29 November 2023

Thoughts on a new "DMG of house rules"

Back in Ireland this past weekend I met up with my old Katharsis table and we got to talking about the coming edition - in particular what would need to be in those books to get us to lay down our cash. Running theory is that the PHB will shift huge numbers, because players love options. The Monster Manual will not because there are so many online equivalents and a significantly smaller pool of interested buyers. We were not sure about the DMG; and wondered what we would want to see ourselves - a book full of settings perhaps?

This would be a book with a chapter on each of the major D&D settings to give just enough to get started in any of them - Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Spelljammer, Planescape, whatever. This would make it something that both players and DM's would want and hugely increase the potential pool of buyers.

For me, a neat edition to this would be optional rules tagged into each setting - Forgotten Realms is heroic fantasy, use the standard rules. Greyhawk is supposed to be more swords and sorcery, maybe use Gritty Realism, etc. All the various optional rules would be grouped and presented with the setting to support the feel of that setting, making there be a reason to play different settings to get different experiences out of the same, known, system. I really like the way that Brancalonia is effectively a 5e mod - it gives a different feel to the setting without have to have people learn a whole new system. Things like ship combat, overland exploration and other mechanics could also be tied in as setting options.

27 November 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #148

A short set of links due to travel. More can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Scholomance has launched The Great Tabletop Roleplaying Survey - get your views in!

The Burnt World of Athas shares Scale, Tail, and Claw - The Reptilian Peoples of Athas

A Knight at the Opera gives us Action Mysteries

Well well well, look what the shoggoth dragged in shares My Arden Vul campaign, 6 months in

The Lady and Tiger gives us One and a Half Month OSR Retrospective

David J Prokopetz compiles Tumblr 200-Word RPGs 2023

Eldritch Fields gives us Wilderness Encounter Details/Activities

Methods & Madness seeks Good generic wilderness encounter tables? (B/X vs. AD&D vs. 5e)

Bjarke the Bard writes Downtime Activities Leveled Up: A Comparative Review of A5E and D&D 5E

Darkplane shares Popping the Hood on Published Scenarios

Signals from Delta Pavonis asks GM Screens - what is their Glorious Purpose?

Vladar's Blog writes Planescape review: The March Begins

Tales of the Lunar Lands shares Friday Encounter: Fire in the Hole

The Ideocron of the Oracular Somnambulist gives us Bone Fire

Mythlands of Erce writes Standing up for D&D's Gen X: 2e (Part 1)

OSR VAULT gives us 100 Curses

Rolling With Us shares The Shadow Over Yuletide: Free Christmas D&D Adventure

Mindstorm presents Gulch

25 November 2023

Gaming setup - to sprawl or not to sprawl

A follow on from the 'tools of the trade' post - here is what my cafe gaming set up looks like. Pretty tight in but it works. Spares breaking my shoulder which would be pointless anyway because there is not room for more stuff.

It did put me in mind of how much space do I use when space is no object - what is my home table set up? This partly came from a conversation around 'what do have in a D&D room if you could have one' and myself and my home campaign were racking our brains. The screen here was a gift from my crafty players.

22 November 2023

Review: Skyrealms

tl:dr; a neat little setting for exploration, with a whimsical tone but some real teeth to adventure hooks here.

I backed the kickstarter as part of Zinequest #4 I think? First peered in for the Evlyn Moreau art then backed it when I saw floating islands.

Art by Evlyn Moreau

First impression is of a surprisingly chunky set of zines in a stuffed packet of things. The cardstock is nice, the whole thing has a great tactility. As mentioned multiple times throughout the zines, these are also meant for colouring in and they have that arty feel. The interior lay outs have lots of white space and easy to absorb. The art by Evlyn Moreau is a treat, as always. Favourites for me were the Emobeast, the Crystal Kingdom and the Goosedemon.

20 November 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #147

This weeks links from about the internet. More links can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Graphite Prime provides Spotlight: OSRIC Player's Guide

Nicholas Hendriks asks Problem: How to inject more roleplaying into your West Marches Hexcrawl?

Cavegirl's Game Stuff gave us Duels in OSR

Sam Sorenson proposes New Simulationism

The Colours of Pentagrams and Their Meanings gives us 15 tips and advices for GMs

The Bone Box Chant wrote on Revisiting the NSR

18 November 2023

Campaign Retrospective: Southern Reaches

An open table sort-of-West Marches game has stalled out so let us do a retrospective Against the Wicked City style to see what we can learn and decide if it is worth reviving. Previous retrospectives were done on campaigns of yore and recently a Spelljammer Academy mini-campaign.

