Collecting all my “best of the Blogosphere” RPG posts in one place, using tags. I get my links from the RPG Planet. Please join us, if you haven’t already.

2021-04-18 Blogosphere

Yet another list of links to blog posts I liked, inspired by the read through of @jmettraux’s End of Week Links 16. Like John, I get my links from the RPG Planet. Please join us, if you haven’t already.

“A thousand miles and a thousand years. That’s the Middle Ages as a setting for popular fiction and reference frame for Fantasy. Compared to many popular fantasy settings, that’s tiny. But there’s so much stuff in this little box. More space than you could ever possibly need to tell your stories” How large does a setting have to be?, by Spriggan’s Den. I often wonder about that when reading some adventure or setting background. On the one hand, we barely remember what happened one thousand years ago. Think about it. When was the last time you saw ruins that were 1,000 years old? 2,000 years? And yet, there are settings with back history going back several thousand years (the Wilderlands of High Fantasy being the one I remember right now). Totally unnecessary, I think. And yet… Thinking about the longevity of elves: even if they are not immortal and just live to a thousand years, two thousand years is something their grandparents might have been involved in, like my grandfather’s involvement in the second world war. It’s not something I know much about, but I certainly read about the war. And I know how to read the signs: I recognise the bunkers and tank barriers that dot our landscape. So perhaps we need to add more history than makes sense on the human scale? And yet, think about it. The bronze age was 3,000 years ago or so? City states 5,000 years ago? Agriculture 10,000 years ago? I’m hazy on the details. Modern humans about 300,000 years ago? I guess you could go all the way with Robert E. Howard’s The Hyborian Age, but I think that’d be weird. Either you wanted to link it up with the present in which case great, use the Hyborian Age, or you don’t, in which case you can simply posit your world as-is without having to trace a history through the millennia, or only as far as you actually need it to provide some texture. For example, my setting “an orc settlement style unchanged ever since the War of the Landgrab”, “a relic from the Old Lizard Wars”, “forged in Asgard by Ábria Proudaxe during the Vampire Wars”, etc. Who knows what else happened back then? Nobody cares unless it affects their magic items, I’m sure.

More about deep time: “Today their culture is old, proud, hide bound, jaded and decadent. You cannot tell them anything they have not seen before. Novelty is a precious thing.” Still Here: Lizardfolk culture post, by Seed of Worlds. I love such posts about culture and time. I first thought about this in a game with some elves played by @oliof, if I remember correctly. They basically told us: “Why fight? Let’s wait for 50 years and they are all dead anyway…” 🧝🧝 Well, if you put it that way…

“Some people look for epic battles – I look for epic ambushes. I try to scout and prepare so that the enemy is totally surprised and totally overwhelmed, all die or surrender in the first round.” Game design: life experiences, by the Viking Hat GM. This is my thinking exactly. And this is why I like my fights to be over in two rounds (at least that’s the goal). The last round is the most interesting one, so it’s more exiting if every round could be the last one. And if my players are well prepared, their plans just work, not much die rolling required. Some people might thing that anticlimactic, but as far as I am concerned, the planning was part of the game, and if the plan was well thought ought, we don’t need to roll to figure out whether it worked, unless there is some surprise change circumstances.

“How do you judge what was an important early influence? This is my (undoubtedly shoddy) rubric: if you look at it now, you still feel a visceral reaction to the possibilities it hints at.” (a repost from 2013) A Visual Tour of Boyhood Influences, but Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque. “If I’d been called on to run a D&D campaign at age 10 or 12, these are the images and plots I would have drawn on to provide the inspiration for my game. … What were your earliest childhood fantasy inspirations? What did your fantasy world look like back then?” My Earliest Childhood Fantasy Inspirations, by DIY and Dragons. As for myself, I don’t know. I read Perry Rhodan, Darkover, Dragonriders of Pern, Karl May, and Jules Verne as a teenager. I’m not sure whether these influenced me in my gaming: there’s precious little of a fantastic science-fiction universe in my games, nor psychic redheads, not a lot of sexual themes, no riding of dragons, no bonding with huge creatures, no adventures in Kurdistan or North America, and precious little of strange submarines and descents into the centre of the earth.

“They’re a sub crew, piloting a demon-powered submarine through an eldritch, haunted water-world called the Bathosphere. To help capture the feeling of a crew with titles and jobs … I’ve made a menu of party roles for them. … what the player is in charge of calling and what their duties are. … The duties are an ad hoc mixture of notes you might be in charge of taking, and just a fun little flavor thing.” An OSR experiment: Party roles, by Seventy-Seven Vicious Princes. I guess this is something I’d like to see but that I never get to see: players taking on the roles of diplomat, pilot, quartermaster, dungeoneer, fireteam leader, ritualist, scrapmaster, epicure, jailer, divemaster… Inspiring! Perhaps I should think of it in terms of inspiring names and cool privileges instead of thinking of it in terms of duty: not who must draw the map, but who gets to decide which corridors to pick and what the marching order is going to be, for example.

Something I’ve brought up a few times in discussions on Mastodon was this: “I suspect that the reason the D&D campaigns go on for so long are built into the system. Spell levels structure D&D gameplay: on the one hand, every new spell level attained changes the gameplay itself (suddenly you can fly, or fireball large groups of kobolds), and it also advertises that change ahead of time in the rules: if you play until you get to level so and so, you’ll be able to do this and that. And immediately, people start dreaming.” Changing Gameplay Over Time.

“… maybe make a double attack and if both succeed you perform the maneuver, … utilize a contested strength roll. You then give the enemy who has suffered under the technique a disadvantage – next strike gets a bonus to hit them, … they degrade their armor class. You start thinking of how to balance this, … what class restrictions lay around it, and ask how will you rectify this maneuver with weapons that aren’t blade or blade-like. I recommend by default: don’t do this.” Less Rules To Do More: Combat Maneuvers, by Aboleth Overlords. I agree! At the time, I phrased it as “nobody gets to push Conan around, trip him or disarm him, unless he’s out of hit-points.” Combat Maneuvers.

“… there are tons of issues that come up when how we use rules conflicts with why rules were written that way. A gamer who’s looking forward to delight but is handed an elaborate fairness engine? Boring! A GM who’s excited to share their knowledge and has to work with a bunch of inspirational-but-goofy tables? Ugh! And so on. Pick any mismatch, you’ve probably seen it play out in the world.” The Many Utilities of Rules, by The Indie Game Reading Club. So true. That reminds me of my take on thieves: Originally, I wanted to get rid of them. Anybody who steals is a thief, I would say. But my wife did not agree, and she was playing a thief. So I left them in the Halberds and Helmets rules and just added: “Since thieves don’t cast spells and don’t wear a lot of armor, playing a thief is a bit like playing on skill level Hurt Me Plenty. You have been warned.”

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2021-03-27 Blogosphere

Yeah, another list of links to blog posts I liked, inspired by the read through of @jmettraux’s End of Week Links 13. Like John, I get my links from the RPG Planet. Please join us, if you haven’t already.

Since I’m running a Traveller campaign, I was interested in some Traveller-related blog posts.

Classic Traveller skills are more like professions at The Viking Hat GM: «An inclusive rather than exclusive view means shorter skill lists in a game - you don’t need to list every trivial thing humans can do when you can handwave most of it as basic life skills - and also on the character sheet. You will see too a difference in play at the table. When every possible skill is listed, as the GM says, “And what do you do?” everyone looks down to their character sheet … RPGs are a social way to be creative with friends, and shorter skill lists and briefer character sheets encourage more creativity among players, and more socialising. They talk to each-other rather than looking at their character sheets. Play becomes more interesting.»

