28 February 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #57

Links for this last day of February. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Captain Ahab's Leg suggests an interesting alternative initiative in Implementing the initiative mechanic from "Men of Iron"

Making the Most of Your TTRPG Collection by Richard Green - top advice for all those of us suffering from book-goblinism.

Silverarm writes About Damn Times: A Campaign Event Table

Prismatic Wasteland writes Calendars, Not Just Maps

Grumpy Wizard has good suggestions in Player Character continuity is not a big deal.

The Alexandrian writes Random GM Tip: Backup PCs

d66 Classless Kobolds writes about Meta NPCs - Reusing My Favorites Across Game Worlds

26 February 2022

Juggling hex scales between map creation tools (Azgaar, Watabou)

tl;dr: bitter lessons learned of switching between hex-scales on two awesome online tools

Working with different hex-scale maps has turned out to be something of a surprising headache for me so I am going to outline where I got to in the hope of saving someone else the strife. Very short version - there are two magnificent easy-use tools out there that are effectively at two different scales and using them both at the same time took me a while to get my head around. Azgaars fantasy map generator works well with 6 mile hexes, Watabous fantasy city generator works will with 1 mile hexes. It takes a bit to mesh the two so here is my homework on doing it.

First, we have a 1 mile hex dropped over a city from Watabou. Most of my current home campaign to date - 2 years of play - has happened within the city walls of Thenya.

23 February 2022

d20 Small Viable Blogging Tasks

Responding to Grumpy Wizards piece 'where do I start'- on how to get rolling on various projects, I thought I would share my own recipe for cranking stuff out for this blog.

For me I started this blog as a place to write up my hypotheses on the data I was scraping together. I figured that was the sufficiently different niche this blog would occupy.

In the first days I set myself an 'every 2 days post something' rhythm. That turned out to be a lot, especially when I started to fold in more time consuming things like reviews and lessons learned. So I eased back the schedule and set myself a different rhythm.

Now the thing that gets me started is the giant slush-pile. I find myself awake in the middle of the night. Time wasted if I just scroll through the internet but time well spent if I knock even a few dozen words off one of these post ideas

C. Kinch gave a top tip on his Send Three & Fourpence podcast - based on getting hobbies done as a father - of identifying what your 20 minute task is. Assuming you can get that small a chunk of time to yourself, how can you push the stone along in that time?

So - a meta-type table: d20 typical small blogging tasks:
1 - read a book I've got, scribble review notes on envelopes saved for the purpose
2 - type up those notes into one of my review templates
3 - photograph the book, upload it and create the post blank
4 - get the notes from the review template into the post
5 - fill out any missing bits
6 - cold-eyes read a review to find typos, other issues & fix them
7 - do some data crunching, make the graph that shows the interesting points
8 - frame up the post with the graph, the major points, get formatting right
9 - re-read and clean up the argument to make sense to people coming cold to it
10 - write a couple of entries on a random table
11 - mess about with an online tool to bulk out said tables
12 - mess about with a tool and save the screenshots
13 - clean up the screenshots, make a graphic for a post
14 - do a blog challenge - create the post, get the links right
15 - schedule posts, read the slush-list to pick next ideas
16 - brainstorm future post ideas, jot a few points for each
17 - scour the 'draft posts' for forgotten content
18 - take an old post idea, flesh out the points, recut it to make a full post
19 - read the osr blogs, save interesting stuff to the weekly list
20 - prep a weekly list post

For a similar take on generating content for campaigns see "Plot creation: lessons for DMs from 10 years of Nanowrimo"

21 February 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #56

Interesting links from across the TTRPG blogosphere. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Really interesting "5e monster manual on a business card" - all the rules of 5e monster design crunched out by Blog of Holding. Datalicious!

Building from that Plastic Polyhedra gives us Running 5e as OSR: Monsters by HD not CR

Coppers and Boars writes some views on alignment in There is no light side of the Force

Still time to get in on Downtime in Zyan as mentioned on Chaudron Chromatique.

Thoughts on CKIII: Royal Court by A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry - an interesting lens on the actual day to day business of being a king.

19 February 2022

Review: Godbound

tl:dr; a book for playing heroes with miraculous, world-bending powers and running tables that can challenge them.

A secret Santa gift from 2020 that I am shamefully late in writing up. The receiving can be heard on the Adventuring Party Secret Santa Christmas Stream for 2020. This is another book by Kevin Crawford who's Worlds Without Number I am a fan of (review here). WWN baselines at sword-and-sorcery grim and perilous adventuring while Godbound was pitched to me as the far end of the spectrum - as the subtitle says 'a game of divine heroes' - the PCs are potential divinities and the scale of issues they deal with match that. With that in mind I dove in. A kickstarter ran back in 2016.

