22 June 2024

Review: Dr. Grordborts Scientific Adventure Violence

tl;dr: steampunk planetary romance 5e conversion kit, heavy on the gear, lighter on the setting details.

This was a kickstarter I backed because a) I rode in on the 90s steampunk wave back in the day - Abney Park, the Difference Engine - all that jazz and b) I seriously contemplated getting myself a Weta Workshop raygun once. When Dr. Grordbordts Scientific Adventure Violence dropped on Kickstarter I backed it more on that nostalgia kick than I was expecting something mindblowing but now that I've gotten to reading it I've been pleasantly surprised.

Cover art by Max Chow

This is a 5e conversion book; following a similar course to what I have seen elsewhere of very much running with the system as it exists and applying mods through new conditions, tags and the like. The art is fun, the production values are very good indeed and there is lots of the original Dr. Grordbort material turning up in the pages which is neat. This is a toolkit to do this type of game in 5e, a mod-pack for familiar players, rather than an entry to the hobby for new folk. I would say you would need to be fairly familiar with basic 5e D&D to get the most out of this.

19 June 2024

Actual Test: Fictive Fantasies Adventure Generator

After trying the Oracle RPG adventure generator and finding it a bit sparse, I had more luck with Fictive Fantasies version (link to pdf).

Working through the elements in the adventure generator we get:
Quest contact - rumour overheard
Quest - prevent something - interfere, only you can stop
Something = capture/kidnap someone
Location - island: In the seas they appear randomly and many have never been properly cataloged. Undiscovered islands yield many unknown threats and unexpected surprises.
Victim - Royalty
Mcguffin - Secret: Something hidden, which somebody wants to keep hidden. Kingdoms and royalty have plenty of secrets they want nobody to find out about, and people are always willing to pay for those secrets.
Opposition: Guild or Horde: A group of people with one common belief or oath of brotherhood. Their numbers are great and their intimidation mighty.
Twist - Dodgy ally
Dramatic conflict - Truth: Ultimately the players will have to suppress some great truth, or find a way to tell everyone about some great lie. Either way they’re on the side of deception.

Good stuff to work with from OFTHEHILLPEOPLE - a few more random elements and it all feels slightly more defined and targeted for some reason.

From random rolls to adventure draft

17 June 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #177

A more typical number of links fresh from the internet. For yet more links, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Welcome to the Deathtrap gives us Making Best Use of Downtime

u/SprocketSaga wrote Use the "Improvisation Tax" rule of thumb for unexpected PC actions

sachagoat continues Re-inventing the Wilderness: Part 6 - Landmarks

Tales of the Lunar Lands gives us Legojam: Cedric the Bull and the Canton of Ochsebad

Trollsmyth writes Grimdark vs. Eucatastrophe

A Knight at the Opera compiles EVERY Initiative Method??

15 June 2024

Actual Test: Oldskull Adventure Generator

tl;dr: a great big adventure generator that gives you enough for even wild player side-tracks.

This came into my hands through a bundle of tons of Oldskull stuff from Kent David Kelly. They sure are prolific, full marks for that - 30 odd files came in the bundle and it was just a selection. I found myself running out of published adventures for my Friday night Brancalonia one-shots so I thought I would take the Adventure Generator for a spin and see if it served.

First, this thing is a beast - 702 pages - and a self-declared 'mega-supplement' to serve as the 'Rosetta stone of the Castle Oldskull system' - a 'massive unified imagination engine' with a workflow of 16 steps spread over 10 chapters. There is a fair bit of background and philosophy of adventure creation in there but I focused on just generating adventure seeds for now.

This 'imagination engine' comprises many, many random tables within a 16 step workflow:
[1] Adventure Title Creation
[2] The Framing Event
[3] The Benefactor
[4] The Promised Reward
[5] The Adventure Journey
[6] The Adventure Destination
[7] The Chaotic Descriptor Tool
[8] The Quest Designer
[9] The Secondary Quest Designer
[10] The Complication Generator
[11] The Ally Creator
[12] Tasks Before Departure
[13] The Abstract Weather Tool
[14] The Villain Generator
[15] The Unexpected Adversary Tool
[16] The Monster Selection Tool

The first block of steps are pretty quick - varying between d1000 and d100 you roll up the adventure title for inspiration then the situation, person providing the hook and the reward for getting involved. Nice and neat. I cam up with 'Tomb of the Screaming Skull' as our title where the Elder Sign is our inciting vent, the benefactor is a Reborn Marchioness (a famed one) and the prize at the end is an illusionist henchman. Interesting! I can work with this, let us proceed.

The next block of things addresses the journey required to resolve things - we roll up that our overall environment is Temperate Forest, that the destination itself comprises echo chambers and wind tunnels and then things get a bit more complex. We roll up a number of locations cross referencing the Temperate Forest table then a number of 'descriptors' on the Chaotic Descriptor Table to get a spin on each of these locations. These should all then be dropped into a 3x3 grid around the target. I ended up with about an equal three way split between Redwoods, other 'normal' forests and 'weird' forests.

After this I got a quest of 'poison a [person/critter/faction] at [place]' and some further rolls got me a fighter in a corrupted forest - a location that fit well. The fighter was qualified as a 'battler/skull-crusher' which was a really helpful little detail to make them pop.

The Secondary Quest designer was another four rolls getting me a 'compete in a tournament/game of honor', 'repair a bridge/door', 'decipher an inscription' and 'find a hidden locale/dungeon level'. I patched these into the locations where they seemed to fit - bridge repair at the 'Terrifying Brushwood Fall', tournament at the 'thundering copse'.

The Complication Generator gave me three more twists - abduction of a PC, fog getting people lost and a race against time. Given this was for a one shot I was hesitant to further complicate the session with these but held the fog in reserve as something to do if things were moving too rapidly.

Next the Ally Creator turned out to be some Lower level Illustionists - which harmonised nicely with the illusionist henchman reward - perhaps they came along on the quest too?

Next Tasks Before Departure gave me five elements - waiting for an astral event, listening to a survivors account, researching the locale, researching the journey and acquiring a sidequest to slay a monster. This was another element I was wary off given the one-shot nature of the session I was planning - however it turned out to be really handy because when the table derailed and struck out for the distant horizons of side-tangents. All these secondary activities provided ample landing zone for all sorts of shenanigans to reconnect back to the main adventure.

The Abstract Weather Tool came up with a nice 'clear, wind in their favour' which was a minor boon. Other weather conditions could definitely change the tone and it is often something I forget to properly bring into play on my own.

