30 August 2023

The Lighthouse Organisation - Clubs and Congregations (RPG Blog Carnival)

Answering the RPG Blog Carnival prompt on Clubs and Congregations from Codex Anathema I decided to pull out a faction that I had run against my PCs for the first 'season' of my current home campaign.

From the prompt post, grace of Google Translate "All campaign settings, whether official or original to each DM, are filled with a wide variety of larger organizations: religious cults, merchant guilds, arcane cabals, and state governments being the most typical examples. [S]hare ideas about your favourites, comment on how you handle them in your campaign, or show us your creation. [...] What makes the organization unique? What is your role in the world and how do you stand out in it? What benefits does it grant to those who belong to it? How do members interact with non-members? Do you use special rules like Renown or Piety with them?"

For a faction, I am going to run through the prime-adversary for the first cycle of my home campaign which was 'the Lighthouse'. Initially a shadowy organisation identified only as the hidden hand assisting other bad actors the players spent a large chunk of effort back-tracking clues, running down research and then leading the palace guard on raids to finally pull its teeth.

28 August 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #135

Some themes of play-by-post and starting campaigns this week. More links 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.

In a welcome return Dungeonfruit gives us Class-As-Species (Anatomically Correct Wizards)

Daily Adventure Prompts shares Monsters Reimagined: Bandits

Goblin Guerrilla Warfare writes Encouraging Domain-Level Play from the Beginning of the Campaign

Beau Rancourt gives us Magic Item Economy

A mini-theme on play-by-text/post with:
Gorgon Bones and Play-by-Post Gaming - some notes and advice
Shadow & Fae with GM Pointers: Live-Text Games
Mediums and Messages on Approaching Live-Text Play

Mason Quah on The Gamer writes Dungeons & Dragons: How To Have The Best Handouts

26 August 2023

Class / Race choices in Baldurs Gate 3 vs tabletop 5e

Larian Studios, makers of Baldurs Gate 3, released stats from the first weekend of the game being live including class and race choices of the players. Given that it is a pretty faithful implementation of the 5e ruleset I thought it would be interesting to compare against what data we have for peoples choices at tabletop. I was surprised to see a big, big difference in classes and near enough same old, same old for races.

The big difference is the preference for paladin as the top class choice - typically not even top 3 for tabletop players. I am surprised at the big seperation between wizard and sorcerer also - how is one full caster perceived as so different from another?

23 August 2023

Review: Reach of the Roach God

tl:dr; a creepy cult and lots of great sites fill this (final) underground expansion for A Thousand Thousand Islands, arriving with bitter news.

This was the juggernaut kickstarter from the Thousand Thousand Islands crew - getting 10x on its target and gifting us this beautiful hardback book to go sit with the Stygian Library and the Veins of the Earth as classics of the OSR. This blog is a long-standing fan of the Thousand Thousand Islands so having this arrive and then not two days later watching Zedeck and Munkao go daggers drawn and declare A Thousand Thousand Islands dead really took the shine off it.

Hardback arrived

First impression is that this is a beautiful artefact even before you crack the cover. The design work is fantastic from the creepy roach legs to the ribbons to the custom Thousand Thousand Islands typeface. Our overarching theme is the struggle against the Roach God Odoyoq - starting with signs of his cultists, then the spread of his influence through underground communities.

21 August 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #134

Concentrated goodness as I work down the post-holiday backlog. More links 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.

Mindstorm writes RINGING THE BELL, A simple reputation system

Prismatic Wasteland complements that with Social Monsters

Jared Sinclair writes Rules Elide and Its Consequences

Argent Interregnum responds with Inevitability of Elision

B/X BLACKRAZOR gives us Learning From The Oldest School

Blood, Death, Satan & Metal gives us Book of the Black Wizards OSR Spellbook Review (w/ bonus playlist!)

Don't Split the Party wrote Terror in the Baneblade

THE BARDIC INQUIRY gives us 4 tips to schedule a consistent DnD group

19 August 2023

d20 illithid cultural artefacts

After spending a bunch of time thinking about illithid worlds due to Spelljammer, some general thoughts about things they will have lying around beyond the usual, recognisable stuff.

