Mothership, What We Give to Alien Gods, S1: So, Two Scientists and an Android walk into a nebula.

Mothership, What We Give to Alien Gods, S1: So, Two Scientists and an Android walk into a nebula.

What We Give to Alien Gods / An Adventure for Mothership / Session One / So, Two Scientists and an Android Walk into a Nebula

In which gaming friends from different corners of my life meet, we make characters and play for a bit. – getting the characters’ emotional cards on the table.

There should be no spoilers but if you want to play this adventure without any knowledge at all, details might slip.

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Got a pair of friends who had a particular time-slot in their lives open to play some Mothership, knowing that they’d both be down with it and hoping that friends from different parts of my life would get along. So far so good. We’ve got a pair of scientists; the character sheet gave some guidance. We’re playing, What We Give to Alien Gods; I find running published adventures pretty challenging but I think the pamphlet-size will help and I’m glad I have another week to get some visuals together to share on our Jamboard moving forward.

Dr. Wren Navarroe, played by Jay (MadJay Zero Hustle and Play Fearless) and Dr. Nathan Anders, played by an old friend, Jim, were students under Dr. Grahm, who went into Galaer XII, the Amaranthine Nebula, to look at something known only as Project Cyclopean Temple. During chargen, Jim had mentioned that Nathan was jealous of Wren and the way Dr. Grahm favored them. Post-doc students with an unhealthy relationship to their professor? Yeah, after a few decades living in a university town, that scans. Jay described Wren as being inspired by Fox Mulder and I think we’re still figuring out what precisely that means at the table. I can’t wait to learn more. I hear the Truth is Out There.

We chatted a bunch during character creation and I used every bit of it I could. Good stuff. Jay had Dr. Navarroe get them through security measures around Project Cyclopean Temple when he realized Dr. Grahm had left his favorite student a back-door into the files when he used his sign-in. Everyone at the table is a GM, so we’re all listening to one another and using each other’s creative contributions. Love it.

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Mothership 1.0 Character Sheet

Dr. Anders specializes in Sophontology and Dr. Navaroe specializes in Xenoesotericism. The character sheets really were a map, Daniel. We decided that they had been hired to take a science boat out to look at a dark matter anomaly but changed course to go find their lost professor. The Bradfield Company had also supplied Mendel, an Android with some piloting skills when they are plugged into the ship’s computer and the ability to support the science team with their own training in Exobiology.

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Naming things is so important in these first games and one of the things I really like about Mothership is it offers a vibe but no history, no background, just, a kind of…eh, it is a bit like Alien but not really kinda thing. The world-building is left to us and I dig that. At one point Jim talked about a trail of alien artifacts that could be offering evidence that we are getting closer to an alien homeworld and I yes but-ed it, “That sounds like a great hypothesis for a future science paper.” We’ll see if it ends up being true.

Are either of the characters veterans? What was the war about? What school did they attend? We’ll find out. I’m daydreaming details but there’s no rush.

The ship was called the Humboldt, found when someone (was it Jay or Jim?) suggested that Bradley Company ships were named after fish species. Grahm’s ship is called the Balinadae. I named Mendel after searching up names of biologists and liking how the name Mendel sounded. Awkward androids are some of my favorite PC and NPC’s to play.

In contrast to Mendel, the ship’s computer is warm and very human-sounding. Jim and Jay both spent time in New Jersey, something we all have in common, so I described the computer’s voice like your favorite NJ diner waitress, who smokes a pack of Marlboro Lights a day and always remembers how you like your coffee. “What’ll it be, hon?” Jim named her, Celeste.

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After making characters we had enough time to wake up out of hyperdrive sleep and get to know one another a bit. Anders took some stress when an Electromagnetic Wave rattled the ship a bit but Mendel and Navaroe handled it.

Jim made some fun decisions that were worth highlighting. He had Anders trust Mendel with the fact that they had changed the ship’s course and go save their former professor. This led to Mendel trying to trust Anders with his hobby, that I presented in as creepy a way as I could, causing Anders to run when Mendel was trying to show his new comrade the whiskey still he had hidden in the engine room, “There are no cameras there, so I can engage in my hobby without observation.” Jim really played it up for maximum horror and made it a real Jonesy Moment.

