31 July 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #131

Some fascinating stirrings among the blogs 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 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.

If you read one thing this week read From A Dark Forest on Old RPG Gamers and The Streaming Youth

Reverse Ettin wins Arcane Librarys adventure design jam with The Tragic Curse of GRIMHILL FORT

The Arcane Library gave us How to Write A D&D Adventure: The Complete Guide

Mazirian's Garden recalls Google Plus Mixtape, Track 03: Savage World of Krül

Periapt Games shares TTRPGs and the state, redux: Looting the dungeon

Wyrd Science gives us The Exploding Plastic Inevitabletop

The Hydra's Grotto writes The Ergonomic 3 Mile Hex

Gundobad Games discusses The Logic of Feudalism

Falling From Orbit has Running a “Political” Game - Campaign Retrospective

Follow Me And Die! celebrates their 14th Blogversary!

29 July 2023

Strange weather from magical terrain (RPG Blog Carnival)

Answering the RPG Blog Carnival prompt on Terrain, Seasons, Weather (oh my) from Plastic Polyhedra I wanted to think about how they interact with weird terrains like we sometimes run into.

What if your storm is blowing in off a plain of negative energy dust, or it is a blizzard across a forest of elemental fire trees or this big flood washes out a haunted battleground, that sort of thing. For this post we are looking at this from a 'wind off the plane of horrors' angle; roll this to see what kind of weird weather-related effect you are getting and then snap that together with known local weird locations in your campaign or go to the bottom table for some ideas of what those strange locations could be.

d8 Strange Weather Effects:
1. Weyr-winds: where the winds themselves bear some magical phenomena; effectively swapping the atmosphere of one location for that of another - the gloom of the local spooky wood, the shrieking wind of a mountain pass, the perpetual storm that sits over the necromancers tower - whatever that signature weather of the other location is, now it is here.
2. Dust winds: like the harmattan, bringing dusts, smokes and other traces far from their usual locations and temporarily changing the nature of the local place. Perhaps sand coats all surfaces, or this forest air is suddenly sulpurous with volcanic ash, or mushrooms sprout from spores carried in.
3. Elemental tides: where things from beyond this world are drawn in by the strong element resonance with their home plane. Here the elemental spirits that resonate with whatever the other place is are now found here.
4. Extreme floods - surges of water along rivers or coasts, sometimes even avalanches that are not inherently magical but can carry larger, heavier things from magical places. Monsters get washed over, flyers are blown off course, things that dwell in the strange location now turn up here. For this one you can just transpose encounter tables.
5. Leyline resonance - not what actually happens but people use it to describe when the magical phenonema that occur in one place start cropping up elsewhere - the stronger shadow magic of the gloomy woods suddenly becomes possible on the nearby plains
6. Migrations - when flocks, shoals and herds of smaller creatures typical to a place surge into another, bringing the rest of their ecosystem along with them. Like a plague of locusts but not necessarily automatically a disaster, just the 'wrong' critters being found in a place
7. Avalanches and collapses - where a chunk of the nearby terrain is carried along into this one - down a river valley, atop an avalanche or simply driven by gravity down a slope. This can range from debris to whole chunks of a strange landscape complete with occupants
8. Exodus - the weather here is just an out-growth of a long-standing weather systems that has wreaked havoc in that other place and what you are finding now are things that normally never leave fleeing the heat/cold/flooding. These were the masters of that other terrain, now driven out and seeking a new place to lair/rule.

26 July 2023

Activity levels in a games society

I swept up the past six months of activity for our local games soc (January-June 2023) to try and give us a sense of how many of us there are at present.

Thanks to one of our members dilligent (and consistently formatted) table arranging on our forum ahaead of events I could go back over our Adventurers League equivalent games so far and see who had registered to attend. We had three venues in play so far this year: Friday nights at our old primary, our new primary after the old could no longer host us and Saturday brunch-slot at another place. Over all we had 28 events in the period, including a lull after we lost our old venue and were figuring out a new one.

