Tabletop Gaming Feeds

A Quick Creature Design Primer for Troika!

The Viridian Scroll - Wed, 07/03/2019 - 04:47
TLDR: what it says on the tin, really. A quick breakdown of Troika! monster stats, guides for creating original monsters, and a linked spreadsheet containing all the core book creatures.

Art by Shoji Ohtomo
Designing from ScratchLet's keep this simple. Just pick numbers based on comparative creatures and consider the typical stat ranges as follows:

SKILL
Skill ranges from 3-16, but about two-thirds have a Skill of 7, 8, or 9. Just remember you are working with a curve. There's a big difference between those three numbers! The "drop off" on either end of that middle range is severe.
  • Low Skill 3-6: Gremlins, Pisceans, Goblins, Living Dead 
  • Moderate Skill 7-9: Knights of the Road, Orcs, Harpys, Lizard-Folk, Man-Beasts, Thinking Engine, Ogre
  • High Skill 10-16: Tower Wizard, Manticore, Dragon
STAMINAStamina ranges from 3-46, spread pretty evenly. Remember that creatures that use spells don't spend Stamina on them, so you don't need to adjust for that. This is just a measure of toughness. Base your score on how long you want them to stay up in a fight.
  • Weak 3-6: Gremlins, Pisceans, Sympathy Serpent
  • Average 7-14: Feathered Folk, Knights of the Road, Lizard-Folk, Orcs, Man-Beasts, Living Dead, Trolls, Harpys, Tower Wizards, Parchment Witches, Thinking Engines
  • Tough 14*-21: Cyclops, Salamanders, Ogres, Manticores, Dolms, Alzabos
  • Titanic 22+: Dragon, Ekodat, Loathsome Wurm
* 14 is a kind of slip-point between really tough humanoids and loutish or "puny" giants. And if you prefer, you could use 3+ 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, or 4d6 as rough "hit dice" guides for creature size.
INITIATIVEInitiative ranges from 1-8, but only 4 creatures out of 36 exceed an Initiative of 3. Creatures with multiple, area, or follow up attacks need an extra point or two to get those in. 
  • Slow 1: Goblins, Living Dead, Trolls
  • Average 2: Pisceans, Feathered Folk, Knights of the Road, Orcs, Lizard-Folk, Man-Beasts, Tigers, Parchment Witches, Thinking Engines
  • Fast 3: Gremlins, Harpys, Tower Wizards, Cyclops, Salamanders, Ogres*
  • Supernatural 4-8: Alzabo, Manticore, Loathsome Wurm, Dragon
ARMOURArmour ranges from 0-4.
  • None 0: fifteen creatures from Living Dead to Tower Wizards
  • Light 1: nine creatures from Goblins to Thinking Engines and Ogres
  • Heavy/Tough 2: six creatures from Trolls to Cyclops
  • X-Heavy/X-Tough 3: five creatures including Salamanders and Manticores
  • "Impervious" 4: the dragon
DAMAGEDamage as weapon or creature size/type. Seriously, I can't make this easier than just thinking about the creature's "weapons" and looking at the damage tables for a comparable. 
MEINPick any six labels. They don't need to represent any kind of sequence and there are 158 unique ones among 36 monsters, so I think it's safe to say you can be creative. Common ones are Aggressive, Confused, Curious, Fearful, Hungry, Playful, Spiteful, Tired, and Watchful. Some of my personal favorites are: Absent-Minded, Beatific, Blooming, Doubting, Hagridden, Inveigling (and Fake Inveigling), Mewling, Plagued by Thought, Rancorous, Rowdy, Smug, and Unstable. 
SPECIALSSpecials aren't always directly combat-oriented. While the Manticore and the Dragon have special combat attacks, lots of other creatures have specials like the Cyclops' foresight, the Parchment Witches spell variety, or the Pisceans' penchant for eating the party's supplies. 
The DataIn case you are wondering where these numbers came from, I put the Troika! creatures into a spreadsheet (also in available in comma-delimted form). Enjoy.
Converting from Advanced Fighting FantasyTroika! is based on Fighting Fantasy. The monster manuals for the RPG based on FF (AFF) is called Out of the Pit and Beyond the Pit. The presentation of each is slightly different: 
Troika! Goblin
Skill: 5
Stamina: 6
Initiative: 1
Armour: 1
Damage as Weapon Mein
1 Curious
2 Dismissive
3 Preoccupied
4 Gossipy
5 Overly Friendly
6 ParanoidAdvanced Fighting Fantasy Goblin
Skill: 5
Stamina: 5
Habitat: Hills, Plains, Wilderness, Caves, Dungeons, Marshes
Number Encountered: 1-6
Type: Humanoid
Reaction: Hostile
Intelligence: Average The stats are The obvious differences are that Troika! includes Initiative, assigns a number to Armour, and teases out the reactions with a Mien table. AFF, on the other hand, supplies a Habitat, Number Encountered, and Intelligence rating.