The Villain Generator rolled up a Thief, Lock-breaker, motivated by vengeance for a slain sibling, suffering from memory gaps and fond of working through blights and plagues. This came a little late in the process for me - I already had a decent view of what was going on with the skull-crusher fighter in his forest lair needing to get poisoned - so this villain became more of a background villain not an active player. It was good to have them though, as knowing them and thus the flavour of their minions became handy during the Great Derailing.

The Unexpected Adversary rolled up a 'Benefactors Envious Disciple' - obviously another illusionist which plugged in nicely to what we had already.

Finally the Monster Selection Tool got me some Goblins and Beastmen so I split them up into a relatively hapless bunch of goblin foresters working the Redwoods, territorial beastmen in the rest of the forests. A bunch of the location qualifiers from the Chaotic Descriptor tool implied the presence of celestials so I added them as a third group.

Once all this was rolled up I shoved the pieces around a bit and re-wrote it into
* A renowned bard, the Marchioness - killed by Skullcrusher, now reborn
* They want you to go to a corrupted forest and poison the screaming skull with holy water
* They have a troupe of illusionists who can support you now, and one might stay with you after as a reward
* Skullcrusher lairs in echoing wind tunnels, trust nothing you hear there
* Skullcrusher is the primary minion of the Gatebreaker - a deranged thief, driven mad by grief for their slain sibling, now they spread blights in vengeance and kill by breaking in with plague-ridden knives
* One of the Marchioness disciples, an illusionist, is envious the party has been sought for assistance and seeks to see them fail
* The woods are full of goblins and beastmen

Lots of the elements of preparation for the journey and secondary quests were initially set aside and only came into play when the party set off for the horizons. The whole illusionist ally and then potential rival thing never came off because the players left them at home when they set out on the quest. The Gatebreaker was never seen but his minion network was stumbled over then sought out and I was able to ad-lib them effectively knowing who they were working for.

All told, what initially seemed like way too much stuff with multiple independent threads actually turned out to be handy at an open table session where they took an age before engaging with the wilderness part of the journey. A chunky system to work through but gives you a wealth of stuff - even if not all of it will come into play, it was good to have it to hand.

12 June 2024

Post-dragon attack regional ecology (RPG Blog Carnival)

For this months RPG Blog Carnival because the prompt 'after the dragon' from Sea of Stars is a great prompt with tons inside it. I was sure this was covered by an old Malhavoc press book but no - I was thinking of Requiem for a God which is not quite the same thing.

What we have below is probably best for terrain set up early in a campaign or when venturing into a new location because this stuff is slower and should probably be baked into the terrain players encounter. You could use this as an encounter generator for an immediate dragon attack or as some spillover from an attack last year but I think it might be best done as time-layers and then encountered from outside in by journeying PCs.

Stealing three of the five steps from the disaster management cycle we have:
1. Impact
2. Immediate aftermath
3. Post-disaster change

10 June 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #176

A giant block of links with a significant archive dive this week. For yet more links, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Mazirian's Garden gives us Group Downtime Activities: Remembering the Dead

Mindstorm gives us A Person-Shaped Hole

I Cast Light! wrote DUNGEON WEATHER: For your overloaded encounter die

Provinto RPG gives us 10-Room Dungeon Brainstorm: Tomb of the Honorable Order of Glory (& Possibly Justice)

The Blue Bard writes Down Come the Claws

Half Again as Much starts with What is an Elemental Plane, Anyway?

08 June 2024

Tribute to Collaborative Dungeon Creation

tl;dr: trying to recall a genius blogpost on collaborative dungeon creation as 'forces of nature'

This is an attempt to replicate a genius blogpost I found years ago and has eluded me since. Hopefully the original author will rock up and go 'hey, thats my idea' so I can finally link it. In the absence, let me tell you a tale of a genius idea, gather round the campfire comrades... The inestimable DIY & Dragons questioned if it might be Tom Dowlers "How to Host A Dungeon" - and from that tip I found the post I was thinking off - Dyson Logos doing a test of How to Host a Dungeon. So I am actually mis-remembering this as a multi-player experience which perhaps could be another way to do it. Anyway, all that follows was written before I found this out, please view it in that light.

Fado, fado, there was an idea that if you were a DM with access to multiple pools of players, you could use some of them to set situations that would then serve as challenges for others.

The original post addressed dungeons but in the hope of appeasing Joesky's ghost I am going to generalise it a bit to make it a tool for any setting.

So breaking that down into a procedure:
1. Kick it off by picking a base location type - a temple, dungeon, cavern, etc. Sketch out some part of that to get things started.
2. Everyone around the table then chooses to act as a force that has altered the space over time - dwarven miners, burrowing dragons, lava flows, a wizard (there is always a wizard).
3. Go around the table adding to or modifying the base location in a way that matches thematically to that force.
4. Repeat #3 until you have a sufficiently large or interesting location

05 June 2024

Review: Where Evil Lives

tl;dr: MCDM action-oriented monsters in their lairs - 22 lairs with neat set-piece battles for a range from level 2 to 20.

"Where Evil Lives: The MCDM book of boss battles" - does what it says on the tin. I got this because I went in on the Flee, Mortals! kickstarter and they succeeded so hard the project blew out to create another book. So I more or less got this at cost of postage only - and despite that being ridiculous rates to Europe, at that point as per Shakespeare "I am in blood/ Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er." So this one landed with next to no expectations on my side and from looking at Flee, Mortals! this is cool stuff but not the style I am taking to my fluffier tables just now. Seeing that it is being sold on D&D Beyond I thought it might be good to take a second look and get it reviewed.

Cover art by Grace Cheung

First impression - as with Flee, Mortals! very glossy and impressive, a chunky book with nice binding. The first of the MCDM books to forgo the dust-jacket and become more like the usual 5e format. The art is, as ever gorgeous - but somewhat familiar in that there is a fair amount of duplication between this and Flee, Mortals! This makes the book either usefully standalone or annoyingly duplicative, depending on how you get to it. I will assume you do not have Flee, Mortals! for the purposes of the rest of this. The art itself is very nice and we have the interesting choice to completely abandon descriptions of monsters in favour of the illustrations - with lesser art this might be an issue but the work in here is just great for that.

03 June 2024

01 June 2024

OSR Kickstarter Trends

Ben Milton of Questing Beast did some neat work tagging kickstarter projects as OSR or not and played out some of the trends over time - see video. He generously shared his data - [edit: building upon the original dataset by Hans Messersmith] and I wanted to dig through and see what else we can see.