Jones, the cat
aka Jonesy

Horror, in my experience, isn’t so much about one person setting a tone but about everyone buying in. Sitting at computers in broad daylight, Jim and Jay are buying in.

Mendel trying to share his hobby led to a minor freak-out from Anders and some well meant apologies. Anders let Navaroe know that he was flat out jealous of his relationship with Professor Grahm. I love that we are starting the game with that on the table, right from the start as we head to Dr. Grahm’s abandoned spaceship. Some folks would’ve let that jealousy ferment in secret but it is out there now and I dig it. That is where we’re starting next game.

Dice hit the table, we saw some stress doled out and we’ve got some context. I’d like to get more of a feel for the ship’s layout and look, get to know Navaroe a bit more and see what happens when these scientists engage with alien horror. It was a fine start.

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Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons

Subtlety is over-rated.

Subtlety is over-rated.
Your #DnD players are journeying to a new town and something is amiss. 👀 What are some subtle ways to hint to your players that something is wrong here?
Kids run up to the party cleric and/or paladin and all if their gods are going to destroy the devils that the mayor has summoned to consolidate their power. #subtle #DnD
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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.
More subtlety? OK Statues of saints crying blood. The Screaming Tree is at it again, they say. Everyone who has killed can see and talk to the ghosts of those they have slain. Everyone in town is trying to get the merchant’s son out of the mirror he accidentally walked into.

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 XV, Loose Ends & Lost Gods

Curse of Strahd, Session XV, Loose Ends & Lost Gods

Curse of Strahd
(I thought we were done; we were not)

In which the Sigil Six throw a rocking party, talk to a deity, set an angel right, make a Wish, convert a werewolf, offer wise counsel to a Flesh Golem regarding anger, take a lost friend’s remembrances, take up a saint’s femur as a weapon and don the Knight of the Black Rose’s breastplate.

Epilogue, Session XV, Loose Ends & Lost Gods

Holy shit, we really packed it in tonight.

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

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Rahadin and the remaining vampires left the Domain. None are sure where they went.

With Strahd’s curse off the land, the angel realized that it had been out of the Morning Lord’s gaze and if that was a test it failed. The players found them healing the mongrel-folk until one refused to be turned back. “Fuck you. I want you to see what you did. I want you to feel that you did this to someone for no good reason.”

Kuru asked the angel to meditate with him. While meditating, Kuru had a holy vision of the Morning Lord, who asked him what he planned to ask of the angel and when Kuru said he was going to get him to defeat what evil remained, the Sun God agreed. The Morning Lord looked at Kuru’s as-yet-un-Identified short sword and said, “There is only one left. Now there are two.” Kuru came out of the meditation with a deep fully body sunburn and the angel complied with his request, humbled that the Morning Lord spoke to this Hobbit Thief.

The B Team returned from fighting Baba (Lysaga) Lasagna. One of the Drow and the Dwarven Priest of the Portal God died in the battle. Also, don’t accidentally call an evil and powerful NPC Baba Lasagna; it doesn’t matter what you say after that, they are forever Baba Lasagna after that. Trundle took up the priest’s ring with many keys holy symbol to bring back to Sigil.

The Frankenlady approached Failed Soldier, who is now in the Flesh Golem also made by the angel. She named herself Dusk and confessed that she had great anger towards her Creator. Failed Soldier suggested she find a group of people like the Sigil Six and respected her feelings. Their discussions about VERY human things is so lovely.

The group was concerned with the cycle of souls and rebirth that was a mess in Ravenloft and was still a mess. The angel suggested to Failed Soldier that the Trinity that had created the Domains of Dread were very powerful. “Strahd was but a plaything to them.”

Hellewyn spoke with Emil, the werewolf they freed from Strahd’s dungeons, made sure he was taking leadership of the wolves. “They call you the Moon Queen,” Emil told her. He said that they would hunt for a time before migrating from these cursed lands and agreed to contact her should he do so. She asked that he look to the Moon for guidance, “Even though she can’t respond to you here; she does hear you.” Emil was moved.

