Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Kickstarter Updates and Fullfilment

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 01/25/2021 - 17:27

Fulfillment Process

Fulfillment didn't go quite as smoothly I thought it would. The main issue is that I mistakenly thought I could handle this with update posts targeted at different backer levels. Instead what I should have done, and discovered later, I is handled it with Kickstarter messages targeted at the different backer levels. 

Everybody should have a Kickstarter message from me in there Kickstarter inbox with the codes for their reward level. Around forty haven't said one way or the other that they gotten their codes so I have just sent out an email to those individuals. 

If you have answered the survey with no that you haven't gotten the codes from your update. Then look for that email or look in your Kickstarter inbox for the codes. In either case if you could let me know I would appreciate it so I can update the records indicating that you received the rewards. 

Initial Reception

So far people seem to like the rules and the cards. I have seen two reviews so far and I did a interview about the Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules.

A Land Beyond Beyond Review

A Land Beyond Beyond Interview

Thanks to Jon Salway for writing both of these.

There Might Be Gazebos Review

Thanks to Chuck for writing this.

Blackmarsh News

I been notified that the printer for DriveThruRPG is discontinuing saddle stitched books as of March. Blackmarsh uses this format. I will be switching over to a different print format by the end of February once I gotten more details of the switchover process. Likely it will be a digest sized book of 24 pages in softcover and hardback. I may try using a card format as well. I will keep folks posted. 

I also found that the price was incorrect it is $3.80 not $3.50. Printing cost change over time and apparently .30 cent was added to the cost since I first did the estimate for the Kickstarter.

Future Installments

I had Matteo M. on the discussion tab on the Majestic Fantasy RPG page at DriveThruRPG ask me this question.

Are we going to see the eXpert version of this game?

The "expert" version is going to be a series of supplements. I realize it will be a little different so there some risk it won't work out.

The next one up* is the Lost Grimoire of Magic while will have the complete details of the Magic User class, and Spells. along with some useful aids and procedures centered around magic users. There will be supplements covering Fighters, Rogues, Clerics, Monsters, NPCs (two volumes), Equipment, Treasure, and Magic Items. Finally a book around sandbox campaigns, refereeing, and various useful aids.

The point of doing it this way is that in my experience most people start out with a system and then kitbash stuff they like from other similar systems. I am aiming not only to write a quality RPG, but be a first or second choice when people kitbash their campaign. Hence breaking down it into supplements that work on their own.

*My next project will be getting the Wild North out and after that I will finish up the Lost Grimoire of Magic. Both will be Kickstarter project due to their art or editing requirements. The rules are finished and playtested, but the organization and supplemental material still remain to be written. 


Once thank I thank everybody backing this project. Your generosity is appreciated. As always if you have any question or issue feel free to reach out.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Under a Funeral Moon, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 01/25/2021 - 12:11
By Scott Myers Self Published Castles & Crusades Level 1

This 33 page adventure features a ten room dungeon with two monsters in it. It is boring.

Ok, it tries in a couple of places. There’s a Tomb Worm that has egg sacks that burst worth with a larvae swarm monster. Gross! One encounter has a zombie with its back legs missing, crawling towards you, eyes glowing yellow. And there’s a ghost child looking for its mommy as a throw away wanderer.  That’s it. And even that is not that well done.

The ghost child gets almost nothing to it, which, normally, I’d be fine with. But if you’re going to make something like this, something that stays with the party a bit, then you need to provide a little bit more to it. And this don’t do that.

Ok, so, you start out as caravan guards. Boring. You get paid 20gp for 2 days work. Sweet work if you can get it, I guess. Making bank! Your latest caravan includes a corpse going to the next town for burial. At this point, as a player, I’ve already defiled that corpse, chopped it up, burnt it, etc. But, I guess your players are stupid and wait for it to reanimate and attack. Which it does. Boring. Along the way to the next town you are attacked by 4 skeletons. “Sometime after midnight the PCs are attacked by 4 Armored Skeletons, their eye sockets glow a mysterious yellow.” Can you contain your excitement yet? No? Bored? Yes. That’s after three pages of read aloud and a couple of paragraphs of DM notes. Just “attacked by skeletons in the night.” *Sigh* 

Halfway in and you’re attacked by those four skeletons and the corpse you were escorting. You reach a town where the Level 0 innkeeper woman has a ring of invisibility, an amulet of protection and ring of protection. It pays, it seems, to have questionable morals in D&D. I’d stab her. 

I guess you go to the dungeon nearby out of the goodness of your heart. The locals don’t really seem to care that the dead are reanimating. No local outage, or worry. Just a “thanks man, for killing that corpse” and off you go to the dungeon, I guess.

The dungeon thankfully does away with the (long) read aloud and has none, but transitions in to boring room descriptions with nothing going on. There’s a combat with a dog and another with that Tomb Worm/Larvae thing. A six hd tomb worm, for a first level party. WIth a 3hd swarm of larvae added on. Uh huh. First level. Right. I’m all for not balancing, but, there’s a limit.

“The first thing you notice in this room … is rather typical. It’s a loose writing style full of this sort of padding. “If you defeat the skeletons then they can be searched …” This is how we get multiple DM text paragraphs for a simple sety up. A joy to wade through. A boring boring boring of boringness. 

Why the fuck do I do this? I’m just killing time until I die. There must be something better.

This is $2 at DriveThru. To it’s credit the preview is the entire thing. Check out page fourteen, for that first encounter. The long read-aloud. The simple combat. The lengthy DM notes.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Elves Don't Do Magic!

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 01/25/2021 - 12:00

My kid has become a fan of Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom, a British animated series about the comedic exploits of a community of fairies and elves. These particular elves are certainly more of the Santa's and Keebler's varieties rather than Tolkien's. While the Little Kingdom elves are likely unsuitable as a PC rave in D&D as presented, I think their adaptable. 
Unlike your standard elf, they eschew magic. They are practical, hardworking beings, largely responsible for keeping fairy society up and going by filling positions in most trades and using and repairing modern technology.
Adult male elves tend to have beards. All elves seen to favor pointed caps.
Note that these elves are capable of using magic. Some are artificers of magical devices. They just believe that using magic inherently leads to trouble and it offends their personal work ethic.