I can see it working both ways: either you use as few skills as possible, specially not for social interactions. But I know this is a controversial area. In my blog post Role Play, not Wish Fulfilment I argue that if you’re not a charming player, I think it’s OK for you not to play a charming character. In other words, just like a fearful player who wishes to play a courageous hero by cannot bring themselves to put their character into the front rank cannot be the thing they wish because they are not acting their part, a monosyllabic player who wishes to be a socialite cannot be the thing they wish because they cannot bring themselves to play the role. In this way, the role-playing I like is a bit like an acting skill: over the years, I hope you’ll get better at it. I hope I get better at it. Of course, the line is drawn arbitrarily. There’s no reason for the fantasy to be sexist and cruel, and that is a kind of wish fulfilment, of course. There’s no reason for the player of a fighter to be a good fighter, and that’s a kind of wish fulfilment. The reason I think I’m OK with it is that first of all, most of us are not good fighters, and second, if their descriptions of fighting is lame, we can at least roll dice and move on. But if we do this for all interactions as well, then we’re going to roll more and more dice until I just don’t enjoy the game anymore. So yeah, that line is going to be different for everybody. I’m just saying where my line is. And just because I favour this kind of play doesn’t mean I’m opposed to all other kinds of play. I really liked Sean Nittner’s and Judd Karlman’s Actual Play podcast (see 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play) where they use Burning Wheel. There, the Duel of Wits is a way to resolve social conflict using dice, and it works in the context of a game where every roll ties into advancement, into your beliefs, your traits, and so on. Here, immersion is achieved not by forgetting the rules and just talking at the table but by using the rules to suffer setbacks and defeats (and triumphs, eventually) in areas your characters care about.

The Viking Hat GM has more, though: “But as with so many game systems, the author got it more-or-less right the first time. And so we play Classic Traveller. Classic Traveller, most especially Books 1-3, like AD&D1e, RuneQuest 1e and the like, is a good system because not despite the fact that it is incomplete. You fill in the blanks.” – CT: Books 1-3 - You fill in the blanks!

Together, these two posts reminded me of something I had recently posted myself: the skills these Traveller characters have are based on their past careers: Electronics, Mechanics, Computers, and a ton of weapon training, and some obscure things like driving tracked vehicles or acting as a forward observer for orbital artillery, and then they are dropped into a world of crooks, smugglers, narcs, and they are absolutely unprepared for a life of crime in a deadly world where well aimed shots can take you out.

This is underscored by yet another post I liked by The Viking GM, Conflict: Surprise & Initiative: “The unfortunate truth is that there really only three kinds of combats: Ambush! - all of you live, all of them die. Ambushed! - all of you die, all of them live. Stand-up fight - everyone dies.” What a summary!

That, in turn, led me via The Wandering Gamist’s Truer Combat as War and Chocolate Hammer's Boot Hill Campaign to Rutskarn’s Boot Hill and the Fear of Dice: “You want players to be prudent, ambitious, ruthless, calculating, paranoid. You want them to respect their enemies and balance alliances carefully. Above all you want the constant, thrilling tension wrought by a high-stakes duel of wits: a deadly game where a single misstep in a dark alley could end an entire dynasty.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? If the game is deadly, and combat is a mistake unless you’ve rigged the stakes to favour you as much as possible, then that’s what I like: I like to make the decision of when to fight, now the minutiae of how to fight. As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy if combat ends in two rounds. Yeah, picking up old threads from 2021-03-10 Blogosphere, again.

At the same time, the end effect of that ends up being that the players talk to everybody and prefer not to shoot, and after a while you realise: they’re not fighting because everything is dangerous, they’re not rolling dice for talking because there are no social skills in the game, so that’s it. It’s all talking.

And that in turn reminded me of some older blog posts at the Tales to Astound blog, like Casual and Improvisatory Nature of Early Traveller Play: “More talking than shooting – The session does feature some combat, but it occurs near the end when, after interacting with the natives for some time, the players finally realize that the natives are cannibals and see the PCs as a new source of protein. What the players don’t do is waltz into the caverns with FGMPs, battledress, and itchy trigger fingers ready to slag anything that moves. Even when the encounter with the natives slowly deteriorates, the players prefer to Jaw, jaw, jaw rather than War, war, war. The guns – and the dice – only come out when the players need to secure their retreat to the surface and then, rather than burn the caverns to the ground, they only use enough force to escape.”

There’s more in this follow-up post from the same blog, An Improvised Classic Traveller Convention Game. This time it’s not about the need to avoid combat in a lethal system but in how improvised a lot of the game is. I guess that’s the direction I want my own gaming to move towards: my goal is to “daydream” about the setting, write down some notes, names, some forces ready to clash as soon as the player characters appear, and that’s it. Almost no prep is also almost no wasted prep. 😁

That “Classic Traveller Out of the Box” blog post series is great. Just recently, one of my players sent me a link to An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part I). «Keep in mind that I don’t think Classic Traveller has a Skill System. It has a Throw system (throw 2D6, equal or beat a number, add DMs from a variety of sources (skills, characteristics, and circumstances). Not everything Throw has a Skill DM. … Because it we have a system for Referee saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Roll these 2D6 and we’ll find out what happened.” All sorts of modifiers can come into play depending on what the roll is about. It is a universal system that looks like it has not system!» Note that the blog post also discusses the “Free Kriegsspiel” idea. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Anyway, all that Traveller talk reminded me of old blog posts in Richard’s Dystopian Pokeverse, like The implicit game in original Traveller’s ship loan rules: “the entry level offer for a high-performing merchant captain is a shipyard loan on a new-built Free Trader: capital cost 36-37 MegaCr at 6.2% interest, working out to a monthly payment of 150,000 Cr – roughly equivalent to room and board for 500 average Imperial citizens or 6 mail contracts to different systems, meaning you’d need a 6-week month to break even as a mail carrier.” Which is how you end up with a ton of mercenary work, narcotics, weapon smuggling, and so on. The honest way of life doesn’t pay in Traveller.

All of this then had me ready to think about other games. @jmettraux had me covered, linking to Links for Designing PbtA TTRPGs (where “PbtA” means “Powered by the Apocalypse”, usually referring to rolling something like 2d6 with very high results meaning a success, medium results meaning a complication, and low results meaning bad stuff heapens, and “TTRPG” meaning “Table Top Role-Playing Games”), which in turn linked to Simple World, which is a PDF that looks like a game but is actually a document telling you how to customise the basic rules to create a “Powered by the Apocalypse” game. It’s a super cool procedure to customise a procedural game! 😁

And John also has a post about Hnefatafl, and Freies Kriegsspiel in real life, and a link to cave maps, and a link to How the Germans Defined Auftragstaktik: What Mission Command is - AND - is Not in the Small Wars Journal, and a follow-up for readers of French, Ensemble tout devient plus lent, at La voie de l’épée, on ordering people around.

The Simple World post also reminded me of a super basic B/X document without spells, monsters, or classes – just people, if I understand it correctly. A foundation for your own game, perhaps. Quintessential BX, David Perry, at Lithyscaphe.

More cool links… Wow, this post is long.

