31 July 2021

Actual Play: Kobolds Art Exhibition part VIII - The Farewell

We wrap up with the Kobolds Art Exhibition zine by Evlyn Moreau. Links to the review and part I of play using it, Part II - Adventures in Paintings, Part III - the Rescue, Part IV - the Show, Part V - the Tour, Part VI - the Chase and Part VII - the Delve. A final round up of the zine as a supplement is at the end of this write-up.

Significant time has passed since last the party directly interacted with the Kobolds - they had quested without them to recover the masterpiece painting they sought, fighting mimics, carrion-crawlers and a terrible ethereal predator - fierce enough fights that they had not brought the kobolds along with them. The masterwork recovered, interactions were handed off to the Lady of the House, the bards mother, while the party dealt with conspiracies, magical artefacts and divine visions. As the party now prepares to depart the palace at dawn to settle the unrest that has shaken the north of their family realms, the cleric decides to bid farewell. The kobolds portal painting should be finished and they ought to be well on their way to moving on to their next location.

Curator Zosk + Scout by Evlyn Moreau

28 July 2021

Actual Play: Aces High Aerial Combat at the table

I have reviewed Aces High in 'set piece test' format before for flying-ship-on-flying-ship combat but I had the great good fortune to be able to test them as they were intended in our last session.

Some background - our party of dragonbloods (reskinned dragonkings from Atlas Games 7 Civilisations) has pulled a dragon saddle off the wall behind the old throne of their legendary great-great-great grandsire after a hard nudge from a wizarding uncle to sort their own stuff out and stop bugging him about site-to-site transport. Lacking the dragon that their grandsire had, they secured something broadly-like a whaling longboat and got the palace carpenter to put a roof over the front half to make it aerodynamic. The magical saddle was strapped across the top and after a few flight tests where speeds were determined, the party, their aunt, all her luggage and their grandfather the Duke boarded to set off for the frontiers of the kingdom to try and find a misplaced treaty stone that had kept the peace between giants and dragons for the past few generations.

En route, they encountered a territorial dragon - not a very large one, merely a juvenile red - and it gave a good 'real play' test of the rules - putting a relatively standard foe up against whatever contraption a party manages to get their hands on.

26 July 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #27

A little light on links this week because I have been getting more actual gaming in; Thursday-Saturday playing, Wednesday prepping for Saturday which I ran. Good problems to have and I did get time to catch these good links below. Previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR.

Awesome piece by Daily Adventure Prompts on welding a campaign together out of a bunch of cool ideas.

Nine new Domains of Dread in "Captain Snowmane’s Guided Cruise Through the Domains of Dread."

Through Ultans Door is back in print!

Goodberry Monthly has another great piece - on the consequences of killing a king.

Nice piece by weaver.skepti.ch on the risks of drawing to directly from history and where it might clash with players expectations about narrative.

24 July 2021

d12/2d6 How goes the Blood-War on Gehenna?

For upcoming Gehenna hex-crawl piece, I am snapping off this mercenary band generator.

In particular I had in mind the volcanic slopes of Khalas, known as 'the Gentle Land', where the front lines of the Blood War surge back and forth but the broken landscape means there is no static, fortified line and lots of room for wandering around without being seen - or without seeing and thus avoiding some other band of ne'er-do-wells abroad beneath the Furnaces. I like about Gehenna is the cragginess of the place - the terrain is so difficult to deal with that again, it makes sense that even though the Blood War rolls over this place, you can move around unseen and avoid the clashes of mighty armies.

Khalas was where I set one of my longer running campaigns and I think it is a great part of the lower planes for many reasons. Least horrible of the lower planes you could pitch into Gehenna and while it is dangerous, it is plausible that you could survive there long enough to think you way out. Pitch up on Avernus or into the Gray Wastes and the clock is ticking for you. All of the 'off-cardinal' lower planes are generally more survivable because they do not have a native power of the lower planes - no devils, no demons, in theory the yugoloths live here but they hold the place with a lighter grasp if so. The noted local powers of Gehenna are the Barghests - described as the 'only true natives' of Gehenna. Taking this as true, then Gehenna is sufficiently easy to slip about in that CR4 blue goblin lycanthropes can hold dominion where the rulers in the planes on either side are CR13 Ultroloths and CR20 Pit fiends.

