Converting THAC0 to Hit Bonus

THAC0. “To Hit Armor Class 0”. How does one convert this to a modern equivalent of a hit bonus when looking to use older modules & monsters in a modern game (such as DCC RPG, or D&D 5e)? As a follow up to my investigation into ascending vs descending armor class, I now offer my interpretation on how to simply convert THAC0. Or not… as it turns out, this wasn’t as nearly as easy as I’d hoped..

TL;DR: There is no easy conversion, but as a start, use table 2 below, and assign the THAC0 to the D&D 5e proficiency bonus as a hit bonus and then add your other modifiers (i.e. strength bonus) for either 5e or DCC.

First off, if you want a basic explanation on how to use THAC0, a good blog post is here and some explanation on the origin here. Basically, I refer to one of the comments in the first link to sum up how one uses THAC0 in an original game:

THAC0 – (d20 roll + mods) = You hit anything of this AC (or higher)

But, that doesn’t really help me too much for what I want to do…

So, maybe the D&D 5e conversion guide has something? And I’ll just use that for DCC RPG? Unfortunately it doesn’t mention anything about THAC0. I’m out of luck there.

Swords & Wizardry uses both an ascending and descending AC, and uses THAC0. But I’m finding there are some discrepancies in the math, which I’ll skip over for now. But it may be a start if you want to look at it, and look at Tenkar’s rules of thumb for converting to pluses.

Maybe if I look at the “base” THAC0 and start there? It is 20. Meaning that at level 1, with no modifiers, to hit an unarmored target (AC 10), you need to roll a 10 or higher. So, essentially, this is like having “no” hit bonus. Now,  what happens when a player levels up? This THAC0 sequentially goes down (or is it “Increase” since you’re getting “better”?… so confusing…), and this is linear for the fighter. Based on this, I made a table with a simple inverse, linear, relationship. Turns out this doesn’t really work out; but it’s easier to show than tell:

Table 1. A Simple Inverse Linear Relationship

THAC0 Hit Bonus
20 0
19 +1
18 +2
17 +3
16 +4
15 +5
14 +6
13 +7
12 +8
11 +9
10 +10
9 +11
8 +12
7 +13
6 +14
5 +15
4 +16
3 +17
2 +18
1 +19
0 +20

If you now compare the fighter in AD&D, 2e, and 5e, and the Warrior in DCC RPG, you see that this Table 1 doesn’t really match up. 5e is “flatter”.

Table 2. Comparing Across Editions

Level* AD&D 1e** AD&D 2e D&D 5e DCC*
THAC0 THAC0 Proficiency Bonus Deed Die
1 20 20 +2 +d3
2 20 19 +2
3 18 18 +2 +d4
4 18 17 +2
5 16 16 +3 +d5
6 16 15 +3
7 14 14 +3 +d6
8 14 13 +3
9 12 12 +4 +d7
10 12 11 +4
11 10 10 +4 +d8
12 10 9 +4
13 8 8 +5 +d10+1
14 8 7 +5
15 6 6 +5 +d10+2
16 6 5 +5
17 4 4 +6 +d10+3
18 4 3 +6
19 4 2 +6 +d10+4
20 4 1 +6
* I am using a convention that one level in DCC is equal to 2 levels in any edition of D&D.
** I think... I found this on a thread; I can't make heads or tails of any of this by reading the AD&D PHB or DMG; and the table in OSRIC is a little different.

Looking at table 2, I come to a few observations based on a level 9 D&D fighter (or level 4 warrior) as a test:

  • Whereas table 1 would convert to a +8 hit bonus, the level 9 D&D 5e fighter has 1/2 this proficiency bonus of +4; so table 1 isn’t close to the same; i.e. this is not a simple inverse relationship (I can’t find any links, but I believe Mearls referred to a “flat math” when designing 5e).
  • However, I find it interesting that the level 9 DCC Warrior in ‘some’ ways is similar. That is, if you looked at the maximum possible deed die result of +7 compared to the predicted +8 on table 1. But, of course, with the random nature of DCC RPG, you’re equally as likely to roll a +1. So, that doesn’t really match 1e and 2e either. HOWEVER, it is equivalent to D&D 5e as the average result of a d7 would be +4.
  • Keep in mind that in D&D 5e, proficiency bonuses are the same per level, regardless of class.