Kuru’s sword, Identified by Bugwump, was a Luck Blade and it had not 1 but 2 wishes. Circumspect and full of self-control as he is, Kuru made a wish 7 minutes after learning this. He wished that if any of the Sigil Six should die, that time would go back and give them a chance to live. Cosmic tumblers clicked into place and a being told him that his friend still might die (we discussed the rules). One Wish remains.

Failed Soldier talked with the last of the Ulmist Inquisitors, giving them the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind and the last of the Ulmist order gave Failed Soldier a letter of introduction to any in the Ulmist order and the Femur of St. Markovia.

Jusko got a garish (and awesome) tattoo of a broken heart with a flaming sword through it. He got a pedicure and got drunk at the big party that broke out. He staggered into Castle Ravenloft and thrust his sword through Strahd’s coffin and said something like, “We won.” When he woke up he was in an alcove with a steel breast plate, enameled black with a black rose on it. He took it – Bugwump identified it as a +1 breastplate, one can turn a single attack vampiric if one is using a Superiority Die. Once they have done this and accrued more hit points than they currently have (we keep track of the hit point tally when they do it) new fell powers will open.

Kuru, drunk from the party, went into the Bag of Holding to confront the Bagman, who had been big as an ogre since they got to Ravenloft. The Bagman admitted that Strahd approached him and asked him to betray them but he had not done so. He asked Kuru to drop the bag in the Mists and free him. Kuru realized the Bagman was evil and refused and got away.

He gave the bag to the angel, who burned it with a touch. And so a tiny Demi-Plane of Dread was decimated.

Next week we head into the Mists, into the Shadowfell…

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More Actual Play posts about the Thursday Night Delving Club’s shenanigans? Links Below:

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Curse of Strahd, take-aways (not an in depth review)

Curse of Strahd, take-aways (not an in depth review)

Some post-Curse of Strahd thoughts as me and my friends prepare to depart Ravenloft after spending 14 deliciously horrific Thursday evenings there.

Sometimes the time for talking is done and the only response that makes sense is to kick toxic masculinity in its parasitic teeth. Sometimes that toxic masculinity is named Strahd and is a vampire who believes he owns a woman because of his feelings. Fuck his feelings.

The other take-away is that prisons don’t work and they damage the communities they claim to protect. True for Ravenloft, true for any world.

But then at the end of the adventure is this:

Strahd’s destruction is temporary, for his curse can’t so easily be ended.

The Curse of Strahd

Nope. Me and my friends didn’t spend 14 Thursday evenings for that paragraph to render all that horror, derring-do and fun meaningless. Strahd was killed by Hellewynn, an Elf Barbarian sworn to a Moon Goddess. She was wielding the Sunsword that belonged to Strahd’s brother, Sergei. While in Barovia she picked up lycanthropy and wrestled both a werewolf and Strahd himself (he chipped his tooth on her armor).

Tome from the Met (link below) Curse of Strahd with our group’s stickers on the tome.

Link to the original tome used in the above image.

The book is ours now; not because I bought it but because we played it and the words shared among friends at the table are bigger than any and all words written.

That said, someone made Ravenloft, someone is behind this evil demi-planar prison complex. Osybus, Shami-Amourae and Tenebrous, the architects who made Ravenloft, have a lot to answer for. You can’t just kick middle-management’s teeth in and call it a day. What else is high level play for?

The campaign continues…

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Curse of Strahd, Session XIV, Death of Strahd

Curse of Strahd, Session XIV, Death of Strahd

Curse of Strahd

In which the Sigil Six ends of the Curse of Strahd slaying the legendary vampire through sorcery, steel and cunning.

Episode XIV Death of Strahd

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

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  • 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.”

    The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team
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Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Session I Welcome to Barovia

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Session III Wolves and Souls

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

Session VII Dark Gifts

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
Haiku Character History

Haiku Character History

I see threads on DM’s Academy asking what players will need to get started or what kind of character backgrounds should they have prepared when they come to the table. My preferred answer: as little as possible – just enough to have some context and inspiration as play begins.

If the players in your TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) want to write something up for their characters or do some online homework before the game to flesh things out, here’s my 2-step suggestion:

Find a cool pic of your character.