From the data-sheet - classification was done by:
Original = Adventures/supplements/etc. explicity for old forms of D&D; New games that are direct or near directly clones of D&D (e.g. OSE, OSRIC); adventures, supplements for those direct clones
Scene = new games considered to be part of the "OSR scene"; new games inspired by older forms of D&D; adventures/supplements/etc for those games
If a project is listed with multiple systems/games, it will be categorized as Original if at least one of the systems is Original, otherwise Scene
Reprints of actual older D&D products (e.g. the recent reprint of Caverns of Thracia by Goodman Games) are included in Original
Includes projects that started between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2023, inclusive. Therefore, some projects that started late in 2023 and ended in 2024 are included.
Listed year is the year the project started, not ended

Sticking on my analyst hat we can pull out some interesting trends. First, to recap what was shown in Questing Beasts video and give ourselves a baseline, we see an overall increase in projects for every category.

I did some work to extract the median and top quartile values of project per category to get a sense of what most projects are doing, conscious that the very large projects at the high end skew things significantly otherwise. These are in tables at the bottom of this post. We have seen the median value of project jump about but broadly converge towards the lower end of the $5k-10k bracket.
This I found somewhat surprising - I would have thought that 5e or 'other' categories, representing broader pools of players, would be higher.

29 May 2024

Review: Infinigrad: The Weird City Toolkit

tl:dr; a shiny new iteration of the go-to urban generator for Suburbs, Buildings, Guilds, Foes, Dungeons and Quests.

Infinigrad: The Weird City Toolkit by Gorgzu Games is the current iteration of a toolkit I have been gleefully using for years - in its first iteration as it was released in parts on the Lizard Man Diaries blog to create cities for my Lizard Kingdoms campaign and it has remained by go-to whenever I want to get granular and creative in an urban environment. Books like World Without Number give you great high level stuff but Infinigrad is the one that takes you down through the suburbs to the room by room.

Conceptually, I belive this sprang from the authors desire to have a toolkit that would support random generation of episodic weird fantasy heists or cyberpunk style 'runs' - each session would see a newly diced up location in the infinite city complete with atmosphere and opposition and off the players would go. What is is now is a hugely detailed set of urban location generators from the suburb scale down to the people and things in the rooms which can be deployed to support any urban setting from fantasy to far future.

The book itself is, to my mind, a solid improvement in useability on older versions, cleaner text layout, easier to read and same great content expanded in useful places. The art through is AI, by "the Daemon Midjourney", as has been the Authors style for years. This may or may not sit well with you but for the vibes of Infinigrad it works as a dreamy, twisted place where people *do* have the wrong number of fingers and generally look twisted, warped and uncanny.

The DriveThru package also includes a bunch of HTML generators - Building Stocker, Guild Dog Generator, Job Generator, Suburb Generator, Suburb Street Stocker and Universal Stocker - which you can just click-to-use instead of rolling dice to look things up. I think I will be sticking with dice on the table and the pdf but these are a nice quality of life inclusion for those who want them.

27 May 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #174

Links from an interesting week on the web, seasoned with a trawl of the archives. For yet more links, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

The Welsh Piper gave us Realities of Fantasy Treasure

Goblin Punch wrote Dungeon Checklist

Mindstorm gives us Collaborative Worldbuilding: Glimpses

Great & Small: The Roleplaying Game Of Animal Fantasy gave us Defending Your Territory

Silverarm shares Fixing Moria: Metro System Megadungeon Design

DAILYADVENTUREPROMPTS gives us DM Tip: Lining up the Pieces

Enthusiastic Skeleton Boys wrote D&D isn't fun enough (or: Enthusiastic Skeleton Boys)

Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet gives us Splitting the Overloaded Encounter Die

25 May 2024

Remixing: Spelljammer Light of Xaryxis Part III

tl;dr: how the players actually bounced around the sandbox made by chopping up Light of Xaryxis

In the first part of this remix I wrote about what I did
* 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 - this got more focus in the second part of the write up.

Below are the records of how the players moved among the various planets where the encounters from the adventure were scattered. Overall it worked well, with the start holding fairly true to what the adventure lays out then going all over the place in the middle before running through the ending more or less as planned out in the book.

To give context for all the movements described, the roster of planets in the system was:
0. The Snuffed Star – the guttering remains of a star, where a prototype starseed had fizzled
1. Gorondirs Throne – small, with a fiery moon that makes it habitable, dwelling of the Sussurans, quasi-Xaryxian loyalists
2. Mystra’s Mirror - small, flat waterworld - uninhabited
3. Hrungirs Roar - titanic air world with a fiery moon and a habitable earthen moebius-strip, seat of the local astral elves, system capital
4. The Great Belt - chain of asteroids within an extended atmosphere inhabited by miners of many origins
5. Obsidian Depths - vast water world, inhabited only by great aquatic beasts
6. Fanthirs Ruin – enormous earth world, once populated by dwarves, now a mindflayer hold
7. The Ring Sea – water belt with rocky clusters and a great moon within it
8. Tears of Joy – tiny warm water world with a population of raft-dwellers

Below is a mid game map with the long diagonal mapping the 'rings' of the system using the old Spelljammer notation. The closer rings (top left) are one day travel at Spelljammer speed, the further apart rings are two days travel apiece. The astral boundary is bottom right corner - so a fair ways out. The map is from mid-campaign but as you can see, there is quite a chunk of distance, multiple days travel between the different planets - so this hex-crawl became *lengthy*.

22 May 2024

Orc-shifted world (RPG Blog Carnival)

For this months RPG Blog Carnival because the prompt it’s not easy being green from RPG Wandering got me thinking about orcs - and how the world changes, if any, if we slot orcs into the central world spot that humans typically occupy.

What if orcs and goblins were our 'base' for our fantasy world in place of humans? Taking standard D&D fantasy world, you get lots of mixed entities from the influence of magic, the planes, dragons, etc. What does a world look like where the assumed base block of the world is an orc?

This is not Orkworld where we assume Orks are the protagonists in otherwise standard fantasyland, this is assuming a world grown up around orcs rather than one grown up around humans.

There looks to me like three major blocks of creatures that would change to 'orc-based' versions
- those changed by the influence of magical forces - planars
- those combined with other fantasy races through heritage
- those affected/cursed during their life

20 May 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #173

Choice links from this week on the interweb including some sweet Jams! For yet more links, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Prismatic Wasteland creates Barkeep Jam

The Colours of Pentagrams proposes reCalled from Action - Blogging Challenge

Gnome Stew gives us Give them a War Room: Player Facing Threat Maps

Rise Up Comus gives us Legojam: Castle Hexcrawl

u/i_am_randy shares 11 years of running open tables at local game stores

Archstone Press writes Running Your First Sandbox

18 May 2024

Review: Royal Blood - A Game of Cards

tl:dr; a fun tarot-based heist game, great for whipping up vibrant characters and an intricate challenge for a punchy one-shot.

