Reddit GM Advice: Sun-Killers, Skillshare with Strahd, & the B-Game

Reddit GM Advice: Sun-Killers, Skillshare with Strahd, & the B-Game

TEXT: REDDIT GM ADVICE THREAD

PIC: Reddit logo in front of Dice Envy's beautiful rainbow dice set.

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Emiel Boven's Fun Skulls Subject Divider

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https://www.patreon.com/emielboven/posts
Emiel Boven's Fun Skulls Subject Divider

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The Velinken Barrow Fortune

The Velinken Barrow Fortune

I like keeping track of wealth in some games but don’t like bean-counting. Here’s my compromise.

The Into the Odd-ish game that began with Into the Borgenwold has become our Sunday night B-game on the Actual Play twitch channel. As always, I wanted a way to keep track of a small fortune the players have amassed without counting thousands or even hundreds of coins – a few dozen tops.

Cockatrice heraldry above 4 rows of 5 ancient coins

TEXT: You own a jarl's ransom in wealth after selling what you dragged out of the Velinken barrow. Every time you want to purchase something of considerable value, we will mark off one or more coins.
In the wild places of the world, coins are just metal discs but until all of the coins are marked, living simply in a town or city can be taken for granted without worry. If you want to put on airs and live like a priviledged princeling, we will start marking coins. 

1 coin: starting a humble business, raw materials to make your own fine piece of armor or legendary weapon
3 coin: purchasing fine armor or a legendary weapon
5 coin: servants for 1 year
10 coin: noble title/land or laying  the foundation of a powerful organization, professional knights as house guard for 1 year, 
20 coin: crude wooden fort that in 10+ years could be a fortress, ransom a jarl
30 coin: castle, foundation of a cathedral, ransom a monarch or heir

I’ve done this before:

This time I added a few examples, including some that are well outside of their price range. The bigger things still require time and expertise as well as money. I put this as the background on a jamboard page and mark off coins as players spend.

Same pic as above but on a jamboard with a few coins blocked off.

It is an easy port over to Into the Odd’s Enterprises system. One thing I might add to that is one has to invest the amount of the next die type. So if your enterprise is going from d4 to d6, you have to set aside 6 coin before the enterprise goes up.

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Reddit GM Advice: Pattern of Consequences, Downtime Help, & an Outburst

Reddit GM Advice: Pattern of Consequences, Downtime Help, & an Outburst

Reddit Icon in front of my lovely rainbow dice from Dice Envy.

TEXT: REDDIT GM ADVICE THREAD

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Svinifrilijihirim, Gnome City built around an arcane university

Svinifrilijihirim, Gnome City built around an arcane university

This morning I saw the following video:

And if you like that video, he has a patreon worth checking out.

Inspired, I jumped onto Affinity Designer and got started with the word GNOME, all jumbled up.

The letters to the word, Gnome, jumbled up so I can make a city as detailed in the video above.

I had an old blog post about Underground Cities and always liked the Gnome city built around a university, Svinifrilijihirim.

The spaces between the jumbled letters above are colored in. It almost looks like a city. Almost.

Time to name the districts.

Walls and towers are around the city. The districts are named: 5 Towers University, Chalk District, Wizardtown, Prrenticetown, The 3 Hells, Little Anvil.

It is beginning to take shape. 5 Towers is an homage to a wizard-ruled city I had in a high fantasy game I attempted to run with Ars Magica as an undergrad.

Walls and towers are around the city. The districts are named: 5 Towers University, Chalk District, Wizardtown, Prrenticetown, The 3 Hells, Little Anvil.

TEXT: Svinifrilijihirim /Deeptown Svinifrilijihirim is a gnomish city founded so deep under the ground that planar travel is often necessary to find it.  It is sometimes called Deeptown and is governed by a powerful council of wizards. Svinifrilijihirim is perfect for doing research, finding tutoring or gaining formal wizard training. It does boast the underdeep's only Bard College, attached to the wizard's university that is home to one of the finest libraries in the underdeep, rivaled only by Kitji-Naal and Endë-Osto.

Exports: Wizards-for-hire, Bards-for-hire, magic items, alien gems, gates to other worlds, spell components, gnomish inventions

I wanted to flesh out the districts.

