Mining Tropes for RPG nuggets: Halloween Special!

This is a boring, repeating preface nobody reads anymore. It links to stuff I wrote some time ago that has a vague thematic link to what I’m about to write here…

Actually this is a Very D&D specific Trope post. It features a lot of Crunchy bits… like the candy I’m eating right now…

The kids are trick or treating with my adorable gamer-friendly wife. My five-year old Sith Lord and my 4 year old Faerie Princess are out for some serious candy shakedown hustling. I’m sitting at the kitchen’s breakfast bar, waiting to see who’s going to try to hustle me out of my hoard of candy bars, chip bags and other jellied treats. Wifey told me, gently but quite sternly, that I had to give them out…. (grumble grumble, my poor preciouses, grumble)

Well, as you can see, I’m already way up there with all that Halloween mood. Since everybody on the RPG bloggosphere seems to be doing it, here’s my stab at my very first Halloween post, Trope Style! (linky for my European and Indian readers…)

You see, since Halloween is about muddling one’s identity in order to threaten suburbanites into giving you loot, the link to RPGs is quite evident! Seriously, when one thinks about further applications of the Rule of Cool in a RPG you don’t need to look too far to dress up your game world:

Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot (Woot!)

Short for Robot Ninja Pirate Cowboys With Katanas And Revolvers And The Power Of Friendship Fighting Vampire Nazis With Dark Magic Riding Cyborg Dinosaurs With Head Mounted Lasers On A Submarine Jet With Desert Polar Bears Crashing Into An Ancient Zeppelin With Alien Anacondas IN SPACE With Chuck Norris And Time Travelling BikiniWerewolf Catgirls wielding Febreze!!! (Part 2)

(Well, maybe not all in the same adventure mind you…)

The idea is a specific variety of Rule Of Cool, where something is cool because it is either a combination of two cool things (for example, chainswords, a sword with a motor and chainsaw blade instead of a cutting one, from Warhammer 40000), or taking something mundane and combining it with something either odd or cool or equally as mundane, and ending up with something with a coolness that exceeds the sum of its parts (e.g., snakes and planes).

The latest version of D&D is filled with all kinds of Crunchy rules that allow a crafty DM to combine cool monster or equipment concepts with one another to spice things up. Of course, sometimes the result can become more than scary.

But still, without throwing common sense through the window, one can mix and match things in D&D (and any other RPG for that matter) to make everything cooler.

thing is, making these things work within the rules can be quite a lot of work… D&D 3.5’s crunch can be pretty unforgiving for DMs.

I’ll let you on a little secret that took me 7 years to learn*. You see, you don’t have to ‘do it by the rules’. You just need to trust yourself, start with something that already exists, screw a little bit with its crunch and a lot with it’s fluff.

Don’t forget the Rule of Cool: If it’s cool enough, no one will care about the crunch behind your encounters, just stay fair to the ideal of making it fun for the players.

Want a fantasy Flamethrowing Tank? No problem! Take a Bulette, the size fits perfectly. Make it a construct (but don’t bother with changing HD or saves. Just make the damn thing immune to critical hits). Strip it’s burrowing ability, tag on a CR-equivalent Red Dragon’s Breath Weapon (6d6 Cone of Fire, DC 19 Ref save) and bump the CR to 8. Five minutes of work plus adding the fluff of what a 4 legged fire-breathing construct looks like and where it comes from.

Now stick a Half-Dragon Umber Hulk Barbarian on the Tank and you’re in business!

Want to create a Chainsaw-axe powered by the soul of the user? Take an Adamantine Battle-Axe (it ignores Hardness), bump the damage by one category (1d8 = 2d6) and have it cause 1d2 point of wisdom damage whenever it is powered (and 1d2 every minute after that).

Simple and cool.

Heck, throw the rules away and screw with the freaking landscape for ultimate coolness:

  • A Forteress-Golem, that moves slowly but inexorably on Colossal rollers powered by Fire/Water elemental engines, crushing everything short of Mountain ranges in their path. (With the obligatory Evil Overlord cackling 24 hours a day in the Golem’s Bridge).
  • A mountain made of Petrified Zombies on top of which lives an ancient Ninja master the PCs must defeat (A very hard feat when there is only one) in order to know the location of the Lost Cove where sits the legendary Pirate Warjack! (lol!)

See, Mish-Mashing can be fun! Happy belated Halloween!

*Other, less Crunchy DMs will say “what took you so long?”


  1. or taking something mundane and combining it with something either odd or cool or equally as mundane, and ending up with something with a coolness that exceeds the sum of its parts


  2. Also, can an Umber Hulk ride a fire-breathing Bulette?

  3. Lol! I had to resist talking about that one again…. 🙂

  4. I was kind of expecting it with the build up…

    Does this mean that it as become a blog Trope and you subverted it… LOL!

  5. Oh well, the customer is always right… Since you asked for it I edited the post


  6. Dave The Game says:

    OK, here’s one of our OTHER favorite examples.

    When we were really into Games Workshop Warhammer stuff, one of our members had a subscription to White Dwarf magazine. In one issue was a letter demanding that GW release “Dwarven Bear Calvary” which is Dwarves riding bears. The reasoning given was simply “because it makes sense.” This has always cracked us up, and we try to justify such things by saying “because it makes sense.”

  7. Lol the Bear-ded Cavalry!

    See here you see the fan’s way of thinking in Geek debates: ‘It’s logical/makes sense because I want to see it’

    Whereas, when you take a step away from fandom, you’d say ‘Because it’d would look sooo cool’

    Not a better argument, but at least you know it comes from the guts! And coolness is all about guts and emotions.

  8. Bear-ded Cavalry! That pun cracks me up…

    I always had a soft spot for dwarven based humour…

    Next character I play is a Bearded Dwarven berzerker on a bear fighting with a mug full of beer! I’ll get expelled for over abuse of bad Pun. 😉

    Dwarves don’t fit the cool factor though. It should be in the race description; whoever plays a dwarf is bound to be the comic relief, just look at the lord of the ring.

  9. Dwarves don’t fit the cool factor? Bah! The comic relief is Gnomes and Hobbits.

    Besides, why is comedy intrinsically separate from Rule of Cool? Something that’s comic relief can also be hella cool, such as a fire-breathing Umber Hulk on a fire-breathing Bulette! Or a spork!

    Now, Gully Dwarves, on the other hand…

    Note: my characters are the comic relief regardless of race or class. That I play a lot of Dwarves and Gnomes (and a couple Gully Dwarves) has nothing to do with it. An elven archmage played by me would become comic relief.

    …maybe this explains a lot. Maybe it’s not that Dwarves are always the comic relief. Maybe it’s that the comic relief players (like me) tend to play Dwarves, thus giving them such a reputation.

  10. I think you’ve put your finger on some greater truth Ve4grm…

    Dwarf/gnomes/halfing attracts comic relief players!

    As for the comedy Vs cool factor. I don’t think either that they are exclusive but some type of comedy are harder to combine then other… Trying to look cool in a clown costume is pretty hard…

    Although Jack Nicholson pulled this feat in the Batman film of 1989, with his interpretation of the Joker. This was probably the coolest* comedy based character ever. I mean he literally stole batman spotlight, which is one of the coolest* superhero. (Fighting some of the lamest* villains but that is another story)

    *Coolest and lamest scaling is a subjective one feel free to disagree. This is based solely on my appreciation. 🙂

  11. I think it is in the Five Nations book where there is a picture of the Brelish Bear Cavalry. Human riders, but otherwise…


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