28 June 2023

d20 things encountered at Deep Sea Mindflayer Colonies

Sparked by a discussion on the limits of what mindflayers can turn into themselves on the Piazza with my thought at the time being:
I think the most interesting of these are the Urophion, Tzakandi, Mindwitness, Uchuulon and Brainstealer Dragon since they seem to show that there is a very wide range of useable forms. The Kezreth mutated war-machine mentioned in "The Illithid Empire and the New Illithid Arsenal" implies that further changes can be made post-transformation.

Some initial rough thoughts were:
- The only limit that seems to be there is size - we see no ogres, giants, etc.
- If lizardfolk, grimlocks, gnolls and the wide range of goblinoids can be ceromorphised, why not aquatics - merfolk and tritons seem obviously suitable hosts, perhaps even loacathah, sahaugin and kuo-toa
- One would imagine that suitably adapted mindflayer colonies would be perfectly happy in the depths of the oceans, with extra miles of sun-blocking water overhead
- If a roper or dragon can be ceromorphised into Urophions and Brainstealer Dragons, why not a dragon turtle or giant crab?
- What about other large mammals with big brains - whales, dolphins? Are they tasty as is? What about an awakened one?

But testing this a bit more; mindflayers can move in 3D through psionic or magical power anyway so as a start point would prefer to dwell out of water to avoid being slowed down. The ideal state would be mountains and the surface in a place where the sun has been blocked or snuffed out. Where this has not happened and the baleful glare of the hateful day-star still dominate the sky, mindflayers may well choose the vast open ranges of the aquatic deeps. The sun is kept at bay by hundreds of feet of water, and they have greater freedom than the cave systems of the underdark.

Assuming our seas are populated with aquatics then there will be an abundance of tasty brains too. Our first difference is that it will be much more easy to tell who a mind-flayers base species was compared to the surface; merfolk, tritons and sahuagin look very different from the waist down.

So with that in mind, d20 things one might encounter at a deep sea mindflayer colony

26 June 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #126

Another week of interesting links! 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 more links on weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Throne of Salt gives us 5 Forgotten Fictional Fantasy Novels

Prismatic Wasteland takes another swing at a classic in Posters, Posers and POSR(s)

Loot The Room writes on RPGs and The High Cost Of Art

Source of Entropy gives us AAR: Zoa of the Vastlands

3d6 Polar Bears has The Revelation

The Dododecahedron gives us Toolbox Design

Aboleth Overlords declares “OSR is dead” is nonsense gatekeeping

24 June 2023

Review: Realmspace (1991)

tl:dr; ware ye, some good ideas in here but mostly one for the collectors only.

I grabbed this as a pdf with great excitement back when they started republishing these things on DriveThruRPG - skimmed it at the time but only recently got to going through it in detail trying to extract playable content from it. This is not a positive review, if you want to save your time and read up on something you might spend your money on, hit the review tab at right and pick anything else.

Realmspace cover art by Thomas Baxa

First impression is that this is not the best supplement I have ever read with an odd fixation on nit-picky bureacracy like port taxes and a paucity of information on what you might find assuming you pay the man and just get on with things. I see a weird reflection of an adverserial gaming group reflected back - with a whole system flattened out into just a couple of images and 'gotcha' traps.

The pdf rendering is ok - obviously a scan but apart from typos in the bookmarks and incomplete bookmarking there is nothing unusable. There is a bunch of repetition between sections - a thing mentioned in a planetary description is described again in the adventure hooks section - which somewhat irritating because tracking down exactly where you read a thing is trickier than it ought to be. It is hilarious to see the old prices on it - a supplement for $10.95! 3x inflation in 30 years.

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

21 June 2023

d30 Things Above a Mindflayer World

We have a couple of examples of mindflayer dominated worlds starting with the 'obvious' Glyth in Realmspace but with other examples of Falx, Ssirik Akuar the Sunset World, and Penumbra of Truespace. Given mindflayers are, by various lore, actually from the far future, the distant past and/or the far realm and given that they have the majestic nautiloid as a well known tool, one would imagine they would be well aware of their skyward flank once they achieve dominance on a world. This is balanced against their hatred of sunlight and preference to live deep underground.

I rolled up a giant world that turned out to be teeming with illithids for a recent campaign, hence the question arising of what does one encounter on the approaches to an illithid world? It seems to me that they would be aware of their near-space approaches, particularly since in the current incarnation of the game that direction lies the astral and the hated githyanki.

So with those in mind, here are d30 things you might run into as you near a mindflayer world
1. Orbiting watch monoliths - greatly upscaled resonance stones that emanate psychic dread. Unclear whether these are scarecrows or they just like the ambience
2. Sun-shades - where plans to snuff out the sun are not yet far advanced, some worlds will float great spindly parasols above the world to block out the hateful glare of the baleful day-star. These may be large for whole realms or small for single locations
3. Watchers above - semi-undead flying thralls; alive enough to be psychically contactible, not so alive that they need much sustenance. Watch-creatures.
4. Remnant of previous sun-killer project; great broken incomprehensible thing
5. Floating illithid mage tower - a Cuttlefish command where some irritating illithid was exiled by their Elderbrain. (3-in-6 the illithid mage is still in residence)
6. Nautiloid ship nursery - junior nautiloids being adapted to null gravity, being shaped to have decks and crew quarters. Not intrinsically hostile but being 'played with' by a flotilla of half-sized nautiloids might be as bad as a deliberate attack
7. Stellar ley-line tap (1-in-6 being tuned/maintained by a nautiloid and its crew) - a magical accumulator, perhaps discharging towards something else in orbit, or some planetary receiving spire. May cause spelljammer-shock if approached while near-discharge
8. Fallback asteroid base, mothballed. An asteroid all carved out to be a space lair but currently unfurnished. May have some random stellar monster in residence.
9. Psurlon base - guarding to the approaches to the world due to their higher tolerance of sunlight. Very enthusiastic about their duties as they get to eat what they catch
10. Mooncarver yard - scaffold with undead servitors for making asteroid bases, obelisks and other great illithid orbital works. A necromancer or other powerful arcanist could probably get them to do any needed ship repairs. Failing to take a firm hand with the crew will lead to them attempting to do something with the raw materials you represent if you come within their reach

19 June 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #125

I spent the week crawling my blog-feeds, found many 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 more links (black-out permitting) on weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

In light of current difficulties with Reddit Alex Schroder provides Reddit alternatives

Alone in the Labyrinth writes THE BEYOND: POLARIS REVISITED, via Carcosa and... The Imperium of man?

Dawnfist Games suggests How to think OSR when playing ttrpgs – A movie analogy to help

Wizard Thief Fighter releases UVG2E & the Synthetic Dream Machine

noise sans signal proposes Different DnD editions as ages of the world

Zedeck Siews Writing Hours writes Tone Is Bullshit

Mythmere Games announces Swords & Wizardry: Complete Revised has hit DriveThruRPG

@Roelkonijn tweets about how ancient warriors were not ripped like athletes

A Most Majestic Fly Whisk gives us a coffee and biscuit read in An Empty Africa - PF2E's The Mwangi Expanse and the strange career of Black Atlanticism

RPG WANDERING responds to this months prompt with RPG BLOG CARNIVAL: TRAVEL

Plastic Polyhedra also responds to the RPG Carnival withAn exploration of travelling in TTRPGs

17 June 2023

Alexandria the Con Scenario Archive

A fascinating thing crossed my radar - reached out directly in fact - the website www.alexandria.dk is gathering convention-history and are adding all the convention scenarios they can get their hands on to the Alexandria library.

Growing from a group of Nordic gamers it is spreading out to the world. They seem to be organising around a facebook group at the moment, with almost 1000 people with some kind of convention-connection.

Stats-wise we have 2581 scenarios available for download out of 14901 known scenarios run at 2317 conventions. Thats roughly 1-in-6, pretty good for all this time passed. The content is strongly weighted to Swedish and Danish but with a good block of English games available, about 20% of the total.

It is also really interesting to see the sheer diversity of systems in stark contrast to the modern D&D 5e systemic dominance. This does chime with my memories of Irish conventions where you had all sorts of weird and wacky systems running as con games - within the list of systems we have a top ten that starts with "System-less" and runs down through #2 Call of Cthulhu, #3 AD&D, #4 Fri Form, #5 D&D 5e, #6 WHFRP, #7 Pathfinder, #8 GURPS, #9 Vampire: The Masquerade, #10 Basic Roleplaying - noting that this covers 30 years of gaming that is still a great range of stuff.