“It is about characters’ inner struggles, and interpersonal struggles, and societal struggles, and that is broadly encoded in the Karma mechanic, but not by genre. It is about problem-solving, but less so in the sense of logic puzzles and resource management, and more in how you confront these weird and inexplicable circumstances- it’s more a creative challenge. I guess it’s more of a life challenge, if again I may be so pretentious.” It sounds weird. 🤔 Tabletop RPGs as Performance Art, at Weird & Wonderful Worlds.

Grymlorde quotes from Scientific American Supplement No. 586, 1887: “Torches consist of a bundle of loosely twisted threads which has been immersed in a mixture formed of two parts, by weight, of beeswax, eight of resin, and one of tallow. In warm, dry weather, these torches when lighted last for two hours when at rest, and for an hour and a quarter on a march. A good light is obtained by spacing them 20 or 30 yards apart.” – Torches through the editions & Real World

A blog post about reviews. I didn’t read it all, it was very wordy, but I found the comments very interesting: What's Broken: Reviews. As for myself, I stopped doing reviews when I realized that they were always hopelessly out of date as I wanted to run all the adventures before reviewing them. And people convinced me that talking about the things we don’t like is a waste of time. Life is short. Talk about the things you love. Do we need “a review culture to guide consumers”? Maybe not. But then again, I’m on the record with claiming that we also don’t need much of a market… For the controversial take, see 2020-02-14 Unprofessional.

Anyway, back to links…

«Everything can speak and understand Common. That’s Everything with a capital “E”, in the sense that everything a person could interact with (vegetable, animal, and mineral) can talk. Anything can have a discussion. … Caves of Qud, which allows you to attempt to talk and trade with most things, plants and pond fish included. They make poor traders and conversationalists. Still, being able to say: “Live and drink, aquafriend.” is a pretty significant bit of worldbuilding.» Everything Can Listen, But Nothing Wants to Talk, Goodberry Monthly.

“The game is well written and has a lot of charm. It has the level of complexity I was looking for. It is a great game to play with children and I think my children would also be able to play it on their own.” Playing Das Schwarze Auge after 37 Years, by Herr Zinnling. It’s what I started with! 😀

As an interesting tidbit circling back to social skills and my example with the fearful player and the courageous character: Das Schwarze Auge has a Courage attribute which might force your character to charge or accept a challenge even though the player might not want to. A bit like those traits in King Arthur Pendragon: knights have multiple traits that come in opposing pairs such as just vs. arbitrary and usually whenever you increase one, the other decreases; these traits sometimes get used to determine what the character does in spite of what the player might wish.

Comments on 2021-03-27 Blogosphere

I think the best example of Classic Traveller’s “do it yourself” nature is the conspicuous absence of laser pistols. There are even laser carbines which are, if I’m not misremembering, just a worse version of the laser rifle, barely cheaper and at the the same tech level - as if to say “You want a laser pistol? Have useless stats for a laser carbine instead! Let’s see if you can put two and two together and repurpose them.” Because in my experience, once you’ve hacked the rules once, it becomes easy to do it again and again - which I think is the whole point of CT.

– Malcolm 2021-03-28 08:08 UTC

Haha, yes! I guess Marc Miller thought: how is poking holes into people using lasers different from poking holes into people using metal slugs?

“While technology will certainly progress in the centuries that come, it will also remain a fact that one of the surest ways to injure or kill an adversary is to subject him or her to a large dose of kinetic energy; the simplest way to deliver that energy to someone is with bullet impact.” (The Traveller Book, p. 48)

I guess the only benefit would be lack of recoil.

“Virtually all weapons have recoil (except laser carbines and laser rifles) and in a zero·G environment this recoil can disorient or render helpless individuals not trained to compensate for it.” (ibid)

Then again, I don’t remember a single zero G scene in all of Star Wars… 😀

– Alex 2021-03-28 09:29 UTC

Thanks for these lists. I really love these curated and commented links! 😍

There is so much interesting content floating around waiting to be found.

– Ludos Curator 2021-03-31 08:16 UTC

Thanks! More at Seed of Worlds.

– Alex 2021-03-31 12:31 UTC

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2021-03-10 Blogosphere

Thinking about excellent blog links again...

A super cool post on how to run combat, OSR style, by James Young: How To Run Combat. After reading it, my main take away is that my monsters should try to wrestle players a lot more!

A post by Delta: Running Mass Fights in Classic D&D He says, “it’s pretty common to encounter bands of malicious bandits, brigands, or humanoids numbering in the hundreds.” How do you deal with them? Evasion, ranged combat (how to deal with a rain of arrows), killing leaders, and so on.

“Every Wednesday morning I wake up with a sense of dread, remembering that on top of everything else I have to do that day I somehow have to run a game in the evening. Every Wednesday afternoon I seriously consider calling the session off. But every Wednesday night I sit down and log in and everything actually goes fine.” Failing better: a GMing retrospective, a super interesting retrospective by Joseph Manola. Makes me want to go through my own games and think about the things I learned.

Sandra Snan writing about verbal components in The Old Verbal Components reminds me of my unfinished dream of adding Sumerian spell names (serving as verbal components) for all the spells in my book. I failed at that. Perhaps one day there’s “fantasy Deepl for some lost language and D&D like spells”. Or some other way to translate English spells to some dead language. My favourite blog post on this still is Elf & Magic-User Sumerian Spell Names / Command Words for Labyrinth Lord by Samwise7RPG.

How not to be a game designer by Craig Maloney. A topic that’s been important to me for a long time: “I’ve done most of my designs when I let these self-inflicted restrictions go. I’ve lowered my expectations to please only one customer: me. Sure, this is not a great way to build a business but it has the added benefit of not having to do market research (I know the target market: me). Once I pulled back from the notion of building a business and making game design a full-time career (yes, this is a notion that I’ve flirted with and realized that I’m 20+ years too late to effectively do this) more possibilities became apparent to me.”

“I wrote up a little “hello world” brawl in Traveller5”, by Wanderer Bill, in Getting to know Traveller 5.

“When players feel like they can die, … then the game is tense and exciting. … one of the biggest obstacles to tension, especially at higher levels, is Hit Points. … If a Level 10 Fighter is attacked by a swarm of Goblins armed with d6 knives, he has nothing to worry about, as he has 60 HP.” Why you should cap Hit Points, by Yami Bakura. My unpopular opinion on the topic: add save or die attacks and level drain to the game. Or more generally: try to aim for combat that is just two rounds long. If it takes longer, the previous rounds were probably boring. It’s the last round that makes all the difference. Now, capping hit points and/or levels is an option, certainly. In my Halberds and Helmets game, I cap at character level 10 simply because all my recent campaigns have ended before getting there. But I also add save or die and level drain, for added excitement. This is how low hit points are not the sole source of terror at the table.

“… it makes those low modifiers very significant, especially when it comes to opposed rolls … I’m using opposed rolls for grappling in unarmed combat and giving a +1 modifier for being large sized. … This would have resulted in each group having at least one unarmed boccord specialist in it, i.e. a half-giant professional wrestler. That game sounds amazing, but it’s not the game I’m trying to design.” Ben L. is writing about skills in A Simple 2d6 Skill System, but all I can think of is every party bringing a half-giant professional wrestler to the table. What a wonderful tie-in to my interest in wrestling based on James Young’s post, above. But it also ties in with my interest in Traveller and in 2d6 systems in general, and my attempt at designing one, Just Halberds.

