RPG

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).

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2019-05-17 On generating lists of items in Hex Describe

I’ve been looking at Hex Describe again. These days I’ve been collaborating with ktrey parker on Diaspora and all of this input has pushed me to work harder on how Hex Describe generates lists of unique items from a larger list.

I needed lists of unique items for spell lists. Let’s take Agrimach, for example. The spells of the first circle are aura of fear, locate corpse and read magic. If I now want to create a second level student of Agrimach, I want to provide them with two of the three spells, but no duplicates. The naive way to encode this in a table would be:

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A man with a black beard. *[spell]* and *[spell]*

When I try it, there is some duplication. Note the arrows:

  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. read magic and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and locate corpse
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and locate corpse

So what I did was I added lists to Hex Describe. It now has the keywords “with” and “and” to initialise lists and to pick further elements for the same list. “with” starts a new list and “and” picks a random element up to ten times in an attempt to not pick an item already on the list.

We rewrite the tables:

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A woman with curly hair. *[with spell]* and *[and spell]*

The result:

  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. aura of fear and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. aura of fear and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and aura of fear
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and aura of fear

No repeats!

But now let’s add some details to the spells. Let’s provide two alternatives for each spell.

;aura of fear
1,aura of fear
1,aura of terror

;locate corpse
1,locate corpse
1,locate body

;read magic
1,read magic
1,read runes

;spell
1,[aura of fear]
1,[locate corpse]
1,[read magic]

;student
1,A young teenager with short hair. *[with spell]* and *[and spell]*

We have a lot more options, but eventually the duplication is back because the two variants count as different results of the “spell” table:

  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read runes
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read runes
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of fear and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and aura of fear
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and locate corpse

The solution to this is that we need another level of indirection: the list must not be a list of final results but of keys that are resolved later. Thus, the “spell” table returns the table names that are then used in the “student” table to find the actual spells.

;aura of fear
1,aura of fear
1,aura of terror

;locate corpse
1,locate corpse
1,locate body

;read magic
1,read magic
1,read runes

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A girl, maybe seven years old, with long blond hair. *[[with spell]]* and *[[and spell]]*

If you look at the results, you no longer get two variants of the same spell:

  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of terror and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate body and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of terror and locate corpse
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of fear and locate corpse
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror

Yay!

OK, but I have an even stranger thing to talk about. Let’s generate a simple sentence describing a dungeon. There are various rooms and we don’t want any repeats. It starts much like the spellbook above:

;room
1,an altar room
1,a cesspit
1,a lair

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [with room] and [and room].

Simple, no duplication:

  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a lair.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a lair.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.

Let’s make it more interesting by having the lair connect to more rooms.

;room
1,an altar room
1,a cesspit
1,a larder
1,a natural cave
1,a lair with a secret door leading to [and room]

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [with room], and [and room].

Can you spot the problem? It took me a few hours to understand what the problem was. I started seeing errors in the application and finally I added a quick fix to the code which suppresses the error but the output is still wrong. Take a look and note the arrows:

  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to a cesspit, and an altar room. ←
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a natural cave.
  • This dungeon consists of a larder, and a natural cave.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to an altar room. ←

We now have two problems!

The first problem is that like in the example with the spellbook the list is only unique at the level of results of the “room” table. Thus, “a lair with a secret door leading to a larder” and “a lair with a secret door leading to a cesspit” are considered to be two different rooms.

Another problem – and that’s the problem that crashed Hex Describe – is what happens when the code starts processing [with room], and the first room it picks is a lair, which wants [and room]. The problem is that [and room] expects there to be a list of rooms already picked. But the first room is picked when [with room] is finished. Thus, for the computer, the list doesn’t exist, yet!

OK, but how do we fix this? We already know one fix: at the level of the list, we need to have table names, not the table results!

;altar
1,an altar room

;cesspit
1,a cesspit

;larder
1,a larder

;cave
1,a natural cave

;lair
1,a lair with a secret door leading to [and room]

;room
1,altar
1,cesspit
1,larder
1,cave
1,lair

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [[with room]], and [[and room]].

No more errors in my log! Also note that we only have one lair per dungeon, now:

  • This dungeon consists of an altar room, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to larder.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to altar, and a cesspit.