Godbound, cover by Jeff Brown

As a fan of Kill Six Billion Demons, I was predisposed to like the high concept of this. Start as heroes, ascend to God-hood, shape the world on your way. Lots to like there.

16 February 2022

The Big Reveal is better than the Surprise Twist

tl;dr - the Big Reveal is better than the Surprise Twist because it adds to rather than invalidates player knowledge.

I saw this post on Reddit "As GMs, I think we overvalue our plot twists. So, players, what twists and unexpected turns were memorable/enjoyable?" and I got a great recent example on why I think the "Big Reveal" is a lot better than the "Surprise Twist" at the table.

The three things to keep in mind here:
- Exploration is a pillar of the game and new information can be a form of reward for progress made
- Players can keep limited 'facts' in mind about the campaign, try to keep those meaningful
- Try to avoid having players waste their time; twists that invalidate their decisions and actions are frustrating and drain energy and motivation

For background - I have gotten much more fun from 'the revelation' where the players find out a piece of the truth and then go on from there - snatching a map from an enemy spy and then figuring out where their base is - "Ah-ha, now we can take the initiative!"

As an example - the kind of 'Big Reveal' I like was showcased during a recent Mechanus one-shot I ran. The party started inside in a tavern, got some information from the proprietor and then stepped outside to get the lay of the land and looked up to see a skyful of cogs. I showed them the map of Mechanus below and the reaction was 'oh boy'.

Mechanus poster from Planes of Law by Robert Lazzaretti

14 February 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #55

Link from the start of February. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Narratives vs War Stories by Spider Queen on what we are at the table to do

Knight at the Opera writes another worthwhile long-read Alternative Economics (Part 1: Money)

The Exeter Book’s hand is now digital - for all your medieval font needs

VAULTS OF VAARN gices us a cool site - The Great Wall of Vaarn - a decaying superstructure so vast that it constitutes a biosphere apart from the rest of Vaarn

IT HAS LEGS!!!! Free Laws of Kriegspiel (FLoK) DevDiary on Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet

12 February 2022

d20 hinter-cog sites of Mechanus

The great central locations of Mechanus are well known - Regulus of the Modrons, the Guvnors Fortress of Disciplined Enlightenment, Delon-Estin Oti the symmetrical town. But the Plane of Gears is infinite and there are a great deal of other sites out there. Attached are a few cooked up for the Mechanus cog-crawl part of the great planar scavenger hunt I ran recently.

These attempt to capture typical Mechanus sites encountered in the depths of that infinite plane - not any of the core realms.

1. Modron Invasive Fauna Collation Post 45-B-2 - crewed by a bunch of low level modrons tasked with sweeping the local cogs with a gear-rider and collecting samples of non-native fauna. They will also happily count anything that turns up in their catchment area such as a party of adventurers. Any creatures will be tagged with paint on their largest visible flat surface, provided with 1/100th of their weight in concentrated nutrient supplement, beige flavour and the same amount of distilled water that tastes very flat. In other bays of the compound are a resigned looking pair of humans (Guvnor couriers), a furious hobgoblin in Acheronian armour and a meditating hound archon.
2. The Slide-Rule Inn (Gnomes of Erathis) - shaped in geometric swoops and laid out inside like an amphitheater centered on the bar. The inn-keeper is an enthusiastic and hospitable gnome who regards their establishment as a beacon to the weary, a place for the tired to rest before venturing out into the wonders of Mechanus again. They will be surprised at anyone who thinks any less of the great gears than they do. The inside is decorated throughout with symbolism of Erathis and wall decorations in a 'glory of industry' theme.
3. Turnwise Dustlands and Sage tower - mounted on a trio of gears that are wedged into a corner between three swift turning cogs, this little tower shudders as it is held in place by the equal pressures. An old aasimar sits within charting the movements of the local gears. They are deeply annoyed to be disturbed and very cranky to deal with. They will refuse to answer questions but cannot stop themselves from correcting a statement that they know to be wrong. They write on wax tablets with a quill cut from their own golden-feathered wings. When they think you have stopped talking they will pluck another feather and sharpen a new nib. Beyond the tower on the many-tracked cog, local histories can be read in the undisturbed dust.
4. Mathematicians observatory - an active facility with extensive outworks and cultivated gardens that support a group of Guvnors making a long term study of the gears from this particularly fine vantage point. Very well connected and knowledgeable about the gossip in Sigil and the news of the local region. Crewed by enthusiastic but aged Guvnors and a staff of surly servants. Anyone physically fit enough to carry some instruments and inclined to venture outside the compound will be eagerly offered the chance to earn coin by taking measurements. They have an extensive library and a comprehensive workshop supporting the elaborate 1:10000 scale model of the local gears.
5. The Long Watch - a settlement of warforged from lost worlds, nations and peoples. Here there are warforged of many forms and long-gone species - saur, trilobites, nautiloids. The entry ways are deep archways with racks of weapons, deposited by the warforged. The inner parts are carved with memorials to wars long forgotten elsewhere. The huge, realistic friezes provide fascinating insight into battlefield tactics and equipment of these peoples. The optical illusion in the carvings makes them appear deeper than they are. The warforged themselves engage in a perpetual cycle of maintenance of their weapons and themselves and between times either expand the memorial carvings or patrol the walls.
6. Modron signalling tower - with great mirrors reflecting light on semaphore style arms this is crewed by a group of medium level modrons. They are tasked to interact with non-modrons where necessary to stop them interfering with modrons on more important (any other) tasks. Within this stronghold, modrons are tracking activities, monitoring gears and dispatching repair teams. Busy, possess comprehensive local plans.

