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).

Free web apps I wrote:

Free games I wrote:

Looking for gamers here in Switzerland? → SpielerZentrale, NearbyGamers, Pen & Paper Schweiz Facebook Group, Dungeons & Dragons Meetup Zürich. Networking is important so that people moving here can find D&D games in Zürich, Switzerland.

2019-08-23 Gridmapper inside Text Mapper

Gridmapper is an interactive web application. You can use it to draw multi-level dungeon maps. The drawback is that you cannot use it to generate images in order to use them elsewhere.

A while ago I write a Megadungeon Generator which generates a random dungeon and allows you to open it in Gridmapper. That’s pretty cool, but I was still unhappy. The preview images I generated as part of it seemed to be on the right track: these were images, but much to small, and they didn’t use the Gridmapper tiles.

Recently, I added the ability to generate square maps the Text Mapper. Now all I was missing was the Gridmapper tiles and some encouragement.

The last few days, as I was talking with Brian Green, J. Alan Henning, and ktrey parker on Diaspora the topic turned to mapping again. ktrey parker suggested using the Face Generator or something similar for dungeon maps. Something smaller, combining geomorphs, something like the five room dungeon, not something big like Dave’s Mapper. Robin Green linked to The Nine Forms of the Five Room Dungeon | Gnome Stew, and started drawing sketches of the kinds of geomorphs we could use, how they’d fit together, and so on.

And suddenly... that was the kind of social enthusiasm I needed and I started writing code...

This is a new mapping algorithm for Text Mapper based on all of the above. It doesn’t do the special rooms Brian had sketched, yet; and it doesn’t always place the initial stairs correctly; and there are no “extras” such as pillars, chests, pits, and so on. But all of this can still be added.

As always with these algorithms, you can use them to generate a new text description for you to edit, or you can just keep reloading this link.


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2019-08-15 Deep Carbon Observatory Day 1

I’ve started running Deep Carbon Observatory.

As soon as the party arrived in town, I described the town as recently flooded and started playing some Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And I immediately had my doubts. The golems get weaker every day, but at the same time, people are suppose to be hungry, so they’ve been hungry for days? My players wanted to know why the water hadn’t drained?

I started my players with three disaster vignettes. One player wanted to do this, the others left to handle the others, I kept introducing new disasters and NPCs and there was much sighing. Kids, teachers, priests and magic-users were saved, cannibals were ignored, the rich guy was also brought back, a fire got started, a palisade was built, a camp got started. When they boy with the stolen scrolls showed up, they decided to track him and free his sister because the cannibal who had tried to lure one of the kids away from the fire had freaked out my players, I think.

I didn’t like how the module says that if you pass dozens of tests, the boy just gets shot. The boy was cooperating, the halfling was well hidden, the thief had a ring of invisibility, I didn’t think that’d be fair, and so I improvised some safety measures: the boy hands the scroll case to a waiting zombie, the zombie takes it to remote ruin, the girl is released from a different ruin, the ranger comes and takes the scroll... and then my players strike, of course. An invisible thief with a good weapon, and the halfling, with surprise and winning initiative is good enough to down the ranger before he gets to react, and as per my house rules if you bring an opponent to zero hit-points with a melee weapon that could conceivably be used to deal non-lethal damage, then the opponent is at your mercy.

He was a tough one, knew exactly that they were do-gooders and played it well, I think. They took his bow and his poisons and traps and let him go.

Thus, we got through a bit more than half the encounters in Carrowmore in the first session. There was no abandoning of people, my players were willing to split up and split again but as my players always have a few henchmen at hand, splitting the party is no big deal.

I had imagined there being a stronger sense of loss and despair as players have to abandon people to their fate but that didn’t happen. Good or bad? I don’t know.

I was able to bring the Crows across as mean bastards who know how to control zombies, but their ranger is now diminished. The consecutive INT tests to discover how the bow works are weird. Also, you need to pass 1d6 tests – I wonder what that is for? How about ignoring this and just saying that the character discovers how to use the bow after a while and that’s it? The INT test rolling isn’t very exciting, I think.

Anyway, not sure what to make of it. Drowning lands sounds interesting.

The two hooks I used to invite the party to Carrowmore was that some rebels they wanted to support needed a magic user and these rebels had heard that Koolhaus (which I misread as Koolmore because it was too close to Carrowmore, haha) was sympathetic to the rebel cause. So the party went to Carrowmore to find Koolhaus/Koolmore. At the same time, the rebel leader told them about the legend of an old kingdom hiding their treasures beneath a lake in the mountains nearby so while they’re in the area, why not investigate?

The magic user the players met in Carrowmore knew Koolmore, of course, and said that he had gone upriver to investigate the broken dam, so now the party is feeling the pull of both hooks. This seems to be working. 👍


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2019-08-14 The kind of RPG podcast I miss

You probably know that I have a podcast, the Halberds and Helmets Podcast. Recently on Reddit somebody said they loved it and asked for recommendations. If only I knew!