24 July 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #130

Huh, have been doing this for 2.5 years. Have some links to celebrate! 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.

alch3mist nocturn3 gives us Ecology of Magic Items

Delta's D&D Hotspot on Solving Chainmail Jousting

Prismatic Wasteland writes on D&D Initiative & The McDonald’s Problem

Orbital Crypt gives us Small Gods 2: A Complete Pantheon, plus extra DCSS material

The Colours of Pentagrams and Their Meanings shares Magical Trinkets & Curious Baubles

@PearseAnderson tweets about Likeness Machines

Grumpy Wizard writes on Subtleties of “Rulings, not Rules”

Mindstorm gives us Ransacking the Room

d4 Caltrops shares Spoor & Sign or Tracks & Traces by Type

22 July 2023

A Book Goblins Shelves

Just ahead of moving location I thought I would share my shelfies as they currently sit (stand?) with an eye to what of all this stuff am I actually using?

Start with my desk-side reference shelf - this is the Most Frequently Used stuff. The red frame has my Ducal House folder and Southern Reaches sitting on top of it. The ragged pappers along the top at right is the Spelljammer Academy notes. The Spelljammer folder is my the Smoulderspace campaign - a Light of Xaryxis remix. The 3.5e core books are for Ducal House, the 5e books are for the rest. Worlds Without Number, Fire of the Velvet Horizon and a less visible d30 Sandbox Companion, d30 DMs Companion, Planar Adventures and Kontext Spiel Collection are mostly used to support Ducal House, sometimes Southern Reaches.
From top to bottom on my core shelving: my OG Rogue Trader from ~93, my core 5e stuff, the various things I picked up for my Hikuru campaign plus some of the first OSR things I grabbed. Of what is in this picture, the AD&D DMG got a lot of use early on, perhaps the most individually use. The 5e core books have gotten a lot of use, the modules, apart from Spelljammer, less so. Of the other stuff O drew on the Iron Kingdoms books and the Oriental Adventures books for inspiration in some short run campaign - did get some use, not for very long.

19 July 2023

Campaign Retrospective: Spelljammer Academy

Since a mini-campaign actually finished, let us do a retrospective Against the Wicked City style as we have previously.

Spelljammer Academy, 12 Sessions (Feb-June 2023)
What it was: semi-open table run continuation of the Spelljammer Academy adventure. It initially was the hook for us to test new venues for our games club so it was episodic one-shots I banged together fairly haphazardly and just let it evolve as it went
What worked: Episodic nature worked well, set-up tolerated a changing cast week on week really well. People were able to pick up the 'D&D in Space' vibe pretty well. I got to improve my 'minimum viable prep' muscles. We found some kick-ass venues, people were understanding when the venues were sub-par;
What didn't: Trying to be authentic and use the Realmspace supplement. Slogging into the morass of old Oriental Adventures content. What rose-tinted glasses I may have had about AD&D Spelljammer or Oriental Adventures were ripped off and ground underfoot. Some time management issues but that is perpetual with the drop in games. Some venues worked better than others.
Lessons learned:
Fixing two dates a month and asking a bunch of people to get a minimum table of 3 is much better for my stress levels than trying to align peoples schedules
Reduce what you need to carry by challenging yourself to run games with only what is in one or two books
Episodic things like this or Adventurers League are ideal for open tables but you can get much of the campaign 'actions have meaning' feeling with even one or two players continuing session to session
Read the abilities of your monsters and how they interact with players on ships - area effects like dragons-breath, banshee wails, etc. are a lot more effective because people cannot spread out

17 July 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #129

A short stack of links as I was afk at the seaside. 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.

@wldenning tweets on "blogs leave ruins"

Flintlocks and Witchery summarises the sad news of the Dissolution of ATTI?

Charlie's Diary has an Announcement: 2nd edition Laundry Files RPG is coming

Weaver.skepti.ch gives us 3d6 2d10 1d20

Sly Flourish writes Ensure the Resilience of Your RPGs

Apotheosis of the Invisible City gives us Medieval Demographics Done RIGHT (Pt I) and (Pt II)

Moondog Gospel writes Domain-Level play, Reasons for adventuring, and Crack Cocaine.

15 July 2023

D.I.O. Abyssal Thunder Run

I mentioned a while back that I think there is a trick missing in approaches to the lower planes and another idea has been scratching at my mind. Following Grumpy Wizards steer - if we want it done, we'll have to do it ourselves.

