The Nemesis System

The above video came out and reminded me of Austin Walker’s amazing article about this.

Real Human Beings: Shadow of MordorWatch Dogs and the New NPC:

And in the analog game space, one of the major elements of the tabletop, “story game” revolution has been an increase in NPC characterization. One of the core rules in D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World is to “Name everyone. Make everyone Human.” No more sending your party of adventures to fight “Thug #1” or “That weird mutant.” A Dungeon World GM needs to think of these characters as real people, with real motivations.

Something to think about for tabletop games when it comes to crafting NPC’s with often surprising hidden depths and seeing the ways random results can bump into player actions creating something greater than the sum of its parts.

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Watching and Reading

Feels like I’m hip deep in things to read and watch about gaming today:

Orion’s Statement

Also a Tor article…

Orion Interview on Analog Game Studies

Go by Orion’s Amazing Games Here

3 Twitter Threads by Avery, here are the first tweets but check out the threads:

Indie Game Reading Club: On-ramps for Indie Hatchlings

D&Dish: Questions to ask players about their character’s Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma

Asking good questions is such a big part of being a good librarian that it was a shock when Apocalypse World first made me really think about questions as a tool at the table. Of course gamers asked each other questions before Apocalypse World; I’m not saying the Bakers invented questions or the question mark. But naming the tools in one’s toolbox makes it easier to reach for said tool and makes it easier to discuss how to use them well.

The questions here go back and forth between questions for high stats and questions for low stats. They can easily be changed a bit for the middle of the road results.

Below are the pretty versions with world bubbles and character sheets but below that is just the text.


DnD Sheet Questions


Were you born strong or did you work hard to become strong?


What is/was the worst part about not being the strongest?


What feat of strength have you always wanted to accomplish?


How did you survive without physical strength?


When you locked up with the strongest person you’ve ever wrestled, what happened that made you realize they were stronger than you?



When did you realize you were faster/more graceful than everyone around you?


What is your worst nightmare about being clumsy?


What feat of grace have you always wanted to accomplish?


What did you almost drop?


Which monster was the children’s game you were so great at named after?



What did being hale and healthy allow you to accomplish?


What was your haven during your sickest days?


What did you survive because you are so durable and healthy?


When were you most sick and who took care of you?


What did you attribute your great health to? Ancestors? Deities? The crystal clear water in the streams where you grew up?



When did you first realize you were the smartest person you knew?


How did you deal with the written word being so difficult for you?


What was the first problem you solved with your intellect?


How do you react to being called dumb?


What was the first problem you could not think your way out of?



What did you realize about the adults around you at a young age because of your incredible perception?


What problem in your community did you not see because of your lack of wisdom?


When did you first give wise advice to a friend and how did their problem find resolution?


What personal shortcoming did you fail to see until it was too late and damaged your life?


Which prayer has the most personal meaning for you?



Who were some of the first people you remember charming?


How do you recover from bad first impressions?


When was the first time you realized the power you wielded in front of a large audience?


Who did your lack of charm and social grace push away that you really regret?


What was the best performance of your life so far?

Improvisational Worksheet: from Ep 55 of Daydreaming about Dragons

This is the improvisational worksheet mentioned in Episode 55 of Daydreaming about Dragons. It was made after talking to Janaki, trying to give structure to the ways I make things up on the move when the people at the table delight and surprise me.

If you have any questions please let me know.


Improvisional Worksheet


This was made with

Travel in Trophy Gold Redux and Pretty

We played our third session of Trophy Gold last night and it is really fun. I thought I’d hate the tokens handed out in Hunt rolls but I’m enjoying the heck out of them. If a player doesn’t like that kind of meta-mechanic they can just use it as Gold but it is a fantastic way to get things moving when someone explores the environment in any meaningful way.

From, “I peak in the tomb to I look behind the tapestry to see if there’s a secret door” to “I look in the tomb to see if there’s any treasure,” I’ve seen Hunt rolls make both of those endeavors more interesting than they otherwise would’ve been.

Looking back on my earlier blog post on travel I can see places where my wording was awkward, especially after playing a few sessions and seeing these mechanics hit the table. Below is a poster I made with the travel rules, which are still slightly tweaked Hunt rolls but I think I have tightened up the wording. I wrote the previous blog post almost 24 days ago, which in 2020 time is about 73 years.

I changed safety from beasts to some protection from beasts because monsters don’t care about your damned walls. Still, some protection is better than none and every advantage you can muster when you are picking up steel against a beast is important.

