30 July 2022

Gygax 75: The Map Around the Dungeon (Week 2)

In principle, this is to set up the area around the dungeon that is to be the campaign start point. In our particular run through of the exercise, first we must choose a world. We decided to go with a site on world 3 - tropical air world and have it be part of the great tree bank. This is a huge, floating forest, canopy towards the sun, roots pointed outsystem in the air disc-world. We are running with an 'early phase sphere' theme so we are going to see how far we can get with just insects, plants and funghi on our starting world; no reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals yet. Insects dominate life here.

I searched up and printed off a hex-grid and together with the in-house testing team marked out where the elements identified in the challenge guide needed to be. This is the working version, the full-colour fancy version is below.

This is a place of difficult terrain - a labyrinth of broad tree branches that interconnect indirectly and lead to lots of switch-backing on a journey from place to place or courageous leaps or aerial steeds. The hex-scales are 1 mile but travel times will be longer but a given hex will also be 'deeper' with more stuff per hex being theoretically possible. Things could also be closer together than crow-flies distance might allow since direct paths may not be possible.

27 July 2022

Actual Test: Dungeonfruit's "Making Good Factions" for a star system

Nothing like a good workflow to get the juices flowing and Dungeonfruit's "Making Good Factions (For Your Dungeon)" is a good one.

Dungeonfruit gives us 5 steps for setting up dungeon factions
1. Building the house - lay out the levels
2. Getting pets - assign factions to levels
3. Meeting the parents - create suitable leaders
4. Family meeting - set faction goals and environment interactions
5. Rats in the walls - add some short complicating factions

I thought to adapt it to figuring out what is about in the Spelljammer system I have been knocking together. This is Smoulderspace - after the gigantic out-system cool fire-world. Sol system planets and their distances from the sun provided for comparison.

25 July 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #78

Links I have found since returning from the lake. I watched a murderous wasp stuff grasshoppers into a hole to be eaten; the lesson is nature is plenty strange before we get in any way fantastical. 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.

Adventures Buffo gives us When a Character Class is not a Class, but is in Fact an Institution

Supernatural Natures in Cairn or Similar Systems on Seedling Games - a nice alternate take on non-humans.

Xeno's Ramblings gives us A Soft Magical Campaign

small batch ambergris gives us a Time Travel Table

23 July 2022

Gygax 75: Intro, Index & Setting

Having seen many people do Gygax75 - or more specifically having seen a bunch of people start and stall-out I took this as a challenge to see just how hard a world-building effort it is.


Dragons Never Forget starts it all off with a discovery: The Gygax ’75 Challenge: Introduction. DIY & Dragons brought it to my attention and collates a bunch of peoples attempts

For my attempt I printed off Ray Otus of Viridian Scroll free pdf version of Gygax75 on itch.io.

So the schedule of this will be
0. Introduction & Index (this post)
1. The Setting of the Campaign
2. The Map Around the Dungeon
3. The Dungeon
4. The Dungeon Level 2
5. The Dungeon Level 3
6. The Local Town and All the Trouble
7. The World Plan
8. Conclusion & Links to Other Challengers

My main theme for this will be adapting it to setting up a Spelljammer campaign. I have gotten tagged into a running a campaign once Spelljammer comes out so I need some sort of backdrop for it. This is not starting from nothing, but from a randomly generated Spelljammer crystal sphere that was rolled up using the rules in the boxed set.

20 July 2022

Actual Play: Hunting Shadow-Tigers on the Beastlands

Second of the one-shots visiting the planes (see Great Planar Scavenger Hunt) and trying to improve my one-shots from feedback on the Mechanus jaunt.

The pre-game brief was: "elves are dying, you are one who has answered a call for aid by the local temples trying to do something about it - whether for coin, glory or favours I leave to you. Only steer at this point is
- build someone who can work as part of an adventuring band
- you will be venturing out onto the planes, far from your networks

Build classic adventurers of whatever stripe, going to run 5e, start at level 3. This is going to be more puzzles and exploration than high crunch combat."

** Inspiration

This was inspired by 'Hunting Displacer Beasts' by Dael Kingsmill, which is perfectly on theme for the 'hunter becomes the hunted' aspect of the Beastlands. I watched through the video a couple of times, took some notes for the systems then figured out how to get a nice lead in to the core 'grid hunt' set piece. The stats for the original 'Night Beast' can be found on GM Binder. u/NathanKellen also had a go at this, also adapted it and did a big write up on r/MonarchsFactory.

The set up I went with was that long ago a seelie courtier had a pet tiger with an icon on its collar made of wood from this lost elven world at the heart of this campaign. When the seelie court visited the Beastlands the tiger broke free and ran off into the forests of Brux, the layer of eternal twilight. All traces of this wood are precious so our heroes are sent to track down the remains of this tiger.

18 July 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #77

A short set of links as I have fled to a place without internet for the week. Still 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.

Coins and Scrolls writes up OSR: Behind the Curtain: Session 1 Examination

Prismatic Wasteland gives us an Encounter Checklist

Revenant's Quill writes Thinking about travel

A Thousand Thousand Islands looks at illustrations from the History of Java.

Environmental Storytelling on Hypertext Fish

A Knight at the Opera write Traits of the Mythic Underworld

Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet, in collaboration with Adventures Buffo gives us The 2nd Age is here

Chaos Magick-User gives us How to run urban adventures, the easy way

Managing Expectations on Weaver.skepti.ch.

Alone in the Labyrinth writes Pariah character classes for OSE or Basic Fantasy

Engine of Oracles has been making a block of generators for Small Towns Along the Uncanny Highway - starting with Part I: Town Overview then running through People & Culture, Locations, Organizations and Archetypal NPCs. Useful stuff for any setting!

Tales of the Lunar Lands writes You Should Have Your PCs Get Captured More

Graphite Prime gave us The O.S.ORC

The conversation on procedures continues in "A Basic Procedure, Extended" on Gem Room Games

16 July 2022

Who lives over there? d40 groups known by their means of transport

Inspired by a line at the bottom of a wiki, tangentially related to the main subject - peoples were known to others by their main mode of transportation. A 'canoe people' and a 'horse people' are identified in the article - what others might we find traipsing about our fantasy world?

As a second thought, this also can serve to identify what encounters might be had - peoples may stick to their home turf, even where that might be at close proximity to others in places. A party of adventurers taking a direct route to a place might cross-cut a bunch of different folks territories where those people normally would have little to do with one another due to very different life-styles.

You will often find three broad categories when a people is mentioned by others - this is what you get if you ask their neighbours.
- how they move around
- where they dwell
- what they herd