To convert an AFF monster to Troika! you will minimally need to assign an Initiative number, Armour rating, and Damage Track (or list it as "as Weapon"). You can obviously work with the ranges above. The rest is icing. And you shouldn't need to adjust the scores where the two systems' stat categories align.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solo Gaming Part 1: Why Not/Why?

The Viridian Scroll - Tue, 07/02/2019 - 17:36
TLDR: I try to shatter some assumptions about solo RPG play and discuss reasons for trying it.

Prejudices and misunderstandings abound when it comes to solo gaming, and it would try my patience to address all of them here. Snap judgments like "I guess it's okay to just try out the rules" or "Sure, but it's not like really role-playing" are, as of this moment, gently but firmly set aside. I want to begin from a place of no assumptions.
It seems strange to me and totally incongruous with the notion of using one's imagination NOT to enjoy playing alone. – Stephen GilbertWhy are the majority of wargames played by more than one person in the first place? – Stuart AsquithThese quotes are from blog posts on the hobby of solo wargaming, but I think they are legitimate and disarming questions from which to approach solo RPG play. They invert the assumptions that solo play is something you only do when you can't find other players or that it is inherently weaker, qualitatively, due to the lack of other players.

When playing RPGs what do others bring to the table? More, and more diverse imagination, sure. Also a kind of surprise factor – ideas that originate from outside of our own experiences. Other players help us increase bandwidth so that there can be more things going on and more characters acting simultaneously, with a low cognitive load on each individual player. Other plays allow us to immerse in a single role and to not try to imagine what other characters, villains, or monsters are doing, or how the world itself reacts to our probings. Other players make RPG play a social event.

That seems like a lot!

But it would be wrong to think that you can't take on a character role (or roles) on your own or achieve some of the same diversity and surprise with other tools – dice and tables, primarily. Before you dismiss this idea, think of gamers you have played with before. Can you not imagine what they would do, in character, given certain situations? I won't say that replacing other players is easy, but a sufficiently complex "model" in our heads or in some table-driven programmatic form can give us very similar results. After all, Game Masters do this all the time – jumping from one NPC to another with sometimes radically different backgrounds and agendas. Additionally, playing alone removes most time constraints, making bandwidth less of an issue. And a degree of social interaction, of a different kind, can be had by sharing your play narratives with others.


You can worry when your characters start talking back. :)

All this amounts to a "why not?" argument, but let's switch to the "why" of solo RPG play.

To deal with a lack of players.
We might suffer from a lack of other willing participants. Of course, the online world has made this less of a problem. With a decent Internet connection and a little exploration to find the right groups on social media platforms, you can find other gamers willing to play with you. However, getting an online game started usually requires you to be reasonably flexible in arranging times and chosen systems. Your "why" could be that you have lots of available free time at odd or unpredictable hours and that you want to play a specific system or setting that doesn't capture the interest of others.

To learn or practice.
Solo play is an ideal way to learn rules, test modules, practice voices, etc. There are tools out there for working either end of the scenario – tools that simulate parties of adventurers so that you can practice running a game or scenario, as well as tools that emulate the game master so that you can try those same systems or modules out in character.

To entertain.
We can't overlook the argument that it's just plain fun. Maybe you already have a gaming group, but you want to play more than you do currently. Maybe you are looking for something to do when you suffer from insomnia or when you are stuck in a hotel while traveling for work or as a quiet-time respite from all the computer, tablet, and phone screens you stare at the rest of the day. Don't be embarrassed to embrace solo play. Why is telling yourself stories somehow pathetic but passively absorbing stories through the television an acceptable pastime?


I seriously doubt this list is exhaustive. Feel free to add your own reasons "why" or your "why not" reasons – the things that keep you from solo play – in the comments below.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Initiation Dungeon!

The Viridian Scroll - Sun, 06/30/2019 - 18:21
Glen Robinson shared this wonderful old cartoon in response to Dungeon Logic. Here we have a dungeon designed for "initiation" and lots of cool (and lethal) ideas. It's also fairly trippy.

Betty Boop: Bimbo's Initiation, 1931

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Art and Innovation

The Viridian Scroll - Sun, 06/30/2019 - 18:08
TLDR: same old art = same old ideas; challenge yourself. 

I was recently re-discovered the art of Kay Rasmus Nielsen and Virginia Frances Sterrett. In their work you can see the illustrative qualities of Arthur Rakham mixed with the design sense and Art Deco stylings of Erté!


Kay NielsenVirginia Sterrett

Take a moment (or a few dozen) to absorb the art styles I'm talking about here with some quick Google image searches, it will feed your soul.


Looking at these artists started me thinking about the range of styles, or relative lack of range, in modern fantasy art. You don't see works like this very often! Why not? This next paragraph is the result of a good deal of rumination and, frankly, the result of writing more than 4,000 words and then erasing them.

Where you find innovate art, you will find the innovative words they inspired. Where you find innovative words, you will find the innovate art they inspired. Conversely, the "same old art" – speaking stylistically – will give rise to the same old ideas, and the same old ideas to the same old art. 

