30 March 2021

Once were Wizards: class preferences by age

Returning once again to Mia Gojaks survey from the 5e Facebook group we want to see if there were any patterns that could be pulled out of the class preference vs age data. This will hopefully let us go deeper than previous class preference checks. Breaking out the preference of each age cohort for the various classes we see some interesting trends.

Considering each class independently four things seem to appear here -
1. Older players prefer wizards, rogues, fighters and rangers.
2. Younger players prefer warlocks, bards, druids and barbarians
3. Clerics and monks are more favoured among younger players
4. Paladins, Sorcerors broadly popular across age cohords

29 March 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #10

This is the tenth weekly round up of interesting TTRPG things found on the internet, this week there is quite a lot. Previous one found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

RPG Planet I finally got around to signing up for this central blog list. After stalling out on what type of blog this is, time has established this is a generalist anything goes sort of place so thats the list to use.

Interesting piece on childhood fantasy influences on DIY & Dragons and what tropes, themes and assumptions about a fantasy world get built into a fantasy world for play.

Overloading the encounter die for dungeon alarums - from Prismatic Wasteland

On paths and level design - video-game origin but good food for thought for anyone designing environments.

Had not previously seen but appreciate the good thinking in Hobgoblinry's megadungeon posts - I like how they highlight which house-rules they are taking or leaving with a tie to the flavour of campaign being set up.

27 March 2021

Review: Izirion's Enchiridion of the West Marches

tl:dr; a comprehensive guide on how to run the fabled West Marches campaign style, full of great art and practical examples.

What we have is a super interesting campaign book - a combination of wilderness adventure guide and a 'school of play'. If the many, many schools of D&D are cars this book is 'how to drive the Australian Outback, beyond where there is no hope of roadside recovery'. Throughout the book everything is directing your heroes towards adventure. Safe alternatives are stripped away; these are for NPCs back in town. This is a book about making sure your adventurers must risk true hazards if they want to progress.

Own copy, cover art by Matt Cowdery

From the get go this is reflected in the multi-colour advice boxes - blue for 'what are we talking about', green for 'you could do this', red for 'this is how this should play'. The specific framework of the West Marches with its own tropes of town/wild, player-lead scheduling and map-as-record are thoroughly explained here. All these rules exist in the core books but this is the guide to why to set all the dials a specific way for a specific experience. For a quick, non-exhaustive summary the West Marches style is one where a large roster of players drops-in, drops-out for any given session and the focus of play is on ventures into a forbidding wilderness.

So what have we got in here?

25 March 2021

d12 things encountered traversing this blasted world

Maybe you are between portals, maybe you need to cross this desert, maybe your shuttle crashed. In any case, you just noticed:
1. A dessicated corpse, clutching a map. You recognise the markings and signatures as the same guide that gave you your maps. It looks like they have been here a while. Their flesh has been gnawed by insects but some of their gear is salvagable.

2. A tilted tower rises from the sands, on the edge of what was once a lake. The tower is neatly sheared off five stories up, the scattered stones of the upper floors lying where they were thrown by the blast. This is where the cataclysm that dessicated this region occured - humidity has been dropping as you approach; your eyes dry, any open vessel evaporates, animals begin to resist going closer than sight-range.

3. An animated kraken swims through the silty sands, an abandoned war-engine, stitched together with additional chains and mauls the over-ambitious and impractical creator thought might be useful, it roams about its silt basin, unable to drag itself beyond.

4. Dew trappers trudge across the barrens - setting out their arrays of beetle-shells each dawn and duck and carefully scraping the precious moisture into barrels. During the day they shelter, storing their barrels in the deeper cool and travel at night, dragging their skids of barrels behind them. They will trade for their water, holding little else of value.

5. A battle field in the desert. You come upon a line of conflict, a jumble of old bones and armour partially buried. There is a lot to sort through here but a couple of remarkable treasures can be gleaned if you are willing to do the digging.

6. Exposed bones of ancient sea creatures, tumbled together chaotically in the wake of disaster. Some of these have been fossilised with beautiful mineral and gem deposits within them but are bulky.

7. Caves with ancient lore on the walls. Here is the truth of the event that ruined this place, painted on the walls by the last witnesses.

8. Portions of a buried city. Exposed parts are scoured to ruin but beautiful murals and chests with preserved contents can be unearthed with a little effort. Here the challenge is the scale, this place was massive, and was not built on one level. Walking to certain places will trip avalanches that will sweep people away and possibly engulf them.

9. A local pleasure spot - a dune-surfing festival where a wind-mill driven winch hauls people up a hill to plunge down. Everything is temporary, transported in with pack animals. The joyous cries can be heard before they are seen. Hospitality is offered to any who approach along with a gentle insistence to try surfing down the dunes. This is harder than it looks

10. An oasis guarded by a fierce creature trapped here by the encroaching barrens. It is the last of its kind.

11. A treasure hunter, crazed with exhaustion, possessed of handfuls of exquisite gems obviously pried from something. If nursed back to health in place, they can back-track to the rich ruin they had found.

