It is an ugly hour that John Battle does his level best to make watchable through appropriately gallows humor and showing his own frustration at the patterns in the TTRPG community.
Subtlety is over-rated.
Most of the time I’d rather get my players into the mix with information at hand so they can make interesting, informed and meaningful decisions. There will still be room for surprises but in my experience, when I find myself actively hiding something from the players it is often a mistake.
Uncovering secret lore or figuring out a complicated situation can be fun. I’m just saying, keep careful track of how hard you are working to keep secrets or keep information from the players. Character decisions are far more interesting when they have more information.
Even when players don’t know things, I don’t think of it as hiding it from them or being subtle. I think of it as controlling pacing by unspooling the hidden at the pace of their discovery, especially if they are after the information and are taking smart angles to find it.
These designs and more in my Threadless shop – t-shirts of all kinds, mugs, stickers and even shower curtains…
Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons
Curse of Strahd, Session XIV, Death of Strahd
In which the Sigil Six ends of the Curse of Strahd slaying the legendary vampire through sorcery, steel and cunning.
Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?
Helewynn ran outside the tower, where the group had entered and saw Strahd’s Nightmare Steed, still unable to see him. She jumped on a pterodactyl and titled with him once, doing brutal damage to him with the Sunsword but Strahd did brutal damage with his hands and a Blight spell. When the group arrived, the Nightmare took Strahd into the ethereal.
The plan was to lure Strahd into the room where he had a teleportation brazier and teleport everyone, including Strahd, to a killing field they had set up in the Abbey of St. Markovia’s courtyard.
The group ran down the tower’s steps into the crypts and started looting his ancestor’s tombs (finding a cloak and a sword). Rahadin found Bugwump alone and did some brutal damage to him, dropping him to 0 hit points right in front of Trundle, who was standing by the secret door from the crypts to the hallway that led to the teleportation room.
The group dropped Rahadin down to 1 hit point, nearly killing Strahd’s Red Right Hand but she misty-stepped and got away.
There was a cool moment where Bugwump went down and Kuru used Mage Hand to get a healing potion to his comrade but the way A described it was really nifty. He described running towards them, tossing the potion to his Mage Hand and the magical hand zipping to pour a potion down his friend’s throat. He made a simple casting of a spell feel like an action movie. It was cool.
Strahd arrived, invisible, and asked the group to fall to their knees and beg for mercy; they did not and began to run for the secret door that led to the hallway that led to the teleportation room. Strahd threw 2 fireballs that really decimated the group. Failed Soldier and Jusko fell but were brought up to single digit hit points.
The group was huddled in the teleportation room and Strahd entered, walking through the door. The group was ragged. He asked them to make their way through the mists to the Shadowfell and tell Sigil of his mercy. Hellewynn grabbed him and pulled him into the teleportation area but not before he gutted her with his hands.
The group was on the precipice. The killing field they had prepared and it gave them advantage on that first round. They did a brutal amount of damage to Strahd and Strahd, in turn, dropped Jusko and nearly dropped Bugwump. Failed Soldier used a cool spell to take negative damage and brought Helewynn up to 40-something hit points.
Sun Sword in hand, Helewynn killed Strahd and in the sunlight of this magic blade, he could not turn to mist. The clouds party and for the first time the Sigil Six could see the blue sky.
Jusko, once he was healed, picked up Strahd’s signet ring, knowing that it would have great meaning to his family, proof that he had killed the vampire who had feated on his kin. He offered it to Helewynn, who pushed his hand away, wanting him to have it.
Next session the Sigil Six is planning to head into the Shadowfell, through the mist, and make their way to Gloomwrought. Or as Trundle said, “Fuck the Lady of Pain. Let’s take our sweet-ass time getting back to Sigil.”
Questions Before Curse of Strahd
Session II Battle of Ravenwatch
Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V.
Session VI Enter the Amber Temple
Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends
Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich
Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft
Session XI Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel
Session XII Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia
Session XIII The Ballad of Kuru Heartbreaker
DM Advice: Give yourself structure
The hardest thing to do is create into a void. When you are making something, give yourself some structure, even if you throw it away later or hate it. That is fine, it gives you something to chafe against and that will help you create.
Where did this come from?
Reddit Post: I’ve just started the daunting task of creating my first world from scratch, and it started pretty simple: A town here, a city there, maybe some mountains near it. I thought I was doing a pretty bang-up job. But then I started seeing other people’s worlds and getting overwhelmed by the amount of thought they put into the logistics of their setting. I remember seeing Matthew Mercer create a believable mining town in 3 minutes, he started with a vague outline of a mining town and then added farms, and then unions, and then mining guilds, and then adventuring guilds, and so on and so forth. It was so impressive and horrifying, how does one think about these things? Does everyone think about their settings like this? Am I just stupid and unfit to be making worlds and just stick to prewritten stuff? So does anyone know a “Worldbuilding for Dummies” book?