I got to play this as part of the forever-DMs support group - and it turned out it was on my drives so great chance for a review. Royal Blood is from Rowan Rook and Decard of Spire and Heart fame. I think I got this as part of a bundle and had given the blurb a read but it did not click with me - but now after playing it I have a lot more time for it, I could see this being useful for folk as a world-builder even for other games.

The high concept is that you are a 'Royal' - one of the court cards from the tarot deck - with magic flowing in your veins. Above the world are the Arcane - those who managed to claw or trick their way up to quasi-god-hood, recognised as one of the major arcana of the tarot. The game is about pulling off the heist that tears our the heart of power of one of the Arcane - to ascend yourselves potentially.

Art by Banana Chan

Mechanically it resembles Blades or Spire - not dice thrown but the minor arcana drawn and success depends on the value of the card - yes but, yes and, etc. The design is riotous - great evocative writing set over some bright pages - zine-sized, not a huge amount on each page but punchy and does what it needs to.

15 May 2024

Own Personal Blorb/AntiBlorb

tl;dr: I like Blorb because it anchors on the concept of the oracular dice, that the DM facilitiates, guides the odds by writing the tables to be rolled on, but the dice decide fate. I like Anti-Blorb because it reflects how engaged players paint in the world too.

I read the original Blorb article and thought 'yes, of course' then I saw quite a lot of dismissiveness from commenters I otherwise respect that made me question had I missed something. After further digging I figure that the reasons they disagree is the portrayal of the principles of blorb as iron laws as opposed to a neat heuristic to make a GM's life easier. For that I find Blorb is great.

Hacking Technoskalds summary of Sandra's original model we have three tiers of in-world truth when the group sits to table and the curtain raises on the session:
Explicitly-noted facts are in the GM's binder to be uncovered as play begins
Rules or mechanics (including random tables) which generate truths about the world through play and how the dice fall
Improvised facts are things the DM will create in the moment to fill in gaps not covered by the first two

I find the toughest challenge over long form campaigns is keeping things consistent in-world. Everything reverts to the mean fantasy land mulch in my brain if I do not have some big hooks to hang a seperate world off - and things that remind me of the random little stuff I thought up that would be cool at some point. Setting it out in tiers helps me because it recognises the practical reality of some big set pieces get written up that you are going to use once the players find them, some stuff you are going to make up as you go along - but the intermediate tier is little systems and encounter tables is what helps keep things consistent.

I am fascinated by the description of 'blorby' by Fail Forward as a 'highly detailed pre-written setting' because it is to me one of the ways of *minimising* the detail you need to write into your setting. You generate some reasonable principles for the world - a good encounter table permits the players to wander wherever in a hex crawl for as long as they like. Combine that with mechanics like an overloaded encounter dice to allow any given encounter table entry to serve multiple duties - the encounter, the spoor, the lair, etc.

I like the specific expansion of anti-blorb - which again, weird name - because it maps to my table experiences over the long run.

Per Liches Libram Antiblorb follows the hierarchy:
explicit GM notes and overwise established truths, and if none exist
if the facts would be known to PCs, established player headcanon, and if that does not exist or is inapplicable,
if the facts would already by known to PCs, player fiat, and if that is not applicable,
procedures like random tables for generating truths flagged by the GM in advance, and if none exist,
GM fiat

My first read of 'player fiat' was very character driven 'my back story says' but when I think about my tables with longer running campaigns then it is much more the "I figure that..." of players deducing elements of the world that the DM simply had not yet considered. The DM may have arrived at a different answer if they had come to it alone but with the players here creating perfectly world-coherent answers, why not write it down and make it canon.

Pure unstructured improv for me runs the high risk of me whacking into some inconsistency that players will latch onto and either burn time on something that is not there or require immersion-busting back pedaling. The least wild improv I do the better because things getting generated off pre-thought-through procedures ought to be in-world consistent and support the players general vision of the world. Ideally this then sparks more player headcanon and player driven fact-making which then gives me more world-coherent material to riff off.

I like how Knight at the Opera talks through this approach and the benefits of this 'selective prep'.

It is also helpful as anything after long, draining days or weeks when the creativity within any given thing I am improving might be trying to draw from a dry well.

It helps me structure my creativity and keep the worlds consistent and different from each other, especially when there are gaps between games and switching between worlds.

Godspeed to those who can sit down and extemporise entire campaigns - I used to be able to do it back in college running IOU while my expresso machine ran continuously but not no more. These days, I blorb, because if I come up with a good idea, great! If the players tell me what great idea is implied by stuff I told them earlier, great! If I'm stuck but I've got some tables I can pull a quick random-but-tailored encounter out of, also great! And finally if I find myself way down this list - nothing prepped, the players don't know what should be here, it is off the charts of stuff I have thought of before - then we are in genuine blank space of the world and that is also engaging. Whatever I come up with here in this blank space is going to be informed by all the things it wasn't which at least is better than starting from absolute zero.

Joesky Tax - d6 Abandoned Heist Hauls
1. Smashed chest of small coins, obviously fallen from a great height, bloody scrapes along one edge, short trail of coins away
2. Multiple antique urns, with fading illusions to look like one of the urns, which has an illusion to look differently
3. A great rusted pile of chainmail, swords, helmets, halbards and other gear, within which glint gold and some gems
4. A tipped over coffin with a scarred lid, something crudely hacked off the center of it, scrolls tumbling out across the ground
5. An extremely obvious burial sight hides a chest of the local tax collectors. Multiple trails come too and from the burial pit, signs of multiple reburials.
6. Heavy bundles of fresh furs from a large, dangerous predator. Getting a bit gamey but treated soon might be sold for good coin

13 May 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #172

A fair few interesting links this week. For yet more links, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

DIY & dragons kicks off Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam

Goblin Punch writes Deconstructing Healing, Potions, and Shrines

Technoskald's Forge gives us Blorb: The Technoskald Interpretation

Planarian Calamarium shares Unified THACO Resolution

Blue Bard gave us Say Yes to the Players

Coins and Scrolls gives us OSR: 1d20 Dungeon Merchants

Traverse Fantasy writes Materialist Magic / Magical Materialism

The Wondering Monster shares Motivating Players to Hexcrawl with Maps Found as Treasure

Hidden in Shadows writes It started with Blackmoor - Firsts

Loot the Room gives us Appendix N Part 2: Games

Nothing's RPG Zone shares Staying Classy in the Stone Age 1

Dice in the North gives us Delver's Tools

Elfmaids & Octopi shares Factions for Chagrinspire For a Prison Adventure

11 May 2024

Remixing: Spelljammer Light of Xaryxis Part II

With the campaign over, diving into a chapter-by-chapter pull-apart of Light of Xaryxis and how I turned it into a sandbox.