Southern Reaches, 23 Sessions (Dec 2022 - July 2023)
What it was: open table sandbox test using Brancalonia rules. I was approached to run it by one of my home-campaign players while they were overseas studying. They roped together a gang of folk. I also ran a 'B table' through the same set up as a test and that turned into fun combinations later.

For me this was a test of West Marchesstyle - as closely as could be done - no plots, no plans, each session started "you've come down to breakfast in the Flytrap Inn, this is who you see around the table, what are you up to today?" It was also an arena to try out things from various OSR blogs (biblio below) and has been my most formal 'method test' campaign so far where I was attempting to follow a style of game running as much as I was creating a world.

This is the campaign mentioned in Chekovs Hooks II: Refreshing Rumours.

15 November 2023

What comes after the Nights of the Rolling Dice?

I have ended up running a D&D Meetup group and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.

We ran two big events - Night of the Rolling Dice and Night of the Rolling Dice 2: This Time By Daylight - both 10 tables of DM + 5 using DM's from RPG Vienna. Packed out, 40-50 players turned up for each, with waitlists too. All good.

I feel people can be better served than by occassional big set piece gaming meetups. We have regular Friday night open tables (as discussed before) and I have been putting them up on the meetup with low response on the Meetup itself (2-3 folk, maybe, often none at all) but we do seem to get twos and threes rocking up at the door.

13 November 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #146

More links can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Wanderer Bill's New Journal asks is there A Pattern to Arnesonian Dungeons?

Cavegirl's Game Stuff gives us Theory - Hard & Soft Tools

Grognardia exhorts Be a Creator, Not a Consumer

DMDave gives us The City of Torch | New Base of Operations for 5e (Bloody Bunch Spoilers)

Tom Van Winkle's Return To Gaming writes Character Motivation is the Player's Responsibility

Attronarch's Athenaeum gives us On Character Death and Long-Term Play

11 November 2023

Chekovs Hooks III: Loose Ends from Written Modules

tl;dr: a 'rumours as campaign glue' treatment for an open table running published adventures (Brancalonia core book + Jinx Almanac).

I wrote previous about refreshing the hooks for a quasi west-march open table where multiple groups leave a lot of open items based on sweeping up hooks after a year of campaign play.

This time I have been running through the Brancalonia published adventures - mostly in the Core Book and Jinx's Almanac - in an open table format and I want to run a similar exercise to start setting up for when I run out of adventures and to reward those players who have done a few of them with recognition of their agency.

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"

For feedstock in all of these I have a slightly different set of inputs - these are not my own fevered imaginings or NPCs I came up with, I ran them out of the book and a lot fell by the wayside as we went. Going through it I realise I need to spot loose ends but filter them by gameable potential. I also need to catch the flavour of the setting correctly. For 'leading hooks' I wanted to minimise the books I am carrying around so stick just to Jinx Almanac for now.

I did a first pass of noting the loose ends and events. Second pass was running through the hooks for the further adventures in Jinx Almanac. I tried to thread those hooks back to player actions from previous adventures. I want to leave a sense of player actions impact the world so kept in some rumours as pure aftermath/consequence, included all the 'hook-tied-to-consequence' I could and left in pure hooks where I had to.

With all this mechanical part done, the next actions were 'flavourising' it to make it more true to the world and tying it back to previously met NPCs to obey Alexandrians 'law of conservation of NPCs'. The final result is below.

Brancalonia Rumour Table
1. Peach Cider, the most appreciated drink of the Golden Sun tavern, has deteriorated significantly in the past months - people aren't getting drunk anymore! Someone needs to go Tassonia and get them to sort it out. (Players actions from Rugantino, Hook for Pickled Rich - The Gangover)

2. New Duke Sarion de Savedra at Cat Castle fears horses and is setting up hunts in the forest of Batta for wild ones. (Aftermath of See Acquaviva and Die! Hook for Pesto all Lungarivese)

3. Famed bigat-slayers Alermo and Francis are said to have parted ways after killing the Bigat of the Bottacione just when we need them as a beast prowls the streets. Well, small strange creature - but you can never be too careful! (Aftermath of Bride of the Bigat, Hook for Wolpertinger, Wererat, Well)

