RPG

https://campaignwiki.org/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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2020-05-20 Hex Describe to roll up random encounters

Today, @acodispo sent me a link to a blog post he wrote: Random Encounters with Hex Describe. He uses the basic features of Hex Describe without a map – just random tables! – to generate encounters for his game. I like the idea.

Actually, I’ve wondered about a similar thing: should the regular Hex Describe mini settings come with a bunch of random encounter tables? Or just 20 random encounters for each biome which you simply cross off as you use them? I think I’d like that...

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2020-05-19 Gridmapper use

I’ve been happily surprised by seeing Gridmapper used on the Ruins of the Undercity blog where the Idle Doodler talks about solo play – something I have never tried. OK, maybe I tried the AD&D 1st ed. random dungeon generator back in the eighties, once.

Anyway: it looks pretty cool!

From Ruins of the Undercity – Solo Playthrough:

a wide map with maybe five rooms

From Putting Together a Solo Dungeon Crawl Generator:

a big square dungeon with maybe 20 or 30 rooms

Gridmapper hasn’t seen a lot of development in recent years, but if you like a web app that’s best used without a mouse to create dungeon maps, maybe could give it a try. My recommendation is to visit the page and click on the Demo link at the bottom.

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Comments on 2020-05-19 Gridmapper use

Huh, I hadn’t even clocked that there was a demo!

Great that it’s simple enough for a tech Luddite like myself to get by on.

Idle Doodler 2020-05-19 20:14 UTC


Oh my! I need somebody to think about the user-interface, haha. 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-19 20:52 UTC

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2020-05-16 Witches

Very slowly I’ve been adding old monster posts from Google+ to this site... Recently I’ve been thinking about witches. In the Just Halberds campaign I’m running I use a 300 hex mini-setting generated by Hex Describe. On a whim I decided to count how many witches it placed in the area. Ten witches! And I recently added one due to a random encounter, so now there’s 11 witches in the setting.

What’s their story?

Time to daydream about witches.

Witches can cast spells. But which ones?

They are probably impossibly old, maybe immortal. They probably look shrivelled and old and yet their powers of illusion are such that they are always covered in a glamour that makes them look beautiful and young if they feel this is to their advantage.

I like the image of the three witches at the beginning of Macbeth. For some background, see The Relationship Between Macbeth and the Witches.

I love the short flicker of Thranduil’s face in The Hobbit movie where for a moment the glamour breaks down and we see that his spotless face is in fact scarred by a thousand years of battles.

I hate all the Malleus Maleficarum cruelties. So I don’t want the exploitation of women, the false accusations, the torture, the burning at the stake. Ugh! Not at my table. I hate this stuff.

I like the sexual aspects. In my games, the witches usually live in swamps and charm males of all sorts in order to get pregnant and they use language such as “stealing your child” as if the children the give birth to would have rightfully belonged elsewhere. It touches upon faith and promiscuity and fatherhood, and I like that.

Recently that happened to a friend’s player character. The kids roared with laughter and all mentions of witches, swamps, children, etc were full of innuendo. It was fun. But later, we also had a talk about certain uses of the charm spell being worse than knockout pills. They agreed and it’s decided now: charming people to force them to do stuff is evil.

I also like the Hänsel und Gretel aspect of a witch entrapping travellers and runaways, possibly enslaving or killing them. That is a terrible thing, to prey on the helpless, to be beset by a magic wielding monster when you’re most desperately in need of help.

So witches can be sexy, but also creepy and cruel, can be kind, but also evil.

And what about the children? I’m thinking about the matriarchal Asari species in Mass Effect: they have relationships with men of all species but don’t really need them. All their children are women. So now we can a bit of a Jedi or Sith vibe: witches may have a daughter in the house. They have a master-apprentice relationship.

What happens to the baby boys? Surely they exist. They are killed. Or abandoned. Or given into foster care. They grow up quickly, wild, troubled, violent. Life is hard. It provides opportunities to talk about foster care, adoption, wanting to know your parents, having been abandoned by your parents, all the stories modelled on children being abandoned and being raised by farmers, from Moses to Superman.

