30 September 2023

Open systems and open table gaming

tl;dr: some 'I roll perception' is fine when open gaming with mixed cultures and generations where the shared references might be fewer than in beforetimes.

A thing I like to encourage at my tables is 'describe what you are doing don't just roll the ability.' This is one of the tenets of old-school play that I think particularly worthy - maximising the opportunity of us being a bunch of creative humans around a (perhaps virtual) table.

But for this to work, either the DM has to go into high detail for each new environment or the table has a strong 'open system' of shared cultural references - otherwise nothing can be assumed and the DM has to go to tedious length to cover all the detail.

So what does this mean for open table gaming? What does this mean for gaming with mixed generations? With mixed cultures? What do you do when you cannot assume any shared cultural touchstones?

27 September 2023

Review: Planescape Core Set (AD&D, 1994)

tl:dr; talking Planescape, the 800lb gorilla of planar settings on the eve of its re-issue. Factions are pitched hard but there is so much more in here.

Planescape is coming back this October and I wanted to take a look at what we got before to refresh our memories before that. So credentials - I was known as a Planescape GM for most of my 2e/3e time. This box set was bought on holiday in Italy, I saw it in a shop after having read about it in Dragon and persuaded my parents to get it for me. I was riveted from that point on.

What actually lives in my Planescape box after ~ 25 years

The books themselves are gorgeous, filled with DiTerlizzi art in its slightly fiercer whimsical incarnation. I think a major part of the setting appeal was the world portrayed through the art.

I picked up most of the major Planescape releases bar the adventures and as you can see the bestiaries from all the sets together with the Guide to the Outlands migrated into the main box over time. All the maps ended up in the Outlands box - I am sure I had good reasons at the time. That box has moved ~ eight cities., five countries, two continents. The saddle stitching used has gotten a bit ragged in places but mostly has held - I think only one sheet has come off in all this time.

Cards on the table, I got a ton of use out of this. I was known for most of the 90's/00's as a Planescape DM. I had a home game, then I got this box and it became a Planescape game. I ran Planescape in college, I ran a play-by-text campaign shortly afterward. I got a *lot* of use from the setting. Let us come back to this after a cold eyes review of what was *actually* in the box.

25 September 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #139

Once more a round up of things I that caught my eye tromping about the internet this past 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.

Tales From The Lamp gives us You Should Archive Your Blogposts!

The Scholomance reviews Castle of the Silver Prince (HU7) by Anthony Huso

The Dripping Tap sharess Silk Road GLoG

All Dead Generations gave us The Risk Economy Part 1: Time, Part II: Supply and Part III: Threat

Unboxed Cereal has a key insight in The Monobranch Fallacy

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry wields history in The Gap in the Armor of Baldur’s Gate and 5e

The Alexandrian gives us Random Worldbuilding: Magical Domestication

Archstone Press asks Why Run a Sandbox?

23 September 2023

Ways of the High North Goblins (RPG Blog Carnival)

Double-dipping this months RPG Blog Carnival because the prompt on Anthropology and Archaeology from Beneath Foreign Planets was in fact a huge selection of prompts. This time I wanted to write about the goblins of the north.

The Lhirogref, the great nation of the goblinoids, hold themselves as the first people. They were here when the dragons first crashed out from their calderas. They were there to see the Titans first step down from the clouds. When the first dwarves broke free of stone. When the first elves tumbled out of the feywild.

Lhirogref is not a nation-state, it is a civilization-state. Lhirogref is old and has rarely been conquered - cowed by the Dragons during their golden age and dominated by the Titans before that, Lhirogref regards only forces such as those as its equal. Others may come to Lhirogref and assert they have conquered the place, but after a time it is found that they have become Lhirogref themselves, assimilated and now part of the long, long tradition. Most goblins have trouble maintaining focus or resisting impulses which makes them quite chaotic and disorganised but over time groups such as tief-goblins, dragonblood orcs, and hobgoblins have found a shared affinity for a national project and shaped Lhirogref into something that looks to outsiders like a realm or nation.

20 September 2023

Capsule Reviews #6: Codex Martialis

I was directed to this by friend of the blog C. Kinch some while back. The tag across the front cover is "Hard core, fast-paced, historical combat. New options that won't bog down your game." The core concept, as writted across the Players Guide is "HEMA-inspired d20 combat. Magic as Medieval scholars actually believed. Everything you need for a fast, bloody and immersive historical game" which sets out their stall nicely. Since this has been sitting glaring at me from my slush folder for a full year now, we are going to press on and do capsule reviews of the core set to get something done.

Three books in the core set:
Codex Martialis Core Rules (2021 Edition) - 97 pages
Codex Integrum Players Guide - 182 pages
The Reiver's Lament - 141 pages

The set as a whole includes expansions for armour & missiles, medieval weapons, a Baltic setting, spells & talismen.

18 September 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #138

Once more a round up of things I that caught my eye tromping about the internet this past 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.

Attronarch's Athenaeum starts a grand project reviewing Dragon Magazine: Player Advice Collection with (Part 1 of 6) and (Part 2 of 6) done.

Glass Candles gives us fair warning for GLOGtober '23

Spider Queen writes Old school campaigns and the assumption of time-richness

The Lady and Tiger shares Onboarding New Players

sachagoat starts Re-inventing the Wilderness: Introduction

@homunculus-argument gives us Worldbuilding around "Mildly toxic just means spicy"

The Welsh DM shares The Bestiary – Giants

@leavingautumn13 has Neogi Martial Class thoughts

16 September 2023

New Campaigns on Obsidian Portal (2023 Update)

tl;dr: but for a slight growth in Pathfinder 2e, system popularity seems to be very similar to last year.

As Roll20 has just stopped publishing the handy Orr Reports, we have to look elsewhere to get a sense of the ebb and flow of games popularity. It has been a whole year so we can turn once more to new campaigns on Obsidian Portal to try and read the tea-leaves of what is going on out there. This was initially sparked by Troy Press writing in 2019 on RPG campaigns played by system then I used the Wayback Machine to take capture the number of campaigns back through time through to 2008.

To recap - This was done by loading the Campaigns page on Obsidian Portal and noting the campaigns per system for each year available (back to 2008) using the Wayback Machine. Happily the format never changed to greatly and it is possible to get a roughly mid-year capture for every year.

Looking at the raw numbers of new campaigns added since last we looked, we see a pretty straight line trend this time - no great shift in behaviour, 5e still dominant.

I reality checked what we were seeing against Roll20 numbers for as long as those were available (2014-2021) so it seems to be coherent for digital players.

If we normalise these varying number of campaigns, so we just see what fraction of new joiners each year go for which system, we can pick out shift in preferences a little more clearly. Here we see Pathfinder 2e continues to grow, the share of 'non-D&D' continues to fade, everything else pretty much goes sideways.

13 September 2023

State of the Blog (post #500)

Been a chunk of time since we looked at this but a good time - close enough to the end of year for stats to be interesting but not the end of year itself.

On Traffic

Overall its been a decent year - views were cruising along at ~4400 a month until a trifecta of posts around stats - first the 'classes' and 'race/class' posts based on the Dice-Roller 1.2 million character sheet set and then by the comparison from them to the Baldurs Gate 3 stats. Getting an article onto r/rpg (by someone else) tripled last years average for August. No doubt, that will fade off but the long tail of that is still massive. I recognise that was a lightning strike, no point my trying to replicate it so let us see where things bottom out from that surge.

11 September 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #137

Links found before our ISP randomly cancelled our contract so short-ish. Hope to be back up later 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.

Indre Auge Blinks asks What is high-trust trad adventure design?

A Knight at the Opera writes The Least Interesting Type of Crunch

Thomas Kole gives us Tenochtitlan - a 3D reconstruction of the capital of the Aztec Empire

Daily Adventure Prompts gives us The Mechanics Of Baldur’s Gate 3

Hexroll shares a hex-map generator with Roll a Sandbox


Dweller of the Forbidden City gives us Building Bhakashal – Game Design and History

Ponderings on Games ponders The OSR Contradiction

Roleplay Rescue’s Blog asks Why Buy Another Game?

Cavegirl's Game Stuff wrote Running War in RPGs

Barking Alien writes Immersion Deep Dive

Goblin Punch wrotes Dwarven Architecture

Goblin Punch wrotes Chelinausca and Morlocks

Archade's Tower gives us The Way Of The Shield

Goblin Punch wrotes Race, Inheritance, and Casvetania

Gila RPGs Blog shares Seeking One-Way Roads

Farsight Games gives us A we're bored chart

Scribblings or Something shares Golden Shrieker...

