31 May 2023

Player Demographic Trends Update

We got a few insights into player demographics through Geekwire reporting from the WotC Media summit and I wanted to run through these few numbers from Wizards to see how they compare to what we get when the community surveys itself (are we completely off or broadly in-line). Short answer - it appears we are broadly the same.

The key points I pulled from the end of the Geekwire article:
- 60% of D&D players are male, 39% are female, and 1% identify otherwise;
- 60% are “hybrid” players, playing online & in person
- 58% play D&D on a weekly basis.
- Most respondents (48%) identify as millennials, vs. 19% from Generation X and 33% from Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012).
- The player population recently crossed a point where the majority of current D&D plans are those who started playing the game with the fifth edition.

So lets drop all these onto what other data we have and see how it compares.

First off - we get a player population breakdown of 60% male, 39% female, 1% of other identity. Plotting this on our long run chart it falls right on the trend.

Reports that "58% play D&D on a weekly basis" fits on the trend of other surveys.

29 May 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #122

A light list this week as I got occupied organising an event. 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.

Hosted by Monkey's Paw Games gives us OSR June Jam 2: This Time It's Not June Jam 1

Tomas Gimenez Rioja | The Macabre GM 💀 is soon to launch What Is It That Lies Beyond The Immenseness of the Dark?

Vol 5 of 28mag is out

Lorc gives us An Untitled Turnip 28 RPG

Grumpy Wizard asks Is Fudging Dice Good Game Mastering?

Alex Schroder writes on Violence

The Pastel Dungeon proposes Ambition Levelling

27 May 2023

Review: Arcadia #27 - Sharkadia

tl:dr; a jam packed 40 pages of seafaring fun, monsters, mechanics and an campaign to showcase them all, all topped off with nice art.

Arcadia Magazine #27 - Sharkadia (April 2023) - is one of the last of the excellent Arcadia magazines from MCDM before they go on hiatus for a bit. I have been meaning to look at Arcadia for a while and this being a deep-sea issue while I've been on a bit of an aquatic theme of posts recently makes the time right to just get it done. Arcadia has been MCDM's test of 'can we turn out three quality articles every month?' - answer yes. I have gotten great mileage out of their Ace's High flying combat system from Arcadia #4. I get my Arcadia's through the MCDM patreon - you can get these pdf's through their webstore in bundles too.

Cover art by Veronica O'Neill

As ever, the visuals with Arcadia are a treat,

24 May 2023

d12 Settlements of the Undercoast

Sparking off Creatures of the Netherworld from Studio Agate with their take on the duergar and their subsea cities - glass domes supported by their "sciencraft" - I got to thinking about the coast beneath the surface, the interface between the deep seas and oceans and the underdark. In our fantasy realms we have lots more dwellers below both on land and at sea - so how do their realms interface and where do they interact?

We have looked at our stacked up oceanic realms previously in d20 Aquatic powers and dwellers of the deep - the sunlight (1/8 mile deep), twilight (5/8 mile deep) and midnight zones (deeper than 5/8 mile). For a quick survey of the Underdark, we turn to Forgotten Realms Underdark from 3.5e, where we have the Upperdark (0-3 miles depth), Middledark (3-10 miles depth) and Lowerdark (from 10 miles deep to "unfathomable depths").

From this pretty much all our ocean depths are interacting with the Upperdark, which fits - this is the realm where interactions with the surface world are doable. The Middledark is a place of the deep adapted and wherever it might connect to the sea will be contacting the freezing 'abyssal' zone below even the midnight zone.

The Lowerdark is deeper than the deepest depths of the oceans, it runs deeper than the Marianas trench of our world. The seas of the Lowerdark are *the* deepest bodies of water anywhere. We have the Glimmersea deep beneath the Sea of Fallen Stars on Toril as an example. Setting aside the Lowerdark for now, we want to consider the open bodies of water and where they connect to the Upper and Middledark.

Below some underdark-deep ocean interfaces that can serve as ports of call on your voyage through the deeps or access either way. Unless mentioned otherwise, these are water-filled caves connecting to the ocean.

22 May 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #121

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.

Attronarch's Athenaeum collates AD&D 2e unreleased art by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Pastel Dungeon gives us Faction Alignment: A Way to Represent Faction Relations With an Alignment Grid

Mindstorm proposes Question-based Adventure Design (Q-BAD)

Adventures Buffo on Running a Materialist Campaign

The Dododecahedron writes Bring Out Yer Dead!

night_druid on The Piazza shares Night Druid’s Advice Corner: How to Make Spheres

directsun games gives us Building Better Puzzles for "Lair of the Lamb"

Wizard Thief Fighter shares UVG2E & the Synthetic Dream Machine

Halfling's Hoard has New Game Preview: What Is It That Lies Beyond The Immenseness of the Dark?

20 May 2023

Blog Carnival: Shifting Gears Over A Campaign

To participate in this months blog carnival - hosted by Lair of Secrets on the topic of Shifting Gears I want to write on how a campaign changes over time and keeping things fresh.