12. Raiders, you see them along the ridgeline, a glint of their watch-glasses betraying their position. They probably want your stuff, your water and you for meat.

23 March 2021

Blog challenge: Worlds not Rules from Classless Kobolds

Picking up an interesting challenge from Jim at d66 Classless Kobolds which goes:
1. Pick a genre, setting, or time period
2. Write one or two paragraphs on context
3. Produce one page of random tables
4. Give advice on tropes and how to use them

So here is a thought I had kicking about for a while - portal-fantasy in spaaaaace.

The aliens do not care. There was a brief flash of attention when the war front passed near Earth before that all got quelled. Unfortunately humans escaped their world but they have nothing worth trading and their planet is a mess so ... *six shouldered shrug*

The time is the medium-distance future and our setting is an update on the planetary romance; you can go almost anywhere, walk under the distant suns, and so on as long as you spike your nano-treatments. All the different aliens are out there living their own paradigms and you can walk through the portal networks between them. In places it looks like Mos Eisley or Kill Six Billion Demons, other places it looks like Coruscant or Illium.

Something happened long ago and galactic civilization, such as it is, is jumpy as hell about backups and redundancy. They have portals you can walk through, portals with trains, they fly light-sails, they use habitats, they use generation ships, they use jump drives. They thread the crusts of worlds with bio-engines that can manufacture anything, then leave them mostly dormant.

22 March 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #9

This is the ninth weekly round up of interesting TTRPG things found on the internet. Previous one found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Starting our mini-theme of NPCs for this week: a tweet-thread of ways to keep track of NPCs who don’t need full stat blocks.

Hauling out this old gold from Bastionland for creating NPCs.

Great set of ideas for making your merchants more interesting.

Neat D20 x 4 table for generating random nobles.

20 March 2021

Comparing top 10 games on Roll20 vs Fantasy Grounds

tl;dr: D&D 5e dominates both; Fantasy Grounds likes Pathfinder, Roll20 likes Call of Cthulu.

Fantasy Grounds released its player numbers and I wanted to put the top 10 games side by side to compare. This it done by taking the top 10 games on Roll20 and then setting seeing how all the players who played those games were split out, then taking those same games for Fantasy Grounds.

Unsurprisingly, D&D 5e is the Kaiju in the room on both sites; ~ 3 in every 4 games are D&D 5e. We more or less knew this. What is interesting is the split on the last quarter.

18 March 2021

Gnarls Tale: Inspiration in Emergent Narrative

tl;dr: tap the stories that rise out of 4X and other games for inspiration at your table

I played a lot of Fall From Heaven II a Civilization IV mod and some of the strange chance outcomes that dropped out of that inspired fantastic pieces of table gaming. Units become NPCs, circumstances become adventures, strange sites become dungeons. This is one such example of repeated unlikely chance that built a tiny legend.

Gnarl - as he was to become known - started as a basic Hunter, a scout type that gives him better odds of having a favourable outcome when a) going into villages and b) venturing into dungeons and lairs. Villages are mostly dull but Gnarl, early on, ventured into a lair and was mutated to give him the Adventurer promotion. This made him a lot better (25%) at getting good results in lairs and dungeons so whenever we found something, Gnarl got the call.

16 March 2021

Examining reduced roleplay preference among older gamers

tl;dr: preference for play-style changes with age - older players show reduced preference in roleplay.

Following up on the observation that new joiners appear to be getting older, what does this mean? Is the nature of the game changing?

I started from the Tabletop RPG Research Survey 2020 - 2021 Results Update #1 which showed changing preference for the pillars of gameplay with age, with increased preference for problem-solving/exploration, reduced preference for roleplay.

Graphic copied from TTRPG Research Survey 2020 - 2021 Results Update #1

Comparing this to available datasets we can see the same patterns - first in the 2014 Reddit D&D survey that shows reduced preference for role-play, increased preference for combat.

15 March 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #8

This eighth weekly round up of interesting TTRPG things found on the internet is a fairly substantial one, lots of interesting things out in the past week. Previous one found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

GM philosophies - good thoughts here on how they run their game; interesting as a reflection on which dials can be tweaked.

Great example of Free Kriegspiel in action in a modern version of its original context from JM.

Low-level city sandbox in space! Launching a barebones Spelljammer campaign - I like this way of meeting the problem of 'half a year of play before finding out we are playing in a Spelljammer campaign' that was a stumbling block of old.

Great retrospective on campaigns run - I tried to do similar myself, it is a pleasure to read anothers perspective.

14 March 2021

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition part V - The Tour

Following up on the previous posts about playing through the Kobolds Art Exhibition zine by Evlyn Moreau. Links to the review and part I of play using it, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

The exhibition begins to wrap up as the time creeps into the small hours of the morning. Half of the guests join one of the three tours that the Lady of the House has arranged with the kobolds and our party follows Historian Vru. The sorceror is momentarily dissappointed that the tours are not going to be into paintings of the palace but foot tours.