4. Someone has been telling fools the fishing in the Avicelline swamp is worth getting killed over - and they have been (Players actions from The Good The Bad and the Marionette)

5. Preachers normally confined to their posts on the road to Penumbria have begun prowling further afield with accusations of blasphemy, complaining about peoples fun. They are especially incensed about the approaching Red Carnival with its revelry, parties and indecencies set to engulf the city of Amnasseanase (Players actions from Penumbria Jeez Festival, Hook for The Red Carnival)

6. Queens Guard have been spotted in the Ditch of Serpents, rumoured to be chasing Ghino de Fosca's band after a massacre (Aftermath of See Acquaviva and Die!, Hook for The Red Carnival)

Throw in additional module rumours

7. An old soldiers map points to a treasure buried near a farm, the current holder of the map willing to sell because of tales of a fearsomly scarred viperwolf has emerged from the mists around Penumbria and prowls the countryside. (Aftermath of Penumbria Jeez Festival, Hook for Where the Wheat Stands Tall)

8. Mighty Rum distillery has been restarted at a secret location and the Queens Excisemen are offering a bounty for the location. Someone out that way heard a big voice coming from a shed and it scared them off - they came back muttering about the root of all evil. (Players actions from Rugantino, Hook for Beets for the Beet God of What Ho, Frog Demons!)

9. A printmaker named Ultan, is said to have found a door under his stairs that was not there the previous day. He claims even more implausibly, that it leads to the sewers of Zyan, the infamous floating city of Wishery and will permit entrance for 10 gold pieces a head, no questions asked. (Hook for Through Ultans Door)

Stuff set aside for now as I could not build a hook around it or it was just news without a point.
From "The Treasure of the Bigat" - Granny remains in the woods
From "Big Trouble in Borgoratto" - We now have the forest around Borgoratto quiet and unhaunted
From "Bride of the Bigat" A family of owlings have set up a mouse soup stall, attracting rave reviews and Cheap plush bigat slayers being given away with everything

08 November 2023

Masquerade as social depth-crawl (RPG Blog Carnival)

For this months blog carnival - hosted by VDonnut Valley on the topic of Let’s Party! Festivals and ceremonies! I bring Masquerade as social depth-crawl.

In my Spelljammer campaign my players decided to run a shell-game masquerade - they had one princess and decided that all three elven PCs (incl. the barbarian) and three hired locals were going to get the same dress and throw a giant masquerade to put the princess in contact with potential allies while also having cover against the hostile factions and antagonist prince who were also in the city.

I dug out my old Festivities as a social depth-crawl and decided to use that as the chassis - set up an encounter list with the players rolling more and more d4's as things progress.

The key addition for all this is that the players are hosting do they get to drive the 'chaos factor' - each time block they get to amp up or chill out the party - adding a d4 or holding at the current level. Two consequtive rounds of 'chilling' will step the dice count down.

The big thing about a Masquerade is everyone pretends that the disguises work and they do not recognise each other, giving lots of opportunities for breaking social norms and acting out, for good or ill.

I swept the net for some ideas to get started - key was Dungeons & Kobolds - and then tailored those to fit the circumstances. Genericising the events list we get:

d20 Masquerade events
1. Local flavour - fortune tellers, world colour
2. Local flavour - significant NPC introduction
3. Key NPC interaction (low stakes)
4. Hostile encounter (low stakes) - pickpocket/jewel thief
5. Carousing opportunity
6. NPC conflict - bodyguards duelling
7. Gambling opportunity
8. Dancing requirement (medium social stakes)
9. NPC opportunity - guest drops something interesting
10. Overheard information - NPCs flexing the deniability of being masked
11. Duel challenge to PC or allied NPC
12. Hostile encounter - e.g. BBEG run in, social monster like vampire or succubus
13. Allied NPC or PC intoxicated, must be handled
14. Hostile NPC social approach, does not recognise masked PC
15. Spotted schemes and plots - opportunity to spy/disrupt
16. Campaign event trigger (e.g. allied NPC assassination attempt)
17. Stumble onto schemes and plots - as 15 but surprised)
18. Campaign event trigger (e.g. friendly NPCs turned to hostile)
19. Campaign event trigger (e.g. hostile NPC ambushes isolated PC)
20. Positive happenstance (potential ally comes to you)

And the additional wrinkle I am throwing in is four locations -
Interior Rooms - medium visiblity
Private chambers - low visibility
Street and grounds - medium visibility
Balcony - visible from the street and grounds - high visibility

Visibility affects how likely others are to get involved in events. If the players split up and are in private chambers, they are on their own - but also can avoid notice. In medium visibility, locations others have a chance to get involved or assist, both friend and foe. For the balcony anyone who is not in private chambers will be able to get involved if they wish.

