28 September 2022

Actual Test: Tales from the Glass Guarded World (Fantasy Space Combat Rules Part 5)

tl;dr: a chunky theater of the mind system that gives a party lots of options to fight spelljamming duels.

Our previous effort tested 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 as well as the original AD&D Spelljammer and the to-be-published OD&D compatible Calidar.

This set is the house ruleset for the Spelljamming focused 'Tales from the Glass Guarded World' podcast. You can hear them play it out themselves on episode 101 and 141/142. Given that this was created while 5e Spelljammer was still a rumour and actually table-tested and refined, this is a window onto an alternate trouser-leg of possibility, happily one we can pick up and use ourselves.

Cover by Mike Hammock and Ignacio Corva

An interesting system with the focus firmly on giving players tools to use; there are a number of officer positions (Captain, Helmsman, Bosun, Gunner) and the default role of Deckhand which all offer lists of ship actions that can be taken during a round. There is no grid, just range bands of 'extreme', 'long' and 'close. Most weapons only work in long or close. This has a lot of the base elements of 2e ported forward and updated for 5e. Things like Ship Rating, the speed of a ship, being dependent on the type of helm and the level of the wizard remain. There is a lot of cunning redesign work here for the things that were retained to make them relevant to 5e.

26 September 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #87

The plague has caught up with me, so not much this week. 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.

Methods & Madness gives us Why I like minimalism: complexity is exponential, and exceptions raise complexity

From Kuroth's Quill discusses Astral Adventures in Greyhawk

yog-blogsoth gives us the Blooming One

d4 Caltrops present d100 - What's At The Bottom Of This Pit?

Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours gives us D&D’s Obsession With Taxonomy

Axian Spice writes Talk Like a Pirate Day: d20 Seas Encounters & Events!

Coins and Scrolls gives us OSR: GLOG Book of Spells

The Benign Brown Beast discusses RPG Linguistics

All Dead Generations shares PDF Adventure Archives

Wizard Thief Fighter presents Creative Permutations: Dead City

24 September 2022

Review: The Perilous Wilds

tl:dr; a Dungeon World wilderness supplement that has good advice and toolkits for anyone running overland exploration.

Another strong recommendation from the 'best books of the OSR' crowd, this was my first real interaction with the Dungeon World system - or any Apocalypse World system. I have looked at this with this 'outsiders eye', less judging it on its merits as a Dungeon World book but more as someone coming to it cold.

For the size of the book a lot gets packed in - both from a point of system and useful generators for a setting. Lots to like here whatever system you may normally use at your table.

Cover by Keny Widja

I think I grabbed by copy from a DriveThru PoD sale and got a slim ~80 page A5 booklet, black and white on the inside with what looks like a sepia-toned cover. Over all I like it, the art-style is quirky and evocative and sets a nice cartoonish-yet-fierce note throughout.

21 September 2022

House Rules for the Mythic Plateau

With my house 3.5e campaign venturing up onto the mythic plateau of the giants, an interstitial realm in the roof of the world, I thought it fitting to throw in some of the interesting house-rules I have found around the web to try and emphasise the 'land of myth and legend' atmosphere.

The first few are timely additions from Thalian Musings post on Houserules During Play

Big d30 – once per session per player, that player can choose to roll a d30 instead of the regular die for an attack, damage, saving throw, skill check, spell ability, or anything else a player can make a sound argument for. This is just fun, gets used a lot less than I expected, but has led to a natural 30 being rolled to great rejoicing.

Fleeting Luck - a riff off the Dungeon Crawl Classics idea - a Nat 20 rolled gets a luck token, which acts as a reroll of whatever you like. Anytime anyone rolls a Nat 1, all luck tokens around the table go away. You cannot use your luck to reroll that Nat 1. Every session all players start with one point, fleeting luck does not carry over.