A bit like changelings, except that in this case the real child is not taken and raised in the realm of faerie.

The magic witches wield is first and foremost the charm, using their voice to make people do their bidding. As I said above, it’s a mind fuck, a terrible violation, but maybe if you’re under the influence for many days and then you manage to run away into the swamp it all turns into a nightmare, a memory that haunts you, half forgotten. Until you meet your son.

Witches also use glamour, a kind of personal illusion to make their bodies and their homes beautiful and enticing and harmless.

The rest varies: there’s flying, certainly, with or without a broom; there are fertility and harvest related curses, infertility, miscarriages, crop failures, it’s all there.

I’m guessing witches are forced to divide and conquer as they can’t face a mob. There’s no sleep and no fireball.

There’s probably also weirdness, things they found or grew or transformed or animated: animate object and polymorph. How else are we going to get walking huts on giant chicken legs and other such homes? How else are we going to turn sailors into swine?

That reminds me of Circe. I like her.

That’s my daydreaming for today. What are you daydreaming about?

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Comments on 2020-05-16 Witches

I like the idea of witches being a sort of medieval conspiracy. Wide-reaching witch organizations has been a plot point in a few comics I’ve read recently (Hellboy and Head Lopper), and it reminds me of Dolmenwood, both the actual witches and the secretive (but more conventionally druidic) Drune. It fits with a lot of the typical traits of witches: covens, sisterhood and motherhood, secrecy, informal alliances and relationships, all stuff that’s interesting to talk about and use.

It does veer into the more uncomfortable witchhunter territory you mentioned wanting to avoid, but I also like the idea of many witches being “secret”. They may not have or even want any magic, or not much more than some simple tricks, but people who are a part of their formal or informal network might share information in return for help or just to be a part of something exciting. Which also fits with the idea of witches being manipulators and illusionists: why risk someone passing their charm save when you could ask your contacts for things to blackmail them with?

I think witches are an underused villain in RPGs. There’s a tendency to delineate between social situations and adventure situations: you go to a dungeon and kill monsters, then go to town and socialize with potential allies and patrons. But a powerful witch probably has her own lair and all sorts of monsters and minions, but also a lot of political control: people who’ve gone to her for curses or charms and don’t want to see her gone, other witches who’ll support or avenge her, and settlements who are unwilling to risk antagonizing her and having their harvest cursed (having the party deal with an angry mob that doesn’t want them fighting the witch would make for an entertaining adventure, if you ask me). You can’t just talk your way past her or just kill her - or at least, you have to be careful about how you handle either approach.

Malcolm 2020-05-23 22:51 UTC


Definitely. I try and treat the temples of evil gods this way: sure, they’re evil, but sometimes somebody in power needs those services. At the Orcus temple, you can get a previous relative raised from the dead. At the Set temple, you can hire those assassins you need once in a generation. At the Nergal temple, you pray for deliverance from the plague. So witches that are useful are definitely something I should add.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-24 09:05 UTC

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2020-05-08 Desperate Fights

In episode 53 of Daydreaming about dragons, Judd Karlman talks about the fight between Fin Razel and Queen Bavmorda in Willow and how the fight had a certain desperation about it, and how to bring that to role-playing games.

It’s an interesting question.

I don’t think counting down hit-points gives us desperation. In games with a lot of fighting, possibly with a lot of characters at the table, I see desperation mounting when characters drop out of the game. That’s when we get nervous.

If characters are dead when they drop, this requires a game with a lot of retainers that die first. This may or may not be your kind of game.

The alternative is a game where dropped characters aren’t dead by simply dying, either because they only die at -10, or they roll stabilisation dice, etc. As you can see, this is the route AD&D and D&D took.

The problem with these kinds of approaches is that some players are out of the fight and then they sit around and do nothing which is acerbated when fights are long affairs. It reminds of the problem many board games have unless they’ve been designed with Eurogame sensibilities: people who lose first must leave the game and then they sit around waiting for their friends to finish.

In my experience, death spirals also don’t result in the desired effect. By that I mean games where getting hit reduce your chances to win the fight: the consequences (if playing in a Fate like game) keep accumulating and you’re slowly dropping out of the fight. It’s the same as before, except more tedious.

