31 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #92

Delightful links for your amusement. 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 the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

of Dice and Dragons announces the ending of an era in Sunsetting the RPG Blog Alliance. Anyone with the know-how and capacity to pick this up would be doing us all a great service.

A Knight at the Opera writes You Suck at Keeping your One-Offs as One-Offs

A Slow Circle discusses Art and Inspiration in RPGs

From Kuroth's Quill on making undead scarier in October in Greyhawk: Things that Go Bump in the Night

Spooky Rusty writes i review 'liminal high school' and interview the author evlyn moreau

From the Sorcerer's Skull gives us Astral Space, The Final Frontier

Rotten Pulp presents This Haunted Land - Languages

Pointless Monument launches their blog with Minimum Viable Worldbuilding - The Rule of 5

We have collectively decided that our hex-crawling practices need revising - Prismatic Wasteland gives us Hexcrawl Checklist: Part One and Silverarm writes Down With The 6 Mile Hex! A Modest Proposal

Weaver.skepti.ch writes on Vision Quests

29 October 2022

d10 Esoterica of the Menagerie world (GLoGtober #7)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management we discuss "Cycles of violence" from a promptlist by CatDragon

Taking our definition as "things understood by or meant for a select few; recondite matters or items." we get Esoterica of the Menagerie world.

Types of strange and restricted knowledge begin with those close to the sources of power.

Individual wizards in their towers have been following the ancient traditional ways of knowledge hoarding and apprenticeship. These are at one time both the most known and hardest to access pools of knowledge - what wizard knows what, which one would be willing to speak?

Next are the sages, both individually and collective, who are more open to talking but more limited in what any one of them can speak to. They can direct you to others who can help but you may need to travel a lot

The temples of Ioun would be what most common folk would think of as the place they were most likely to get an answer to their obscure question. In the greater cities, extensive basement and sub-basement sprawl house many diligent and specialist acolytes who tend the collected knowledge of obscure and ancient topics and can answer questions, usually after some waiting

Any number of cults, craft guilds and other associations may keep their own histories and secrets in either written or oral form, passed to initiates. The difficulty in knowing who might know what and getting them to reveal what they know makes this a rarely followed path.

Libraries of certain noble houses can be useful - some are little more than records of their lineage and the affirming histories of the house, just a room of sooks testifying to their legitimacy, but others contain the passing curiousities of members of the house and can be deep and extensive gatherings of lore on a topic

Personal memories of long lived races, stories passed on from a millenia old sire to a now millenia old adult can reach deeply into the past and be vivid witness to obscure deeds - provided you can find the ancient being and persuade them to talk

Oracles, seers and other visionaries can sometimes be persuaded to turn their third-sight to the distant past, but depending on the topic and the things being scryed upon they may refuse.

Once past these many sources of 'living' history - active collections or experts - one must consult the silent voices of the past in records and remnants. Some of these may be found in fragments in certain collections and most of these are known as places to seek answers but none are freely available and must be sought out at hazard.
1. Rubbings of the great carvings of the dwarves, on the drop doors on the under-roads. Acquired at great effort by venturing into the underroads, braving the long-haul underground and the beasts that dwell there.
2. The Tomes of the Masters of Mazgil Furnace. A dwarf translated set of qualith tomes. Most useful for their faithful recreation of the qualith borders to the pages, offering a rosetta-stone for qualith to dwarf. Together the whole collection covers all the strategic and operational practicalities of launching interplanar incursions
3. Clawstones - to the passing eye looking like caverns clawed out of the rock - many originally were - but over the long ages of their use, the wider entryways bear the scratched in testimony of many inhabitants. The tale of rise and fall of ancient groupings can be read in the shift in claw styles, the obliteration of old patterns and the gradually lowering of the marks upon the walls
4. Scentposts - some of the oldest remaining traces of life here, these magically retained scent markers can yield tales to appropriately sensitive animal-lings. Most often placed as wardings and warnings over entombed horrors.
5. Writings of Conchordia - great scrolls of the Titans, natural philosophy from a time when the laws of nature were being set. Invaluable to conjurers or others seeking to alter natural forms. Presumed to be locked in the libraries of the lost city.
6. The long chant of the Kings of the North. In its entirety speaks of the laws, knowledge and vanquished foes of the Kings in the North. Practically, this sung saga is a map to many barrows and hidden places across the frozen North and within the southern dominions they once conquered. The difficulty comes in being present when a skald sings the chant and getting away again with the knowledge
7. Sentinels - long slumbering ancients, at the threshold of life and death, contactible with those magics that can speak with the dead but more lucid having never passed beyond the veil. Never attempt to wake them or they will perish
8. The Compact of the Princes - the great treaty dividing up the south after the withdrawal of the Elves over the water, said to contain the most accurate maps in existence, detailing many now lost locations
9. Records of the Elven Imperial colonies. Legendary tomes that are alleged to explain why the elves came to this continent when it was a wilderness and left it populated with multitudes of animal-lings.
10. Hive Vaults - in certain places there remain a few abandoned hives of abeils, wasp-folk and others. Like a zoetrope, spinning reveals the knowledge carved upon the walls, but it is the viewer that must spin, in the manner of the hive dance. It is said that the revelations of the dance fade from the mind once one stops, it is said that some dance themselves to exhaustion and death trying to hold onto whatever it was they saw.