Elf traits:Ability Score Increase: Intelligence score increases by 2. Any other ability score of the player's choice can increased by 1.Size: Small. (Elves in the cartoon are actually Tiny, but we're adapting here.)
Speed: Base walking speed is 25 feet.Industrious: An elf is proficient in one skill and one artisan tool or vehicle of the player's choice. Whenever you make an ability check with the chosen skill or tool, roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the check's total.Technologically Savvy: Elves may add their proficiency bonus to any check relating to advancedtechnology or mechanical devices.Languages: Elves can speak, read, and write Elvish, Common, and another language of their choice.

Long Time No See

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 19:49

 To say I've been in a creative drought would be an understatement. I've been pretty meh about everything lately, but in the last day or two I've shaken some rust off of my brain and started tinkering again. I thought I'd post an update and share some ideas for a space game I'm toying with...

It's an upgrade and update of Shards of Tomorrow, but set in a different part of the galaxy, and using the refined mechanics from Tales of the Splintered Realm. As I was thinking about classes this morning, I am leaning towards abandoning classes altogether. You decide on a concept, you pick a primary attribute (this increases automatically each level), and you select a few talents to start you off. One talent is your primary talent (marked with *). You receive +2 to Feats with that talent. That's about it. I posted months ago about species, and I'd keep those thoughts going (except that as a Terran you get a few perks that other species don't get). The rules would give you some suggestions for common archetypes. For example:

  • Bounty Hunter (CON) Hunting*; Armor; Sharpshooter 
  • Disciple (WIS) Mysticism*; Parry (note: Mysticism counts as two slots)
  • Smuggler (DEX) Pilot*; Quick Draw; Sneak

The idea being that you build the character you want, but the rules give you a quick list of maybe 20 common archetypes as 'starter kits' if you want. However, you can go in any direction you want. You can even decide that your character has Mysticism, but is not actually 'all in' as a mystical warrior; you have the talent, but you don't make it your primary talent, and you may not have WIS as your primary attribute. This would include the 'sensitive' characters who can do mystical things but are not crushing windpipes with the power of their minds.

Roleplaying Games might not be games anymore (although it's in the title)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 18:30

I should find ways to check my blogroll more often ... Anyway, here are my thoughts on the post What is a Game over on Classic RPG Realm (it's good reading). I commented there as well (comment still pending as of this writing), go at it here from scratch and from another angle.

Not yet back to full form (and I should start talking about something else, maybe), but I gave it my best shot. Here's to more writing in 2021! I'll try to keep it short ...

So 5e is not a game, is it?

Classic RPG Realm (CRR for short?) goes with the definition offered by a philosopher called Bernard Suits called Lusory attitude (wiki source for the following book quote):

"To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude]."

I can only argue against what is written above (haven't read the book, but it isn't necessary for the argument I'm going to make), and I would say that while the quote above mirrors to some extent what is happening before and during a "game", it is vague in what I deem most necessary, that (as he puts it) "specific state of affairs": the motivation.

The reason to engage and invest is our most fundamental drive for all activities, and shapes our personalities as much as it expresses them. We do stuff for fun, of course, but also out of friendship or pride or guilt or greed or fame or dopamine or ... well, there is a whole hierarchy of reasons to do anything (or nothing) at all.

So, where I think the definition above is faulty might best be described as a lack of First Principle Thinking (following Elon Musk's definition here, as per the link): the evidence suggests that "gaming" traditionally* is not a separate activity that is to be distinguished from other activities people engage with, as for instance "play" naturally emerges with children as a method of learning and could therefore be argued as a fundamental means to learn about the world surrounding us. It is a variant of adaptation, as can be observed from very early on with babies, for instance. A theme we carry with us through life.


Proof that we are biologically and psychologically wired like that can easily be found in all research out there about immersion and flow states and all that other fun stuff we experience when reading or when "playing". Sports would in that regard be a rudimentary form of "play", so this can be applied very broadly. As a matter of fact, the etymological meaning of "game"  not only derives from old versions of "fun" and "entertainment", it actually includes "sport" (from Old Norse).

And this is where, in my opinion, First Principle Thinking is applicable. At some point we started deluding the original meaning of "game" towards an analogy to what we saw around us instead of connecting it with why we are motivated to do the things we do. In assuming there is a distinction to very fundamental (biological, even) functions we need to exercise in order to thrive, one must end up with something like the definition offered above.

Mr. Suit furthermore defines games as "the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" (same book, same wiki quote), and I take issue with the word "unnecessary" here, for the reasons summoned above. To solve, for instance, a morale dilemma in a "virtual" or mind space is no different than doing so in reality and by no means trivial. We learn and grow by doing (playing!) those thought experiments.

What's more, taking the "game" serious can actually yield tremendous emotional feedback. In other words, the more a "player" believes it to be real, the more they are engaged, the more insight they may potentially take away from the experience. I'd argue that one could not achieve that kind of involvement without acknowledging that our need to "game" is deeply wired into personal growth and learning!


However, the meaning of words may change ...

We need proper definitions to describe and (ultimately) understand reality. It's how we roll. There happened a lot in the good old world since Old Norse had need to describe it. Things actually changed quite a bit, and so did our entertainment. The question is if the meaning of the word "game" changed with it or if we just expanded on the semantic content the word carries.

This isn't a binary problem contained to the described metric, in my opinion. It needn't be just the one or the other, it rather offers an opportunity: we can define us within that (fake, see below) spectrum between the traditional or modern understanding of what "games" are or we can exclude roleplaying games from being "games" as per the definition mainstream keeps pushing as the new reality what "games" are supposed to be. Because that's where that new definition of "games" nowadays comes from, which would be something to consume, entertainment for entertainment's sake while generating enough motivation to make one pay for it.