Here’s what worked for me: a Death & Dismemberment table! That is, a table where we roll for dire consequences with the following properties:

  • you roll as soon as you’ve exhausted some other resource like hit-points so that people can enjoy a few exchanges in a fight without desperation
  • some of the results are harmless and some of them are extremely dire so that rolling feels like tempting fate in desperation
  • some of the results have temporary bad consequences that are reflected in the fiction, like falling prone, losing weapons, being stunned; these set the scene
  • some of the results have long term bad consequences for the characters that don’t impact their fighting ability, such as cuts (where?), loss of nose, ears, eyes, teeth
  • some of the results have long term bad consequences for the character are even harsher, such as loss of limbs

I find that having to roll on the table already underscores how desperate the situation is, even if many of the rolls are harmless or indicate minor consequences. Furthermore, some of the long term consequences are horrible even if not mechanically relevant and people react to that, too.

Or, to put it in different terms: desperation is when you keep hovering at the end of the line, always fearing that the next breath might be you last, without making it impossible for you to still turn the ship around.

💮

See 2020-04-20 To specialize in combat for an example of such a table. See 2013-09-18 Broken Ribs for a great scene resulting from its use.

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Comments on 2020-05-08 Desperate Fights

Desperate Role-Playing Moments.

Jeremy Friesen 2020-05-08 18:50 UTC


I’ve been fiddling with a similar wounds table but I’m nervous about the effect of serious long-lasting wounds. I fear that my players will feel ineffective in a way that detracts from their fun.

How has that worked out in your game? Are players upset about having a character with a broken arm for several sessions?

deadtreenoshelter 2020-05-09 21:52 UTC


Yes they are. But we also use the traditional rules for retainers: every main character can have up to 4 + Charisma bonus retainers (1–7). Those play a more important role, then.

And yes, we’ve had a bunch of characters retire because they lost both legs, both arms, or both eyes. It’s harsh and gives the campaign a Napoleonic veteran vibe, as the party can return to a town to find former party members trying to make a living. It’s rare enough to not feel like a relentless grind and still happens often enough to make an impression.

I guess the alternative would be to simply roll up a new character. Players always have that option, too. In my game those new characters have 0 XP, though. The players will always opt to promote a retainer to their new main character.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-09 22:11 UTC


I have used retainers less (mostly I’m afraid they’ll bog things down) but I can see how they would mitigate a PC being semi-crippled. I’ve wanted to try a more old-school approach to hirelings but my usual group of players is already so indecisive...

During COVID I’ve been mostly running Mork Borg (<0 HP = DEAD) with a different group with a faster play style and so I may give it a go.

deadtreenoshelter 2020-05-10 02:05 UTC


You are absolutely right. I said above that we use those Charisma limits but in actual fact most players just run one, two, or three retainers and when things are important I often ask, so who is on the flying carpet or giant turtle or whatever, and then I write down a little list of characters, retainers, and pets. That still gets me about ten to twenty party members, and that is a lot. Fights need a certain discipline and feel like they’re long by the time they go into the third round. These problems are acerbated if you have an indecisive player who is obsessed about playing it safe. Due to that player, we have instituted a rule at the table whereby we can still have the number of retainers and pets as determined by Charisma, but we can only ever take up to two on adventure. This guy was so undecided, and so slow at rolling dice, it bogged everything down.

So yeah, there are drawbacks, definitely.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-10 07:21 UTC


The blog post got mentioned in a reply show. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-22 21:50 UTC


Hi! I found your blog from the Daydreaming reply show. I am currently working on my own Frankenstein of a ruleset for a hexcrawl game I hope to start running soon. I love the concept you’ve detailed here and I am going to steal it. It seems a lot more exciting than just dropping unconscious at 0 hp and I love imagining HP as a combination of luck, stamina, and will to survive. You mention losing eyes, noses, etc, but I don’t see that outcome on the tables you linked. Do you have an updated table that you use now?

– slimefool 2020-05-23 12:23 UTC


how about this...