Write a haiku about said character.

If they only have time for one of those endeavors, skip the haiku and grab a picture.

If you need pic resources, I’ve got a collection on Unsplash that I call Punams (Yiddish for faces) and have lots of collections on Pinterest that could work.

Barbarian Prince
Far from home to learn and grow.
Eyes of the Hawk God.

Picture of awesome bearded dude with facepaint and piercing eyes.

Barbarian Prince Pic

Is the Eyes of the Hawk God an item or a power or a blessing or the character’s name? Maybe the player has an idea and tells the DM. Maybe the player has copious notes about the barbarian lands where their prince comes from and a family tree. That is fine. Let’s talk about it.

Warlock with Moon Patron. 
Hunter's Moon born. Arcane Wolf. 
Chaos and Justice

Amazing picture of a Black Woman with black lipstick and cool sequins on her face in a pattern across her forehead.

Moon Warlock Pic

What does being born on the Hunter’s Moon mean to the Warlock? Is Arcane Wolf going to be a homebrewed sub-class or background or just a bit of cool character fluff? Is Chaos and Justice a flowery way of saying Chaotic Good or something different?

Just back from a job.
"What in the Hells did we steal?"
Handsome devil charm.

Handsome mofo in a fur jacket, rings on his fingers, looking rogue-ish and scroundrel-ish.

Handsome Devil Rogue

Is the thief’s handsome devil mean their are a Tiefling or is it just a turn of phrase, inspired by what their beloved Aunt Sheila used to call them? What did they steal? Hand the DM a locked chest with something dangerous people want is a pretty cool background gift.

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Are these brilliant examples of the fine art of Haiku?

No, they are not. That is fine. I’m not trying to make great art. I’m making fun character concepts that will inspire further conversations.

The way I like to play, character histories give just enough context to get the players to the table and the rest we’ll figure out in play. I like Haiku because the limits on words is built right in. There will be blank spaces and cool turns of phrase that will inspire questions and conversation as play begins (Session 0 is play).

If a player’s Character History Haiku raises questions and they aren’t sure about the answers, that is great. Find out together in play. The important thing is that they inspire pre-game conversations about the world and the people in it.

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NOTE: If gaming is a kind of writing exercise for you and your friends and that is how you have fun – YAY! I’m happy for you. Truly, I am. I’m not saying that you are gaming wrong or that your fun is bad-wrong-fun.

In my experience, long character histories are a sign of frustration but I have totally used gaming as a writing tool and don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum.

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If you want to make your own, drop me an email and I’ll gladly send you the Affinity Designer template.

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Making Dungeons In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

Making Dungeons In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

Thinking about the steps I want to take when I make a delve inspired by a Dyson Logos map for our World of Dungeons game.

World of Dungeons / Municipal Delvers Union pin / Describe Cool Stuff Here

When you make a dungeon, daydream, meditate, and/or ponder the following:

What did the Sorcerer-Kings build/use this for?

Does it have to make sense? I’m not sure it does but even if the sense is just inhuman Sorcerer-King monster-logic, that is fine. Because I needed a place to store this awesome sword and so I had my subjects build this death-cathedral is reason enough.

What became of it once the S-K’s stopped maintaining it?

Thinking about words to use here…evolution, mutation, degradation, flourishing, pining, imitating, waiting, sleeping, dreaming – what do the Sorcerer-King’s fell creations, abused subjects and abandoned pets do while they wait for an alien overlord who will never return?

Who is in it now? What do they want? What conflicts are brewing because of the neglect?

Is there a situation in there now? There doesn’t have to be. The Red Vampire Queens were just sleeping – one had woken up but there was no warring factions, just crab-beasts wandering around looking for food. Something to keep in mind, the balance has been messed up.

How does the site’s decrepitude effect the community in Jaquays around the portals into these delve sites?

This is something I’ve forgotten. The community could be having anything from bad dreams to experiencing terrible smells. It doesn’t have to be a causing the community to be in crisis, though maybe it is. What happens if the site has become a part of the community’s status quo? Hm. I need to remember to always be linking the delve back to the fair city of Jaquays.

