20 April 2024

Why war-games make great settings: Iron Kingdoms (RPG Blog Carnival)

Another month and the RPG blog carnival continues at Codex Anathema for the topic of Favourite Settings. You can see the rest of the topics for 2024 on Of Dice And Dragons 2024 Blog Carnival hosting list.

I have a bunch of the old 3.5e era settings sitting on my shelf that I never quite got around to playing - Midnight, Scarred Lands - and some earlier ones similar - Al Qadim, Greyhawk - but one thing I have always had a softspot for is a really distinct aesthetic - and worlds used for miniature games are great examples of this. WHFRP is perhaps the most obvious but Iron Kingdoms is one of my favourites.

I liked the original setting - the combinations of heavy metal mayhem with magical mechs and swashbuckling ethos.

18 April 2024

Growing your game group (5yr Blog-iversary)

To mark the 5th anniversary of spinning up this blog I find the theme this past year has been 'getting more people gaming' - from running events to helping bring more people into our local game group to trying to connect up disparate D&D folk - nothing has been particularly innovative or high style just the shovel-work of running open tables and pointing people at other people.

One thing I did find inspirational from the broader blogger community was Gorgon Bones best practices - Record your hobby experience, Introduce others to your hobby and Participate in a hobby community - having that list was a weirdly helpful acknowledgement that we got to get the basics right - find the people, figure out when they can be at tables, find places with tables - before we can start doing the rest of it.

The things I've put my shoulder to over the year has been
- maintained the Meetup 'funnel' to bring people to our local gaming groups forum
- simplifying the big beginner events (Night of the Rolling Dice) so they demand less of us to run them
- helping expand to a second location for the regular Friday nights - mostly by just being one of the regular DMs there
- linking up a whole new bunch of local D&D folk with the DM supergroup - they've done some stuff already while my calendars been a shambles

The online stuff - Meetup, the RPGVienna forum, the discords - have got their memes and minor connections but there are a lot of folk who chirp up when booking their place at one of the open table sessions that we never hear from otherwise. I read this as the majority view the online spaces as somewhere face-to-face gaming is coordinated.

Online is all well and good for what it is, but for folk who want to go offline - who are sometimes folk with thriving online gaming - it is hard to do that from a cold start so giving them a helping hand is worthwhile. My own online gaming got nuked by the smallest householders shifting sleeping patterns - last year I was able to near guarantee they would be asleep by a time - enough that I ran the whole Southern Reaches campaign on weekdays after bedtime. This year - no such luck, even getting the last few episodes of Light of Xaryxis done is proving tricky.

Instead I've put the bits and pieces of time I have in evenings towards helping to try coordinate face to face gaming over weekend slots, both for myself and others.

Having that big online footprint is bringing folk in, both regular gamers and more unusual things like someone who's turned up to do an ethnographic study for their course. We have enough presence that we appear when you search so good enough. Certainly at this point, when I've been ill things have trundled merrily along without me doing anything which is good.

d6 Ways to funnel folk to your game group
1. Make sure something pops up when someone googles 'D&D' and your locality
2. Run open tables where people with no experience can rock up and game for the first time
3. Be flexible as DM's so you can say yes to whoever wants to join you; one of the people attending having a T1 game in their back pocket in case folk turn up but also being happy to play too
4. Figure out where is good to play - and when you start to hit the limits on a venue, be prepared to run multiple locations - so when they show up you can seat them
5. Tell your Friendly Local Games Store your group exists and is open to new folk - they'll cheerfully tell anyone who comes in shopping for the books
6. Trial periods on 'connector' social networks like Meetup, Couchsurfing, Internations, even Facebook can be low-effort ways to get the word out to people who are not actively looking for you (those people found you from point 1.

I figure there are lots of better game designers and OSR theoreticians out there, if I can road test and document what helps with getting those tables clattering with dice, that is probably a worthy use of this place - til the 6th anniversary at least.

15 April 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #168

Interesting links tripped over this past week. For even more, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet gives us Resurrection: Having my cake and eating it too

The Voyager’s Workshop shares Dungeons & Dragons & Lego

JEFF'S GAME BOX asks What Did Medieval Fantasy Look Like Before Tolkien?

Gaius Invictus writes Book Club: “Digital Minimalism”

13 April 2024

The thrill of "the Find"

I had a refreshing experience recently at Vienna Games Convention - the thrill of 'the find' - something I'd largely missed in this always-on cornucopia we all live in these days. On the way there I was asking myself 'is there anything under the sun that you would actually be looking for' and apart from stumbling over some classic early D&D modules as a general category, the only thing that came to mind that I had sought but not found easily online recently was 'The Plane Above' from 4e.

And lo.
When I saw them on the stack, I was wondering what would be a reasonable price - and when the guy shrugged and said 'tenner' for Plane Above and the Manual of the Planes, the hardest bit was keeping my poker face. He had Plane Below too but it was not one I had been looking for before.

I was looking for Plane Above because as an Astral guide it has suddenly popped back into focus with Spelljammer 5e's new treatment of the realm between planetary systems - was phlogiston with pretty much nothing there - now is the Astral which is stuffed full of adventure. The astral skiffs and clippers in Plane Above had been something frequently mentioned by others in discussions online of Spelljammer so that was a gap in my visibility.
The Manual of the Planes I wanted just to get the baseline for the World Tree cosmology of 4e which was substantially different from the Great Wheel of AD&D that I lived and breathed.
After initially getting the first two, I wandered around a bit, crewed the RPGVienna desk and let 'do I really want the Planes Below' bubble in my mind before arriving at 'yes, I'll kick myself for not having the set' and snaffled it up too on my way out.
All this is something I missed for ages. The last time I got this kind of 'hell, yeah' feeling was walking into my FLGS and spotting Veins of the Earth just sitting on the shelf. Keeping an eye on the kickstarters does mean that I have taken a view on much of what could possibly be there before I ever walk through the door. The surprise factor gets crushed, which is a first world problem, to be sure, but I do recall the time of significantly narrower pipelines of stuff, of what few bits being available on a bookstores small RPG section being the 'take it or leave it' limit.

Mostly I am hugely amused that the only thing I could think of that I was looking for - was found!

10 April 2024

Review: Zariel's Guide to the Seven Heavens

tl:dr; a useful toolkit on making lawful good celestials interesting to play, as NPCs and as adversaries for adventurers.

From Sven Truckenbrodt, someone I've been following a while (see Wolpertinger, Wererat - Well!) we get a supplement talking about celestials and how to make them adversaries and/or use them to drive adventures. I am always keen to read into the topic because it is indeed a tricky one to address. The Lawful Good Seven Heavens are hard to pry adventure out of - the place is a fortress crammed with angels, what is an adventurers angle? The broader question of how to generate adventure on the good side of the upper planes can be a tricky one and this is a good delve into the residents to try and answer that.

Cover by WarmTail

First impression - good art, nice design, an interesting reds and golds general palette which is different to the usual celestial white and blue one might expect. It works well here.

08 April 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #167

More links from about the internet. For even more, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Greyhawk Grognard shares Free Greyhawk Resources

Le Chaudron Chromatique gives us Update and Marchebranche is getting in print!

The Foot of Blue Mountain shares Connecting the Hex; Creating Full Hexes with Meaningful Encounters

Ludological Alchemy writes The Incentive to Kill in Dungeons & Dragons

Elfmaids & Octopi gives us Morale & Guards & Patrols