26 October 2022

d14 small gods of the animal-lings (GLoGtober #6)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Managementfrom a promptlist by Archon's Court we take "Small Gods"

We have all our greater gods concerned with big thematic worries, what about the specific concerns of animal-lings?
- they have different senses - smell, whiskers, thermal pits, sharper hearing
- they have different body shapes - chitin, fur, feathers, claws, fangs
- they operate in different habitats - burrows, tree hollows, hives

All this suggest that even where humanoid gods are dominant, there will be things that slip beneath their gaze, and there the small gods of the animal-lings still find their place.

Small Gods of the Animal-lings

1. God of clear noses and sharp snuffling - most often invoked against colds, noted in the designs embroidered on traditional sharp-herb pouches and carved on snuff-boxes
2. The gentle wind that eases tracking - invoked with a handful of grass or dust tossed to find the wind direction
3. The shifting wind that eases hunting - invoked in a paused moment of twitching whiskers and ears to detect the wind direction before setting out on a task
4. The hardener of chitin - typically invoked in the production of home-cooked waxes and polishes, recipes said to be passed down from a long gone clergy. To diligently polish ones scales, shell or exoskeleton is to worship.
5. The sharpest fang - most often marked on the scratching-pillars of old animal-ling inns, where sharpening your claws before leaving is traditional. Invoked before strenuous physical activity of any sort, sometimes found in older blacksmiths or on the entrance to mines. Rarely the original panther-like icon is still visible if the pillar is tall enough.
6. The deepest burrow - god of comfortable lairs, easily found - invoked with thanks when bundled up cosily, whether under blankets or before a fire, that you might give such thanks again soon
7. He who shields from sight (camoflage) - invoked with optical illusion carvings, left in plain sight but rarely noticed. The inverse will have a ring of eight eyes on it
8. The judge of stillness (both predators and prey) - mostly likely to be observed in a tavern game where both parties hold a brimming short glass of strong spirits and the first to cause a ripple or their spirit to spill loses. Invoked with the holding of breath and the paying of absolute attention to ones surroundings. Often paid homage by duelling schools.
9. The great acorn - found bounty, foraging - one of the more commonly invoked minor gods - "By the great acorn what luck!" and "acorn blessed" are common phrases
10. The hum of harmony (hive-god) - smooths bonds between companions, typically invoked with a shared low hum. Strongly present in hinterland work-chants and a common thread through deep-woods folk song.
11. The slumberer - invoked to find food, for deep sleep and for survival in the cold. Often marked by apples, honey, nuts or other tree-found food left in a cave or nook.
12. The calling lord - long distance travel, seasonal migrations, finding yourself in the right place at the right time. Watches over the venturesome, invoked in that first leap from a height before your wings fill with air.
13. God of Strong Ivory - of pacts that bind, things that stand the test of time. Found as deeply worn ivory amulets, passed from generation to generation, helps those who help themselves.
14. The Giving Mud - most alive of these petty gods, The Queen of Swamps and Rivers is gifted offerings by fishers and river travellers, that she may take this and no more. Rarely invoked by searchers in the wilderness near rivers, lakes and wet terrain of all sorts.

Locals will often add major local nature spirits to their personal mix of respected supernatural entities, such as dryads of old woods, lake and waterfall spirits, mountain spirits and even including particularly old dragons.