Subject Change

After that I grab a map from Dyson Logos’ site or one of their map-books and start jotting down thoughts and notes – this is more concrete info that I’ll want on-hand when we play (like moments in Trophy Gold), things I’ll describe, monsters, sensory stuff, etc.

Other bits to write about: The Shift Clock, Exiting the Dungeon and after our last session, I’d like to write down some thoughts on the city of Jaquays. I took a step I regret in our last session and made our fair city too dark. We’ve got one Doskvol already and don’t need another. I want Jaquays to be about cleaning up messes in the community, improvement for everyone and hope. We’ll get back to those touchstones at the start of our next sessions. More about that and more in a future blog post.

If you want to see these dungeons in action and AP is your cuppa tea, here is our Youtube Playlist.

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P.S. I messaged Jennell Jaquays and let her know that we named our fantasy city after her out of respect for her legacy in our hobby. She was lovely, said that she was honored and only asked that we pronounce it correctly, JAKE-WAYS.

Top 10 Blog Posts of the Year 2021

Why does the Demon-God Algo-Rhy-Thum throw some blog posts into the firmament for all to see and banishes other to unclicked upon hells? Only the Demon-God’s marketing priests know for sure…

10. Planescape Tables for the Outlands

As Stras says, “Encounter Tables are setting design,” and if you look at Band of Blades you can see that in action. I don’t think of the tables as Random Encounter Tables but as Inspirational Encounter Tables.

I love putting together inspirational tables for making adventures and these got the Thursday night campaign started off with a bang.

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9. In the Wake of the Sorcerer Kings

The Sorcerer-Kings strip mined something from the earth and left, leaving their labs, weapons and experiments all over the city. Municipal delvers, who have their own labor union, go into these otherworldly portals and vaults, making them safe for the people who live in the area.

Municipal Delver’s Union / Municipality of Jaquays, Fleet Borough Chapterhouse / “Community and Fellowship in the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings”

Thrilled that there is something here that isn’t the hit-magnet that is D&D and thrilled that it is the first thoughts on our new Friday night campaign on Actual Play.

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8. Bingo Style Experience Points after a few months of leveling up

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.

I love how this house-rule came together as a rule and as an object used at the table. I’m glad the blog posts about its use are being read.

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7. Tomb of Annihilation: Identity and the Tomb

After stealing the last of the puzzle-cubes from the Yuan-ti, the players had to decide if they were going to kill the Red Wizards in their sleep while their spells were depleted.

Writing up AP posts is a simple pleasure. From experience, I know how nice it is to not only share fun game moments but in the years after the game, looking back on old game write-ups and reliving those moments a bit.

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6. Revisiting Planescape

Planescape was this cool setting where the game implied in the boxed set was this city at the center of all worlds and the players take part in these oddly philosophical factions as they venture out into the Outlands and adventure. The adventures in the Outlands were supposed to ripple out into the rest of the planes of reality.

I am lucky enough to get together with friends on Thursdays and run the Planescape campaign I’ve always imagined. It is a blessing.

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5. The Raven Queen vs. Vecna

This is a world where two ideas of death are at war.

I improved upon this concept in every way with my pdf, The Raven Queen vs. the Ghoul King. If you want a review copy, let me know.

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4. Leomund’s Tiny Hut in Barovia

Strahd is circling the party like a shark. What is the scariest part of a shark movie? Let the players sit in their tiny hut.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut as shark cage is a fun idea.

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3. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

What if I have make up a soldier on the spot? Come up with sci-fi armed service experience for someone I named 5 seconds ago?

3 or 4 d6 later…

Love when I can make something that is simple, imaginative and easy to use. And the title is catchy…

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2. 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, 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.

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Number 1. Volo’s Guide to Monsters: Kobolds

A party of adventurers, inspired by the original interlopers who drove Red Death from her volcano home, are making their way to your warren with dreams of treasure and glory.


The above text is a slamming campaign starter that I’m still eager to give a go. That said, this post was published in November of 2016 and it has been my most viewed post for the years of 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Are there that many people looking for blog posts about Volo’s Guide to Monsters or are there that many gamers looking for kobold content? Did I do something with the posts tags or categories to make it easier to find? Does the Demon-God Algo-Rhy-Thum just adore it?