To make this even more confusing, the THAC0 tables for all the other PC classes are different, and monsters use a table based on Hit Dice.. and the table in the 2e DMG is confusing on this… God forbid I can figure any of this out in the 1e AD&D PHB or DMG…. and then 1e is different than 2e….. and this THAC0 stat isn’t used for anything else in the game but combat…… I’m sorry but all those comments that respond “oh, but THAC0 is easy, you just subtract this one number from another number….”, you’re missing the fucking point; as a whole, this is confusing as shit!

One more Table

As just mentioned, Monsters use Hit Dice instead of level (and class) to determine THAC0. You might need this table since my whole point of this is to convert weird monsters found in old modules and references.

Table 3. Creature THAC0 in AD&D 2e

Hit Dice THAC0
less than 1 20
1 19
2 19
3 17
4 17
5 15
6 15
7 13
8 13
9 11
10 11
11 9
12 9
13 7
14 7
15 5
16 or higher 5


Based on these observations, I conclude that there is no simple conversion. How’s that for a conclusion! Ha!

However, you can probably use table 2, and just take the THAC0 listed, and then cross reference to the appropriate D&D 5e level and assign that proficiency bonus as the “to hit” bonus. Obviously, you then add any other hit modifiers as usual (i.e. strength bonuses) and I think that will be helpful to start.

This is merely meant to be a simple conversion to create a starting point. I assume that common sense should guide any further modifications. And, when in doubt, I recommend that you should round up (in favor of the monster!).

Showing off some Pre-Production DCC Lankhmar Maps

I want to share what I got in the mail today. I previously wrote about the 2018 Purple Sorcerer Pledge drive. What a great, free, resource! You should check it out. Well, I am thankful to have been one of the folks who received a special prize for donating 🙂 All of prizes listed were really cool, but I happen to have received exactly the one I was most hoping to see! This is listed as “An amazing collection of hand-drawn pre-production maps created by the one and only Harley Stroh for an upcoming Lankhmar adventure!”


Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard of DCC RPG at the time of the DCC Lankmar Kickstarter campaign. My guess is that these maps are for this box set, which the Kickstarter site says is to fulfill later this year? Maybe all this is ironic, but I happen to be finishing up the Fafrd and Grey Mouser series at this time (I’m on The Swords of Lankhmar); I’m really stoked to look at these. And, I can’t wait to see the final box set; I guess I’ll be trolling the eBays for anyone selling their print stretch goals 😉

I believe this is a street level map of an area in Lankhmar. It is sketched in pencil over two separate pages. I’ll give you one guess as to which street I’d be eying to purchase some prime property 😉

And then 3 detailed maps of “Grindstone” which is listed as 1-1.

You’ve got to love the comment in the corner “weakass attempt at a dirk”ROFL!

And then 2 pages for 1-2, “Dogfish”. I’m thinking this is a tavern? And, the name matches a theme I see now in the naming of other taverns of Lankhmar named after aquatic animals/fish?

And, 1-3, “The Hole”.. surely there’s nothing bad down there for the PCs?

3-1 is “The Aerie”. From my reading so far, I have no idea what this would be. My guess? This is where the military keeps highly trained and armored, man-eating, war wyverns that they ride into battle? Or, maybe this is like a local animal shelter and there is a social program to domesticate and save injured pigeons? I’m betting neither of these are correct 🙂

And, lastly, Sewer Tunnels!

Looking at these sewer tunnels, I notice what look like numbered spots, and then I look at the main map, and Yep, there are the same things there. Then I suspect the little dots look like manhole covers. I wonder if they match up?… Yep! So, a judge has a direct way to guide PCs who wish to go underground and do such things as run away from the guard, or sneak up on a villain, or… you get the idea!

Thank you Harley Stroh for donating these for the Purple Sorcerer campaign. Thank you Jon Marr for creating your free web resources. And, thanks to anyone else who donated this year!

Using Tarot in the Creation of Adventure Ideas

Snow Queen Tarot Reading
Snow Queen Tarot Reading

Finally. A few days off from work! Woot!