09 February 2022

d12 Attitudes of the denizens of Mechanus

tl;dr: how to differentiate inhabitants of the plane of Neutral Law.

From prep for the first of the Splinters of Hope planar scavenger hunt campaign one-shots these thoughts on how to run the inhabitants of Mechanus. Three major groups live in Mechanus - how should one differentiate between them?

1. Modrons - at a low level, they act like the tin-toy versions of the Borg - unless you are in their 'task' you will be worked around and ignored. Once their focus comes upon you then the lower levels will initially come at you ineffectually but tactics will evolve as they adapt - killing some of them at range will lead to the next bunch advancing under shield wall, etc.

The higher level Modrons are going to act like stuffy vulcans 'that would be illogical' type stuff. They can be conversed with but are still operating under a completely different logic paradigm and a rule book that is completely alien. They are going to talk about being entirely logical and then come to conclusions that are bizarre. The underlying patterns they are working to are ineffable to most non-modrons to the point they can appear chaotic.

2. Inevitables - these things are bad news with attitudes ranging from Judge Dredd to a 40k Space Marine - "purge the heretic", "you have been judged and the sentence is death". Totally task focused and viewing violence as the first option. In their view, by the time they have been sent to deal with a thing, it is already long past the point of discussion. At best you are going to run into these things while they are focused on something else. Next best, they are going to turn up to engage whatever was attacking you and you can flee in confusion.

3. Formians - ant centaurs - not a complete hive mind in that individual Formians have their own sentience but they are going to be completely focused on their group activity. Ant hives provide the model for this - constructing great structures, executing incredible feats of cooperation like living bridges or waging total, scouring warfare. Formians claim everything for their queens, a colonising wave, claiming and carrying off everything, including you, for service to their hive and its ruler.

07 February 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #54

Link from the start of February. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

GRENDEL MENDEL: Using Punnett Squares For Monster Design

Role and Teamwork Features on portals and pegasi - some nice thoughts on perks for multiple members of the party sharing a class

Kudos to Coppers and Boars for writing "Some qualities of a souls-like ttrpg" and enlightening those of us without tens of hours of Dark Souls playtime on what is going on with all the souls-likes out there just now.

Theater of the Mind Abstract Terrain Generation on It's always sunny in Castle Greyhawk

Flying Carpet Jousting on Loot The Room

Empyrean Dynasty Game 1, Turn 3, Another 10'000 years of Post Earth History! The third turn of this 23 player grand sci fi strategy game - from now events kick up a gear as turns shorten to 1000 years.

05 February 2022

02 February 2022

D.I.O. Cosmic Defense Brigade

Calling back again to the Do It Ourselves prod by the Grumpy Wizard I wanted to sketch out the sci-fi campaign I would love to either play in or run.

High concept for this campaign springs from Iain M. Banks Algebraist - in that there is a thread of interstellar civilization that sees military defense as a thing like the fire brigade. Humans have stumbled to the stars into the midst of this and through the arcana of ancient opaque interstellar governance processes bid for a bunch of star systems. The humans understood they were taking over the systems. The galactics understood they were just taking over responsibility for those systems. The humans won the bids because noone else wanted the hassle. You are some of those humans.

The pitch is "SHIELD or Stargate Command but you are responsible for a sector of inhabited alien worlds". Throw in some Babylon 5 but the aliens are not bothering to come and talk to you.