Next I have modified More Risky Spellburn from Sheep & Sorcery to become Alternate Spellburn - a caster can choose to max out a spell effect; damage, HD turned, etc. by taking d6 spellburn to a stat of your choice. Can also be used to cast a spell you know how to cast but cannot normally do so again before rest. This is specifically to allow the sorcerer who is normally using the Spelljamming Saddle to fly the party about to play a more active role in combat if they wish.

On the DMs side of the screen I use the Overloaded Encounter Die - switched out from 4-in-20 for a chance of a random encounter to overloaded d6 for exactly the reason designers stated, got fed up with 'roll for nothing' - all rolls should be meaningful.

I also use Reaction Rolls and Morale Checks for monsters but these are hardly house rules, just gaps being backfilled from older editions. I like them as it makes encounters more than 'scream and charge' and fits well with this menagerie worlds Pratchett-esque attitude of 'people come in all shapes and sizes' and you never know from sight who might be friends or foes.

Another major 'house rule' that I am currently using is to port a mini-AD&D Spelljammer helm into 3.5e as a Spelljamming Saddle and also the Aces High sky combat rules from Arcadia magazine. An example of how that plays out in-game is here.

In addition, recognising that Stunning effects are no fun, I am thinking about a Revised Stun condition inspired by 2c Gamings post 'The Mysterious & Nonsensical Stunned Condition: Fixes & Critiques' that keep the "drops everything held, takes a –2 penalty to AC, and lose Dexterity bonus to AC" but dials it back from "can’t take actions" to only being able to do a single action or a move. No reactions, no 5' step, one thing on your round. Have not yet implemented this but thinking about it.

I thought about dropping in a Cascading Damage Dice - if you roll the max on a damage dice, roll it again. Keep going until you don't roll the max. This proved to be difficult to remember in course of play so has been dropped.

I am a big fan of 'Shields shall be splintered / Mail shall be rent' from Trollsmyth (I think?) where armour or a shield can be sacrificed (and the AC bonus lost) to soak the damage from one hit. However while the other rules above are more aligned with coming to a zone of high mythic weirdness, these are a bit more fundamental operating principles for the campaign and it does not feel right to try and bolt these in at a late stage in the campaign. Next campaign...

19 September 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #86

Another block of links from this weeks wanderings of the web. 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.

Weaver.skepti.ch reviews Dream Midlands and its magic setup minigame and Slaying the Dragon on the last days of TSR (with stats!)

Bastionland gives us Universal Hex Profile

Trollsmyth gives us Playing with Doom & Tea Parties

Awesome Lies excavates the past in Lost Warhammer: Marienburg

Planarian Calamarium thinks about HP options in Volitional Wounds

Ominosity distills down lessons learned on Logistics of Long Campaigns.

Eucastastrophic gives us 🎲🎲 Unpacking Reaction Rolls

Homicidally Inclined Persons of No Fixed Address gives us What kind of treasure?

The Cosmic Orrery offers alternative sites in Thats No Castle!

Alone in the Labyrinth gives us What has that wise one got on their head?

17 September 2022

Review: Petty Gods

Purchased when a chunky discount for Lulu floated, this is one that was often flagged as a 'greatest of the Lulu OSR' that I had passed over a few times because the old-school 'every PC a divine avatar' style never really caught on with me. I like my gods mostly a bit more aloof. This was a gross misunderstanding of this fantastic book on my part, I should have picked it up far sooner - we have tons of really useful gameable content in here, in a big, chunky book (380 page hardcover).

Cover illustration by Thomas Denmark

I was shocked at how thick this book was - I was expecting ~ 100-150 odd pages of stuff, something like the old orange spine books, instead we get this monster. Art is nice throughout with a wide selection of artists - stylistically it is true to the OD&D era of small black and white illustrations within two columns per page. There is some jokey stuff in here, gag monsters and pun-named gods and cults but just a light salting so you can keep or drop those to your preference without detracting from the whole.

14 September 2022

Actual Play: Crossing the Battlefields of Acheron

Third 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 and the Beastlands hunt.

