28 February 2024

Actual Test: House of Illusions (RPG Blog Carnival)

tl;dr: a forewarned party will make mincemeat out of your illusionist.

I table tested the approach to illusions from Bluebard "Death by Illusion" lightly adapted to 3.5e (Illusion save became Will Save) and it worked pretty well. This is also a return to Illusory Sensorum's Illusions & Delusions prompt for the RPG Blog Carnival. I tried to put it into practice and it... kind of worked, kind of went clunk but in a good way.

The background was that the party, children of a noble house, had figured out one of their cousins was being held on their own lands incommunicado by parties unknown. Scrying on them they saw the location they knew with the fittings of a neighbouring realm. Communication attempts through message were interrupted by the scry being countered until someone Sleep'ed their cousin and they saw them being dumped into bed with their also slumbering new wife. Further scrys on known servants revealed them all asleep in the potato cellar. The party deduced that something was going on involving illusions that made the cousin think all was well - they rounded up an 'illusion specialist' by way of the local mages guild and set off down river on a borrowed skiff using their Spelljamming saddle.

From the opposition side - they knew they were blown so they had some time to prepare. They had hostages and were at a fortified chateau, but one they knew the heroes were familiar with.

Philosophical question one - running this somewhat old school should the foes in place be of equal level to challenge the players or should they be of the level equivalent to when this hook was first set up - a force sufficient for the task by the opposition based on the last news the opposition had?

To set this all up I:
First off - I grabbed a map of a fortified chateau as my baseline
Second - I figured out the hostile forces, what they were and what they were disguised as
Third - I gave myself a random roll table of illusionary hazards

26 February 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #161

Further plumbings of the depth of the internet. 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.

Unknown Dungeon compiles Zine Month 2024 Highlight - Part One and Part Two

Levi Kornelsen gives us The D&D Playstyle Block and Block 2: Steelmanning The Cut.

Indie RPG Newsletter shares GM Advice: Theatricality versus Transparency

@zedecksiew writes How To Play The Revolution

Methods & Madness gives us Wargames, storygames and RPGs

Fail Forward writes Gobins

Dice Goblin gives us DIY Ancient Prophecies, Symbols & Lost Languages to Guide Your Campaign

Joy and Forgetfulness documents a game rescued from the shed getting to the table decades later in Battlemasters with Kinchlets

24 February 2024

Lessons Learned from large beginners D&D events.

Compiling our lessons learned from our Night of the Rolling Dice beginners intro D&D event as per Gorgon Bones best practices - though this allows me to hit the trifecta of Record your hobby experience, Introduce others to your hobby and Participate in a hobby community. A key focus of this one was to distill it down to something which is as low-touch as possible - we launch it ~ 2 months out, get a roster of DMs then do nothing until a week beforehand. Everyone is busy, this is your 'plug-and-play' event template.

Write up of the actual night is here: 60 sign ups, 45 attendees, 9/10 tables ran, players seemed to go home happy, feedback on the Meetup is 4.8/5.

What worked well

- Repeatable template - we have a playbook now for how the thing runs and can base decisions on learned experience rather than best guesses.

- Booking well ahead of time (30-50 days) gives plenty of time for the event to percolate in Meetups and other calendars and for people to find their way to us. For both night-time events we hit capacity with a week to go. It does mean re-confirming with your DMs and venue that they have not forgotten but far better that then scrounging for either on short notice

- Venue interaction - we tightened up orders - only drinks before you go to table, food orders get your name on it - which practically eliminated unclaimed (and unpaid) orders at the end of the night. This got arranged by email with the venue beforehand - their standard practice is bringing things to tables which had issues when people were moving around.

- Nudging those signed up to confirm - giving folk a reminder to drop off the list if they cannot go a few days out followed by a 'check if you are up off the waitlist' mail to the same folk the day before served to get over a dozen people to flag they weren't coming and pull a bunch of the waitlist up

- Dice sales - people can borrow dice on deposit for the evening - everyone wants to take them home which generates a few quid to pay off our minimal costs

- Raffle - we did not lean hard on our FLGS this time around so I scrounged my shelves for duplicates and we cooked up another few prizes just to have a few bits for a small one - still worked well.

- Masking tape name tags - a roll of masking tape and a black marker gives good-enough name tags at minimal cost, minimal waste afterwards

- Pre-gen characters - with lots of folk (>60%) saying they were new and needed characters, previous ideas of helping people create their character are not feasible. We created a block of pre-gens and had them ready to hand out. I used Fast Character for mine, it was good enough for the night.