My favourite RPG podcast is Judd Karlman’s podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons. I like how he just picks up the phone and starts talking.

I think what I like about Judd’s podcast is that he talks about technique and inspiration – not about the actual things. It’s hard to put into words. I once said the following about Judd’s podcast on Mastodon:

What is it about the exact things he talks about that keeps me listening? I think it’s because I can imagine myself in the conversation I can’t have in my face-to-face games: referees talking to each other about their games, about what works and what inspired them and what didn’t work. I even listen to the call-ins because they’re not about praising each other or the products made. Just GM-to-GM talk.

And that’s it, I think. I feel like I’m having a Referee-to-Referee talk when I listen to the podcast, which is something I don’t get at my table with my players. We play on weekdays, people come late because they come from work and they leave early because they have to work the next day. We talk about parents, injuries, jobs, relationships, life. Somehow we don’t talk about running games.

I think other podcasts often fall into author-to-reader talk. It’s still hard to put into words. Judd talks about why and how he does things and doesn’t talk about the things themselves. He talks about why random tables are great and maybe what effect it had that one time he used a random table, but he doesn’t provide listeners with actual random tables, nor does he pontificate about random tables. It’s conversational. I love it.

If you know other podcasts like that, I’d love to know about them! Perhaps Fear of a Black Dragon comes close because the two hosts talk about how they run games, how they use the material, and that’s great, except I’m usually not too interested in the actual material they use to anchor the conversation.


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2019-08-11 Allies and Antagonists

I just read through Adventurers are the Measure on the Necropraxis blog. I try to do similar things myself in my own game. Many years ago I wrote about the gods and demon lords of my setting:

And this year:

Basically, the demons are not always evil. The institutions of good are corrupt, like all institutions. And my mini-setting generator, Hex Describe, tries to do the same:

  • the descriptions don’t include alignments – the world is basically open
  • some orc tribes might be interested in attacking nearby human settlements but there are also orc bards and orc merchants - sometimes there are tendencies that go one way or another but there are also always individuals that go against this: alignment shows through deeds, not words, nor nature, nor nurture
  • killing unicorns and selling their horns is lucrative; the unicorns themselves have goals involving the elimination of nearby temples and villages – there is a temptation for doing evil deeds as well, and excuses for doing them

I think that’s what I’m aiming for: the setting has many different settlements and lairs and that alone provides an interesting backdrop, but more than that, I want the situations to be charged. There must be conflicting interests. Like arrows pointing at each other. The situation is tense and the players could join either side.


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2019-08-08 OSR as a scene is dead

I think Melan is right: the OSR has desintegrated.

The old-school community split this year, and its surviving pieces have gone their separate ways. It is gone. There has been surprisingly little talk about it, and most still speak in terms of a general scene, but in my eyes, the divorce has clearly taken place. The fault lines had been present for a few years, and the conflicts were visible for all to see. Google+’s shuttering by its corporate overlords provided a good opportunity for things to come apart, but it has also obscured the OSR’s disintegration. […] There was undoubtedly something there for a few years, and now there isn’t.

We had lots of activity in the forums (and they are still around: Dragonsfoot, OD&D Discussion, Knights & Knaves, and so on), then we had the blogs (and they are still around: Old School RPG Planet), then we had Google+, and now it’s all over the place and nowhere.

I’m not active on /r/osr, nor MeWe. Is that where the various groups still interact? Lasagna Social is super small. The Old School on Mastodon is tiny.

I just noticed the following on the unofficial Reddit guide: /r/osr has 6k subscribers but /r/rpg has 680k and even something like a subreddit for a YouTube channel has more: /r/mattcolville has 41k subs.


Comments on 2019-08-08 OSR as a scene is dead

The biggest community is on discord, several thousand people with lots of regulars. A lot of the OSR blog authors chat there, bounce ideas off each other, work on community projects, etc. Check Chris McDowall’s Bastionland for an invite.

diregrizzlybear 2019-08-08 12:53 UTC

Catholocism didn’t end with the Protestant Reformation, I don’t know why the OSR would end because of the Sworddream Reformation, it’ll just be smaller. Declaring the OSR dead feels like folks have lost confidence in Sworddream and want to ’blow up’ the OSR in frustration.

– ruprecht 2019-08-08 13:00 UTC

@ruprecht, Wherever Sworddream is happening, I’m not seeing it. Do you have a link? I remember seeing the announcement and then nothing else.

I think that the word “dead” is as appropriate as it is to use for any thing that’s out of fashion. Yes, it’s still around, but it’s diminished. I mean, Old School RPG Planet has plenty of blogs listed, but it no longer feels like a community. I don’t see people commenting on each other’s blogs as much – not as much as they did in 2008-2012, and not as much as people used to comment on Google+.