24 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #91

Delightful links for your amusement. 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.

False Machine proposes a reality without Microchips in Cars, Chips and Rings

Whose Measure God Could Not Take writes Violence as an Escalating Threat

Paper Elemental gives us Teeth are Magic Crystals.

The Nothic's Eye shares Small Gods of the Old Forest

Reckless Dweomer proposes Eight Schools for Wizards

Craggenloch Tribune writes up Dreadful Sorcery - Notes on a surprisingly successful magic system (OSR

The Breakfast Ossuary gives us Zero to Complete Dungeon Generation, Waffle-Style

The Best Placeholder Name shares Offerings to the please the gods

Attronarch's Athenaeum compiles a great Dragon Magazine reading list

Age of Dusk concludes their competition with Announcing the Victors of the 2022 No Artpunk Competition

The Other Side blog looks at Monster Manual Minis, Set A-C

Nameless Designer launches Heroes of Adventure

22 October 2022

d12 post-apocalyptic worlds (GLoGtober #5)

Another prompt from GLoGtober '22: Under New Management this time from a list by semiurge: "Post-apocalyptic - except the apocalypse wasn’t one of the usual suspects."

Worlds or whole systems where it has all gone horribly wrong for some reason or another. Perhaps you are arriving to one of these by portal, by astral travel, by Spelljammer, by climbing Yggdrassil, however you get there you find a place in very bad shape - not just a broken world but a whole devastated system. Whatever went wrong here scorched the planet and reached out to ruin the moons, nearby planets, sometimes the sun that once shone here. What exactly went wrong?

Post apocalypse crystal spheres - use for Spelljammer or planeswalking
1. The dead hive - here there was an ant-like hive, they consumed everything, built great structures, hive rings that orbitted worlds, hives that floated above their worlds, then all dissappeared from mysterious causes - a plague? A great migration? Few remains of the dead can be found, far, far less than there ought to be for the scale of the works. The entire place is composed of deserted hives - the seas and continents of the planets were covered over, great hive creatures to travel between worlds tumble dead and dry in space, huge chitinous hive structures stand empty. Here all that remain, the last non-hive remnants, survive by cannibalising the hive elements
2. Dead sun: (d6: 1 - recently, worlds still in the process of dying, 2-3 - near past, worlds mostly dead but still some life in underdark or roaming undead, 4-6 - long dead, only wildspace fauna to be found) caused by (d6: 1. Aboleths, 2. Vampires, 3. Mindflayers, 4. Wizards, 5. A minor godling, 6. A sun-eating artefact engine). The sun-killers are still about, ruling the ruin of their successful plots
3. Ex-bloodwar battlefield - some unfortunate quirk of the bloodwar led what was supposed to have been a back-water sphere turning into an all-out blood-war free for all as demon lords and infernal generals poured troops in to try and dislodge the others before they could consolidate. By the time the infernals saw the losses outweigh the potential gains in their bleak mathematics, the habitable worlds were devastated, their populations slaughtered and the worlds themselves wrecked. The demon lords turned on each other after the infernals left until even they realised there was nothing worth fighting over left. Now the entire sphere is a wrecked battlefield littered with abandoned weapons and un-discharged magics. Mutation, corruption and toxicity abound - life persists but only in competition with the most tenacious of fiendish scavengers.
4. Discarded by genies - the currents of the deep ethereal made this place easily accessible to the princes of the elemental planes - for a while. The currents shifted, the genies left, and their servants mostly did not survive long without them. There are some few pockets where servants of the genii have scratched together enough to survive but mostly this is a place of magestic ruins. Much has been stripped away but caches of treasures are squirrelled away in now-dead communities of servitors. Fine gems, gold and decorative magic items lie heaped and ignored while dwellers here seek desperately for anything to help them survive.
5. Godspasm - a local rapture or ragnarok type event happened - all the sentients departed, whisked away to the realms of their gods to be judged in the afterlife. Only a few constructs and undead remain on a series of re-wilding planets. Treasures and hazards abound as nature reclaims everything.
6. Witchlight marauder waste - victim of the Unhuman War, the large planets were attacked with witchlight marauders that devoured all life upon them, then died. All organic matter is gone, but cities and constructs, though damaged remain. Harsh and inhospitable worlds with dead biospheres and slowly dwindling atmospheres can yield treasures for those willing to brave the conditions.
7. Runaway magical event - some terrible curse of magical accident has dessicated this sphere. Oceans have dwindled to thick brines at the bottom of their seabeds. Desert fauna are now all that remains, clinging to the places where the last wisps of moisture can be found. Water slowly dissappears from sealed vessels as the residual effects of the curse play out.
8. Magewar - territorial wizards gained more and more power and fought amongst themselves. All suffered as grass while those elephants fought in their floating towers above. Now the towers patrol continent sized swathes of territory or orbit claimed moons, watching over devastated wildernesses. It is not clear if any of the tower-inhabitants still survive. Nomadic communities and those hidden from sight of the sky survive and scurry through the necessities of survival when the towers are out of sight.
9. Post-magewar servitor independence - here the mages built legions of servitors not towers, and those constructs slaughtered their way to a victory so profound even the mages were killed. Now these intelligent weapons struggle to adapt to their new dominion. Some fight each other, others wait in dormancy for new challenges, still others attempt to maintain what parts of their old culture they can in the otherwise shattered and empty farms and cities of the lands that built them.
10. Vengeance of the seas - the seas rose and smote the land, surging to great heights of flooding caused by (d4: 1. Kuo-Toa, 2. Sahuagin, 3. A god of the seas at the urging of a vanished land-bound people, 4. Aboleths, 5. A portal to the plane of water, 6. something enormous falling from the heavens into the ocean). All within reach of water was washed away, cities, navies, nations, peoples. Now the waters have receded but the terrified remains of land dwellers huddle on the high grounds, with only the desperate or brave venturing down towards the shores.
11. Volcanic winter - elementals fought (or continue to fight) and volcanos sprung up spewing ash and molten rock where there had been no mountains before. The darkness came abruptly and with it cold and famine. Now the volcanos continue to rage and the remnants of the population seek shelter and survival however they can under a sky that never brightens more than twilight
12. The civilised zombie apocalypse - the sun guttered, a plot by vampires or illithids or who knows anymore. But as all vegetation perished and ecosystems collapsed, necromancers of the dying surface civilisations staged a fight-back and liches, wights and other powerful undead raised hordes of skeletons and zombies to fight back and won. Now the sun still stands dark and the nations of this place go about an eerie mockery of their old ways. Ore is mined, goods are created, trade goes on under a guttering sun. The locals are open to vistors, if somewhat intimidating and viciously factional amongst themselves

