“Here is my trash, share it with your trash”
Welcome to the Possum Laws of Gaming, another movement in the world of weird elf games! This is a collaboration with my friend Erika over at The Ice Queen’s Throne. Make sure to go check our her post too, because I guarantee it’s better written than mine.
So what is the PLOG?
The Possum Laws of Gaming are a broad-minded, anti-dogmatic lens for collecting, collating, and creating new and old things about the game of D&D in all its editions from 1974 until today.
These rules are offered to create a culture that can easily share their work among themselves without needing to needlessly divide themselves by things like “editions” or “movements.”
THE NINE POSSUM LAWS OF GAMING
- Find your trash. your trash is D&D stuff you like, from whenever, however. just find cool D&D shit!!!
- Put your trash together! the goal of the PLOG is to combine the parts of D&D you like into a cool D&D
- Your trash can be anything! it doesn’t have to be D&D itself, but the PLOG is geared towards making your own D&D. pull in cool stuff from other games, other media, things you’re excited about
- Love your trash. the things that you enjoy are great, and talk about why you like them!
- …But toss it when it gets stinky. Some of D&D is bad and hateful. don’t keep bad stereotypes or ideas about marginalized people. we want to share our trash with everyone!
- Share your trash! show people the cool things you’ve found, the things you’re excited about, the hidden gem you’re going to use in your games.
- Play nice when you share your trash. Part of PLOG is explaining why we like the parts of D&D that we do, and we don’t all like the same parts. Have good conversations, don’t hate each other for liking different things.
- Let the trash grow! finding new trash and adding new trash and reexamining your old trash makes for more fun and even more cool ideas!
- Just because it’s someone else’s trash doesn’t mean it has to be yours. it’s okay to say you don’t want something someone else suggests, just be polite about it!
Contrast to Current Movements
Why the PLOG? Mostly to help break down the silos of different gaming groups and remove the dogmatic attitudes that naturally form in the TTRPG hobby. It’s all dnd after all!
Let’s contrast it to a few other movements.
the Goblin Laws of gaming by Arnold K is for making your own crazy hack of weird rules that are not strictly dnd compatible, and has led to an enormous list of versions and editions, all of them innovative and zany.
Contrasted to the GLOG, the PLOG is for using and making content for a dnd compatible world. Basically, It is easy to port things INTO the GLOG, but far more different to port it OUT of the GLOG, so we want to be able to note things that are still built with dnd in mind.
To some, it’s the Old School Revival. To others, it’s the Old School Revolution. The OSR is a broad banner that includes awesome games like Zweihander, Troika, Mothership and many others, all of them true to the spirit of the old school style but leading a Revolution in their own right. These are games that are not dnd, yet fit in the OSR.
The PLOG is more of a Revival – it seeks to show that all of dnd’s history has content you can use regardless of what style or edition you prefer! But it also means you can steal stuff from Zweihander or Into the Odd or where ever, because it’s your trash and you should love it!
Finally, compared to the Artpunk movement, the PLOG is more about using the resources that are already there instead of making stuff that is specifically different and hipstery.
An exercise in the PLOG
So that’s all well and good in theory, but what does this look like in practice?
I run games for new players that are meant to be their first exposure to the game, and ideally teaches them how to play 5th edition. To make that happen I draw on a variety of materials through the ages to design original adventures and generate content on the fly. Here are the resources in my Dnd 101 tub:
• The 5e Essentials Rulebook
This is the smallest and easiest to read version of the core book, which is less intimidating as the full player’s handbook. It’s bundled with the starter set as well as their booklets for smaller adventures and lost mines for convenience.
• Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
my game isn’t set in Ravnica (yet), but I love the content of this book. the guilds give me easy visuals for antagonists and allies and the adventures section is great for writing more urban adventures. The treasure section is full of smaller, but fun magic items for new players. and it has a list of NPCs and monsters that are outside the typical fantasy fair.
• 4e DMG
the 4e DMG is my second favorite of the official DMGs. The sections on diseases, encounter templates, terrain design, quest questions, trade and furnishing, and NPC creation are all very solid and great for using right there at the table. this is a book I tend to have open and read off to the side.
