28 April 2021

d6 Schools of Draconic Art

1. Vaulting - massive and elaborate fortifications; the archetype of this is huge reinforced doors. The message of this is to imply the fabulous wealth of the dragons hoard when all this visible effort has been put into the barriers around it.

2. Relief-work - typically seen in the carving of scenes glorifying the dragon onto the sides of mountains or other suitable rock-surfaces in its territory. The symbolism here is that the dragons control of its territory is so unquestioned, it could take the time to carve all this undisturbed.

26 April 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #14

Another bumper crop of interesting TTRPG links. Previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Great, meaty collection of advice on how to run games - if you read nothing else this week, read this.

Collaborative world building in its purest form.

A reminder on how Fighters used to have more attacks and thoughts on recreating Conan or Cu Chulainn style heroes.

A chunky heap of content from Lair Master on tumblr - link to his master index post.

24 April 2021

Chekovs Things: managing adventure hooks in long-haul urban campaigns

One of the more useful phrases I heard in the last couple of years was 'catastrophic success' - where things go well beyond your wildest imaginings and suddenly you have a bunch of issues you had never anticipated. For context here, my issue is that my home game has put some serious hours in and chewed through a lot more events and plot than I might have initially imagined. Now the problem is remembering all the dangling plot hooks or fizzing fuses that are scattered around the setting.

This is doubly interesting because of two aspects:
First the party is cunning and ruthless and prefers to skip sword-swinging glory in place of having the palace guard crush their problems. XP gain is lower but it surely is efficient at moving things along.
Second is that we are running an urban game - except for one brief over-night trip most of the action has taken place with them operating out of their bedrooms at the palace. Were they doing the usual slay-loot-scoot dungeon-diving then their problems would be left behind them in the dust as they carted their loot away. By staying static, consequences have time to simmer and form a delicious stew of problems.

21 April 2021

What are my odds? Description as DC

I had a recollection of seeing an exercise someone had done that assigned all our common words to state a likelihood of something happen to a percentage value - I did not find that but I did find a report with US/UK policies for communicating probability and I thought it might be useful to convert it to DCs.

Descriptor % span d20 span DC
Almost no chance / remote 1 to 5 1 21
Very unlikely / highly improbable 5 to 20 4 18
Unlikely / improbable (improbably) 20 to 45 9 13
Roughly even chance / roughly even odds 45 to 55 11 11
Likely / probable (probably) 55 to 80 16 6
Very likely / highly probable 80 to 95 19 3
Almost certain(ly) / nearly certain 95 to 99 20 2

Setting this up so an average person of average stats in D&D succeeds an even chance thing 50% of the time, we anchor to DC11 for 'roughly even chance'. This makes "almost no chance" things impossible for an average person to achieve without help, tools, bless or something equivalent. Similarly, it is possible to fail an almost certain task 5% of the time. To my mind, if the dice is being rolled, there ought to be a chance of it failing - if it cannot fail, no dice should be rolled.

This also means that your average D&D character rapidly becomes a creature beyond the abilities of mere mortals in just a few levels. Given that the fraction of PC's among the populace is supposed to be small, this still makes some sense - but it gives a sense of how amazingly different a character dropping a +7 modifier onto a roll is - they will succeed at highly improbably things as often as the average person will make the even chance.

I am still seeking that original article I saw - I know I read it in 2008-2010 so it is out there somewhere. I will follow this up once I find it.



19 April 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #13

Another bumper crop of interesting TTRPG links. Previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Also this week from weaver.skepti.ch a good look at the Art of War in Dune.

Nice thoughts on improving lock-picking, hacking or other extended skill tests from Prismatic Wasteland

Thoughts on playing out the last day on earth - or other adventures with a definitive end point.

Super simple Referee reference list - encounters and attitudes - print it, stick it up.

Superlight game of being Red Shirts - some great ideas from Traveling Mailsman.

