07 December 2023

It Has A Name (NPC Management)

tl;dr: Name your NPCs to avoid slips and obfuscate who is important.

A theme of this year has been a lot more one shots and published material - me reading and assimilating other peoples stuff with not so much prep time before running it - Light of Xaryxis campaign and the Fistful of Quatrins series in the Bracalonia book among others. What I have found this has lead to is problems for me where NPCs have false identities or hidden aspects.

This person they found has a core aspect of their identity that is not obvious on first glance.
That sailor is a shapeshifter? How to avoid slipping and referring to him by 'cultist' or 'shapeshifter'.
That voice behind the door is a monster? Better not refer to it as what it is.
That guy has a connection to people that is his only characterisation but you do not want that to spring out at folk

Solution - name them and never give another reference, even after things become clear.

Best part of this is that even after things come to blows and there are pieces on the battlefield, you just have different looking pieces but the names still obfuscate exactly what it is.

Spoilers ahead for light of Xaryxis (LoX).

My favourite example of this is the Nautiloid wreck encounter from Light of Xaryxis - you get greeted by a shapeshifted thing on approach and they try to lead you into ambush by their buddies. Left unnamed they are 'the psurlons' a slip I made the first time I ran through this (as standalone in Spelljammer Academy). The second time I ran it I named them all so it was Alfonso, Benedict, Charles etc. which worked well even after they dropped their disguises and assumed their true forms as it still was unclear, beyond the gruesome tokens, what the players were dealing with. Shock and surprise was maintained well into the encounter as opposed to 'oh, one of those' and it becomes a bag of hitpoints to chew through.

Later on there was a voice through the door - Jasper - who eventually was released to reveal a monster and despite deploying all his tricks and horrors it was never clear what the hell 'Jasper' was - leading to Jasper being pretty well remembered as a scary horror encounter.

So - for all these reasons, name your opposition to keep a realistic fog-of-war about things. To support that, name your random background folk too otherwise the few named folk stick out as if they had a glowing arrow over their heads. I realise naming NPCs can be an annoyance but this is just another reason to build out your name generator or pre-gen random lists of names. I like Fantasy Name Generator - it does what it says on the tin.

Getting this written down was prompted by Gorgon Bones 'On Hobby Best Practices - Record your hobby experience.'

04 December 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #149

A wider ranging ramble about the web this week. More can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Plastic Polyhedra start Decembers RPG Blog Carnival: Endings

VDonnut Valley compiles href="https://vdonnutvalley.wordpress.com/2023/12/01/lets-party-festivals-and-ceremonies-roundup-post/" target="_blank">November's Carnival Roundup Post

U.S. Postal Service Reveals Additional Stamps for 2024

Hipsters & Dragons gives us Designing & Running Heists in 5e D&D

Full Moon Storytelling suggests Using ‘third places’ to add cultural depth to your D&D campaign or character

Mazirian's Garden shares Downtime: Home away from Home

Grumpy Wizard asks How Do I Keep Players From Ignoring Adventures In My Sandbox Campaigns?

02 December 2023

Table Matching Survey Results

I ran a survey of our local game group to discover preferences and see what else people would like to be playing. From conversations at Night of the Rolling Dice I thought it would be a good idea to survey the group to ask what games people want to play to then try and match up tables. Partially inspired by the frequency of recent group matching posts here, I wanted to try and highlight preferred frequency (weekly, monthly, etc), preferred session length, online/in-person/both so folk could hopefully see that there were others interested in the same timeslots.

Our standard tempo is a Friday night session and a sometimes Saturday brunch session - my hypothesis going into this was these were driven purely by force of habit - those timings generally working and being 'good enough' we left them. I wanted to know if there could be other times that would suit people who could not make the Friday night slots and what those would be.

What stands out to me from the point of view of getting more tables going:
* We have people interested to play most weeknight evenings - plenty of room to fit in a new game.
* We have nine people interested to run a table - behold your player pool!
* 11 of us are happy to play online

People available per day - our regular slot is a Friday due to room availability but it looks like it would be even better for folk on a Saturday or Sunday.
Preferred frequency of play - most people are being covered by our weekly session but we have a fair few that once or twice a month suit better.
Preferred session duration - towards the longer-haul end of things but pretty expected.
When I asked what style people liked to play, they could select all they liked of the categories:
Long Campaign - persistent character group, long story arc, sidequests
Mini-campaign - short duration, single story arc
Episodic - stand-alone sessions, continuous world
One-shots - try something different each time

Everyone is happy to play in person, 11 of us are also happy to play online.

What side of the screen do people want to be?
Preferred Genres - while dark / heroic fantasy are the most popular this says there is ample appetite for others.
The full list is:
Dark fantasy / Sword and sorcery
Heroic / Epic fantasy
High/Epic fantasy
Fairy tale
Horror / occult fantasy
Post-apocalyptic fantasy
Science / techno / steampunk fantasy
Hard / Historical fantasy
Wild West
Psychological Horror
Space Opera (star wars)
Hard Sci-fi (Expanse)
Zombie Horror
Grimdark future (40k)

Plus three mentions for ‘Mystery’ and one each for "Low/no magic fantasy", "Mech sci fi", “Silly” Fantasy á la Terry Pratchett and "Eldritch Horror".