A long discussion of the changes made from AD&D 1st ed to AD&D 2nd ed in A Historical Look at the OSR — Part III. I also liked the previous parts of the series. As for my own AD&D experience… At the the time we simply decided that 2nd was obviously better than 1st and so we switched. We were 15 or 16 years old, living in Switzerland, not reading any fanzines, no Dungeon or Dragon magazines, no Usenet, and we bought no adventures. All I do remember is that the rules were confusing and we never used them all, and yet we thought them the best.

“I believe that the skeleton of Classic Traveller can bear the muscle of just about any genre or setting you’d like to tackle.” says Forrest Aguirre in The Simplest RPG System Out of This World, which I found via Via John Mettraux’s end-of-week links, Eow Links 9. And that led to me to read Stargazer’s interview with Marc Miller from 2017. And then there’s the Classic Traveller Out of The Box blog series, of course. But I’m running out of time and need to prepare breakfast…


As I’m sitting here, generating random characters for Traveller, I get a distinct Dogs in the Vineyard feeling: the characters are singularly unequipped for the actual tasks they are up again. Perhaps that is the secret sauce of many RPGs. You get characters suited for combat in one form or another, and you put them in a world were armed conflict is for losers, and then you watch them struggle with their lack of social skills, escalating to violence when it’s uncalled for.

And that makes me think of life in general, where we are often unable to affect the changes we want in the people we talk to. And I guess then one wonders: would violence solve this problem? And of course it doesn’t (for most of us, luckily). I tell others interested martial arts this all the time: who cares about “efficient” or “street” fighting. No! Run away, if you can, always! Even if you “win” you’ll go to jail and face endless time in court and who wants that if you can just run away?

And so we get to the RPG trope where violence actually does work, most of the time, because players and referees and designers usually wish that it would. Anyway, that’s what I’m suspecting, when I look at my classic D&D or classic Traveller characters, haha. How singularly unprepared they are, and how this is a strange mirror showing us the world we live in, in a way.

“Humans are very contemptuous of orcs. They are brutes, never shying away from any cruelty. And they are warmongers, always divided against each other, always plunging headlong into another meaningless war of succession. This is very similar to how myconids view humans.” Myconids, by Arnold K. Love it!

Here’s more about wrestling and grappling: “A grappling attempt, … If you succeed, your opponent may spend their round trying to escape … or trying to hurt you… or, if they’re holding a dagger, they can attempt, as you were attempting, a killing blow … Killing Blow: Another contested grappling roll. If you succeed, your opponent must save vs. death or be killed instantly. If they make their save vs. death, you merely do the usual 1d4 dagger damage.” Making Daggers A Deadly Option, by Graphite Prime. I my game, I just use 1d6 for all weapons. But now I keep thinking about wrestling. King Arthur’s Pendragon also had it!

Then again, D&D 3.5 also had it, and we always made fun of the rules, even as we used them. They were too complicated, compared to the ones we had for simple attacks. That is an important consideration. Don’t add back all the complications the designers of your game didn’t add to regular attacks. Grappling should involve the same amount of decisions, look-ups, dice rolls, and fear as regular attacks, I think.

😭 “The vast majority, 93%, of survey respondents were male. The most commonly self-reported ethnicity was white (90%), with Latino at a distant second (2%). As the survey was online, respondents could have been answering the questions from anywhere in the world. The majority of them were from within the United States (73%), with Western European residents second (14%), followed by residents in North America outside of the United States (5.5%), …” Motivations of Hobby Game Players, by CarrieLynn Reinhard and Brant Guillory (2018).

“Next in my series of capsule reviews of weird non-fiction books from my library that would be useful in running RPGs: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits: A bestiary of fairies, demons, and other mystical creatures from around the world.” Weird Books for Gamers VII: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits, by Polyhedral Nonsense. I have that book! 😁

“At a minimum, the basics should address the subsector map, interstellar government, and local technological levels. As needed, the referee may add more basics to the campaign, … local organizations of importance, world and local laws, history, and other foundations. With the basics available, it is possible to set any mundane adventure without further preparation. The only problem is that such adventures will be mundane; there is no real spirit of excitement behind them.” A fair warning. This is from The Traveller Book (1981), p. 125.

And that’s it. Older recommendations: 2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Comments on 2021-03-10 Blogosphere

Regarding “Motivations of Hobby Game Players”, by CarrieLynn. Perhaps the numbers have little to do with attempts to recruit other groups and more to do with there being something about the mundane white middle class America that makes folks wish they were somewhere else doing something more adventurous. I suspect Comic Book and Sci Fi fandom has similar numbers for similar reasons. I think the Punk scene in the 70s came out of similar social angst.

Ruprecht 2021-03-10 14:04 UTC

I don’t know how one would determine the root causes of the gender and race imbalance. Here in Switzerland, I can’t say much about race. I simply have no idea.

As for gender... I’ve been wondering whether boys playing with toys is something our culture fosters: knives, hammers, chisels, soldering irons, and later playing cards, dice, board games, computer games, and finally role-playing games. Perhaps because girls used to have less freedom, culturally bound for the kitchen and household chores; perhaps because boys used to be considered more suited for vice like gambling; perhaps because women in general are expected to perform the emotional labour of maintaining family relations, dealing with social fallout, raising the kids, placating the old, and networking with neighbours; perhaps men grow up emotionally stunted in small ways that make them appreciate make-believe social life a little more. That’s certainly a pattern I can see in my own life. But no matter what the underlying reasons, I think if the numbers are true, it definitely is a reason for regret. I wish it weren’t so.

I can’t say whether the numbers are a reflection of truth because I have no idea about self-selection (a survey in English, online... that alone will skew results) but I do know that women are rare in my own gaming groups. And once again, that could be because of something I’m doing, personally, or it could be something the locals here are doing, socially, but either way, I find it to be a cause for regret. I wish it weren’t so.

I really think we don’t really know what the causes are and assume that they are similar to all the causes for gender imbalance elsewhere. Sexism in a thousand different ways both big and small resulting in a culture that skews things in regretful ways. Patriarchy, a curse on all our houses.

– Alex 2021-03-10 14:40 UTC

Eow Links 11, by John Mettraux, has more recommended reading for you.

– Alex 2021-03-13

And I’m finding more people doing it! I love this! ♥

Shiny TTRPG links collection #8, by Xaosseed.

– Alex 2021-03-15 10:19 UTC

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2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Advice from the Blogosphere 2020, by Anne, on DIY & Dragons. There is nothing I have to add. I wish I had kept up my note keeping on good blog posts.

I sometimes post links to my RPG Mastodon account, @kensanata. I usually include a small quote. In honour of Anne’s post, I’ll trawl my own account for links I recently posted. It’s better than nothing, I guess.

And I’d love to see you on Mastodon. 😄

“Advice from the Blogosphere 2020: So, last year, I started what I hope will become a tradition for myself by posting about my favorite links from the previous year. I built this collection of links as I saw them throughout the year, with an emphasis on saving posts that gave advice about how to do things.” – Advice from the Blogosphere 2020, by Anne, on DIY & Dragons

I like this concept: pick a random PDF file from your folder and write a short review. So I read a few very short reviews, and followed the link to an older blog post in the same category. The fun part is reading about James’ likes and dislikes. – The RPG Folder I Caught in the Act, by James V. West, on Doomslakers

« In 2000-2010 it was still 80% of people joining as a teenager. Since 2015 70% who join are adults. » – Age of D&D new joiners jumped ~5 yrs since 2015 , by Xaosseed, on Seed of Worlds

Free Kriegsspiel… «I ran a one-shot over zoom last weekend with characters that looked like this: “You’re a paladin. You have good fighting skills, full armor, a sword and shield - and you can choose either the ability to try healing wounds through prayer, or to try turning the undead. Oh, and you have any 3 standard adventuring supplies.”» – [1], by Gundobad, on Gundobad Games

It’s … very free. I don’t know whether I like it. I think I need a little more system than just referee fiat.