17 April 2021

The War Sword's Thirst: harvesting 4X games for world events

tl;dr: second in the series on using side events in 4X and other games for inspiration at your table

A second in a series about drawing inspiration from 4x games. We return to Fall From Heaven II but this more as a series of events that gives a great emergent high magic disaster.

Once there was a land with a prophecy of doom - four horsemen would come, one after the other, and in their wake the world would be destroyed. First would be Stephanos, who bore a Crown that would seduce those who stood against them to serve him. Second would be Buboes, whos great Sword of War would hasten the apocalypse with every soul it slew. Third would be Yersina bore a plagued sword and would slay cities with their tread. Fourth would be Ars Moriendi who would enslave the souls of those they slew as wraiths to spread further destruction.

In this land there was a great warrior, a mighty giant, who had risen to glory fighting the beasts and raiders of the wilderness. When first Stephanos came to the land this champion faced and slew them with the fiery Axe of Orthus. Later Buboes appeared far away on the far end of the continent from the giants home. Buboes roamed freely, slaying all who faced them, across realms of mages and elves. All who faced them died and hastened the coming of the next troubles.

15 April 2021

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition part VI - The Chase

The kobolds of the Kobolds Art Exhibition zine by Evlyn Moreau return once more. Links to the review and part I of play using it, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

The party stumbles home from a long day and tucks up in bed. They had not acted on their discussion to move the portraits out of their bedrooms and all are sleeping soundly when the next tour of the Kobolds arrives. The Sorceror is woken to find Historian Drap, two of the Clerics sisters and some other mixed nobles of the city filing in.

With some sputtering and complaint the Sorceror orders everyone out, but with the nature of tours, people are filing in to get the message and then shuffling past each other in the doorway to leave. The Bard and Cleric have both been woken by the commotion and the Cleric steps out into the passage way in her housecoat to see what is up. The Bard guesses correctly what is going on, pens a 'do not enter note' to hang on her door, arms her bat-cat-imp thing with a poker and shoves it out into the hall on guard duty. The imp-thing hams up its role and snarls and froths before the Bards door, making the tour members in the hall back away down towards the other rooms where another cousin and one of her entourage have opened their doors.

Meanwhile the Sorceror, muzzy with sleep, decides the best way to emphasize his point is to summon a giant spider to scare everyone off. This works to a point; the giant spider accelerates the departure of the few remaining tour members but then fails in that it is an actual monstrous spider. Usually the Sorcerer summons celestials he can talk to but this is a standard big spider and he promptly loses control and it leaps on Historian Drap.

13 April 2021

Getting more gaming in - how long and how often

I saw a post to a group asking 'was it normal to game 6-7 hours sessions twice a week' for 12-14 hours of table time per week. Short answer - that is a lot of gaming, well over what most people seem to be getting in.

Sweeping up a bunch of surveys to try and get a sense of whether players are playing more through time it appears the answer is yes; this could be down to virtual tools enabling quality online gaming or just a wider player base allowing more people to find a table.

So it appears from the larger surveys (2014 onwards) that at least half of respondents are getting in that weekly game, with about 1 in 3 of those people playing again in the week.

12 April 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #12

Twelve weeks! Twelve weeks we have been doing this and still there are more interesting TTRPG things on the internet! Previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

A pair of magnificent planar cosmology variations for your sages to argue over - Hexian cosmologies by Bearded Devil and Planescape variations by Locheil.

Cool magical cloaks from Chaudron Chromatique.

I saw someone ask after 'where are my wierd race combos' - which I had seen on tumblr by 'homebrew from the void' and flag here in case anyone else missed it.

Tao of D&D talks about followers for high-level characters and experiences dealing with 'but we are lone wolves!' reaction to this.

10 April 2021

Seeking inspiration in Kickstarters

In conversation on the tweet-machine about the desired properties of RPG supplements I framed it up as: "I want more art, lore and random tables in books; help me run the same six foes at the party in a dozen fascinating ways in your setting - circumstances, terrain, etc. Better same monsters, better environment than weirder foe in same 10 x 10 room."

