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Magpie Ambition

I often pull open a text file and start writing some opinion piece about what things inspire me or how much I like this game or that game or some esoteric crap about evoking player agency in games or blah blah blah whatever. I read other blogs by people who apparently have all sorts of stuff to say about all sorts of gaming topics (not that that's a bad thing, I mean, I do like reading them) and while there's always that same sort of "Me too!" feeling that happens whenever I observe any creative endeavour—although the magpie-like approach undermines the appellation 'creative' to the endeavours—I suspect there's something besides ADD keeping me from finishing an editorial post. There just isn't enough weight to back my lame opinions. I haven't actually been gaming all that long, especially compared with some of the bloggers I follow. Hell, some of the people I game with regularly were knee-deep in orcish cesspits by the time I was born.

That might …

Maps: Crappy Edition

Pursuant to a conversation on G+, here's an example of how I draw wilderness maps.

Full Disclosure

Concept art is pretty cool. Not only is it a window into some weird new world, it's a window into someone else's mind, their thinking process; how they see as revealed by what they're showing you.

The same ideas can be extended to any creative process. Draft scripts, novel outlines, compositional doodles—they're all neat little windows into the process, all the more revealing for the polish they lack.

In the world of RPGs, the same could go for rules or published adventures, but the real expression of the practice is in what goes with the GM and the players to the table. What you use as cheat-sheets to either kill a monster or kill with a monster. Since so many different arts and skills converge at that table, I'm willing to bet that every has, consciously or not, developed their own toolbox of information-coding. Whole statblocks or just HD? Page numbers? Doodles or descriptions? How to do you tell yourself what you need to know? I'm curious.

So here's my n…

Dungeon Palettes

Random dungeon generator.

One. Find a map. Or an image of a place. Or a not-place which means or indexes a place.

Two.Go here.

Three. Drag an image into the image search. When the search results come up, search for 'visually similar.' Look for whatever is cool.

Four. Save image and assign it to a place on the map. If you need to write something down to figure out what it means, do so.

Using the previously saved image, repeat steps (skipping insufficiently distinct search results) until you have enough stuff to feel like the map is full.

Semantics and Sea-Manics

Skill systems

D&D's attributes and saves are already a skill system. What are classically referred to as skill systems are just a means of arranging a set of extra probability modifiers for increasingly specific situations. At some point, most RPGs seemed to have absorbed three different ways of arranging probability modifiers or die-roll contextualizers: attributes, which I suppose are the 'ground level' way of describing an object mechanically and which are thus assumed to be ubiquitous in descriptions of slayable game objects*; skills, which are often a standardized list of genre-specific qualities which will be assumed to come up each once in a campaign, but which all operate simply enough that all you need is a name and string of numbers to describe. Then there's advantages and disadvantages, a set of opposed sub-descriptors which, because they often get nonstandarized paragraphs describing them which are expected to be memorized by the player, can be written o…

Inspirare Septimana

Urban planning.

The Mug of Annwn

I just had a dream which involved a pretty neat game idea in an excellent format. While shopping in a dusty antique-store-cum-Goodwill I came across a mug from the 70s with a D&D clone printed on it. The game was fairly simple, about four columns of text, with enough space left over for a weird (unrelated?) woodcut-like picture of a menacing steam engine pointing pneumatic cannons at people on an Edwardian streetcar track. (Have at it, Freud.) The game seemed to be about some Romano-British era soldiers having gone through a gate (possibly the Ninth Gate) in search of allies in their war against barbarians and bandits in their land. Coming back (I guess) with their original twenty-plus force, two archers, and a 'Knight in a divers war' (or something like that) a Lewisian-Merlin-type figure known as Cael, Caeal or Caelus. I think that means someone gets to play a magic-user, but he's, like, A Big Deal, or is a resource the players can only draw upon via negotiation with…

Constantcon Call of Cthulhu game

Not that anyone reads this, but I'm going to try starting a Call of Cthulhu game (probably BRP, but that's not 100%, and probably classic era, but that's not 100% either) via the Constantcon Protocol in the next week or so, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. Because I'm crazy and I'm not running enough already.

If anyone is reading this, and wants to play, email me at the address in the profile.

Inspirare Septimana

The Wolves of the Sea Looked Lost and Confused

So the first playtest of UNTITLED VIKING HORROR SCENARIO ground to a halt somewhere in the midst of the fourth session. A cross-island trek turned into a desperate and unfocused speculation huddle, and when it became obvious that I was running out of in-game ways to frame their information I decided that maybe I should excuse the audience, turn up the house lights and get some feedback.