Dawnfist Games gives us NPC generator – Unique names, occupations goals, fears & quirks!

09 September 2023

Cultural Mores of the Dragonbloods (RPG Blog Carnival)

Once more unto the RPG Blog Carnival with a prompt on Anthropology and Archaeology from Beneath Foreign Planets. A huge selection of prompts was generously provided - and so for this one I am going to talk about dragonbloods as they have appeared in my home campaign.

Interestingly I realise that even after talking through the cultural mores of a bunch of the inhabitants of my menagerie world setting (NPC mannerisms: d66 animal-folk attitudes) I missed off one of the more fleshed out ones - the dragonbloods that the PC's are all part of. I obliquely mentioned it in a previous Blog Carnival: On creating elements for a setting but then never went into it in detail

Functionally, they are human - elves, humans and dragons mixed so often and so far back in time that the traces are mostly just that. The original inspiration was the Dragon Kings of Atlas Games 2004 "Seven Civilizations" - traditionally they judge each other by the richness of their draconic heritage, the subtlety of their signs - grading the thin-ness of their blood into Regal, Noble, Cadet and Trace. Practically this is nothing more than reason to be snooty at one another, perhaps manifesting as talons in place of nails, sharper teeth, slitted eyes, a sheen of scales or bony ridges, small signs. For most of the party it manifests around the eyes - the cleric has slitted pupils, the sorcerer has bright orange irises and a sheen to their skin, the bard mostly passes for human/half-elf.

Portraits of the party, three typical dragonblood nobles, by the bard

06 September 2023

Remixing Spelljammer: Light of Xaryxis

As mentioned on a previous post - I have been running Light of Xaryxis adapted to the wild randomness and sometimes paranoid tactical noses of my players. Just running them along the 'suddenly, neogi' path of the adventure would not fly so it has been fun so far collaging the set pieces and encounters from the adventure into a new structure which gives the players better motivations. It is beneficial to me also as some challenges and encounters get tripped where I would have hand-waved things along by instinct - so it makes things a bit more unpredictable and interesting. I have been a big fan of the Alexandrian remixes so I thought I would write up these mid-point notes.

What I did was:
Read through Light of Xaryxis (LoX) and rework the framing of the campaign.
Adapt the adventure by breaking it up into 'plot chunks' which could be separated.
Created a system for all the action to happen in.
Dropped the various plot chunks into places that made sense.

04 September 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #136

A bunch of notable links 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.

Blue Bard releases a masterwork in Castle of the Silver Prince Release Day

The Wandering Gamist gives us Rival Parties and Replacement Characters

Mazirian's Garden shares Into the Megadungeon Episode 2 "Little Persistent Worlds"

Traverse Fantasy proposes a new tag: DIY Elfgames

Playful Void asks What’s with “mainly diy elfgames”?

Bruce Heard shares Legacies of Ill-Gotten Loot

DMDavid writes How D&D’s Rules Changed To Encourage More Varied Groups of Heroes Than Those in the Pulp Fantasy That Inspired the Game.

02 September 2023

Review: Historica Arcanum - The City of Crescent

tl;dr: a dense setting book for 19th century Istanbul by a local team celebrating their own myth and legend, combined with an interesting free-form adventure and delivered in a gorgeous package.

I have just had my hardcopies of Empires of the Silk Road and City of the Crescent arrive a week ago. I went through the pdf of City a while back and found a big slab of inspiration. I like it a lot because it is a team from the region writing about their neighborhood and while it works with the 5e mechanics it takes a refreshingly original approach to presenting a setting book. It is up on Bundle of Holding (until 4/9/23) and at ~$6 a pdf, I think its pretty decent value and I'm all for supporting games studios in non-standard places.

Cover by Yağmur Kıyak

It is compatible with 5e but not in the typical 5e structure. The team writing it leaned hard into the lore, art and presentation and came up with a gorgeous book - with one caveat. The cover art above is iconic and probably the most gruesome thing about the book. To maintain harmony in my household I have had to wrap my own copy to hide it, but the rest of the interior is just gorgeous - different flower borders for every chapter, public domain art pieces for chapter breaks and lots of care and attention gone into the layout.

The really nice, crisp, clean feel to it which is especially impressive when you realise how dense this book is. There is a huge amount of material crammed in here which might not suit everyone - this is not a skim-and-go supplement.