Thursday Night D&D Crew’s Characters

Planescape / Sigil / City of Doors

Most of the team met when the Lady of Pain deposited them into the Maze, a kind of otherworld prison sideways to Sigil. The group was in there for 15 years until the Lady of Pain pulled them out and asked them to serve Sigil as an Outlands Expedition Team, defending imbalances in the Outlands. The team is ambivalent about their mysterious and otherworldly patron.

Helewynn joined a game or two later, an elf (Eldadrin) who serves a moon goddess.

Logo, Outlands Expedition Team / Deputized by The Lady of Pain / Clerk Ward, Sigil

Jusko Hajek

A human fighter sent to the Maze for banditry and was guilty as charged; nowadays he’s a glorious jumble of honor, bravery and love for his friends.

DM’s Notes: Hajek was the family name of Drew’s character in our old Burning Wheel game; it is a nice tip of the hat. The Hajek family is burning there in the background.

Some of my favorite of Drew’s decisions is when he uses Hajek to highlight the greatness of the other characters.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Bugwump

Bugwump is a crotchety, frog-kin wizard. When the campaign began, it seemed like he had been put into the Maze for petty reasons but then John mentioned that Bugwump had been an Arch-mage with an eye towards deity-hood and conquest who had his powers stripped when he was sent Maze-ward.

DM’s Notes: Whenever we meet a famous wizard or lich I ask John if Bugwump knew this person when he was an Arch-Mage. As mentioned in a previous blog post, this arch-magery is a gift.

John does cool stuff in making Bugwump’s magic very amphibian and unique.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Trundle

A Dwarf Ranger who makes arcane carvings out of wood, eschewing his stone and iron heritage. The Holdfast where he was raised was besieged by Abyssal forces, a detail I haven’t delved into nearly enough.

DM’s Notes: Trundle isn’t a power-house in combat but Teo boxes clever with him and he often pulls out the wild card that ends up saving the team.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Kuru

A Halfling Rogue (Arcane Trickster) who took the fall for a heist gone wrong. Sometimes Kuru has lots of heart and other times he ends a problem with a ruthless backstab before it can escalate. The town where he was raised was a kind of ninja-enclave.

DM’s Notes: In every group there’s that one character who will jump on a dragon’s head to try to get at the dangerous beast’s eyes. Kuru is that character; Anthony is that player.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Helewynn

Elf (Eladrin) Barbarian, a holy warrior sworn to a Moon Goddess with her own strong ideas about honor. Her rage in combat will become stuff of legend and her comrades benefit from her totemic Wolf powers.

DM’s Notes: B is new to D&D and makes great outside-the-box combat decisions that are always interesting and fun. When I ask B a question about Helewynn’s thoughts on a topic, the response is always delightful.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Failed Soldier (Floldier)

Corpseflea Grave Cleric who is currently inhabiting the body of a dead thief deity. This is a heritage we brought with us from Five Torches Deep before shifting over to 5e. Failed Soldier has taken his name from the last body he inhabited and has helped refugees from a dead world mourn the death of their home.

DM’s Notes: All of these characters are delightful surprising thanks to the wonderful player choices but Failed Soldier is a particularly odd one. Not only because he’s a mote of consciousness who can inhabit corpses but because J players them with complicated soul.

Sword and Key, Rule of 3 Subject Divider

Thursday Night Delving Club t-shirt

At the start of the pandemic, a little more than a year ago, my friend, Anthony was feeling sick. It turned out to just be a cold but we didn’t know that. We were scared. I asked him if I could grab some groceries for him and leave them on his porch or get something from the pharmacy. He didn’t need any of that.

“Could you run a game?”

“Fuck yeah, I can.”

We’ve been gaming strong for more than a year now and this t-shirt celebrates that.

100% or the proceeds generated by this shirt go to Stop AAPI Hate (and Threadless throws in a few more bucks). We love the idea of our geekery and friendship somehow, in some way, making the world a better place. After the brutal hate crime last week our Asian siblings, friends and colleagues in the hobby, have had a brutal week after a particularly brutal year. It is nice to use our creativity to support them in some small way.

All of the items in this story go to wonderful charities.