Mostly I'm doing this because I can - I have good stats for my home campaign (this time) - and it has been running long enough that looking at them is meaningful. The core takeaway from all of this is 'mix it up' - throw some variation and interesting things into a game to both make things memorable but also to let players flex different muscles and skillsets and shuffle around who gets to shine.

In real life we had three blocks
- about seven months of pandemic-era play, 23 sessions getting in 4.8 hrs a session
- a year of 'late pandemic' play with in person sessions, 40 sessions averaging 5.7 hrs
- a six month gap as my daughter arrived since my partner also plays (red line below)
- restart-to-now era, another year with 20 sessions, averaging 3.4 hrs

Running hours played/month, cutting out the 6-month pause, you can see those three eras. In practice that mapped onto a couple of different styles of game. Below I have colour blocked the sessions up to today into five groups - the original campaign set in the starting city, travel within the realm, extraplanar excursions, travel outside the realm in the land of the giants (plateau of Jor) and delving the labyrinth of the Temple of Annam.

As you can see we have 'blocks' of different styles which make the game feel different:

17 May 2023

Review: Unconquered

Edit 8/12/23 - Plagiarism in Unconquered recently came out and casts a new light on things. I looked at Ultraviolet Grasslands myself seperately and failed to catch this. As of time of writing this update, Unconquered appears to have been yanked from most places it was available by the author.

A kickstarter by Monkey's Paw Games I backed in 2020 - because it looked interesting - the chunky bright colours, the promise of Bronze age mayhem and adventure - coming shortly after doing some reading about the Bronze Age collapse and an awareness of the very different world of that time, it struck the right chord at the right time.

From the publicity "UNCONQUERED is a beginner-friendly, rules-light, bronzepunk swords & sorcery & sandals & sci-fi fantasy tabletop adventure role-playing game, inspired by classic pulp serials such as Savage Sword of Conan, Flash Gordon, and John Carter of Mars; the Dying Earth genre; the Dark Souls video game series; and webcomics such as Kill Six Billion Demons and Necropolis."

Cover art by Peter Violini

First impression - we get a clear aesthetic wrapped around a stripped down ruleset; lots of the world building is through random tables. The art throughout is bold, stylised and evokes the mythic bronze age well. In full disclosure I got sent a press kit by the team at Monkey's Paw and was amused to be able to go 'hang on, I already backed you' - it did prompt me to expedite this review from the giant backlog and I am glad I did because I like the world generation tools a lot.

15 May 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #120

A somewhat eclectic mix 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.

Michael E. Shea of SlyFlourish.com generously shares The Lazy GM's Resource Document as Creative Commons

ABC radio gives us The Health Benefits of Dungeons and Dragons

The Alexandrian launches their book So You Want to Be a Game Master

On its own site Rebellion acquires trailblazing Tunnels & Trolls Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Megan A. Connell on Shepherd lists The best books for taking your first step into learning and running tabletop role-playing games

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse shares Architectural history for gamers 2b: mountains and misdirection

13 May 2023

d20 Sector Defense Assets

Following up on this Cosmic Defense Brigade I had ideas of a system for domain defense on a stellar scale.

As mentioned, no-one told you all the problems, you got volun-told to take charge here. You arrived to find a bunch of dossiers on your desk - your options in the case of things going wrong.

I have an idea - back in a previous life I would have called it the widget to hang a Con game on, now I'll call it a bolt on rules module.The idea cycles back to my previous DIO - your sector, your problem campaign. The player may or may not have combat capabilities but they certainly have command and control.

Inspired by the opening cinematic of the Space Marine game

10 May 2023

Review: Path of the Planebreaker

tl:dr; a great, highly polished planar supplement crammed with locations and finished with two adventures to let you bring them to the table.

We have long standing form here for planar supplements - when I saw Monte Cook kickstart Path of the Planebreaker it was a 'take my money moment'. I went in hard on early Numenera and the Strange hoping for what I finally got in this book. I am a bit behind the curve on this as I was waiting for the Bestiary to become available so I'd only get walloped by shipping the once. Finally, all is here.

The premise of the book/setting is that the mysterious moon the Planebreaker smashes through the boundaries between planes and creates a link that can be traversed by those who know the art of it. The book is about the places so connected and the people who know how to walk this path - giving you all need for a planar campaign.

A chunky book, gorgeous production quality, a great distinct aesthetic to it - excellent stuff. We have a tour-de-force of MCG standard indexing, cross-referencing, world-building through random tables, all the good stuff. Details throughout like DCs for the checks to know parts of the text are woven in making it all very easy to use. This is a very high gloss production, obviously MCG in a groove, delivering solidly into an area of expertise. Just details like the chapter striping on the outside edge that lets you find a section while the book is closed are really handy touches of polist. I have one or two personal preferences that aren't aligned with how MCG does things but the quality of the stuff that I do like is really excellent. It has been a long while since I read through an RPG supplement this big with such sustained interest.

So what is all this stuff you get in the book?

08 May 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #119

Interesting links found around the internet 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.