I stopped by a trippy spirituality shop today and I was thinking (dangerous, I know…) that surely there’s something I can use here for inspiration. I gravitated to the basic run of the mill Rider Waite tarot card decks. I used to have a set of these back when I was in college. I’d whip them out at bars and tell fortunes to girls. Yes. I’m that big of a geek. And, if you’re wondering, yes, it worked 😉 [well, a lot more than you’d probably guess!]

I also received my print copies of D.A.M.N.! #1 and #2 in the mail when I got home and I was flipping through there and further became inspired by the level 4 adventure, “The Snow Queen” by Garett Oliver. I’ll be honest, I barely read past the introduction as there is a break out box “Expanding the Adventure” and that’s where I said “I like the idea of a Snow Queen, and my dudes are in a snowy Hyperborean area, and hey I’ve got some tarot cards to do something with!”

The following is extremely busy. I am basically copying and pasting my notes. I simply started my Black Sabbath playlist, asked the question “What is the origin of the Snow Queen” and started laying down cards.

I like an 11 card version. Starting with a significator card (here, it represents the Snow Queen) followed by a Celtic Cross on top. See the pic above for the exact spread.

Red text is my interpretation as I go through this.

Significator: Ace of Swords, reversed
Ace of Swords
Ace of Swords

Background: The person or thing about whom or which the inquiry is made. Swords correspond to persons with dark brown hair and possibly gray, hazel or even blue eyes.

The Snow Queen is a tall thin elven built woman of pale complexion “white as snow” with beautiful long dark brown hair and pale blue eyes. Also, the Ace card is #1 in the suit; which I’m telling you right now, tarot can be eerie weird like that… right away, a #1 card to represent the #1 in this queendom.

Description of Card: A hand issues from a cloud, grasping a sword, the point of which is encircled by a crown.

The Snow Queen wears a finely wrought gold crown and carries a menacing yet beautiful sword at her hip. She was given these items by a god who descended from the sky and anointed her the ruler of her people.

Divinatory Meanings: Triumph, the excessive degree in everything, conquest, triumph of force. A card of great force, in love as well as in hatred. Since this is reversed, the results are disastrous; another account says — conception, childbirth, augmentation, multiplicity. Reverse of Reason and Logic. Fear.

At her peak, The Snow Queen was an extremely powerful sorcerer queen. The only thing she loved more than absolute power was a lover (name? background?). She went mad when she conceived an abomination with this lover. 

The Snow Queen has gone mad. She is delirious. Hallucinates. Furthermore, she is paranoid.

She may have the ability to cast a spell “Fear”.

“That covers her” : X of Cups

Background: This is the person or thing’s general environment at the time. Cups are assumed to represent people with light brown hair and of fair complexion

This person is not of the same race as The Snow Queen.

Description of Card: Appearance of Cups in a rainbow [eerie note: it is “pride” month right now…lol I told you Tarot can be weird!], it is contemplated in wonder and ecstasy by a man and woman below, evidently husband and wife. His right arm is about her, his left raised upward as she raises her right arm. The two children dancing near them have not observed the prodigy, but are happy after their own manner. There is a home scene beyond.

Wow, OK, so the downfall of The Snow Queen may have something to do with this extra racial lover of hers, and the family they tried to create, yet there was a fall. Or maybe her lover was the same gender? Awesome, lesbian elves…. !! Maybe they undergo some sort of ceremony or ritual trying to have a child/children and that is the basis of “the abdomination” I thought up above? Either way, maybe this went well at first, but then later fell apart.

Divinatory meanings: Contentment, repose of the entire heart — the perfection of that state, if with several picture cards, a person who is taking charge of the Querent’s interests. Also the town, village or country inhabited by the querent. Tranquility

Yes, maybe there was a “contentment of the entire heart” initially. “All was perfect”. This was initially good for her Queendom and as she fell, so did they.

“This represents her obstacles” : The Sun, reversed

Background: If it is a favorable card, it will be something good in itself, but not productive of good in the particular connection.

Divinatory meanings: The reverse of, or “in a lesser sense”: Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment, unhappiness. Troubled relationships. Broken engagements and contracts. Misjudgment, delays, potential failure, inflated ego.

The Snow Queen had all the material happiness one could hope for, being that she was the Queen of the Northern Elven empire. Her downfall began with a troubled relationship. She misjudged the impact of falling in love with a non-elf (human? Oh. maybe a demon or half demon). She was a victim of hubris. Maybe she had made some deal with someone/something and reneged? Maybe this is the source of breaking a contract with the demon/devil she had sought to bring her relationship together.

