Sigil 6 Questions

Sigil 6 Questions

On the Indie RPG Reading Club community, a friend private messaged me a few questions about the Thursday night Sigil 6 game and I thought the questions were so interesting I asked if I could post them here along with my answers.

Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team title card

Did you intend every expedition to end up at a gate town? How did you envision “keeping balance” as the core mandate?

I didn’t intend every expedition to end up in a gate town. I figured it would be all over the Outlands and beyond. I envisioned that keeping balance would be largely determined by the players making decisions through their characters and that would be problematic, which is fun. They are serving a mysterious entity called the Lady of Pain. They probably know that, while they aren’t the baddies, this is a strange way to make a living.

I also wanted to be able to turn things I was using that use D&D I.P. into DM’s Guild products when I wanted to. I thought I’d have a support PDF for the adventures I’ve played but it didn’t work out that way.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How much time did you spend in Sigil? Was it just the denouement when factions argued over their actions?

We haven’t spent much time in Sigil – a few tweener adventures, especially as we’ve jumped into a few larger adventures through the big hardcovers (Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd). I’m probably the only one but I never liked the philosophical factions in Sigil. There is a philosophical vibe but I never mentioned the Sigil factions and the players never brought them up.

Despite that, when the characters got back to Sigil after months of in-game and out-of-game time away, it still kinda felt like home in a strange way.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

If you had to do it again, what system would you choose?

Great question. 5e is the okay-est system. My indie RPG friends who play it often sigh and say things like, “Yeah, 5e, its fine,” so often it feels like the game’s official tagline. Tell me what other system I can run with 6 enthusiastic players who show up to EVERY session every Thursday night. Librarians (public and academic), unemployed folk looking for a mid-life career change, government employee/single parents, a pharmaceutical engineer who has several bee hives for his own honey and they make time every Thursday to play this silly/amazing game. We could’ve maybe done Old School Essentials but then I wonder if I would’ve had an easy time using the mainstream adventures…maybe I would’ve pivoted to OSE adventures instead. OSE is the only other system I can think of. The Bingo XP makes it a viable game for me.

6 gamers over Zoom…I reckon I’m sticking to 5e. I also like that recently a few friends have gotten 5e gigs, so it is nice to be able to play in Ravenloft and it will be nice to see the Sigil 6 deal with the worlds in the Radiant Citadel. On one hand, I would rather support indie RPG’s than make Hasbro’s shareholders more rich. On the other hand, I don’t owe anyone shit and will play whatever my friends and I decide to play.

tl;dr I think I’d stick with 5e.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Planescape is something I’ve tried to come back to A LOT. But it’s hard because few people I play with care for it like I do. I think this OET concept could be a way to drip out the lore. All they need to know is Sigil, and we start there, spreading out to the outlands (tame) to some place like Limbo (way less tame) even to a quasi-elemental plane or something.

I also really love the concept of coming home and basically defending your actions. Feels like a mission debrief in a police procedural, except I’m envisioning green demons in togas next to gnomes, each arguing different points. In my head I want to tie THIS part to xp and advancement somehow.

https://githyankidiaspora.com/2021/05/25/outlands-expedition-team/

I’ve always been fascinated by Planescape but thought that the game promised in the boxed set is never the one I hear people talking about. I almost never hear folks talking about the Portal-Towns around the rim of the Outlands or the Outlands themselves or the way the characters’ actions rippled out through the planes. The Outlands Expedition Team is my attempt to get to that game with a strange premise.

What you are imaging, concerning the mission debrief is exactly how it goes. It has become a really fun way to celebrate other players and think about the adventures. The characters are coming up on 10th level and it feels appropriate that they are becoming adventuring rock stars now. They killed Strahd and thwarted Acererak.

At this point, I really hope we take it to 20th level. I’d love to be able to get that Gamer Merit Badge. More than 30 years playing these games and I’ve never taken a D&D game from 1st to 20th. I think we’ve go the momentum to do it and hope the scheduling holds up and we get there together. That’d be a fun landmark to hit and I think the premise has room to evolve and mutate to get us there. I can’t wait to find out what the game looks like at that level. I am excited for every session.

Or…as some folks say, “Is it Thursday yet?”

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/thursday-night-delving-club

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 0 – All the Pieces Matter

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 0 – All the Pieces Matter

Skull and bones header
Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

A new thrilling crime tale
from the casefiles of
Talis and Viktor!

the Arcane
side by side w/
the alchemical!