Cavegirl's Game Stuff has Another take on demihumans as social constructs.

Chicagowiz's Games proposes Session summaries in 500 characters of less!

Codex Anathema wraps the April RPGBlogCarnival in Hemos creado un entorno

The Lair of Secrets kicks off the May RPG Carnival: Changing Gears

Wizards were on folks mind this week:
The Cosmic Orrery shared Wizards Rule The World (badly)
3d6 Polar Bears wrote Kill The Wizard (AWAB)
Coins and Scrolls gave us OSR: Eight Diseases of Wizards

Grumpy Wizard asks How Do I Play a First Level OSR Thief?

u/Shieldice gives us a D6 Wizard's Tower Generator

Alchemist Nocturne writes On Rules-lite or Rules light

06 May 2023

Attributes for shaping the Planes

This is a response to Monsters and Manuals WizardKnighting Planescape - where he posits an alternative Planescape with mechanics better reflecting the ability and imperative to shape the planes.

Read it all, it is good stuff, but the relevant piece for this is "In Planescape, one of the idealised things that PCs are supposed to be doing - it is suggested - is reshaping the planes through their actions [or] by acting in the name of a God (although the writers called these 'Powers') of one kind or another, they can literally physically enlarge his or her sphere of influence. And, of course, the PCs can themselves aspire to ascend to Godhood and carve out a realm of their own, individually or collectively. [...] There is an unwritten but much better version of Planescape out there in the ether, in which PCs' stats are largely to do with belief and values, and they roll against these stats in order to effect change in their surroundings."

This is a very interesting take - I agree with the critique in that the setting and a bunch of the adventures made it clear that such things should be happening - Recruiters in Well of Worlds is about exactly that. Sig

My immediate reaction to 'other stats about belief and values' is to think of Spire/Heart. There Dark Elfs start a revolution with all the different stats like wealth, blood, magic to stress to get things done. For this ether-Planescape it could be belief (strength thereof), alignment, might, whatever - a bunch of stats that would fit to different circumstances to stress/flex. Playing Spire for me it took a lot to get away from 'I hit it' to 'stress silver to just pay the guy to look the other way' but once I got into the groove it gave a much better sense of getting things done without going blades drawn all the time.

Spire had stats of -
Blood: Physical damage and exhaustion.
Mind: Mental stress, instability and insanity.
Silver: Loss of money or resources.
Shadow: Loss of secrecy, damage to cover identities, police and government attention.
Reputation: Loss of social standing in a group or community.

I like the range there, lots of different ways you can get burnt, which I would like to flip to become what are the many ways that one can mystically affect the planes. Sig, City of Blades is nominally a Blades in the Dark refit of Sigil that is kind of the right system in kind of the right setting but is not looking to achieve the effects we want - it does have the stress system but it is focused on personal prowess, kinetic action and the like - not this more cosmic, warping of realms idea.

My initial thoughts are on a model with axis of matter/mind and dominating/persuasive:
Strength of Will = push through resistance, shape the stuff of a place around you like a cloak
Arcane Cunning = twist to shape, recognise the threads of fate and pluck and tease them to your preference
Belief = resonance, pull others to your vision, be as a beacon
Dreamworking = envision the thing and convince others they perceive it too

03 May 2023

Review: Plethora of Potential Partners

tl;dr: A zine to give you more in the toolbox than 'roll Charisma to seduce the NPC'.

This was a Zinequest 2023 "A DnD supplement to fill your games with romance and romantic intrigue" by Evil Pigeon Games out of Nottingham, UK. At its core this is a supplement to give you more in the toolbox than 'roll Charisma to seduce the NPC'. No doubt some will roll their eyes and say 'play something other than D&D, I beg you' which is fair, but as the old story goes answering a question with "I wouldn't start from here" is not helpful. This is for when you have a campaign already spun up or you're running a published adventure that you don't want to convert to some other system but you still need some sort of framework for NPC relationships.

Best viewed as a relationships bolt-on for games that don't go deeply into that plus some mechanics and a whole bunch of pre-made NPCs to drop in and use. We have shelves of books of combat opponents and a fair selection of shop-keepers and other NPCs to populate the world with - it is useful to see a broad selection of NPCs worked through specifically with links, hooks and persistence in a campaign in mind - you may not use them exactly but seeing it all worked through it useful if you want to add it to a game that is not already set up for such things.

01 May 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #118

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.

Homicidally Inclined Persons Of No Fixed Address writes on Gygax’s Finches

I Cast Light! gives us OD&D: Opium, Dunsany & Dreamlands Part II

Castle Grief Collective has Mass Hex Appeal

False Machine thinks up a primeaval setting in WALLS OF ICE

Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours continues a magnificent Dungeon23 run with THE DREADWHALE UWL KINI-QIKANA

Adventures Buffo gives us Materialist Campaign Creation

Monsters and Manuals gives us WizardKnighting Planescape

Le Chaudron Chromatique creates Where Once Was The Sea...

Something Something Dice has A little idea called “wibble”