This wiki with links to RPG adventures needs more love… Links to Adventures. I just added a link today.

Nearly 100 rooms: “Enchanted gremlins made of cherry pits, trapped devils with whom to deal, treasure to steal, a wizard’s corpse to loot, creatures frozen since the ice age to battle, dinosaurs to let loose, factions to fall into, and at least two rooms where it’s snowing all the time.” – The Cherry Crypts: a big ol' dungeon, by Linden, on Lapidary Ossuary

The URL says 2018 but this is a recent blog post by Eric Diaz about weapons in various editions of D&D. Weapons distinctions - brief D&D history, by Eric Diaz, on Methods & Madness.

My own personal approach is 1d6 damage for all weapons; but with strength bonuses and magic items you can still make killer melee fighting characters. I do remember that one very strong dwarf with the +2 dagger of speed, giving them two attacks of +5 to hit and 1d6+5 damage.

Oh, excellent writing advice from Jacob Hurst: don’t write and then A happened, and then B happened, and then C happened. Instead, write A happened but then B happened, therefore C happened, and keep repeating. Apparently from a Trey Parker and Matt Stone interview where they talk about how they structure their South Park Stories. I had never thought about it like that. Backgrounds, Adventures and but therefore, by Jacob Hurst, on Swordfish Islands

I wrote a longer response in the comments, here: 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play.

I started listening to @Judd and @seannittner’s Shoeless Peasant podcast. I’m two episodes in and I love how different it is from my games. I’m thinking I’d love to run such a slow and deliberate one-on-one game. I was clearly not ready to play like that a few years ago, but I’m thinking that perhaps now I am.

“I (Name) swear before the Dragon Council to serve the Guild of Adventurers and no other master for the period of time necessary to achieve the ninth level within the aforementioned guild.” – Adventurer Guild Contract, by Lance Duncan, on 42 Rolls of Duck Tape

Interesting idea!

Thinking about play styles… I dunno, I used to be a lot more interested in these things. These days I guess everybody should read such a typology at least once so that we can all at least use the same words. But then my take is that enjoyment is a multifaceted thing that I enjoy all the things, some more so, some less so, some more when I do it, some more when others do it. And I think casual players are important for cohesion (like at the work-place, actually).

Knowing Your Players and Their Kicks, Lich van Winkle, on his blog

Ah, Melan diagrams to illustrate dungeon complexity… I like what The Alexandrian did, here, taking The Sunless Citadel and illustrating how the Melan diagrams work.

Jaquaying the Dungeon – Addendum: How to Use a Melan Diagram, by Justin Alexander, on The Alexandrian

I think that’s as far back as my posts go, the rest is archived offline...

Comments on 2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Thanks for keeping the ball rolling!

Anne 2021-02-07 22:04 UTC

Interesting follow-ups to play styles:

– Alex 2021-02-19 16:48 UTC

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2020-05-04 New RPG blogs

You know how it is, in social media and in blogging, or in out in the face-to-face world when we’re not in lockdown: friends come and go, enemies accumulate... no, of course not. But interesting people come and go, that much I find to be true. You follow them on social media and then they stop posting — I used to see it on Google+ and I’m seeing it now on Mastodon. The solution is to keep following new people!

In the world of blogging, that means following more blogs. It’s why I’m keen to recruit new bloggers for the RPG Planet. We need new people to supplant those who have moved on to greener pastures, who need to focus elsewhere, who have dropped out of the hobby, found new things to do.

“New” blogs I’ve enjoyed reading:

What are your suggestions for 2019, 2020? 😀

Comments on 2020-05-04 New RPG blogs

@linkskywalker said: Velexi’s blog is one of the best, and only started in 2019: A Blasted, Cratered Land.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-04 20:47 UTC

Lately when I find new blogs, it’s usually because they’ve shared a link on the Blogroll channel on Chris McDowell’s public OSR server on Discord.

Anne 2020-05-04 23:01 UTC

If only the stream of new blog announcements made it into the RPG Planet! 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-05 06:39 UTC

Hey Alex, have you thought on making a sister page to RPG Planet that mimics Lobsters? It will be an interesting way to share and discuss about RPG-focused topics.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-05 15:37 UTC

It sounds like a lot of work and seeing how I don’t like the kind of conversation engendered by Reddit, which is broadly similar (I think?) I don’t see myself as a regular user of such a system. I’d rather just have people discuss stuff on their blogs. Blogs work for me. 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-05 16:06 UTC

Yesterday I discovered the fascinating Pretendo Games blog. I enjoy the dissertations about how Jason establishes and tweaks the rules of their games. Every change has a reason, a rationale derived from playtesting the rules. Practice-to-theroy translation.

In addition, he has quite a few games. I like Exhumed and Grave.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-12 10:27 UTC

Yeah, I’ve seen @JasonT post on Mastodon but I’ve not tried his games.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-12 11:19 UTC

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2020-03-16 The joy of RPG Planet

The RPG Planet was great while I was away on a 15 day trip with rare Internet connections: I have a feed reader subscribed to it. I use the Reeder app on my iPhone but there are a gazillion alternatives. Whenever I had WiFi I got another 100 RPG blog posts to read.

Thank you, fellow bloggers. 😍

Sure, I don’t read all the posts – I can’t get the blog posts when I’m offline and you’re just putting short summaries in your feeds; I also don’t read session reports. But I read almost everything else and it’s great.

If your blog isn’t listed, get in touch ( and I’ll add it as soon as I’m back.

(A Planet is a website which collects posts from member blogs and displays them on a single page. We are trying to keep the blogosphere alive!)

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2019-04-28 RPG Blog Highlights

Here’s my continuation of blog findings, a blog post I made nearly a month ago listing cool blog posts I had seen. A true “web log” like in the old days before social media, haha. I’ve been posting links to other blogs on Mastodon every now and then, trying to highlight what I felt was interesting stuff I had seen, so all I do is go through my own feed and copy and paste and format and link the stuff again. Feel free to follow me on Mastodon: @kensanata.

Noisms write about using old maps: «a great way to create the bare bones for a small scale D&D campaign … This is a map of the area around Eals, a tiny hamlet close to the Northumberland/Cumbria border in probably the least-developed part of England. … The map is an old Ordnance Survey one from approximately 1900, at a scale of about 1 inch to a mile» – Monsters and Manuals: Real Life Maps, Hexcrawling, and Rustic Fantasy Names

JB writes about Karameikos and GAZ1 and I’m listening to the British History Podcast episodes about The Saxon invasion (if there ever was one), and thinking about The Great Pendragon Campaign… «Let’s talk a bit about conquered people, shall we? Historically, folks are pretty averse to being conquered and ruled by a foreign power, especially when there’s any perceived social injustice like…» – B/X BLACKRAZOR: A is for Archduke Stefan III, When Neighbors Attack: A Story of Kings

Reading about a Nethack win reminds me of my Nethack failures... I think I never got past level 8 or 9? I can barely remember. – Library of Attnam: My NetHack Anniversary

«Don’t try to manage real-life social dynamics using rules and systems. It doesn’t work. And it will probably cause some harm.» – Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours

This is one for programmers: @aparrish said “I still think this is the most useful python library I’ve ever made and I’m kind of sad it hasn’t found its audience (probably because I need to make more compelling examples).” and adds that “it’s a simplified wrapper for approximate nearest neighbor lookups that obviates the need to use or even think about e.g. annoy or scipy.kdtree” which makes me think this is something people interested in generating maps and the like might need? I don’t know but I want to learn. – GitHub - aparrish/simpleneighbors: A clean and easy interface for performing nearest-neighbor lookups

@gunnar recommends Medieval Fantasy City Generator by watabou which I already knew but it’s still cool so there you go.

