29 March 2023

Actual Play: Where The Wheat Grows Tall

I got to bring the zine recently reviewed Where The Wheat Grows Tall by Evlyn Moreau and Camilla Greer to the table. I worked in the unbalance of the day and night spirits as the driving force behind an environmental disturbance randomly generated in my campaign sandbox using the Deck of Worlds. The forever-shining sun was drying out a local swamp and the players headed down to investigate. My tweak to the set up was that inside the field, day and night remained as normal, but outside - at the farm and in the region all around - the sun was blazing ceaselessly and drying up the swamps, their rice crops and shrimp fishing.

Spoilers abound from here on.

Zine and Playnotes

Play Report

27 March 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #113

A deep venture into the hinterweb this week. 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.

Hex Brawler Games shares Tools in the Toolbox

Le Chaudron Chromatique launches A Feast For A Sphinx

Methods & Madness proposes Adding skills and feats makes OSR games SIMPLER

Caltrops for Breakfast gives us Character Stables: Hiatuses

Throne of Salt has Some Thoughts About Language in RPGs

Numbers Aren't Real shares 41 Feasts (GLOG Setting)

Trilemma Adventures cuts close to the bone with The Cyberpunk We Got

Revenant's Quill creates the Sulphur Mage

A world with 3d6 shares Underwater City Generator

Goblin Punch shares a collaboration w/ Whose Measure God Could Not Take: The Dwarf in the Glass

25 March 2023

What is our preferred table size?

tl;dr: a larger than normal poll gives a different result to 'what is the ideal TTRPG table size' - a sign of how most gamers actually play?

@lincodega got a big sample size when they asked "ideal TTRPG party/table size?" - 18,480 votes - with 64.1% saying 5 including the DM. This seemed intuitively right to me - I asserted DM+4 as typical when doing a back of the envelope estimate recently.

Following our theme of deep cuts to the early blog - complete with indecipherable graph - I was looking to drop this in on top of our other surveys and confirm that this broadly matches. Instead, I find myself confused - this latest poll is on the right.

22 March 2023

Bars and Taverns of Thenya

To participate in this months blog carnival - hosted by Sea of Stars on the topic of Taverns, Bars and places to meet I want to write about what has made an often-revisited meeting space in my on-going (now 82 session, 3 year) home campaign.

Over the course of the first 60 sessions spent in the starting city of Thenya a lot of inns and taverns featured and were visited. What has been interesting is how critical these public gathering spaces have been to a highly social/political campaign - as dungeons to your standard sword swinging game, so courts and tap-rooms are to the clues and whispers game.

The set up for the campaign is that the party are children of the ruling house, the old Duke having just now passed on at time of writing, but for most of the campaign they were on their home terrain with effectively unlimited force to back them up. This made the challenges all around figuring out who and where the opposition was - and for that, bars and taverns.

Portrait of the bard simplifying things

20 March 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #112

Fine links from about the net, all sorts of interesting things. 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.

Goblin Punch writes Critical GLOG: Base Resolution Mechanics

Sſtabhmontown Adventures expands on mini-domain turns with Merchants, heretics, and special advisors

Was It Likely? gives us the automatic sage: a legend generator for the populating of histories with fragmented wonders

Le Chaudron Chromatique shares Ghoulies replacement characters

The Lizard Man Diaries proposes Some Freeform Domain Play Guidelines/Structure

Goblin's Henchman asks Perception-like checks too transparent? | add an ‘uncertainty/opacity die’ ?

level2janitor proposes The Ticking Clock - My favorite mechanic for Death

18 March 2023

The Coliar Run - Cooking up Spelljammer one-shots

This is a quick run through of the mission plus some thoughts on running Spelljammer I'm finding from table play. Off the back of the Spelljammer Academy (SJA) adventure 4-parter I needed some one-shot ideas. I did not want to ramp into Light of Xaryx because I am doing that with another group.

Happily 'ship goes on a mission' is a solid set up for nice, contained adventures. To start off, we had the tiny Realmspace gazetteer in the back of SJA part 3 - and I liked the look of Coliar. A giant air-world, they have lizardfolk who trade with spelljammers, lots of potential here.

The setup.

For a hook, I just had an envoy come hire the players and their ship as a deniable asset. Due to the players previous actions the academy as a whole is short on cash so they were strongly inclined to take whatever jobs were going. This envoy, a representative of one of the fractions within the lizardfolk commune, needed someone to go after a downed ship in dragon territory. They were not able to do it themselves without causing a potential war so they needed outsiders, off-worlders to do it.

Session plan, first version

15 March 2023

Ease DM'ing tasks with the Egan Doctrine

tl;dr: know what DM prep you need to do in the next 20 mins you have spare so that small chunk of time is well spent.

The prep needed to DM is often pointed to as burdensome with the addition of 'when to get any of this done.' Our wargaming friends have had a good idea for us to steal - the Egan Doctrine. Friend of the blog C. Kinch replied to "What is the #egandoctrine?" with:

"It’s an idea that @tomjmegan came up with. A lot of us were bemoaning the fact that we don’t do enough figure painting.

He came up with the idea of setting up a small job and keeping at it. 20 mins a day. It’s short enough that it’s achievable. Thus #egandoctrine."

The refinement that I follow from C. Kinch is to not just find a small task but also to be ready to seize that 20mins available and get right to the task. For miniature painting (Kinch's personal focus) - have a biscuit tin lid with your two brushes, the one or two colours you are going to apply and the 3-6 miniatures that are going to get done in this round. Lay out your tools so you can get right to the task.

For TTRPG DMs - or at least for me - this means identifying what needs to get done and chunking it out so that you can sit down and crack on when you get a few moments. The main time sink otherwise is the 'spin-up' time of figuring out what you need to do which can easily eat a good ten minutes before you even know where you ought to start.

13 March 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #111

A short set this week as I have not been so online. 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.

Coins and Scrolls gives us Sci-Fi: An Optimistic Setting Sketch

The Wandering Gamist writes on Oozes and Other Bunker-Buster Monsters

Goblin Punch returns with Dragons, Part 3

Sheep and Sorcery has GM Advice: Looking for Trouble

Grand Commodore shares Maximalist Weird Fantasy War Galley Generator

Pelgrane Press publishes A Taxonomy of Investigations

Wizard Thief Fighter gives us The Purchased Brother: One-Shot Heist

Against The Wicked City writes Drunken incompetent regional magnates: the purpose of aristocracies

Hex Brawler Games gives us Feuds, Divisions, and Stability in Viking Society

11 March 2023

The Gateway to TTRPGs; It Is You

tl;dr: be someone elses gateway into the hobby - odds are thats how most folk join

An interesting poll went up on 'How Not to DM's' twitter back in mid-Jan that asked "What introduced you to TTRPGs?" which offers a nice opportunity to compare to what we have seen before. Unsurprisingly, our previous look "Friends/family still largest gateway to TTRPG" remains valid.

Consistently polls going back to 3.5e say broadly the same thing - 2 out of 3 folk find their way to the hobby through friends or family.

08 March 2023

Review: Where the Wheat Grows Tall

tl;dr: atmospheric adventure, tons of disquieting details to keep a party twitchy and an intriguing mystery to unpick.

Where the Wheat Grows Tall is "an old school faery adventure for low level characters" from Evlyn Moreau and Camilla Greer. I backed the kickstarter as a long standing fan of Evlyn's work - see the great mileage we got from the Kobolds Art Exhibition . After significant procrastination on my part managed to organise myself and order my hardcopy from Exalted Funeral.

What this is is a point-crawl around a big site - a farm with fey presence - split into 'the farm buildings' and 'the walled field' with lots of interesting sites and monsters/NPCs for the players to puzzle out.

Cover by Evlyn Moreau

This is a neat little zine - gold print on green cover, it looks very pretty and I was hesitant for a while to unpack it and maybe damage the print but then I decided that adventures are meant to be played so here we are. I am glad I did because this is a great example of setting things out neatly for the dungeon master to give a mini-sandbox.

06 March 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #110

Some interesting deep archive dives this week. 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.

Methods & Madness points out the good stuff in GMs day sale (2023) - OSR & classic D&D picks

This week, a spotlight on the RPG Blog Carnival!
Plastic Polyhedra has the most recent February Blog Carnival wrap-up
Sea of Stars hasBeginning this month’s RPG Blog Carnival: Taverns, Bars and places to meet
Leicester's Ramble gave us How and Where I Write - February, 2015 RPG Blog Carnival Wrap-up
Campaign Mastery has Game Master Mistakes Carnival Roundup - Nov 2009
Mad Brew Labs compiled Growing the Hobby Wrap-up - Aug 2010

Was It Likely? has a great idea for hex-filling in Laws of the Land: meaningful terrain via in-fiction limits and conditions

Archons March On surprises with Random Numbers

Weird & Wonderful Worlds inspires with Weird Colors

Goblin Punch provides more Dragons, Part 2

Le Chaudron Chromatique shares Against the Grey

Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours gives us Bird Wizard’s Birthday

04 March 2023

Lessons learned on running non-monotonous mazes

Returning to this hidden gem by Graphite Prime - Mazes: The Monotony or How to Run an Actual Maze and how it actually played out at table. Recently wrapped up labyrinth-centered sessions - got eight sessions, over 24 hours of table time from the one labyrinth - multiple passes through it as they sought specific elements and then worked their way back out. Players loved it - if you're doing a labyrinth, definitely try this! It captured the challenge of searching, the setbacks and the glorious shortcuts while removing the hideous grind implied in a dimension-bending very large labyrinth. Attempting to map this old school would have required cartography practices that I believe are currently beyond human technology so this was the next best thing - cutting out the slog and keeping the tension.

I discussed using it to create the great labyrinth at the heart of a quest in "Actual Test: Better Labyrinths by Graphite Prime" - this post is about the experiences at table running it. Practically - it was a single page ref sheet with two tables - locations + encounters.

Each session was run with that single page plus the log of the players actions plus some external events stuff for when they scryed out.

01 March 2023

Feast or famine gaming

tl;dr: Schedule games with the knowledge that some of them will mostly likely fail and drop off - so that after that happens, you still have roughly the amount of gaming you want going on.

At one point this month my gaming schedule was ridiculous
- 15 sessions in 28 days - just over one every second day
- this was made up of a bunch of different campaigns
- Up from 13 in January

This has simmered down to 10, including replacements for some slots which is helpful but shows there were even higher cancellations that got back-filled.

For a while it was looking pretty frantic but it was just a good run without cancellations. Rapidly the pendulum swung the other way - two home campaign sessions scrubbed due to travel plans, a table of my drop in game due to scheduling, a sick child, miscommunications, etc.

The numbers plummetted and suddenly what had looked like an insane amount of gaming pruned itself right back.