19 October 2022

d12 alchemical reagents to harvest from the dead (GLoGtober 4)

This time we take a prompt from the GLoGtober '22: Under New Management promptlist by metalsnail and we discuss "crafting or alchemy."

Here we talk about the alchemical properties of the physical residue of souls and how they react with magic. Imagine them like heavy metals, accreting in the bones, or like prions contaminating the meat. Imagine them like the seeds of crystallisation, attracting more like it where one first forms.

Soulstuff, left alone in a respectably buried dead will eventually sublime away. It can be sustained by the memories of the living who recall the deceased and persist for a while.

Magic attracts magic, the workings of the divine or infernal draws the soul-stuff of their worshipers, the influence of the outer planes remains where connections were made and severed. Plants too can soak up this influence. In the living, we see all this in the abilities of sorcerers and wizards, in the heritage of tieflings and genasi, in the miracles wrought by clerics and paladins and these traces do not vanish when any of them die.

Battlefields, sacrificial cults, disasters and other events creating large amounts of the dead in a short time can give rise to more potent varieties of these residues, ones which draw more and more energies to themselves. Crystallised energies to be harvested from these sites by the desperate or foolhardy. Highly magical creatures like mindflayers and such that had little interaction with the natural world typically contain little but magedust. For very large or long-lived magical creatures such as dragons or giants there are often large enough to seed ironsoul crystals just with their own corpse but also recalled by enough that those crystals will grow.

Ghouls become prey to powerful wizards and cults who seek them for the concentration of energies they gain from devouring corpses. Ghouls learn to avoid battlefields.

Unscrupulous magic users and cultists use all these substances in rituals to harvest the power within. Those with a high tolerance for risk are also known to ingest them to boost spell-casting abilities substantially. This is an especially terrible idea with any type of banestone which can lead to immediate and permanent posession.