This is one that builds out from the infernal war-machines of Descent into Avernus, nods to some of the other appearances of huge, awful war-constructs that appear through-out Planescape lore (the Ships of Chaos from "In the Abyss", the many mentions of big ruined war machines through out the Blood War lore, etc.) Our core campaign is going to be hex-crawling the Plane of Infinite Portals, juggling wear-and-tear on the War Engine and picking the battles to fight in the deep Abyss

Excerpt from the poster map in Planes of Chaos, by Robert Lazzaretti

The key concept on this is that the party gets sent on a ground level planar run with an infernal engine out of the Nine Hells and off on some mission. The campaign conceit is that you are starting as weaker characters in a powerful machine, and would expect to get more powerful (levelling up) as your machine is battered to pieces beneath you. The trick will be to keep the thing running long enough to get you far enough back out that you can hike home.

Strictly speaking this would be a 'Planejammer' hybrid rather than true Planescape going by our grid but never mind. Parts of this would be to allow a tour of the truly awful parts of the planes, unsurvivable unless you are buttoned up in a dread engine of the Blood War. Parts of this would be to give a big, charismatic vessel that would not be easily replaceable - they get one and have to manage it.

12 July 2023

Player Class Stability from 1M D&D Beyond Sheets

Regular readers will know I do love a good D&D Dataset and Dice-Scroller gives us a good one! Through some Python wizardry they scrapped ~1.2 *million* character sheets off D&DBeyond and made them available for our wonder and delight!

You can find the dataset on Kaggle and see their own neat little dashboard and analysis here. What I want to do here is take this as the new baseline for our understanding of the 'general gamer' and see what it tells us.

The 'general gamer' is a pattern I have been finding in lots of datasets - where they are from forums, twitter, anything that implies an engagement with the hobby away from the playing table we see a pattern of favouring spell-casting classes. Where we get the data from tools that help people at the table we see a different pattern with a heavier favour on fighters and rogues. I want to update the comparisons with this new giant dataset - starting gnarly and clarifying from there.

Start with our 'everything in' star-plot - we see the general/forum gamer split; oranges are the app-derived datasets, blues are the surveys and polls.

Distill that down and we have a new 'general gamer' baseline from this monstrous dataset; our story remains the same (Fighters, Rogues beloved by those people who are appear in these giant datasets but not in the forums)

10 July 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #128

A minor archive dive while I am on vacation. 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 pinned on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Bruce Heard writes About Middle Ages Naval Logistics

A Knight at the Opera shares How I Run the Table

Deeper in the Game gives us Down the Road: Local Situation Design

Recalling a classic of Ashiel on Paizo Forums describing High level demon armies

Gorgon Bones gives us Between the Serpents of Smoke & Steel - Campaign Retrospective and Lessons

Tales of the Lunar Lands suggests Random Encounters From Your Miniature Drawer

Throne of Salt shares A Weird History of A Stranger Earth

08 July 2023

Review: Demiverse

tl:dr; a zines of planes, full of interesting variety from the many contributors. Add a few to any game or form a feywild/shadowfell campaign from all of them

Backed this one by Gnome Mage Games on Kickstarter looking for some planar action, something a little different. I had been tracking Fernando Salvaterra through his hex-art and that lead me to this one - pitched as "loosely connected fantasy demiplanes are all that's left of a fractured multiverse" for Those Who Wander and 5e systems. The various contributors of the individual planes were a who's-who of interesting creators so this whole effort harkened back to some of the great works of the 2010's OSR like Petty Gods.

Cover design by Joshua Mendenhall with art by Fernando Salvaterra

What we get is an 80 page book that covers 15 demiplanes and 6 pocket planes await in this original fantasy campaign setting." Each demiplane is a fragment of reality from a multiverse that shattered - each ranging from dungeon-sized to a few thousand square miles at most. These are all connected by interplanar gates to allow marvel-seekers to pursue adventure across these reality splinters.

05 July 2023

Chekovs Hooks II: Refreshing Rumours

tl;dr: refreshing the hooks for a quasi west-march open table where multiple groups leave a lot of open items

I wrote about doing this exercise of sweeping up hooks and refocusing a campaign after a year of campaign play but I find after only 6 months and 19 sessions I need to do it with this open table game because the focus of the players is so much more distributed and they have a lot more going on.

There is basically the A-group, the B-group and A* when Frances joins a mostly A-group table and B* when Alf joins a mostly B-group table. A handful of chaos-mongers drive the plot along, moderated by another handful of semi-sensible get-stuff-done folk. All told, focus is aspirational and every session so far has been 'you start at breakfast in the Fly Trap in Balronco - what are you doing today?' and someone will have plans and rope everyone else in.