Now, the biggest and most immediate part of the problem was that I turned what should've been the one sane GMC into a PC. It looked like a good choice at the time; the number of players in attendance fluctuated from two to four people during the playtest, sometimes even mid-session. The shuffle probably wasn't helping their collective memory either. So I needed to introduce a new PC quickly, and handing them a just-met NPC seemed the quickest way to do it. In retrospect, this was the only GMC capable of explaining the scenario setting's immediate past.

The second issue, which the post-game …

Fashionable Nostalgia

Doing layout for a book chock-full of repetitive statblocks all month has made me all the more appreciative of the guys who did the layout for Chaosium books in the 80s.

Inspirare Septimana

Inspirare Septimana

Air and darkness.

Inspirare Septimana

The Witch-Nest, filled with bones and gristle and clotted blood.

Old News

If the music industry consisted entirely of sheet music and build-your-own-instrument kits, it would look a lot like the pen and paper RPG industry.

Tiny People

While I've found some pretty cool papercraft miniatures online, they all seem to be fairly cartoony, bright, heavy-lined images. That's not really how I painted minis back when I did, and the lack of options bugs me now. I wonder if there'd be anyone interested in a grungier-looking set of paper minis, if I made some?

The exception seems to be Dave Graffam's medieval papercraft buildings, which all have a more subtle set of colour choices. Once I get some extra cash I might pick up a couple.

Inspirare Septimana

GINNUNGAGAP, THE VOID BETWEEN

GINNUNGAGAP, or Ginn-Heilagr, is a yawning void that exists along what was once the terminator of a tidally-locked planet. This realm was home to primordial beings of immense learning and skill. It is said that they understood the fundamental nature of the cosmos, and in this were akin to Gods. Here, in the twilight ring between eternal fire and eternal ice, they built a heaven for their immortal bodies. They crafted hardy servitors to travel into the inhospitable realms on the sunward and spaceward sides of their world. Age after age came and passed, and they had lived so long and in such power and among so much encircling beauty that they forgot their own histories and names, believing they were always as they were and that they would be so forever.



Perhaps the forces of Chaos envied their joy, or ennui drove one of their number to rebellon or madness, perhaps jealousy or some rivalry drove them to summon uncontrollable powers, or some immutable Law decreeded that change must come to…

Inspirare Septimana and Incoming Playtest

Shimizu Corporation is busy building larval megadungeons.

In other news, I'm planning and wheeling out DUNGSHOE 2.0 tomorrow for a short test run campaign, set in a sword-and-planet style campaign called Panjandrum.

Some of the basic ideas surrounding Panjandrum been kicking around in my head since university, like this guy. I'm tossing together the Marses of Brackett, Lewis and Wells (and LXG, Vol II Ish 1), Dune, especially the extra-weird bits of Dune Messiah (the Tleilaxu were always my favourite) and all this coolconceptartand stufffromthirtyyearsofStarWars. It's kind of all mooshed in there with some reskinned D&D stuff and hipster paleontology and orbiting a Warm Jupiter for cool night skies.

The result of that is that I have to stat up telepathic Greys and Tusken Raiders as PC species for tomorrow.

Regarding the game mechanics, after playing around with more regular stat-like modifiers, I'm sticking with the point-spend approach I'm used to with GUMSHOE. F…

Quick and Dirty Name Generator

The Onomastikon is a great resource, but sometimes I get tired of wrestling with it's geocities-era layout. To fill the gap, here's a quick and dirty fantasy name generator. There's no limit to how long the name may be, but shorter names (maybe three to four letters, or two syllables) is a suggested upper limit. You and your players are going to have to remember them, after all. For the same reason, it's best to start with different beginning letters, and vary the vowel sequence too (so one 'ah-oh' and one 'eh', not two 'ah-ah's, hanging out together).

To start, roll a d6. Even numbers get you a vowel to start, odd ones get you a consonant.

Vowels
Roll a d6.
1a2-3e4i / y5o6u

Consonants
Roll a d6 twice.

1-3
1b / p2c / k / q3d / t4f5g / j6h

4-6
1l2m3n4r5s / z6th / x / w

Finally, if you're trying to tie the names together, you can add a suffix. These suffixes can either call back to real-world cultures the fantasy world is trying to evoke, or simply estab…

Beware The Idle On March

Actual work impedes on spec work, yet again, and so I miss another year of the One-Page Dungeon contest. It's interesting to note other people had some similar ideas as the one I was working on, though. Chance aside, I think we're just working through ideas for distinctive dungeon-like environments at a predictable pace. One-Page Sinster Cthulhu Cults or One-Page Disjointed Panchronal Multiverses can't be far behind. Maybe next year.

I might clean up some of the rough ideas I sketched out and post them anyway. People can always use more geomorphs, right?



In other news, I'm actualy posting comments on things, which probably means I need to get the hell away from this computer.

Inspirare Septimana

Inspirare Septimana

Carnivorous bubbles.