- Safety brief / safety tools - flagged as a thing people appreciated - we have x-cards on the tables and give a 'play nice' intro speech - you can read it all here - but feedback from even my table was immediate and positive so good to know people find it helpful.

What to do differently

21 February 2024

Illusions & the gameplay loop (RPG Blog Carnival)

For this months blog carnival we are back to the host Illusory Sensorum for the topic of Illusions & Delusions. You can see the rest of the topics for 2024 on Of Dice And Dragons 2024 Blog Carnival hosting list - there are still a few slots open for those interested.

I found this topic pretty hard because as many of the discussions on this topic rapidly arrive at - illusions mess with the core gameplay loop of TTRPGs - DM narrates what is happening, players declare their actions, DM narrates consequences, return to start. Except with illusions the 'DM narrates' part is twisted because maybe what they perceive is untrue. Here the trick is hitting the balance between the two un-fun ends of "character getting their head lopped off by an illusory scythe trap they couldn't disbelieve" and "players chanting 'I disbelieve' at everything the DM says to slow the game to a crawl."

I'm drawing heavily on Blue Bards articulation of the problem in Death by Illusion... and its follow-up since he does crunch really well - that you get a single save per illusion, fail that and you believe it is real - illusions last until they deal damage then foof - DM checks behind-the-screen if characters twig to the illusion - interaction with the illusion triggers a save.

So with some ground chance to passively avoid illusions for characters (or trigger you the DM handing the players some information on incongruities that ought to trigger suspicion) you can revert to describing things as they appear while still holding that balance between instantly spoiling the illusion or giving the characters no chance at all.

Another useful thought was floated on RPG.net by johnbragg of 'internal' and 'external' illusions - those cast right into someones mind, active illusions, and those that are passively encountered with your ordinary senses. The implication here is with internal illusions everyone can be lost in their own false environment while with external illusions they are commonly perceived and folk can help one another with them.

19 February 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #160

Some links from the depths of the hinterweb this week. 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.

Illusory Sensorium writes their RPG Blog Carnival entry I Want to Believe

Graphite Prime gave us Strange Things Happen When You Sleep In Dungeons.....

@fuseboy tweets on XP bounties

TOM VAN WINKLE'S RETURN TO GAMING writes Yes, you ARE telling a story.

Chaos Magick-User proposes Let’s make goblins unique

TABLEMÖNGER gives us D20 Descriptions of a New PC Instantly Arriving In-Game

A Knight at the Opera shares A Fracture in Old-School Philosophy: Barbarian or King?

Blog of Forlorn Encystment gives us The Other Side of the Screen: Being the Player You Want to See in the World

17 February 2024

After Action Report - Night of the Rolling Dice 3

We ran another of our open table events recently and got a bunch of folk in for it. We use Meetup as the 'on-ramp' and can reliably fill a 50 place event with a waitlist.

One key thing is venue - we found a place with a large back room that is happy to give it to us of a Saturday night with enough warning and without a deposit. At this point we are in virtuous circle territory - the venue is happy we'll fill the venue, so they're happy to give us the space to fill. The first event to prove this is the trick.

DMs are the other limiting factor - scrounge up enough DMs to run the tables you want plus a spare or two - book them in well ahead of time and then make their life as easy as possible - they should turn up ready to run something, you feed them players.

The other key thing is advance planning - get your venue booking in early, and put up the event place holder on Meetup to get that trickle of people started.

We get ~ 15% fade out of people before the event - plans change and confirms turn to no's - but we have a big enough waitlist that they fill automatically. We expect no-show on the night but that should be manageable by running tables with four in place of five players.

14 February 2024

Review: Beyond Corny Gron

tl:dr; a focussed mountains and caverns setting with great exploration mechanics, world invoked via bestiary and old-school style

Picked this up on kickstarter, part of my 'back the locals' approach and wow, this was something else. From Nerd Sirens based out of Poland, this is an expansion of Corny Groń a solo/micro rpg, with lots of random tables for wilderness and mountain adventures and mechanics referencing Knave but fitting any old school system.

Art by Alicia Wiśniewska

The strongest wow-factor out of the box of anything that I've gotten my hands on recently - it was both larger format and thicker than I was expecting and the cloth and foil cover pops impressively. Inside is cleanly and clearly laid out with a consistent wood-cut/lino-cut art style throughout. There is a really nice touch in the right page border has the chapter list with the chapter you are in bolded - great for quick reference and keeps with the spare, clean style.

There were also four postcard with sites and encounters for mountains and caves bundled in from the kickstarter. These replicate what is on the inside covers, front and back, along with a nice woodcut art piece on the front.