Again, if you see "gaming" as an activity isolated from activities necessary for personal growth (as in learning or doing sports, for instance), you end up seeing (and treating) it as a commodity in the classical economical fashion, which MUST lead to a process in which you sooner or later derive the isolated activity of all, say, more artsy or even spiritual elements and reduce it to the equvalent of a theme park experience. And that is, ultimately, what 5e attempts to be.

Hence, my argument would be two-fold. While 5e might be less of a game in a more traditional* sense, it is very much so in the common understanding of the word. We can easily acknowledge that. However, that has huge implications for those more traditional* roleplaying games, as they (and the title of this post already alludes to as much) are not games anymore.

Different realities [source]

See what I did there? The meaning shifted, not the activity. But what does that leave us with? Well, anyone spending any time here on the blog should have an inkling where I'm heading with this ...  If roleplaying games are, indeed, a form of medium (like books or movies are) and if we can accept that all those "classic" mediums are symbolic (or abstract) representations of reality, altered to offer growth through interaction, then we already have our answer. Somewhat.

Here's what I'm saying in other terms: rpgs offer, just like books and movies and all other mediums, an invitation to explore reality by other means (rules, languages, pictures ...). This is the core value of roleplaying games. That the means of interaction with this specific medium can be described as "playing" or "gaming" is only problematic if those words can not mean the same as "reading a book".

To be a traditional rpg, it needs to mirror reality in some non-trivial capacity. In other words, it needs to offer patterns that relate to our understanding of how things work. Can have magic and monsters and all that, but must follow the principle of "what if magic was real" or "what if monsters where real". It needs to connect meaningfully so that those interacting with the medium can extract insight from it that applies to their life. It needs reference to test hypothesis ...

On the other side, if characters are always winning with no risk of death, damage, loss or injury, if the learning pattern is reduced to some form of accumulation dissociated from actions or capabilities (xp just for playing or being there, for instance), if all of it is, in short, reduced to mindless entertainment (as in, entertainment that suggests the mind needn't be engaged**), we sure could argue that we are talking about different types of activity.

And if furthermore the definition of what the word "game" means is shifted so far from the requirements described above that the experience doesn't match that way anymore between editions of the same product (say, 2e vs. 5e), we might have to (at least) make those distinctions known.

Other mediums have the same problem, oh my!

Yes, it's true, the requirements stated above also don't apply to all media. Or rather, all media can manifest more on the 5e side of things. I can't argue that, instead I would say it actually proves my point. If you reduce all forms of entertainment to commodities, you will observe the same phenomena across all media for the same reasons.

Here's an angle that highlights the problem from another side: one way to see that this is true is that the content of media is more and more questioned and then regulated along ideologic or political guidelines. Huckleberry Finn was censored and is censored instead of being discussed in its (historical or morale) context and the discussion if orcs are racist just can't seem to die (they aren't, here's why), to name but two examples.

How does this relate, you might ask? Well, if entertainment is generally deemed a commodity instead of, say, a form of expression (or a sport or even an artform!), it is obvious that those not understanding this as a misconception are tempted to superficially "fill" content with the meaning they see fit or change it to their liking. It's not a new problem, but one that occurs more and more regularly, actually to an extend where people (today (again?) start to self-censor to avoid social media repression (one shouldn't break the law, of course).

And that's just that, since the phenoma are similar across all media, we can not only postulate that rpg are a form of media, but also say that there is a meaninfull distinction between media manifesting as commodity (basically the big corp. or capitalist appproach) and the manifestation as some form of "symbolic (or abstract) representations of reality" (or art, maybe?).

There is a struggle going on and one could be inclined to call it more of a spectrum (art - commodity). However, that would imply that we will see a measurable and more or less static expression of all forms of manifestations across said spectrum, and that definitely is NOT the case as one side (the commodity-side) more and more dominates the other***.

In its extreme, the consumer-approach to media could destroy or taint almost all form of meaningfull medial expression. Everythig is a theme park, everything is a beautiful icecream cone and everything costs while being a meaningless waste of time. Nothing will relate to reality. Consequently, you own nothing, you owe instead of earning and you do nothing but being entertained as it is deemed proper and ...


We are talking extremes here, of course. Not saying any of this is happening, of course. Microtransactions are fake news, of course ...

Anyway, I digress. The terms "game" and "play" can only mean all of it if one isn't trying to own and destroy the other with an agenda to hold sway on how reality is to be interpreted. It is a general problem concerning all media, and it needs to be addressed.

A rose is a rose is a rose ...

I sure don't have all the answers, but if 5e wants to be a game, it can have the monicker, but it isn't a "traditional" rpg anymore and we should start exploring what those old rpgs are or how to call "our" way of interacting with that new form of medium in a hostile media landscape ... This is my little contribution towards that end, and there will be more of the same in the future (I hope).

Let's close with saying it's a complex issue, but very much worth exploring and talking about, as there are real dangers in how we treat our media. I see a lot of freedom vanishing with big publishers getting more and more powerful. Little voices disappear, big corp dictates the narrative and something needs to be done about that.

Just saying "5e isn't a game" touches on some truth, but really doesn't cut it, imo. 5e is on the winning side, and if we want to see some change, we let thm have the terminology and come up with our own. Or at least create some awareness to the difference between playing as a consumer and participating meaningfully in a media-driven interaction.

So what do you guys think?


*Damn, first footnote in ages, feels like. Anyway, "traditionally" is unfortunately a very vague term in this regard, as the original western (culturally, not etymologically) understanding of playing or gaming was that it's a waste of time. It's that old-timey concept you might know from your grandparents, for instance. So to be more precise about what we are saying here, I'd define "traditionally" as the short period of time when psychology recognized the value of play and before it the culture shifted the terminology towards gaming being a commodity. For anyone interested in an excellent treatment of the subject, I recommend this paper by Piaget as a good starting point. I'd wager it mirrors Gygax's understanding of what play means, as he grew up with teachers echoing it into schools ... it's definitely what I'm talking about here.