Starting with our named examples and continuing:
1. Horse people - typified by plains or steppe nomads
2. Canoe people - can be lake and/or river based
3. Worg people - traditionally goblins, tend to be highly nomadic due to the appetites of their mounts. Bounding cavalry raiders, hit & run strikers, fierce and territorial about their food sources. Giant weasels are similar but in more forested terrain.
4. Leyliners - travel along the currents of magic following thin-spots through the seasons. Can be planesteppers (hellrunners, astral, ethereal, shadow, fey) as outsiders tend not to know 'where' they step to for their travel.
5. Treesteppers - strong druidic traditions allows migration through trees, differ from typical forest societies in being seasonally migrational
6. Canopy runners - forest dwellers but off the ground - either along sturdy branches, constructed bridges or with strong presence of misty-step or similar talents
7. Camel people - ridden and herded, tend towards long-haul trading traditions. Alternatively may ride giant lizards.
8. Goat people - their big goats for riding up/down steep surfaces. Giant ram peoples are similar.
9. Cliff folk - use networks of climbing/abseiling ropes. Tend to be best informed about their local region
10. Sea peoples - deep-water ship-borne folk, usually sailing ships. Traders and raiders, may be welcomed or dreaded depending on their attitude
11. Star peoples - like sea-folk but spelljamming. Rarer, usually found only at certain traditional places and times. Sought by the most adventuresome youths. Often tied to a specific local site.
12. Giant riders - symbiotic relationship with hill, stone or sometimes ogres if small-folk. Modes can vary from riding in pockets and harness to elaborate gondolas worn as hats or dangling from shoulder-yokes
13. Longship folk - sea and river going, shallow draft ships that allow them to trade and raid further than canoe or sea-folk
14. Spider people - ride giant spiders, more often jumping spider types, typically forest, mountain or underdark based. Use lots of climbing and sheer surface traverses to secure their homes and surprise foes. Climbing lizards also.
15. Wasp people - riders of giant wasps or other hive-insects; frequently a few ridden among a larger group
16. Dolphin people - use dolphin-drawn sea-chariots, frequently combined with island dwellings
17. Airship people - move by balloons and dirigibles, live on the ground.
18. Skyrock people - dwell on drifting aeroliths, may use gliders, flying beasts or rope-lifts for access.
19. Skycastle people - more sophisticated than skyrockers, big slow directable sky-castles, stay far from 'civilisation' as kings prey on them
20. Wyvern riders - similar to worg-folk but further-ranging, see also eagles, hippogriffs, pegasi, pterodactyls and griffons.
21. Dragon riders - often dragon cults on very good terms with their dragons, generally a mis-understanding about who is in charge
22. Rail folk - can be both living on one or more train-like vehicles which travel along a built path or also users of other abandoned infrastructure. May or may not have much understanding about how their home works, frequently found with muscle-powered replacements for engines of the builders.
23. 'Circle-jumpers' - have ink-splot territories around fae rings, teleport circles, old ruins, transmission towers, etc.
24. Stilt-walkers (swampers) - traverse swamp and other difficult terrain with tall stilts. Can also be found inhabiting deadly terrains like lava flats and other
25. Raftfolk - lake-dwellers, generally conflict avoiders,
26. Tunnel-runners - surface dwellers who use caves and tunnels in contrast to subterranean dwellers
27. Wyrmriders (burrowers) - exist as both fast and slow types, with fast types riding within their giant boring wyrms and slow types having wyrm-guides who dig paths to where they want to be for the rest to follow
28. Shellriders - on snails or tortoises, frequently small traders and artisans, moving between others settlements.
29. Bone people - users of undead, could be anything from people skeletons with sedan chairs to skeletal horse drawn wagons. Tends to have strong magical tradition.
30. Skyfish-riders - similar to aerolith dwellers but they travel in howdahs or gondolas on giant drifting creatures.
31. Wagon-people - ox-folk or other slow draft animals pulling wagons - can be reindeer, yaks, rhinos, stegosaurs or other stronger, slower creatures that are uncomfortable to ride
32. Sled-people - similar to wagon-folk but for colder or worse terrain and with people typically travelling dismounted alongside
33. Ostrich-riders - also covers giant emus, velociraptors and similar. Typically light fast raiders.
34. Bronto people - travelling with herds, living on the backs of these huge dinosaurs.
35. Carnosaur riders - riding things like allosaurs and T-rexes, like worg-folk but driven by larger appetites, travel in smaller groups, more of a champion-alone culture. Tiger peoples are similar.
36. Crocodile-riders - river drifters, often low-energy, stealthy. Often you can stray deep into crocodile country before they reveal themselves.
37. Roc-riders - riding on these massive birds, dreaded as a single roc can land a significant raiding party
38. Hyena people - either small-folk on standard hyenas or medium sized on giant hyenas. Tends towards twilight raiding & scare tactics, relationships with gnolls vary widely
39. Brassbone people - those who have found a way to co-opt old automata, from golems to animated objects, may or may not be able to command them or may just be using them as they do some ancient instructions
40. Crab people - coastal, found in places where the difference between high and low tide changes the landscape. Great at finding things lost at sea, surprisingly adaptable to circumstances. Confident they are favoured by fate.

13 July 2022

Review: Strongholds & Followers

tl:dr; lots of mechanics to fire the imagination and give good reasons for players to build Strongholds.