Yay!

Alright, time to go back to my tables. 🙂

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Comments on 2019-05-17 On generating lists of items in Hex Describe

Wow, that discussion alone might just be the final push for me to join Diaspora! I love HexDescribe, especially since I can use it without a map.

Ynas Midgard 2019-05-18 22:16 UTC


Haha, please join us. To be honest, that is the only really good thread I’ve been in during my short time on Diaspora.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-19 08:37 UTC

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2019-05-15 The purpose of art in a RPG product

Recently, Richard G wrote a few words about Silent Titans on Lasagna Social, saying that it looks really good, and also remarking on the “obscurity and circularity of reference” as it refers to Bastion of Electric Bastionland or Into the Odd, as it used to be known.

I left a comment saying that I had had the same thoughts: visuals (superficially), the references to other products, and I added: “Rolled my eyes a bit. 🙄”

Paolo Greco then asked me about the eye rolling and I felt that he deserved a longer answer. The comment turned out to be long enough that I ended feeling it deserved a page on this blog. So there you go. 😃

It wasn’t a strong feeling I had, just a heh and one eye roll, I guess. Somebody writes a game using the rules somebody else has published, go buy those, or the free older edition, and here’s and interview I did with them, and I read it, too, but at the same time I sighed a bit and couldn’t decide whether this was people patting each other on the back for a job well done inside the very product this well done job had produced, or an instance of one hand washing the other, as we say in German, so anyway, I asked myself: what is this? Is this an ad? Is this a cooperation? And I felt that as an editor, I would have cut it.

As for the art, I’ll start with me really liking the map in A Red and Pleasant Land, the squares, the inking, the slight abstraction away from fantasy realism we’ve seen in D&D, away from the retro line art we’ve seen in the OSR, something new, colourful, somehow familiar and yet unknowable. I guess I’m not an art critic and fear I lack the words and the sensitivities but anyway, Maze of the Blue Medusa went a bit further in this direction, more abstract, less something I can just show players and say “you see this!” and more something that conveys a mood, a mental confusion, a state that is perhaps a bit like the altered state of the mystical underworld, I guess the Medusa dungeon in Vornheim was a bit like that, and I didn’t even look too much at Frostbitten & Mutilated, so then I leafed through Silent Titans and felt that it was even more abstract, even less usable, less showable, nothing I could look at and interpret as a map, or an image of creature, or a location, but a jumble of things that provide an emotional reaction, a jumble of something, a weirdness, and I don’t deny that it fascinates me, but at the same time it’s also a bit in that line of art I like less, that I find less useful for a product that I don’t just buy to be entertained but to aid me at the table, to be useful in a very specific way.

So perhaps then the question is this: what is the purpose of art in an RPG product? It’s about pleasing the buyer, the reader. I have bought something beautiful, they say. And Silent Titans delivers. But I sort of dread the moment at the table. Is this something I can run at the table, as is? And I roll my eyes, a tiny little bit.

I guess this is all also in the context of an early post I had written on Diaspora: as I’m trying to read Silent Titans every now and then, I sigh as I realize that my brain is probably too puny and my imagination too boring for this. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure whether I can make use of this at the table.

What OSR PRG product have you actually used and liked using at the table? Even Stonehell has a lot of text for my taste. I guess Castle of the Mad Arch Mage worked pretty well for more than fifty sessions.

I should write more of my own instead of complaining, hah! 😅

I am reminded of advice I recently gave somebody, regarding adventures for newbies:

“I would write my own, I think.

That’s because I think finding a scenario and preparing a scenario takes time in which you could have written your own. And having written your own, you will never fear getting it wrong.

Even the One Page Dungeon Contest submissions are too much to read through. You’ll get lost wondering whether this or that fits your aesthetics better, whether this or that plays better with the table, whether this or that offers something your players might enjoy. And all this uncertainty about picking an adventure tells me that you already know all the things you need.

Trust me on this: writing up something simple for a night is quicker than finding and reading and prepping anything else and you’ll feel better at the table, too.”

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Comments on 2019-05-15 The purpose of art in a RPG product

I love the art in RPG books but I hate that it’s only really seen by the DM. I buy more PDFs than physical books so art often gets in the way rather than enhances my experience while playing, but it’s nice for theme while reading away from the table.

