27 February 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #109

Weekly links from about the web - final Feb '23 edition. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this is weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the newly-automated weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

The Alexandrian gives us Untested 5E – Dynamic Save Responses

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse gives us Some Basic Anthropology Texts For DMs

Traverse Fantasy highlights D&D 5e's Dialogue Procedure & NPC Traits

Whose Measure God Could Not Take gives us Another Method for Meaningful Terrain Generation

The Lizard Man Diaries on Making more interesting fantasy wargame units with A.I

The Ongoing Campaign points out Some Obscure But Fun Small Rules

Aiee! Run From Kelvin's Brainsplurge! has a view on Charisma in Le Stat d'Dump

25 February 2023

Review: Rackham Vale Paintbox Edition

tl:dr; gorgeous art decorate a surprisingly cunning DM's toolkit

Supported the kickstarter - Rackham Vale: Paintbox Edition - for this "award-winning, fey-filled TTRPG setting" which is built around "the art of master fantasist Arthur Rackham" and statted up for OSE. All this done by the Crowbar Collective, Brian Saliba and Craig Schaffer.

I am a fan of Rackhams art from the original fairy tales and other places they turned up and I have always liked how his art has cropped up through-out the OSR - out of copyright and right up our street. When I backed this, I had in fact already picked up a copy of the slimmer first edition through Print on Demand but it was still no question to back the kickstarter for the bonus extra goodness.

Rackham Vale Paintbox Edition with cover by Arthur Rackham

Pulling it out of the packing, it was wrapped in stamped brown paper, and then within the book was wrapped in a fabric printed map! Delightful and entirely on theme. The book itself was a neat A5 hardback size, 196 pages. Originally the fruit of Zinequest, it charmingly continues to refer to itself as a zine despite now being a chunky hardback.

22 February 2023

Procedure: Overloaded Wilderness Encounters

To participate in this months blog carnival - hosted by Plastic Polyhedra on the topic of Procedures I want to share the procedure for exploration I have bolted together.

A little background - of campaigns I have run recently - one was a series of one-shots, one was a book campaign and one was a very high social/politicking game with little travel - none of which were great for frequent use of encounter tables from being out and about. A new campaign I have launched (see here, here and here) has a lot more exploration and hex-crawling to it which has given me the opportunity to improve my approach to encounter tables by picking up some of the best practice out there.

I wrote before about the core encounter table getting built - an unlockable table which could stay random but shift the probabilities around depending on whether you roll 2d12, 3d8, 3d6 or 6d4. I have combined this with an overloaded encounter die for what specifically is encountered during a given hour for traversing the wilderness.

The version of the overloaded encounter die I use is from Hexploring by Meandering Banter as I like the inclusion of weather:
1. Encounter: live, moving entities off the encounter table
2. Setback/hazard: a passive encounter, trap or hazard associated with the roll from the main table
3. Expiration/Fatigue: consumption of resource/delay/end of effects
4. Weather (outdoors) / Locality aspect (weather shielded)
5. Percept: Spoor, traces or clues to the thing rolled
6. Advantage: some boon or hidden feature is revealed

So together we get the below - a flat chance of it being the type of encounter from the d6 and the probability curve of it being whatever is out there wandering about.

Overload Wilderness die vs Unlockable Wildnerness Encounter Table

20 February 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #108

Links from a week where the value of blogrolls has been hotly debated! More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this is weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the newly-automated weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

The Arcane Library shares Open Table: How The Creators Of D&D Ran Their Games

Papers and Pencils updates Magic Words 2

Vague Countries shares Methods Workbench: Determining the Presence of Monsters and Treasure in Wilderness Hex-Crawl Ruins

Archive diving Trilemma Adventures for Non-Mechanical Difficulty Levels for Monstrous Threats

Alchemist Nocturne ponders Monster Territories

@kensanata@tabletop.social toots Rule of Cool for encumbrance tracking:

minorbug location gives us A Quick Thought on Combat

18 February 2023

A Beastman Came Upon A Beast - d8 superstitions around who can be eaten

Coming from a couple of angles, the question of who can eat who has become a live one in building the world of a new campaign.

I have long been poking around in a maximalist interpretation of 'who is people' - and while running session zero for my latest game we got a flag for 'no cannibalism' which immediately made me ask about how do animal-folk view this and where are we on the scale from child-safe Rupert Bear to Grimms Faerie Tales where all sorts of people went into the pot at various points.

There are plenty of canon animal-folk (Tortle, Tabaxi, Aarackocra, Owlins, Harengons, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Kenku, Giff, Hadozee, Grung, Minotaurs, Loxodon and Locathah) and the possibility of Awakened animals running about the place.