WotC or whomever can sell me these things by the bucket load - I backed a bunch of kickstarters purely on the basis of getting my hands on this kind of content. I want windows into cultures I did not grow up in. I want genius ideas. Fever dream strangeness - anything and everything that I would not have come up with myself. The concept of Appendix N is exactly what I am talking about - folding in inspirations from all sorts of sources into campaigns. I will do another post on books to read.

A quick summary of 'setting driven' purchase decisions over the past while are below; these were all things I went after for the content and setting, independent of the system.

08 April 2021

Still Here: Lizardfolk culture post

I like lizardfolk and all their many scaly-kin cousins. Given the explosion of variety we know happened in our own world back before the unpleasantness with the asteroid I think it is reasonable to say that injecting magic and dragons into the pot with basic lizardfolk should yield a lot more interesting things than 'lives in a swamp, focused on survival'.

The big hook I use for lizardfolk is stability and long, long cycle culture. Crocodiles showed up pretty early, realised they were on to a good thing and just stopped where they were. Crocodiles saw the dinosaurs come, crocodiles survived the dinosaurs going away, crocodiles are still here. I think that is a great hook to build on.

Lizardfolk by their hearth by Evlyn Moreau

So what are the aspects of our lizardfolk culture?

06 April 2021

Changing popularity of PC races with age & experience

tl;dr: examining the preference for top 14 races shows age-related trends - humans, half-elves, dwarves prefered by older players, tieflings, dragonborn by younger players.

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

Looking at the data, I am again mostly surprised that there are any trends visible at all.

05 April 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #11

This is the eleventh 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.

A take on how to run XP at your table that may be of interest - far too detailed for me but a good breakdown of factors to consider.

Aboleth Overlords has a great entry to the FKR world challenge - Ghost Town Slow Crawl - that doubles as an awesome quick town generator for any system.

Hopes and Highlights - a neat business card game that also serves as a quick pit-stop, health check on ongoing campaigns. I like the structure this brings to vague 'do feedback regularly' advice from other places.

03 April 2021

Lessons learned on making maps and clues

tl;dr: home-making physical props takes time, some hints to making them useable so your time is not wasted

Maybe I just like mucking about with tea but I find distressing documents and creating tangible clues to hand to players to be one of the most fun and long-lasting additions you can make to games you run. Things, things you can hold, people like that and if it has extra things they can figure out, so much the better.

I have run a game with a big set of props and clues and played a con scenario and an outside campaign where physical things impacted the game a lot. The con scenario had a journal we could tear open to get vital papers. The campaign had the journal of one of the players from the first time they played through ~20 years earlier - a genuine adventurers journal! Here I will talk about physical documents that I used in my own game, all of which were meant to be clues or world-building of some sort.

However, my first approach to this when I started was "IC-ness matters, reality matters, everything you do to make it more real is valuable" - this was wrong. A perfect slice of the world that has no relevance to the parties activities - or worse is so oblique that they never figure out its relevance - is just a distraction and a waste of your time.

Examples; a set of correspondance that fell into PC's hands; distressed, thump-printed and crunched. And a map:

01 April 2021

Actual test: making city-crawls with voronoi-tesselations

For those of you working with cities; d4 Caltrops did this is a cool approach to quickly setting up city crawls with voronoi-tesselations. It took me a little button-mashing with my various browsers to get what I wanted so this is my how-to walk through to complement the original article.

Driving factor - I need detail on a city in my game, one that has suddenly skidded into focus. I have found it is good to do this before the party actually hits the place so you can get the 'famous for' right when they ask around about the place before they go. In my experience when randomly generating cities you will often find some really cool feature of that city that would be a famous custom or landmark - canals of Venice or fine cuisine of Paris type of thing - and it would seem reasonable for NPCs and investigation checks to mention this.

Process -
I. Created a map with Watabous magnificent fantasy city map generator.