Inspiration was to do a battlefield crawl as outlined in Burgs & Baliffs Warfare Too article Battlefield Events - Reviewed here. I wanted to try a combat grind, something where there was long, low intensity combat and no chance to rest. The hordes of goblins, orcs and hobgoblins loose on the battlefield were not going to be an individually mortal threat but in their mass maybe?

The core piece of the Battlefield Events piece is that you get into an encounter then you have d6+2 rounds before the next bunch rolls over you. Given that the received wisdom is that on average a party of PC's is going to crush peer foes in ~ 3 rounds I wanted to see how this played out in practice.

12 September 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #85

Back at base with links! 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.

Mindstorm writes on Stealth Turns

Spooky Rusty makes a good point in "if you like someone's writing tell them or put it on the internet somewhere that you like their writing and they will live longer and write more"

Bat in the Attic adds to their downloadable Stuff in the Attic - a pair of bestiaries.

Spineless Grimoire gives us Home sweet home

Xenio in a Bottle writes Factions, Updated

Coins and Scrolls announces the launch of their OSR: The Monster Overhaul

Delta's D&D Hotspot gives us OED Expanded Edition

The Alexandrian gives us a great toolkit to break down societies and consider how fantastic elements would run theirs in Random Worldbuilding – Fantastical Nations

Tales of the Lunar Lands writes Meet the Flintstones on historical norms in games.

10 September 2022

Review: Threshold #15: Mystaraspace

"The fifteenth issue of the Mystara Magazine, piercing into the black void to explore the planets of Mystaraspace and beyond." Of all the many Threshold magazines to take a deeper look at I figured this space-themed issue would be both topical and interesting. The original flying D&D ship, the Princess Ark, was after all flying about on Mystara. These magazines are the distillation of forum discussions centered around thePiazza.org and its deep well of active old school fans.

Screenshot of Threshold #15 covers with art by I. Calvin & Athenarius

From a layout point of view, the pdf is sized to A4. The fortification headers, footers and overall layout are a deep callback to the old Mystara gazetteers and the design in general takes a lot of guidance from those publications. I compare it to my nearest one (GAZ12 - the Golden Khan) and we have two columns in Threshold compared to three in the TSR publication but otherwise the fonts, the styles, it is all pretty faithful. One thing that amuses me greatly is the abundant footnotes, often with hyperlinks to threads on The Piazza - this really is a "by the locals, for the locals" zine and I heartily approve. This kind of dense footnoting also allows others to catch up on the conversation which becomes invaluable as time passes. Formatwise, I believe they are set up as POD files that one can get hardcopies of via Lulu, I have not tried this myself but certainly they look like they would be a pretty addition to ones shelves.

07 September 2022

Les Rollistes - AideDD stats, le Thiase surveys give a look at TTRPGs in France

Revisiting the AideDD app stats to take a look at race and location data. We saw before that the app is showing the 'generalist' profile same as D&D Beyond or other online tools with fighters and rogues preferred compared to heavy spell-caster preference of forums. From last years data we also saw that preference for races is more stable in apps compared to the forums.

Looking at the respondent profile - AideDD originating in France - has a large French user-base not seen in other polls and anglosphere parts of the hobby.

Given the large fraction of users from US, Canada, UK, Australia, we could take this as a maximalist estimate for the share of D&D that is played in France and an indication of the size of the jeu-de-role scene that we do not hear so much about because of language barriers.

The fantastic Le Thiase surveys give us a window into the jdr scene - three surveys conducted in 2010, 2014 and 2018 - and due again in 2022. Comparing what is in these surveys we see a few interesting points.

05 September 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #84

Less than usual this week as I pack up for travel. 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.