LINK TO SHIRT

In which we begin Book 3, Nara and the Burning Wheel

The Ballad of Bina Janos as a rumpled softcover.

Sean and I playing Burning Wheel started out because a Blades in the Dark game we both played in had a few nights a month where he and I were the only players who could make it. I suggested a BW side-game and now, several years later, that campaign is still going. Having just purchased a map making program I made a map:

The map helped. It forced me to name things and gives things shape. The human dukes were divvied up into 3 groups that I think of as the Gold Dukes, the Iron Dukes and the Wyrd Dukes. That will help when I need to make up a human on the fly. I can see where they are from and know a bunch about what their political life is like. Naming the dwarven holdfasts wasn’t something I thought about but became important later. Only now have I started to get more firm ideas about Ostofair and Andune.

I knew the BW system wouldn’t be an issue with Sean. He might hate it (and that would be fine (but he didn’t)) but he wouldn’t bounce off it the way I’ve seen some folks do. So I asked him to take a look at the BW Situations I had tweeted and one of those tweets grabbed him.

When I imagined this campaign, I imagined a conscripted soldier who returned home to farm and just wants a peaceful life but is very aware of the perils of war. Instead, Sean burned up Bina Janos, a servant who worked in a tower at the crossroads, serving the knight there. It was not what I expected at all. The game straight up made me nervous. There aren’t many (any?) fantasy books about Bina Janos. She didn’t secretly have magic powers nor was she secretly the lost child of a queen or a knife murder goddess in hiding.

Bina was a mother who married a decent guy, a wheelwright (and it is a Burning Wheel game…huh? get it?) and had a daughter, Nara, with him. She had been taken from a nearby village during some feuding and never went back home. She got by with a skill called Soothing Platitudes, being good at her job and knowing the local gossip.

That first campaign was an exercise in GMing failure without beating up the player. In following Bina’s journey we learned and made up a bunch of mythology in the world. The Burning Wheel, an actual physical artifact that could be seen like an arcane beacon atop a northern mountain and its church. The lore behind the dwarves and the elves that was leading to war. The 17 Great Debts of the Dwarven Princes. The politics behind the human dukes and the songs of the human peasants. There are immigrants from a faraway continent who have traditionally guarded the gold mines and the caravans that take the gold from the mines to the capital after a few local knights turned bandit or rebel lord, trying to control the wealth.

During the game it was clear that a dragon still had an important elf, a consort to the elf queen, and so the second book was about a working class dwarf in charge of tunneling into an abandoned holdfast that was being squatted in by a dragon. The dragon was trapped within but still, there was real imminent danger there.

Into the Vault as a worn softcover you might find burned under some dirty towels in your cousin’s hatchback.

Pellara the Pillar would become Pellar Dragonsworn and also Prince Pellara Dragonsworn of the Vault through the course of play. That was not at all my intent. I wanted to stay away from noble games but she was born to and was the matriarch of a working class family. To be honest, having a game about a strong woman taking control of a political situation driven into the shitter by born noble princes felt pretty damned good. All of those dwarven holdfasts at the top of the map suddenly became very important. I made notes on each prince and what made those places unique.

I was making stuff up as I went and adjusting to the beliefs Sean made but I daydreamed myself enough content to give myself structure so I wasn’t ever making shit up in a void.

Arcs

In a subreddit someone asked how GM’s make character arcs. It might look like I very carefully planned everything. Book 1 and 2 are both nine sessions long.

I didn’t. I didn’t plan a damned thing. There was no arc in mind. I didn’ tknow where Sean’s beliefs would take us. I know how I want to push on them but once I push, I have no idea how Sean will react to that pressure. I didn’t want each game to be 9 sessions long and I don’t mind if Nara’s time in the campaign takes 3 sessions or 99 sessions.

Here’s what I wrote in the thread:

Just let he players deal with the problems and cool stuff and arcs will happen naturally because we are humans and we like to find patterns and familiar rhythms in things. Don’t plan the solutions, just put forth the situations filled with problems and wonder and see what happens.