As it happened on the night the players did some tweaking of the antagonists noses, gathered an ally and then launched their big visible set piece move which then triggered bad-guy reaction and at that point the Masquerade was gone out the window and we pretty much wrapped the session there. The players never backed off the party, running it all the way to 5d4 rolls directly. The sequence that came up was:
1. The fortune teller reads the colours of a PC, making them the center of attention and giving them a chance to grandstand
2. A skillful jewel thief is spotted and recruited on the basis of their talent
3. One of the princess-dressed PCs spots some gamblers and engages in dice-blowing for luck
4. A duel breaks out between NPC factions, two allied factions to the players build friction between them
5. Another duel breaks out between members of the same non-allied NPC faction
6. An officer of the antagonists does not recognise a PC and seeks to dance with them, putting that PC incognito with the 'foe' when things kick off
7. The BBEG spotted watching the PCs

A lot of the content of the encounter list did not get hit but even so I think it was worth having a mechanical structure for events rather than just freeforming it. I feel that my rolling off an encounter list and them having to deal with events which may or may not segue neatly off what they were just doing is more real than fully 'yes, and'-ing the events of the night. Certainly it helps me because I too am waiting to find out what happens as opposed to just running a railroad.

However, in the same way that combats rarely last more than 3 rounds before the bad guy is toast, you could probably get away with a 12-event list and be pretty safe you have enough. There will likely be some repetition which will stretch the use you get out of it.

06 November 2023

Shiny TTRPG links #145

A forage around the past glories of the blogosphere as well as the latest this week. More links can be found on the previous list found here. You can find more links on this weeks r/OSR blogroll or the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

The CRPG Addict shares BRIEF: Everything We Know About 1970s Mainframe RPGs We Can No Longer Play

All Dead Generations writes Dungeon Skrimishing

Methods & Madness gave us O5R in actual play: playing 5e the old school way

Coins and Scrolls wrote Converting 5E to OSR

Throne of Salt shareds Kicking it Old-School with 5e: Character Creation

Hex Culture proposed Lamentations of the Fifth Princess

Gazing Hermit works up F is for Frequently Asked Questions based on twenty quick questions for your campaign setting from Jeffs Gameblog and 20 Quick Questions: Rules from Necropraxis.

Daily Adventure Prompts gives us The Daily Adventure Prompts Masterpost

04 November 2023

Review: Uncharted Journeys

tl:dr; well regarded journey mechanics plus a worlds worth of encounters.

I grabbed this off a kickstarter vaguely understanding it was the ripped out and expanded 5e version of well regarded journey rules from Cubicle 7's Middle Earth game. That coupled with 'support your European game houses' got me to lay my money down.

Cover art by Antonio de Luca

First impression - unexpectedly chonky! Great art, nice interiors, good printer smell. Lots and lots of stuff in here. After reading through it I realise this is a giant nouveau cuisine hexcrawl - all the good stuff you need to populate hexmaps in a wide variety of terrains are just shifted into lists instead of a map key. Even if you never use the journey rules, 5/6ths of the content in here is great inspiration for populating your worlds.

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

01 November 2023

Class preference among games society new-joiners

Trinity College's tabletop gaming society posted a photo from their latest Freshers week where they polled new society joiners on what was their favourite D&D class. I snip the relevant bit below:

They got another 50 odd folk between this photo and wrapping up and kindly stuck the numbers up on their discord - recovered here and compared to the patterns we have seen elsewhere.

Two thoughts - first - that is not a fit with either of the dominant trends - fighter first or spellcaster first - this is a new thing - outdoorsy led with ranger and druid having a strong showing.

Second thought - if this is how people joining games socs are posing, where is our exploration pillar stuff? The people cry out for the chance to run around in the wilderness!

All this of course with a grain of salt, sample size is what it is, etc. This was my old uni games soc... a bit ago so I when I saw this I thought it was fun.