This time I am fishing out a couple of things
1. Loose Ends: same as the Chekovs adventure hooks as before
2. Allies and Rivals: NPCs and factions now aware of the PCs who may generate hooks
3. Rumours: what becomes visible of the previous two, strongly inspired by Hill Cantons "News as Campaign Glue"

I am pulling these from my 1-Page session notes, simplified for this campaign
1. When it happened
2. List of hooks for the session
3. Log of actual events during the session
4. Post session goals from the players
5. Post session implications & notes

As my players may read this I'll be general about the first two.

For Loose Ends we have hooks I created myself from worldbuildings, dungeons and adventures I dropped in from other sources (Trilemma Adventures, the Balronco Brancalonia book, OSR blogs), and things the players have stated they want to do. This is a sweep up of my pre-game hooks - block 2 - that were not used and the players post-game goals - block 4 and 5 - from after the sessions.

The Allies and Rivals list comes from combing through the session reports - block 3 - and spotting who they interacted with that has the means to contact them again - the inhabitants of a distant farm are probably not going to be a major influence but the rival adventuring group who had their money making scheme they foiled are definitely on the list.

Then once these are all done, figure out what the 'rumour' sharks-fin for each unseen adventure hook is and then hand that to the players. Hopefully it should reflect the real differences they have made on the world.

The actual rumours:
1. The mysterious bath-house on the north bank of the Ulhoralo river, right across from Balronco - does anyone else remember that being there before?
2. After some lean times while the smuggling tunnels were blocked, some timely work for the flylings as servers at Indlewith the Braves grand party has kept anyone from starving.
3. Flyings are disappearing in the tunnels beneath Castle Balronco, even after the spider cultist was sent over the river to the Counts Justice in Dotheas.
4. Knights of the Holy Church are recruiting workers for a swamp excavation project because the local beaverfolk won't help, swearing the project is cursed.
5. Disappointed treasure hunters who missed the lost tax chest are cluttering up Balronco and annoying the fisherfolk by disturbing the swamps. They say someone in Balronco is building a mechanical diving crab so they want to get to the sunken treasure first.
6. A ghostly donkey haunting the bayous near the fallen mages tower, so horrifically poisoned by a giant centipede that it cannot cross over to the afterlife. Dreadful shrieks have been heard nearby.
7. The Emperor Tortoise approaches the Great Forest of Heng. Its entourage of ghosts trails for miles behind it.
8. The harvests and fishing begin to recover in the Hissing Swamp after the enchantment of the ever-burning sun was broken. The Brothers of the Muddy River are said to have lost a fortune importing food from afar.
9. Word from the Monastery of the Striking Paw is that the tunnels uncovered by the tremors are full of terrible beasts, mellified monsters and things that have crawled up from the dread Dwarf Roads.
10. The Copper Sickle Band disgraced themselves at a grand event and have been forced to set a date for the long delayed election re-run for the Mayor of Dotheas. Politicking approaches a frenzy in the city.

03 July 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #127

More links as we crest the year and start into the second half! 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 join the new July prompt for the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

dice-scroller.com pulls over a million character sheets of D&DBeyond to give us Most popular D&D Classes and Races

Alone in the Labyrinth writes LONG LIVE THE BLOGOSPHERE!

Traverse Fantasy shares Exploring Effects of Exploration

Sundered Shields and Silver Shillings gives us Towards the ingredients of a lasting game

In My Campaign shares Masterworks

The Graverobber's Guide gives us Combo Encounters

01 July 2023

Travels, by Wave, Cloud or Portal - RPG Blog Carnival Wrap Up

And so we conclude the June 2023 RPG Blog Carnival - our topic was "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.

We got responses from:
RPG Wandering who gave us RPG Blog Carnival: Travel.

Plastic Polyhedra contributed An exploration of travelling in TTRPGs.

Sea of Stars got their offer to us in the nick of time with Sails, Wings and Gates, getting around in the Sea of Stars

My own entry has d30 Things you might Encounter as you Travel Beneath the Waves

You can find some deeper background on the RPG Blog Carnival on 'of Dice and Dragons'. Our next topic is going to be "Terrain, Seasons, Weather" hosted by Plastic Polyhedra again.