On the cold, learnèd streets of Ludendorf

from the team that brought you Sons of Kryos!

Witness
the most
modern
applications
of


Arcane Science!
Mythography!
Alchemy!
Criminology!
Sociology!
Forensic Science!


as used
by the 
finest
Private 
Investigators

Getting together with Jeff and Storn to catch up last week was lovely. The conversation turned to gaming. Storn has been gaming regularly (Stonetop and a project he’s playtesting) and Jeff hasn’t gamed in a few years. I pitched a idea that I’ve been sitting on for a while – pair of investigators in an Investigative Guild in Ravenloft – Gothic Fantasy Horror Crime buddy-action-flick and they were in. A week later we got together to make characters and talk Session 0 stuff.

Kranev Investigative Guild

Jeff said something about being mad science-y and Storn spiked that volleyball set with an idea about one being mad science and the other being arcane magic. It was quickly apparent that Lamordia was the domain There’s 2, maybe 3 pages of material about Lamordia in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and there’s a sweet map. That is about perfect for us.

I talked about keeping my trap shut about grand theories and ideas concerning Ravenloft’s true nature, thinking that we’d get plenty of mileage out of Lamordia before we started looking into those kinds of greater mysteries of the nature of the world around them. I tossed out the idea that maybe their first case was a murder at Strahd’s supper party but they want Strahd to be a myth to be met (or not) later. Thank goodness; I like what we ended up with much better.

Was the chapterhouse of their investigative guild a bustling and established branch or a haunted closet above a pub or a worn down mess? We went with a worn down mess; they are the only investigators and there is a House Chamberlain, Artem Aviet, missing an arm from a wound taken on the job as an investigator. On the drive home it occurred to me that Artem rides a bicycliopede to work.

Victorian bicycle from pixabay.

Starting at third level for a few reasons – it allows me to not fret about killing the characters. Also, it means they had a case or two already. Discussed options and took it a step farther, going full hit points at every level so I can really lean into the monsters and not worry much about an awkward total-party-kill.

Immediately started discussing the past cases.

Case #1: The Inspector General of the Ludendorf Constablery, Mathias Vimmer, went missing and the case is not closed.

Suspects

His Second-in-Command, now acting Inspector General Leopold Kandel, who doesn’t like them (also the brother of…more on this later)

His Ex-Husband, Lukas Kronecker, professor of biology

His daughter, Robin Vimmer – ??? who is she?

His Nemesis, unnamed as of yet, who was on a prison hulk when Mathias went missing.

Case #2: High-end burglary, using science and arcane skillsets. They got the suspects, the Shallows Gang, off. Jeff rocked out with the name and details about the gang being named for the street they prowl, where the city’s first cemetery had been but flooding kept washing away bodies. Sometimes today, floods still unearth bodies that were missed and not moved. Recent thought, the cemetery was moved so it could be better fortified against corpse-thieving anatomy professors at the local university.

Standing Stone

TEXT:
Saint Ezra in the mists. 
Standing stones like this one from a farmer's field outside of Ludendorf can 
be found all over Greater Ravenloft, depicting Saint Ezra in tasks from his 
gospels or more obscure and even heretical depictions.

The Bluetspuri War – there is a war in a faraway land. When soldiers return they have uniform scars on their heads because there is a disease in that foreign land and the medicine has to be administered through the brain cavity for some reason. The Bluetspuri War, in the craggy, surreal lands of Bluetspur, where mountains are said to be as large as gods and no one can quite agree on what the Bluetspuri are like or what makes them seem inhuman.

Why Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated? Because Storn always draws while we game (see below). Today he was taking notes but I can’t wait to see him rock out again. CLICK HERE to hire him to create art that embodies your character(s) or hire him to stuff your book with amazing art.

Talis Arsalan is Storn’s character, whose dad remarried into a Vistani Clan and runs a merchant caravan. He’s an immigrant to Lamordia and his ladyfriend, Larissa Kandel, is 8 months pregnant. She was in the war, from a military family, 95th Infantry (Ranger). Her all military family is not a fan of him about now.

We agreed Talis has a good relationship with his step-mom.

Viktor Aubrecker is Jeff’s character, is a cousin to the ruling family of Lamordia but he’s far away from any throne, 17th in line. Maybe he’ll go Rogue; maybe Artificer or some blend. His family is not happy that he let his scoundrel friends con his betrothed out of money, soiling a profitable match for the family. Rich kid turned rogue scientist – thinking about Perdido Street Station‘s Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin and his fringe-science-buddies in their warehouse apartment. Viktor’s nose is still crooked from when his father broke it. His sister is in university and they get along.