5–6 serious injury; roll 1d6: 1 – broken sword arm, 2 – broken shield arm, 3 – broken leg, 4 – gouged eye, 5 - cut off nose, 6 - shattered teeth ; broken limbs heal after 1d4 weeks (sessions)

In addition to adding the more “cosmetic” injuries, I altered the healing time to fit the tone of my game more. The only playable ancestry is Dwarf so... maybe they heal faster?

– slimefool 2020-05-23 16:24 UTC


Welcome to the blog! 😀

Yeah, I do have an updated table. Below is the table I use right now. If I remember correctly, my problem was that 6 comes up pretty often and so I had way too many player characters that were “unplayable” because of broken bones. My players even joked how it would be easier to just amputate the broken limb and use a hook or a wooden peg instead of waiting for it to heal. So now broken bones only happen on a 5 and I use something less severe for 6.

page 13

(I discussed this page on my own podcast, episode 15, in case you’re interested.)

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-23 17:45 UTC

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2020-05-07 Cowards

Ah, cowards. Yesterday, I was talking to @TQ and mentioned that I had one player who is very risk averse. We often joke that their character having the best armour, the best weapons, the best spells, the highest level, and yet there they are in the back, sending their retainers to the front. “He’d prefer to be playing Agricola instead!” we laugh. (Agricola being a board game where you play a farmer.) But at the same time, it’s also aggravating and I’m happy there aren’t more players like him in the group. Nothing would ever happen unless I make it a railroad, I fear.

Today I read a post by Jeremy Friesen, Highlighting Posts from my RSS Feed, where he mentions a blog post by Daniel Bishop, What to Do with the Cowards. The suggestion is to do nothing as a referee, as far as I understand it. Let the players hash it out.

“They are your characters. This is your problem. Deal with it.” – Daniel Bishop

This doesn’t make me very happy. I think I know where this is coming from. I can’t make in-game changes to out-of-game problems. I don’t want players to each have a one-on-one with me because I’m the referee. There needs to be a different way to handle this.

However, if I see miscommunication in life, I don’t think that people should hash it out without me. If it’s friends, family, coworkers, I get involved. I ask both sides to explain their position. I show empathy, I help translate the positions to the other side. That’s how I am. I don’t want the people close to me fighting. And yes, adults can be adults and handle their own problems. But we’re also friends and we’re having each other’s back and not every adult is up to 100% adulting at every moment. We have times when we can’t help ourselves.

From my perspective, I need to enjoy the game and I might not enjoy the game if we have a player who’s a coward. Perhaps they want to play a different game? Perhaps they don’t like the implied lethality of my game? I might have to adapt my game, or they need to find a different game. In addition to that, I’m doing the dishes after the game and my wife is there and we talk about the game and if she’s frustrated by another player – not enough to make a fuss about it at the table but but still noticeable – I’m feeling bad about the game we just had. It didn’t go well and I feel responsible, as a referee.

You could say I shouldn’t feel responsible because my job description says that I’m an impartial referee, but that’s not how I think about it, as I said. I feel for them. I cannot sit idly by and be just an impartial referee. These are my friends; this is my family.

I used to be tougher. I used to think that tension at the table adds spice to the game. Let players deal with it. The grappling with these things is part of the game. Until I realized that I don’t enjoy that part of the game.

So now I prefer being open about the meta aspects of it all. The frustrating moments don’t disappear. The player still does not send their thief into the shark infested water to release the harbour chain. But at least we all know the player is concerned about the safety of their characters, we can joke about it, roll our eyes, and find a way to get the job done using different means, and when it comes to distributing loot I think the players can be pretty open about some of their choices, too. The cool weapons and armour are no longer going to that player’s characters because they don’t tank and we all know it.

Being able to talk about these frustrations is the first step in being able to handle them, even if we can’t solve them.

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2020-05-06 I need strong guidance

Yesterday’s post about fudging dice is still churning around in my head. I just realised that back in 2019 I linked to a post by The Alexandrian called GM Don’t List #9: Fudging. As I said back then, “Justin Alexander doesn’t just provide the justifications people might give to defend their fudging but also refutes these, and links to blog posts with even longer refutations, if you feel like reading up on it. And then he judges you for fudging if your still do it. Its a failure state, he argues. Think about what led you here and learn from it — improve your game instead of continuing to fudge.”

