As I stated in the preface, I go to flea markets and garage sales searching for rare looking items that would work with a fantasy campaign. Here are some tactics.

When I looked around craft stores, I found acrylic faceted gems (rhinestones) in all types of colors and sizes. (Some as large as one inch). Their original purpose was to decorate clothing. The problem was that the backsides of them were flat. So, I would glue two of them together to make them look like full size three dimensional gems.

Leather shops have scraps of leather available. A message written out on it looks very medieval. If you can find a small spool of thin leather strips at a bargain price (thin works best because its not that stiff). You can use this to tie up scrolls and bags, chain big keys together, or even to decorate items bought at a flea market.

Wood shops, garage sales or antique stores sometimes sell medieval looking table legs which can be used to make a staff or wand. Cut them to the size you want. Then with a flame, slightly scorch the outside. Afterwards, you could paint it with runes and/or wrap a strip of leather around it. If you want to make it unique, mount a crystal or a small skull on top with the leather strips. You may even want to attach feathers or small bones.

To add a little more mystery to your game try this: Find an old puzzle (with about 20 or so pieces in it). After putting it together, spray paint the front of it a yellowish brown. Then draw a map with runes on it. Break the puzzle up and give a few pieces at a time to the adventurers. Players always want to be rewarded with prizes constantly. Giving gold pieces gets old real quick, and if you're not careful, you can throw off their economy.

I find that giving out these puzzle pieces is just as satisfying to the players, and yet does not pose a threat to their game's economy. If you can't find a small puzzle, just take a section of a big one and cut off the outside edges. If you wish to make the puzzle more authentic looking, take a hammer and fray the edges (this works best when the parts to be frayed are wet).

In another attempt to keep things more physical I would make gold, silver and platinum coins by spray painting bingo chips their appropriate colors.

I once ran a quest where I made a staff out of wood and drilled a hole halfway into the side of it to make a small pocket. The hole had a circumference just big enough to hold a marble. I had my adventurers find a clear marble and the staff together. I then had them place the marble (to the adventurers it was more than just a marble, it was an energy crystal that powered the staff) into the staff and invoke it. I told them that after the weapon was fired, the marble that they had placed into the staff became cracked and useless. Since this weapon was the only one capable of defeating their foe (how coincidental), the quest was to find as many energy crystals (uncracked marbles) before they meet the big bad guy. Of course cracked marbles seemed to be everywhere and the uncracked to be nowhere.

To make the cracked marbles, I heated each marble one at a time over a flame; holding it with a pair of pliers and wearing thick leather gloves. Then I dropped it into a shallow pan of ice water. The marble would still be whole but would look shattered inside (much like how ice cracks when a warm beverage is poured over it). The amount of cracks the marble acquired depended upon how hot the flame was and how cool the ice water was. If heated too long, the marble would crack into little pieces upon entering the icy water. NOTE: ANY ACTS OF FIRE USAGE IN THIS BOOK MUST ONLY BE ATTEMPTED BY A TRAINED ADULT AND AT HIS/HER OWN RISK.

To make lava looking mounds I took a can of spray insulation called "Great Stuff" (found at any hardware store for about $5) and made an assortment of shapes and sizes of droppings. I then took a can of lava red spray paint and painted them. This idea works works good for making mountains as well. Just change the paint color to your choice. NOTE: fleck stone paint looks great on these.

For making shale looking rock I took thin foam board cut it into ovals of all different sizes. I'd then glue them with white glue making sure that I am extra sloppy because it helps the piece less uniform looking. Last I would spray paint it flat black or use that fleck stone paint.

For potions: I often fill some old looking vials with lemonaide or colored fruit drink mixes. To keep a difference between a good or bad potion, I would leave one drink the way it was ment to be and then add a heap of salt to correspond to the bad potion. A simple "You found a potion, What do you want to do with it?" while handing them the vile becomes quite entertaining. (Especially if you've given them the salt fortified version).

When putting a game together with new players, I usually send this cover letter to them..


You and Shelli are invited on Saturday July 17th at 5pm SHARP to experience a world of adventure unlike anything you've ever encountered. Often this type of event is called "Gaming" or "Role Playing". Inexperienced players (like yourselves) I've found to be the best players. They create an innocence that cannot be forgotten. (ever).

Sure it's a game.. But while it lasts,.. It's real. (I'm serious)

It starts out with each of you having a character. A character with a history and background. Your personal character sheet that accompanies this letter is not to be shared with anyone. The more anyone knows, the more they know your weaknesses or are able to reviel them to another chatacter or use it against you. (I realize that some people that are coming together will have a tendency to want to share information, but let me assure you that it's the mystery that keeps the game interesting - not the knowledge. It will be more fun if it's played that way). Seriously.. it will.

The stats at the top of your character sheet will probably not yet make sense to you now. However, they will be explained when you get to "The Gathering".