I have so much more to say about this, but it's all messy and sounds like a value-laden manifesto. The take-away is this. Look at your RPG book shelf. Consider the art you find there. Are you programmed, or being programmed to think about fantasy in only certain ways? Challenge yourself! I could tell you where to look, but part of the joy is in the exploration. Different things are out there! Exciting things, innovative things, weird things. Things that will make you uncomfortable but which will help you grow and pull your imagination out of long-established ruts.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Scrolling for Moon-Powered Monsters?

The Viridian Scroll - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 16:29
TLDR: imagining spirit-monsters that are bound by circadian rhythms.

The Bakemono Zukushi Scroll
Check out this Edo-period Japanese Monster Manual ... er, I mean painted scroll featuring shape-changing Bakemono. The artist and date is unknown, though it is thought to hail from the 18th or 19th century.

A portion of the Bakemono Zukushi Scroll
One of the great things that comes out in the discussion of this scroll is the way whole classes of monsters are distinguished by the time of day in which they are active.

The founding father of minzokugaku (Japanese folklore studies), Yanagita Kuno (1875–1962), drew a distinction between yurei (ghosts) and bakemono: the former haunt people and are associated with the depth of night, whereas the latter haunt places and are seen by the dim light of dusk or dawn.It reminds me of the three spirits that visited Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens' Christmas Carol, each one appearing only when the other had disappeared. Of course they represented a sort of chronology (past, present, future) and they could only appear on Christmas night. But the association for me is that gateways to the spirit world may operate a bit like a time-lock vault that is regulated by the calendar, the moon, or the day/night cycle.

Circadian rhythms would be a really interesting twist to put on creatures in your RPG adventures. The characters might be in an otherwise safe place, and then twilight comes, or the witching hour, and things get dicey (literally). This idea also works as a pacing mechanic. In the "off-hours" characters could run around in relative safety, trying to find some formula or weapon to use against the creature(s), but the clock is ticking and they must assemble the right things and perhaps even be at the right location to drive off or destroy the monster(s).

Perhaps a villain who is invincible except at sunrise and sunset. Or malformed spirit creatures that can only break through to the material world when someone harbors violent thoughts at midnight.

Another parallel, in my mind, is the play of light and dark in The Lord of the Rings. Orcs went all weak-in-the-knees in sunlight, so there was a measure of safety while during the day – or at least while abroad under a sunny sky. At night you wanted to be behind fortified walls if you could. And, I believe it is Gandalf who says "look for my coming at first light" and Aragorn who calls down to the Uruk Hai "None knows what the new day shall bring him ... Get you gone, ere it turn to your evil." Of course that sense of safety was soon to be eroded by the blanket of dark clouds Sauron sent forth to shield his troops.

There's a lesson to be had there. Once the characters figure out that the evil sorcerer comes at twilight, because that is when his powers are strongest, how can you surprise them? How could you artificially induce twilight? An eclipse, perhaps?

There's a lot of meat on this bone. And a lot of cool ideas for creatures embedded in that scroll, as well as ready-made, copyright free illustrations!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Troika's Strong Bones

The Viridian Scroll - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 17:00
TLDR: when writing new material for a system like Troika!, don't be fooled by system simplicity. Simpler systems are often more tightly crafted and therefore easier to screw up. 


Troika! art by Andrew Walter
I recently ran a session of Troika! by Daniel Sell (order it here) for the first time. Having read it over a several times, made my own notes/cheat sheets, and even written some material for the game as well as having run it, I feel like I can make some comments on the system's core architecture. It's not a deep system, or I wouldn't even attempt this kind of statement after only one outing at the table!

That's the "what" of this article. The "why" is because Troika! is very "hackable" and I see people out there writing material for it, mainly new backgrounds or creatures, with almost no understanding of the system. By that I mean, they are writing things in such a way that it runs counter to the spirit of the system, is not intuitive within the context of the system, and ultimately may be destructive to the play environment of the game.

Here are the core tenets as I see them, in no particular order, each concluding with a statement about how they should affect your design-brain.

Based on 2d6
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the game uses only d6s to accomplish all of its goals. Most player actions are resolved with a roll of 2d6, usually under a skill or versus an opposing roll. In addition to that, all randomness in the game is based on simple six-sided dice. Creature reactions (miens), for instance, are expressed in a d6 table. And one rolls for a background using d66 (two d6s rolled in the manner one rolls two d10s to get d100, which is to say one die for tens and one for the singles).

Rolling 2d6 gives you a curve whereas rolling d66 (or d6, or even d36) generates an even distribution. But since rolls other than 2d6 are used exclusively for random table stuff, not task or combat resolution, I think we can safely say that the success of actions in the game are more predictable than in a flat d20 style curve. (It's easier to figure your "odds" in a d20 universe as every 'pip' represents a 5% swing, but it's easier to predict success or failure when a curve is in play, since results of 6-8 occur 44.5% of the time.) That's aside from the main point I want to make, however, which is...

Don't create material for Troika! that uses dice other than d6s.