12 February 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #159

Only the most curious links, stumbled over in a week of browsing. 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.

Whose Measure God Could Not Take writes Considerations on Jaquaysing the Dungeon br>
Rise Up Comus has Four Tips to Drive Role Playing

Rolltop Indigo gave us Staring Back at the Invisible which started back with The Invisible Rulebooks

Playthings of Mad Gods shares The Power of Messy Success

Pity-Crit gives us The Smallest Gods: Unworthy Divinities For D&D

Laidback DM writes Running Big Parties

10 February 2024

Open Table Procedures - Euro Edition

tl;dr: tempo of booking, prepping and running open table games

Take on Rules wrote My Procedure for Facilitating Open Table Gaming and cast a light on a very different gaming set-up to my own so I thought I would document how things are running here in Vienna.

As per Gorgon Bones best practices - though this allows me to hit the trifecta of Record your hobby experience, Introduce others to your hobby and Participate in a hobby community.


Long-lead (long beforehand)
- program up the slots in the Meetup group with generic 'visit our forum' links
- pull down pre-gens from the Brancalonia site, print them
- block out Friday nights on my calendar
- put up a setting brief on the forum

D-5/7 - forum opens for the next session
- confirm venue - 99% of the time it is our usual, occassionally we skip to somewhere else. This usual is a club-house for wargamers/card gamers that we connected with last year after a few years of cafe gaming. It is a bit out of the way but cheap. Lots of big tables, a fair amount of seats
- watch for the next Friday thread to go up on the forum; jump on and say if I'm going and what I'll be running/playing. we fill quickly these days so getting in early is important
- usually I run, copy/paste my little Brancalonia pitch
- update the Meetup entry for this date with a link to the specific forum thread
- tweak post-session summary from last time to make a new entry on the campaign log

D-2/5 - prep the session
- of an evening I prep for the game - read the content, write my own timeline
- spot any recurring NPCs, factions or the like for Conservation of NPCs
- one of the forum organisers will tot up the attendees, list the DMs, the players who have expressed a preference for a DM and who is left
- check who I have at my table - any repeat players and any hooks to work in

- pack my go-bag off my checklist
- leave work, big coffee in a thermos for at table, small coffee and muffin for on the way
- get to the venue, check my name off and pony up my €3, find a seat and drag it to the table
- help match open seats with stray players once I get there
- change into my Brancalonia t-shirt because I've got one

07 February 2024

Review: Valley of the Five Fires

tl:dr; a dense module of mechanic, lore and adventure sites for nomadic adventure.

This is a 'Fantasy Setting and Adventure Module' that I got print on demand from Lulu grace of the discount stickers and one of the many 'best of the OSR on Lulu' lists. I have been pretty happy with Richard LeBlanc's previous work like d30 Sandbox Companion and this continues that good trend. This is pitched for 0e, 1e and BX but there is lots in here for whatever system you run. I am coming to look at it now on the back of other 'steppe' connected recent releases ranging from Ultraviolet Grasslands through to Empires of the Silk Road and Wayfarer: Nomadic Realms.

Cover art by Nicholas Roerich

Decent production quality from Lulu - black and white art within mostly by the author, all very coherent and clean. Much of the artwork within the book was done by the author and I have a lot of respect for the level of industry involved here.

05 February 2024

Shiny TTRPG links #158

A handful of links from a travelling week. 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.

Illusory Sensorium provides the February RPG Blog Carnival prompt Illusions & Delusions

The Lizard Man Diaries gives us The Tactile and Generic TTRPG - Boardgamey tablefeel using bits and bobs.

TRAIPSE writes Overloading the search die

Goblin Punch gives us Dungeon: Castle of the Gribblies

Illusory Sensorium gives us Doom Clock

Playful Void shares Diagetic advancement and inventory

Methods & Madness gives us Wilderness level tables

TASKERLAND writes Into the OSR: On Diegetic Advancement

03 February 2024

Catastrophic Success: Venue Capacity Management

tl;dr: at the limit of venue capacity, how to spin out another venue to avoid turning people away?

We had to do our first turn-aways from our regular Friday night sessions because we simply did not have the chairs in the venue, which sucks but is also kind of impressive. Membership of the Meetup group has been climbing steadily - we're still not seeing more than a tiny fraction of them but even that fraction has been enough to drive up our attendance - and in particular it is the problematic aspect of people not reading the instructions.

Our venue capacity is 25 and a bit - the bit being contingent on how busy the other people who use the space are. If they're not up to much then we can fit another table - if they are busy then we're 25 as a hard limit. We dinged 37 a week or so back - and then some extra folk turned up and we could not accommodate them.