More house-rules will no doubt emerge. When winter cloaks the land in ice and death and treasure-hunters bundle up in their chapter houses, does one take a dark die when one travels?

inverted-dice-6  Add a dark-colored die if you are willing to risk your mind or body in order to get to where you are going. You must include this die whenever you travel during winter’s reign of ice and death, when days are short, the ground is frozen and the veil between our world and the Quietlands is so perilously thin that some folk slip through the Bone Gate while sleeping in their own warm beds.

Travel Poster

I’ve been futzing with the layout tools in and making book covers for campaigns I’m playing in. I am really not good at graphic design and layout but learning a new thing is fun. I’ll start taking lessons on for Affinity Publisher soon.

General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Van (Arménie).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1867 – 1870.

Find this design and more in the Geek Media Studies collection…

Making Cloroshaw

Step 1: Visit the Medieval City Generator Page

Step 2: Add some numbers and letters. Paste pic.

Cloroshaw Labelled

Step 3: I’d like us to make some stuff up. We’ll need some structure.

A .The Griffon Gate
Six things the hill-folk might be bringing through the Griffon Gate

  1. herd of sheep
  2. griffon eggs
  3. captured bandits
  4. a tithe
  5. soon to be wedded couple
  6. holy relic in a sarcophagus

B. The Dragon Gate
Six things the merchant princes’ caravans might be bringing through the Dragon Gate

  1. enough caravan guards to take over the city (not that they’d never do such a thing)
  2. herd of horses
  3. rolls of fine fabric in vibrant hues
  4. statue from a faraway kingdom
  5. meat of odd creatures in crates with shaved ice
  6. baskets of exotic fruit in all manner of colors, smooth and spiky rinds

C. The Lion Gate
Six things the duke’s vassals might be gossiping about while they wait to get through the Lion Gate

  1. the weather is the Duke’s fault for not making the right offering last month
  2. how uppity the merchant princes have been getting lately
  3. the war in a nearby kingdom
  4. protection from hill-folk raids
  5. taxes is there a witch causing the cattle to act funny
  6. will the apple brandy be ready for the festival

1. The Market
Six things you didn’t expect to find in the market

  1. genuine unicorn horn
  2. an actual prophet offering to tell you your future
  3. an infamous book, thought lost, clearly stolen
  4. a comedy duo performing for tips
  5. famous bard, down on their luck
  6. a map of this city but all of the landmarks have different names

Six things you always expect to find in the market

  1. local dish, prepared perfectly
  2. pickpockets
  3. spice traders
  4. polished brass, overpriced
  5. wool
  6. outrageous haggling, performative

2. Eastside
Six types of muggers in Eastside

  1. knights
  2. squires
  3. caravan guards
  4. actual Eastside criminal with a knife
  5. Priests of the god of Thieves, practicing their religion, and giving their thefts to the poor
  6. sorcerer, using illusions to cover their crime

Six games children play in Eastside

  1. Knucklebones with real crypt knuckles
  2. Race to the Canal
  3. Round (a complex game involving a drawn circle, two teams, and sticks)
  4. Game of Dares, involving spooky places throughout the city
  5. Flips (a game using stones of two colors, a small grid, and movement along lines)
  6. Wights (involves one kid riding on the shoulders of another chasing a bunch of other children who are turned undead)

3. Lairside
Six dragon shrines you’ll see in Lairside

  1. The Hill Worm, vanquished by the hill-folks ancestral hero or just sleeping?
  2. Kurikameo the Gold, father of all dragons, who the nobles leave trinkets to so that he may increase their hoards
  3. The Star Wyrm, which is essentially the Milky Way made dragon
  4. The Green Beast, said to have eaten all of the lions that once ruled the forest
  5. Ur-Mother, said to be the dragon who birthed the world
  6. Shrine of the Earth’s Roar, a dimly lit building where you can hear the rumblings of the dragon that lives beneath all things

4. Highside
Six highborn folk you might see conspiring in Highside

  1. knight bought off by the merchant-princes
  2. Lady learning illegal sorcery
  3. noble with only his name left, his family fortune exhausted.
  4. prince on pilgrimage, slumming it in the city
  5. most attractive of the Duke’s sons, second-to-last to inherit, tentatively promised to the temple
  6. _not-so-secret artist (who has other secrets)

5. Pride Keep
Six reasons people are petitioning the duke

  1. bring the duke’s justice to a hillfolk clan for raiding local farms
  2. reduce the gate fees for passing in to and out of the city
  3. tear down one of the dragon shrines in favor of a new temple
  4. repair the griffon road
  5. demand the church brings local sorcerer to trial on witchcraft charges
  6. consolidate a large estate that was split apart by quarreling heirs.

