30 October 2021

Campaign spin up III: session zero in action

tl;dr: saving time world-building and getting fast player buy in with a focused session zero.

After my previous home campaign stalled out, a player came to me and asked me to set up a game for them and two friends of theirs. This was the first time where I had not had a campaign in mind first and shopped for players after so I decided to try something new.

Player 1 had played my previous home campaign, player 2 had heard about D&D through podcasts and was keen to try, player 3 was completely new to things. I decided to tune my usual approach to fold in some of the 'session zero best practices' I had read about on various blogs. Ahead of running anything I set up time to get everyone together; we booked a couple of hours and met in a local bar for a session zero.

The key pieces for the session were:
1. Why are you all together as a group?
2. What is the tone of the game you want to play in?
3. Who are you - character gen - and what impression do others have of you?
4. What are things you want to see in the campaign, what do you not want to see?

27 October 2021

Where are gamers today? (FB5e group)

The D&D 5e Facebook group published some data on where its members were I found curious and I wondered just how concentrated we all are geographically - short answer; there are definite strongholds of the game and they are mostly in North America with Australian a surprise rising second focus.

In 2017 the top 20 cities accounted for ~10% of the members of the Facebook group - 13 in the US, 3 in Canada, 2 in Australia, 1 in the UK and 1 in Bangladesh. For 2020 we only got the top 5 but it had changed to 2 in the US and 3 in Australia.

City Rank 2017 Rank 2018 Rank 2020 Pop. 2020
New York City 1 4 1 8283550
Melbourne >20 19 2 4967733
Sydney 18 6 3 4925987
Brisbane 5 >20 4 2406182
Los Angeles 3 5 5 3981560
London 2 12 > 5 9304016
Chicago 4 2 > 5 2686530
Toronto 6 3 > 5 6196731
Seattle 9 1 > 5 765115

There appears to be a strong tie between population and placing on these ratings but I think it is interesting to call out three cities in particular - Seattle, Chicago and Brisbane which seem to be showing a high level of activity for their size.

This is in-line with what has been seen in many surveys. It appears to be stable that ~3/4 of D&D is played in North America. These surveys are anglophone so unsurprising that the major cities are in English speaking countries. The strong presence of Australian cities is somewhat surprising, with some indications the game might be growing faster there than elsewhere if we look at how Sydney and Melbourne have risen since 2017.


Facebook D&D 5e group 2020 demographics
Facebook D&D 5e group 2017 demographics
ENWorld poll
Meetup.com TTRPG groups
Twitter D&D Demographic Survey
D&D Research Wizards Update #1
r/DnD Demographics

25 October 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #39

We return to our usual service with the finest of links from the internet of late. For more Shiny TTRPG links see the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR. I hope to return with more links next week.

Campaign Mastery writes "Teasers Of History and Other Tips" on how "Monumental structures impacted by History are the best representations of the existence of that History" and showing not telling deep time in your campaign.

Welcome to the Deathtrap writes "Planning for a Mystery or Exploration - Driven Campaign" that strongly aligns with my own process except I would tyoically have a much rougher hand sketched map.

A Sense of History on Merrics Musings on drawing from the messiness of history in setting up your games.

Improved Initiative makes a great point about Using Epithets to Help Players Keep Track of Your Setting

23 October 2021

Hidden Depths of Thenya Palace - Actual Test for 24 hours

Testing a Hidden Depths table for a site - here we take the Palace of Thenya with all the family and servants in residence. I have adopted some of the excellent design improvements from Weaver.skepti.ch and must also thank the mysterious stranger who ran up all the correct probabilities on AnyDice (tabulated at end of this post).

This is an active noble house with a bunch of odd nooks and crannies from generations of adventuring and family wizards. The entries below are all the mobile encounters that could happen, expanding on the entries above:

20 October 2021

Review: Wyrd Science #2

tl:dr; get this to know what's on, what's coming, what's good and who is up to interesting things in tabletop gaming.

I backed the kickstarter for this "magazine about RPGs, wargames, board games & the culture around them..." and it just arrived. Est. delivery was August so ~ 6 weeks late during the shipping apocalypse that is 2021 is pretty good going.

freshly arrived copy, cover art by Mat Pringle

I really like the chunky art-house feel of these magazines "thick un-coated stock" and I have a deep fondness for the particular printing smell of whatever set up they are using. I backed the first one, liked it enough that I came back for the second and am pleased to continue doing so. I think this magazine sits in a niche that seems to be a peculiarly East-side of the Atlantic one - where it assumes an omniverous gamer that is interested in lots of things. Compare this to Knock! which is the OSR blog-o-sphere in your hand or Arcadia which is monthly chunks of gameable content, this is covering more than just game reviews and actual plays but also the people putting it all together and what is coming down the pipeline. I see shadows of old Arcane magazine in here but that may be just me.

18 October 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #38

We return to our usual service with the finest of links from the internet of late. For more Shiny TTRPG links see the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR. I hope to return with more links next week.

Throne of Salt brings "The Learned Elder Presents..." lineage of sophonts on this mudball known to its extant primates as Earth.

Bugbear Jingo put up their rules and campaign toolkit "a village a forest a dungeon a beast".

Coming late in life to TTRPGs - Stuart Watkinson writes "Bucket of Bolts: My Life as a Spaceship"

Dael Kingsmill does some great injury tables in "Hurting Your Players but Making it Fun"

Weaver.skept.ch has a piece that talks to how creating historical RPGs differ from fantasy RPGs.