OK, so how do I improve my game? I think that I felt in some way that I had bee unfair to my players, not granting them the bonuses they expected for the things they did and when this was compounded by back luck, and I was rooting for them, and I was nervous, and staring at that result, having just heard what the fighter had rolled, and I just blurted out “Seven!” when it should have been a nine, or thirteen, or whatever.

So why did I feel the players had been treated unfairly? It all has to do with the nature of Just Halberds. In a classic old school D&D game like Halberds & Helmets I can always fall back on pure mechanics. Today, for example, the party was accompanying a necromancer back to the entrance of his tower intending to murder him. One of the players asked: “Is there a good spot where we could attack him?” I said: “You’re crossing two rooms, descending two flights of stairs, and out the main entrance, onto the ledge leading to his tower. There are plenty of excellent spots! But none of them give you a mechanical advantage if that’s what you’re looking for.” We all laughed and the game continued. We all understood that at my table, when combat starts, it’s dead simple. No maneuvers. No mechanical benefits for this and that. Make your calculations, decide whether you want to risk combat, and then when it starts, things are incoherent, tactics are hard, and then you die. Or not. Mostly you don’t die, actually. But the point still stands. There is not a lot of negotiation at the table when in combat.

But Just Halberds is different. My notes:

Notes

Transcribed:

Burning Bone of the Mountain
☐☐☐☐☐☐ +6
☐☐☐☐☐☐
Fire breath
Bite •
Claws •
Size •
Tongue
Tail •
Wings •
Armour •
Roar •
Flatter

My intention was basically this: +6 is the dragon’s bonus at its best. So when players use their advantages, obviously the bonus should be less. A simple rule would have been: whenever you put an opponent at a disadvantage, add +1. Thus, as the water mages cast water waves into the dragon’s cave, +1. As they freeze the water around it’s feet, add +1. When they’re all resistant to fire, +1. And when you fail at your roll, the fiction is still established. For example: the dragon roars, +6. The water mages cast their waves into the dragon’s cave, +2. They lose the opposed roll and suffer somehow. But the water is still established.

Maybe they take damage from the roaring as stones start falling. The situation made it impossible for the dragon to reach them, so it didn’t make sense for bite, claws, size, tail, or wings to have an effect, and the water was not held back by armour, tongue, armour, roaring, or flattering...

So, then I started wondering: actually, why isn’t the dragon rolling a lot less? May its size helps against the water, maybe its roar shakes the water mages, so let’s say it rolls +2?

I wasn’t sure, I was in the midst of combat. I decided it rolls +4. And then I argued the dragon was cooling with all the water and ice, so maybe it just rolls +3.

And when the fighter still kept failing, taking a little damage again and again as the rest of the party watched the rolls, I fudged a roll.

I know it’s silly because I’m writing the rules myself. But the rules provide guidance that helps my through the nervous spots, the uncertainty and doubt. If I had known how to handle a dragon at a disadvantage, I would have known that I was treating everybody fairly and I wouldn’t have been tempted to fudge.

Anyway, all of this to establish that my list of monsters might need more than a single line for stats. Or that the system needs more guidance for referees like me. Perhaps a simple: roll 3d6 drop highest might have been a great disadvantage dynamic? I remember seeing that in Barbarians of Lemuria. I need to think about that.

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Comments on 2020-05-06 I need strong guidance

I have read today and yesterday posts about fudging. I do not like fudging either, as a referee I always roll in the open.

The key question is why did you fudge the roll? To spare the life of a character? To avoid a TPK? To make an enemy tougher?

Fudging dice are not the only way referees can adjust the difficulty of the game on the fly. We can change the total hits a monster can take, how many enemies appear, modifications to the rolls... And enemy actions are also a way to manage the difficulty: focusing all attacks on the same character, being reckless/cautious... Do you feel guilty after doing any of these things?