** Which is, btw, my main gripe with this sort of thing: since we still interact, suggesting that we don't need to reflect on what we are experiencing is VERY VERY problematic as it very nicely covers all forms of manipulation up to infecting people's minds with all sorts of dangerous ideologies. You were just reading Harry Potter, now you accept a society ruled by the elites, that kind of thing ...

*** Ok, this might be a more controversial opinion. that said, scientifically speaking, spectrums describe a more or less static order between two extrems, or if there are shifts, they are also at least cyclic, so that there might be differences in different states, but an overall constant that allows a classification as "spectrum". I'd argue that this isn't the case here, as one form of media expression seems to supersede the other ...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

M.A.R.K. Series of Murder & Combat Droids For Hostile rpg, Cepheus Engine Rpg, & Original Traveller rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 18:20
 "And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days."Mark 13:20 King James Bible  M.A.R.K. 13's are incredibly psychotic & sadistic cybernetic life forms created during the War of Miracles.. These cybernetic war droids were spontanious spawned from the psychotic thoughts of the A.I. gods during Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tenet and Further Meditations on a 4-D War

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 15:30

I saw Tenet last night, and I thought it was good, but I am typically a fan of Nolan's work. If you aren't I can't say you would like this one more than the others. It most resembles Inception with a plot involving a degree of spy fiction doings, overlaid with a science fictional conceit that is a strong, visual representation.

The film underscores nicely--and it's something I've talked about here before (this post is really just a reinforcement of those ideas, so check it out)--is how time travel/manipulation is how a temporal cold war provides a great set up for espionage paranoia. Shifts in allegiance and betrayal can have retrospective as well as prospective effects, and individuals changing over time can bring them in direct conflict with themselves in a very literal way. Your worst enemy could indeed be yourself.

Futility and fatalism, sometimes and aspect of spy stories, are played up in this sort of setting. If the best case scenario is that the world doesn't change drastically, then the protagonists are always stuck fighting for the status quo, no matter what the personal cost.

Appendix S - Readings Into Gordon R. Dickson's Child Cycle For Original Traveller & Cepheus Engine Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 20:13
 The fact of the matter is that we played military themed old school Traveller rpg &  Cepheus engine rpg campaigns with Vietnam, Gulf War, & Afghanistan veterans as well as their wives. The fact is this puts a very different spin on military/Eighties action film inspired campaigns such as mine especially a  Hostile rpg alternative one. And this brings up Gordon Dickerson's Child cycle which sits Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Pit in the Forest, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 12:28
By Rob Alexander Medium Quality Products OSR Levels 2-3

In Claine Forest near Padduck Village there has appeared a pit. No-one knows where it came from, it just did. It is not so deep that you cannot see the bottom, but people fear it and avoid it. No-one who has climbed into it has come back, having been dragged beneath the surface by unseen hands. A necromancer has come to the forest, seeking the pit. She does not quite know what she expects from it, but what she hopes for is protection from death.

This 26 page digest adventure details a search through a forest for a mythical Dead Zone pit. It pours out flavour in nearly every word, creating delicious situations for the party to interact with. And the give-away was this is labeled for levels 2-3. This designer is not on auto-pilot.

We got a village, two rival groups of adventurers, a weird-ass forest, and somewhere in the forest a pit, your final destination. From this, joy is made. Each one of those elements has their component parts well done and, because of this the whole is a wonder. Really, it’s pretty fucking simple. The village has some people in it. They are well done. It has some short rumors. They are well done. The forest has some wanderers. They are well done. The forest has atmosphere. They are well done. The forest has locations. They are well done. The NPC parties have goals and character. They are well done. Thieving everything together is a simple timer. It’s all just basic basic shit. The core elements to an adventure and the core components to those elements. But here, they are well done.

The villagers, and indeed all of the NPC’s, are great. They have some key personality aspects, bulleted for easy finding. 50’s, grey-haired, stooped. Perfect! (and terse!) Has terrifying visions of war and turmoil Takes herbal remedies. A soldier that has seen too much … who gives negative advice to guide you, ultimately, not in to what you are trying to do. A guy who wants to be a soldier but if afraid of leaving the village. Virile. A reputation for bravery … but it all stems from killing a wolf once who was after some sheep. A dude that wears too many plates on his armor. The hangers on for the rival necromancer are not just generic thugs. Oh no! They are all sick, and want a cure from the necromancer. “Threadbase hangers-on, attracted by the promise of cures.” This frucking shit is all based on REAL human needs, wants and desires, not come cartoony generic villain shit. And it SHOWS. You can grok this shit IMMEDIATELY and it resonates so much more because of that. THis is some shit that you can REALLY sink your teeth in to as the DM.

The vibe in the forest is right out those long quiet dreamy shots in Stalker, maybe mashed up with some Blair Witch forest stuff. “Shallow pit full of squirrel, rat, and stoat skeletons. Freaky forest shit, blair witch” Fuck! Yes! More! Please! It’s got this weird vibe to it. One you can’t quite place. But it is one of the most haunting things I’ve seen, without ever really trying to be so. One of the wanderers is a dog “The front “half” is alive but its spine and ribs snake off endlessly out of sight. Follow it, and it will lead you (eventually) to a cold hell where a bird-demon on a rock will offer you 500 xp to murder each of three people who have loving families that depend on them.” So fucking much in such a small package! Oh! Oh! And the fucking “Manimals!” (Props to the 80’s!” demorfed animals with gaping mouths that they pull their jaws and olips back over their heads to swallow big things. Bloated shape, disgusting gait. Sweet! 

And, just like that dog wanderer, the encounters are a joy of delicious decision making. Take a stone tomb you run across. “A heavy stone tomb contains an upright glass coffin. A tall man in a dark robe is propped up in there; he has a rather lumpy complexion but is otherwise well-preserved.  Behind him are placed a wand, an earthenware bottle, and a leather

money bag.” You want that fucking wand, don’t you? Let me tell you, your fucking MU wants that fucking wand. You’re gonna fuck with it, ain’t you? That’s it! That’s it in a nutshell! The friendly ogre wearing the jeweled crown! You WANT it. Are you willing to tempt fate to get at it? Oh, those are wonderful D&D moments! And the dude? He’s not necessarily evil. Or, at least will attack you outright. Nor, it turns out, the Necromancer. Even if she turns herself in to a lich. 