Mazirian's Garden has a good piece on Using Landmarks in Wilderness Travel - further interesting discussion, refinements in the comments.

16 October 2021

State of the Blog (post #201)

tl:dr - doubled monthly blog views, got two 'catch fire' posts out, see ~1/3 of the views here come with signal-boosting in various places.

Strictly I was planning to do this for the #200 post but I was in hospital for the birth of my daughter, I hope you can understand the prioritisation call I made. I wanted to mark 200 posts with a stock-take of the blog. Last time I did this was Jan-2020 so we have 10 months of blogging behind us for this.

First, most obviously - we have our long baseline of pre-Oct 2020 that says a web-crawler a day will stumble in here. More than that is probably people. Second, there was some bizarre phenomenon over July-August where 100s of views a day were coming from Sweden, some sort of bot I believe. So I scrubbed those months by clipping any daily views over the long run average. Overall we see that a regular post schedule helped an initial hump up to ~1500 views a month but then more than that needs signal-boosting. I have no idea what happened to trigger the March ramp-up - maybe the flywheel of accruing twitter followers, posting to the r/OSR blogroll and so on just hit a threshold?

13 October 2021

Favoured foes to fight - survey responses

tl;dr: when in doubt, dragons, undead or other PHB humanoids will be preferred monsters.

I found seperate surveys asking the same 'what is your preferred foe' question and decided to compare them. There is a slight difference in that the Elderbrain survey allowed up to 5 votes per respondent while the Twitter one had a single choice each. On average the Elderbrain respondents voted for 3.7 preferred monster types. Even with this effect smoothing out the peaks by allowing 2nd, 3rd and 4th choice monsters to get votes, the most popular foes to fight are clear.

The broad trend of preference is similar between the two graphs - taking the twitter demographics as primary since it has higher sample size (4021) and only a single preference each, we can see the Elderbrain survey broadly agrees with some interesting differences.

The top 3 of PHB humanoids, undead and dragons are clear favourites. Of the next 5 favourite, the good show for beasts, fiends, Monster Manual humanoids and monstrosities suggests a lot of second and third preference votes going to these. At the bottom of the chart, the poor showing for Underdark creatures and lycanthropes when respondents have only a single favourite to choose suggests all those other votes are second preferences at best.

11 October 2021

Gap in the Shiny List

Have been off grid so unable to wander the net as usual. For Shiny TTRPG links see the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR. I hope to return with more links next week.

09 October 2021

Collecting dice fudging surveys

I dug around to see if there were more polls on fudging dice on the internet and roughly, looks like 1 in 5 think its not ok, a share that has been stable for the past decade.

This was set off by a significant level of salt kicked up on twitter by someone declaring they fudged things as a DM. There has been a great deal of internet ink spilled on this topic and I do not propose to add to it beyond saying it looks like attitudes are relatively stable.

06 October 2021

NPC mannerisms: d66 animal-folk attitudes

tl;dr: for quick and easy animal-folk cultures watch nature videos or try the d66 table below

Sparked by a twitter poll by Macca the DM asking "Do you include anthropomorphic animals in your #ttrpg games?" I was surprised to see such support for animal-folk. At a first guess, I would have said 'Yes' and 'Only RAW' would be switched.

As alluded to when answering Vayras setting questions I both use a lot of animal-folk in my home campaign and am conscious of the risk of them feeling like 'humans with different heads'. My home game is a menagerie world with 73 species/ancestries rocking about the main city combined from d50 fantasy races from Skerples and the race-oids from Lizardman Diaries Infinigrad, the Endless City and most NPCs are randomly determined unless it is plot-critical (the elven ambassador is going to be an elf).

The oracular dice had established certain groups as dominant within the city when it was first created and then those were run into most as the player interacted with some districts more than others. I recently pinged my players to see if any of the groups had been encountered frequently enough that an impressions of 'what this bunch are like' had stuck. The response was 'partial' as not many of the groups had been encountered sufficiently often for patterns to be established and for some, other factors beyond their personal heritage drove their identity.

04 October 2021

Shiny TTRPG links collection #37

Starting Q3 with more links! Previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR.

This week we had an outbreak of collecting DM-ing wisdom in the "cheap DM tricks" series:
Phlox, the originator.
Cosmic Orrery
Eldritch Fields
Sundered Shillings
Colours of Pentagram
Modron RPGs

To complement those cheap tricks - the dearly bought wisdom on Orbital Crypt of "Marching Back East: Lessons Learned from Running an Open Table Game". Get coffee and a biscuit for this quality long read.

02 October 2021

Hidden Depths table - (6d4, 4d6, 3d8, 2d12, d4+d20)

I had an idea for an 'unlockable' encounter table by switching the dice rolled on it. This could also serve as some sort of chaos index. The key point is that a 2-24 table can be rolled with a bunch of different dice combos from the standard set 6d4, 4d6, 3d8, 2d12, d4+d20. Starting with 6d4, you could mostly access the core of the table, with a low chance of the edges, then as things get weirder, deeper, whatever, you change to fewer bigger dice and more of the table becomes probable.

Turning that into a table and heat mapping it we can see the table broadening from ~ 11 probable entries using 6d4 to ~22 using d4 + d20. As well as the entries brought in by reducing the dice count and the minimum possible number, there are entries where the probability changes to make them appearing more likely. Most of the 'unlocked' part of the table is towards the lower end of the scale, hence 'hidden depths' as my working name for this type of thing.