Blend this in with animist religions where everything, even objects and places can possess a distinct spiritual essence, how does one draw a line?

I also love this take on how we get more elves - "An elf who wishes to produce offspring selects an ordinary animal and begins teaching it" from David J. Prokopetz. I have taken that as a corner stone of my menagerie world setting - with many sub-species, race-oids, and kin at various points along a continuum from "food" through "an animal that can talk" to "tax-paying subject of the crown".

In our world we are used to being at the top of the food pyramid but in standard fantasy world most sentients are a few rungs down with big magical predators like manticores and dragons about the place.

I would have taken my yard-stick as classic fairy tales - the Big Bad Wolf will eat you and anyone he comes across. There are many things in the forest that are man-eaters and might eat you depending on how hungry they are - Shere Khan of the Jungle Book would fit well. Similarly, the classic tales of a rabbit being caught by a wolf and winning their freedom through cunning shows the same 'law of the jungle' approach to things.

So my immediate thought is that there would be some sort of ritual greetings "Hail Brother Bear" style in most cases that functions a bit like "Parlay" in Pirates of the Carribean - it buys you a couple of moments to convince whoever you are facing not to eat you, but that is it.

This then makes the beast / monster split relatively clear - monsters will kill and consume sentients knowingly, beasts are unaware they are doing so.

d8 Rituals and Supersitions of the menagerie world

15 February 2023

Benchmarking random NPC generation (2e DMG vs 5e actual data)

In a deep, deep cut to the first days of this blog - how do the NPC groups generated by the DMG compare to what see at actual tables of players?

My first number-crunching post looked at 5e stats and a group generated by the 3.5e DMG in "Benchmarking random NPC generation (3.5e DMG vs 5e actual data)" - and I just now stumbled upon the AD&D 2e equivalent in the back of the Monstrous Manual (Appendix III:NPCs).

Reading through this we already see a *massive* difference to contemporary parties in that an NPC party should be 2-12 members, with 2-5 leveled classes and the rest henchmen and men-at-arms. We will come back to this but to start, the key comparison we want is the classes. These are massively different to anything we've seen since - assumption is that 40% of an NPC party are fighters, 20% wizards, 20% clerics, 10% Thiefs (Rogues) and 10% for all the rest.

12 February 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #107

Most fascinating of this weeks web-wanderings. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this is weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the newly-automated weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Le Chaudron Chromatique launches Tales From The Void!

Adventures Buffo asks What Kind of Folk Activity are RPGs?

Plastic Polyhedra shares Working on a #dungeon23 meta (mega?) spark-table-of-spark-tables

Goblin Punch gives us Dragons

A Knight at the Opera gave us Magic Metals and Stuff back in early 2020

Meandering Banter reaches into the archive for Overload Your Encounter Dice - Fear the Passage of Time, Meet New People, Kill Them

Talaraska has good setup thoughts in Consider a Who’s Who for Your Campaign

The Dododecahedron writes Old School Rebellion, Part III

Prismatic Wasteland asks Lore! What Is It Good For?

11 February 2023

d8 reasons to fear the legacy of the predator queens

Springing from this take on how we get more elves - "An elf who wishes to produce offspring selects an ordinary animal and begins teaching it" from David J. Prokopetz - and extrapolating what happens when the elves abandoned their works in progress.

In the time after the elves abandoned this land but before the animal-ling populations stablised and the current crowns and thrones were established there was a period of bloody conflict. Nothing so organised as war, it was the brute struggle of the strong against the weak, known as the time of the predator queens.

Abandoned by their one-time mentors and guides, the animal-lings picked up those things the elves left behind and tried to carry on. Those who mostly swiftly turned the tools of the elves to the purpose of subjugating their peers rose to become bloody-handed rulers. They waged war on one another for territorial domination until the lands were depleted and their realms collapsed beneath them. Many of the lords of that time were creatures that have since passed to memory - their energies spent on building thrones of skulls instead of self-sustaining populations of their kin.