I have no idea.

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ADDENDUM. Making Dungeons in Wake of the Sorcerer Kings

Thinking about the steps I want to take when I make a delve inspired by a Dyson Logos map for our World of Dungeons game.

I didn’t think a post made in December would catch up to the rest but here we are. Number 3 with a bullet, as they used to say in the old radio countdown shows…

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You might just enjoy contemplating infinity through mythical snake-beasts or be a Sister of the Aes Sedai. Whatever your path here, this design is for you.
Curse of Strahd, Session XII, Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia

Curse of Strahd, Session XII, Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia

Curse of Strahd

In which Tatyanna and Serge exit via faith and love while the Sigil Six decide on their own bloody exit plans.

Session XII: Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia
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Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • Last week, while the Sigil Six spoke with the angel known as The Prophet the B-Team watched the holy knight, Lady Baleron, leave Ravenloft with the ghost of her lover, Serge, through a pool at a holy shrine. Strahd knows this and is irate.

  • 3 Vampire Spawn and 3 Witches drew the team out of the abbey. The team defeated them with arcane fire, steel, cunning and holy sunlight. When the last vampire surrendered and admitted that there would be more teams, Jusko beheaded him and everyone ran to find the B-Team (they were eating soup at the Abbey).

    There were some close calls. Trundle probably saved Kuru’s life with his shield and Failed Soldier nearly fell (1HP left…).

  • The Franken-lady the angel has made to betroth Strahd and end this conflict through love, approached Bugwump after seeing him throwing arcane fire during the battle. This led to one of those amazing D&D moments, where a Frog-kin Wizard tried to explain how biological folk are made.

    The Franken-lady (she needs to name herself) is trying to figure out where to go next, what she owes the angel who created her.

  • Kuru talked to the angel while it made a new body for Failed Soldier. The Angel explained that they didn’t think Strahd was so far gone that love couldn’t save him. Kuru wasn’t turned around but he came away with more respect for the Morning Lord than he had.

    Jusko trained the villagers so that they could defend themselves.

  • Next week we begin our final approach upon Castle Ravenloft…

    We are picturing it like the helicopter approach in the beginning of Predator.

    *Long Tally Sally plays*
Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider


Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Session I Welcome to Barovia

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Session III Wolves and Souls

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

Session VII Dark Gifts

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

In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

Sean and I decided to play World of Dungeons (Part 1, Part 2 if you want to watch the process on youtube). We’ll be playing it tonight on the Actual Play twitch channel.

World of Dungeons with Sean and Judd / / Friday 11/19 / 6:30pm PST/9:30pm EST Design/Houserule as we go / What excites you about fantasy and dungeons? Smash Old School & PBTA together and we pick through the rubblel. Can you find Emmett and Pupper Cat?

In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings has been in my head without much detail for a while. I can find notes about the setting from years ago, notebooks from my NYC commuter days. The Sorcerer-Kings strip mined something from the earth and left, leaving their labs, weapons and experiments all over the city. Municipal delvers, who have their own labor union, go into these otherworldly portals and vaults, making them safe for the people who live in the area.

The delves have maps, either from the archives of the Sorcerer-Kings or mapping constructs sent into the delve site. I wanted an in-game excuse to hand Sean the pretty Dyson Logos maps.

We’re taking dungeons and sticking them directly into people’s homes, making a community of supportive workers around the delving trade, and looking into the ruins of an inhuman colonial menace that has picked up and left its mess behind. I can’t wait, haven’t been, this excited to game in a long time.

World of Dungeons leaves lots of room for the people playing it to make their own moves. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, want to see how the game plays before writing up too many moves. The main things I’ve written down are details about delve sites, thoughts on various Sorcerer-Kings and those who served them, so as he discovers more about them, there is a feeling of alien depth.

Made a few things to show to Sean, something to get the first delve started with some flavor and another so we can make the setting together.