An option is to announce the modifiers before the roll. If needed, agree on them with the players. Fast, a quick discussion of one or two sentences on how the fiction translates to mechanics. Do not negotiate; if players want something, they have to do it (as PbtA games say, “to do something, do it”). Then roll and adjudicate.

You can treat the opponents of Just Halberds the same as characters. A list of skills and powers; each one that applies to the situation at hand adds +1 to the roll.

  • dragons ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡ huge, armour, wings, fire breath, bite, claws, tail

As K’Dare the firebreather steps out the cave, his immense (+1) scaled (+1) body reaches to the sky, with a deep roar that make your bones tremble. From there, he unleashes hell on all of you, spitting fire (+1) as he flies (+1) above your heads. What do you do?

For the disadvantage, I am unsure about rolling 3d6 and drop highest. Then you will need an advantge roll (3d6 drop lowest). How will that skew the 2d6 roll statistics? Why not use modifiers?

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-07 12:31 UTC


Yeah, you’re right. And when you write it up like that, it’s clear that K’Dare the firebreather 😀 is quite easy to hurt using water magic. Maybe his immensity and his flying will help, but if you catch him in a cave, then it’s only his size (+1). And thus the might dragon is reduced from +6 in a fair fight to +1 vs. water magic.

I like it.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-07 13:11 UTC


Regarding advantage/disadvantage, I’ve thought of this rationale:

Occupations, skills and special abilities/powers are internal factors, inherent to the character or monster. Each one that applies adds +1 to the roll.

External factors are independent of the people acting. They represent extraneous aspects that can alter the task difficulty. If they make it easier, roll with advantage (3d6, drop lowest); if harder, with disadvantage (3d6, drop higher).

As a referee I constantly struggle to choose the proper modifier for a task. Is the rain distracting the archers enough to confer a -1, -2 or -4 to their attack? Who knows... 😕 Using advantage/disadvantage I choose with confidence. And players feel it more tangible.

So, players describe their characters actions. They know what occupations, skills and special abilities apply to the roll. The referee judges the situation and decides if any participant has advantage or disadvantage. Everyone rolls the dice, and the referee narrates the outcome.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-10 09:27 UTC


I definitely think that advantage/disadvantage has the advantage 😁 of being super light on the referee. You can stop thinking about it immediately. There’s no need to concern yourself with determining how big of an advantage exactly. None of that. Just advantage/disadvantage. I like that.

Still now sure whether I want to add it to Just Halberds, tough. 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-12 11:23 UTC

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2020-05-05 I fudged a die

I … I think … I think I fudged the dice a bit tonight! 😭 It was for the best, I swear! But I feel bad about it because I told myself not to do it ever. Never ever! And now I did it. Two adult players and six kid players at the virtual table, fighting a red dragon using Just Halberds.

Looking back I don’t think it made a big difference, but it’s still fascinating to realize how I’ve trained myself not to do it and how bad I feel for doing it. Stop it, brain! Stop. No need. It went well. Everybody had a good time.

Later, @jaranta wondered why fudging was a bad idea since it resulted in a better game for everybody. Good question. It’s like the question about railroads and precious encounter designs. Why complain when the game was good?

Here’s why I think I don’t like it: undiscovered fudging is no problem but at some point in the future players will begin to suspect and then to know that your are doing it and at that point all the achievements are revealed to be fake. That’s because at the core of it all was a lie: the implied premise was that things are hard but you were lucky and made the right decisions and the results rewarded you – the experience itself is rewarding. But if it was all a lie, then all you achievements are worth nothing.

It would have been better to not roll the dice In the first place, to play a dice-less game, or a game with bennies where you can openly haggle for better results. Then at least the narrative can be enjoyable. But for me, that’s not what I like best. I like the rewarding experience of having made the right decisions, of having been lucky. I want to laugh and cry because of fate, not because of the whims of the referee.

But yeah, it’s a good question. For more about my dislike of bennies, I wrote a blog post a long time ago: I don’t like Bennies.

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Comments on 2020-05-05 I fudged a die

I guess fudging is fine under the following circumstances:

  1. if you’re absolutely never found out because you’re a perfect liar
  2. if you just did it once or you do it so rarely that you cannot remember the last time you did it

What are your options? I think the better question is: how could you have avoided ending up in a situation where you felt that fudging was your only option?

