31 January 2021

Friends/family still largest gateway to TTRPG

tl:dr; despite conversation about importance of streaming to bringing new gamers to hobby, friends/family appear to still be largest 'gateway' to gaming.

Scouring the web for information we do not find many polls but those that do exist say more or less the same thing - friends or family are the primary channel for new joiners to get into the hobby ~ 2/3 of players find their way to the hobby that way.

29 January 2021

Review: Slumbering Ursine Dunes

tl:dr; a great Slavic acid fantasy setting and a master-class in creating a point-crawl and driving pace and tension.

One of the classic OSR books giving "65 pages of mayhem and wierdness in this Slavic mythic-inspired (with an acid fantasy twist) mini-sandbox". I picked this up a while back and then continued to collect the rest of the series - Fever Dreaming Marlinko, Misty Isles of the Eld, and What Ho, Frog Demons. Each one has been a joy to read.

cover art by David Lewis Johnson

This is a great, strange little setting where a bunch of odd factions are dwelling in the bizarre terrain of the dunes. The Dunes themselves are nigh-untraversable and following the paths between and around them is much simpler. Therefore the region is presented in the point-crawl fashion with sites linked by the routes between them and an assumption that each route takes ~ 30 mins to travel. Aside from the content the book is a guide to the mechanics of point crawls and exemplar of how this method can be used.

27 January 2021

Uncounted 4th pillar of game play - character building

tl:dr; character creation is the missing 4 pillar of gameplay, second favorite after roleplay.

A twitter poll by VanishXZone asking "What is your favorite part about DnD 5e?" included character creation alongside the 3 pillars of gameplay described in the D&D books - Exploration, Roleplaying and Combat. The results give a nice quantification of how important character creation is - second most important aspect of the game after roleplaying.

25 January 2021

Shiny TTRPG Links Collection #1

Stealing the idea of a weekly round up of interesting things this week from weaver.skepti.ch on the grounds I'll never find these things again otherwise.

Truth spoken: "You don't have to be fancy to play D&D" - particularly since we now live in a golden age of free online resources with more by the day.

Geoffroy Hassoun and Samia Aci-Sèche are the authors of the RPG Les Oubliés - Geoffroy answers a few questions on weaver.skepti.ch.

Great podcast from The Adventuring Party on using festivals in your games.

Interesting world building article on swapping out archetypes within your game. A great perspective for showing the variation within similar fantasy groups.

24 January 2021

Vayra Asks: 10 Setting Questions

Responding to Vayras 10 Setting Questions post - and using it as a convenient setting refresh, idea spinner for my next session.

1) What class knows the most martial arts? Are they real martial arts like kung fu, or made up ones like krav maga?
The most martial arts would be known by monks - though for any martial-leaning archetype (fighters, clerics of war gods, etc) I would be happy to talk about how they know some sort of style. These styles are going to be heavily modified from 'real world' ones - perhaps keeping the principle (such as a redirecting momentum into throws Judo-style) and modifying the moves. This is because there are lots of species with different physical structures that imply different styles: what can you do when your limbs are longer/shorter? When you have the muscle mass of a aaracokra or an orc? A goliaths fighting style should take advantage of their height, an aaracokra is going to need to work hard to not take blows given their flight-capable bone structure. Lizardfolk have tails and tough hides - what kind of style takes advantage of that?

22 January 2021

Spelljammer encounter tables

As an exercise in sparing myself work I wanted to see what could be rapidly pulled together from online sources to build out an Aerial / Spelljammer encounter list. My first thought was r/d100 which had a partial (25/100) list: Airship/Spelljammer Encounters

Next two glorious antiques were revealed - what appears to be a compilation of encounters from the old Spelljammer products and a revised version of the same. These are great and comprehensive but a little light on the flavour for what I was hoping.

Searching a little more gives a few articles and lists with a couple of ideas each:
Pirates and encounter ideas for Spelljammer
Random encounters at spelljamming speed
Fun & weird encounters for a spelljammer 5e environment

20 January 2021

Age of D&D new joiners jumped ~5 yrs since 2015

tl:dr; comparing surveys, it seems the average age of new gamers has shifted from mid-teens to college age over 2010-2015.

Sparking off this twitter survey of when people started playing TTRPGs and seeing the most common age is post-teen I dug into old datasets to see when this had happened. Old surveys from Dragon and White Dwarf in the 80s put the average age of TTRPG gamers at ~16 years old. Something huge changed, but when? Looking at the OSR Gateway survey from 2019* we can find some answers.

Raw tracks of respondent age by era joined.

18 January 2021

Review: Ulraunts Guide to Acheron

tl:dr; a beefy planar tome focusing on just the Plane of War; tons of options, nice layout and artwork, just the ticket if you want to set a campaign there.

(photo of own copy, cover art by Raluca Marinescu)

Strictly speaking, the name is "Ulraunts Guide to the Planes: Acheron" but I think this block-buster tome needs no extra beefing up as part of a larger work. It stands tall on its own. As someone who came up through Planescape, the sheer size of this tome is jaw-dropping. Acheron in the Planes of Law was a booklet; jammed full of ideas, but even for Planescape it was a 32 page booklet plus 6 pages in the players guide of Planes of Law. Acheron got 4 pages in the 3.5e Manual of the Planes. In short, this is an order of magnitude more Acheron than we have had before.

16 January 2021

Review: The Infinite Staircase

tl:dr; if you like the planes, buy this for page 15. You get 96 beautiful bonus pages to make a beast of a book that will turbo-charge planar campaigns.