“This crowns her” : The Moon, reversed

Background: It represents (a) the best that she can arrive at, or (b) her ideal in the matter; (c) what she wants to make her own; (d) but it is not her own at the present.

Divinatory meanings: Instability, inconsistency, silence, lesser degrees of deception and error.
Fear, confusion, highly charged emotions, bewilderment, lies, deceit. Despair and a desperate need for help. Insincerity.

As she falls from grace, she begins to become all these things. Wide mood swings. Deep despair. “Why is all this happening to me?”. Delirious. Paranoid. Lying and unfaithful to someone/something. Or infidelity creeps into the relationship.

“This is beneath her” : IV of Cups, reversed

Background: It is her own — that which she has to work with and can use.

Description of Card: A young man is seated under a tree and contemplates three cups set on the grass before him. He expresses discontent with his environment. An arm issuing from a cloud offers him another cup.

Divinatory meanings: In it’s upright form, this represents weariness, disgust, aversion, imaginary vexations — as if the wine of this world has caused satiety only. Another cup of wine, as if a fairy gift, is now offered him, but he sees no consolation therein. However, this is reversed —Novelty, omen, new instructions, new revelations Despair

This cup is offered from a cloud. In the significator card, The Snow Queen is given her crown and sword (her authority and power) from a cloud. In this card I see that a being fools her as a ruse making her believe it is her god, offers her new instructions, new revelations. But it is a lie that only leads to despair. Nevertheless, this is the source of her new power and makes her who she is now.

“This is behind her” : VI of Cups, reversed

Background: It is the current from which she is passing away, and it may be the past of the matter.

Description of Card: Children in an old garden, their cups filled with flowers.

Divinatory meanings: A card of memories and of the past. For example, reflecting on childhood, happiness, enjoyment, but comic rather from the past, things that have vanished. Another reading reverses this, suggesting new revelations, new environment and new knowledge. Reversed: Renewal, the future, that which will come to pass presently Ignorance

The Snow Queen had to give up all that was good in the past in order to move forward. She sacrificed all those close to her. Her children. Her lover. Her subjects. In a blood pact “her cup runeth over with the blood of the innocents” Ignorant that she was being duped in her pact with a new demonic patron.

“This is before her” : V of Pentacles, reversed

Background: It is the current that is coming into action and will operate in the specific manner.

Description of Card: Two mendicants in a snowstorm pass a lighted casement.

Divinatory meanings: It foretells material trouble above all, whether in the form illustrated, that is, destitution, or otherwise. For some cartomancists, it is a card of love and lovers — wife, husband, friend, mistress — also concordance, affinities. These alternatives cannot be harmonized. Reversed: Disorder, chaos, ruin, discord, profligacy. Fresh Ideas

Her new pact involves “marrying” this devilish patron and embracing chaos, which is followed by ruin of her queendom and separation from the greater Elven empire.

“Immediate Future” : The Star, reversed

Background: Signifies her self, her attitude, and relation to the matter.

Divinatory meanings: Loss, theft, privation, abandonment, although another reading suggests hope and bright prospects in the future. Reversed: arrogance, impotence, haughtiness. Self-doubt, lack of trust, cynicism, pessimism, inability to freely express oneself. Rigidity of mind. Obstacles to happiness.

This sums up the current mental state of the once Snow Queen. She has become arrogant, haughty, distrustful, cynical and inflexible.

“Surroundings at Present” : VI of Pentacles, reversed

Background: Signifies her house, her environment in the affair — the influence, people and gents about her.

Description of Card: One in the guise of a merchant weighs money in a pair of scales and distributes it to the needy and distressed.

Divinatory meanings: Presents, gifts, gratification. Another account says attention, vigilance, now is the accepted time, present prosperity, etc. Reversed: desire, cupidity, envy, jealousy, illusion. Greed

The remains of the Snow Queens realm has become a center for nefarious crime syndicates or reavers who raids other villages, rapes and pillages. Her spies infiltrate bordering lands. Subterfuge. Extortion. Maybe plays other organizations against each other for the profit of the Snow Queen.