First, the general aesthetic will be:
- upsettingly asymmetrical because they like to hold things with their tentacles and long-fingered hands and like to know which way is the 'front' by feel
- flanged or ridged design with bits sticking out for ease of tentacle holding
- sensory tools for the senses of a mindflayer - emotion (empath), thought (telepathy), telekinesis, dream (which for them is 'channel the far realm'), body-mastery (a slightly taboo hobby of attuning with whatever form your tadpole took over)
- textural approach - etched in qualith text is very common both as instruction on the item, makers marks, dedications and other notes associated with its use or origin
- materials can include mother-of-pearl and other shell-like substances shaped into desired forms and highly precise carvings rendered using telekinetic abilities

d20 illithid cultural artifacts
1. Qualith meditation beads - quadripartite inscriptions spiralling around beads on a string, a relatively common design with a huge variety of writings available. Can be inscribed with koan-type truths, community doctrines, great questions, forget-me-not messages
2. Infinite sagas - a long flexible spiral, typically an embroidered or otherwise textured ribbon, containing stories that run on forever, reflecting the time-skipping nature of mindflayer dominion itself ".. until once more, at the far end of time, our Empire rose again and..."
3. Empathy detector - equivalent to an ear-horn, particularly for illithids who have spent too much time alone and want a little more clarity. Weakens defenses against 'blast' psychic attacks. Usually a hidden necklace as wearing one is a sign of weakness.
4. Emotional broadcaster - usually a very ostentatious head-piece that makes sure that what you feel, everyone else feels too. Wearing one of these is an illithid boss-move, be very sure of your place on the social ladder.
5. Empathy shield - for when others tiresome emotions are just not worth dealing with. Also provides some limited defense against psychic attacks. Usually a discrete brooch or pendant worn hidden as openly displaying you have one of these is seen as rude.

16 August 2023

Fading of the r/OSR blogroll

tl;dr: comments and upvotes are dropping on the r/OSR blogroll - time to de-automate or un-pin?

Every week I flag the r/OSR blogroll as a place to look for interesting blogposts - I took over posting them every Sunday from u/Sofinho1980 of Alone in the Labyrinth as they took it over from u/shuttered_room of Shuttered Room. Around the start of the year there was a question about getting the blog-roll pinned to the top of the r/OSR subreddit and at the same time the mods offered to automate its creation which I took them up on. One or both of these may have been a mistake and I suspect it was pinning.

Taking 'upvotes' as a proxy of who is seeing and engaging with the blogroll, it took a hit immediately and has so far not recovered and is trending further down.

14 August 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #133

Late & messy today due to working off mobile on holidays. More links 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.

Blue Bard gives us Running Your First AD&D Campaign

All Dead Generations gives us 7 Maxims of the OSR

12 August 2023

Review: Home - A Light In The Darkness

tl:dr; a neat, curated set of modular hex-crawl rules for a more faction-oriented game with a focus on securing resources.

I backed the zine 'Home - A light in the Darkness' which is billed as a sandbox toolkit for TTRPGs. Given the mileage I've gotten out of the d30 Sandbox Companion I thought this was worth a look.

This is a lot packed into a 36 page zine, a little sparse for someone coming new to the concept but a great, taut workflow for those who know the basics already.

What do you get in it?

09 August 2023

Campaign Spin-Up VII - When One-Shots Sprawl

tl;dr: I ran Spelljammer Academy and then... just sort of kept going. This is about how I cooked up the additional episodes for the mini-campaign.

I have unexpectedly run a 'tour of the system' Spelljammer campaign, starting off with running Spelljammer Academy for my local gaming group. I was running Light of Xaryxis for another table and this group was drop-in/drop-out so I decided to just continue as one shots and it has been an interesting exercise. This write up focuses on where I got the session content from for all these one-shots, I wrote up the mechanics of running it in a Campaign Retrospective.