Elemental varieties of banestone are greatly prized for their ease of working and the powerful, pure effects that can be achieved.

Magical beasts need to consume soul-stuff as part of their diet which drives many of their traits perceived as monstrous - they hunt and consume sentients and will delve into tombs and catacombs looking for the recently dead if they must. A bear may dwell in the woods and be content with deer and honey but a manticore, while it will eat those things, needs the nutritional inputs of hunting people. Sufficiently aware that it could pay homage to the gods appears to be the lower threshold for what will serve. The ancient tradition of dragons seeking virgin sacrifices is indeed because they taste different. The prevalence of monsters around old battlefields and wizards towers is also because of this, although magical beasts that sate themselves with warpflint licks because stranger and even more dangerous.

d12 crystallised residues of the dead
1. Soul-stuff - miniscule amounts that can be processed out of any given corpse. Varies with the type of creature, from rich and crude for near sapient animals through to highly tuned for those steeped in a particular faith. Weakened by contact with outer planes that align with the owner
2. Heartsdrop – the crystallised proto-soul stuff found in things that perished through petrification or in magical isolation and where their energies fossilised within their frame
3. Magedust - the soulstuff of a sufficiently powerful mage becomes blasted through with magic so often it becomes something else. For a wizard left unsuitably buried, the magedust will absorb leylines, nearby spell-casting and other magical sources and spread like a lichen. Incredibly valuable as a magical reagent but left untended can lead to dangerous magical amplification effects in the vicinity - causing mutations, weakening the veil between worlds and attracting monsters
4. Corpseflowers - fungal blooms that only fruit when sprouted on certain dead - incredibly sensitve to alignment and soul energies and so come in a wide variety.
5. Angels Tears – similar to Banestone but only found where connections directly to divine realms have been formed or where particularly powerful agents of the divine have perished or exercised their powers
6. Banestone - when extra-planar creatures transit between worlds the tracks of their passing can seed this substance, typically attuned to the creatures home plane. Fed with emotions appropriate to their originators they can absorb soul energies and become conduits for divine and arcane power. Known for its darker variety as these are the ones that are most often seeded and grow catastrophically on battlefields.
7. Veilrent – residue formed over prolonged forced contact between planes, summonings, portals or similar. Typically seeded by dust tracked in through portals from other places then drawing more to it.
8. Gatebloom – also known as faeirie circles plants steeped in the energies of nearby planes that reflect the nature of those planes. Very diffuse compared to other substances
9. Martyrs blood – where a great deal of soul-stuff is created in a short time in a place aligned to a divine entity, it can run together and congeal into this stuff Most typically from horrific acts of mass slaying but occasionally through willing sacrifice
10. Ironsoul crystals - so named because they are most often found mixed with chainmail on battlefields where many corpses are thrown together. Here the violently attuned soul-stuff of the many battle-dead can accrete together and eventually begin to absorb energies from the environment. A bad sign - bodies where all the soul-dust has left are prone to arise as the restless dead
11. Warpflint - a variety of ironsoul crystals where magic has been used in mass slayings causing accretions of soulstuff and magical energies. Dangerous and unstable, sufficient that it can be used raw as an explosive
12. Goblin Fruits – similar to ironsoul but where the energies accrete in local large plants – leading to puissant fruit and seeds that are highly prized among fey

17 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #90

Ever more shiny links found while wandering 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.

Tales of the Lunar Lands refreshes familiars in I'm Not Familiar

Skull Azure writes an insightful Party Size Matters

Archon's Court introduces See It Descend Into - Premise & Classes

Eldritch Fields gives us Wilderness Encounter Details/Activities

Goatman's Goblet writes Randomizers: Local Troubles for Wandering Magistrates

Le Chaudron Chromatique reveals Liminal High School

A Knight at the Opera writes Oh God There Are So Many RPGs (A Guide)

hypertextfish shares Twelve Angry Rooms

d4 Caltrops presents d100 - Wilderness Landmarks & d100 Overland Discoveries

for h in hexes: Falconry

The 3 Toadstools asks What do I look for?

Halfling's Luck reemerges with The Forest - A Free Kriegsspiel Revival Roleplaying Game

The Secret Game - Il Gioco Segreto compiles Free Resources for Maritime Adventures

15 October 2022

d8 Prehistoric Epochs (GLoGtober 3)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management we discuss "Prehistory (no dinosaurs)" from a promptlist by The First Gokun

Prehistory being the time before writing, for the purposes of our fantasy world let us say the time that current records do not record.

d6 Those who came before
1. - Titans. Everything that is happening is just the long slow degradation of the immortal gods down through their ever smaller and shorter lived descendants. The first age was the gods themselves, then the first titans, who could die but not of age. Then their descendants were giants, long lived but smaller and things all started going wrong (in the Gods view) from there
2. - Snakes. Had great empires, ruled for millions of years, plumbed the vastness of knowing. Failed to notice scuttling warm-blood busy-bodies becoming dangerous, too distracted with internal concerns, suddenly it was all lost. Warmbloods call it all 'pre-history' because they never learned to read Snake; it all adorns their ruins but noone today recognises it is even writing.
3. - The deep time thinkers - the mountains once walked, like great barnacles, with gigantic fronds that soaked in daylight and they carved the world and left all the ecosystems behind in their trail. This is why such different terrains are so close together there. The dreamers all fell into deepest sleep eventually and all sentient races are the condensed dreams of one of the dreamers.
4. - First there were the elements and the Princes of the Elements warred with one another for territory, then came the genii - the dao, marids, djinni and efreeti - who stamped their sense of beauty and order on the raw elemental chaos. They all brought companions and servants to fill their dwellings and realms and when eventually the elemental connections faded, all those one-time vassals were abandoned and the genie took their wisdoms with them, including knowledge of writing, their histories and left their vassals to fumble their way alone
5. - In the beginning there were aboleths, that dwelled deep in the oceans. They willed into existence servitors to venture ashore and claim resources they could not reach. Their purposes achieved, they retired to the deep ocean once more and their tools became free. Some say this too was part of their ancient plan, but noone knows because to the aboleth, tools had no need of writing.
6. - Long long ago there was an age, much like now, with being and civilisations and magic. And all was overcome by fungus, consumed until there was nothing more, then the fungus too died. All that came since has arrived here through extraplanar portals, seeding the mulch of this dead world with new life, and so we come to today.
7. - Vampires built a dread empire, blocked out the sun, messed up the ecosystem and killed the world. Some undead shambled around a bit, some things survived in the deep underdark but not much. Then a fireworld in the outersystem collided with another planet and ignited as a new star. A second age dawned, this one seeded by the things that had survived huddled around oceanic vents and the deep underdark. Analogues of almost everything exist but are fungal derived if plants or mostly evolved from molluscs.
8. - There was a time, much like this, but then the god of writing and knowledge was usurped by a god of secrets and with that passing went all writing and records. There was a period of chaos as societies were upended - more chaotic societies coped with this shock better than lawful societies who were now without their laws. By the time the upheaval passed and writing was relearned, much had changed. There are some very ancient beings who remember the before times but for most all is lost. It is a recent prehistory, one with many fine and visible but mysterious sites and artefacts

Noting all this is in the shadow of the the amazing Goblinpunch take on this topic: Dinosaurs Fuck Off - read that if you are interested in this prompt.

12 October 2022

d6 Sites of the Long Wars (GLoGtober 2)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management we discuss "Cycles of violence" from a promptlist by Phlox

I was thinking about the 'father fights the war, son keeps the peace, grandson goes back to war' rule of thumb on how the value of peace fades with time and how that compares with the widely varying lifecycles of various fantasy races. My hypothesis is that different groups are going to switch between 'warlike' and 'peaceable' at different times, based on their longevity and time elapsed since the last Great War of All Against All. These societal states can be used as hook generators. If you want to just get straight to the d8 sites, scroll down to the bottom.

Taking four common 'conquering threats' as our anchor points: giants, dragons, elves and 'everyone else' essentially.

10 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #89

On time this week - shiny links from around the internet! 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.