The only caveat here is to somehow communicate to the party ahead of time that hte journey is the destination. The pit is not a dungeon. You don’t go there and THEN do something long. The forest thing IS the adventure, and while the pit is interesting, and things happen there (just like the wish room in Stalker) it’s the overall thing that’s important. A party expecting otherwise would be disappointed … and I thin the adventure could do just a tad more to set that up.

Pay what you fucking want and two fucking dollers. Please! Worth much more than that!

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is three pages. You get to see a page describing a rival adventuring party, and some wanderers. Maybe one of the forest locations would have been nice also, but you can CLEARLY get an idea as to the quality from those NPC descriptions and wanderers. Not gonzo. Just GUD.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Playing Out In The Rocks' Cepheus Engine Rpg DM Workshop & Session Report Two

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 06:44
 So Greg picked us up for tonight's Cepheus Engine rpg driven campaign using Zozer Games Hostile rpg setting. This game session picks up right from where we left off last time with the New England Bouys. The boys have got the lap top & 'Topper' their asteroid farmer/tech op is breaking into it in tonight's game but found the C4 booby trap that was left in the housing with a couple of lucky rolls.Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On Runemaster Class by James Mishler, & Jodi Moran-Mishler From James Mishler Games For Labyrinth Lord or Castles & Crusades Rpg Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 01/22/2021 - 19:23
" Dwarves and gnomes are adept at using magic to enchant armor, weapons, and other items, infusing them with magical power. While the golden age of runemaster power is long since passed, even today the dwarves and gnomes are known for their enchanting prowess."James Mishler Games sent me the Runemasters pdf three days ago & its put me right back into the C&C OSR game mind set especially since Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisted: Impish Misadventures

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 01/22/2021 - 12:00
This post originally appeared in 2018. I still haven't done anything with this idea, but I still think it's a good one...
I've had this idea for a game for a while, but haven't done anything with it yet, but I thought writing it down would insure I don't forget it.

The high concept would be: "C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters meets GURPS Goblins." It would be an infernal Horatio Alger story (or parody thereof) where young imps try to get ahead in Hell's hierarchy by misadventure, toadying, and blind luck. They would be abused and give out abuse and probably come to comedically horrible ends--only to be respawned in the larvae pools and start their Sisyphean climb to archdevil-hood once again.

The rules would need to be simple, but (like GURPS Goblins) flavorful, and I imagine gameplay as something like (GURPS Goblins) with a bit of Paranoia and D&D with a pinch of Planescape.

Troll Lords Mail Call & Unboxing of A Jason Vey Special

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 01/22/2021 - 04:04
 Its been a while since we've done anything with Troll Lord's Amazing Adventures rpg. But with a soda spill disaster last year it was time to get in on the action of an AA rpg bundle that they've got going on for thirty dollars.  Getting the books through the door was a bit of a saga however as the postman put them on the otherside of the house?! There's something to be said for old school Siege Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

H.Beam Piper's Cosmic Computer, Cepheus Engine rpg, & Hostile Rpg - An OSR Campaign Commentary On Many Levels Part I

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 20:19
 Someone on MeWe had suggested H.B Piper's Cosmic Computer/  Terro-Human future history series to me as a possible fit to the Hostile rpg campaign that we're running. And after a rereading the paper back version below there are a few thoughts about it. But let's get into the meat & potatoes of the novel which is summoned up by Amazon reviewer Grimjack 13 thus; "In this tale one man, from a small Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Central Mechanic of Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 14:26

I participated in a discussion about how the game plays in tabletop roleplaying. The following is probably not constructive for the conversation but it does sum of my view of what make RPGs, RPGs, and why they are so different than boardgames and wargames. 

While the following is a specific series of steps, the circumstance they can be applied too is nearly infinite. Also it can turn on a dime if the circumstance the referee describes changes. Whether that change follows from what the player did a their character is sometimes debated but it still implies an inherent flexibility that all RPGs possess. 

Sub Main()
Setting := CreateSettingAndCampaign(Referee)
Players := CreateCharacters(Setting)
Call RefereeDescribesCircumstance()
For Each Player In Campaign
PlayerAction = DescribeCharactersAction(Player)
Call RefereeAdjudicateCharacterAction(PlayerAction)
Loop Until Campaign = CampaignStatus.CampaignEnds
End Sub

Sub RefereeAdjudicateCharacterAction(aAction as CharacterAction)
Decision = RefereeDecidesAdjudicationProcess(aAction)
Select Decision
Case DecisionType.Failure
Call RefereeDescribeFailure()
Case DecisionType.Success
Call RefereeDescribeSuccess()
Case DecisionType.Uncertain
Call RefereeUseSystem(aAction)
End Select
End Sub
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Appendix X Minus 1: A Pulp Solar System Anthology

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 12:00
I've written a number of posts about old-style inhabited solar systems. Given that the literature that might prove inspirational for games in that setting are old and mostly out a print, I thought I might give a guide.

These stories were selected because they present and interesting (and gameable) take on the celestial body in question, not necessarily for quality--though I do think a number of them are good stories.

Since Mars and Venus stories are probably most famous and most available, I figured I'd start with the more obscure, Galilean Moons of Jupiter.

Callisto"Monsters of Callisto" (1933) by Edward R. Hinton - Lost at the bottom of the mysterious aquasphere, they struggle on!
"Mad Robot" (1936) by Raymond Z. Gallun - Did it ever occur to you that a machine could be complex enough to go insane? This one did! 
"The Callistan Menance" (1940) by Isaac Asimov - What was on Callisto, the tiny moon of vast Jupiter, that was deadly enough to make seven well-armed, well-equipped space expeditions disappear? And could the Eight Expedition succeed where the others had failed?
"Redemption Cairn" (1936) by Stanley Weinbaum - Here is one of the last stories by one of the outstanding writers of science- fiction. Remember him as you read it.
"Mutiny on Europa" (1936) by Edmond Hamilton - An unnerving spectacle we must have been to them!
"Repetition" (1940) A.E. van Vogt - Because a people live on a planet, it does not mean that they have a civilization on that planet. First they need to learn the old tricks and make them new.