Backgrounds over Setting
Troika! builds an implied setting using the 36 (d66) backgrounds included in the core book. We know there are "golden barges" that carry passengers between the "crystal spheres" primarily because there are references to them (barges) in the backgrounds for Cacogens, Lansquenets, and Thinking Engines. We encounter spell magic first in the Befouler of Ponds background, and in several dozen other backgrounds as well, before we get to the mechanics of spellcasting or the spell descriptions. Creatures, items, and spells are other places where one can create setting, but they are usually foreshadowed in backgrounds. (Gremlins are foreshadowed by the Gremlin Catcher, demons by the Demon Stalker, and guns by the Cacogen, Lansquenet, etc.) Consider that the Chaos Champion has in his possessions list ritual scars and a nearly full dream journal! Those add ideas as to what a Chaos Champion is (how he lives, thinks, acts).

There are no text-heavy passages of pure setting and every item that might be categorized as setting has direct rules implications. While a spell listing may or may not contain stats, it is something that directly affects the fictional world when brought into play. There are no instances that run contrary to the "Chekhov's Gun" principle. If a thing is represented, it is intended for use; there are no purely ornamental set decorations, which is a shock given how baroque Troika! feels.

Utilize backgrounds to build the world; don't write pages of setting lore.

[Edit: I think adding setting through d66 tables is within bounds as well.]

Skill Specificity
Some have described the skill system in Troika! as a mess. I don't believe that is the case. It is true that there is no exhaustive taxonomy of skills, as one sees in most traditional RPGs – any that feature skills at least. And the book encourages you to make up new skills as needed. However, in reviewing the skills you see a consistent level of specificity. There is no catch-all "fighting" skill, only skills like "hammer fighting," "wrestling," or "fist fighting."

One can assume a character that has advanced skill in fighting with fusils, would not be especially trained in bows, even though both are missile weapons. Hence the need for a default skill stat, which represents a kind of natural dexterity or deftness of mind, and advanced skills to represent training. Writing a new skill that is too broad; e.g. weapons or logic, erodes backgrounds (by trumping a more specific skill) and makes the game more boring (applies to too many situations).

Be mindful when you write skills! Make them sufficiently narrow/situational.

Interaction Over Combat
Only three spells specify damage and many backgrounds lack an advanced skill in any form of fighting. 'Nuff said? If players want to fight, they will. The Assassin's Dagger spell can be used to send a poisoned blade after a target, but it can also be used to send a message scroll. Troika! is heavily focused on exploration and imagination, partly because it leaves so much white space that players can/must fill with their own inventions and partly because what is provided is often already weird.

Whenever possible, create material that is flexible – without a narrow focus on combat.

Summary
Troika! is a different animal. You get that from the minute you pick up the book. While feeling very ornate with it's bizarre art, high-end production values, and exotic "classes," the underlying core is a lean, mean machine. And the two, exotic flavor and simple mechanics, are married like two sides of a coin. You can't write new mechanics without writing new flavor and vice versa. So be mindful when you create and hew closely to the established patterns unless/until you have a deep enough understanding of the game to break those patterns for a purpose.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sagas of Midgard

Stargazer's World - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 09:37

I am lucky enough that in my day job I both work from home and work entirely online. What this means is that I could be pretty much anywhere in the world as long as I can get an internet connection. In practical terms I am a little more limited as it is not just me, there is a Mrs R, two horses, three dogs and a scattering of grown up children and grandchildren.

What I did do recently is move from the far south west of Cornwall, UK to about as far north as you can get in the UK. I am spending seven months living on Shetland. I have swapped Celtic legends and Cornish Giants for Norse myth and legend. This a little bit of an adventure.

And talking of adventures… I have been playing Sagas of Midgard for the past two weeks and I have come to really enjoy the game. The game is very rules light. It has a single rule for resolving everything. The GM sets a target number and the players roll a d100 and add whatever they can to it and try and roll over the target number. It is one of those games where the GM doesn’t roll any dice. Combat is players roll to hit when they attack and they roll to dodge when they are defending.

What appeals the most is that this is a game where the heroes are heroic. D100 systems have a nasty habit of thinking they need to be gritty and realistic. I think it is the fact that a single roll has a hundred options means the designers feel they need to use them all (slight exaggeration).

Just look at this quote about should giants using bows be able to shoot further than humans, *not* from Sagas. “But m/(m+mv) scales in a way that depends on the relative contribution of m vs mv. If we assume m is much more important than mv, that simplifies to m/m and velocity will double because m/m * L is double. If we assume mv is much more important than m, that simplifies to m/mv and velocity will remain constant. So, the actual scaling is somewhere between x1 and x2, dependent on the relative contribution of m vs mv.

I found one reference that suggested for a bow, mv is about 20% the weight of an arrow. It may be much higher for a thrown weapon…? Would be good to see some numbers. But my initial impression is that Dan’s approximation of x1.41 (square root of 2) is within the range of x1 to x2 and not unreasonable.”

Really? There is a point at which when dealing with giants and dragons you kind of have to leave the physics behind. Back in Cornwall one of our local giants, Trecobben, could throw a rock the size of a VW Transporter seven miles. I would like to see the calculations for that (not!).