• 3.5 Unearthed Arcana
This is an odd one, but it has some great tables. It has a ton of tables for background activities to build hooks and NPC skillsets, as well as some injury tables, metamagic components to spice up rewards and add some flavor to the world, legendary weapons rules, and sometimes I use the reputation and honor scores for persistent games.
I run games off of a iPad Pro, so I keep a lot of digital copies:
• 1e DMG
this is the real OG, one massive tome with a table for nearly anything. Seriously this is THE DMG to have! I keep a digital copy of this so I can easily research and bookmark it.
• Veins of the Earth
My games for new players don’t often see them in the claustrophobic and terrifying Veins of the Dark, but they do often go into caves. This book gives me descriptive words for all 5 senses in caves, a great cave generation system, as well as some weird monsters.
• Old School Essentials
These books contain some excellent and easily bolted on domain rules, as well as the classic magic items and classic monsters. For new players, these classics can be their first time ever seeing them!
• Wormskin Zines
These zines are chock full of material for a forest, ranging from detailed towns and NPCs to fungi, hallucinogenic substances, and more. Any time I need some extra flavor, these are the zines I turn to.
I like to introduce some weird elements, and yoon-Suin has plenty to add with it’s yellow city and tables. Plus: Crab men.
• Campaign Guides for Basically Every Official DnD Setting
These are great for names, regions, or just general inspiration. I am particularly fond of the 3e Eberron books as well as some of the 2e guides for Planescap, Brithright, and Mystara.
So I have resources from every edition of dnd here, plus plenty of stuff that is made for it that isn’t official. and this says nothing about the several hundred blog posts I draw from too! I also apply the PLOG when designing adventures, because I am a giant nerd and I love the depth of materials that the game offers.
Example of Mining the Full History of DnD for the Laws
I wanted to write an adventure for my favorite demon lord, Zuggtmoy. I mined the entire history of the game to find all the fun parts of her lore to draw from. I end up using:
- T1 – Hommlet – hommlet is the original dnd town, and linked to the temple of elemental evil. The thought of returning to it years after the original elemental evil events was compelling to me. Why not have new players start in the original town designed for new players?
- The Temple of Elemental evil – This classic module saw Zuggtmoy done wrong and get effectively turned into a lackey of other beings. However, later modules show Zuggtmoy losing her own plane to Jubilex, so I decided that she was tricked by Jubliex and Tharizdun, making this temple a bitter point for her. I discarded the parts I don’t like and kept the rest – much like every author who revisited the temple of element evil over the years. I also stole the Orb of Golden Death from the video game adaptation of this module.
- Planes of chaos is where we learn that Zuggtmoy’s plane was taken over fully by Jubilex, losing her base in the Abyss. I find the idea of a stranded demon lord fun, and so it becomes part of my trash horde.
- Dragon 285, Dragon 425, Dragon 337, and Dungeon 188 – These issues gave some great information about what Zuggtmoy might do on the material plane, and gave some great lists of the types of demons that might work for Zuggtmoy. The also laid out some information about her activity on various planes, and documented some of the magical items she is associated with.
- Fiendish codex 1 Also documents some parts of Zuggtmoy’s domain and servants, which are notably hard to find. A lot of demon lords have cool, customized demons that serve them and I wanted to find a few for my queen of rot.
- Out of the Abyss – I love the wedding encounter in this book that has Zuggtmoy attempting to marry the largest group of fungus that spans a miles long section of the underdark, and wanted to use this as the big climatic finale to the adventure if players can’t prevent it. Plus, I think we all know that Stool is the best NPC in this and he was going to live on in my adventure. So I have a good narrative to work with here. A spurned demon lord escapes to the mortal plane and plots to build an army so she can return to the Abyss. She comes back to the now cleared temple that once was used against her seeking the Orb of Golden Death, while courting the fungal life of the mortal plane to turn it into her new army. Meanwhile, she starts a cult and develops a new type of demon to serve her made of her own flesh. All of this pulled from over 30 years of history, and happening right next to the venerable village of Hommlet.
using the resources above, I also got a great roster of weird and fun enemies to throw in.