Save vs. Worm gives us Pygmy Giants

Dreaming Dragonslayer gives us Mulan, OSR Queen

Attronarch's Athenaeum completes #RPGaDAY2022 – Day 31

Silverarm writes The Wilderness is a Dungeon: Jaquaysing Your RPG Sandbox

The Latest Enemy writes Skalds, Bards, and Warrior Poets

Goobernuts Blog gives us Bamboo – 10-foot pole but better

Weaver.skepti.ch reviews Creature Caches

Classic Fantasy Adventure Games are Infinite on Grumpy Wizard

Late Night Zen gives us Magic item: Latimer's ring

Vdonnut Vallet muses on Everything is (?) a Framework

In Search of Treasure gives us Jester (New Class) & Wild Elf Revised

Methods & Madness writes Can "Old School" work with feats?

Worlds Await writes The Dreamscape, Part 3 – Journeys, Environs And Hazards

My Creative Reset Button: GISH Week by Soft Chaos

Scraped from a twitter thread of great blogs that have not updated in a while: World of Alshain; Drama, Dice & Damsons; Valley of the Blue Snails; Straits of Anian

03 September 2022

Capsule Reviews #4: Flying Ship Combat Rules

Since the new Spelljammer dropped there has been an explosion of new rulesets or new spotlight cast on existing ones. Below are the ones I have found worthy of the name:

1. Tales from the Glass Guarded World, a spelljamming podcast has had their own narrative flying ship combat rules available for a while. Runs with distance bands and a focus on actions available to PC's playing officers - bosun, helmsman, weapon crew, etc. 20 pages.

2. Old Dungeon Master updated a set of OD&D skyship combat rules to 5e - the provenance can be seen in they are called Skyships not Spelljammers. This is their set of house rules which I find reassuring - other peoples table-tested stuff is always good. There is old-school crunch in here, with base stats and condition multipliers. Interesting in that it is gridless but still crunchy with pursuit and evasion rules and things like crew archery as well as PC officer actions. 22 pages.

3. Seafaring in Fifth Edition by u/RocksInMyDryer are ship rules that include up and down within them, not specifically flying ship rules but they can work. Draws on lots of 3.5e resources for structures then updates them to get a comprehensive 5e ruleset. Aimed at seafaring but the combat system could be used for flying ships. Based off which of the ships is "favoured" by conditions in a given round. 30 pages, includes ships, encounters & monsters.

4. Wildjammer (v0.97.2) adapts a bunch of ideas from DarkMatter. Comprehensive ~100 page supplement with species, subclasses, spells, locations, factions etc. Introduces 'mega scale' for handling ship scale ~ 100:1 to normal. Comprehensive, somewhat dense, everything is in here but it requires some careful reading.

5. Spelljammer Combat Expanded (v1.4) is a straight up reaction to the new 5e Spelljammer and patches in missing things. 20 pages with actions for officer positions, takes a 'skill check' driven approach, has solid guidance on how to set up for grids which is good.

6. Snoop's Superb Spelljammer Supplement v7 on GM Binder is one of the more complex set-ups with movement points, some good old-school crunch like minor and major helms but also a handy flowchart at the back to help guide you through the detail.

7. I am also going to check out the old 3e Ship Construction and Combat Rules on Spelljammer.org as one of the projects that progressed during the long twilight between official Spelljammers. Has all the expected 3e crunch including how to handle ships larger than a single hex which is good practical guidance to have.

I hope to get these properly table-tested in the coming months. Others that we tested previously:

8. Shadow of the Spider Moon (3.5e, published in Polygon #151 / Dungeon #92) - our playtest

9. Aces High published in Arcadia issue #3 - our playtest

10. AD&D Spelljammer (AD&D, available as print on demand from DriveThruRPG) - our playtest

11. Calidar skyship combat rules (OD&D, by Bruce Heard who did the original D&D skyship in Voyages of the Princess Ark) - our playtest

Finally this thread on Reddit is a round up of systems - Collection of 5e ship vs. ship combat rules for spelljammers - with a lot of overlap with here but also a few seeds of cool ideas like spell-slots-for-movement-boosts.

Consensus appears to be that PC's should have ship-combat specific actions, there should be some ranged combat system but otherwise there are a lot of variations on the theme here to try out.