  1. give players more information beforehand so that they can decide to pursue something else
  2. give players more information as the situation develops so that they can decide to call off their current plan
  3. give players more information on the severity of the current situation so that they rethink their current position

A classic move for the last point in classic D&D would be to attack retainers, first.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-06 06:31 UTC


I agree that more often than not fudging could easily have been avoided by providing more information, so the players could make a more informed decision.

However, it must also be noted that players don’t always play “perfectly”. Sometimes they just want to go forward recklessly or just trust their luck more than they should (after all, very safe plans may go awry because of dice, and the stupidest of ideas may sometimes work out for the same reason).

I’m pointing this out merely because almost every time when I agonised over character death or the like, my veteran players gave me those looks like they were almost insulted that I thought they didn’t read the situation well. Of course, it does happen, and more so with less experienced players.

Ynas Midgard 2020-05-06 15:36 UTC


I’ve heard of people rolling in front of the players and I’ve heard of people letting the players actually roll the die for their enemies to keep them all involved. Either way would avoid any temptation.

The later seems horrible to me as I had a player back in the day that seemed able to roll a 20 on command and I’m sure he could roll a 1 as well.

– Ruprecht 2020-05-06 15:55 UTC


Yeah, I usually roll in the open – but with the current pandemic we have moved to playing online and there nobody can see the dice I am rolling.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-06 17:21 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? 😀

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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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2020-04-29 Dungeon maps are overrated

Remember the small dungeon generator integrated into the Hex Describe tables written by J. Alan Henning and ktrey parker?

Today I got to use one of them!

Map The map looked very simple. But the dungeon was themed for a dragon. It had big, weed-smoking, story-telling lizard people, it had stinking, small and haggard lizard people (troglodytes), and a sleeping red dragon in a cave at the end with a back entrance and a hidden crack that one of the characters discovered to take a peek at the treasure. The treasure consisted of more than 1000 platinum coins and 80 jewellery, so worth about 90,000 gold pieces!

The first room was described as a natural cavern. The second had a wooden cage. The dragon’s room was some sort of temple. The rest just flowed naturally. There was enough description to get me into the flow and I was able to improvise the ruins of the town, the cave entrance, the hidden chute forming the back entrance, the dynamics of lizard people outside being hungry but harmless (they got killed by the player characters) and the sneaky and mean troglodytes (who nearly killed the player characters).

Thus, even though I was using Just Halberds and not Halberds and Helmets, I found that the mini setting generated by Hex Describe is working exactly as intended and I love 😍 love 😍 love 😍 it.

And there is more than just the dungeon! The setting itself generates villages and towns each in the hand of a name-level character. Halberds and Helmets only goes up to level 10, so these are all rulers with 9 or 10 levels, one or two followers with 3 to 8 levels, spell-books, magic items, and so on.

When the players picked their characters at the beginning, a few of them turned to elemental magic – and as luck would have it, elemental magic users are common in the mini-settings generated by Hex Describe. So they quickly found a village ruled by an aquamancer, a village ruled by a geomancer, a village ruled by a pyromancer, but also an elf that’s into monster hunting, and others. If they want to advance, they just need to learn more spells, and in order to learn more spells, they need to befriend the magic users, go on quests and all that, and I’m basically following the Morrowind playbook: there are many powerful local lords, plus three war parties, three secret societies, ten religious groups, and various monster factions such as orc tribes. It’s easy to befriend them but they all have conflicting goals and therefore, soon you’re trying to learn a spell from the geomancer who’s trying to eliminate a secret society in a village ruled by a pyromancer who’s technically in rebellion against Duke Shire, and on and on. I love 😍 love 😍 love 😍 it. I really do! 😁

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Comments on 2020-04-29 Dungeon maps are overrated

Sounds awesome. It is right to immerse the spell casters in the power maelstrom of their crafts. Then let the cards fall where they may - it’s just true that real connections (ones of importance or quality) bring potential allies and enemies.