@diregrizzlybear, thanks for the info. I tried Discord around 2017, I think. I was on many different servers but the chat format didn’t really work for me, even though I’m on IRC a lot. It feels like a different niche. I don’t really have the need to chat in real time about role-playing games.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-08 14:41 UTC

I disagree. For me, it is and always has been about the blogs. G+, Discord, Mewe, etc etc are all basically valueless, as they don’t create the kind of permanent(ish) record the blogs.

The quality has tailed off a bit across the board, but I think that’s inevitable. The low-hanging fruit has been plucked, early giants have retired, etc. But I think there’s still value in the appellation OSR, and in the work the remnants are doing.

The OSR has always been niche, and it still is. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Charles 2019-08-08 14:50 UTC

“Yes, it’s still around, but it’s diminished. I mean, Old School RPG Planet has plenty of blogs listed, but it no longer feels like a community. I don’t see people commenting on each other’s blogs as much – not as much as they did in 2008-2012, and not as much as people used to comment on Google+.”

Because it all moved to discord instead of being broken up across dozens of blogs. At this point, blogging is where people put more finished products, after it has been discussed, critiqued, brainstormed, and editted in semi-realtime. It isn’t that the community has disappeared from the OSR but that the blogs serve a different purpose.

It’s also where games are organized, whether on private discords or via hangouts or roll20.

diregrizzlybear 2019-08-08 15:18 UTC

@diregrizzlybear, I see. Thanks!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-08 16:08 UTC

To be clear I think Sworddream was stillborn. The concept was basically OSR without yucky people and that’s not really much of an idea. I don’t know if it’s a third wave of the OSR or something new altogether but the Black Hack and GLOG seem to be examples of real movements and communities in a way Sworddream never managed. Then again I don’t discord so I’m probably missing something.

– ruprecht 2019-08-08 18:58 UTC

Yeah, at one point I made the effort of contacting all the GLOG blogs mentioned in that Who is the GLOGosphere post and was surprised to see how many there were – and how disconnected they were from each other, apparently. Many hadn’t realized that they had been listed and linked until I contacted them.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-08 19:10 UTC

After a few days on Discord again, I’m not too impressed. It’s fine as it is for the people on there. But it hasn’t been drawing me in, so I didn’t feel like I was observing a community in action. I’ll keep an eye on it, for sure, but it hasn’t wowed me.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-17 16:55 UTC

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2019-08-06 Hex Describe, Face Generator, Text Mapper, and more

If you’re wondering where the discussion regarding Hex Describe, Face Generator, and Text Mapper actually happens, the answer might surprise you: it happens on the Diaspora network!

There, I create new threads every now and then for people who want to talk to me about these applications. They allow people to generate a mini-setting including a map, a key, and NPCs, with but one click, powered by the greatest collection of random tables I know. 😅

I keep creating these threads whenever the previous thread reaches about 100 comments because it starts being unwieldy.

Here’s a list if you want to explore:

You get the idea. 🙂


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2019-08-01 Colonialism

I just read Cowboys and Conquistadors: Looking for New Models of the Adventurer which looks at the colonialism roots of D&D. I see it as the extension of the frontier idea, of the traditional interpretation of Law vs. Chaos with humans and their cities are lawful and orcs and their caves or chaotic – and war is the answer.

I don’t think that’s how Moorcock does Law vs. Chaos in the Elric of Meniboné books. There, humans are everywhere and Chaos isn’t orcs and the wilderness but Elves (Melniboneans) and dragons and corruption. It depends on the culture and it’s up to individuals to participate – or not.

The author based much of the blog post on a series by Boris Stremlin, The Sociology of the Murderhobo, from 2016–2017.

All four of these blog posts are highly recommended!

Relevant, I guess: 2019-01-15 Orcs, 2019-07-01 Orcs.


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2019-07-31 Face Generator

A few days ago I was inspired by the idea of swamp gnomes proposed on my Hex Describe thread on Diaspora and I started extending my collection of face elements:


Apparently Diaspora is currently the best place for me to collaborate with people for Hex Describe, Text Mapper and Face Generator. If you feel like joining, just pop into the new thread on Diaspora. If you don’t have an account, I can recommend Pluspora. It’s been working well enough for me.

My current project: trying to get dragon heads into the generator!



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2019-07-30 Classic Traveller Podcast

@lskh mentioned a Classic Traveller podcast he had found: Behind the Claw.

It has an official feed:

I tried to subscribe to it, but it won’t get me the first nine episodes. So here’s what I did: I downloaded the entire blog feed, transformed the Atom format to RSS and added the enclosure elements pointing the audio files hosted by the Internet Archive. Thank you, Internet Archive! And thank you, Felbrig, for the podcast.