I will start out by telling you a story in which you will all participate in. The story's outcome is determined by YOUR actions. It's setting is one of mystery and fantasy. It lives within the days when dragons were alive and magic was for real. You can do most anything that can be imagined.

Because your character is in a sense alive.. It can die. Stupid mistakes may cause your character an untimely death. So be careful. IE: Just because a potion looks drinkable, It doesn't mean that it won't kill you.. And believe me.. it's no setback to me if your character dies. Actually.. I kinda like killing off stupid characters. It keeps MY world free of losers.

Like I said before.. Sure it's a game... But while it lasts.. IT'S REAL!

Prepare... TO DIE!!... er.. umm.. or I mean.. to stay till midnight.
Please try to arrive on time so that I can brief all of you at once.
If you should HAVE to cancel, Please contact me as soon as possible because the game is dependent upon ALL characters (they all fit within a type of puzzle of association).

Any Questions... Call me 555-1234


PS. I encourage and reward players that dress the part of their characters. Just make sure that what you'll be wearing is comfortable. You might also want to bring a beverage and maybe chips to snack on.. Your travels here might make you a wee bit weary.

Now when players arrive at the gathering, I give each of them a letter close to this design.

Welcome to "THE GATHERING",

First off, anyone entering the gathering in garb fitting their character's description will get extra gold pieces (my judgement how much).

Unlike a book or movie I will throw loose ends in your direction.

Meaning: You may find a key that even I have no idea what it unlocks. I feel that in order for the game to take on a more lifelike effect, it must have the same sort of open ends. Who ever said that every key you find should eventually find resolution in its path. Any key would most likely be useless if you were to find one in real life on the street.

This gatherings main purpose is for having fun. Character attitudes here are just that.. Character attitudes. If a person playing a thief steals your characters purse, then they are playing that character. Don't take a personal offense.. What would your character do in response?.. Think it out.

I have little sheets of paper available so that you - "The Players" are able to communicate with me - "The Game Master" in secrecy. If a player character were to want to try to steal someones purse, they would do so by writing a note on a little piece of paper. I encourage all of you to drop me a "hello" on a piece of paper once in a while just to keep other players thinking. This way it's not so obvious when someone is actually doing something.

Player Knowledge and character knowledge are two different things. If you learn something, the character you play cannot use it unless he himself finds it out. IE: If two members of your traveling party are running toward your direction from a dragon and they do not tell you that a dragon is about to barbecue their butts, Your character may be mesquite flavored. Your knowledge is not your characters knowledge. Get it?

If you want to know information about certin characters in the gathering, Have your character ask their characters questions. ROLE PLAY!

Realize that you can do ANYTHING that you want to.. Well as long as your character's ability allows it. Think of quick witted schemes to get yourself and others out of trouble. For instance: If being chased by a greedy mob of monsters, one might pull off his purse and rip it open flinging coins all over the place in hopes that their greed would slow them down and buy some distance and time between you and them. NOTE: The more clever the tactic, the better chance that you will elude serious predicaments. NOTE: Clever and stupid are two different things.


(Here I would include backgounds on what common folk of the area setting would be familiar with. Just so they have a bit of a basis to work with).

Often I will use a sound effects CD of crickets in repeat mode just to get a mood going. (Most of my scenereos start in an outside setting).

A good rule of thumb in game mastering is to always look and plan far ahead. If you choose to use the magical staff idea I spoke of, have your adventurers find cracked marbles far in advance of when they would use them. I don't mean two or three hours before they find the staff. I'm talking 3 or 4 adventures ahead in time. The cracked marbles will not play a big role in the beginning when they find them, and sages of that area (if asked) might not know what purpose they serve. It does help tie the flow of time; and lets face it, its more realistic. Who said that everything they find has to be explained, or even have a specific purpose or even have resolution in it's path. Throw in the mystery of anonymous items. Keys, notes, small statues, tools, deserted camp sights, paintings, footprints, astrological charts, etc. Don't let any of your adventurers assume that everything they find is related to their adventure. Because life is the same way. I also must caution that you can go too far. A dead corpse that seems to be pointing could obviously create problems.


To make things even more bizarre, I have always added humorous treasures and pitfalls to my adventures. Here are a few crazy ideas:

Potion of Secreting: Causes ingestor to secrete fluids from every gland in his body for 1-4 minutes. While the potion's consequences are taking place, the victim cannot fight nor defend. Afterward, the victim must clean his ears to hear, nose to talk properly, underwear to walk comfortably, wash his armpits to be odor free so as not to attract any wandering monsters with his natural scent.