Me, saying stuff, link above

This third book’s situation is more vague. We found out in the first book that Bina’s daughter, Nara, was Gifted and might be destined to be the next Arch-Mage. What does that term even mean? Arch-Mage. All we know is that an Arch-Mage is a wizard who picks up the Burning Wheel, braves its sorcerous fires and takes it down the mountain. We know that her destiny is wrapped up in that mess. I am relying on the lore we’ve built and the fact that we’ve barely scraped the surface. There is still so much that Sean doesn’t know and Nara can learn.

I’ve started writing notes about how Arch-Mages are selected and the previous Arch-Mages and how each of them has led to the current state of affairs in wizard society. We will get to see Wheelholdt from a very different point of view. I’ve been daydreaming about wizards, apprentices and how they learn, what their hierarchies are like and how they interact with the rest of human society.

B1: I’m supposed to carry the Wheel down the mountain, but nobody will tell me why! I’m going to find out what happened LAST time an archmage did it.
B2: To take the Wheel I must master the School of Fire. Great, more mentors! Ah well, fighting this prophecy has never worked out, I better get to it. I’ll find a praticioner to teach me.

One of the things BW does well is learning. Seeking out teachers and reading books can be a big deal.

I’m glad we’ve got an empty third belief to start off with, it allows Sean to jump on something that comes up in play as we get to know Nara.


Here are the playlists for the first two books. Come join us in a week for the beginning of the the third. I have no idea what is going to happen. Or…I know some stuff but have no idea how Sean is going to play Nara. We’re going to find out about the history of wizardry and Arch-Magery. We’ll see where Nara fits in all that mess and if she agrees with the prophecy told to her mother years ago that said she was destined to pick up a fiery magical artifact created by a sorcerous fire god.

We’ll be at the Actual Play twitch channel next Friday at 9PM EST or so, please stop by if that kinda thing is your cuppa tea.

Also, Sean put the first book’s games into a podcast if that is a better format for ya.

The Ballad of Bina Janos, Book 1
The Rise of Prince Pellara Dragonsworn

I’m adding a link to the third arc’s playlist just so they are all in one place:

Book III Nara and the Burning Wheel

An odd night on a barren hill

When I have the energy to do so, I try to write a short synopsis of our Trophy Gold games. The dice kept telling me that strange and terrible things were happening. Who am I to ignore them?

This was tonight’s synopsis:

In which the treasure-hunters made camp on a hill after meeting a lost soul, discussed theology, went to bed for the night, thinking that they would wake up and go plunder the Palace of the Skeleton God with Blackwolf.


The Sisters, gods, devils, and saints of this world had different plans – very different plans.

It was complicated. A goat that had lost its herd instincts entered camp and was accidentally lit on fire – an amorphous blob-beast, drawn to the hill by the sorcery, ate the flaming goat and took on its characteristics. The treasure-hunters fought the flaming goat-blog-man and killed it.


Somewhere in there a god was spoken to in all of its fell, patriarchal glory and a soulless copy of Elezio (Evilezio), an illusion of Elezio brought to life by a sorcerous mishap, gave terrible dating advice to Revel.


Sometimes it just goes like that.


We’ll get to the Palace next week.


“Even by wizard standards that was a pretty fucking crazy night.” – Blackwolf, Wizard

Cyberpunk Thoughts with Daniel


Having just recorded an episode of Daydreaming about Dragons about finding common ground in your genre expectations, this video spoke to me. We probably should have had this conversation before we started playing but I was eager to get a move-on and try this asynchronous thing. We got a little lucky in our cyberpunk thoughts aligning but there’s also a bunch of years of friendship and play in the mix.

As we began play I listened to the Neuromancer Audiobook, read Neon Leviathan, and rewatched Blade Runner. I’m listening to the Burning Chrome audiobook.

The first NPC we met was an AI who Daniel named, Stat. I’m thrilled that he decided that Lip considers AI people and wants to save Stat from corporate indentured servitude. Lip has a bit of an exhausted nurse’s cold streak; I really didn’t know what he’d do.


The game continues as Lip meets with a freelance broker for the Stat Job in a local Mongolian food joint. The Cyberpunk Nurse youtube playlist is here.

The rules we are using are from the Apocalypse World: Burned Over Hackbook.