In the first part of this remix I wrote about what I did
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.

This post is going to go into more detail on the last point now - how exactly I pulled apart the adventure into how many chunks. The broad toolkit I was looking towards was The Alexandrian 'How to Remix an Adventure' in making a node based structure - where all the nodes here were planets. My initial work up had Chapter 2 happen then direct to Chapter 4, then Chapter 5 and after into 'sandboxing' where Chapters 3, 6, 7 and 8 were the recruitment quests for a different faction. Chapter 6 ropes in the vampirates, chapters 3 and 8 the mindflayers, chapter 8 the local barons and chapter 7 the local imperial loyalists.

To recap the system I rolled up:
0. The Snuffed Star – the guttering remains of a star
1. Gorondirs Throne – small, with a fiery moon that makes it habitable, dwelling of the Sussurans
2. Mystra’s Mirror - small, flat waterworld
3. Hrungirs Roar - titanic air world with a fiery moon and a habitable earthen moebius-strip, seat of the local astral elves
4. The Great Belt - chain of asteroids within an extended atmosphere, with mines and Bral-like asteroid cities
5. Obsidian Depths - vast water world, inhabited only by great beasts
6. Fanthirs Ruin – enormous earth world, once populated by dwarves, now a mindflayer hold
7. The Ring Sea – water belt with rocky clusters and a great moon within it
8. Tears of Joy – tiny warm water world, with a seafaring/spacefaring culture

Chapter 1 - tossed overboard entirely - replaced with a bridge from a 'space whaling' two-shot. I had the intro as the githyanki whaler captain be so impressed with them that they signed them up for what they figured would be a cushy number of a letter of marque with the Githyanki empire to go find a lost agent. This also served as an on-ramp to add players to the party. None of the book content got used as we never witnessed a Starseed drop from the ground. I could have recycled the Moondancer with Cpt. Sartell, Flapjack the Flumph, Traevus and his mutiny and all that elsewhere but I had no shortage of ships to use so they got sidelined.

Chapter 2 - used the Darkstar encounter more or less as is at the system boundary, just kept a more traditional hadozee crew to make the Dark Star and its mission a more orthodox fleet ship. My players, raised on Master and Commander, of *course* took the Dark Star as a prize. Rock of Bral was swapped out for main port in The Great Belt.

Chapter 3 - wreck of the Lucid Edict is a great encounter, lifted as the 'faction quest' to get the local Mindflayers of Fanthirs Ruin allied against the Xaryxians.

Chapter 4 - the Ebonsnare neogi ship got turned into a wildspace encounter - I did not bring in the Space Galleon rescuers since the PCs were well able to take the Ebonsnare apart alone. The Stalwart and Incorrigible were available for use but never got used. All the content about the Rock of Bral got lifted straight over to the local asteroid port, including the astral elf ambush; interestingly, this set the dogs running for the PCs that the Xaryxians must be running a big spy network, how to find it and rip it out? Krux gets found, mentions the Second Wind but the party has their own ship so they ignore it and head to Topolah's for intel. Fel Ardra got recycled as the Xaryxian spy network encounter later, Flinch and Starbough never got used. Hastain the reigar gets placed as an ambush encounter at the asteroid port but the PC's keep doing fast, cunning port departures and coincidentally spoiling Hastains ambush a few times.

Chapter 5 - Topolah's tower and the scavvers were used as is, placed in the Great Belt. Topolah was much appreciated as a source of good intel and her advice to find Gargenhale was taken seriously. The Kindori pod never got used; but this bunch had already been space-whaling. The Gargenhale content was used as was, placed over Obsidian Depths, the big local ocean planet. Throwaway lines in the Gargenhale set up - two starmoth wrecks, evidence of a fight - all this provided lots of investigation by the players trying to reconstruct the timeline of events which took a lot of DM prep on my side to figure out reasonable answers. The players of *course* stopped to strip the Starmoth wrecks to the deck-nails, looking for valuables and intel.

Chapter 6 - Gargenhale and his mutinous crew played as is - though the TPK potential of the explosive cargo of the Last Breath was something I watched nervously as people split up during the fight. There was also a good chance to blow Xedalli to kingdom come before ever meeting her if things go sideways in the fight with Agony. Xedalli was however found and promptly re-imprisoned by the party aboard their own ship.

Chapter 7 - Xedalli got used as is. Pretty much all the long-haul voyage content is here in the voyage to Doomspace so that got repurposed into general travel encounters. Aartuks of Aruun got recycled as the 'faction onboarding' quest for the ssussurans of Gorondirs Throne, including the bulettes. Doomspace itself got chucked - I kept everything in-system, especially since it turned out to be large with weeks of travel between planets.

Chapter 8 - Vocaths base got re-framed as the mindflayers orbital trade station over Fanthirs Ruin. Arena of Blood got turned into the "mindflayer alliance quest" and went by the numbers. Prince Xeleths ambush of his sister was recycled to trip once Xedalli showed herself in public (wherever). Xeleths back-up snatch team got repurposed into the Xaryxian spy network as an ambush on the capital of Hrungirs Roar.

Chapter 9 - Alliance in Doomspace was re-painted and used as a faction-building challenge series to recruit the quarreling local eleven remnants on Hrungirs Roar, the local capital planet. The goals/ambitions etc remained but I switched the races to be residents of Hrungirs Roar.

Chapter 10 - From here on the adventure ran pretty close to 'script'. Citadel assault was played straight up apart from the githyanki knight encounter getting thrown overboard. With the players allying with mindflayers and *being* the local githyanki force it did not feel like a good fit.

Chapter 11 - Trial by combat went more or less by the numbers - some villain monologuing then a beefy fight with a Zodar.

Chapter 12 - Betrayal, fight-back and then final decision to destroy Xaryxis were used as is.

So after I pulled all those bits out and scattered them around, I threw in another faction on Tears of Joy to be an accelerator - they would join once a majority of others were onboard.

I unleashed the players and after a fairly direct route in to liase with Krux they found themselves aware of the problem (sun is cooling due to starseeds, Xaryxians are assholes, they are attempting to reconquer the place, we need to get the locals off their butts by doing things to get them on-side against the Xaryxians). After that they had a bunch of leads to chase down corresponding to encounters from the book set on different planets and off they went. I did not worry too much about what level things were tuned for because with my experience 5e players can usually nova their way through whatever you throw at them and this table were some hard-bitten 30yr D&D vets.

I retooled the milestone levelling to be check-list - once a certain set of encounters were done, they levelled, which meant that it took a while as they cruised around doing bits and pieces then they started completing things and levelled relatively rapidly into the end game.