I wonder whether Sleeping Titans is something that would ever see play at my table. «Silent Titans includes an overland area isolated by mysterious phenomena, a central town, a scattering of settlements and five unique non-Euclidian dungeons.» – False Machine: Silent Titans Pre-Sales are Live (early morning edition)

Listening to an episode on corridors of Thinking Allowed and hearing that corridors were brought to England in the 17th century. That explains the room-after-room or one-room-per-floor design of older buildings! And it tells me most D&D maps are totally anachronistic. But I guess we knew that already? I hadn’t thought of corridors as an invention, in any case. I think it’s a problem with structural analysis: the earth does not support big halls, so you build a small tunnel and dig another hall. That’s how I remember the catacombs I’ve seen. Room after room after room, with small corridors connecting them, but not long corridors with many openings left and right.

I’m listening to episode 289 of the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps podcast about angels and I can’t stop thinking about the AD&D Monster Manual 2 where I learned about all these things.

Write monsters based on illustrations by Harry Clarke and let’s make another monster manual! I liked this project: Cavegirl's Game Stuff: Community Project - The Harry Clarke Bestiary

“I wrote 50 levelless spells for my OSR homebrew! Lots are rewrites, but some are all-new - check out Spellify, or my Summon rules!” – A Blasted, Cratered Land: Mimics & Miscreants Spell List

Currently reading the German Wikipedia page about the league. Not surprisingly the article is much longer than the English equivalent.

Dungeons the Dragoning 40,000 7th Edition was very cool! Thus: «lessons I’ve learned over a decade of GMing everything from D&D 4e to Eclipse Phase to Dungeons the Dragoning 40,000 7th Edition to a half-dozen of my own homebrews.» – A Blasted, Cratered Land: Lexi's Big Bag of GM Tips

Listening to the Blogs on Tape podcast – the best of podcasting and OSR blogs. Thanks for choosing and reading them all, @linkskywalker and collaborators!

Lots of lists of magic items on this blog: tengoldpiecegems

@Halfjack writing about about transliteration in fantasy alphabets, using Tengwar as an example: if you write “l a u g h” using Tengwar, I’m going to cry because I learned English the hard way and the English spelling will surely make all elves cry. And if Fëanor can cry then so can I. And you.

I’m enjoying the podcast Roguelike Radio. Now I want to read Procedural Generation in Game Design because of Roguelike Radio: episode 137 about the book. But I know I no longer read long books. I just think I want to read them.

Listening to the episode on MUDs makes me want to play in MUSHed and MUDs again. But I tried it last year and it didn’t last... Maybe I should create my own single person world. The episode and the discussion about the future of MUDs makes me think that Minecraft/Minetest is one of the futures: there is survival mode oft MUD players and creative mode for MUSH players. Multiplayer. Building.

The Gundobad blog is simply right up my alley! This time, writing about Rome and the barbarians: Of Swords & Sojourners: Barbarians Within the Gates of Empire. (Previously: writing about the Late Bronze Age collapse.)

Awesome series by Ben L.: “This is the first in a series of posts that try to say something about the theory of the OSR style of play … Recently I have been reading a lot of story games … For me this process has been tremendously clarifying. I think what they do is really neat, and seeing how it’s different from what we do helps me to understand why we do some of things we do.” – Mazirian's Garden: Pleasures of the OSR: Secrecy and Discovery

And later: «both OSR and story gamers regularly say that they value “emergent stories”. The idea is that the stories are not pre-written, rather they emerge from play. So it seems like we’re on the same page. But I’m convinced that this is, in large part, an illusion.» – Mazirian's Garden: Pleasures of the OSR: Emergent Story and Open Worlds

“If you need an ultra powerful, semi-mortal magic user to be the villain of a campaign, to rule a city in the middle of an arid waste, to be the eccentric host hosting an auction in some desolate region where only the wealthiest and most influential people in the world or for any other reason, use the tables below.” – Remixes and Revelations: Random Sorcerer-King Generator

If you’re interested in generated maps, generated histories, generated wars, generated seaways, generating place names and so much more, I have a blog recommendation for you: for h in hexes.

“So, if you are a map maker, or know of one that you would want included in this, then drop a comment below and I will update the post with each new map-maker … vaguely somewhat close to the OSR in a general sense” – False Machine: Who Makes Maps?

Anne writes about total darkness. I’d handle it like Skerples in the comments? “If you run out of hit points, or run out of time to play the game while your character is still in the dungeon, or you run out of light, your life is forfeit, and you have given up your right to remain alive. … If you can’t narrate, then don’t. Use a different resolution mechanic - rolling dice on a special table - and then later, start narrating again at a point where you’re able to do so.” – DIY & Dragons: Your Life is Forfeit

“A situation where the players treat resources as important and plan ahead to have a sufficient supply is almost indistinguishable from a situation where the players and the judge all ignore resource management completely.” – DIY & Dragons: Mechanics for Resource Management - part 2, Defining our Terms

This blog post from The Scones Alone is about an alternate encumbrance system and discussed by Anne in one of her blog posts. So many good thoughts: A Simple Resource Management System for Into the Odd

I’m falling into the rabbit hole of Anne’s posts on resource management... See my post on Encumbrance.

How to show the world is old (and other stuff about world building): “But what can be done is to show practically how civilizations come and go, but nature always persists the entire time. While barely anything is known about the most recently destroyed cities, other than stories of how they were destroyed by one of the still existing cities, and nothing about the cities that came before them, there are still plenty of ruins left behind by the Ancient Builders.” – The Truths of the World – Spriggan's Den

Same blog: I love those word counts! “In the Sword & Sorcery genre, stories tend to be much shorter, instead you simply get more of them. As references, here are the works of some of the great Sword & Sorcery writers and their lengths.” – Keeping it brief: Word Counts in Sword & Sorcery – Spriggan's Den

Another excellent series, this time by Yami Bakura. All of them are super long and have stats and background for a lot of elemental themed creatures.