I saw the image below, went to DriveThru and saw all the gorgeous layout - I have not clicked 'buy' on anything so quickly recently. Inside I found the purest distillation of a planar handbook I have encountered in quite some time. I will probably make myself a *colour* hardcopy of this, it is that good.

Launch graphic from DeathbyBadger

The graphic design work throughout is magnificent, vivid and exciting in a way I have not seen since... *thinks* *searches shelves* ... maybe Planes of Conflict? Maybe Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II? Certainly it looks like a lot of the best of the post-Pathfinder era has been combined with an OSR 'show me the gameable content' attitude to give something thats like an atrophine injector of pure planar energy. I have always had a soft spot for the Infinite Staircase, it has long been one of my favourite planar pathways and this is a monument to the best it can be.

15 January 2021

Review: Through Ultans Door #1-2

tl:dr; another of the fabled zines of the OSR, Through Ultans Door describes the dream-city of Immortal Zyan.

The push to get this out the door is the news that issue #3 will be joining Zinequest.

photo of issues #1 & #2, showing cover art by Huargo

These issues are gorgeous artefacts from the author of Mazirians Garden blog. These are treasures from a lost era (G+, the before-times when mail from the US worked) - which very well reflects the theme. Beautifully picked art and a hard card detachable cover makes the zine feel great in hand. For both issues I got my hands on (the two released to date) there was a duplicate of the encounter table on another card to have easily to hand. Inside the detachable cover is a map of the area covered in the zine - the Inquisitors Theater for #1, the catacombs of the Fleischguild for issue #2.

13 January 2021

Gathering design goals for a Spelljammer update

tl:dr; double down on the things that make Spelljammer unique

Maybe I started with the cart before the horse in focusing on what are the sharp edges that people knock against in Spelljammer. Perhaps first we ought to start with 'why bother at all'? In other words what is a Spelljamming campaign supposed to be like?

(photo of own copies of Spelljammer core books, Polyhedron #151 magazine)

11 January 2021

Print-on-demand for players in Europe

Looking at the news that Brexit is going to cause delays and cost increases for getting UK printed books from DriveThruRPG, I wondered how likely it is that the companies will be motivated to fix this. Maybe if there are more gamers in the EU than in the UK they might?

As we know from almost all surveys, the majority of TTRPG gamers are in North America, with the next largest chunk in Europe.

Fewer surveys and sites give enough granularity to see what specific countries players are from but there are some and they all seem to say mostly the same thing.

09 January 2021

On updating Spelljammer - how to live your best space swashbuckling life

tl:dr; a sweep up of Spelljammer feedback and thoughts on how to avoid the possible pitfalls.

Inspired to kick out this long-simmering post based on this thread by DM Sarah on updating Spelljammer. As she says "It's weird, zany, D&D in space. It's an encapsulation of that sci-fi fantasy blend written by, among others, C.S. Lewis and Madeline L'Engle."

I have been thinking about the difference between Spelljammer and Planescape and to me Spelljammer is about having a mobile base for your road adventures while in Planescape you have a static one or none at all such as being a caravan. This is also noted in the thread so the real question is what is going to make a Spelljammer campaign more fun than just doing a standard nautical one?

07 January 2021

d24 Living doors - built with gygaxian democracy, neural networks

This was another 'rapid encounter table generation' exercise. Original prompt was a post the r/DnDAcademy prompt for 'Living Locks'. This time I tried bulking it out through gygaxian democracy on the OSR discord then fed that to the Bellard tool to bulk it out.

05 January 2021

Review: Stygian Library

tl:dr; so good I bought the pdf, then backed the kickstarter to get the gorgeous hard back version.

I backed the Kickstarter for the remastered version which had the objective of a slight edit clean up and lots of new art. This was due in October and turned up on the last day of December which is pretty kick-ass given the hell-scape of a year it has been. You can get the pdf version of this fantastic "creepily genteel dungeon set in an infinite extradimensional library" by Cavegirl on Drivethrurpg.

Newly arrived hardcover of Stygian Library

So what is this? The Stygian Library is a generative dungeon that expresses the shifting and labyrinthine nature of the place through a depth-crawl mechanic making it a journey of discovery for both players and game master every time you venture within.

03 January 2021

Review: Barrow Keep - Den of Spies

tl:dr; a romantic-fantasy setting and intrigue tool-box for easily creating a web of relationships within a living setting.

Barrow Keep: Den of Spies is a system-neutral Young Adult-themed "old-school RPG zine of intrigue & romance". The back cover puts it as "when you were young, you thought Barrow Keep’s great walls would keep you safe. But now, coming of age, you realize how many troubles were inside these walls all along: duplicitous courtiers, treacherous kin, puritanical heresy-hunters, glamoured spies from the woods beyond the walls, and hungry, ancient spirits of the forgotten past. How will you protect yourself? How will you protect your friends?"

screengrab of front cover, art by Minerva Fox

This 72 page zine is approaching completion following a successful kickstarter campaign by R. Rook Studio, "specialists in the documentation of weird settings and strange locales." This is to be the first in a series of romantic fantasy settings for "adventure fantasy games with an old-school spirit".

01 January 2021

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition part III - The Rescue

Following up on the previous posts about playing through the Kobolds Art Exhibition zine. Part II found here.

Impression of 'Ward Against Self', inspired by Marguerite Frieda Harris

Once again our party - children of the rulers of the realm - return to the depths of the palace to visit the Kobolds. This time they seek to rescue a palace servant from the cursed painting "Ward Against Self" by a Pit Fiend that they have named 'the murderpainting'.

Content warning - minor body squick, ~PG-13.