The five towers were the first buildings erected when this city was founded by five ambitious wizards long before the Elvish Civil War. They built the university and the city around that. The founding wizard's tombs were built in caverns, mushroom forests and waterfalls all around the city.
Today the university is known for educating the finest wizards and bards. The wizards go on to erect their own towers in the farthest reaches of the worlds, counsel governments, invent spells and gathering the most famous heroes to their adventuring fellowships. The bards go on to become the most adept spies, wise tutors and dynamic entertainers.
But the university can be an institution without pity. The streets of Deeptown have their share of lost former students, for whom a structured education in the Gnomish arcane tradition does not resonate.
5 Towers is almost a city within the city, with its own guard, laws and judicial system.
The five wizards, known as Tower Mages or Pentadi, set the tone for their college. There are traditional schools of magic but as new Pentadi take over, the university's philosophy of magical categorization can change over time as our understanding about how arcane laws change.
3 Hells is named for the 3 clans of Devil-folk, among the first refugees to find safety in Deeptown within the first century of its founding. Now 3 Hells' three largest populations are a noble-house-in-exile of Starless Elves, humans from a broken world and Forged-folk who left a world that did not consider them sapient beings. The tennement houses that folk who live in this district (often called Hellers or Trins) call home are a diverse mix of cultures and customs.
The neighborhood is very proud of its first Pentadi taking up residence in one of the university's five towers. Grishnali the Summoner grew up among the neighborhood's feuding Devil-folk and earned a coveted spot as a student in 5 Towers University. She is known for giving back to the community and is a major force behind the current peace between the 3 founding clans of Devil-folk who have been feuding since the neighborhood's founding.
Little Anvil is a one fortified castle with every aspect of Dwarven Society within its walls. There is a craft guild, a bank, a mercenary company and several mining operations. As agreed when the castle's foundation was first laid, almost fifty years ago, the guilds and companies hire from all over the city. This policy was enacted in hopes that Dwarven crafts would spread throughout the city's districts but that has not quite been the result.
The craft guild is an umbrella guild representing gem-cutting, masons and smiths. The bank is the most stable financial institution in Deeptown with investments and loans all over the city. The mercenary company is carefully regulated, never having more than three dozen armed soldiers in the city at any one time and with a percentage of any money earned going into the city's coffers; the company is known for its adept warmages. Critics say Deeptown profits from conflict and political instability elsewhere in the underdeeps.
As a neighborhood it is more walled off and isolated than the self-important university or affluent Wizardtown but pieces of Little Anvil's cultural touchstones make their way into the rest of the city - from finely carved gargoyles to seemingly bottomless pots of goat stew at many inns and pubs.
The Chalk district is where university students and wizards' apprentices live in ramshackle affordable housing. Cafe tables and some pub walls are made of a locally quarried slate so that students with chalk can jot down arcane equations and proofs.
Most residents of this district don't stay long, either graduating to Prenticetown or leaving Deeptown all together once their desired level of education and training is achieved. As a result, the only long term residents are bartenders, baristas, building superintendents and tutors.
This district ebbs and flows with the university's academic calendar. During tests and exams, tensions can reach a fever pitch. During university breaks, the district can seem like a ghost-town. When new learning periods begin, the streets are like a carnival as the students exude their hope and excitement.
When university students make the decision to continue their studies and become wizards with their own tome and wand, they inevitably end up in Prenticetown. Once a mercantile district full of warehouses, the buildings have become repurposed into housing with arcane laboratories. Due to the apprentice's more independent learning, they are less tied to any academic calendar. This district has a flourishing cadre of artists who are highly educated and often radically angry.
There is a new class of arcane practitioner growing in Prenticetown, a user of magic who don't find success in the university system and are creating their own networks of support and education. It is only a matter of time before Prenticetown creates its own institution of learning, a kind of revolutionary reaction to 5 Towers.
Wizardtown is an affluent series of cottages, towers and manors inhabited by well-to-do arcane practitioners and magic-users. There is a main avenue ,Staff and Tome Street, cuts a jagged line across the district; it is cobblestoned in a series of beautiful mosiacs depicting history's finest arcane discoveries.
The City Guard stay clear of the affluent district, allow the wizards' personal security forces and powerful wards to keep the peace. Some of the most powerful wizards in existence have homes here, so they have somewhere to stay when they are doing research in the university's amazing libraries.
Honey Fungus Street was not ony any map, named for a mushroom beloved by one of the city's first architects and city planners. When a fire started by a rambunctious student cleared away the buildings from this series of side-alleys, the rebuilding was delayed again and again due to a disagreement between the city and university governments about who was to pay for what. In that time, the Honey Fungus Street Market took hold and the rebuilding never occurred.
Now the market is a labyrinth of stalls and hastily erected tents where one can find any number of mundane foodstuff, arcane ingredients needed for potions and alchemy alongside virtuoso buskers and street performers. The market is the one place where everyone in the city rubs shoulders, where the arch-mage and the cutthroat and the tomb robber might listen to a fey-blooded violinist play a heart-breaking ballad on the edge of a gurgling city fountain.
Deeptown is nestled in a cyclopean cavern in the underdeeps. Keeping the city safe are not only wards but walls erected by mighty earth elementals.
Building a tower is serious business in a city governed by wizards. Only in Wizardtown, and even then only rarely, has the city's government issued the permits necessary to build a tower. The last such permit was issued almost a thousand years ago. Even purchasing a tower or living within one comes with close governmental scrutiny.
1 Mage's Gate
2 Merchant's Gate
3 Hammer's Gate
4 Axe's Gate
5 Exodus Gate
6 Scholar's Gate
7 Arch-Mage's Gate