Tom 2019-05-15 20:31 UTC


Yeah, I hate it when there are beautiful maps that nobody else ever sees.

Benefits:

  • entertainment for the reader
  • building enthusiasm before running the game (for the reader)
  • sometimes you can lift the book and turn it to the player so they can see it?
  • can work as a substitute to reading (just look for visual inspiration in a Paizo adventure path and ignore the sea of words)

Drawbacks:

  • Price
  • makes PDFs slow

And then there’s the drawbacks of having the wrong art:

  • confusing maps are confusing
  • watermarks make the text hard to read
  • busy maps make them hard to annotate (for the love of all that is good, bring back marginalia! we need more white space everywhere)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-16 05:54 UTC


I just read a very interesting post about Silent Titans. A Literary Analysis of Silent Titans by Patrick Stuart on the Sheep and Sorcery blog.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-19 08:35 UTC

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2019-05-14 Hexer & Haudegen

Introducing the kids of friends to roleplaying games while babysitting. (Not really babies anymore, haha.)

We’re using Hexen & Haudegen which is the German translation or Sorcerers & Sellswords, which is the Fantasy translation of Lasers & Feelings. It’s perfect! We played without GM and drew cards from Paizo’s Harrow Deck to inspire the story: The Avalanche, The Empty Throne, The Rakhshasa. Very nice!

Character sheets, notes, rules

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2019-05-11 Brainstorming Hex Descriptions

I’m trying to find people to collaborate with on writing more stuff for Hex Describe. My creativity usually works via mutual inspiration.

Mutual inspiration happens when two or more people get together and enthusiasm builds up. This is the most elevating creative experience, as you not only “stand on the shoulders of giants”, but you can see your ideas grow and improve as you toss it back and forth amongst each other.

Factors that help you reach this state of mind as a group:

  • Brainstorming, being amongst friends, i.e. feeling less inhibition
  • Strong common interest or fascination
  • Similar ideas, you need some difference to inspire your partners
  • Similar language

I might have found such a place in this thread on Diaspora, where Ktrey has been offering ideas and tables and answering back with more specifics and Wikipedia links and all the goodness of the web. Thanks, Ktrey!

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2019-05-09 Poetry

I just heard an episode of In Our Time about Aphra Behn and how her rise in stature is perhaps also due to the rise in popularity of the novel and the fall of poetry and since I no longer read books as voraciously as I used to I started wondering about poetry.

Poems can be short and could perhaps be well suited for 500 characters. You need more than 140 but not a short story let alone a novel. I wonder about writing RPG vignettes as poetry. Would it work?

I’m listening to Kate Tempest, “an English spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright.” You can find videos on her web page.

I want to write and read and run games like Kate Tempest playing on my phone right now.

Maybe it would sound a bit like this?

“In those hill we lost our children
Puked our fear into bushes, hiding
Pig men come, they say. Pig. Men.
Are not all men pigs?
Salty lips.
We cannot unhear what the mind hears.
We left our children to the pigs.”

Rhyme & Reason, by Alex Schroeder

What else do we need to know about the villagers and orcs of Salt Hill?

@awinter also pointed me to The Role-playing Poem Challenge. I don’t think it’s quite the same as I’m not interested in the session turning into a poetry slam, nor into a spoken word performance, nor in the rules being a poem, but in the writing for the game having more punch per word, more emotional density, to get away from the technical manual.

If indeed I do. Perhaps the dry manual style has a place in role-playing games? Perhaps this is something inherent about these game since the bending of rules, the rewriting of rules, is part of this game itself, like Nomic.

Or perhaps I should go back to D&D as an oral tradition: keep what you like, add what you need, drop what you keep forgetting. I keep recommending that thread by Eero Tuovinen. And suddenly, poetry has a place in this. It’s what the bards used to remember the epics. Rhyme, alliteration, repetition, idiomatic phrases.

