffon
164 - Iron Cobra
167 - Su Monster
172 - Galeb Duhr
173 - Flind/Gnoll
187 - Dakon
190 - Actaeon
192 - Lamia
197 - Giant Scorpion
214 - Neogi
214 - Owlbear
215 - Amphisbaena
218 - Bird Maiden
219 - Black Pudding
221 - Crystal Spider
222 - Penanggalan
223 - Chitine
224 - Lammasu
227 - Osquip
232 - Roper
235 - Troglodyte
An1 - Wyvern
239 - Stirge
240 - Nymph
An2 - Shambling Mound
242 - Mongrelman
244 - Sphinx
245 - Steeder
246 - Flumph
251 - Wererat
252 - Ghoul
An3 - Steel Dragon
254 - Cyclopskin
257 - Firenewt/Giant Strider
258 - Flail Snail
260 - Aspis
261 - Dark Naga
262 - Jermlaine
An4 - Gray Ooze
266 - Xixchil
267 - Carrion Crawler
269 - Pseudodragon
270 - Gorbel
271 - Bag of Devouring
272 - Hydra
273 - Hippocampus
275 - Darkmantle
276 - Sheet Phantom
An5 - Feyr
282 - Purple Worm
300 - Mummy
301 - Troll
309 - Hobgoblin
312 - Drider
314 - Salamander
322 - Dark Ones
323 - Choker
324 - Night Hag

Everything before issue 146 was written under the AD&D 1st Edition rules. Everything from issue 146 through issue 272 was written under the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Everything from issue 272 and on was written under the 3.0/3.5 rules. (Issue 272's "Ecology of the Hydra" was a transitional article, covering the rules from both systems.) I hope this helps those of you looking to try their hands at Ecology articles.


Gallameed wrote:
I would love to see an ecology of the Pseudodragon.

Then you need to pick up a back issue of Dragon #269, where you'll find "The Ecology of the Pseudodragon." Granted, it was written in the AD&D 2nd Edition days, but the information should all still be relevant - you'll just need to mentally "convert" to 3E as you read through it.