Preferred Systems - again show a lot of appetite to try other systems.

Plus ~3 hits each for Blades in the Dark, mörk borg, Powered By The Apocalypse games in general. We got a single mention each for Trophy, the wildsea, Monster Hearts, Ironsworn, Pagan Pacts, Dungeon Crawler Classics, Monster of the Week, cbr+pnk, cyperpunk red, spire, alien rpg, vaesen, shiver, lancer, salvage union, amd "anything rules light".

So for now we are broadly doing what people want - running weekly in person games that are mostly one-shots, some episodic, in standard D&D 5e for typically 4 hours a session. It looks to me like there are opportunities for people to run other games on weekends - both daytime and evening - and potentially even run online if the logistics prove challenging.

While the majority of folk are here to play standard 5e D&D, there are lots of folk willing to try new systems and settings with even the least popular systems and settings (40k, superheroes) having enough folk interested that you could probably make up a table.

29 November 2023

Thoughts on a new "DMG of house rules"

Back in Ireland this past weekend I met up with my old Katharsis table and we got to talking about the coming edition - in particular what would need to be in those books to get us to lay down our cash. Running theory is that the PHB will shift huge numbers, because players love options. The Monster Manual will not because there are so many online equivalents and a significantly smaller pool of interested buyers. We were not sure about the DMG; and wondered what we would want to see ourselves - a book full of settings perhaps?

This would be a book with a chapter on each of the major D&D settings to give just enough to get started in any of them - Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Spelljammer, Planescape, whatever. This would make it something that both players and DM's would want and hugely increase the potential pool of buyers.

For me, a neat edition to this would be optional rules tagged into each setting - Forgotten Realms is heroic fantasy, use the standard rules. Greyhawk is supposed to be more swords and sorcery, maybe use Gritty Realism, etc. All the various optional rules would be grouped and presented with the setting to support the feel of that setting, making there be a reason to play different settings to get different experiences out of the same, known, system. I really like the way that Brancalonia is effectively a 5e mod - it gives a different feel to the setting without have to have people learn a whole new system. Things like ship combat, overland exploration and other mechanics could also be tied in as setting options.

27 November 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #148

A short set of links due to travel. More can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Scholomance has launched The Great Tabletop Roleplaying Survey - get your views in!

The Burnt World of Athas shares Scale, Tail, and Claw - The Reptilian Peoples of Athas

A Knight at the Opera gives us Action Mysteries

Well well well, look what the shoggoth dragged in shares My Arden Vul campaign, 6 months in

The Lady and Tiger gives us One and a Half Month OSR Retrospective

David J Prokopetz compiles Tumblr 200-Word RPGs 2023

Eldritch Fields gives us Wilderness Encounter Details/Activities

Methods & Madness seeks Good generic wilderness encounter tables? (B/X vs. AD&D vs. 5e)

Bjarke the Bard writes Downtime Activities Leveled Up: A Comparative Review of A5E and D&D 5E

Darkplane shares Popping the Hood on Published Scenarios

Signals from Delta Pavonis asks GM Screens - what is their Glorious Purpose?

Vladar's Blog writes Planescape review: The March Begins

Tales of the Lunar Lands shares Friday Encounter: Fire in the Hole

The Ideocron of the Oracular Somnambulist gives us Bone Fire

Mythlands of Erce writes Standing up for D&D's Gen X: 2e (Part 1)

OSR VAULT gives us 100 Curses

Rolling With Us shares The Shadow Over Yuletide: Free Christmas D&D Adventure

Mindstorm presents Gulch

25 November 2023

Gaming setup - to sprawl or not to sprawl

A follow on from the 'tools of the trade' post - here is what my cafe gaming set up looks like. Pretty tight in but it works. Spares breaking my shoulder which would be pointless anyway because there is not room for more stuff.

It did put me in mind of how much space do I use when space is no object - what is my home table set up? This partly came from a conversation around 'what do have in a D&D room if you could have one' and myself and my home campaign were racking our brains. The screen here was a gift from my crafty players.

22 November 2023

Review: Skyrealms

tl:dr; a neat little setting for exploration, with a whimsical tone but some real teeth to adventure hooks here.

I backed the kickstarter as part of Zinequest #4 I think? First peered in for the Evlyn Moreau art then backed it when I saw floating islands.

Art by Evlyn Moreau

First impression is of a surprisingly chunky set of zines in a stuffed packet of things. The cardstock is nice, the whole thing has a great tactility. As mentioned multiple times throughout the zines, these are also meant for colouring in and they have that arty feel. The interior lay outs have lots of white space and easy to absorb. The art by Evlyn Moreau is a treat, as always. Favourites for me were the Emobeast, the Crystal Kingdom and the Goosedemon.