I’d want to write up some questions about the setting.

What civil strife occurs when revolutionaries in Prenticetown put up their own tower?

When will the Little Anvil mercs attempt to take over the city?

Who in Wizardtown is going to get the next permit to erect their tower?

What will break the peace between the Devil-folk clans?

That is a fun bunch of color but I’m not sure I have the tools to play just yet. If I was going to run a game in this setting, I’d make a few d6 tables so I could roll 3d6 and make a quick 3 word inspiration tables for a quick student, quick apprentice, quick wizard, quick locals, quick refugees, quick Devil-folk. I’d write up the Pentadi and think about what they are studying.

But considering I watched a video about making a fast city on Sunday morning, this is a fine, fast way to flesh out a city that has been rattling around in my head for years.

Psychic Tiger Fodder

Psychic Tiger Fodder

Into the Megadungeon

Memories of how you got down there are hazy because the Psi-Tiger that rampaged through the party damaged memories as it died. Players are the torchbearers and hirelings.

Into the Odd-like: Into the Megadungeon
Psychic Tiger Fodder logo with a blue tiger with red eyes and a blue and red lightning bolts and red and blue fire as a subject divider.

We are in the process of ending the Sigil 6 campaign and figuring out what to play next in this Thursday night slot. But only 3 of 6 players could get to the digital table tonight, so I proposed a few games and we elected to play hirelings whose adventuring party has been decimated by a psychic tiger, leaving everyone’s memories hazy.

Character creation from this blog post made interesting characters. I liked what we ended up with. We used jamboard to store the character sheets. A thief’s follower, Jeb the Footpad, was chosen by a Thief Deity. Tabouli the Acolyte knows the Cthonic written world and can see/hear ghosts.

Psychic Tiger Fodder logo with a blue tiger with red eyes and a blue and red lightning bolts and red and blue fire as a subject divider.

I grabbed the DNGN zine, the gold standard in layout and at-the-table-use. I stuck them X levels down, in an area that I thought was interesting and got to playing.

Psychic Tiger Fodder logo with a blue tiger with red eyes and a blue and red lightning bolts and red and blue fire as a subject divider.

I rolled randomly to see which of the party members was still alive and it was Conrad the Thief. He’s got a compound fracture in his sword-arm and he’s concussed, so they are on their own. The random rolls for the surviving gear from the adventuring party worked out well. Having a character who can see ghosts meant I had to make some fast decisions about the fate of souls in this dungeon, which was fun.

The players were concerned about light, thinking about their lantern oil. When I mentioned that some rooms were lit by flasks of burning oil, they quickly began stealing oil from the flasks for more lantern-light time. They skinned and de-toothed and de-eyed the psychic tiger.

Had a really interesting moment late in the game when they realized they could count the used flasks of oil that had already been used to see how long they’ve been in this dungeon. I could’ve said the flasks were broken in the fight with the psychic tiger but loved the ingenuity. They realized that they had been in the dungeon for around 5 hours or so.