Now all that remains are the horrible remnants found in their old fortresses, filled with tools of the elves made into curse-like dangers. Those places are shunned, only those power-mad for vile weapons would even consider venturing there.

d8 Things found within the shunned lairs of the predator queens
1. Dreadful warbeasts - made with the stolen and misunderstood knowledge of the elven shapers
2. Dominator crowns - woven with corrupted strands of elven cultural induction aids
3. Feral cults - known as were-cults, where attempts to create dominator crowns fail and the strands of enchantment magic flail wildly and unpredictably. The worst of these attract the attention of one of the dark gods and become stabilised on a new path but even the minor ones are a deadly peril for all those unfortunate to encounter them and be dragged to their 'inductions'
4. Self-growing weapons - corrupted from elven organic battlegear. At best, cancerous armours and blades that eventually kill the user, at worst, all consuming, self-replicating animated blades and armour sets that devour all they encounter in the goal of making more of themselves
5. Crushing stones - once used to float towers and cities, reworked into dreadful traps. Things like these are one of the reasons a key warning of predator queen lairs is the soaked in blood of ages.
6. Ur-forms - escaped from misunderstood attempts to re-create elf-shaping, leaving true-breeding, smarter bears, elk, herons and other creatures lurking around the lands. Some of these are no better or worse than most awakened animals but often there have been attempts to induct them into feral cults
7. Glorious altars - meant to exalt the culture of the elves, their corrupted focus makes those who atten d them yearn for equivalent power and glory for themselves
8. Mighty tools - the magical means used to raise river spanning bridges, clear deep ports and divert rivers wielded as siege engines to slice open cities and tumble mountains onto foes

08 February 2023

First TTRPG Foray

Sparked by this post on Monsters and Manuals I find it hard to directly pin down when I started playing, mostly because the 'glare' of the good times once I finally got some proper momentum behind a campaign makes it hard to recall the fits and starts before that.

I was thinking a bit on this since unearthing the time-capsule of early games from the shed and my thoughts were that:
a) my route in looked a lot more like the original D&D'ers of yore - boardgames and wargames led sideways into D&D through a box set - D&D as 'super-heroquest'
b) that treading along that path was a bit mushy and its hard to say where on that continuum I had my first true TTRPG game
c) I was a sucker for 'advanced' games as a kid and they got me good

Starting with the first of these points - I came in sideways from boardgames and from my point of view, D&D piggy-backed on all of Games Workshops stuff.

I came in from Heroquest from MB Games back in the day. Heroquest and Space Crusade led to White Dwarf, led to an awareness of all the other stuff out there, thence to the D&D Black Box in early 93, then Dragon Magazine (April 93) and on into AD&D 2e from there.

06 February 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #106

Links from wanderings about the web. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this is weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the newly-automated weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Plastic Polyhedra provides the prompt for February 2023 RPG Blog Carnival: Procedures

Archons March On shares Mud Flood Dungeonry

False Machine writes Imagining Roteopia

Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque on The Dream of Dungeons & Dragons

Methods & Madness writes A glance at Basic D&D, B/X, and some clones (LL, OSE, BFRPG, DFB, BECMI and others)

Welcome to the Deathtrap proposes that on systems we Roll Your Own

04 February 2023

Reflecting the richness of the world in your NPC Encounters

I saw Throne of Salts check-list for 'building more diverse worlds' - I already had all the layers from generating with Azgaars, so I wanted to see how much more I could wring from this.

The killer point for me was "Cultural / religious / ethnic minorities will always exist, there will always be some sort of cultural exchange or interaction going on even in the most isolated and tiny locales. Migration and diaspora are written into our souls (for is it not said, that the open road still softly calls?)"

Layers from Azgaars Fantasy Map Generator

So - while we have the day to day majorities, we can break in with the neighbouring cultures and religions. This being menagerie world, ethnicities are already all over the place with the many many animal-lings; I am just running that as a random-roll layer that drops in on top of all the chunkier elements.

My standard NPC creation workflow is:
- What this person is like individually (randomised traits)
- Their background / ancestry (randomised background)
- What they care about (picked faction)

I see what we look at here dropping into the background aspect - breaking up the monolithic aspects of the different groups of animal-lings.

01 February 2023

Creating Unlockable Encounter Tables

Springing from a nice layout on Developing A World Through Encounter Tables by Welcome to the Deathtrap on how they make encounter tables I wanted to walk through how I made mine for Southern Reaches.

Given the drop-in, player-guided nature of the game, it becomes more important to get a bunch of ideas down in an encounter table so when I come cold to some nook of the campaign later, it is all ready to go. For other campaigns the players are on a more steady trajectory but for more open world, they could go anywhere. I decided to dust-off the unlockable 'hidden depths' style of encounter tables so I could get everything down in one place.

Rather than going with all the options which is good for creeping conditions, a chaos scale or the like, I just picked out 6d4 and 2d12 to give a day/night shift. This boils down 30 options (with some duplicates) to 23 but pulls a bunch of the interesting things off a special list with a sub-1% chance of getting rolled to give more variation and make some of them more likely to turn up, especially at night.