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Comments on 2019-05-09 Poetry

@tootjard experimented with this a few years back: Ink Fiend, A Monster Poem.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-10 08:39 UTC


Have you seen this? https://twitter.com/hexaday

Michael Julius 2019-05-14 22:46 UTC


I had not! (Then again I’m also not on Twitter anymore.) Not quite poetry but super short and useful indeed!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-15 07:33 UTC


I haven’t looked in on it for some time (for the same reasons) but your post reminded me of it for its attention to language and imposed (character) limit.

I remember someone doing d6 tables of little location poems (who? don’t know). There’s a lot of possibilities as RPG writing can be like a coiled spring.

Michael Julius 2019-05-16 02:01 UTC


Yeah, for Hex Describe, same problem: It’s always easy to add more text to add details nobody cares about. To stay short and still be evocative, that is the art of the wordsmith.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-16 12:06 UTC

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2019-05-08 Tileset

Kenney 1-Bit Pack “includes over 1,000 different tiles, characters, objects and items. It’s perfect for roguelike and RPG in any setting (fantasy, feudal Japan, modern, sci-fi etc.) and even comes with tiles for UI, platformers and puzzle games. Perfect for prototyping! Also includes a monochrome (black and white) version, plus versions with a transparent background.”

I wonder whether it would be easy to write a Gridmapper like editor that would quickly allow us to create maps using the keyboard. And town and dungeon and all sorts of map generators using that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really love how the Face Generator, Text Mapper and Hex Describe are building something that is better than the sum of its parts.

I kept hoping that the Megadungeon Generator (needs more work) and Gridmapper (I feel like it needs a redesign but I’m not sure?) could play well together in a similar vein.

And Text Mapper itself is an example of an application that has been made a gazillion times more joyful to use once I got the Gnomeyland icons by Gregory MacKenzie added.

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2019-05-04 Working on Hex-Describe

Sometimes it’s hard to enumerate the things I added to Hex Describe. It’s small things, and one thing leads to another, and yet I am still impressed by what it does.

Just looking at the log of all the changes I recently made, going back to April 25:

  • contrib: more swamp creatures
  • contrib: fix green dragon typo
  • contrib: added black dragons to swamps
  • contrib: more elven name processing
  • contrib: link spellbooks to spellcasters project
  • contrib: added Ufala’s spellbook
  • contrib: added Xoralfona’s and Zorkan’s spellbook
  • contrib: added Ysabala’s spellbook
  • contrib: various fixes
  • contrib: various additions (balor, warlocks, etc.)
  • contrib: typos
  • contrib: more potions, move visuals to the front
  • contrib: feyrealms are Alfheim and Svartalfheim
  • elvish: using my own, simpler liaison rules
  • contrib: italics for demonic names
  • contrib: add manor houses to villages
  • contrib: fix typo
  • contrib: various
  • contrib: fix magic user treasure
  • contrib: more netherworld elf companions
  • contrib: add link to spellcasters project
  • contrib: four more spellbooks
  • hex-describe: fix Sindarin names
  • contrib: more changes
  • hex-describe: fix Sindarin names
  • contrib: more changes
  • contrib: undead in the mountains
  • hex-describe: smarter HR for text output
  • contrib: wording
  • contrib: netherworld elves
  • contrib: more spellbooks; spellbooks for elves
  • hex-describe: better Sindarin names
  • contrib: landmarks at rivers through settlements
  • contrib: landmarks at crossroads
  • hex-describe: doc wording
  • hex-describe: credited ktrey and Whidou
  • contrib: added another spellbook
  • contrib: more spellbooks
  • hex-describe: do not log missing keys in lists
  • hex-describe: use HR to separate long elements
  • hex-describe: link Matt Strom
  • hex-describe: how to generate spellbooks

It’s so much! And the thing is that it remains hard for me to convey what it does, the excitement I feel whenever I see the Text Mapper maps and start reading the map key generated by Hex Describe. Sure, I don’t read it for an hour, but it still excites me when I read it for a few minutes and it makes me want to run a campaign. And I keep wanting to add more stuff!

One thing I’d like to add more off are simple, map-less dungeons, a bit like those lairs for the elves of darkness that live up in the mountains.

Today I think I mostly added to swamps. Black dragons, sunken temples cursed by a gorgon, that kind of thing... 🙂

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2019-05-04 The First Adventure

@Kris recently asked: “Do you know of a good scenario for noobs?”