Altogether, I read that as a canon license for cunning lower level adventurers to slither about in the shadows without that being against the spirit of the place. Below you will find some tables for setting the scene for the local Blood War and the mercenary bands players could run into.

21 July 2021

What are these mindflayers up to? (d24 schemes)

These encounter ideas are bulked out using repeated firings of the Bellard tool with some minor sense-checking and clean up:

What are these prideful, domineering arcano-technic time-wanderers up to?
1. Snacking on a previous group much like yours who stumbled in on them yesterday.

2. Off mission and have gone rogue, terrorising the locailty with plans to set up a petty kingdom.

3. Setting up a forward operating base for a long-play. They are currently quietly laying the foundations for a settlement that will arrive when the local invertebrates complete their (slightly forced) evolution.

4. Conducting a survey to identify a piece of terrain that will survive through the next million years so they can bury a cache that will be needed then. There is a massive disagreement between the senior surveyors over the calibration of their measurements - either this continent or the next one over will be subsumed into the oceans in mere hundreds of thousands of years.

5. Tending a ship nursery, all is quiet just now and the guardian beasts are dormant, but this is the place where they grow the world-ending horrors to unleash on other places.

6. Trying to restore a facility. They are heavily armed and extremely jumpy because they don't know what took out the last crew but it was clearly dangerous as it left no traces.

19 July 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #26

Links of interest from the past week. Previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. This week I collated the lions share from the Weekly OSR Blogroll on Reddit which I am helping out with for a while.

Wandering Wombat writes up an actual play of the Prison of the Hated Pretender.

Archons March On has d20x5 Demon Lords.

A cool roundup of Free Kriegspiel games on Revenants Quill.

Tabletop Curiousity Cabinet has a nice piece on ghibli-esque 'fae in the valley'.

17 July 2021

Review: D30 Sandbox Companion

tl;dr: a book so good, I bought the fancy dice needed to use this handy DM's miscellany. I probably open it more often than the DMG when prepping sessions.

If the measure of a book is how well book-marked it gets, then this handy accessory easily cruises into my top 10 gaming supplements. With the exception of some setting-specific guides, it is rare that something makes it into my gaming grab-bag beyond the core books. Most things sitting within reach of my writing desk don't come to the gaming table with me. The D30 Sandbox Companion is not only one that made this cut, it also got me to buy a set of d30's to be properly able to use it.

14 July 2021

Review: Flipping & Turning #4

Flipping & Turning: The Annals of the Grog Empire is the official gaming magazine of the GrogTalk podcast - I was pointed to it when it was pushed on twitter and asked for my view by friend of the blog comrade Kinch. I have no experience with the podcast and have only seen the zine as I tabbed through DriveThruRPG so I am coming to this pretty cold.

Pulling it down off itch.io I find 52 pages of stuff in a pdf, looks like A5 standard zine size, nice cover illustration - so far so good. Apart from the colour covers, everything inside is black and white, mostly line art and there are some great pieces harking back to old White Dwarf and Dragon style internal art. One minor quibble is that for some articles the text size went *tiny* - not sure why some were tiny text crammed onto one page when they could have been made a double. Mysterious. Other than that the layout is good, highly variable from article to article giving it all a very art-house 'zine feel which is nice.

12 July 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #25

More treasures from about the TTRPG internet - previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Further excellnet thoughts on dying heroically on Leicesters Ramble.

Terminal Velocity puts some thoughts on a Kill Six Billion Demons crossed with Mothership hybrid -
Preliminary thoughts on how to handle Space Kung Fu.
K6BD worldbuilding through inventory.