– doublejig2 2020-04-30 20:19 UTC


Yes! 😁

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-30 20:28 UTC


Just waited to say how much I appreciate your blog. You write from such a practical standpoint about your games, that it always inspires me. The reminder about the dungeon generator came at a perfect time as I’m going to be running a mostly impromptu game of Mausritter this weekend and really needed some kind of little dungeon at hand that I could retheme for the game.

Derik 2020-05-01 12:46 UTC


Thank you so much for the kind words. 😅 I read some entries on your blog and find the tagging of partial entries fascinating. A very cool idea that lends itself to journaling about a day or an event which is going to touch on many things. If such where to happen here, I’d have to tag it “Life” or “Philosophy” (assuming I learned anything, haha) – very broad categories. I haven’t seen such a setup before. Did you write it yourself?

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-01 13:14 UTC


Yes, I ended up coding my own static site generator (to build from markdown files) because all the available options were too confusing or complicated, and then added that category show/hide stuff because I was... new to the idea of not just blogging about one very specific thing (my old blog about comics). It is a bit of pain tagging paragraph by paragraph, though.

Derik 2020-05-01 19:52 UTC


Yeah, probably true. But as a reader, I find it fascinating. Start reading, find that it belongs into another context as well, do you click that other tag, do you care to read more, it’s a more interactive way of reading. There’s always that “tell me more” moment that isn’t as generic as “tell me more about RPG” but “tell me more about this story, what else was there?” Fascinating.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-01 21:23 UTC


I love maps. As Greg Stafford said "What's not to love about any non-linear presentations of information?".

The settings created by Hex Describe are pure gold. They offer plenty of content to play for years. And they do it with succinct information, inspiring without constraining. Emergent play at its best. Brilliant job, Alex.

How do you use the dungeon maps? We tried different methods. The traditional approach (give directions and describe corridors and rooms as the party explores and maps the depths) do not work for us. We preferer letting the referee draw the map as the party advances. When we played the City of the Spider Queen using D&D 3.5 I, as the referee, drew all the maps with penciled colours. The players loved it; it was gorgeous but time-consuming.

We still have to try the dungeon maps produced by Hex Describe. These days I prefer this type of smaller dungeons. We don’t have as much time to play as we had years ago. I’m still unsure of how we will use them: I don’t know if we will explore the dungeons room by room or if we will shift to a more abstract approach.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-10 10:22 UTC


In this particular case, they killed a dragon hunter and took the map from him. I just handed them the map as-is. In describe rooms and environments, for room 1 on the map: “a big natural cave, low ceiling, alcoves and hard to see in its entirety; in the back there is a gap leading further into the darkness. Who is carrying the torch?”

I often mix relative and cardinal directions, I use qualitative terms like long, short, big, and small instead of feet.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-10 10:35 UTC

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2020-04-22 What about opposed 2d6 probabilities?

I was wondering: if we roll opposed 2d6 rolls, what are the chances of beating your opponent? It must be around 50% but somewhat less, because both rolling a seven – the most likely result – is undecided, that is: you didn’t beat your opponent.

And what about your chances when you get a +1 and your opponent doesn’t? I started wondering but I also didn’t want to dive back into the introduction to statistics I must have in my bookshelf somewhere. And I also didn’t want to look it up on AnyDice.

I started thinking: with just 2d6, it should be possible to explain it all using tables and counting... and I did it! I wrote a little three page PDF about it: Understanding 2d6 Math.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Comments on 2020-04-22 What about opposed 2d6 probabilities?

I’d also consider loop N over {0..11}{output 2d6-2d6<N named "+[N]"}

edkalrio 2020-04-23 12:19 UTC


Oh, very cool! Thank’s a lot.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-23 18:07 UTC


Ynas Midgard’s review of Best Left Buried makes me think I should have a look at its mechanics...

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-27 08:17 UTC

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You probably want to contact me via one of the means listed on the Contact page. This is probably the wrong place to do it. 😄

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-22 12:19 UTC

Referrers: the roots of the rpg hobby Good Sci-Fi Dungeon Generation tools? Essential OSR booklist? Lamentations of the One Page Princess