The key aspects of this were:
- open table
- no big idea just a knock-about game to allow venue testing
- unexpectedly ended up with 'core crew' at this open table
- got to trigger 'cool hooks' much more often than my standard campaign mode
- tried to integrate the advice from You Suck at Keeping your One-Offs as One-Offs by A Knight at the Opera

07 August 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #132

More links from across the web, some interesting stuff from the archives! 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.

Deeper In The Game shares We Built This City – Before and Now

Probable Train gives us Old-School Dungeon Maps Made Easy

Autocratik launches This August - the 10th RPGaDAY

Moondog Gospel gives us Mental Encumbrance

Swords & Stitchery shares 1d20 Random Sword & Sorcery Traits of The Nephilim Background Table For Your Old School & OSR Game Campaigns

Mazirian's Garden writes The Problem of Spotlight Management in OSR Games

DELTA'S D&D HOTSPOT gives us Violence Inherent in the System (of Art)

David J Prokopetz suggests Proposals to refer to One D&D as “6th Edition” in order to spite Hasbro marketing don’t go far enough

05 August 2023

Class/Race archetypes in 1.2 million D&DBeyond characters

tl;dr: giant dataset from D&DBeyond shows us that over half of characters created are the same few (30) race/class combos.

dice-scroller.com pulled over a million character sheets of D&DBeyond to give us Most popular D&D Classes and Races and I wanted to revisit some work I did last year on Player choice of unusual races within D&D classes. Caveats about all this at the bottom of the post but short version - this is probably not Big-T-Truth, no dataset can be, but I think it is still worth looking at what shapes and patterns might become visible.

Just eyeballing the work that dice-scroller did we can see the same concentration as before - this is not a gently-fading colour map, we have points of heat speckled across our race/class grid that shows strong preferences for certain combinations. Interestingly for such a large data set we *still* have some race/class combos missing saying that eight years after the game launched not all things have necessarily been tried.

The significantly lower frequency of Artificers and to an extent Bloodhunters says that those being gated behind paywalls on DnDBeyond is having an affect, as could be expected.

02 August 2023

Actual Play: giant cannon foundry as terrain

tl;dr: tested out a 'what-if' terrain set up, adding scale and verticality and it worked quite well

Having just listened to Hida-O-Win's lament about the lost opportunity in the final fight in the Enemy Within Book 4 (from the Adventuring Party podcast #752, spoilers ahoy for Enemy Within) I thought I'd try and execute his vision as described in the final fight in my Spelljammer Academy mini-campaign.

The whole session was a bit of bricolage - it was the boarding and clearing of an old Dwarven Citadel taken over by a rogue Astral Elf star empire (the Xaryxians, straight out of the book). it started with a stolen version of the fleet action from Chapter 10 of Light of Xaryxis for the approach then gave the heroes the option to fight the fleet or be the landing party.

They chose landing party and for the interior of the Citadel I used Graphite Primes Mazes set up. The presence of a pair of artificers stood them in good stead getting past hazards but then there were two fights buried in the maze.

First was going to be the Xaryxian command post, second was their Scro allies who were looting technology from the Citadel. The Xaryxian fight was a nasty little brawl in a room, a knife fight in a phone-box that was difficult based off testing a range of the Xaryxian tougher types. There was effectively no terrain in that beyond a few stairways.

The scro fight I attempted to make more interesting. My sketch map below. Here we have high mesh gantries 60 ft up, 10 ft wide on either side of the room. The big thing in the middle is a 40 ft diameter cannon, a main gun for the citadel. 1/4 in from each end of the room and in the middle were a gantry of chain winches, essentially a curtain of chains. The opposition were three pairs of Scro warriors with a chest each they were carrying and a pair of Scro sergeants overseeing them. The two sergeants were up in the chain-gantries keeping an eye on things. The Scro were re-skinned Giff from the Boos Astral Menagerie - the warriors were CR3 Shipmates, the Sergeants CR6 Shock Troopers. They had muskets and grenades, according to the CR calculation widget this should have been a CR16 encounter, classed as Deadly.

The roster for the night was: