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This page lists the most recent journal entries related to role-playing games (RPG). There are some more pages on the related German page (Rollenspiele).
I was reading Gavin Norman’s post on spell research and did not manage to leave a comment. That’s what I hate about blogs these days. Too often, leaving a comments has become too complicated. So now I’m posting it here. I wanted to offer an idea for spell research (which doesn’t happen in my campaign) that works like my chase rule. It’s a 2d6 test with a table of drawbacks. For example:
Research: If you’re nearly done, roll 2d6. On a 2, it explodes, destroying much of your glass wares (500 gp) and setting back your research. On a 3–6, you are suffering delays. You need another week. On a 7–9, choose two points from the list. On a 10–11 choose one point. One a 12, you succeeded, no problem.
- you need a specimen of a magical creature; choose one of the following: basilisk eye, chimera tongue, displacer beast tentacle, phase spider silk, unicorn horn, xorn tooth.
- you need more information; pick a wise one to contact: Sutr, an efreeti lord in the City of Brass, Lady Gerdana, the legendary elf queen of the Sea of Five Winds, Senator Schwarz, a collector of art items in Tlan, Qwaar the Axiomatic, on Righteous Timing, one of the wheels of Mechanus, …
- you are missing a crucial bit of context; pick a tome to find: The Hidden Metamorphoses, Advanced Ursomancy, …
- the intended range is drastically reduced; pick one lower than what you hoped for: 60 feet, 20 feet, touch, self
- the spell’s deadly energy is spread out; pick one: double the radius and deal one third of the damage, deal one die of damage per round, it goes off in 1d4 rounds instead of right now
- the effect is partial; examples: invisibility only works for you but not the things you are wearing, flying only works in the absence of wind, knocking on wood doesn’t open doors, it breaks them
- the effect is flashy when it was intended to be subtle; examples: the detection of lies work because angry ghosts appear to accuse the liars, invisibility works but you you give off a pungent cinnamon fume, the transformation of self works but you always end up covered in blood as you are turned inside out for a second
- the powerful spell is tainted by demonic powers; every time you cast it, abyssal side effects happen
The list of strange creatures, wise ones and magical tomes needs to be adapted to your campaign. You don’t necessarily have to replenish the list as the easy complications are being picked. This is how initially, research is easy. Later, it gets harder as all the nearby wise ones have been contacted, all the creatures that are easy to slay have been killed, all the obvious tomes have been found.
Also, since I’m using the best magic house rule ever—a strict reading of the magic system—and since I give experience points for gold spent, I have no need to siphon off gold or to force magic users to spend extra in-game time researching. Why should research therefore take 1000 gold pieces per week and a week per spell level, or other some such number? Before introducing this house-rule, I’d probably say that you get to roll once per in-game week of research. Most of the time my game runs as one session per in-game week, so if the party returns home, or if the magic-users and elfs have henchmen doing the research for them, no problem. If they need to do the research themselves, then I’m sure they can talk the other players into spending an extra in-game week resting. My plots are rarely that rushed, so that should not be a problem.
There are various reasons to like a blog. Generally speaking, I’ve heard it say that posting controversial opinions gets you more interaction than “useful” content. I know I fall into the same category. My gaming category on Feedly has 243 unread posts and when I start reading, I skip a lot.
Not only do I skip all the session reports, I also skip most of the new classes, most of the new spells, most of the new magic items, most of the house rules… I guess I feel that my game hasn’t reached a point where I’ve exhausted the material at my fingertips and therefore I have no need for all the little extras.
This is where Links to Wisdom comes in. This is the wiki to collect cool OSR house rules, including new classes, new spells, new monsters, advice for the creation of dungeon adventures, wilderness adventures, urban adventures, and so on.
OK, so Links to Wisdom has been growing steadily. It has nearly 1000 links on it, right now. 998 as I’m writing this, to be exact. I kept wondering, though: which sites had contributed the most links? Shouldn’t that be some sort of blog recommendation, as people would have to actually recommend particular posts on a blog? It’s better than a simple popularity contest, it would seem. And it would be better than a simple list of blogs. (If you’re interested in a list, check out The Great Blog Roll Call 2014 on Dyver’s blog.)
Anyway, I wrote a script to extract the blog domains from
Links to Wisdom and list them according to numbers appearing:
If you click on the domain, you’ll be taken to the blog (unless it’s a useless domain such as plus.google.com or docs.google.com). It also says how many links were found, and if you click that number, it links to a list of all the matching entries.
At the moment, Daddy Grognard is the top dog because he’s been adding all his monsters. Thanks! Check out all the Daddy Grognard items.
Here’s how to make it easy to contribute to the wiki:
If you’re looking at a cool page, click the link, and you’ll be taken to the submission form immediately.
As for the categories: they are generated automatically from the web pages of the wiki. That means it’s all editable.
If you’re a coder yourself, you might want to write your own app to submit links or edit the wiki, something easier to use, for example. Check out the Help page, if you’re so inclined.
Recently, Yora asked for Sandbox logs. Those are tricky to provide. After all, if you’re looking for advice on how to run a game, the session report is filled with useless in-game stuff that nobody but the players will read (if at all).
What I’ve done instead is collect blog posts where I think I have some advice backed up by anecdotes from my game.
The character creation rules used for The FlailSnails Jousting Tourney are cruel and harsh.
Knight Name: Sir Walther von Klingen Player Name: Alex Schroeder Class/Level: Fighting Man (Bachelor) 1 HP: 6 AC: 5 Str: 11 Int: 10 Wis: 9 Dex: 9 Con: 8 Cha: 4 Horse: Medium Warhorse Armor Worn: Mail Hauberk Shield Type: Reinforced Kite Shield
Squire Name: Ulrich Class/Level: Fighting Man 1 HP: 4 AC: 5 Gear: Scale Mail, Wooden Round Shield, Sword, Dagger
* * *
My wife saw me create my knight and enjoyed my mumblings so she wanted to create a knight as well, and so here is Sir Aliduke, in honor of her first knight in our Great Pendragon Campaign… Good times!
Knight Name: Sir Aliduke de Giez Player Name: Claudia Frei Class/Level: Fighting Man (Mercenary) 1 HP: 6 AC: 5 Str: 9 Int: 16 Wis: 10 Dex: 9 Con: 6 Cha: 11 Horse: Riding Horse Armor Worn: Mail Hauberk Shield Type: Reinforced Round Shield
Squire Name: Wendel Class/Level: Magic-User 1 HP: 3 AC: 6 Gear: Dagger, Spell Book with Sleep and Read Magic
Retinue: 2 Filthy Peasants you pay to guard your camp.
This is an alternative to the various encumbrance rules out there. It works as follows:
For a while, my character generator used a name list based on German saints and an English list of saints. Later, I switched to a different list of names but now I feel that maybe I should have kept it.
So, I’m posting it. 1664 items… I dunno, roll 1d1664? Or help me pad the list in order to get to a nice number? Or put the list into a random name generator of your liking. There is no copyright attached to this list of names. I added it to the Names section of Choose Your Own Generator.
Never ran a fantasy role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons before? Get yourself the D&D Basic Rules, Labyrinth Lord or the Basic Fantasy RPG (or any of the other role-playing games out there). Find some friends and volunteer to run a game for them. Here’s some excellent advice by Greg MacKenzie which he left on a Google+ post by Davin Asiala. I made some slight edits, too.
The important thing to realize is that unless you have a command of the material, an overview, you may have difficulty getting a sense of where it is all going. You are also treading in someone else’s footsteps. My personal advice is reduce your scope: make your own 6-10 room dungeon, and roll up the monsters for each room.
My early adventures went something like this: The adventurers start out at a local tavern where they meet. They hear a few rumours about some horrible hole and are offered either a guide to the spot or a map for a few coins. At which point they set off for the entrance. When they get there the guide leaves and they enter the dungeon. Now note that I provide no obstacles, save that for the dungeon.
You should have a few words of description for the entrance to set the mood. Each room should have a description and may or may not have a monster 1 in 6. The dungeon should be on one sheet of paper. The idea here is to make sure there is something to do. You don’t have to be terribly original here as the game takes on its own life as you play it.
The monsters should have treasure, and make sure to allocate a few magic items among the treasure. You want the players to gain experience points and get a taste of the good things, those magic items. The players should find a shut door for example, listen, try to open it, let the players make Strength rolls to open the doors, your giving them something to do and it involves them. If there are monsters inside, roll for surprise, and initiative to see if the players or monsters go first, and then follow the rest of the combat sequence for the player and monster groups. You will need those combat sheets to make your life easier. When you conclude each round of combat you re-roll for initiative. You can continue until one side or the other quits.
Because these are new players, and monsters aren’t dumb, you can decide if the monsters run away if things go against them or if they fight to the death, try to bargain, etc. Players inevitably fight to the bitter end when they should withdraw. Remind the players when they are low on HP that it might be wiser to run away. Running away is highly under-rated. In any event the monsters don’t have to follow the players beyond the entrance of the dungeon, making for a scary chase when you are low on HP.
If the players defeat the monsters they should be rewarded with treasures… Now what I am really suggesting here is not a give away, players have to earn these things, but in order to allow yourself and the players to get a sense of what the game is about it won’t hurt to be a little liberal with treasure starting out.
When you make your dungeon you can allocate monsters randomly by the tables, but if something is really nasty move it to the farthest point away from the entrance and put in references to it in the dungeon. Kobolds have scrawled on the wall “Go Back end of Kobold Territory”, or players might hear, “wait until ugly finds out” if the monsters are allied with whatever it is. As the GM, you have the decision to place monsters. I usually pick the worst one, and go random from there.
- stick with the basics
- know your combat sequence
- know the dungeon
- learn to improvise as you go along
Let the players clear the place out to give them a sense of accomplishment.
Improvisation is all about giving the monsters some personality. You can swipe references from film or novels. The players will know them. Juxtapositions are useful does the Orc leader behave and talk and sound like a film gangster? “Gimmie all your coins and I’ll let you go see…” Is one of the Orcs dumb and getting it wrong like one of the Three Stooges? He turns around a sets off a trap, a giant stone rolls through the middle of the room. Is one of them a coward like Ichabod Crane? Have fun with it.
Allow the players to make several trips to and from the dungeon as they may have to heal up before trying again. New players won’t complete this in one go. Compress the time takes, reset hit-points and spells, and carry on the story from that point so many days later. The tavern or village is a sanctuary where nothing should happen at this early juncture.
Some of their characters will be killed, that is part of the game. Re-rolling a character in the middle of the game is a pain for the rest of the players. It may be wise to have a spare on hand to hand out. I usually found that at the start of play, if players are rolling up characters that will eat up a good hour of the play session but it is absolutely essential to building the player-character relationship.
In short: Small dungeon, not big on plot, just players vs. monsters, hidden secrets, and traps. That’s how we did it. Just keep the action going if you can.
Players often go to the tavern to hire help. These non-player characters you play—or you can allow a player to role play one when their character is killed. Players will sometimes simply take over the non-player character for their own use.
When you describe something always have it end ambiguously, e.g. “When you hold your torch in the room you see that this is a 30 x 30 room with a stack of 10’ poles in the southwest corner. Nearby in the south wall there is a small round 2 inch hole in the stonework.” This sort of thing leaves all sorts of questions in the players minds, what are the poles for? Do we insert one in the hole, and if we do what might happen? Is it a trap? Nothing might happen, unless you find all of the other holes and put the poles in, then a secret room opens. Or the thing might set off a trap, release a monster, reward the players with treasure etc. Even when they fight orcs or goblins they might find a key when they are defeated and searched, what is it for? Always leave something open ended. Players will hang onto that key in the hopes it opens something long beyond when it may have been useful just because of the mystery.
– Greg MacKenzie
Greg MacKenzie also runs the website Busy Game Master.
Gregor Vuga recently asked on Google+, “Is there a need for a new fantasy setting? What’s the appeal of published settings for you, if any? What’s useful about them? Even if you don’t use published settings, what would make you take a look at it?”
I wish all those new referees to have a great selection of settings, each catering to different sensibilities. As for myself, I already run a long-term campaign and thus I don’t really have a need for new settings. But what are the needs of beginners? Art, inspiration, fans, forums, so many things beyond the simple text.
If it’s a mini-campaign setting like Qelong, I can fit it into my campaign world (which is what I have done), just like adventures.
If the setting comes with a small package that can be played as a one-shot at a convention or at my indie nights, then that’s cool too. Things like Lady Blackbird, for example. That is, where rules, setting and adventure are so short, they’re one. All in one document to be experienced in three hours.
I document my long-term campaign setting as we play. It’s mostly for my players, though. Who else would want to read it? It’s too big, idiosyncratic, not enough illustration, not well organized… The campaign wiki has 489 pages. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes that so many others have made before me and publish a long and sprawling book that will not be read and used.
Thus, given how little need there is, what remains is inspiration for others, sharing ideas in order to have more ideas. What works and what doesn’t work. A conversation about the setting. I guess that’s what I’m mostly interested in.
The other day we played Darkening Skies, an unofficial Lady Blackbird sequel. It went very well. My prep was minimal (a few minutes at most), the rules were easy to understand, the setting quick to get into. Rules, plot and setting borrow so heavily from current sensibilities, it’s incredibly easy to digest. Everybody at the table sees within the material the things they like: Firefly, Star Wars, The City of Lost Children, Solar System, Apocalypse World, Fate, Mouse Guard, it can all be there if you start looking for it.
One thing to look out for is the additional freedoms built into the setup. Lady Blackbird had characters with diverging goals, but they were all going to a particular destination on a ship. So even if the stories diverged on the way, characters always returned to the ship an proceeded on to the next chapter. In Darkening Skies, the characters all have a reason to come to the ship, but they have different reasons for leaving the ship.
As soon as Jezebel had found her target, for example, she was ready to leave the ship. After contacting all the factions on board, the remaining party soon decided that they needed to split up. Half of them were going to blow up the bridge while the other half was going to find a lander. The bridge fight was going very, very badly. The two characters ended up “presumed dead”.
Should I run it again, I’ll have to push harder in order for the party to feel the need to stick together. Perhaps I was to lax in the beginning and when players realized how deep the shit was they were getting themselves into, it was too late. No more refreshment scenes, no more helping dice, no more group efforts. I think players where surprised to see this happy Hackbird go into survival horror mode.
I loved it, 4/5 stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
How do you prepare a village adventure? Gavin Norman recently wondered on Google+ about preparing a little city adventure interlude for his players who were on a journey of a thousand miles.
I think that brevity is essential since it’s only going to be a short interlude. I don’t think this village or city needs a map, factions, quarters, and so on. If you start down that road you’ll have material for ten sessions! This can be a good thing, or it can be detraction from what the players actually want. If they’re free to choose, they might just leave. Here’s what I wrote. Well, I added some stuff at the end.
I would just prepare three non-player characters (name, class, level, three adjectives), three locales (name, a few words), three encounters (who why where). Have some mini adventure ready.
Shia, customs inspector, fighter 1. Lawful.
Orgon, alchemist, magic user 3. Neutral. Has love potion for sale. Looking for cockatrice liver for research on stone-to-flesh oil. His master has been petrified.
Benson, harbor master, fighter 3. Local strong man. Controls gambling. Chaotic.
Shias boat intercepts the party. She comes aboard and wants to inspect things. Demands x gp for all the stuff the party has. Enough to piss the players off. She’s the one who’s going to make a connection. She has four city guards aboard. Fighter 1, HD 1, AC 4, 1d8.
At the Green Dragon the food is good. It’s still Hare week. It’s all hares. Or cats, if you can tell the difference. Rumors: Orgon has a job for you. Benson is nice chum and will look the other way if you know what I mean. Shia is lawful stupid… Observant characters will note the people disappearing downstairs. It turns out that there is gambling going on down there. And, if you really need to, apparently children are being sold to serve amongst the Firfal, the fisher folk that live on boats out by the islands, they’re so ugly they can’t find a mate and that’s why they buy children. Or so they say.
At Ogon’s Tower, you can find his petrified master (including his spellbook which goes up to level 5 and which does not contain stone to flesh; it’s way beyond Orgon’s abilities but he guards it jealously). He also keeps a tame carrion eater.
On the streets, Benson follows the party and wants a bribe or he’ll bring the authorities down on them for gambling / tax evasion / sneaking into Ogon’s Tower, whatever. He has 10 thugs working for him. HD 1 AC 7 1d6.
Orgon’s tower can act as a two-room dungeon. It consists of three levels:
Since I love creating spell books, here’s Margadon's Magnificent Mysteries. Spells appropriate for a magic-user interested in petrification—in other words, Petromancers.
|1||Read Inscriptions – like Read Languages|
|1||Slingshot – like Magic Missile except shooting magic stones|
|2||Stone Fuse – like Arcane Lock but anything consisting of stone (floor, walls) will fuse with other inanimate matter (shoes, gloves, doors, staffs); when the target is worn or wielded, the creature wearing or wielding it can save vs. spells to avoid the effect|
|2||Colocation – like Invisibility but merge with earth or stone, cannot be hit, cannot attack without emerging; must emerge from the same spot; can stay indefinitely, can leave things to be retrieved later|
|2||The Smashing of Doors – like Knock but a your fists smash the door as if you’re a stone golem|
|3||The Power of Medusa – like Hold Person, looks like a temporary petrification|
|3||Earth Swim – like Fly but gain the ability to swim through the earth; when the spell ends and you’re still underground, you suffocate unless you cast Colocation|
|3||Stone Fist – like Lightning Bolt but the damage is caused by a huge stone fist; the broken stones remains after the spell is cast|
|4||Earth Shift – shifts earth and stones to the plane of elemental earth, creating a permanent hole 30 feet deep and 10 feet wide, making a terrible ruckus; all living things inside the hole do not get shifted and just sink to the bottom of the hole|
|4||Stone Forest – like Massmorph but the creatures look like standing stones|
|5||Transmutation of Rock to Mud|
Related: The Village is a one page quickstart which works according to the same principle.