Sagas is NOT that sort of game. Sagas is all about the story, heroic action and dying well in battle. There is a great rule called With Joy I Cease which allows the player to trade the death of their character in exchange for delivering a truly heroic blow either killing a normal creature outright or delivering a massive wound to unique creatures. It is better to die honourably with your sword in your hand and enter the halls of Valhalla than to die in your bed as an old man.

All in all Sagas of Midgard is a great little game, fast to learn, simple to play and the core system has loads of potential to expand into other genres due to its sheer simplicity.

Related posts:

  1. Midgard
  2. Review: Midgard Bestiary Volume 1
  3. Review: Midgard Bestiary (Pathfinder Edition)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter: Odyssey of the Dragonlords

Stargazer's World - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:33

Modiphius is more active than ever. I just heard from their PR assistant Panny that they just recently started another Kickstarter project which has been funded in its first 24 hours. They are raising funds for “Odyssey of the Dragonlords”, and 5th Edition adventure book inspired by Greek mythology and written by Arcanum Worlds which has been founded by ex-Bioware people. This might definitely raise some eyebrows … and in a good way.

Odyssey will be an about 260-paged hardcover book containing an epic quest in the world of Thylea which will take a party of adventurers from 1st to 10th level. The artwork shown on the Kickstarter page looks gorgeous, and if you want to delve deeper into it, there’s already a free Player’s Guide to Odyssey of the Dragonlords available on DriveThruRPG.

If you’re a fan of D&D 5th Edition and Greek myth, you definitely should give this Kickstarter a look.

Related posts:

  1. How not to run a Kickstarter to fund your RPG
  2. Preview: Odyssey–The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management
  3. Kickstarter: Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

James Albert Smith Jr (1968–2019)

Stargazer's World - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 06:48

On April 10th James Smith known for his OSR blog Dreams of Mythic Fantasy passed away. I didn’t really know him, but I’ve read his blog from time to time. Regardless it always saddens me deeply when someone from our small community of RPG bloggers dies. My condolences go to his family and friends.

James’ family has set up an obituary page, where you can leave a tribute. If you want to support his family with the funeral costs, you can donate to their PayPal account.

Related posts:

  1. RPG Blog Anthology
  2. Roleplaying music: An interview with James Semple
  3. Kickstarter: RPG Smith

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

John Carter of Mars Live Play

Stargazer's World - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 06:21

I don’t actually remember when I first learned about Edgar Rice Burrough’s series of books about a civil war veteran from Virginia who suddenly finds himself on Mars,  but I immediately fell in love with it. I even love the not-so-successful Disney movie from 2012. It took some liberties with the story, but in my opinion has perfectly captured the atmosphere of the books.

And so has done Modiphius’ John Carter of Mars roleplaying game. So it’s no surprise that I just had to support the Kickstarter project back in January 2018.  The fulfilment took a bit longer than expected, but the long wait was definitely worth it. The books I got so far are gorgeous! Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to give the books a closer look yet, that’s why Modiphius’ upcoming Live Play is of interest to me. I have played another game using their in-house 2d20 System before, but John Carter of Mars uses a simplified version which could make things easier for new players and also speed up play. Especially during combats 2d20 always felt a bit slow. But I digress.

The live play will be on Facebook Live and will start on Wednesday, 17th of April, on 3 PM BST. Hopefully this will be a great opportunity to learn more about how the game plays. So save the date!

If you want to learn more about the John Carter roleplaying game, check out the official site, or watch the videos I posted below!


Enjoy!

Related posts:

  1. Lazy Friday Video post: “John Carter of Mars – Full Trailer”
  2. Games I am excited about: 2018 Edition
  3. 5 Reasons Why You Should Get The New Star Trek Adventures RPG

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Escape The Noose, A Zweihänder Adventure

Stargazer's World - Sun, 04/14/2019 - 06:30

ESCAPE THE NOOSE is a Zweihänder adventure from Nights of the Shed that makes full use of the Main Gauche [MG] supplement. The booklet does say that you may want to use Main Gauche, I would say it is virtually essential. I am not saying this is a bad thing, rather I think it is a great adventure to introduce some of the cooler parts of the Zwei addon companion to a game.

The stand out thing for me is the setting for this adventure. It is as close to ‘real world’ as I have ever seen in a published adventure, that included spell casters in the NPC list. What ESCAPE does is place the PCs into real world historical events and these play out as a backdrop to the characters’ trials and challenges. Zweihänder is not a game where the PCs are going to change history and turn back armies, the history books are probably safe.

The ‘adventure’ and I use the quotes intentionally is intended to last just one or two sessions and is best suited to bringing characters together and bonding them into a party. For that alone it is a great tool. The down side is that it is not really much of an adventure. There is one entry point and one exit point and a list of set play encounters in between.

So is this a good adventure module? I think it is. It is a little railroad but for a first session with new characters that is fine. At the end of the written module there are a number of ways the characters story can go, that is where the freedom to tell their own story really comes in.