Scum and Villainy Digital Missive

I’ve been using gaming as a good excuse to make cool looking things with the Affinity Suite. Today was a mission download for our SnV game:

COLDBRINGER CELL / TARGET: NIGHTFALL’s EQUATOR-TRAIT / CAR # 8972001 / MISSION: DISUPRT TRANSPORTATION OF RESOURCES IN ORDER TO ERODE HOUSE MALKLAITH’S ALLIES’ TRUST / INTEL: GUARDED BY 51ST LEGION

More Campaign Book Covers

Sean has our Bina Janos Burning Wheel Campaign from a youtube playlist to a podcast. He’s breaking it down into bite-sized chunks and offering commentary as he goes. If AP is your thing please check it out.

The ribbons coming off the wheel might be my crowning artistic achievement. You’ve gotta start somewhere.


Lip, the Cyberpunk Nurse, is at TTI HQ, talking to a mid-level exec and getting a feeling that not all is well. Playlist here.


Ell, the Mars Operator, is caravaning through a dried out riverbed and hoverbikes are attacking; shit is getting Fury Roadish. Playlist here.


Cyberpunk Nurse and Mars Hustle were made with templates from Canva.com and then turned into old books with Affinity.

The Ballad of Bina Janos was made with the following pixabay items and then turned into an old book with Affinity:

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Mars Times / Financial Predator

Just one of those things where you play with Affinity by putting city lights on Mars, start playing an AW Burned Over game via video play-by-post and then you look at Canva.com again and there are magazine templates and here we are…

…in-game magazines.


Mars Operator Playlist


Cyberpunk Nurse playlist


Attribution

Picture of Mars: Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

City lights torn from 3 different images by skeeze from Pixabay

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay (altered heavily with Affinity)

Magazine Templates from canva.com


Asynchronous Cyberpunk with Apocalypse World’s Burned Over Zine

Asynchronous Cyberpunk with Apocalypse World’s Burned Over Zine

Please join us! Jump on in to the playlists and let us know what you’re thinking. Cheer the protagonists, hiss at the villains and gasp at the complications as apocalyptica is barfed forth, questions are asked/acted upon and fuckery is dealt out.

It is an average night in the Mouse Peninsula when Nurse Lip gets a call to extract a mid-level corporate asshole, Mr. Roark, from a firefight in the courtyard of a storybook castle.

Click here for the Cyberpunk Nurse Youtube Playlist


Ell wakes up in his Trenchtown crash-pad to find out that he is a finalist for the prestigious Trenchtown Adventurer’s Grant for the Betterment of Mars. This is a guy who knows all of the angles, watch him work them all in the not-quite terraformed Martian hellscape.

Click here for the Mars Operator Youtube Playlist


For those asking, “Judd, what the eff is this?”

I’m MCing two games in a kind of video-play-by-post and I’m surprised at how much fun it is. At first I was all about keeping it fast and loose. Quickly, I wanted my lighting to be better and to have it look and sound cool for the video recording. I’ll get over it.

Another shock is how good the Burned Over Zine is. The Apocalypse World 2e text is a leap over the original and now the Bakers are vaulting over that with these new moves and playbooks. The new Barter rules are tight.

At the end of the day, the game comes first. I’m glad this kind of play is this much fun. If you give it a go and play this way, please let me know how it goes for ya. If you give our games a listen, please leave comments and ask questions.

With video it kinda feels like play-by-post and it kinda doesn’t. I’ve enjoyed play-by-post games in the past and it was through those games that I realized how much I really love writing. That said, it is a ton of time and effort to play a game like that with lots of keyboard sweat. I’m hoping the quick nature of video responses will keep the sweat factor down and keep the games going where other pbp games tend to fall to the wayside. Also in our favor is the 1 MC/1 PC dynamic that will cut down on exhausting lag. Time will tell.


Daniel and Jay are amazing people. Please support their work.

Daniel rocks out with cool game design at Highmoon Press.

Jay is the man behind the amazing Diceology podcast and the Madjay Zero Hustle Patreon.


