29 October 2020

d12 natural items for quest objects

Reworking a conversation on discord into a table of d12 druidic-themed quest objects

1. A fruit, or seed that has been changed or infected - like the boll of a boll-weevil, those grapes that need fungal infestation before you can make certain wines; blue-cheese would be a common example.
2. The blood of a were-wolf drawn at full moon for a time-bound encounter
3. Something like a 7-year locust - it only comes out at certain times and is common as dirt then, but now is an off year and the challenge is to figure out what completionist bug-collector is going to have a couple of these things spare when noone really cares about them
4. A tree that has grown only knowing the light of certain stars and not others - i.e. in a valley that faces in a very specific direction.
5. Seemingly impossible places - this temperature, moisture but that type of rock - find a place where glaciers, volcanic activity, crashed magical cities brought the right kinds of rock/soil far, far off the places they originated
6. All the temple walls show friezes of the McGuffin tree but they were all cut down and burnt as offerings. The ritual needs some to be burnt and they used to grow around here so the players need to find some - e.g. under an ashfall like Pompeii
7. Preserved extinct things such as leaves and seeds can be found trapped in amber in the nearby amber mines
8. Vanished plants or animals in the local nobles residence as the panelling or as the trophy heads mounted on his wall - a heist where the key issue is the size of the thing being stolen
9. The quest item is hiding in plain sight as part of all the ancient imperial mile-makers and signposts but the authorities are going to come after whoever tears them up
10. Finding a critter frozen above the snowline to get a 'fresh' pelt
11. Cultivate a fruit or flower from the last existing seed - maybe the seed needs to be watered with tears or some such ritual madness
12. Certain paths and trails can only be walked at this time of year; e.g. the ritual must be held on a mountain in Asgard; a gate will open at the top of this mountain in X days - the only time you can hike there without being dead yourself.

An inversion of this could be that when these things were made long long ago, the BBEG thought they were making things hard by requiring certain ingredients that were impossible to source at the time but once the party figures out the translation for the named ingredient they realise it is a commonly available spice these days and they probably have some on them.

Big list of TTRPG/D&D surveys

tl:dr; links to where all the numbers come from.

A long planned master post of sources for future reference. First four are the 'general' surveys with many thousands of respondents deriving from tools used to play the game. These are capturing the preferences of players without requiring them to fill out a survey.

The other sources are survey responses, these give more detail of how people are playing the game but are self-selecting. As noted before the preferences of the general population and the survey responding 'enthusiasts' are different.

Name Year Size Type
5.30.8 2017 109000 App
AideDnD 2020 12812 App
DnDBeyond 2020 150000 App
Oganm 2020 5824 App
Trygstad 2019 1130 Thesis
Reddit ML 2019 744 Survey
GitP Forums 2017 1361 Survey
Reddit Subclasses 2019 182 Survey
RPGnet Actual 2017 894 Surey
Elderbrain 2020 2044 Survey
ThinkDM 2020 1150 Survey
Reddit D&D 2014 1734 Survey
Mega DM survey 2017 6421 Survey
Facebook D&D 5e Experiences 2020 1131 Survey
Sly Flourish DMs 2016 6600 Survey
OSR Gateway 2020 2764 Survey

28 October 2020

Preference within 3 game play pillars stable over time

tl:dr; Player preference for Roleplaying (1/2), Exploration (1/3), Combat (1/6) stable since 2014.

Seeing a twitter poll on the comparative preference for the pillars of D&D I thought to compare this with the results to the same question asked in previous polls with larger respondent numbers.

The broad pattern of response has remained stable since 2014; roleplaying or social aspects are most important to half of respondents, exploration or problem-solving for approximately a third and combat to the remaining sixth. Given the genre of gaming is 'role-playing games' this seems intuitively correct.

Given the smaller sample size of the most recent twitter poll, I do not think a strong read can be given to increased interest in combat, reduced interest in roleplaying. Perhaps a larger sample set will show if the significant influx of new players in the past ~5 years is truly manifesting as a change in play style preference.

27 October 2020

Quick City Generation Resources

tl:dr; there is a wealth of city building resources, I describe two approaches I use to save heartache as a DM.

I find that published books tend to be somewhat 'build up from map' which I used to do myself; identify every building, roll up the inhabitants. I used to do this but found that players blew through town without interacting with a large fraction of the prepared work and as time became constrained by life, I stopped.

More recently I use thematic generators, that give me a broad sense of how the city works then I can ad-lib from there as needed.

My go-to fast town building is Stupidly Quick City-Building from r/DNDBehindTheScreen coupled with steps 3 & 4 from creating fantasy villages, towns and cities to get the layout.

For more detail I have used the truly awesome in Corpathium from Last Gasp Grimoire.