There is a violent tussle on the streets of Cloroshaw, who shows up to break it up?

  1. mercenary caravan guards moonlighting as local law until their merchant leaves town
  2. squire of a powerful knight who can’t be troubled to show up
  3. mob of angry locals with shovels and rocks
  4. actual city guard, amazingly enough, no one expects them to show
  5. ducal house guard – lethal, brutal and simple in their decisions
  6. one of the duke’s children, doing their best to bring ham-handed high justice to the situation

How long does it take for them to get there?

  • Eastside, roll 2d6 and take the lowest
  • The Market, roll 1d6
  • Lairside, roll 2d6
  • Highside, roll 3d6
  • Pride Keep, roll 4d6
  1. never
  2. the next day
  3. 4 hours
  4. 1 hour
  5. 5 minutes
  6. immediately

Step 4: I’m going to show it to some friends and fill it out. If you do the same, post the results in the comments or a link to your post…

Step 5: Edit in what friends came up with.

Thank you, Stras, John, J.C. and Dev

Review: Superman Volume 1. The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth

Bendis does a good job juggling the cosmic Silver Age vibe (THE ENTIRE EARTH IS TELEPORTED TO THE PHANTOM ZONE) and a down to earth family vibe (Clark talking to his son about responsibility and anger, his relationship with Batman, etc.). I liked Superman thinking about his code against killing when faced with a genocidal alien who claims to have destroyed Krypton and General Zod.

Superman vol 1

The art by Ivan Reis feels like a cross between Dan Jurgens and Bryan Hitch, which is to say it is pretty amazing.

It was a fun start. I’m intrigued to see the rest of the run. Well worth picking up at your local library or local comics shop.

Rock on, Tompkins County Library for having a splendid graphic novel selection.

After the first session of Godbound

The Holy Party has returned. The Monsterists believe that they return because of the pull of the Tarrasque, that the monsters they battle offer as many lessons and as much wisdom as the heroes. The Messianics believe the Holy Party is here to save this broken world and return it to its former glory. Thronists believe it is the place, generating reincarnations of the heroes who came here before.

Chev the Wanderer used his deep understanding of Beasts and Earth to give his comrades a feast when they returned to the First Tavern. And so we give thanks and prayers to Chev the Wanderer when we feast friends who return from a long journey or sickness for the bounty at our table.

Niwin’s torch was lit from the sun itself and relit the Sun’s Daughter’s Dawnblade, returning her to grace. The Order of Niwin now light candles during the Throne Keep’s darkest hours so that folk can find their way. Praying at these lights can offer grace to the downtrodden.

Qnan put the Serpent of Truth on the Devil that was squatting in the Wizard’s Tower. Now farmers around Throne are tattooing snakes on oathbreakers to remind them not to break faith.

When villagers need aid all over the Thronelands, they often put up a rainbow streamer, in honor of Krogan the King-Thief’s illicitly procured magical airship, The Prismatic Spray.

Folk all over the Thronelands and beyond pay respects to Borrell the Wizard when they sign contracts. They shake hands once at dusk and then return a day later to sign the contract and go over the written word one more time.

Played Godbound this past weekend and just wanted to think a bit about what I did and what I would do moving forward.

While folks were finishing up their characters and ordering food, I jotted down a few random encounter tables:

2 – Baalzebul out hunting a unicorn

3 – Manticore

4 – Vampire

5 – Owlbear

6 – Bandits, the Merry Band

7 – Dwarven Mercenaries

8 – Throne Knights

9 – Elf Hunting Party

10 – Griffon pride

11 – Mind Flayer

12 – Githyanki Dragon-riders


But they one of the players had a skyship and so I wrote another one for the sky, thinking back, I could’ve just written sky alternates on the land table:

2 – Storm Giant Castle

3 – Elf Griffon-riders

4 – Feral Griffon pride

5 – Roc

6 – Roll twice, those things are fighting

7 – Pegasi herds

8 – Lightning Elementals

9 – Skyship Galleon (3/6 Pirate, 4/5 Merchant)

10 – Manticore

11 – Wyvern

12 – Githyanki Dragon-riders


looking at page 134-135 of Godbound, I went home and wrote up factions, things mentioned during the game that I’d bring in if we continued playing.