“Hopes & Fears” : Queen of Wands

Background: Signifies her hopes and fears

Description of Card: Throughout this suit the wands are always in leaf, as it is a suit of life and animation. Emotionally and otherwise, the Queen’s personality corresponds to that of the King, but is more magnetic.

Divinatory meanings: A dark woman or a countrywoman, friendly, chaste, loving, honorable. If the card beside her signifies a man (the one above and below are men) she is well disposed towards him (but both of these are reversed, so I’ll read as ill-disposed). Love of money. Compassion

At some unconscious level, the Snow Queen hopes she can return to her prior grace. Or she fears that a new, noble and honorable woman will defeat her. This may point to a prophecy leading to her downfall. The Queen is #13 in a suit. This is an unlucky draw for the card which represents hopes and fears.

“The Outcome” : VII of Pentacles, reversed

Background: Represents what will come. It is on this card that you concentrate your intuitive powers, your experience and your memory in respect to the official divinatory meanings attached thereto. It should include whatsoever you may have divined from the other cards on the table, including the Significator itself and concerning her, not excepting such lights upon higher significance as night fall like sparks from heaven if the card which serves for the oracle, the card for reading, should happen to be a Trump Major.

Description of Card: A young man, leaning on his staff, looks intently at seven pentacles attached to a clump of greenery on his right. One would say that these were his treasures and that his heart was there.

Divinatory meanings: These are exceedingly contradictory, in the main, it is a card of money, business, barter — but one reading gives altercation, quarrel, and another innocence, ingenuity, purgation. Reversed: anxiety about money. Decline

Maybe it is the growing wealth which The Snow Queen is rumored to have accumulated, that draws the attention of heroes.

Solitude from Black Sabbath is the song currently playing… let’s google the lyrics…

My name it means nothing, my fortune is less

My future is shrouded in dark wilderness

Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on

Everything I possessed - Now they are gone

Oh where can I go to and what can I do?

Nothing can please me only thoughts are of you

You just laughed when I begged you to stay

I've not stopped crying since you went away

The world is a lonely place - you're on your own

Guess I will go home - sit down and moan.

Crying and thinking is all that I do

Memories I have remind me of you

Work this in some way; I think it is perfect. Holy crap, I told you Tarot is weird! As I read this, this is exactly her mind as she goes crazy and has bouts of remembering “everything I possessed, now they are gone” and “nothing can please me only thoughts are of you”. She goes into great despair. She is lonely and actually seeks release from her misery. She will defeat herself as she is otherwise immortal and is forsaken to live this evil and miserable existence. Maybe a prophecy tells of the man in the VII of pentacles redeeming her and releasing her from her fel pact. Or maybe just putting her out of her misery. Either way, there is a disappointment in the end (being that the card is reversed). At the very least, the rumors of wealth. But maybe that fails too in the end. Maybe she has been feeding all of her wealth to her demon. Like it feeds off it or something, like how these pentacles are growing on a vine like ripe fruit. Fruit for the demon using the Snow Queen to mamas its needed sustenance.

A couple other observations:

There are multiple cups and pentacles. Use these themes somehow.

For example, the suit of cups is associated with water and emotions. This plays to the emotional connections going throughout this reading with relationships, betrayals, and brash decisions. Water is a feminine element and associated with ice and snow.

Pentacles is associated with physical and external forces of consciousness. In popular culture, pentacles are also associated with black magic. All of these tie in with a  demonic force at play.

There are a lot of reversed cards. I had initially thought of this being underground somehow; this reinforces that idea. After “the pact” the city “fell” or “sunk”. It also reinforces any ideas of a “fall from grace” and that everything has “turned upside down” for the Snow Queen. Make this a tragic story. In her unconsciousness she knows what she did. The Snow Queen was once beautiful, beloved, and powerful. But now…

Purple Sorcerer 2018 Free Tools Pledge Drive for DCC and MCC RPG

The Purple Sorcerer is having his annual pledge drive to support the AWESOME and FREE Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG online tools. Jump right over to the pledge page for more details. There are some good rewards for simply giving $10 or $35 and then apparently there is something special for those who give the most….

I can’t say enough about how helpful this site is if you play DCC RPG.

You can create random level zeroes all day long. Want a PDF with 200 of them? Sure, just click a button. Want random higher level characters? Sure. Random dragon, demon, magic sword generators, scrolls, unique monster ideas.. and more.