All in all it worked pretty well - the players went off on some tangents I was able to catch and over all 80% of the campaign sessions worked through at least some content from the book so we got good use out of it. I will walk through how the players interacted with all this on another post.

Light of Xaryxis lends itself well to remixing this way as there are lots of elements that can be swapped around without greatly impacting it

08 May 2024

Further notes on running big open tables

Unplanned I ended up running a big table of nine for one of our open sessions recently - it can work, it is not to be feared and disdained as some might insist. I also got to play in a seven player, multi-faction brawl and ran a seven man table in the past months for other examples. Writing up notes as per Gorgon Bones best practices - Record your hobby experience.

I previously wrote up how I used to make it work in the 90s. In the past months I have run a table of seven and one of nine and it gave me a chance to re-test what I recalled as the way to do it and see was I kidding myself or suffering false memory.

What I remembered of my old methods were:
- make it easy for people to pay attention - either have people involved or make sure things are interesting to watch
- 'just use bears' - keep the monsters straightforward
- take breaks
- run a count down - hold people to making quick decisions
- ambush long discussions with random encounters
- Viking Hat DM'ing - strongly steering the table - though that was just how I ran things back in the day

Since the 90s things I picked up along the way that I thought would help are:
- Puzzles and terrain hazards are great
- Keeping the momentum going by telling people to be ready ahead of their turn

So from these recent sessions, things that stood out to me were:

Lots of bodies makes a mess of combat encounters - a lot of damage gets thrown out before a monster gets a second turn; add foes but keep those foes mechanically simple.

People mostly stuck together - everyone worked well except one or two 'self-centered' characters. Lone-wolves do not work as there is not the time for their running off alone. Getting the party moving through impulsive actions (just pulling the lever) can be fine to break debate-deadlock.

Weird, quirky characters are fine where the player knows how to play them so as not to be a drag. Large headcount tables live in the now, backgrounds are unlikely to feature strongly since there is not time to give everyone that kind of spotlight.

Vary between calling on everyone and letting some drive the action. Some players were happy to sit back and enjoy the ride, if things are being driven forward.

Watch the progress of the group as a whole - as long as things are generally moving forward you are doing ok. Some things get resolved quickly because of many bodies (combat), other things take longer (roleplay).

From the seven player table where sub groups split off regularly on mini-exploration runs, as long as people are doing entertaining things, others will be happy to 'watch the show' - a hub-and-spoke set up works where people do things and come back before doing another thing vs linear where people venture ever further away

From the nine player table - allow folk to run ahead with decisions, in particular being conscious of some players stopping to harvest or cast rituals or other time consuming stuff - note they are stopping to do a thing and see what everyone else is doing with their time. If the party feels it is critical, they will wait, if they feel it is indulgent they will move on and that gives a balance to 'bandwidth jamming'.

Pre-brief folk - recognise it is going to be a big table and ask their help keeping things moving - bring them inside the tent to help.

There was a cool puzzle as part of the nine player adventure, almost a toolbox for players to engage with as much as they wanted (programmable automata) and that worked well.

04 May 2024

State of the Blog (post #600)

I skipped out talking blog stats on the 5-year post, focused on meat-space so here we'll talk about how fares the online realm in a bit more detail.

On Traffic

Everything has gone weird - I assume scraping to feed AI models? The geographic origin of traffic here used to mirror where TTRPG-ers identified as their point of origin - 55% US, then 15% UK/Canada/Australia/Ireland, 10% EU, 20% rest - and over the past couple of months I've been getting *70%* of my traffic from the Pacific Rim - bouncing between Hong Kong and Singapore. That ain't real. Stripping off all that what I assume is bot-nonsense and traffic has been stable for 2024 so far at ~ 7800 hits a month.

Looking at this in the raw from blogger we can see the anomaly clearly - standard traffic is noisy, with occassional spikes with a quick drop of if I get featured somewhere. That big, sustained ramp-up since Feb 2024 is obviously nothing to do with me - either AI scrapers, backwash from other peoples cyberwars or whatever.

I am reassured some real folk do actually turn up because there are the comments and I see myself mentioned in random chatter now and then (shiny weekly links or the 1.2 million character sheets post). The r/OSR blogroll has been killed - the last one has just been left up and ... well throw your links in there to die I guess? I find the auto-feeds that folk set up on Mastodon are much more effective anyway so I am choosing not to fight this fight anymore. Farewell r/OSR blogroll, you served your purpose for a time. The two major replacements for getting the word out have been Sly Flourishes TTRPG Blogroll feed and the TTRPG network on Lemmy which is great because you can follow it on Mastodon and it just connects straight to your feed.

And again, I have to thank the following comrade-bloggers as those who bring readers here - both the long-standing Lizardman Diaries, DIY & Dragons, Chaudron Chromatique, Weaver.skepti.ch, Nothics Eye, Ynas Midgard, Uncaring Cosmos, Retired Adventurer, Kelvin Green, Awesome Lies, Spot Hidden, Shuttered Room, Wierd Wonderful Worlds, A Continent of Banalities, Archons March On, 3d6 Polar Bears and Advanced Mystery and Manners. I appreciate being on your blogrolls.

On content

Most popular posts of the past 6 months - assuming that all got equally affected by the bot-nonsense this is still some measure of what was popular.
Class/Race archetypes in 1.2 million D&DBeyond characters
Review: Reach of the Roach God
Review: Worlds Without Number
Campaign Spin-Up VIII - Fuzzier West March Sandboxes
Masquerade as social depth-crawl (RPG Blog Carnival)
Terrain, Terrain, Terrain
Landing the session ending for one-shots (RPG Blog Carnival)
Chekovs Hooks III: Loose Ends from Written Modules
Thoughts on a new "DMG of house rules"
Review: Beyond Corny Gron
Growing your game group (5yr Blog-iversary)

Of all of those, I am so glad I called out that I got all this data from Dice-scroller right at the top of the post about class/race archetypes post or this would be excruciating - I changed the colours to beef up the contrast and discussed the chart of all the data they pulled and somehow this post has become the 'go-to' post for discussing the dataset not their original post. Why, internet?

The review of Reach of the Roach God has shown legs which is nice but the Worlds Without Number one is really surprising - top 3 for Q1-2024 and it got published in Dec '21! Only other notable point is that the RPG Blog Carnival is providing good chewy topics to get the creative juices flowing on a consistent basis - join in if you don't already.

Another nice online moment was when Bruce Heard (of Princess Ark and Calidar) found the table-test I did of the flying ship combat system he published on his blog and reposted that Skyship Battle Playtest to his own blog. Praise from Caesar!