A beloved auntie knows Celia Kranev and put a word in for him. Celia hired him to get the Ludendorf Chapter House running again as a branch of her Investigative Guild.

I’m going to read up on Insight, Investigate, Perception and Persuasion – so when/if I make some changes it will be from an informed place. Discussed this and some options, confident that we’ll find houserules that work for us. Can’t wait to show them Bingo XP.

I’ve got a few half-written tables for creating cases and a few ideas on some strange jobs related to the Investigative Guild. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on audiobook is ready to roll after I’m done with War of the Worlds.

I have been daydreaming about what kind of case to write up for the first game and I think I’m going to go with classic noir trope mixed with betrothal contracts among Lamordian noblity, “I believe my husband is cheating on me and will pay you to prove it…”

Writing notes now, can’t wait.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

Does my threadless shop have a Goth Collection? Yes.

Bingo Style Experience Points after a few months of leveling up

Bingo Style Experience Points after a few months of leveling up

We’ve been using the Bingo Style Experience Points (LINK TO FIRST POST) for a few months now. The last character just hit 3rd level. The way we’ve done it is when we hit a bingo-row/column/diagonal the group gets a level to hand out to whichever character they decide. I can see different ways to do this.

Row/Column/Diagonal = Single Level

I like the table deciding where each level goes. I haven’t seen it create bad feelings but I could see how it might if there are other problems afoot at the table. It might even create problems, which is the last thing I want.

I realize that asymmetric level advancement vexes some folks. They might very well be right and if so, I’ll move things around. For now, I dig it and it stays. If anything, I might lean into that a bit, see how far we can go before the game breaks.

I think I am going to have the levels be able to go to other things – leveling up hirelings, pets and maybe an HQ. Something to consider for later…

The group makes the decision about who gets the level for reasons both narrative and strategic. Sometimes it is, “Level up the cleric and the wizard first,” thinking about artillery and healing and sometimes the conversation goes, “Helewyn clearly just learned something; she should get the level tonight…” and the level is doled out because it makes narrative sense. Other times it is pragmatic, “Is anyone still 2nd level?” I like this blend.

Sometimes we keep track of things as they happen. Other times we go over it after a scene or at a good resting spot. Some sessions folks tinker with it during a break. There have been days we’ve forgotten about it and gone back to it at the end of the session. It can be as intrusive or background as you want and still work.

I use the jamboard where we keep it as a place to store NPC names, maps and art. Players use it as a spot for character art.

Row = Party Level

Alright, everyone gets a level every time you get a row. Maybe there is a way to write the bingo squares so they are not so easy to reach. If we did it that way the party would be 20th level rather than 3rd.

Maybe add another layer of squares? Otherwise it would go too fast. Maybe only one level per session? I don’t think we hit a level every session but sometimes we hit more than one or two right at the same time. Something to work on and consider.

Clear the Board

I wasn’t sure when to clear the board and then it became very clear – whenever hits a level, we clear it. Everyone’s 2nd level…clear it. Everyone’s 3rd level…clear it.

We’d have to figure out a different time if we played a strange rule-breaking game in which a group of 1st level characters dump all of the levels into one character, who is said to be their demi-god.

“Judd, that wouldn’t work!”

I know. I want to do it anyway. It is just so strange to have a party trying to elevate one character to godhood.

Bingo Squares

I’m figuring out how to put to words what makes for a good bingo square.

Build a Bridge

Plant a Seed

Both could be literal or metaphorical and it gets us to watch out for play in which these things happen. I don’t have proof but I feel like this style of experience encourages players to pay attention, looking for their friends to do cool things.

Then there simple and literal ones that gets everyone looking for opportunities:

Spring a trap on a mighty foe

Use a mundane item as a weapon

Dress up as your enemy to gain access to a forbidden place

And sometimes going into a particular mission inspires one. When the players were going to a Faery Ball we had:

Ask someone dangerous to dance

In the week before we play, if we’ve just cleared the board, we have a thread where we share ideas. Before we start I make sure no one had an idea that isn’t represented. I add some in too. Sometimes I use what I know of the upcoming adventure but often I have no idea how the group is going to attack a problem. I never know if they are going to use dynamite or diplomacy (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

I’ve tried to keep the 3 Pillars in mind: Exploration, Social Interaction, Combat.