Archons March On does GLOGtober '22: Challenge 1: Moving Dungeons, Challenge 2: Plot Hooks Drawn from PCs' Families, Challenge 3: Things in Jars

Coins and Scrolls presents OSR: Alchemical Reagents and Rare Herbs

Cavegirl's Game Stuff gives us The Masquerade Grid, for VtM - useful for all sorts of intrigue too

Traverse Fantasy presents Exchange, Encumbrance, Experience: Reconstructing D&D's Economy

Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet gives us Gods and their servants

Mazirian's Garden shares My Process

Melancholies and Mirth gave us in 2018 Bestiary of 140+ Monsters

Dice Goblin creates Intrigue & Investigation: A System for Urban Suspense

08 October 2022

d8 Moving Dungeons (GLoGtober 1)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management we discuss "Moving Dungeons"

1. The dungeon worm; is actually a type of extra-planar fungus, the tunnels are the root structure that open and close as it progresses, moving through terrain at a slow walk. The body is lodged in the ethereal and it constantly drifts on some unseeable tides. Dwellers, treasures and traps are mostly organic, the ecosystem that travels with the dungeon worm and scavenges off the things it encounters - lots of slimes, oozes and similar

2. The pelt of the god-beast - dungeon is entirely between the skin and matted pelt of an enormous shambling monster. Beast is alive, typically non-hostile, but the very large bugs that lair in its filthy fur are dangerous. The only treasures to be had here are harvesting parts of the god-beast or its parasites

3. The drifting dungeon - a floating mass upon the ocean, an unmoored island, moving with the currents. Should be considered from the view of the merfolk and other aquatics who dwell beneath - the underside is settled, the deepest levels are the most benign and well trafficed, getting more dangerous and unused as you progress up until you get to the protruding upper level where the deadliest danger dwells

4. The frost jarls funeral barge - the partially burned pyre of a frost giant jarl, the flames extinguished by storm before they consumed either him or the ship. The pyre-ship was large and ostentasious even for a giant, the snuffing of the funeral flame viewed as a curse on his hubris. Now it is a haunted ship, the cabins packed with treasures and the unquiet shades of slaves killed to accompany the jarl to ysgard. From a small-folks point of view the rooms and passages of this place thread between leaning treasures, all of it precious but unstable.

5. The great brass jörmungandr - a rogue dwarven boring engine, intended to mine more, deeper, faster. Something went wrong in the propulsion system, something the obsessive chief engineer would not discuss and now the crew is dead or mutated beyond recognition, the internals warped and twisted. The boring engine has ground its way out of the mountain and grinds its way across the countryside. The filled hoppers of its ore processing sections are filled with precious metals but mutants, rogue constructs and mechanical hazards threaten any who venture within but

6. The moon lords palace - a great fey palace made of shadows cast by the light of the moon through an intricate set of carved windows. The windows stand on a precipice, the palace appearing only on certain times of the year, elements appearing and dissappearing as the moon traverses the sky. The treasures are legendary but the building dissolves behind you as the moon moves, and woe betide those curse with a cloudly night that blocks the moon beams and sends intruders plummeting. Time is your foe.

7. The tumbling hive - a giagantic tree, bored through with beetle tunnels, has been occupied by goblins who are using it as a base to raid settlements around a great lake. The internals are chaos as the tree slowly rotates, submerging and exposing different part of the tunnels and all the residents are in constant motion, dragging belongings around and looking for places to sleep. The raiding has been good but the goblins are getting more sleep deprived and disturbed as their home continues to roll.

8. The room swarm - a mad wizards experiment with molluscs has created this set of dungeon rooms borne by large snails that migrate around, keeping close to one another. Getting from room to room can be as easy as stepping through matched up doorways or require hazardous leaps from the back of one snail-like room bearer to another. Falling between these things is a dreadful time. In all other manner the contents and layout are typical 'beneath the barons castle' chic except that the rooms shuffle themselves around constantly and their layout is random.

05 October 2022

NPC personality creation workflow

I took the 3 lists of traits from Out of the Weaving Secrets 638 Primary Personality Traits article in 2014 and set up a trio of random selector functions in my big excel sheet. I get a positive, a neutral and a negative trait. It also randomises male/female and romantic preference.

I combine that with my big list of ancestries - started from Skerples OSR: Table of Races, the usual D&D suspects from the core books and the raceoids from Lizardman Diaries - for 73 different possible ancestries. You could swap this out for a cultural background table also for similar effect.

This gives a bit of who they are, what are they like - combine that with some motivations - basically tagging them to a local faction to say what they might care about and then deciding how invested they are in that factions goals (from fanatic to casual). I talk about this a bit more in NPC motivations to meet player role-play preference. Most of the non-recyclable effort has gone into what he local factions are, who is doing what in a location. That is what I have to put the effort into when the players move around the map. Otherwise, if whatever is going on locally is sufficiently big, bad news (undead invasion, natural disaster) then what anyone encountered cares about will be clear.