Curator Zisk, sketch by the bard

First they troop across the hall into the Old Throne Room where the historian starts in kobold, notices the crowds failure to follow him and pulls out a scroll of tongues, casts it and continues briskly. Marched rapidly around the room the party has works they would have identified as quality pieces denounced as derivative junk, things they thought were war trophies praised as outstanding vernacular works of giant- and dwarfcraft and the trio of great pieces along the back wall, the bi-part Kingmaker portrait and the huge saddle praised as masterworks.

12 March 2021

Cometh the elders: confirming the 'age up' of new joiners

tl:dr; multiple surveys across ~ 2013-2019 show an increasing age of new joiners.

Originally prompted by pulling apart the D&D Gateway survey data from Necropraxis that showed the age of new joiners had jumped +5 years since 2015. Note post-2010 split out into before/after 2015 to emphasize trend.

Could this be seen in other surveys? Short answer yes.

10 March 2021

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition part IV - The Show

Following up on the previous posts about playing through the Kobolds Art Exhibition zine by Evlyn Moreau. Links to Part II and Part III.

The Kobolds cross paths once more with our party on the night before the pre-wedding ceremonials.

Some time has passed and much of the senior family including the Earl and the General, mother to the cleric, have returned from the war-front for the wedding. During this transportation the foe managed to strike the court wizard who is locked in temporal stasis to prevent his own death. The bard and sorceror sought help from the head of the Mage University who gave them a horrid bat-cat stitched together thing that they are to kill to let the master of the university know they want him. The party is not keen on dealing with this and have been pushing the horrible thing off on one another over the course of the day.

As night falls, the sorceror shoved it into the bards room while she was at dinner with an old pal. After some late night altercations once the bard spotted that her fireplace was blinking at her, the thing they have named an imp has been left to sleep in the fireplace with a screen in front of it. The bard tucks in and everyone sleeps soundly. The imp is just resting however and so when the kobolds come around distributing invitations for their exhibition it is the only thing to rouse.

Invitation bearing younger Kobold by Evlyn Moreau

08 March 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #7

Seventh weekly round up of interesting TTRPG things found on the internet. Previous one found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Opening with this post on "Awesome Fantasy Drug Abuse In Shadelport For Murder Hobos" if only so I have the excuse to use the following image.
Evolve now. All become crab.

Visit Shadelport, Become Crab

We also go to Weaver.skepti.ch for this neat Abacus hit gauge which I think makes a good point for (during tabletop play) any sort of neat chunky physical hit-point counter. Not so helpful for VTTs but the day of face-to-face will return, I have faith.

A spark list to start a dungeon but also a cool concept I may follow up on of using a slush-pile of ideas to make spark-lists.

07 March 2021

d24 Mythic Shoreline encounters boosted by neural networks

Starting with a d16 block of ideas from old folk tales, family stories and legends from North West Ireland.

Near shore graveyard marker, Co. Mayo

Mythic seashore encounters:
1. Shellfishers with baskets and large rakes, working along the tide line. They can tell you any movements along the coast and are happy to trade a delicious dinner for any extra hands to help them carry away the palm-sized cockles and hand-long razorfish they are raking up.
2. Lights at low tide, the spirits of a long dead chieftan and his warriors holding a moot on the strand exposed by the sea. Anyone who keeps distant and watches will see a full re-enactment of a key meeting before a battle that changed the local history. Reading lips by those who understand the old tongue is possible. The key point to be gleaned is where the battle took place and where the mighty artefacts the chief and his companions are wearing fell.
3. An ancient fey defense - a standing stone that flings iron far out to sea. The fey have long moved on after tide wore away a portion of their keep. The defense still stands, allowing those with fey-ancestry to pass while throwing any others who wear metal off the cliff it stands near.

05 March 2021

Rolling Up Encounters - question from Jojiro

Following a request on the OSR discord from Jojiro for "a blog post where they just go through an example of how they roll up an encounter - HD, reactions, morale, and all, and make calls based on those things? [...] just go through a bunch of different rolls, and explain how you then adjudicate that."

Examples: setting up a planar site / pocket dimension type of thing plus 'gang of orcs and a flail-snail' from the original ask.

03 March 2021

A roundup of space-faring fantasy

Following stumbling across this article on why Spelljammer is worth saving - adding the concept of 3D hexcrawling to the points mentioned in earlier posts on this blog I wanted to publish this list of fantasy space-faring resources / settings / systems to get them out there and be a thing I may add to over time.

First for Spelljammer itself - various online resources, edition updates and variants.

There is a magnificent "One page spelljammer rules" which boils original Spelljammer down to 1 (dense) page - well worth looking at for any edition.

Sessedrix 54 page 5e adaptation which also includes a excel combat calculator for encounters.

Alternative 5e update with "theatre of the mind space combat rules" as used in the Tales from the Glass Guarded World actual play podcast. Episode 101 is mostly a space battle using these rules if you want an example.

01 March 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #6

Sixth weekly round up of interesting TTRPG things found on the internet - less than last week - previous one found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Sci-fi and Fantasy blending in the roots of Warhammer

Good overview of the new Ravenloft book by Tales of the Groteque and Dungeonesque

The latest user numbers from Fantasy Grounds showing the popularity of various rulesets.