Even through this is built out of a string of set plays the characters still have options. Zwei characters are not renowned for being heroic, just surviving is often enough. In the characters escape they have those opportunities to someone’s hero even if it is just one life at a time and their actions buy the victim just a moments respite.

You do not really have to take my word for this as you can listen to an actual play of this adventure on Sound Cloud https://soundcloud.com/user-458434613. I confess that I have not listened to it. There is not much in role playing that I don’t do but watching or listening to other people play is one of the things I simply don’t get.

Related posts:

  1. ZWEIHÄNDER
  2. ZWEIHÄNDER supplement round up
  3. Zweihänder Collaboration

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Luridian Assassin

Graphite Prime - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 16:22


Luridian Assassin
AC: as chain (breast plate, gorget, and face-plate) HD: 5d8 (30 hp)Attacks:   
  • 2 with a Luridian long-sword, +7 to hit, 
  • Damage: 1d8+2
  • Critical Hit on a natural 18, 19 or 20. 

Initiative: +4Stealth: 4 in 6. Save As: fighter 10AL: neutral  Morale: 11 XP: 350     If the Luridian wins initiative she will size-up her opponent, letting them act first, thus gaining advantage on her first strike.
Luridian Assassins have their eyes burned out at birth, yet somehow they can see…
They will never use magic or poison.
Nobody seems to know why or how they choose their targets.



Luridian Assassin

About the drawing  The more I draw in ink, the more I want to.  This was a pure ink sketch, no pencils or digital altering (except to remove my signature; didn't like the way it looked for some reason, and I've been experimenting with a new signature involving GP for Graphite Prime.)  Anyhow, I'm beginning to love the chaos of drawing ONLY in ink.

R.I.P. James Smith.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ballad of the Pistolero

Stargazer's World - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 06:00

A friend of mine has, completely by chance, been working on a Wild West RPG called Ballad of the Pistolero. I say completely by chance because the topic only came up when I was talking about my Devil’s Staircase Wild West RPG. The chances of two different developers writing wild west game at the same time has to be fairly low. It is hardly the most popular genre.

Anyway, DS Wild West is still plodding its way through public play test with over 300 downloads so far and I get a new download about every day. I have even set up a Discord server for play testers.

So a bit more about Ballad of the Pistolero… Foxwood Games tried to make a very cinematic action based wild west game but has included elements of Zweihanders d100 system in that mix. You can take a look at the test rules as there is a link to them near the bottom of the Kickstarter pitch. Making the test rules available is a nice idea as it does mean that backers get to know exactly what it is they are buying into if they support the pitch.

As this is a friend’s pitch I will particularly encourage you to take a look and lend your support. Not that I am biased at all!

Related posts:

  1. Lazy Friday Video Post: Ballad of the Monster Manual
  2. Remember that Wild West game?
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

I think I finally “get” Fudge

Stargazer's World - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 06:51

Since I first discovered it many years ago I have been struggling with Fudge. There are aspects I love like it’s skill system and dice mechanic, but other parts of the game totally confused me. Yesterday I actually realized what may have contributed to this confusion.

I don’t actually remember where I first learned about that game, but eventually I tried to track down a copy. The only official copy available in print at that time was the 10th Anniversary Edition. It’s a huge tome with many optional rules, variant rules, and tips on how you can handle things in your game. When I first read it I was utterly confused. The basic mechanics were simple and easy to understand, but I still wasn’t sure on how to actually do things.

I had some success running a Fudge game set into the Fallout universe. Using the computer game as a basis helped me deal with some of the issues I had with Fudge at this point. I just copied attributes and skills from the computer game and instead of gifts and faults I copied Fallout’s perks (which are basically just gifts).

You have to understand that Fudge is built on the premise that you as a GM can pick and choose on how you want to do things. You can freely pick which attributes you want in your game, what skills to use, how combat works, et cetera. But it also allows you to just “fudge things”. This means that you can easily have a game in which each player character has a totally different set of attributes. For checks you just use what you deem appropriate. The moment you accept that this is a possibility, the confusion begins to clear up. I too often worry that I am not playing a game “right”, as if this was a thing. I fear my brain is just wired that way. Realizing that “fudging it” was actually the right way to do things, or at least one acceptable method, made things click for me.

Sure, you can pick exactly what you want to use in your game. And at least when it comes to certain mechanics this might actually necessary to avoid discussions at the game table, BUT when it comes to attributes, skills, gifts, and faults, you have much more freedom.

I also noticed that it’s probably best to check out the free 1995 edition of Fudge first, before delving deeper into the 10th Anniversary Edition. It’s about 100 pages long and contains everything you need to get started. The larger 10th Anniversary Edition has more stuff, but it might also be a bit overwhelming at first. Alternatively I can also recommend picking up “The Unexplained” by Carnivore Games, which is not only a great introduction to Fudge, but also a very cool game in its own right – especially if you have a soft spot for ghost hunters, cryptozoologists, and UFO “researchers”. You can check out my review of said game here.