And that gives me seeds to get me going:
- What this person is like individually (randomised traits)
- Their background / ancestry (randomised background)
- What they care about (picked faction)

04 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #88

A day late, but hopefully worth the wait! 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.

Scribblings or Something presents the Benefic Polymorph

Mindstorm writes on Stealth Turns

Prismatic Wasteland on Doppelgänger Dos & Don’ts

Permanent Cranial Damage gives us hexcrawls ARE pathcrawls

Grumpy Wizard writes on How I Use Reputation To Modify Reaction Rolls.

01 October 2022

Actual Test: Better Labyrinths by Graphite Prime

Lost my original source but when I went looking for 'how to do labyrinths' either OSR discord or the blogosphere tipped me off to this hidden gem by Graphite Prime - Mazes: The Monotony or How to Run an Actual Maze from 2018.

Their moment of enlightenment was that for most mazes, we don't need to draw the maze. We need some mechanics to reflect that navigating is difficult and some tailored encounter tables and good enough.

The article is great, laying out the elements you need and then pulling it all together in a sample maze. I needed a labyrinth for a major quest site in my current campaign and after stomping around trying to figure out how to get what I wanted down in maps, this handy system tossed all that requirement and just solved it.

All your strange inspirations either go into core descriptors of the maze itself, the sites or the encounters - no need to injure your brain trying to figure out how to map 3D mazes or non-euclidean angles.

Picked my themes for the whole thing, drawing on memory of a source I lost which had dungeons built by different forces:
- original builder intent (creator god leaving puzzles for worthy to herald his return)
- environmental factors, original builder power manifestations (using non-Euclidean Gravity from Goblinpunch)
- volcanic damage
- current resident + forces (lifting in an interesting monster from Fire on the Velvet Horizon)
- intruders from surroundings (lost or undead members of the local populace, from the city surrounding this place)

Once I knew what had created the place I filled out the descriptive elements of the maze - what a standard corridor length is like, its illumination, how far to a turn, etc. then the d100 table of 'locations you can find in the labyrinth' and the encounter table for what finds you if you stop in the open labyrinth. All this was far easier than trying to create a map that expressed variable gravity, inter-cut levels, and other things that are hard to express on graph paper and would have been a nuisance to try and use at the table.

The core mechanic of how it all works is players roll Search (3.5e, what we use), Investigation (5e) or Save vs Spells (OSR) against a DC as an extended skill challenge; there is no 'fail' point but after 3 x checks, they run into something on the way - rolll on the sites list. Should they stop to rest, roll on the encounters list. Some sites or encounters may bring or cost additional successes - and that is it. You get in there and you search, defending yourself against whatever else is in there until you find your way out.

There are some additional elements like what happens during a chaotic retreat, where some members of the party become lost in the maze only to be found at certain site encounter roles, that I think would be grim should they come to pass but still flavourful and a nice coherent mechanic.

At table this has played out brilliantly. The party has searched away, run into numerous weird and hazardous things, had fights ranging from the dangerous to the easily overwhelmed but it feels nice any pacy going through it. Since we are running 3.5e and short rests do not matter, they pushed on, eating on their feet for a full days exploring until they got to a specific location, barricaded themselves in and worked on what they needed there. Their actions triggered a bunch of random encounters but because they had secured the perimeter, it ended up being a bunch of unnerving noises they refused to investigate and creepy glimpses out through a massive stained glass window into the rest of the labyrinth.

For me as a DM, setting this all up and letting the dice unfold the story has been a great old school refresh - some major events happened so quickly one after the other that they players got paranoid about 'this was too easy' which was fun. The fact that things are being encountered and yet there is an uncertain amount of encounters still ahead really has the dice reflect the atmosphere.

I really like how this all wraps up in a coherent ball. If the players just attack the maze straight on, that is clear. Use some sort of spells or wild ideas to bypass bits? Great, tag on an additional success per good idea. Rewards the players without trivialising the maze. Anyone thinking of running mazes should give this one a look. Not your classic dungeon crawl, which it is not supposed to be, but I think a really elegant solution for a particular case that should be more widely known.