Sholtipec (2019 campaign) was created using In Corpathium to give a framework then the outcomes of the generator translated into setting appropriate issues. E.g. fungal infestations were pushed towards being encroachment of the jungle, locations were swapped around for dramatic license (move the mysterious quarter away from beside the main gate.

Sholtipec ended up having a page per district with a selection of major locations that could be located on the map as needed and a span of emergent neighbourhood behaviour that came from those tables. Medium work, very 'guided by the dice'.

Thenya (2020) was created using Azgaars Fantasy Map Generator then working up from that using suburb generators for Infinigrad, the Endless City to put some flavour descriptors on each of them. This was modified using a tweaked set of tables for inhabitants to make a menagerie world - adding d50 fantasy races from Skerples into the Infinigrad raceoid mix.

Thenya ended up having a single page with a section per neighbourhood for major descriptors and detailed handled elsewhere - events and locations were referenced in the session play sheets (e.g. a tavern name and the episode number on the city sheet). NPCs were all aggregated to a cast list with some descriptors.

I find that broad scene setting works better for me than detailed building-by-building mapping in an effort/reward sense. I can only admire Bearded Devils mapping dedication but for me, more work at the macro level (who is likely to be in a district, what is the district like) has help to create more memorable character for the city as the streets tell the story without the players needing to interact with the specific buildings and their inhabitants.

21 October 2020

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition zine by Evlyn Moreau

tl;dr: Kobolds Art Exhibition is a great piece that has dropped nicely into an ongoing campaign - low effort to spin up, great visuals, definitely check it out.

I am a long-standing fan of Le Chaudron Chromatique since the OSR first crossed my radar. This particular zine is from June 2018 and I was happy to have the opportunity to slot it into a running campaign. Note links in the article are broken, find a copy through the 'PDF versions' link under My Zines at the RHS of Chaudron Chromatic.

Back drop setting is the old family fortress of which the PCs are the 'new generation'. Above the ground is still working but the old works built into the hilly have been under seal since the current Dukes father died. The party has been down in these labyrinthine basements a few times, fighting off magi-vore ooze-like things.

As the zine is described "a tribe of kobolds who move from dungeon to dungeon in search of artworks to collect." This is a neat setup that can be refitted to any dungeon and was particularly fitting for my campaign of sealed depths that were forgotten, trapped and abandoned with art on the walls. It would be both more of a 'refresher' and I suspect harder on the Kobolds to drop into the traditional caverns full of predators.

Prepping the zine for inclusion was low effort. The format is 'walk through' - I suggest skim first to get a sense of all the parts, then dice up the version you will use yourself.

I rolled up a collection that had originated from a Sagacious Warlord and had ~ 3 weeks remaining before they re-painted the portal and the tribe had spotted an important piece! Next I diced up 11 artworks off the random list of d100, a few failed portal paintings and a pair of 'troubles and sidequests'. With all this on a page it all clicked into place.

First the players spotted the lights of the kobolds scouting the old section at night, then found their trail where they had inspected the closed sections. The first session encounter ended with them encountering one of the 'sidequests' which was a pair of runaways that they rescued from the magi-vores. The first session closed with the grant of invites to the exhibition to the party of rescuers.

Second session, the party descends into the depths, finds and tours the art gallery and are asked to help open up one of the old throne rooms where the kobolds had spotted the masterwork but were not yet able to access it. The players cracked the door and scouted the room, and did not trigger the guardians due to their family bloodlines. When the kobolds entered, the guardians woke (dog constructs) and the party fought a tough fight to make sure their 'guests' were not harmed by their own houses ancient defenses.

Upcoming sessions look to hang on whether or not they want to trade away the uncovered masterpiece and at what price...

If the measure of content is how much the party takes the NPCs to heart, then this 'zine is a hit. I liked it, the players have liked it, I would recommend you check it out for any campaign with an urban or planar component or where an interesting faction would be an addition. Note, while the kobolds themselves have a few tricks up their sleeves for combat, their nomadic nature means that unless you give them enough time and space to become Tuckers Kobolds they will get eaten by murder hobos.

For a second opinion see here: The Kobolds' Art Exhibition Review

Edited to add: actual play adventures continue here.

20 October 2020

Quiet gaming groups outside the anglophone web

tl:dr; ~3/4 of D&D is played in North America but signs point to non-anglophone communities who are not in contact with the online chatter

Drawing on a variety of geographical locator data (survey responses, google analytics) the regional origin of players was plotted.

Poll responses and self-identification measures are dominated by north America, especially the USA. Stability of output over multiple methods and time sources gives general confidence in the output.

Most interesting is the presence of multiple TTRPG tagged Meetup.com groups in Asia despite low participation in forums, surveys and polls indicating a far large scene than is commonly known as described in an article by Hao Zhang of Labyrinth Culture for Pelgrane.

Following this up, the question becomes whether TTRPGs are a English-language phenomenon (or at least throttled in non-English language environments) or whether there are large existing communities organising and communicating using other sites or media such as chat apps.