You are not an idiot. Folks have been doing this for a long time and have internalized structure.
When you have a new place, try this:
Think of 3 things – a place, a faction and a secret.
Eventually, you’ll want 9 but to start fast, but for fast-and-loose at the table – just jot down 3. Eventually, when you’ve had a moment to think or time to prep – you’ll have 3 of each:
3 Interest Places.
9 things. More will grow out of that. If you can’t think of 3, that is fine. Just move on. Jot the things down and get going.
The Nemesis System
The above video came out and reminded me of Austin Walker’s amazing article about this.
Real Human Beings: Shadow of Mordor, Watch 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 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.
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.
This was made with Canva.com.
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?
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.
I’ve been futzing with the layout tools in Canva.com 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 Lynda.com for Affinity Publisher soon.
General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Van (Arménie).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1867 – 1870. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-7060-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Find this design and more in the Geek Media Studies collection…
Step 1: Visit the Medieval City Generator Page
Step 2: Add some numbers and letters. Paste pic.
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
- herd of sheep
- griffon eggs
- captured bandits
- a tithe
- soon to be wedded couple
- holy relic in a sarcophagus
B. The Dragon Gate
Six things the merchant princes’ caravans might be bringing through the Dragon Gate
- enough caravan guards to take over the city (not that they’d never do such a thing)
- herd of horses
- rolls of fine fabric in vibrant hues
- statue from a faraway kingdom
- meat of odd creatures in crates with shaved ice
- 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
- the weather is the Duke’s fault for not making the right offering last month
- how uppity the merchant princes have been getting lately
- the war in a nearby kingdom
- protection from hill-folk raids
taxesis there a witch causing the cattle to act funny
- will the apple brandy be ready for the festival
1. The Market
Six things you didn’t expect to find in the market
- genuine unicorn horn
- an actual prophet offering to tell you your future
- an infamous book, thought lost, clearly stolen
- a comedy duo performing for tips
- famous bard, down on their luck
- a map of this city but all of the landmarks have different names
Six things you always expect to find in the market
- local dish, prepared perfectly
- spice traders
- polished brass, overpriced
- outrageous haggling, performative
Six types of muggers in Eastside
- caravan guards
- actual Eastside criminal with a knife
- Priests of the god of Thieves, practicing their religion, and giving their thefts to the poor
- sorcerer, using illusions to cover their crime
Six games children play in Eastside
- Knucklebones with real crypt knuckles
- Race to the Canal
- Round (a complex game involving a drawn circle, two teams, and sticks)
- Game of Dares, involving spooky places throughout the city
- Flips (a game using stones of two colors, a small grid, and movement along lines)
- Wights (involves one kid riding on the shoulders of another chasing a bunch of other children who are turned undead)
Six dragon shrines you’ll see in Lairside
- The Hill Worm, vanquished by the hill-folks ancestral hero or just sleeping?
- Kurikameo the Gold, father of all dragons, who the nobles leave trinkets to so that he may increase their hoards
- The Star Wyrm, which is essentially the Milky Way made dragon
- The Green Beast, said to have eaten all of the lions that once ruled the forest
- Ur-Mother, said to be the dragon who birthed the world
- Shrine of the Earth’s Roar, a dimly lit building where you can hear the rumblings of the dragon that lives beneath all things
Six highborn folk you might see conspiring in Highside
- knight bought off by the merchant-princes
- Lady learning illegal sorcery
- noble with only his name left, his family fortune exhausted.
- prince on pilgrimage, slumming it in the city
- most attractive of the Duke’s sons, second-to-last to inherit, tentatively promised to the temple
- _not-so-secret artist (who has other secrets)
5. Pride Keep
Six reasons people are petitioning the duke
- bring the duke’s justice to a hillfolk clan for raiding local farms
- reduce the gate fees for passing in to and out of the city
- tear down one of the dragon shrines in favor of a new temple
- repair the griffon road
- demand the church brings local sorcerer to trial on witchcraft charges
- 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?
- mercenary caravan guards moonlighting as local law until their merchant leaves town
- squire of a powerful knight who can’t be troubled to show up
- mob of angry locals with shovels and rocks
- actual city guard, amazingly enough, no one expects them to show
- ducal house guard – lethal, brutal and simple in their decisions
- 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
- the next day
- 4 hours
- 1 hour
- 5 minutes
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