Grumpy Wizard has some good points on Heroism - if the decision to do good is easy, is it really heroic?

Excellent stuff from Spiceomancy talking about the Clockmakers, the Gnomon and how time is measured in men.

The amazing Watabou brings us another tool - the procedural mansion generator.

10 July 2021

Actual Test: AD&D Spelljammer (Fantasy Space Combat Rules Part 3)

After testing two magazine-published sets of rules for fighting magical flying ships - the 3e adaptation Shadow of the Spider Moon and the 5e Aces High aerial combat rules from Arcadia #3 published by MCDM early in 2021 we come to the grand-daddy of them all, the original AD&D Spelljammer.

I put a lot of hours into fighting Spelljammers across the hexed skies back when I first got the set but it has been easily a quarter century ago so this was a vital refresher to confirm that my memories were broadly correct.

07 July 2021

How Many Did You Say? Describing and rolling amounts

Based on another piece of the perceptions survey done by u/zonination I thought to take a look at what people meant when they use certain common descriptions of amounts.

Assuming scores and hundreds do not come into play so often, let us look at the range around 'many' and 'a lot' and terms that are often used in our dungeons and skirmishes.

So some of these have more uncertainty - range - on them than others. Top and bottom of the bars are the mid quartiles, the colour change point is the median. Actual numbers are below. If we take the chance to try and assign some dice to roll to these that might replicate some of these we get:

Descriptor Low Median High Dice
A couple 2 2 2 n/a
A few 3 3 4 d4
Some 3.25 4.5 5 2d4
Several 5 7 7.75 2d6
A lot 10 14.5 22.25 5d6
Many 9.25 20 25 5d10
Dozens 24 36 36 6d12
Scores of 40 80 200 10d20
Hundreds of 212.5 300 475 6d100

There is no range on 'a couple' - you say a couple, people expect two things. Once you say 'a few' there is more leeway. 'Several' and 'some' are more are less the same but 'several' can swing a bit higher.

What is probably the most immediately useful bit for a DM like me is the fact that 'several' says under 10, 'a lot' means about 15, then 'many' means about 20, and dozens is over 30 - those are useful descriptors to help get across how many raiders are coming howling across the valley while still giving me time enough to figure out how many there really should be.

I have eyeballed these on 'hitting the median' and ball parking the high and low swing range, anyone who fancies either brute forcing this through physical dice rolling or by coding something up - go with my blessing, I had not the patience.

Previous writings on perception of words and their potential use in D&D to be found here.

05 July 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #24

Completing our second dozen of 'things of interest to TTRPG players' - previous list found here. Inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Another set of collected links from Dead Tree, No Shelter.

Interesting set of 'Strange shops' from Elfmaids & Octopi.

RJD20 thinks through canon in homebrew settings and ways to handle it.

Archons March On has got some nice pieces - first on 'another way to identify potions'.

And second on Action hero GLOG class - powered by the awesome 'budget' pool mechanic.

Alternatives to poison/venom save-or-die from Shuttered Room.

03 July 2021

Sudden Deadline: refocusing a campaign

My traditional approach is to just let a campaign follow its nose, let the players run down whatever alleys they want, but I recently found my home campaign had a clock put on it - so what to do? Experience with previous campaigns of this sort is that it can be pretty unsatisfying to just stop as if there is going to be another game next week and never come back to it.

So how to bring things to some sort of satisfying conclusion? This tweet provided a map - "Payoff. Payoff of narrative, of personal story arcs, of loose threads, etc."

First off is to sort the signal from the noise - what are things that the players are just up to - things that we can box under 'sharpening the saw'. Things in this category are nice in and of themselves but without a chance to use them for great glory they fall a bit flat. Things like finally getting that magic carpet to work - nice, but if there is no session where the party gets to use the flying carpet to save the day then that is not as good as it could have been.