Pre-Delve Checklist
City Details

Making the city details, I couldn’t use the Apocalypse World playbooks as a guidepost (like I did in Moons of Leviathan’s Ithaca Station). This isn’t a game about a lack of resources or trying to rule over chaos. I wanted a city that felt lived in, so I made some details, hoping that they were enough for Sean to grab onto and run with. I think we’re going to be okay.

Sean’s character is a lycanthrope who lost an arm during a past delve. Had to make a lycanthropy move. I knew I wanted a situation where the character might lose control to The Beast and black out but I wanted the player to have control over when that occurred.

Rather than thinking about, How can these 2d6+something emulate what I want out of a game about delving into dangerous places that are causing problems for the community I want to think more about How can we frame this conversation to get what we want out of this game?

The move I love most in Apocalypse World is the Workspace on the old Savvyhead sheet (in the latest iteration of AW, Burned Over 2021, it is called Tinkering and is listed among the Standard Moves that go with a Workspace).

Choose which of the following your workspace includes. Choose 3: a garage, a darkroom,
a controlled growing environment, skilled labor (Carna, uy, Pamming, eg), a junkyard
of raw materials, a truck or van, weird-ass electronica, machining tools, transmitters &
receivers, a proving range, a relic of the golden age past, booby traps.
When you go into your workspace and dedicate yourself to making a thing, or to getting
to the bottom of some shit, decide what and tell the MC. e MC will tell you “sure, no
problem, but…” and then 1 to 4 of the following:
• It’s going to take hours/days/weeks/months of work.
• First you’ll have to get/build/�x/�gure out —— .
• You’re going to need —— to help you with it.
• It’s going to cost you a fuckton of jingle.
• e best you’ll be able to do is a crap version, weak and unreliable.
• It’s going to mean exposing yourself (plus colleagues) to serious danger.
• You’re going to have to add —— to your workplace �rst.
• It’s going to take several/dozens/hundreds of tries.
• You’re going to have to take —— apart to do it.
e MC might connect them all with “and,” or might throw in a merciful “or.”
Once you’ve accomplished the necessaries, you can go ahead and accomplish the thing
itself. e MC will stat it up, or spill, or whatever it calls for.

It gives the conversation structure. I ripped it off here, using it as a way to make magic items in D&D and blend it in to Traveller’s Little Black Box to reframe training here.

World of Dungeons gives us the following:

When you attempt something risky, sum 2d6
and add one of your attribute scores, based on
the action you’re taking. (The GM will tell you
some of the possible consequences before
you roll, so you can decide if it’s worth the risk
or if you want to revise your action.)
A total of 6 or less is a miss; things don’t go
well and the risk turns out badly. A total of
7-9 is a partial success; you do it, but there’s
some cost, compromise, retribution, harm, etc.
A total of 10 or more is a full success; you do
it without complications. And a total of 12 or
more is a critical success; you do it perfectly
to some extra benefit or advantage.
Skills: If you have an applicable skill, you
can’t miss. A roll of 6 or less counts as a
partial success, but with a bigger compromise
or complication than a 7-9 result.
Sometimes the GM will roll the die of fate
to see how the situation is established. Low
numbers are ill-fortune, high numbers are
good fortune (or at least not misery). The die of
fate might be rolled to establish the weather,
indicate a random NPC’s general attitude, or
to determine if a wandering monster appears.
The GM may also roll the die of fate if the PCs
take some action for which sheer chance is
the only factor in the outcome.
These rules are yours to bend to your will!
You may find it natural to expand, redact,
and modify them as you your game goes on.
We advise keeping an open mind and lively
discussion of possibilities at the table.

There isn’t much there but it is given with a wink and a nod and lots of old school D&D inspiration. The text above is the most flavorless text in the whole document. There rest is classes, equipment, names and places. Powered by the Apocalypse games (all role-playing games, really) demand rich context.

That is why I started with the Union Checklist at the start of the blog post and then moved into a list of fantasy city stuff. I wanted that feeling of a fantasy firefighter about to walk into a hot mess, participating in a labor union full of plucky adventurers trying to do right by the community in a city that was left strip-mined by inhuman monsters but life goes on. There’s work to be done.

I can’t imagine where I’m getting inspiration from that.

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