I’m going to listen to the first few episodes, now. And so can you, using your favourite podcasting app, using this feed:


Comments on 2019-07-30 Classic Traveller Podcast

Hah, and @lskh created a feed for another abandoned Classic Traveller blog where that’s left are the files on the Internet Archive: Close the Airlock!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-30 19:11 UTC

You accidentally half of the last sentence 😉

Andreas Gohr 2019-07-31 04:17 UTC

Another great resource is the Classic Traveller: Out of the Box serie by ckubasik in his blog Tales to Astound!.

– Ludos Curator 2019-07-31 08:09 UTC

Haha, thanks for the heads up, Andreas. 🙂

Ludos, I totally agree. I think I have read them all. 👍 I wrote about that blog a while ago: 2017-06-30 Traveller Links, and 2017-07-11 Tales to Astound in particular.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-31 09:11 UTC

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2019-07-24 Hex Describe Intro

Recently, @tuiren@pluspora.com asked how to get started contributing to Hex Describe and suggested a unicorn clearing. Based on the example they provided I wrote a little introduction on Pluspora, and since it turned out to be a bit longer, I decided to keep a copy on this blog.

The example given:

This clearing in the {tree type} forest is frequented by the unicorn herd {name of herd}. The clearing features a {clearing feature} which promotes a calm and restorative atmosphere. It also contains healing herbs such as {herb 1}, and {herb 2}. The clearing is patrolled by {number} {creature name}. The herd is led by {unicorn name} who can cast {spell 1}, {spell 2}, and {spell 3}. The herd knows information about the dwellers in {hex1}.

Something like that would work, yes! In terms of format, this is what we use:

;name of table
1,an entry
1,another entry with [other table] in square brackets

The number controls how often something gets picked. If all options are equally likely, as they often are, just use 1 for every option.

So, working with your example, and remembering (hah! this keeps getting harder, I know) the existing tables:

1,This clearing is surrounded by [tree] trees. It is frequented by the unicorn herd [unicorn herd name]. [calm clearing feature] Those with a knack for herbalism can find [magic plant]. The clearing is patrolled by [1d8 unicorns]. The herd is led by [unicorn] who can cast [save elf spellbook as spellbook] [spellbook 3]. [unicorn information]

;unicorn herd name
1,Golden Spirits

1,Golden Hair

;calm clearing feature
1,There is a cool pool of crystal clear water, here.
1,The meadow is full of flowers and buzzing bees and singing birds, a dream of pastoral happiness.

;1d8 unicorns
1,a unicorn
7,[1d7+1] unicorns

;unicorn information
1,The unicorns fear the influence of [nearby tempel power] and would like to see it destroyed.

To experiment, visit the rules section and paste the block above into the text area. If you have the Alex Schroeder map selected with the radio button, all the inputs get merged. You’ll get presented a list with all the rules. Find the unicorns rule, pick it, and hit Enter. You should see something like the following:

This clearing is surrounded by Fencethorn trees. It is frequented by the unicorn herd Golden Spirits. There is a cool pool of crystal clear water, here. Those with a knack for herbalism can find Fairy Cherry. The clearing is patrolled by 3 unicorns. The herd is led by Golden Hair who can cast 1. charm person, sleep, 2. glamour. The unicorns fear the influence of [nearby tempel power] and would like to see it destroyed.

Some things to note:

  1. Adding more stuff to the lists, such as names and features, is the simplest thing to do.
  2. Currently there is a lists of trees, but the forest names are generated using a different rule, although I’m sure those names could be improved, haha.
  3. Currently there is a list of magic plants, but no list of magic effects; right now they are simply used to generate fetch quests for alchemists.
  4. Knowing things about other hexes is tricky: do you just want a random neighbouring hex? Then that’s easy enough to do via adjacent hex; if you want more complex stuff you need to use here to indicate that here’s something you want to refer from elsewhere using nearby. The example shows how [nearby tempel power] would work because the map is full of things like here evil power as tempel power and the like.
  5. The spell book generating tables are super tricky; for the moment I’d suggest not to look into it, or to write a specific unicorn spell list (which would be cool as well).

In case you want to create a list of three unique items from a table, this is how you would use it:

;three unicorn spells
1,*[with unicorn spell]*, *[and unicorn spell]*, *[and unicorn spell]*

;unicorn spell

So basically, adding and extending simple lists such as unicorn and unicorn herd name is the simplest thing to do.

Adding and extending lists such as calm clearing feature is even better. Care must be taken to keep the sentences short and relevant to players, however. We need some words for atmosphere but we need even more words that invite players to do interesting things.

Adding and extending special lists that generate plot hooks and quests is tricky but I’d be happy to help! 😀


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