So what do I plan to do with my greater understanding of Fudge? I really don’t know yet. I haven’t really run anything in a while, and I still suffer from some anxiety. It isn’t that bad that I can’t make plans, but it’s still bad enough to keep me from making any concrete plans. I have at least two players who are basically willing to play everything I am interested to run, so I might run a Fudge one-shot to get my feet wet again. I’ll keep you updated.

Related posts:

  1. How I stopped worrying and just used Fudge
  2. 5 Reasons Why You Should Check Out Fudge
  3. My quest to run a Fudge game

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sision Tower Now Available!

Graphite Prime - Wed, 03/27/2019 - 21:37



Some time ago, the wind began to sing of death in the Sision River Valley, and if purgatory was a song, Glovakians are now listening to it.  The source of  this soul-crushing music was tracked to 90 miles northwest of Ambir.  What was found?   A massive, oddly built stone tower that wasn't there before. 

Word quickly spread and the curious set out in droves.  Many turned back however, as every passing day the music got worse, but a brave, or foolish few, managed to make camp and eventually go inside.  If anyone’s made it out, no one really knows, but there’s no shortage of rumors as to what's really going on in the place that has come to be known as, Sision Tower.
Sision Tower is an OSR styled, vertical dungeon-crawl where the PCs explore an odd domain of Holy origins.  Here, they will test their survival skills as well as their Faith.  Here, they will meet Saints and Seraphs.  Here, in the struggle between Law and Chaos they have to decide.......Plunder?? ...Sacrifice??...or Both!!!

Sision Tower includes:

  • All original black and white art.
  • Over a dozen, fully illustrated, new magic items.
  • Unique monsters and a sample setting.
  • A vertical dungeon crawl of 35 rooms.
  • A spiritual setting in the same vein as Praise the Fallen.

Sision Tower is designed to challenge character levels 3-5 and is easily used with most traditional fantasy role-playing systems.  39 printer-friendly pages, now available at DriveThruRPG!   



Sision Tower



For all who purchase...Thank You!




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter: RPG Smith

Stargazer's World - Mon, 03/25/2019 - 07:26

This is just a quick update to let you folks know that the Kickstarter campaign to fund the RPGSmith (check out my article about it) GM features is now live. They need about €22,125 to add new functionality to their web application. Following are the GM features they want to add if the fundraiser is successful:

    • Create and manage campaigns (similar to Rule Sets in the current player version).
    • Invite player accounts to join their campaign.
    • See their player’s character’s dashboard.
    • Make updates to anything on their player’s characters, including character stat values, inventory, etc. (If allowed by the Player)
    • Make updates to the Campaign settings (such as creation/removal of character stats, new items/spells/ abilities, updates to the default dashboard, etc.) which would be automatically updated for the PCs.
    • Provide a chat interface which all users joined to the campaign can use to sending private or public messages with anyone else in the campaign.
    • Share handouts, images, and other information with the players through a document sharing interface.
    • Build and control a campaign page of tiles visible to the players where the GM can store text, notes, images, counters, and other tiles.
    • Provide all users in the campaign access to share Dice results in real-time.
    • Have access to a campaign dashboard similar to the mock shown below. This will give GMs a high-level view and instant access to content they control in their campaign.

For more information on RPGSmith and the fundraising, check out the Kickstarter page.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Easy NPC Reactions

Stargazer's World - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 18:44

Michael recently posted about the 3hex style of starting a game off easily with minimal prep.

I thought I would share a technique that makes for interesting and sophisticated ‘common’ NPCs but without having to do any real prep. It can also lead to some interesting spin-off adventures in its own right.

The technique is based around a cross reference between all the NPCs as you create them. I use a spreadsheet but any grid will do. You list the NPCs across the top and down the side and block out the point where they cross reference.

The point of the grid is to map out the attitudes between all the people you have created. The actual numbers should reflect the system you are playing so in B/X, for example, -3 to +3 would be about right as that reflects the Cha characteristic bonuses. If you were playing Zweihander then -30 to +30 would work well or -4 to +4 for FUDGE and FATE.

Here is an example for a small town.

So in this case any interactions between Captain Flack and the Pugh twins would be at +2 (reading across) because he likes or respects them, but the Pughs do not really care one way or another about Flack (their reaction modifier is ±0) but between Captain Flack and the Mayor is as -2 and Philby (the Mayors manservant) is -3.

The Mayor doesn’t have any strong feelings towards Flack (±0) but Philby is at -2 so it looks like the animosity lays there.

The numbers in this case were simply 1d6-3. What this gives you is a layer of social cohesion between all the NPCs in a town without having to prep and write complex back stories.

As a GM you can ‘lend’ these reactions to the PCs when they get caught between two NPCs. For example Captain Flack asks the characters to carry a message to the Mayor. He does this to avoid going there himself. If the characters have to ask to see the Mayor via Philby he is much more likely to make them wait around and just be plain awkward if Philby knows they are carrying a message from Flack.

As GM you can use this same grid to construct all sorts of small town politics. Let us look at Dora Minton, Chippy Minton’s wife. Philby has a +3 reaction to Dora but Flack has a -3. They are at totally opposite ends of the scale. Was that the source of their falling out?