I would write my own, I think.

That’s because I think finding a scenario and preparing a scenario takes time in which you could have written your own. And having written your own, you will never fear getting it wrong.

Even the One Page Dungeon Contest submissions are too much to read through. You’ll get lost wondering whether this or that fits your aesthetics better, whether this or that plays better with the table, whether this or that offers something your players might enjoy. And all this uncertainty about picking an adventure tells me that you already know all the things you need.

Trust me on this: writing up something simple for a night is quicker than finding and reading and prepping anything else and you’ll feel better at the table, too.

Starting situation? — in front of a dungeon, looking for the crown of ice.

Immediate danger? — 10 orcs defending the entrance like the rebels defending their base on Hoth.

Immediate options? — run up there and attack, cast spells, parley, sneak up to them, lure them out, find back a entrance... plenty!

Who is their boss? — Kremulon the wight-servant, a necromancer.

Why is the boss bossing them around? — Kremulon has four wights at his command but needs the orcs to find 48 humans to sacrifice for Nergal.

Who is opposing this? — Gavina is the apprentice of Agrimach the necromancers and a loyal servant of Orcus; she wants to prevent the summoning of Nergal’s nightmare. In order to do this, she has led you here.

Complications? — five elves under the leadership of Nauthien will try to kill both servants of Nergal and Orcus and take the crown of ice.

Another complication? — rescuing the prisoner leads to three more rolls on the random encounter table on the way out.

Another entrance? — the three ice runners in the stables (another entrance) are dangerous because you smell like outsiders; the three stable orcs will raise an alarm if they spot you.

And another entrance? — the approach through the heat vents is dangerous because four yetis are using the exhaust to heat their cave, so you will have to sneak past them.

Secret escape? — a hidden tunnel leads into the ice caves with two frost trolls and eventually down to the coast, Skyrim style. So this too is an entrance of sorts, if you know how to climb ice walls and if you knew how to find it. Only Kremulon knows this.

Traps? — the ice bridge to the crown is slippery and defended by the four wights, if possible; if you are hit while on the bridge, save vs. death or fall into the icy water below. Once in there, save vs. death or die at the end of every round. A wight will follow you immediately and make sure to fight you in the cold water. If you avoid the fight, you can climb out in two rounds unless wearing metal armor.

Tricks? — finding the main hall? The corridors are confusing! Up or down? down is correct, up leads into the sleeping hall with more orcs. Towards food smell or away? away is correct, towards leads to kitchen with orcs and goblins at work.

Fights? — a random encounter table with 1d6 orcs, or 1d6 goblins carrying stuff for the orcs.

           Ventilation
           Yetis
              |
              |
Entrance - Corridors   - Main Hall - Ice Bridge - Ice Crown
Orcs       Random Orcs   Kremulon    Wights       Nergal statue
              |          & Orcs                     |
              |              |                    Prisoners
           Stables          Ice caves
           Ice runners      Trolls
           & Orc handlers

Also
Elves!

This map is good enough. Decide on some more numbers: total orcs? 30; orcs with Kremulon? 6. That leaves 18 other orcs for encounters. Don’t forget to roll twice inside the corridors. Determine Gavina’s stats and spells. Same for Kremulon. Same for the elves and Nauthien.

All in all your prep for a first game shouldn’t be much more than that!

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2019-05-04 Referee Certification

Recently, JB wrote about Certifying Dungeon Masters and mentioned Jon Mattson’s article in Dragon #28 (August 1979), “Level Progression for Players and Dungeon Masters.” In the comments, Dennis Laffey quoted the requirements for being certified as a teacher for English as a second language, and I proposed to rewrite them as follows:

You need to run games for 120 hour or 40 sessions, whichever comes first; run a game for 6 hours or two sessions, observed and be given feedback by an experienced referee; observe an experienced referee for 6 hours or two sessions; submit 4 written blog posts about how you run games and a portfolio of your gaming products (adventures, house rules, spells, classes, magic items, etc).

All we need is an organization to formalize it!