I have had my eye on Strongholds & Followers for a while now, but getting my hands on a physical one has proved tricky. The straw that broke the camels back was today, when I saw hardbacks were back in stock - and on offer! - but shipping to the EU was going to cost $115. I am not short of a few pence by any means but that was too rich for me. So I bought the pdf, got a black & white hack-job printed off at by local print show (colour would have cost almost as much as shipping) and finally got stuck in. And lo, it was worth it.

Cover art by Conceptopolis

If the measure of success for an RPG book is ideas sparked and schemes set bubbling in a DMs mind then this was a solid hit. From watching The Chain I had a fair idea I was going to like the followers rules but the details are even better. This is one of those rare occassions were something that was long hyped, that I had been thinking about getting for a while lived up to the expectations.

11 July 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #76

More links from about the web. Still 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.

Nothing To See Here: City Guard Patrol Shifts for TTRPGs by Dice Goblin - tying back neatly to this previous link on Molton Sulfur - Tangling With the Night Watch.

Alone in the Labyrinth gives us Spire... in 24XX? As someone who has gotten good times out of Spire, this is an interesting conversion concept.

Test your mettle with the Alternate Ruleset Generator on Whose Measure God Could Not Take

Archons March On gives us a bunch of lost branches to our evolutionary tree in Homo Occultus

Traveling Mailsman gives us more potential PC/NPCs options in "3 Humanoids"

NaNoWriMo has assembled a bunch of worldbuilding tools

Yet more actual D&D sales numbers! by Ben Riggs.

09 July 2022

Roll20 4Q21 numbers & future edition thoughts

Reading the tea-leaves of the last Roll20 Orr report and why it points to the 50th anniversary edition of D&D being no radical change.

Looking at Roll20 numbers
- after a drop from a peak in 2019 on Roll20, 5e increases a bit, remains largest with >50%
- the is coherent with trend seen on Obsidian Portal, both show lots of other games, no single major challenger
- in contrast to the 4e era, there is no obvious threat (then Pathfinder) to fight off with a radical redesign
- there seems to be a ceiling for D&D at ~ 75-80% of TTRPG players
- this shows why the mood music from WotC points to the planned 50th anniversary edition in 2024 being a continuity edition not a radical change

Looking at the latest from Roll20 and setting them as the full-year 2021 representative we can now set out the last seven years, charting the rise of 5e. This continues the discussion on edition evolution we have been having here for a bit.

The down-tick in 5e numbers over 2020 and 2021 does not read to me like cause for rushing a new edition in 2024, mainly because while 5e is down a chunk, there is no serious contender to capture back a chunk of the market from. Things have diffused, people have wandered off in a bunch of different directions, but for the core block of people playing something that looks like D&D, they are mostly playing 5e.

06 July 2022

Capsule Reviews #3: Long-running Setting Zines

Some of the old D&D settings have very impressive fanzines with large back catalogues - lots of content for the great price of free.

Oerth Journal - for Greyhawk Online - 36 issues.

"Dedicated to the World of Greyhawk, and is written by and for fans. It has been published since 1995. Originally produced by the “Council of Greyhawk”, there have been several Editors and a plethora of different authors and artists who’ve contributed to it. There’s an abundance of great content here, just waiting to be placed in your campaign! There’s many new NPCs, side treks, gods, equipment, and things you may’ve never thought of like the constellations of Greyhawk."

Keeps an old style alive of dense gazetteer, with festival practices, alternative-Oerths, cities and personalities and histories being the standard fare. Chewy lore for Greyhawk, with lots of ideas packed in. Style is a standard double-column, with more art and a stronger 'design' flourishes in the later issues.

4/5 on inspiring fluff
3/5 on useable crunch
3/5 on joy to read

Threshold - The Mystara Magazine on Pandius.com - 29 issues.