City-state ruled by Grazz’t and his demonic forces

Power 3 / d10


  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Uppity Paladin Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1


City-state necropolis ruled by Orcus and his demonic forces

Power 3  / Action Die d10


  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Raven Queen Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1


City state on a mountain-top ruled by Kostchtchie and his demonic forces

Power 2  / Action Die d8


  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Dwarven Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1


Holy order of servants

Power 2  / Action Die d8


  • Infiltrated by devil-worshippers 3

Githyanki Landing Team

Scouting Squadron from the Lich-Queen in the olde capital’s ruins

Power  2 / Action Die d8


  • Githzarai Monks 2
  • Illithid 1

Beast Cults

Apocalyptic zealots who worship the Tarrasque, the Void Dragon and other world-ending beasts

Power 1 / Action Die d6


  • Hunted by all decent folk in Throne 2

Bard’s Pass Lorekeepers

Old adventurous bards, librarians and storytellers who keep records of the Holy Party’s adventures

Power  1 / Action Die d6


  • Throne has forgotten them 1

Holy Town of Hero’s Wake

The holy town where the Holy Party’s First Tavern still stands

Power 1  / Action Die d6


  • Bandits 1
  • Throne has forgotten them 1

Elves of the Twilight Realms

Nigh-immortal faeries whose twilit realms straddle the uncreated night and the astral sea

Power  4 / Action Die d12


  • Realm under siege by the Spider Queen 4
  • Divided internally between those who want to fight and those who want to fade into the Western Lands 1

Merry Band

Holy bandits who worship Chev the Wanderer

Power 1 / Action Die d6


  • Hunted by knights 2

Wizard’s Holiest Scribes

Record keepers and archivists of Throne

Power 2 / Action Die d8


  • Books lost during devil infiltration 1
  • Lost touch with populace during Wizard’s absence 1

The first game was fun. They wheeled and dealed with devils to turn the Tarrasque towards the demon city-states and found their lost paladin (the only pre-gen not chosen) on a castle on a dark spot on the sun.

Now I’d want to level everyone up and see where folks want to spend Dominion and Influence, see how they want to change the world, who they want to treat with and how the factions shift around in the meantime. I might even make the faction turn something I do in front of everyone, rather than lonely fun they hear about later.

A Godbound Adventure: The Holy Party

It is a tale as old as polyhedrals – a group of delvers goes into a series of monster-haunted pits, gathers riches and turn their ambitions and expertise to the real world.

You know where it goes from here. They take over, become heads of guilds and temples and kingdoms and eventually, why not, they break into heaven and become gods.

Only after the machinery of Heaven becomes damaged do they wake up to the desperate prayers from their shrines in the one-tavern-village where it all started because the Tarrasque has awoken and only this pantheon of demi-gods, The Barbarian God, the Ranger God, the Thief God, the Paladin God, the Wizard God and the Patron Saint of Torchbearers and Hirelings, can stop it.

A Godlike adventure.

Holy Party Character Sheets

The Holy Party Facts Words Powers

NOTE: The Facts on the character sheets are just vague ideas about the characters and not well written Facts. I have in the second PDF questions for the players to answer so that they will have useable Facts and will be able to add a touch of their own spice to the character. Thank you, Matt Weber.

EDIT: I’m going to update the characters based on playing the game last night. Updates will be up on the week of 6/8.

Need a map?

Sure, whipped this up on Wonderdraft:

Holy Party Map.png

Stats from whichever Monster Manual I have close at hand.

A shop for nerdy things…

Dreaming about Trollheim

Right before we headed out for a celebratory birthday dinner, Janaki saw the picture on the cover of the Cormyr sourcebook and said, “Are those goblins?”

“I don’t think so. I think they are trolls.”


Art by Jennell Jaquays

Maybe that is why I woke up at 3AM after having had a dream about Trollheim.

Trollheim is a city founded by trolls who figured out some way to traverse the World Tree to a world with a salty marshland that they claimed for their own. So they wouldn’t get lost and because they regenerate, they’d bury their hands under the city. Centuries of this tradition has led to trolls coming from all over the worlds to bury their hands under Trollheim, so that they might find their way home should they become lost. Even after their new hand grows back, they’ll follow an itch in their wrist to find their city.

The salt-water bog mummified the hands, allowing the troll warlocks who inhabit the city and mind its shrines to the Troll-mother and the Cathedral Bridge to call up mummified hands buried all over the city’s swamps to defend it in times of need.