  1. The organization would be organized as a Swiss association which ensures that it is run according to democratic principles.
  2. Its’ members can certify other referees (get two players to confirm the 120 hour or 40 sessions; observe games being run for 6 hours or two sessions and give feedback; let themselves be observed for 6 hours or two sessions; read blog posts and gaming products). The result is a report sent via electronic mail to the registrar.
  3. Newly certified referees are free to join as members.
  4. Membership is $1 per year. The web presence is paid for using these fees. The rest constitutes its cash reserve. The association’s liability is strictly limited to its cash reserve.
  5. The management roles we have: president, cashier, webmaster, registrar. There are yearly elections.
  6. In case of complaints, the president shall designate three members to investigate. The three possible outcomes are: no action, revocation of certification, or expulsion.
  7. If the three investigators reach an unanimous decision to revoke certification, a report to that effect is sent via electronic mail to the registrar. The revocation is noted by the registrar and thus takes effect. The decertification does not strip one of membership and voting rights.
  8. If the three investigators reach an unanimous decision to revoke membership, a report to that effect is sent via electronic mail to the registrar. The revocation is noted by the registrar and thus takes effect. This does strip one of membership and voting rights.
  9. The association’s president may reinstate former members.

Something like that? Only half-serious, of course. I don’t even know if this is an actual problem because I haven’t run into situations where this would have helped. When I had referees I didn’t like, they were either new to running games (in which case knowing that they lacked certification wouldn’t have helped) or they apparently had been running games for a long time but I didn’t like their style (in which case they would have gotten the certification anyway). Basically the certification shows that a referee has some experience, it doesn’t show that the referee is good. And really, how would you do that? Just like teachers: you know that they have taught the necessary hours, but you don’t know whether they were any good. That seems to be the limitation of all such things. The rest will have to be trust built on social media and word of mouth, as has always been the case. Which makes me wonder: why are we doing this again?

I guess I just like the social challenge of how to set up and run such an organization.

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Comments on 2019-05-04 Referee Certification

Is this all a parody that I am not getting?

I always try to be diplomatic and polite, and respect other people’s oppinion, even when I disagree with it.

But this GM rating thing feels like it’s the dumbest thing related to RPGs I’ve ever heard.

What’s the point of that?! So players can say “I really would like to play in a game, and I like you as a person, but your record says that you don’t have tallied up a sufficient number of hours running games to gain the previlege of me playing with you”?

Yora 2019-05-04 11:56 UTC


It’s a half parody, as far as I am concerned. I think it’s preposterous, but at the same time, when I sign up for games at a convention there are four or five people dedicating four hours of their life to a game and wouldn’t you like to know that the GM is good before doing that? Like looking at the ratings on all the websites of the service industry from hotels to drivers, restaurants to rooms, or labels on food, don’t you want to know a little something? I know I do. Perhaps it’s the Zeitgeist. And that makes it all the more poignant for me. Plus there is the culture shift, for me: away from friends I know from school towards strangers that meet on the Internet before playing together, not knowing anything about each other, and not planning on being friends beyond the confines of the game. That too I find interesting.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-04 12:28 UTC


It’s one of those ideas that may sound good on paper (I mean, were I to spend a lot of money to travel to cons and such, I’d certainly choose GMs who has a good track record), but would ultimately cause more harm than good (imagine how hard it would be to get into GMing at cons as a newcomer).

Still, I had a good chuckle, and isn’t that the point of talking about elfgames? 😝

Ynas Midgard 2019-05-07 08:52 UTC


Yes! I laughed when I read that table of level titles, too.

  1. Initiate
  2. Apprentice
  3. Expert
  4. Overseer
  5. Supervisor
  6. Moderator
  7. Mediator
  8. Arbitrator
  9. Referee
  10. Referee, 1st Class
  11. Judge
  12. Dungeonmaster

Specially as I think about people using “referee” (like me) or “judge” (like Anne), or ... Dungeonmaster – which is obviously the bestest title. 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-07 09:26 UTC

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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

The best blogger is back! Joesky! ♥️ «SO THE GOAL IS TO TAKE CARCOSA IN ONE HAND AND TROIKA IN THE OTHER HANDS AND THEN PRESS TOGETHER AS HARD AS IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE THEM TOGETHER AND YELL “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!”» – BACK AT IT AGAIN | Joeskythedungeonbrawler's Blog

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.

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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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