Last house-rule we use now – A bingo chip can be spent off the board as Inspiration. I choose the chip. I wouldn’t necessarily want players spending a chip on a square they were accomplishing with that roll. I’d want the chip to mean some kind of sacrifice.

If we hit the same bingo square twice, could we put two chips on that square and use one for Inspiration while still having a chip on that square? Something to consider…

If you use the Bingo XP Variant, please let me know. I’d love to hear the glories and challenges you experience with it at the table.

Thank you to the Thursday night crew that has been gaming regularly since the first days of the pandemic. And thanks to Aaron for talking D&D with me.

These designs and more at my Threadless Shop…

Bingo Style Experience Points

Some friends at the Indie Games Reading Club have been chatting about experience points and I just bought this lucious art bundle on sale over on itch.io, so I decided to dust off an ugly old google doc idea and use the Affinity Art Suite and some adorable bats from the British Library’s flickr page to showcase an untested idea.

Artwork used with permission by Charles Ferguson-Avery of Feral Indie Studio

Shouldn’t there be something written in the outer ring?

Yes! Everyone at the table helps fill that in. Before play the group puts ideas for things that they’d like to see in the game. Each item in the outer ring has to be something anyone could do. If you want to see the Barbarian overcome their mistrust of Sorcerers, don’t put, “Barbarian overcomes their mistrust of sorcerers.” Instead try, “Overcome a cultural bias you’ve brought with you from your homeland.” That way any character might trip over it. The barbarian might hit it but the druid might really dig coffee, tea and literate, long legged lovers that the city has to offer.

Once you make a row, you get one level. I love when groups are asymmetrical, so I’d have one level that goes to one character and then you wipe the outer board clean and start again. Which character gets the level?

  • The character with the most failed rolls.
  • The character who seems to have learned the most.
  • The character with the least levels.
  • Hand out the level by going around in a pre-established order.
  • The one character who is destined to become a living deity.

If the prompts in the middle area are not longer serving your game, change them. They felt like a gaggle of solid D&Dish prompts to me but I have a blank version of the PDF above if you’d like to make your own.

Does this work? I have no idea. I’d love to take out Five Torches Deep or Old School Essentials or even Worlds Without Number, Stars Without Number (I’d have to change up the prompts a bit) or Godbound and give it a go. If you take it for a spin let me know how it works for you; I’d love to hear from you.

Check out the art bundle sale on itch.io. It is a cool half off sale aimed at zinequest folks and has fun art.

Playtest to Find Out

When the table gets level bingo, do you clear the whole board or just the line in which you achieved bingo?

I think just the line but I’d have to see how fast levels accrue to know for sure. Hm. That is a good one. Thank you, Tony L-B. Great question.

After level 10 characters are going to level up WAY too quickly!

Maybe after level 10 you add another row outside the outer ring.


Outer Rim Suggestions

  • Told a tale of my people so that my friends could learn from our wisdom.
  • Broke a law or went against a cultural norm that is an important part of my heritage in order to accomplish a goal or keep a friend from harm.
  • Used an arcane tool (spells count) in an unconventional way to solve a problem.
  • Used a tool or mundane item as a weapon.
  • Made a binding oath with a powerful antagonist in order to accomplish a party goal.
  • Offered an enemy mercy rather than vengeance or anger.
  • Told our enemy a lie so brazen that it shocked the room and used it to get something.
  • Dressed up as an enemy to trick our way into a forbidden place.
  • Saved a friend from the brink of death.
  • Gave a rousing speech in the face of fell enemies.
  • Celebrated my friend’s cunning in public so all would know of their amazing heroics.
  • Toasted the dead so that none would forget the fallen.
  • Perished in a heroic feat so that others might live.
  • Died in a quick and brutal act of violence, a cautionary tale parents will tell their children when they say they want to be heroes.
  • Unravelled a mystery by asking good questions.
  • Learned about my comrade by asking them about their homeland.
  • Used the wisdom of my comrade’s people, taking a tale they told of their people and applying it.
  • Play into the stereotype of cold, cruel adventurers, only taking up arms for gold and experience.
  • Push aside the stereotype of cold, cruel adventurers, show empathy for those without power and take up arms in order to make the world a better place.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/heraldric-beast-that-is-displaced

DIsplacer Beast heraldry t-shirt link for you.