In addition, there is an entire Free mobile app.

And.. maybe this is new? I see now he has some MCC random character generators 🙂 cool

Basically, this one guy gives DCC and MCC RPG players all the online tools that modern players expect. For free. And it’s things like this which make it such an awesome game! In addition, I really appreciate that he supports active military. So, give him a few bucks will ya!?

Grimtooth’s Trapsylvania Kickstarter Announcement

Goodman Games, in license from Flying Buffalo, has put up on Kickstarter, the Grimtooth’s Trapsylvania campaign setting that is system neutral, but with stats for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. There are some other goodies with this Kickstarter, and looks like there will be a few, well thought out and appreciated stretch goals. Also, some add ons. I got the  Ultimate Traps Collection awhile back, and it is a very well put together (and hefty) tome! Also, GG announced recently a mysterious, 8th lost Grimtooth book… that’s available as an add-on book too!

Sale at Gamescience

OK dice nerds. I just got an email that there is an 18% off orders of $20 or more at Gamescience. There is no code; it is automatically added in the cart if you reach the $20 minimum. The sale ends on July 1st and includes the DecoColor paint pens in case you want to get all DIY and paint them yourselves and save the inking charge. Take my word for it; try it at least once; you’ll greatly appreciate having your own personally inked dice! (and appreciate that it’s not nearly as easy as you’d think!)

Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign for DCC RPG Review

This is a review I posted on with a few corrections and links and added to Adventure Lookup.

Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign is a low level adventure (zero level funnel, or small group of level 1’s) for the DCC RPG, which is suitable to be used in any other OSR style of RPG with minimal adaptation. It was successfully kickstarted by 357 backers in 2018.

Set in an otherwise typical fantasy setting, Greenwood is a kingdom within the land of fey. Think King of Elflands Daughter, sort of realm, where usual laws of nature are not what we “mere mortals” are used to, and magic is the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, I’d highly encourage the judge to read that book so they could better describe the world in this adventure.

This adventure consists of 10 encounters, starting with the players being conscripted by a rude and rough taskmaster who leads them into the Greenwood to fight for their human Earl who has declared war on the Fey King. In the adventure background, there are some key pieces of information, which don’t seem to play any further role in the adventure. (think Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings; behind the scenes controlling this mortal Earl). However, these are certainly some nice story hooks later for when (if?) the PC’s escape the Greenwood…

After a couple encounters (and introduction to a kleptomaniac brownie), the players enter the fey King’s stronghold: a tall and magical tree which forms a tower. There is a beautiful hand drawn map on the inside cover which shows the layout of the tower and it’s six encounters. Encounters are varied between a couple that are potential straight up fights but with alternative methods to handle them, as well as some puzzles and traps (again with alternative methods offered for dealing with these). In typical DCC RPG fashion, the adventure ends with a deadly escape that will feel epic for any group of zero levels lucky enough to make it out alive.

In addition, there are some interesting magical items discoverable in this adventure. A new idea for a patron or deity, as well as an optional class (the Wild Elf, which is a variant of the standard Elf class) that I think is well thought out.

Overall, the entire module is well written and there are some things left open to serve as hooks for the Judge to fill in and make it their own. I have yet to run this, but I don’t see anything here that would keep one from running directly as written.

The artwork in this module is exceptional. The credits list the author as the artist and I see the ACK initials on each piece. This lends to a very cohesive feel for this entire book. The cover is a mysterious and colorful depiction of the final encounter. Every single interior art piece is hand drawn in black & white and I could see any one of them in an official GG DCC RPG module. My favorite is Mythcoat on page 11. On the back cover is an awesome OSR style, hand drawn character sheet.

I like how this adventure uses a setting that is probably underserved in this genre (Appendix N version of the fey lands) and is of a high production value. I hope to see more like it to come.

Ruins of Glendale Village Kickstarter Unboxing

Myths & Monsters Netflix Series Review

Myths & Monsters

Story is essential to human civilization, not just a tool within RPG. And, story takes many forms. What is interesting to me, are stories based on myths and legends. And, understanding real world myths and legends may give insight into creating more interesting stories within RPGs. All of this is explored within this documentary I found on Netflix, aptly named Myths & Monsters released in 2017.