The Burping Skull: This enchanted noggin is used when the whole party has taken way too much time to make an obvious decision. In frustration, the gamemaster can make the magical skull roll into play. When touched, the skull will burp out a message or answer a question. (NOTE: Gamemaster, if you are one of the fortunate people that can burp upon command, I urge you to role-play this skull. It makes the whole effect hysterical). After the message(s) has been delivered, the skull will disappear. (Perfect for when the parties decision needs to be altered in order to keep the plot on track).

Potion of Flatulation: Causes ingestor to pass wind for 1-6 minutes. The experience is so painful that they could take damage (at game masters judgement). The noise is loud enough to attract (or ward off) wandering monsters within 150 feet. All creatures within area of effect must make a saving throw versus health or be fatigued for from 1-4 minutes.

Bag of Yelling: This can be used much like the burping skull (as a hint from the gamemaster). When opened, the bag would shout out a short message (1 - 4 words). The way the bag works is commonly seen in cartoons. A person would shout the short message in the bag and quickly close and tie it up. When it is opened, the inevitable happens. It yells back whatever message was yelled into it. Keep in mind that it is a bag of YELLING!! Attempts to talk into the bag are futile. Roleplayers must YELL!

Ball of Triggering: To 20th Century people, it is a bowling ball. When rolled down a hallway or into a room, it will trigger any floor traps in its path.

Shoes of Kicking: When each foot is inserted into these shoes, The laces will fasten all by themselves and they will feel extremely comfortable. Nothing unusual will be noticed until the person wearing both of them stands up. The shoes will then attack the nearest derriere by kicking it repeatedly (inflicting damage at gamemaster's judgement). They will continue to kick anyone standing until all are sitting down or the person wearing them sits down. At this time the shoes will be able to be unlaced easily.

Magnetic Cloud Bomb: When this two inch, two pound metal ball comes into contact with any metal surface that can be magnetized, it is immediately magnetized. Any other surrounding metal is drawn to it. For instance: if the ball were to be thrown at a breastplate, the breastplate would be charged and any surrounding metal (armor, weapons, keys etc.) would be drawn toward it.


In closing, I would like to add that I would appreciate any help to translate the Arabic style writing on the Ozzy Osbourne albums so that I may read it. From what I could gather, Arabic is very complex; it has four forms of each letter (much like the our english upper and lowercase). However, in the Arabic alphabet, the same letter is printed differently depending on whether it is the first letter, a medial letter, final letter, or a lone letter.

Dino Manzella

Have a question or comment (preferably a good one)?
Write me!

Afternight Productions
PO Box 68882
Schaumburg, IL 60168-0882

If you plan on having a campaign in the Chicagoland area, drop me a line. I might be interested in dropping in to play or passing through as a guest to check things out.

Excerpt from "Thorfinnr's house"

None should write runes,
Who cannot read what he carves;
A mystery mistaken,
Can bring misery.

I saw cut on the curved bone,
Ten secret characters,
These gave the young girl,
Her grinding pain.

[For Back Cover of Book]
Unlike most role playing aids, contained within these pages are many real life magical scripts, runic scripts, magical symbols, a new character class, gemstone folklore, and original crazy ideas to help keep your adventurers intensely interested and on the tips of their toes.

Now you can learn the secret background of runes; what they were, why they were magical, and how you, "The Gamemaster", can use them within your games.

With this book, gamemaster's can finally bridge the gap between player and character.

not displayed for security reasons (The book cannot be published without it).

I actually have dozens more misc extinct alphabets in my files.. I mean DOZENS! If this book gets a lot of feedback, I'll put them all up here for all of you.

Thanks to:
God, Heidi Brant, Brent Hybrach, Dave Pilurs of Storm Press, Kurt at Games Plus in Mt. Prospect Illinois, Mom & Dad, Grandma & Papa Romano, Papa & Nana Manzella, My sister Gianina, Crista & Nicky, Michael Canova, Cheryl Atchue, Debra Warner, Binky & Bunky, Mark Whitehurst, Michael Garett Cox, Tom Gajewski, Rob Johnson, Laura, Gary Mazzeri, Kevin Anderson, Moe, Larry & Curly, Bryant Velez, Scott Ostrenga, Alec Wolf, Ron Koons, Mike Giampa, Holly Richter, Jim Francis, Becca, Benny the "little man", Paul Robinson, Richard Hofherr, Graeme Watson, Mr Benedetto, Daniel U. Thibault, Curt "Ronin" Benefield, Laura "Ravenstarr", Amy "dragonphantasy" Tasker, Chris Holden, Roy Wever, Chuck Morrison.

Extra special thanks to Daniel U. Thibault for his submissions of fonts and direction to sites for me to research. His help in keeping this site updated is very appreciated. "You rock Daniel!"

© 1992 Dino Manzella Copyright Registration # TXu 540-165 All rights reserved.

If you are looking for many more TTF fantasy Fonts,
Go to these URL's below

Dan Smoth's Fantasy Fonts for Windows page.

If you like role playing games check out these really cool sites.