“Whenever you attempt to light a fire, somewhere above in one of the golden office complexes of the Sun, a clerk working in the Burning Bureaucracy is evaluating your request, based on the wind, moisture, and numerous other factors. Then, if they approve your request, the fire starts. The clerk must then notarize the paperwork and send it off to be properly tabulated.“ – Remixes and Revelations: OSR: The Elemental Court of Fire

“The Tunnel Tyrants are a class of civil servant responsible for maintaining the Veins of the Earth, as well as all other manmade tunnels and mines. Their additional duties include monitoring the amount of minerals in each area, controlling nitrogen fixation, and several other duties. If a sinkhole is needed, it must run through them. However, they are a class of civil servants also known for being corrupt, lazy or just incompetent.“ – Remixes and Revelations: OSR: The Elemental Court of Earth

Frog princess, river dragons, ice queens and more: “There are currently Five claimants to the Throne of the Deep, all claiming to be the best one to rule the Court of Water. Until such a time as someone will mount the Throne of the Deep and be acknowledged by the majority of Water Elementals as the true master of the waves, the Water Civil War will continue and the Court will remain fractured.” – Remixes and Revelations: OSR: The Elemental Courts of Water


And as always, if you don’t see enough stuff here to make you go check out the blogs, there’s always the inimitable Froth: THOUGHT EATER: humpday blog-o-rama.

Comments on 2019-04-28 RPG Blog Highlights

Great stuff. Thank you kindly for the mention.

Froth 2019-04-29 12:45 UTC

Ynas Midgard’s RPG Blog has Excellence from the Blogosphere (March-April). Very cool! ❤

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-10 20:36 UTC

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2019-04-02 Blog Findings

I’ve been posting links to other blogs on Mastodon every now and then. Let me try and repost then them here and now. It’s a continuation of 2019-02-21 RPG Blog Highlights?

Delta was invited to run a boss monster at a convention. «to participate as something of a co-DM, namely, the dedicated brains behind the boss – here, Flame, an ancient red dragon of maximum size, power, and spellcasting ability, from the Dungeon Magazine adventure “Into the Fire”. … by separating the jobs here, Paul could focus on rulings on player actions, while I had the whole 10 minutes or so to meditate on my options» – Delta's D&D Hotspot: Co-DMs for Boss Fights

Maybe I should do that, too. In our chat channel, don’t just ask who’s coming to the next game but also adding a rumor or two. «Rumours are a … must have for sandbox gaming. Without that information the player characters … just go along with the adventure du jour …. However, self motivated PCs are gold for a gamesmaster, therefore throwing out as many hooks and tit bits of setting info as possible for them to bite on is elementary to enabling them to be so.» – How Heavy This Axe: Things That Have Worked: Rumour Posts

Jens talks about things I didn’t know about the D&D Rules Cyclopedia: «did you ever think that the reputation D&D has for being about killing things and taking their stuff is unjustified? I did and there is yet another odd thing about the D&D Rules Cyclopedia that could shed some light on why that is so.Just killing monsters and taking their stuff? No, definitely not.» And then he talks about all the extra rules I didn’t know about. – The Disoriented Ranger: Rules Cyclopedia Oddities Part 5: Experience

I like the idea of D&D as competitive story telling. «Every player has a story planned for their characters. Maybe they are “meant” to become kings, make their deities proud, or slay an old nemesis. The GM - or the NPCs - have their own story planned out - Strahd destroys his enemies or captures his unwilling bride, etc. Players and GM compete to see which story becomes “real”.» – Methods & Madness: D&D as COMPETITIVE STORYTELLING

Actually, got involved in a discussion with some people on Mastodon regarding that blog post and wrote some more about it.

I think I agree because I enjoy stories of adversity and overcoming. I’ve had feel good sessions where all the plans work, all the NPCs agree, all the enemies see the error of their ways, and at the end of the day the accomplishment rang hollow. It still happens at my table, but rarely. How do you look at it?

By the way, when I ran the Luke Crane family of games conflicting story lines wasn’t really the vibe I got. It was a lot of meta discussion about helping dice and which tests to make, so the games did not work for me at all even though I invested about 15 sessions into Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, and Torchbearer. I guess I just find it very simple to run a game of “how much are you willing to sacrifice for what you believe?” without rule support. That’s why D&D variants work just as well for me.

I didn’t think the blog post was talking about player vs player too much and I don’t enjoy that at my table, either. But sometimes I have a character arc in mind for my own player character and don’t mind sacrificing them to get that closure so in this particular sense, I have my own agenda in addition to all the agendas we do share.

Back to links all over the place!

Who doesn’t need a map for Tower McDemonFace? “This map is made available to you under a free license for personal or commercial use …” – Release the Kraken on the Tower-Faced Demon! | Dyson's Dodecahedron

Waves and clouds, Japan, 1903. If you need some abstract patterns for your stuff.

Delta writes about cool stuff like throwing spears! «one of the edits I made was to change the penalty for range from a short/medium/long categorization to a flat −1 per 10 feet shot … “External ballistics of Pleistocene hand-thrown spears: experimental performance data and implications for human evolution.” … It’s always super neat to see people putting historical speculations to practical tests -- especially this one, based on a 300,000 year-old find.» – Delta's D&D Hotspot: On Throwing Spears

Random names, pages and pages of it. 100 for each nation of the Flanaess, but who cares because you get a 100 names each for all the various cultures of your setting. – Random Names for the Flanaess | Original D&D Discussion

If I understand it correctly, generated using this shareware software appropriately called “Everchanging Book of Names” – EBoN - Download

I think I’m going to like this (and it’s free): “If you’re looking for some wicked-twisted spells that a cyborg sorcerer from a shoggoth-haunted nuclear waste-land might have on-hand … Here is a collection of over 100 strange new spells that combine magic and technology in bizarre, unsettling and often horrific ways best suited to Lovecraftian Space Opera, Eldritch Cyberpunk, Post-Apocalyptic Sword & Planet campaigns, settings or games.” – Space Age Sorcery Version 1.5 - Hereticwerks |

Anne writes about a “a sub-scene of RPG bloggers who use the Goblin Laws of Gaming, aka, the GLOG. So just who is this GLOGosphere? Who are the GLOGgers?” – DIY & Dragons: Who is the GLOGosphere?

How Michael “Chicago Wiz” does wilderness encounters: “Me: It’s the 8th day of Autumn and you’ve loaded up your supplies and are ready to leave town. Do you do anything else or do you head out? Players: We go! Off to the fort! Me: Well, (reading notes) Fortune smiles upon you, as with the help of the ranger, you have a fairly unventful journey for the first 5 days of your trip. You navigate the Dark Woods without incident, …” – How I do wilderness encounters

“There’s a giant train that passes through many worlds. Everyone writes a one-page dungeon carriage using a template. The carriages get stitched together to make a sort of randomly generated segmented megadungeon, suitable for drop-in games, travel between worlds, or extremely random encounters.” – Coins and Scrolls: OSR: The Indefinite Train - Community Project

I like Zedeck Siew’s Writing Hour. A people described with three tables. Their job. Their look. Their problem. Not sure how immediately it translates into an adventure but it seems perfect for a setting description. “4. He rehearses. Before you see him you hear him: feet stamp-stamp-stamping, the Mountain’s heart, beating. He is a dancer. 5: Unguents for newborn babes; a meteoric-iron mallet to smash undead spirits. Midwives watch the boundary. She is a midwife.” – Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours • People of Andjang

Elves grow their stuff from plants, right? Like, cups from gourds, for example? – - Biodegradable HyO-Cups are dried gourds grown inside 3D printed molds

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2019-03-12 The RPG Blogosphere at a glance

I really like my RPG Planets. I currently have two of them: Old School RPG Planet and Indie RPG Planet, and the all-in-one combo, RPG Planet. Recently, I was asked about other systems via email. What about the 5E? Cypher System, Savage Worlds, all the others?