There are 6, ~45 minute episodes. This is a British documentary, with appropriate (if not a bit annoying) British accented commentary from university professors. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the main narrator, Nicholas Day. Each show is based on a main theme per the title of the episode.

Each episode is narrated with interjecting comments over some beautiful pieces of artwork. Many of these are animated in a way. I’m trying to think of a comparison (I don’t know what it’s called; but they did it in American Ripper). What they do is take a 2D image and through CGI slowly animate parts of the image (like the arms of a figure, or arrows in the air) through a motion as if it were a couple frames in an animated scene. Sometimes this gets a little annoying, but usually it’s an interesting effect.

Many of the images are historical pieces that I think I recognize (I’m not scholar of art..) but many appear to be unique to this series and appear to be of a cohesive style. Very inspiring. Nearly all are beautiful. You may want to watch this just for the inspiration from the art. Other than the classical pieces, I think it’s obvious that they have an artist who made other images as half of these have a very similar style (there’s a long list of artists on the IMDB page). These are gorgeous too. And lastly, each episode tells one whole story via a sort of cartoon that is broken up through the episode.

I wish I could screen shot some images to post here, but I am thinking Netflix uses some vile wizardry that’s keeping me from doing so.

Episode 1 is titled “Heroes & Villains” and is essentially a summary on the theory proposed by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I’m going to assume that you already know who this is. If not, then the next thing you need to do is start reading about comparative mythology and Campbell’s theory on the Monomyth. It is the foundation of all modern fantasy story telling, whether the author (or you the reader) know it. You can say this is only my opinion; I’m OK with that, because I really believe I could prove it to be true. This episode focuses a bit on the Arthurian legends and Odysseus to illustrate the Heroes Journey.

Episode 2 is titled “The Wild Unknown” and covers the idea that in the ancient world, the “wilderness” was “wild” and “unknown”. This is illustrated via some Greek Myths, and what I was thinking the entire time is “This is all about Law vs. Chaos!”, if you see “Law” as “Civilization” and “Chaos” as “The Wild”. If you’ve read the DCC RPG core book; you’re gonna see where all of this is pertinent.

Episode 3 is titled “War”, and .. you guessed it, it’s about mythologies centered around war. Simple enough. However, this is where I started thinking “this series is mandatory viewing for any Dungeon Master”. Stories about war are not just about the warfare itself. In fact, a good war story has very little to do with the technical aspects of War (a story that does is more historical, NOT mythological). Rather, a good war story is about the people, places, ideas, politics, etc of all those involved. And, how these things change. What persists (the victors write the history). And, what was lost (maybe only the DM knows what was lost?).

Episode 4 is titled “Love & Betrayal”. My favorite line in this episode is “Sometimes Love is dangerous”. You ain’t shittin’! So true. And, when you look at some of the original myths and stories, the ancients had some wicked and twisted tales. No boring love triangles. No, it’s stories like Agamemnon sacrificing his own daughter to Artemis in order to win her favor prior to the Trojan War, which he finally returns 10 years later a victor and hero, only to be murdered by his own wife who plotted revenge for a decade! Now, that’s an epic tale based on love betrayed!

Episode 5 is titled “Change & Revolution”. In this episode, you start to see how the stories told in a society are a reflection of that society. And, that just as the society changes, so do their stories. For a DM creating a world, I think the simplest lesson here is to not create a “history book” regarding the history of the world. Create stories as they would be told by the people, about what happened in that history, acknowledging that stories are often not accurate in a literal sense. However, when you examine them, the stories not only try to explain something in the past, but also teach a lesson important to that society.

Episode 6 is titled “The End of All Things”. Apocalyptic stories always fascinate me. This episode uses Ragnarök as an example. Related to all the prior episodes, one lesson is that a societie’s end times stories say something about that society. Beyond that, studying some of these stories from real world cultures yields some of the most fantastic ideas that a DM could riff on. Want an epic high level campaign? Well… the 7th seal just got opened. Get ready for some divine whoop ass down in that placed called Megiddo that your party used to explore at lower level where the NPCs dropped all sorts of foreshadowing about a coming Great War between Good and Evil.

Memorial Day

In RPGs, we play heroes. This Memorial Day, please remember the real heroes of our world.