Chippy Minton has a -1 reaction mod towards his own wife but she is at +2 towards him. Does that sound like he is angry at her for something and she is desperate to make amends?

This table/grid can be a source of town gossip, local tension or even great assistance to the characters. It is fast to build on the fly. If you create an NPC you can quickly rolls a couple of D6 to see how he or she is regarded by their peers. You do not need to complete the whole table at once. If the characters ask at the tavern about a place to stay you can quickly check the reactions between barkeep and two inn owners. Maybe he like one much better than the other?

I find this grid to be a really useful ‘no prep’ way of adding a layer of depth to towns and villages and the NPCs that inhabit them. If an NPC goes missing who do the local gossips start to blame? Who do you need to win over to resolve a local rivalry?

Related posts:

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

RPGSmith

Stargazer's World - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 09:00

A couple of days ago, David Sumner, co-founder of RPGSmith got in touch with me and told me about his free web application. RPGSmith is – in a nutshell – an interactive character sheet with additional features like item, spell and ability management. The current application is meant for players, but they’ll be launching a Kickstarter later this week to fund an extended version of RPGSmith which will feature a GM campaign management interface.

At the moment, the application supports the following rulesets: D&D 5th Edition, Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorers Edition, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Fate Core, Fate Accelerated, and Pathfinder. It is possible to add your own rulesets though.

From what I’ve seen so far RPGSmith could be a pretty nifty tool for players regardless whether they are playing online or offline. There is a bit of a learning curve though, but luckily the site provides users with quite a few tutorial videos.

Having an interactive character sheet definitely comes in handy from time to time, and RPGSmith has support for desktop PCs and mobile devices, which is a plus in my book. You can even customize your character sheets to your hearts content. Will it change the way we play RPGs? I have my doubts, but it’s worth a look nevertheless.

What are your thoughts on RPGSmith? Have you had the chance to try it out? Please share your comment below!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

All good things come in Threes…

Stargazer's World - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 12:44

If you have followed my blog for a while you surely must have noticed that there’s a certain white whale I am hunting for years now: an old-school D&D sandbox campaign. I’ve made several attempts to get one up and running, I switched around between various variants of the rules, sometimes abandoning D&D completely. Campaigns meant as sandboxes became more regular campaigns, and more often than not, I quickly burned out on running roleplaying games in general.

For years I have struggled with how the get things started. I either didn’t plan enough and relied on my improv skill alone or I overplanned and quickly felt overwhelmed, the fun draining out of me, like blood from a festering wound. But I think I finally found solutions to my problem. In his blog ChicagoWiz’s Games and his podcast The Dungeon Master’s Handbook he thoroughly explains his approach to old-school sandbox gaming and even provides us with countless campaign starters.

The idea behind his “Three Hexes Campaign Starters” is quite simple. You start things small. At first you come up with a short campaign idea. What is your world all about? Then you place a homebase (like a small town, keep, etc.) on your hex map. In addition to this you should come up with three interesting places to explore and place them onto the map adjacent to the homebase. This should give your players a couple of options on what to do next without overwhelming yourself of the players. Last but not least you should have three important NPCs ready: one where the party can buy new equipment and supplies, one where they can sell their loot and last but not least someone who helps them with acquiring new loot. That can be a patron providing them with incentive to explore the wilds beyond the homebase or it’s an old man sharing rumors and legends with them.

You can then expand on this by adding more hexes, more locations, more NPCs as needed. You don’t have to plan out more than what you can use in the next session. It also should provide enough options without paralyzing the players with too many option. If you want to learn more about Michael’s ideas on starting a starting a sandbox campaign, I highly recommend his post titled “Just Three Hexes”.

Related posts:

  1. From my reading list: ChicagoWiz’s RPG Blog
  2. Sandbox games: A collection of links
  3. In My Traveller Universe

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Podcast Recommendation: The Dungeon Master’s Handbook

Stargazer's World - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 08:00

This is a quick follow-up to my last post. I got in touch with Michael Shorten aka ChicagoWiz and asked him for advice on how to run old-school sandbox games. He pointed me towards the podcast he had been recording last year.

In the 17 episodes of “The Dungeon Master’s Handbook” he talks about how to run con games, how to design and run a sandbox campaign, and many more highly interesting subjects. What I particularly liked is the fact that each of the episodes is about 20 minutes in length. This is enough time to convey even complex ideas but short enough so that you can easily include it in a busy schedule.

I’ve listened to the first two episodes so far and I wholeheartedly recommend the podcast to everyone interested in old-school gaming. Unfortunately he ended the podcast after 17 episodes because of lack of audience and interest. I think it’s a shame because Michael has real talent and many DM’s could learn a thing or two from him. Perhaps some renewed interest in the existing episodes and some valuable feedback from new listeners might make him reconsider.

Related posts:

  1. Podcast recommendation: Grumpy Old Gamers
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  3. Reading Recommendation: “Quick Primer for Old School Gaming”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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