We are also seeing a bunch of skew in what the Alexandria team have gotten to so far - the list of conventions has 873 from Denmark, 672 from Sweden then 212 from the US and 151 from Ireland. While Ireland does have a lot of conventions relative to its size, there is no way we are 3/4 of activity levels in the US. I look forward to seeing how these activity levels change as the team expands its reach.

The site itself has a ton of stuff there already - including stuff I was familiar with myself would be the turn of the millenium Irish convention scene - Leprecon and Gaelcon mostly, a bit of Warpcon too. There was a ton of stuff being written for those con's and now we can have a look again! Tons of content for your one shots and campaigning needs.

I have not yet figured out the best way to find out what is in here; my first thought is to look up some authors who went on to great things in the TTRPG space like Gar Hanrahan - they have 32 scenarios uploaded. One tricky bit is the lack of clarity in lots of convention programs - games were 'D&D', 'WHFRP', etc. and would of course have been understood to be the edition of the day - or maybe not! I do recall writing these programs and getting the blurb right so people had a notion did they want that flavour of game was more critical than getting the system exact.

All in all - a really interesting slice through gaming culture coming from a very different angle than we normally get. While recognising that our friends in the Nordics are up to all sorts of stuff - I have Forbidden Lands and Symbaroum on my shelves here behind me - it is really cool to see even a nascent effort like this. I know there is tons of effort put into writing con scenarios, great that they should be stored in a near accessible way like this.

Edit to add: my own contribution to the effort; two old Gaelcon flyers I had stuffed in my Dragon Magazine collection.

14 June 2023

Punnet Squares for Courtly Intrigue

My home campaign players are venturing back into courts and politics after a big block quest on the frontiers with major implications and I need a quick way to work out court factions and intrigue.

My thoughts turned to GRENDEL MENDEL: Using Punnett Squares For Monster Design and Adapting Punnet Squares for Treasure on Mindstorm ... and why not use Punnet Squares?

In this case for politics one could go infinitely deep and subtle but since I have a crowd I need to make sense of, I'm going to just go with our Punnet set up.

Coming in to these courts I can work out lots of the players and what I need is a quick way to batch them up and figure what the groups and factions are. The quick method I am working to here is:
1. List who is present, NPCs, faction representatives, etc.
2. Place them all across the Punnet Square
3. Make sure factions have a representative NPC
4. Figure out what are the 'open court' and 'back channel' settings

Adapting the Punnet Square itself, I set one axis as positive/negative - I tag it 'admire/support' and 'fear/oppose' for a broad sense of the attitude of the NPC. The other axis is 'field/court' with 'open action' and political/intrigue on the other. This is more to reflect the persons strengths, not an exclusive box; you might run into them in open court or in backrooms but where they choose to act will be their preference.

12 June 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #124

A chunky list of links from trawling the web 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. Note - the reddit link is down for the API protests, it may come back up in future or that may have been it for r/osr.

Rise Up Comus gives us Conversational Spirals - Closure in RPGs

A Knight at the Opera has another great coffee and a biscuit read People Are Problems: NPCs as Challenge Elements

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry shares Collections: Roman Roads

Race For The Iron Throne writes on Bronze Age monarchies

Charlie's Diary (of Charles Stross, githyanki creator) posits a High Fantasy Magic System that kinda-sorta resembles software engineering in Go away, Muse, you're drunk (again)

The Pastel Dungeon shares You Enter the Forest Deep Part 1: A System for Generating Intersting and Scary Fantasy Forests

The Wandering Gamist gives us Wind in the Dungeon

CHICAGOWIZ'S GAMES posts their lessons learned from DUNGEON 23 - WK 25 - OVER 500 ROOMS!

10 June 2023

Review: Swords of the Serpentine

tl:dr; the GUMSHOE investigative system for fantasy, with a swords-and-sorcery setting and lots of helpful onboarding and running assistance to get you going.

I got in my pre-order of Swords of the Serpentine, looking to get my hands on fantasy GUMSHOE, and started this review with the pdf before finishing it with the book in hand.