Ganymede"Tidal Moon" (1938) by Stanley and Helen Weinbaum - Shackled by the Gravity of Mighty Jupiter, Three Vertical Miles of Water Rush on to Blanket the Surface of Ganymede!
"World of Mockery" (1941) by Sam Moskowitz - When John Hall walked on Ganymede, a thousand weird beings walked with him. He was one man on a sphere of mocking, mad creatures—one voice in a world of shrieking echoes. "Crypt-City of the Deathless One" (1943) Henry Kuttner - Only once could a man defy the deathless guardians of the Ancient's tomb-city deep in Ganymede's hell-forest and expect to live. Yet Ed Garth had to return, had to lead men to certain doom—to keep a promise to a girl he would never see again.
"Tepondicon" (1946) by Carl Jacobi - He was not the savior-type. He certainly did not crave martyrdom. Yet there was treasure beyond price in these darkened plague-cities of Ganymede, if a man could but measure up to it.
"The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" (1950) by Leigh Brackett - She was like a dream come to life--with hair of tawny gold and the glowing face of a smiling angel--but she was not human!
Io"The Mad Moon" (1935) by Stanley Weinbaum - The great, idiotic heads, the silly grins and giggles--those infernal giggles--would drive him crazy. 
"Invaders of the Forbidden Moon" (1941) Raymond Z. Gallun - Annihilation was the lot of those who ventured too close to the Forbidden Moon. Harwich knew the suicidal odds when he blasted from Jupiter to solve the mighty riddle of that cosmic death-trap.
"Outpost on Io" (1942) by Leigh Brackett - In a crystalline death lay the only release for those prisoners of that Ionian hell-outpost. Yet MacVickers and the men had to escape—for to remain meant the conquering of the Solar System by the inhuman Europans. 

Appendix S - Readings into David Drake's 'Hammers Slammers' For Original Traveller & Cepheus Engine Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 06:42
 Military science fiction has been a passion for more then a couple of player groups that have been a part of this table top life of mine. There hasn't been a time in my life when Hammer's Slammers hasn't been a part of my life. The book was on my dad's or my uncle's ash tray strune bed side table. If you don't know what Hammer's Slammers are let me give you the wiki entry short version; "Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Unique Speech

Hack & Slash - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 21:30
That's right, keep raising the bar, guys. Anyway, voices, right?

In the article linked above, Arnold tosses off a paragraph about how things that normally don't talk to players talk.

Well, that's super important. Everything or nearly so should talk in a fantasy game. I'm sure I can't recall the last time I played where someone couldn't speak to animals or plants or rocks or something. In a 4e game I played, someone figured out speak with dead along with the ability to speak with animals/insects allowed you to have access to effectively infinite sensors as long as you had enough access to mice or insect corpses.

The point is, if players can talk to stones, well, they are going to want to do it. The question is, how do you portray such creatures in game. This has an interesting intersectional tangent to my own beliefs, which is that pretty much all creatures have the same experience of life, even if they lack certain higher order functions. So, I'm asking a real question here, When the dogs can speak, what will they say?

Luckily, I'm preeety sure I can answer that question.

"Throw the ball? What are we doing now? Are we going somewhere? Did you say you were going to throw the ball? Is it time to eat? You're the best. I can get the ball for you. Or the stick. What's that over there? Here's the ball."

I mean, anyone who owns pets communicates with them all the time. Let's look at how to portray these things in game.

Speak With Animals
Dogs, Pets
Happy, hedonistic, insecure. Seeking approval from pack leaders. Poor at making judgements or decisions. Can perform basic but insightful analysis of interactions. Unsure of answers. Can't count higher than two. Sees in black and white. Concerned with primarily relating scent information: Will talk about garbage, what people ate, what animals were nearby, in preference to what people are doing or saying.

Dogs, War
As pets, but more rigid and disciplined. Can count to three. (One, Two, Three, Many). Speaks laconically and loudly, like a drill instructor. Calls all soldiers sir, doesn't take civilians seriously.

Selfish. Give no f%&*$. Narcissistic. Want to know why they should tell you anything. Acts superior, often bluffing. Haughty. Very self centered, when relating stories, every one is how about what happened affected them and their day. Secretly and urgently desires praise and attention.

Skittish. Nervous. Somewhat compulsive. When they've learned something, they can only relate it by rote, from the beginning each time. Everything is large or large and dangerous. Focused on the immediate world in front of them.

Focused on their needs. Totally convinced that they are part of the coolest organized crime group in the world and everyone should be terrified of them.

Speak with Plants
Totally unmotivated. Unconcerned with things. Not stupid, just lazy. Big plan of growing here, gonna keep it up. Speaks normally, but talks like a depressed person. ("That doesn't matter. I didn't pay attention, no one cares about that.")

Observant. Talks like sleezeball in a bar. Offers to grow on intimate places. Fond of damp, wet, organic matter.

Communal. They are all part of a drug-free commune, and are just not concerned with your petty concerns, man. Complains about being walked all over, but thinks that their marxist unity will elevate them.

Trees, Coniferous
Stoic. Slightly arrogant. Terrified of fire. Talks a lot about the sky and clouds. Completely uninterested in creatures on the ground.

Trees, Deciduous
Varies based on the season. Bright and happy in spring, full of excitement and promise. Talks about the future a lot. Becomes very slow and relaxed in summer, taking a long time to say anything. In the fall, becomes morose and vexing. Threatens and plays tricks on people. Whines and moans when not doing that. During winter, wails and moans constantly, is acutely depressed and apocalyptic.