Cyberpunk A.W. – B.R.E.A.M. Barter Rules Everything Around Me

Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me
C.R.E.A.M.
Get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y’allIt’s been twenty-two long hard years, I’m still strugglin’
Survival got me buggin’, but I’m alive on arrival
I peep at the shape of the streets
And stay awake to the ways of the world ’cause shit is deep
A man with a dream with plans to make C.R.E.A.M.

Wu-Tang Clan

Yesterday in our Cyberpunk Nurse Asynchronous Video Play by Post game, Daniel agreed to take Mr. Roark (fuckin’ Roark, man) to an underground hospital so he could avoid corporate assassins out to get him. He agreed to pay him.

Nurse Lip agreed to take payment in old school Trauma Team International gear but what if he went for the creds?

Here’s the move, inspired by the Burned Over zine and Apocalypse World.

Cash or Creds

When some assholes agrees to pay you in cash or credstick, talk to the MC and decide which if the payment is:

Some cash, a nice tip

Take +1 Forward on your next Barter roll

Stupid money, really opulent, more money than you are used to seeing in one place.

Take +1 Forward for Barter and Act Under Fire +Barter if what you purchase could hurt or infringe on the territory of someone else or give you an advantage over a threat, if you fail the +1 is gone.

Fuck-you-money, a monarch’s ransom, some Scrooge McDuck shit.

Buy whatever you want whenever you want but once you buy anything out of the norm word hits the streets. Threats are going to circle you.

If you should buy something really huge and game-changing (aircraft carrier, Manhattan, a spaceship, a satellite, a space elevator, a giant kaiju-punching robot, etc) scale down from Fuck-you-money to Stupid money.

Now I’m going to do my best D. Vincent Baker/Meguey Baker impression with a play example. This makes me nervous because the AW2e book has my favorite play examples ever.

An Example with further thoughts

“More money than I can count? Fuck it, I buy an aircraft carrier with jets and shit. Let’s do this.”

“Cool! Let’s talk about what buying an aircraft carrier looks like in this neon apocalypse.”

“I dunno. usedaircraftcarrier.gov?”

“Let’s think about it. There are U.S. Navy aircraft carriers for sale. Shit, there are some sailing around out there, floating without orders since the Elevator Wars looking for a place to get fuel and supplies. Every so often you hear about a coastal town getting ransacked by one.

“Your local arms dealer, Dremmer has a bodyguard with a Marines tattoo. Word is he served on one and got away. He might know how to purchase such a thing. Maybe ask him to set up a sit-down?”

“Shit, I’m not going to be able to just order one online am I?”

“Want to jack into the net and see if there is a place to buy one online? Sounds like Open Your Brain…”

See what I’m doing there? I’m not telling the player no. Shit, I think the game becomes MORE interesting if they purchase an aircraft carrier. The contact, the sales and the negotiation will be interesting to me and put lots more threats on the map.

I’m not putting hurdles in their way. I’m barfing forth cyber-apocalyptica (raids from off-shore aircraft carriers desperate for supplies…niiiice), thinking off-screen and responding with fuckery.

What I’m not doing is telling them that it is impossible or shrugging and saying that they have no idea how to go about doing that. I’m offering ideas that I think will lead to cool shit happening if they decide to follow up.

An Example That Jumps To It

“Cal wants to buy an aircraft carrier.”

Cool. Cal hands the jingle over to Captain Dustwich who heads into the Baltimore/Atlanta/Indie Triangle with a small fortune and several platoons of loyal marines. She salutes and hands Cal a saber. The people who have lived and worked on the carrier are looking up at you and your posse…”

A Mistake Example with Correction

“Brushfire wants to buy an aircraft carrier with this Fuck-You-Money.”

“No way. Fuck that. That is ridiculous.”

“Could we talk about it? If it really bugs you I’ll find something else to do. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe if aircraft carriers are a trigger but I think it could be a fun hardhold and getting to the purchase could make for some fun moves.”

Shit, yeah. Give me a few minutes to think this over. I was so surprised that I just knee-jerked a negative. Let’s take a break, let me digest and come together and talk about what that would look like, ask each other a bunch of questions.”

I don’t know what they want from me
It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see

The Notorious B.I.G.