Cover art by Jerome Huguenin

The writer published a 'How to Read the Rules: a quick-start guide for Swords of the Serpentine' on Pelgrane Press website but I think your best bet for getting a quick handle on how it all fits together is to go straight to the appendices and read the summaries there. These give you the skeleton of the whole game and in nine pages you can get a grip on the whole thing. This is a chunky text at 380 pages and I bounced off trying to brute force my way through but when I came back and used the character creation quick reference (p11 or p363) with the How to Play 101 (p362) it fell into place much more easily.

07 June 2023

A Time of Gaming Abundance

I find myself in an unfamiliar position - with access to a huge pool of players and I do not know what to do with them. I talked a little about this in Feast or Famine gaming - but that was about the opportunities in online gaming - now it appears the same points stand in person too.

We (RPGVienna) recently ran an event - Night of the Rolling Dice - a 'come along if you want to try D&D', thinking we might get maybe two dozen newbies and instead we had closer to a hundred come out of the woodwork; a small amount ~ 10% were old hands who were just finding our group but lots were newbies. Entire tables of 'this is my first time' folk - apparently from our post to r/wien.

05 June 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #123

Another short set this week as have been off desk more than usual. 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 proposes All elves are half-elves

alch3mist nocturn3 gives us The Game Design Tavern

The Ideocron of the Oracular Somnambulist shares Abandoned Temple Generator

Hex Brawler Games gives us HexBrawlers Making Portals

Leicester's Ramble asks Campaign Journal: Which Way is Up on the Snake?


Revenant's Quill gives us Brutalist Adventure Game Design

Order Of The Crimson Death shares Holy Sh*t! We just hit 300 sessions.


a village a forest a dungeon a beast provides GENERATORS

Cannibal Halfling Gaming writes a CANDELA OBSCURA QUICKSTART REVIEW

SCROLL FOR INITIATIVE asks What does a 20th-level dungeon look like?

Academy of Doors gives us Simple Naval Combat for Cairn

03 June 2023

June 2023 RPG Blog Carnival: Travels, by Wave, Cloud or Portal

Welcome to the new month for the RPG Blog Carnival - our topic for June 2023 is "Travels, by Wave, Cloud or Portal" - on my mind was the lots of fun I have wrung from travelling campaigns - portal-hopping through Planescape, sailing the seas in a swashbuckler game or navigating the stars with Spelljammer. You can find some deeper background on the RPG Blog Carnival on 'of Dice and Dragons'.

If you want to join the carnival, write up your own entry and post it in a comment below, send me a link (my username at gmail.com) or ping me on the 'blog-carnival' discord channel. I will gather all the participants into a wrap-up post on July 1st.

For my own contribution, I want to talk about subsea travels, because it looks like a bit of a gap and seems like something fun to try.

This starts with the question of who is travelling around beneath the ocean? Lots of things down there move around a lot - fish shoals, nomadic aquatic peoples, etc - with relatively fewer fixed groups - reefs, laired monsters, undersea cities - compared to the surface. Being highly mobile - a flyer equivalent - is much easier, where one can allow currents to carry you around, or just sleep 'on the fin' as you float about.

So we have a large group of nomads and wandering folk and we can add trade between fixed locations, hunting parties and others coming and going from those places. What of the voyagers in the deep? What are the beasts of burden, the wagons and other means for travellers in the ocean depths?

First - beast of burden in classic fashion - big fish, other mighty creatures can serve. You will have a big split here between turtles, whales, dolphins etc that need to surface to breath and things that can stay down in the depths

Second - neutral bouyancy wagons - cargo floated along - just needs to be bouyant enough to stay off the sea floor then you can drag it along. That could be through captured air, harvested swim bladders, blocks of floating wood like cork or some manner of rock. Light enough to be bouyant in the deeps can still be surprisingly heavy. Drag in water is going to be much higher so long-haul volume trade is more difficult. Bulky things get processed down to small, valuable before being moved in the currents or they are walked along the bottom

Third - big things can be marched along the bottom by giant crabs or other such critters - either pulling them on sleds or floating them along just above the bottom.

Fourth - trade routes will tie to the currents, some routes will be ring-routes, where it is easier to return to your start by following a current the whole way around a sea than to try and fight it all the way home. It may well be possible to follow shallow currents one way and deep currents back. Alternatives will be surfacing, using sails to counter a current, or marching along the bottom.

We have an awful lot of seabed in a typical campaign map