My hypothesis is that these communities exist - I would welcome any reader who has first hand knowledge of what channels are used to organise games in non-Anglophone settings. Living in a non-Anglophone country I know there is a local language RPG society and an Anglophone one with little cross-over between them both.

14 October 2020

Table of 5 is the consensus group size

tl:dr; 4-5 players appears as the common group size even where more players available in friend circle or gaming club

Older surveys asked how many people were in the broader circle of friends or club members which suggested a larger number of players at a table.

Multiple surveys across forums, from twitter and as academic research indicate table sizes of 4-5 players.

Comparing this to the older figures for gaming clubs and friend circles it implies there was a single table running at a time amongst most groups with the suggestion that second tables of typical size for most groups would share players as ~80% of groups were 8px or smaller and would not have fitted a second concurrent table or more than 4 players.

Another interesting note is that 4-5 players breaks across the 'weak/average' threshold for most Adventurers League games - 5 players of equivalent APL to the adventure will find the challenge average, 3-4 players will be weak. This implies that many DMs are having to tune this adventures from 'as written' before being able to run them.

An additional point could be that the 'ideal group size' identified from the Kind DM twitter survey is smaller than most players actual tables (as measured directly by the subclasses survey and Trygstads thesis) implying many players are at ~5 person tables and would prefer to be at 4 person tables.

11 October 2020

Preferred classes correlate to favourite aspects of gameplay

tl:dr - class preferences correlate to preferred aspects of play, as seen in Reddit 2014 survey

Cross checking responses to D&D Survey (N = 1734, 2014) which asked “What are your favourite class/gameplay types?” and “What aspect of gameplay do you prefer?” shows:

- Everyone is here to role play >40% of preferred aspect of play for everyone
- Problem solvers prefer defensive combat spellcasters
- Combat oriented players prefer fighter and sneaky types
- No-preference lower in jack-of-all-trades and ranged fighter types suggesting these are play-styles more chosen on purpose than others

Broadly coherent with ‘spell-casters for complex play’ and ‘martial classes for getting stuck in’ straight-forward combat oriented play that was hypothesised from the different preferences seen in different player populations broadly defined as 'general players' and 'enthusiasts'.

10 October 2020

Comparing range of race choices across surveys of D&D players

tl:dr; humans are most popular but not under all circumstances nor by huge margins

Update: clearer graphics and more recent data can be found here.

Following an update by the developers of Baldurs Gate 3 where they encouraged players to try more exotic race builds, it is interesting to look at the spreads coming out of other surveys.

The variation with race options has a wider spread compared to classes and more variation between surveys - where 2 archetypes were clear for forums and general users in class choices, this pattern is weaker here.

We can see that across all these surveys - 3/4 of general players prefer 'not-human' and among forum respondents from 3/4 to 5/6 of players choose races other than humans with indication that more people choose something other than humans over time.

This all suggests the efforts of the Baldurs Gate 3 developers will not go to waste.

05 October 2020

Rate of new joiners to D&D has increased significantly

TL;DR the number of D&D players is expanding rapidly with 50% of players joining since 2015.

In the previous post we looked at ages, in this post we look at length of time people have played

The fraction of new joiners increases with the more recent surveys. Surveys of players in 2019-2020 show ~ 80% joined since 2010, ~ 50% joined since 2015.

The 'old school' profile highlighted by the OSR 2019 survey shows flatter growth over the years - 80% of respondents played at least 30 years, 50% played at least 14 years.

This suggest the significant new interest in D&D is driven by 5e which is coherent with media statements about 'explosive growth' by Hasbro.

02 October 2020

Comparison of Hasbro player age estimate against surveys of new generation and OSR gamers

Comparing the age profiles from many surveys scraped from the web throws out a couple of different profiles:
- the contemporary forum user
- the old school gamer
- Hasbros estimate of the general populace

Two high-detail surveys return a year by year curve we can use to classify populations:
- a twitter demographics survey 2020
- the OSR survey by Questing Beast et al in 2016

Comparing these to the WotC 2000 and Hasbro 2020 estimates of player populations shows that the publishers are counting a population of younger gamers who are not appearing in forum responses.

This gives relatively distinct player profiles:
- OSR survey, show a population with half younger than 31, 80% younger than 42.
- the new generation player population appears to be half younger than 24-25 and 80% younger than 29-34.
- Hasbro estimates 50% of players younger than 27 and 80% younger than 36; closer to the new generation.

The split between the Hasbro curve and the general population response is an indicator that the players of D&D and those talking about it online are not perfectly overlapping.
- it suggests there are players too young to participate in online discussions (~12% under 12 years old)
- the Hasbro numbers also suggest there is a larger tail of older gamers undercounted in online discourse: survey responses would suggest only ~23% of players are over 31 years old but Hasbro estimates they are closer to 40% of the population.