"The aims of Threshold magazine:
▪ to provide a venue for community members to present material
▪ to promote the Vaults of Pandius and the material there
▪ to increase the exposure of existing and new articles"

Another gazetteer type with new classes, a bunch of spells, new system rules, tons and tons of setting lore in a really charming layout stuffed with maps and public domain art. Statted for BECMI, this is a very nice zine expanding on the Mystara setting. Weighing in north of 200 pages per issue for recent issues, these are thick slices of content - ideal for anyone using Mystara but rich inspiration for any game. Print-on-demand versions are available if you want to run off your own copies on Lulu.com.

4/5 on inspiring fluff
4/5 on useable crunch
4/5 on joy to read

Footprints - e-zine of the Dragonsfoot forums - 25 issues.

"Footprints, our very own e-zine, is a wealth of material for any Original AD&D campaign, with variant rules, monsters, articles, cartoons and a mini-module in every issue. All original, never before published material, submitted by Dragonsfoot forum members, many of whom have been old-school AD&D fans since well before it was old-school!"

"Variant rules, monsters, articles, cartoons and a mini-module in every issue" - more strongly reminiscent of Knockspell or Fight On! or old Dragon or White Dwarf than a gazetteer. This is a dense zine more geared towards general content like new dungeons, classes and monsters than expanding on a setting. A much wider variety of stuff from more creators and so the look of articles changes from page to the next. Worth checking out as there is almost certainly something inspiring in any given issue.

3/5 on inspiring fluff
5/5 on useable crunch
3/5 on joy to read

04 July 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #75

Links for this 4th of July. 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.

Unlawful Games writes a d100 Crazy Castle Generator

From The Furtive Goblin's Burrow we get Mechanical Musings: A Couple Random House Rule Concepts I've Never Used

Grappling Hook kicks off their blog with On being Mostly Dead: Rediscovering the Old School way of Death and Scarring and Dungeoncrawling toward Joseph Campbell's "Inmost Cave."

Alone in the Labyrinth writes I heard a rumour: seeding a sandbox

d4 Caltrops gives us d100 - Haven Happenstances for dressing up any downtime in towns and villages and d100 - Mercurial Mentors & Weird Wizards

Matrix Campaign Structures on Mindstorm

Prismatic Wasteland discusses What Even Is a “Procedure”?

Review of Casus Belli 40 the main francophone TTRPG magazine by Weaver.skepti.ch

02 July 2022

"Crafty as a Giants Cook" - d30 offal ideas for giant appetites

Noodling around trying to figure out what would be a reasonable density of giants for a giant civilization, I found some papers trying to estimate the same for dinosaurs which factored in body weight to be sustained as the big factor in judging food needs.

Collating the weights of various giants from the Monster Manual I found a strange thing - there is a rising trend from humans up through ogres to the bigger giants - and two very signficant out-liers.

Up to Ogres, the height/weight ratio is the same as humans - they are scaled up humans, easy. For Minotaurs, Hill and Stone giants, they are about twice as massive for the height as humans. For Frost and Cloud Giants they are 3-5 times the mass per weight - but for Fire and Storm Giants it is nearly 10 times. A Fire Giant is about twice as tall as a man and weighs twenty times as much. Hitting a Fire Giant should be like trying to hack through an anvil. And they then wear armour on top. But this also says Storm Giants and especially Fire Giants are much, much heavier for their height than other giants. For a Frost Giant trying to punch a Fire Giant would be like trying to knock over three Frost Giants at once. This also suggests that Fire and Storm giants should be renowned for their huge appetites, even among giants.

For comparison to thing we find in our world, a Fire Giant weighs more than an average elephant - they are about as heavy as an elephant seal - and a Storm Giant is nearly twice that again. Looking to polar bears, our largest land carnivores, for an idea of how much food a giant would need, we get 150lbs of food in a meal for our ~ one ton bears - roughly a whole roast pig for a meal. Scale that up and our Fire Giants will be eating seven of these in a sitting, our Storm Giants will have an even dozen.

So, as a rule of thumb, assume a Storm Giant has the appetite of thirty - one sits to a table that would be a feast for thirty humans. Whoever is prepping for such a feast is going to be using everything they can get their hands on - from the tail to the squeal as is said. Sausages, broths, offal, everything is going to get cooked up and served.