Vrocks – vulture like demons apparently are the main demon that serve Zuggtmoy, and who doesn’t love a good evil bird?
Vathugus – An obscure demon, this struck me as a wonderful creature to throw at a party. A plant like demon that can control multiple bodies and degenerate bodies, this guy was going to get some love from me.
hezrous – This gave me a good bruiser that also stank, so flavored this as being covered in fungal infections and infections.
Chasmes – gross fly demons, which partnered well with the gross nature of the other creatures.
myconids – Love mushroom people, and in this I had a group of myconids worried about a sickness taking them. Players could interact with them to work with them, or they could become corrupted into antagonists without intervention.
cultists – Zuggtmoy has eschewed the elemental front and decides to start a new cult instead, so you need some cultists to go along with it!
Violet fungi – These are a great way to sort of hint at what the threat might me. In 5e, these are a very low CR enemy.
Brown mold – Like the violet fungi, this gives me a hazard that can seem just part of typical dungeon decor but hints at the true evil at play here.
This was a blast to make with my friend Erika, and make sure to see what she made over on her blog too. From beginning we made sure to not show each other our work so you could see a real version how the Possum Laws can mean different things to different people.
Want to join the Possum Lodge too? Show us your trash! Comment here or come by the OSR Discord server, and use the Possum Lodge logo above if you want. The more people use the PLOG, the larger our trash piles grow…and that’s great for all of us.
9 responses to “The Possum Laws of Gaming”
Hi! It’s Erika!
A good example of what’s stinky for the PLOG is also in Unearthed Arcana – the insanity rules turn real-life mental illness into game mechanics, and include being trans as a mental illness! (p 208.) We can do sanity rules, but we should do better ones that don’t make marginalized people game failure states!
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This is good stuff. Sometimes people need to be encouraged to steal, mingle, build, and discard.
And similarly, it is good to have people keeping a watch on the ethics on everything. Related question: what’s the best way to incorporate insanity rules into your game, while still being respectful of real-world mental illness?
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I think you can do madness and insanity as a Victorian cultural state, where you describe the external effects without actually specifically labelling them as a given mental disorder. You can describe a fugue, detachment, suicidal ideation and many other symptoms without specifically saying hey this is Major Depressive Syndrome or whatever. Because that’s honestly what a game really cares about, from CoC Insanity mechanics all the way down – what’s the effect, narratively? Does seeing Dagos make me scared of fish? Can I hear the song of Hastur when I sleep?
Real world mental health activism is a very fraught issue; there are people who identify as Mad with a capital M, who refer to themselves as institutional survivors. As someone who’s had bad experiences with mental health professionals, I can see the appeal of that to some degree. By approaching our insanity systems as specific cultural institutions and realizing that we’re interacting with those archetypes or stereotypes, instead of directly reflecting actual mental health issues, we free ourselves to make much better choices about what’s appropriate at the game table (maybe we don’t do issues or symptoms that people feel uncomfortable about, but we can still tell stories about big B Bedlam, because we’re thinking about that cultural icon, not the actual issue of mental health institutions.)
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I actually find that the subtleties of mental illness is hard to reflect mechanically, since how this stuff manifests is going to be intensely personal and depend on context, history, personal temperament, etc. I think, like any rules to represent personality traits, it’s likely to get in the way of roleplaying rather than enhance it.
That said, I’ve had some success with *external stuff* imposed on the mind, that explicitely doesn’t try to parallel irl mental illness. You can do some neat stuff with that, I guess.
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so basically its reading and using ur books to prep for the game? lol what a revolution lmao
I honestly love both Zuggtmoy pictures. I imagine that the second picture is when she’s dressed, the second one is when she’s just lounging at home.
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Hi! Is this still a thing? I haven’t seen ayntithing bout it since this post.
Hi there! Personally, I’ve not been very active during the COVID ordeal, but there’s some movement on the PLOG on Chris McDowell’s OSR discord server. I plan on a follow up that will highlight some reactions to the PLOG like cavegirl’s laws, but otherwise am not focused on forcing a movement. Anyone is welcome to use it if they like.
I look forward to your highlights and reactions.