Additional online effort has gone into wrangling event notices on the RPGVienna forum and on the meetup - button mashing to get people to tables rolling dice.

On Goals

Since the last major check in I can cross off one major goal in that we brought the Spelljammer Light of Xaryxis campaign over the line - only my third campaign to hit their actual planned conclusion. Otherwise open night gaming continues, DM 101 session is at least scheduled and I am getting to play some Planescape as well as continuing Rime of the Frostmaiden.

I notice I have more fodder for 'actual play' and lessons learned posts, less time to do data posts - I guess that is a good sign of more actual gaming getting done.

Going to keep this thing running, it serves well as a place to document observations and lessons learned, flex creative muscles in the Blog Carnivals and so on.

30 April 2024

Beyond Hirelings, Sub-questors for Pyramid Questing

My Ducal House table had an idea that, since the number of things on the parties to-do list had grown so collossal they would never get to them, they would parcel off some quests as things that could be run at my Friday open table games. Become quest-givers in other words.

On the face of it I love the idea, with the caveat that the first thing they proposed to carve off was a pretty grim problem that might just make mincemeat out of some uninformed adventurers. However, with a little finesse, I am sure this can be addressed.

The pros for me are that I already have a huge quantity of material for all the things they want to deal with - since they could well have gone to deal with it themselves. So in theory I just need to extract the specific notes for whatever is the objective, shape it into a one-shot session and see however a party does.

If red-teaming is having the opposition run by others what is this called? Not blue-teaming because the people playing the one-shots would be being blue-teamed by the Ducal House players. Consultation with experts of the deep interwebs suggests 'sub-questing', 'nested questing' or 'pyramid questing' and I have to admit liking the latter quite a bit.

To make this work first I need the Ducal House players to pick some tasks they are carving off which might be a wrench given their (well founded) view that nobody else gets anything right if they do not do it themselves. Once they deign to outsource some tasks, I need to frame them up in a way that it can run as a one-shot.

Thinking about it any given task is going to have the 'dial' of how hard or easy it is to get to. The first two things mentioned in passing were retreiving a magical item from a presumed abandoned temple complex deep in the jungles of the Land of the Dead. The second thing was the harvesting of a magical component from a mythic location that they are not quite sure where it lies. Both of which have potentially interesting terrain adventures to be had.

The main Ducal House campaign has a balance of swift change (due to high PC mobility through magic) and plenty of warning for me as a DM since they like to plan things out. I think the template I'll be using here is the Spelljammer Academy mini-campaign which was all done around 'big hook' for any given session and then built out with stuff to do around that - typically the voyage to the location or the flight from consequences afterwards.

On a pure DM'ing level, it is going to be a fun exercise in T2-3 play and running bad-guys worth their salt at that level. Not quite Tuckers Kobolds level of 'ye shall fear the enemy' but the signature foes for some of this are individually not so dangerous but collectively a hazard.

I was nudging the Ducal House players towards 'you are high level now, you should have others doing things for you' - me thinking hirelings, vassals, maybe a couple of friendly NPCs. Classic DM mistake, my players took what I was thinking and ran off over the horizon with it...

29 April 2024

27 April 2024

Actual Test: Spelljammer 5e Fleet Combat (Fantasy Space Combat Rules Part 7)

tl;dr: not really a fantasy space fleet combat ruleset - but it sort of works at table.

I have run the 'fleet combat' set up for Spelljammer 5e by the book twice now (and it ran in the background for a third session) and it sort of serves its purpose as a dramatic device but I really hesitate to call it a rule-set. Following from writing on the Spelljammer 5e lack of rules before there is actually, toward the end of the adventure in the set Light of Xaryxis, some minimal mass combat rules: once you are in mass ship combat, each side loses a ship each round and the players get to focus on boarding actions.

Recalling what we saw previously - you practically cannot batter a 5e Spelljammer out of action through weapons fire alone without it being a deeply tedious dice-rolling exercise so the players getting stuck-in as boarders is the sensible thing to do - they will rip up an enemy crew a lot more quickly than their ship will hammer an enemy ship out of action. This 'chalk one ship off per round' is really just a timing mechanic to drive urgency in the boarding actions - but then making sure that the players have material targets that make enough of a difference within reachable distance is purely down to GM sleight of hand - exactly how far things are and how fast things are needs to get handwaved hard or players spend a lot of time too far off to be doing anything once they have crushed a first target but the battle is not yet resolved - or have foes come to them. If you actually look at the relative ship speeds, a foe trying to avoid boarding drives relative closing speeds per round down to 10-30' per round - starting even at the closest range of 250' that makes a long, long time trying to get to grips with folk.

Recapping the three instances where I've used the mass fleet combat:
First was the finale of the Spelljammer Academy extended campaign - and the players used their fleet to tie up the enemy fleet while they did an end run around to board the enemy base
Second was a variation on Chapter Nine of Light of Xaryxis where the players decided to slug it out with Xeleths fleet when he came to grab Xedalli because they had managed to round up some allies by then. That was an extended series of boarding actions to the backdrop of the fleets tearing each other apart.
Third was Chapter Ten of Light of Xaryxis where the players used their fleet as a blocking force against the citadel fleet and did a run directly for the citadel - fighting solar dragons on the way in.

It is enough mechanic for players to judge 'how is this fight likely to go' - which is purely 'have we at least a matching number of hulls to tie the enemy up while we do our thing'. Not very elegant but enough for the purposes of getting a session moving.

I guess it is *a* way to do multiple ship combats and my player groups have enjoyed the fleet actions because it keeps the focus on the heroes which I guess is the point for 5e. I write it up grudgingly because while I dislike it conceptually, my players have enjoyed the effect at the table. This feels wierd to me, but maybe it might be useful to you. It all feels a bit quantum ogre for me - the enemy will stumble upon you just at the appropriate moment - but really it just makes all the ship combat as wallpaper. The ships are just the shapes to have combats across; as long as you know that is the style of campaign you get with Spelljammer 5e, all is well.

If you want actual mechanic sets with a bit of heft to them, we have previously gone through two magazine-published sets of rules for fighting magical flying ships - the 3e adaptation Shadow of the Spider Moon and the 5e Aces High aerial combat rules from Arcadia #3 published by MCDM as well as the original AD&D Spelljammer and the to-be-published OD&D compatible Calidar. Most recently we also tried the gridless, Theater of the Mind house ruleset for the Spelljamming focused 'Tales from the Glass Guarded World' podcast.