The vibe was a little goofy but everyone at the table was taking the premise seriously and doing plenty of careful exploring and creative problem solving.

I really liked the result and would use this set-up again when gaming friends were visiting or when everyone can’t show up to the main game.

Anthony dubbed the party’s name: Psychic Tiger Fodder.

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Reddit GM Advice: Wizard, Librarians & Pirates, and a Devil’s Fire

Reddit GM Advice: Wizard, Librarians & Pirates, and a Devil’s Fire

Reddit Icon in front of my lovely rainbow dice from Dice Envy.

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Slide Show for the Thursday Night Group: What to play next…

Slide Show for the Thursday Night Group: What to play next…

Put together a slideshow for the Thursday night group as we transition from the Sigil 6 to something else…

I put slides and my notes below each picture.


I love gaming with you all. If none of these ideas work, we can run some one-shots or play a board game until we figure it out.

We will need to talk about the Sigil 6 and finding a satisfying ending. That said, we could circle back some day. But let’s leave at a place where we are satisfied in case we do not.

No pressure!


Limiting factors (group size and other complications…)

So many amazing indie creators to support…

Let’s not become frozen in the amazing choices


Touchstones: Stephen King, Strange Things, ???

Some assembly required but I think it’ll be fun

Too real? Too much? Horror/Modern Fantasy…


How about an earth that isn’t a corporate neo-capitalist wasteland? 

I’ve got weird ideas about cloning and dropping to the planet’s surface and the odd AI that runs the satellite…


Picture by Søren Niedziella

Fuck Harry Potter

Touchstones: Wizard of Earthsea, Cold Iron

I’ve got weird ideas, some assembly required


Science Fantasy, New Weird meets Marco Polo

Probably will take us a few months…


Weird prehistoric/ahistoric dinosaur stone and sandal fantasy?


Wild West fantasy (swords instead of guns) with weird crystal magic and shit…


Is there an option I have not considered? Does someone else want to GM? What else?


After a discussion last night we’ve narrowed it down to 3.


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Reddit GM Advice: Lore, Start Small, & Endings

Reddit GM Advice: Lore, Start Small, & Endings

Reddit Icon in front of my lovely rainbow dice from Dice Envy.

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

https://www.patreon.com/emielboven/posts
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https://www.patreon.com/emielboven/posts

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Into the UVG

Into the UVG

Into the UVG

Using Chris McDowall's Into the Odd to create a outlander player character to travel Luka Rejec's psychedelic metal fantasy setting, Ultraviolet Grasslands & the Black City. If you like any of this you should check those books out.

PIC: Purple landscape and dark blue/black skies surround a small yurt village around a giant hand statue with a thumb tower on a butte.

I was thinking that it would be interesting to start play in UVG as an outlander, so that the player can learn about the setting’s strangeness on the long journey between the Violet City and the Black City along with the character.

You have arrived at the Violet City from a distant, colorless land. Roll or choose the reason the palate of your homeland is so muted.

Where did the colors go?

1 Otherworldly color leeches in noble dress devoured the colors from that part of the world during an incursion.
2 Puritanical Skeleton Priests insisted that those who live in their Holy City aspire to be like polished bone.
3 Radiation from an Colour Bomb, detonated in an ancient war, decimated the spectrum across the countryside.
4 Sunless Immortals covered the skies in stormclouds and dimmed colors for everyone.
5 Sorcerer-Kings from behind the moon collected colors as taxes.
6 Your people were refugees of the Chromatic Wars and did lived in fear of a wizard’s attention.

You have one item that is rich with color, a treasured belonging w/ colors as vibrant as a rainboviathan’s oil.

What is it? What color or colors does it show to your eye?

What do each of these colors make you feel?

How did you acquire it?

If you need to put a touch of flesh on the bones of these backgrounds, here’s a question or two for each result.

1

What superstitions do you bring with you after living in lands haunted by sentient leeches that eat color?

What do you always have with you in case a color leech attacks?

***

2

Did you pray to the Bone Saints or rebel against them undead pantheon?

What bone weapon, tool or utensil did you bring with you from home?

***

3

What broken war machines littered the places you played as a child?

What piece of that ancient war did you bring with you?

***

4

What do you do every day to show that you are grateful to see the sun, moon and stars in a land without arcane constant cloud cover?

What memento from the Sunless Immortals do you carry with you still?