Baby Shoots
They speak with the enthusiasm of a powerpuff girl.

Speak with stones
When new, these rocks are violent, and their voice is inconsistent and constantly changing, and they speak of change and revolution and tearing down the old order in fire and suffering. Older igneous rocks speak in a deep gravelly voice, that comes across as restrained power. They are jaded and have little insight into the world around them. Granite, especially cut granite, longs for the past, and believes things were better back then, and comes across as depressed and slightly lonely like old men.

Constantly contradicts self. Personality suddenly changes frequently. Disagrees with self. Confused. Clipped speech.

Slightly paranoid. Insightful but worried. Talks about instability and unpredictability. Cautions against depending on anything that it says. Believes the world is hostile. Somewhat pleased with itself and it's own traits and beauty, but then immediately falls back into paranoia.

Lots of different opinions, but all in the same voice from people who have identical experiences as them. Complains constantly about how nobody does any hard work and how they get taken advantage of by other people.

Narcissistic. Haughty. Spoiled. Throws tantrums.

Infantile wonder and amazement. "Whaaaaaaat?"

This article isn't meant to be a reference, but rather a starting point for thinking about the nature of things that normally don't speak. It's straightforward because the fact that the cat talks is the interesting thing. If, for whatever reason, that's expected, then it's no longer interesting. Players won't have thought about these characterizations; when they hear them, it will make sense. "Of course grass is a communal creature!" they will think. But if they are expecting it, then feel free to play against type to break expectations, once the thing talking is no longer the interesting thing.

Also, seriously, speak with rocks? Whoever invented that one was a jerk. Everything is made out of rocks. It's as difficult to manage as Psychometry is in game!
This post was originally published on 6/9/15, and is linked on Links to Wisdom.Hack & Slash 
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beta Max Black - War Among The Stars - Stars Without Numbers & Cepheus Engine Rpg Campaign Dungeon Master Workshop Session Report #2

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 19:26
 Through the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,  Past the wan-mooned abysses of night,I have lived o'er my lives without number,  I have sounded all things with my sight;And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.I have whirled with the earth at the dawning,  When the sky was a vaporous flame;I have seen the dark universe yawning  Where the black planets roll Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Innovation in RPG-Land Part 3: Good rules are hard to write (or so the song goes)

The Disoriented Ranger - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 16:33

I'll just pretend 2020 didn't happen, if that's alright with you ... I've done lots of posts over the years about how design emerges from scratch to finish. At least as far as concepts go. I also can DM those designs or even get others to DM them. The next problem, however, is writing them down in a way that someone who just read the rules is able to DM them as I would. It's my attempt to map how innovation is linked to several aspects on why and how we write rules. It was one of the hardest posts to write, btw. Took me months ...

Eric over at the Methods & Madness blog incidentally started a series some time ago that goes in a very similar direction and you can check out Part 1 of that series here

Also have Part 1 and Part 2 of my thoughts on this from different angles ...

Where to begin?

From a designer's point of view, you'll have to write your concepts down, but with me it turned out to be more of a stream of consciousness type of organization and bound to be patchwork to some degree. I tried writing the rules for the game I'm working on down in a somewhat coherent way, but I gave them to test-readers and the result was in almost all cases the same: no one could have reproduced the rules. No one understood the game just from reading what I gave them (sorry about that, guys).

Which leads to the first important insight, I guess. Rule books should fulfill at least three basic functions: (1) reading them from front to back should teach you the game proper and how to use the book when playing it, which (2) means that the information presented should also be arranged in a way that allows easy access to all relevant material (tables, lists, generators, etc.) and (3) should work as a reference guide for all terminology the game uses (which means it needs an extensive glossary). Well, that and it should look nice, doesn't it?

However, that's 'just' superficial structure (or rather, something a publication needs to feature) and not yet rules presented in words (or graphics or pictures ...). It doesn't answer the question of how exactly all that information needs to be arranged for optimal effect. It is not enough to say "Well, you have to do it right, of course!" (which seems the go-to kind of advice you get when you ask people that don't know any better and it isn't helpful). It just covers typographical information structure, if you will.

Standards? What standards?

All right, all right, so I have a shit-ton of information I need to arrange in a meaningful way and I need to hit the notes I described above while doing so. How do I do that and where do I look for examples? The first thing would be to research how we learn new things, right?

Right. While it is true that we all learn differently (we can even chose between different models about how differently we are learning, figure that), the first thing we need to realize is that even if every individual would have an approach that'd be ideal for them to learn, well, anything, common sense dictates that whoever is reading a book might have learned all kinds of different techniques with all kinds of varied success (or lack thereof) and therefore ... it doesn't matter that much?

[source of original]

Sort of. It depends on how big of an overlap between the game you wrote and what happens at any given table you actually want (or need) to make the game a success. If you write a D&D clone, you can full well expect that most of the people showing any interest at all already know the original rules and (at best) will be looking for the odd rules variant they can use for their homebrew instead of actually playing the clone as written. The rules needn't be coherent or even complete to make a clone accessible for the intended target group.

With varying degree the same is true for games hewing close to the established basic assumptions of what role-playing games are (i. e., other popular brands ... it's not that anyone made an effort to create such an understanding beyond that). Abilities and Skills and some sort of die system to glue it all together while being reminiscent of "that one popular game". It'll get all the more traction the more familiarity with something known makes access easy. The further you go away from the "known", the more difficult it'll be to explain a game ... up to the point where people actually won't put in the effort to learn your game (which is a totally different story, I guess).

That said, all of the above is more or less betting on the "overlap" as a way to get a game played at all, even if it just plays like any other game of CoC (or whatever). The more "original" a game is, the more a designer will have to actually explain how a reader will be able to play the game as the designer would. The text needs to be written and presented in a way that allows strangers to recreate the experience of playing that one specific game.

A game like that would need to be as complete as possible and thoroughly tested. All possibilities of how that game might manifest need to be addressed. The onformation needs to be arranged ... carefully, which is why we should take a closer look at those games to get an idea how to make that work, exactly.