24 April 2024

Actual Play: Stirring the Hornet's Nest at Het Thamsya

I got to take Stirring the Hornet's Nest at Het Thamsya to one of my open table sessions and it ran pretty well - some squeaks but those were driven by the typical open table stuff - no filtering of play-style, no session zero, ended up with a massive table (nine) of which six were new to me, four of those were new to D&D. Review of the module is here. Writing it up as per Gorgon Bones Record your hobby experience.
This is a big site - 25 rooms - and an intriguing heist/rescue. Spoilers abound from here on.

20 April 2024

Why war-games make great settings: Iron Kingdoms (RPG Blog Carnival)

Another month and the RPG blog carnival continues at Codex Anathema for the topic of Favourite Settings. You can see the rest of the topics for 2024 on Of Dice And Dragons 2024 Blog Carnival hosting list.

I have a bunch of the old 3.5e era settings sitting on my shelf that I never quite got around to playing - Midnight, Scarred Lands - and some earlier ones similar - Al Qadim, Greyhawk - but one thing I have always had a softspot for is a really distinct aesthetic - and worlds used for miniature games are great examples of this. WHFRP is perhaps the most obvious but Iron Kingdoms is one of my favourites.

I liked the original setting - the combinations of heavy metal mayhem with magical mechs and swashbuckling ethos.

18 April 2024

Growing your game group (5yr Blog-iversary)

To mark the 5th anniversary of spinning up this blog I find the theme this past year has been 'getting more people gaming' - from running events to helping bring more people into our local game group to trying to connect up disparate D&D folk - nothing has been particularly innovative or high style just the shovel-work of running open tables and pointing people at other people.

One thing I did find inspirational from the broader blogger community was Gorgon Bones best practices - Record your hobby experience, Introduce others to your hobby and Participate in a hobby community - having that list was a weirdly helpful acknowledgement that we got to get the basics right - find the people, figure out when they can be at tables, find places with tables - before we can start doing the rest of it.

The things I've put my shoulder to over the year has been
- maintained the Meetup 'funnel' to bring people to our local gaming groups forum
- simplifying the big beginner events (Night of the Rolling Dice) so they demand less of us to run them
- helping expand to a second location for the regular Friday nights - mostly by just being one of the regular DMs there
- linking up a whole new bunch of local D&D folk with the DM supergroup - they've done some stuff already while my calendars been a shambles

The online stuff - Meetup, the RPGVienna forum, the discords - have got their memes and minor connections but there are a lot of folk who chirp up when booking their place at one of the open table sessions that we never hear from otherwise. I read this as the majority view the online spaces as somewhere face-to-face gaming is coordinated.

Online is all well and good for what it is, but for folk who want to go offline - who are sometimes folk with thriving online gaming - it is hard to do that from a cold start so giving them a helping hand is worthwhile. My own online gaming got nuked by the smallest householders shifting sleeping patterns - last year I was able to near guarantee they would be asleep by a time - enough that I ran the whole Southern Reaches campaign on weekdays after bedtime. This year - no such luck, even getting the last few episodes of Light of Xaryxis done is proving tricky.

Instead I've put the bits and pieces of time I have in evenings towards helping to try coordinate face to face gaming over weekend slots, both for myself and others.

Having that big online footprint is bringing folk in, both regular gamers and more unusual things like someone who's turned up to do an ethnographic study for their course. We have enough presence that we appear when you search so good enough. Certainly at this point, when I've been ill things have trundled merrily along without me doing anything which is good.

d6 Ways to funnel folk to your game group
1. Make sure something pops up when someone googles 'D&D' and your locality
2. Run open tables where people with no experience can rock up and game for the first time
3. Be flexible as DM's so you can say yes to whoever wants to join you; one of the people attending having a T1 game in their back pocket in case folk turn up but also being happy to play too
4. Figure out where is good to play - and when you start to hit the limits on a venue, be prepared to run multiple locations - so when they show up you can seat them
5. Tell your Friendly Local Games Store your group exists and is open to new folk - they'll cheerfully tell anyone who comes in shopping for the books
6. Trial periods on 'connector' social networks like Meetup, Couchsurfing, Internations, even Facebook can be low-effort ways to get the word out to people who are not actively looking for you (those people found you from point 1.

I figure there are lots of better game designers and OSR theoreticians out there, if I can road test and document what helps with getting those tables clattering with dice, that is probably a worthy use of this place - til the 6th anniversary at least.

15 April 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #168

Interesting links tripped over this past week. For even more, see the previous list found here or you can check the RPG Blog Carnival or on Third Kingdom Games news roundup. Originally inspired by weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links.

Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet gives us Resurrection: Having my cake and eating it too

The Voyager’s Workshop shares Dungeons & Dragons & Lego

JEFF'S GAME BOX asks What Did Medieval Fantasy Look Like Before Tolkien?

Gaius Invictus writes Book Club: “Digital Minimalism”

13 April 2024

The thrill of "the Find"

I had a refreshing experience recently at Vienna Games Convention - the thrill of 'the find' - something I'd largely missed in this always-on cornucopia we all live in these days. On the way there I was asking myself 'is there anything under the sun that you would actually be looking for' and apart from stumbling over some classic early D&D modules as a general category, the only thing that came to mind that I had sought but not found easily online recently was 'The Plane Above' from 4e.

And lo.
When I saw them on the stack, I was wondering what would be a reasonable price - and when the guy shrugged and said 'tenner' for Plane Above and the Manual of the Planes, the hardest bit was keeping my poker face. He had Plane Below too but it was not one I had been looking for before.

I was looking for Plane Above because as an Astral guide it has suddenly popped back into focus with Spelljammer 5e's new treatment of the realm between planetary systems - was phlogiston with pretty much nothing there - now is the Astral which is stuffed full of adventure. The astral skiffs and clippers in Plane Above had been something frequently mentioned by others in discussions online of Spelljammer so that was a gap in my visibility.
The Manual of the Planes I wanted just to get the baseline for the World Tree cosmology of 4e which was substantially different from the Great Wheel of AD&D that I lived and breathed.
After initially getting the first two, I wandered around a bit, crewed the RPGVienna desk and let 'do I really want the Planes Below' bubble in my mind before arriving at 'yes, I'll kick myself for not having the set' and snaffled it up too on my way out.
All this is something I missed for ages. The last time I got this kind of 'hell, yeah' feeling was walking into my FLGS and spotting Veins of the Earth just sitting on the shelf. Keeping an eye on the kickstarters does mean that I have taken a view on much of what could possibly be there before I ever walk through the door. The surprise factor gets crushed, which is a first world problem, to be sure, but I do recall the time of significantly narrower pipelines of stuff, of what few bits being available on a bookstores small RPG section being the 'take it or leave it' limit.

Mostly I am hugely amused that the only thing I could think of that I was looking for - was found!