***

5

What do you do every full moon to celebrate your life outside the Sorcerer-King’s influence?

What piece of moontech did you steal from a servant of the Sorcerer-Kings that you carry with you?

***

6

What color were the robes, banners and weapons of the wizard who did the most damage to your community?

What piece of the Chromatic War do you carry with you?

***

If folks need more than that then I recommend Haiku Character History.

Violet road on a violet landscape going into black clouds with rainbow hints. In the distance is a black sphere and some kind of black plinth.

I was flipping through UVG and thinking about how I’d make chargen different for this setting. I had this vague ideas that weren’t coming together because they weren’t very good.

I think I’d just use Into the Odd right as it is (XP too). I’d add some spells with magitech/Dying Earth vibes. Learning about how spells work as they roil around in your brain, your skull brimming with arcane power, is part of the learning curve involved in the strangeness of the setting.

I have an idea rattling around in my head about running this game as a 1-on-1 game with my dad, putting his character in charge of security for a merchant caravan. The concept is that this merchant house once lived somewhere between the Violet City and the Black City until their matriarch divided the clan into two, sending one violet-ward and the other black-ward. The mercantile clan’s believes that the only material things they will have with them in the next world is what their merchant caravans sell or trade on the route between these two cities.

Violet road on a violet landscape going into black clouds with rainbow hints. In the distance is a black sphere and some kind of black plinth.

Next up, the Caravan Sheet and thinking about how I want to make Cash a stat and abstract some of the math without getting rid of the experience of trading strange goods in weird places to alien folk. I reckon I’ll find the answers I’m looking for somewhere in the triangle between the points of Apocalypse World: Burned Over’s Barter, Burning Wheel’s Resources and UVG’s 1 Sack = 10 Stones = 100 Soaps = 2,500 Cash.

Violet road on a violet landscape going into black clouds with rainbow hints. In the distance is a black sphere and some kind of black plinth.

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Into the Odd Open Table Delve: Along the Holy Road

Into the Odd Open Table Delve: Along the Holy Road

Pre-game Pitch: Along the Holy Road, people are going missing, both in the lowlands and in the High Moors.

I read over 2 monsters from A Folklore Bestiary and we took two and a half hours getting through the resolution of the cursed People of the Holy City.

Into the Odd
Along the Holy Road

I didn’t have to use both monsters but in blending the two together and deciding that they were in the same world and same stretch of haunted highway to a ruined Holy City, both monsters grew more interesting. As mentioned in the post-game Stars & Wishes video below, I did my damnedest to get enough information into the players’ laps so they could make interesting decisions.

Cog Icon in a circle in a similar palette as the Into the Odd cover.

Marcus, Iain’s character, is in his third session of this (open table, east marches, whatever) campaign-shaped thing. I love prompting him to describe the previous adventures to hear what the character has taken away from them. Marcus had a scar/mark from his oath with the Dusk-Elves. Going out into the Odd makes you Odd.

Jay and Sam were both playing Into the Odd with us for the first time and it was great seeing them fish out details about their characters, Arnhem & Zachary, from the sparse but evocative info chargen provides. Zachary’s urn with ashes became a centerpiece of the character.

Arnhem was a second generation adventurer/treasure hunter who was in the family business to clear his parents’ debt.

Zachary had been a holder of a few odd jobs, including rat killer and bill collector. When a bill collection went bad, he was prompted to take this job with the Adventurers’ Guild Cooperative to get out of town for a while. Sam’s details about Zachary’s gear-related religion were amazing.

Clearly, bills and debts are on our minds.

Cog Icon in a circle in a similar palette as the Into the Odd cover.

There was one fight with a young zealot with a knife and it was harrowing. Two characters very nearly got dropped. They found a notebook and a charcoal pencil in his pockets; 13 names were written and crossed out. This young man had killed more than a dozen people before his 20th birthday.

There was one fight with a zealot with a knife and it was harrowing. Two characters very nearly got dropped. They found a notebook and a charcoal pencil in his pockets; 13 names were written and crossed out. This young man had killed more than a dozen people before his 20th birthday.

The character’s interactions with locals, from Farmer Beth to the Widow Kemp to the People of the Holy City’s elder woman with two notebooks.

Cog Icon in a circle in a similar palette as the Into the Odd cover.

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