Previously I said:

What’s independent and indie in this context? As all RPG companies are very small, one could argue that the term is meaningless. I can just say what I was thinking of: things like Powered by the Apocalypse, Mountain Witch, Mouse Guard, Fate, Lady Blackbird and the like. But really, where do we draw the line? I have no idea. Is D&D 5E already Old School? Is Shadowrun small enough to be indie? Is Pathfinder the only one that’s mainstream? I truly don’t know and hope that people will self-sort and as if by magic we will all be happy.

What are our alternatives: story games, narrative games? For me, indie is what started at The Forge, right at the time when print-on-demand via Lulubecame viable, when selling PDFs via RPG Now became viable, when more people started looking for alternatives to the d20 system.

Conversely, I like to think that starting with 6 abilities to define a character, saving throws to avoid mishaps, hit points, to-hit rolls using a d20, damage rolls using smaller dice, xp for gold and levels is 100% OSR. There are things that are close in execution, or close in spirit, or just define themselves to be close (thinking of Into the Odd). So that’s the OSR.

I’m still hoping that Savage Worlds and Cypher System are essentially Indie because what ties them to Shadowrun, Savage Worlds, World of Darkness, Pathfinder and the like? I have no clue.

So I’m falling back to the idea that they must be “Indie” and 5E players ... I don’t know. Are they really in a category of their own? Should I just add them to the “unlabelled” RPG Planet? Should I add a “mainstream” Planet?

How would you do it?

(I’ll post the results of that email conversation, should find a way!)

Comments on 2019-03-12 The RPG Blogosphere at a glance

I try and look for cool ideas on blogs regardless of what the actual game is. So for me, I would love a “planet” with just everything thrown in. It is easy enough to skip over something that isn’t interesting to me.

Froth 2019-03-12 16:09 UTC

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2019-02-21 RPG Blog Highlights?

Recently I have created a “merged” RPG Planet. It collects the blog posts collected on the Old School RPG Planet and the Indie RPG Planet and creates a unified feed and web page. It’s pretty cool for people like me who like it both ways! 🙂

And on my Tabletop Social Mastodon account I’ve been occasionally highlighting a post or two that I noticed as I browsed the page.

How to get started with the , by Dungeons and Possums:

Dungeon maps with ASCII art, and links to adventures. Anne’s blog post: Adventure 1: Adventure 2:

I think bat has been writing up magic items and spells and little vignettes to go along with them on his blog for about ten years. Ten years! The library is ginormous!! Just now, for example: planar orbs. 🙇‍♂️

I turned the following into a blog post:

Patrick Stuart writes eloquently about books. I remember him writing so eloquently about Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon that I ended up buying the book (but now that I check only got to page 43). And now he writes a review of the Memoirs of Usama Ibn-Munqidh, “an Arab-Syrian Gentleman in the Period of the Crusades”, translated by Philipp K. Hitti. And already I feel the urge to go and buy it. Must resist! 😆​

Michael Prescott has a new mini adventure on his blog. “In every town, village, and hamlet are women who have seen beyond fear, who are strong enough to push back winter and bring new life to the lands. Their power comes from beneath an old, stone shrine, half-forgotten by the people of today. What secrets are known to those who dare pass through the mouth of spring?”

Don’t know where I got this one from, must have been Google+?

«If Racinet’s Polychromatic Ornament (1869–1873) was the French answer to The Grammar of Ornament (1856) by Owen Jones, then Heinrich Dolmetsch’s Der Ornamentenschatz (1887) is the German response to both, an equally lavish collection of colour plates showing ornamental decoration through the ages.»

Also Google+:

The compendium for last years’ One Page Dungeon Contest on DriveThru…

I liked the part about skills in this blog post: “it should generally just work unless it’s ridiculous. … you want to pick a lock? Did you buy lockpicks? Then you do it. … Want to bust down a door? You do it … If it’s particularly complicated … maybe refer to the character’s background and make a ruling based on that. … You’re playing Traveller and you want to rappel down a wall? Do you have some rope? Then you do it.”

I just found a PDF with Darkest Dungeon Character Kits. Like Dan says: “a great way to demonstrate to new players that classes are not monolithic: not all fighters are the same.” Dan’s blog post:

The discussion on strong female characters by Noisms in his blogpost Strong Female Characters – and in the comments beneath it – is refreshing in that the talk is about the nuances. Having spent my early teenage years reading Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey, I disagree with some of the points made by the OP and still enjoyed the discussion. Food for thought in any case. And I did not know that the casting for ’Alien’ was unisex.

It’s a long read and perhaps you want to skip the last section before reading anything else because that last section is fantastic. «If the people of Hegendorf continue their business without a group of Player Characters coming in and interfering with their lives, here’s what happens: […] Hegendorf lies in ruins.» That slow escalation, that meat grinder unleashed, that’s good stuff!

«The “adventure” then is not the narrative the player-characters flow through towards an inevitable climax and resolution, but the procession of problems, challenges, etc. they face; the decisions and deliberations they make about what to do about each problem or challenge; and the procedures they enact as part of those decisions, and the consequences of all the above interacting with one another. […] it is a playstyle that can be applied to almost any “roleplaying game”»

More analysis of the survey by Brendan: «In addition to being related to several other variables that you might expect (such as self-declared participation in the OSR, degree of identification with the OSR, and having bought an OSR product), degree of OSR play behavior also positively predicts blogging about tabletop roleplaying games generally and belief that the OSR welcomes diverse voices.»

«One plant or animal creature the caster touches suddenly gains human level awareness and intelligence.» I love this spell. It’s like the Tolkien elves giving language to the trees and the like.

«There are several examples in Lord of the Rings where Tolkien could be said to be drawing inspiration from prehistory. His work was very much concerned with capturing an emotional response to the passage of time. Techniques he employed in his construction of languages were designed to evoke, in one with the requisite knowledge of scientific philology, the sense of an extraordinarily long period of time.»

No idea where this one is from:

Here’s a Jargon dictionary compiled in 1812, Australia: “The Author has found it necessary to introduce frequently, in the course if his definitions, technical, or cant words and Phrases. This he could not avoid without much tautology and unpleasing circumlocution.”

„… and editor of the journal Board Games Studies.“ Best job description in this post about an ancient board game.

Carcosa has plenty of colored humans. This is a nice take on them, by Eric Diaz.

  • Black – Danuvian (Talislanta)
  • Blue – Vedalken (Ravnica)
  • Bone – These look cool the way they are, actually.
  • Brown – Goliath
  • Dolm – Thri-Kreen (Dark Sun)
  • Green – Genasi
  • Jale – Gnolls
  • Orange – Ahazu (Talislanta)
  • Purple – Kenku
  • Red – Red Martians
  • Ulfire – Shén (Tekumel)
  • White – Melniboneans
  • Yellow – Githyanki

And so on. I post a lot of links, now that I look back at my stream. And they hardly ever show up on the blog. I guess I should change that? I’m not sure.

Game Prep

Comments on 2019-02-21 RPG Blog Highlights?

A nice argument for problem solving in investigative roleplaying games by @seanmccoy: «I want to solve the puzzle. … games don’t want to account for a fail state. This can be solved pretty easily with a few things, one is just: let them fail, lose the client, the murderer kills again. The other is to let the enemy get closer and closer to the PCs as they continue to fail. Meaning that regardless of what path they choose, the situation will eventually resolve itself …»

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-23 04:27 UTC

Hey man, thanks for the Hegendorf shout-out!

Joshua Burnett 2019-03-01 14:45 UTC

Sure! 👍

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-01 22:46 UTC

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