Words carry meaning (when arrayed properly)

It is not surprising that successfull games can make for good examples. Since "successfull" is a matter of debate, I'd go for those games that managed to change the gaming culture lastingly. Take Vampire: the Masquerade, for example. Undeniable impact, completely new set of rules ...

How did they present their game? Lots of exposition. Tons of it: First edition (1991) starts with a narrator, goes on establishing the world of darkness and its terms, then lays down a general understanding of how to play the game (defining the designer's stance and philosophy or approach, no rules yet), again with lots of little flavor pieces in between (Book of Nod, quotes, heavy on the artwork as well to get a reader in the mood) and it's only at page 31 (the beginning of chapter 2) that they go into the rules proper.

If the reader is invested at that point, it is in the world not the rules. It inspires readers to explore a world of gothic punk, and the 90s where full of sources to fuel something like that (The Crow, Anne Rice, Tim Burton ... it was heavey on the zeitgeist). Getting the genre and setting across like they managed to, activated people enough to go and read how they can play in that world. You wanted to know how to play a Vampire and how to experience stories in this world. You were left wanting more. I'd argue that a huge part of the success of Vampire was having a hierarchy to the presented information. It penned out the possibilities of the stories players will experience using the terminology of that world before showing how to actually do that. It's genius. A perfect storm of timing, presentation and innovation.


So other than being typocraphically challenging, it is the order of the information you present that is of great importance (with art and artwork being a third layer a good rpg book might need to exhibit). It is why we should assume linear reading as one main way of reception, btw, as it is most likely the first appoach anyone will make with any book (maybe after looking at the pictures first). The best way to get some handle on the contents of a book is to read it from beginning to end, so that should best be accomodated and encouraged.

You should also make the terminology the game uses as clear as possible from the beginning AND the terminology needs to be chosen carefully as well (as the terms used regularly will color the gaming experience). In general it seems best to start wide, leaving lots of room for the reader to get comfortable and oriented. Get more and more specific and find ways to keep the reader engaged, for instance by using connected and colorful examples and artwork as well as a typocraphical structure to have the reader informed about where they are at all times.

Alter the tone as well. Be precise when talking rules, be conversational when talking concepts and build tension when telling stories. Make clear distinctions when shifting between tones.

It is a matter of taste, now, if you write with the Gamemaster in mind from the beginning. Arguably, the only person reading a role-plaing book completely is the person actually willing to make a game happen, so there is that. It doesn't hurt, however, to start with the general assumptions of a game and have the more specific stuff (that'll definitely be for the DM) more in the back. I'd say most structures will lend themselves towards a general part in the beginning and the gamemaster part in the end.

Lots of craft (some talent, some luck)

Well, that's the scope of it. But why is it relevant? Maybe it tries to show that there's lots of room to grow when designing rules. Maybe it makes an argument for the worth of the hard work that goes into writing and designing rules. It's a craft.

Recognition is a completely different aspect, though, as is success. Both are only barely connected to how "good" a work is. If you are putting out good work constantly, there are good chances that it'll be recognized somehow, although the degree is dependant on factors that mean additional work unrelated to creating (that is: marketing).

In my experience (limited as it may be), just putting in the work will impress people most of the time, irregardless of the quality of the work. Getting them engaged enough to actually invest into it is an entirely different matter. Creating enough buzz to actually finance a work is another job altogether.

Art adds yet another dimension to craft (is there art without craft? I'd say: no), but not necessarily in a linear fashion (as in: craft allows manifesting art as intended, but mastering a craft is a worthy goal in itself) and it might even be harder to do marketing for. Those innovating will always have a harder time to also sell it.  

Talent, finally, would be how fast you pick up a craft and how far you can push it.

Talent is where talent goes ... [Source]

The rest is luck, or ...

Is that it?

Unfortunately not, as far as culture is concerned. Creating is a high risk, high reward endeavor because we, as a culture, make it so. Used to, anyway. In our digital age it seems more and more like something that an entitled group of people is allowed to get an audience for: big corp (Disney, among few others) and the dopamine-dependant shills that dominate twitter with empty but popular and intoxicating word-clouds ...

I digress, but not without reason. Mentioning the culture is important in that creators can only create, the culture is what carries and forwards them. If a culture shifts significantly into one direction, it doesn't change what's available, it changes what is picked as relevant. Access is not only about who gets a platform, it's also about what is favored. Both shape and color the input, which then encourages creators to act certain ways.

It's easy to see if a culture stifles or favors innovation and who has access to it by looking at the output it allows and the standards it endorses. Which neatly brings us back to writing rules well, I guess. As established above, rules only need to be written very well when the designs they describe are not already established to some degree or another.

If the only games getting tracktion are revisions of something already established, you have indicators on hand that the culture (or scene) involved is stagnating for lack of innovation. And if innovation is lacking, it's not (never) for the lack of potential. So there is one example. School books might be another good example where the discrepancy between what's possible and what's done is easily asserted. And so it goes.

Coming full circle (where to stop?)

So, fucking Covid, right? Sorry, couldn't resist the punchline ... The whole pandemic-business is changing our culture massively right now. If you take 5 years to write a game, and you started 5 years ago from today, the perception of what was already written will have shifted dramatically between 2019 and 2020 alone. There's no helping it, might shift further as well. It might even be almost impossible to assert how the (imminent?) changes in culture actually affect a work about to be ublished, but mostly written with a different cultural background in mind.

In conclusion, good rules are hard to write and depend as much on the climate and culture they are written in as on the craft and talent of the author. 

If nothing else, I hope this mess of a text (and the other parts of this series) help a bit showcasing the importance of culture beyond monetary gain and the importance of innovation. RPG-material just doesn't appear without context, it almost always echoes the surroundings it appears in. Nurturing innovation needs nurturing in a culture.

 Which just ends up producing more questions I don't have an answer to: what is the status of our little rpg-scene? Is it nurturing? Are there any problems, maybe? If so, what could we do to make it better? So, what do you guys think?


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