Monday, June 17, 2019

The Recursive Encounter Calculator: for checking encounters over many turns

Peter's recent post on the enduring difficulty of running travel in RPGs has motivated me to make a little tool I'd been thinking about for a while. It is not a complete solution to his problem, but I hope it can at be helpful to a few GMs out there. I'll explain further, but first, the tool:

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Latest Frankenrules

It's come to my attention that in the Year of Our Lord 2019 someone is linking to this - which is flattering and also fine, however not exactly representative of how I'm running my D&D games nowadays. So I figure it's time for an update on that front.

These are the rules I've been using over the past year+ in my ongoing Red & Pleasant Land campaign. Two major sources pillaged are the LotFP playtest rules in Eldritch Cock, and Evey Lockhart's Broken Wilds setting.

There's maybe room for reflection here on how my approach to running D&D has evolved since I wrote up those older houserules in 2014. However it is already past my bedtime, so those thoughts will have to wait.

A-here we go:

Do I Miss Google Plus? The Answer May Surprise You

Patrick has asked about how people are taking the demise of G+. I'm writing this post partially because it seems too long to dump in his comment section, but also because an accidental button
click led me to lose an in-progress response multiple paragraphs long. Twice.

I'm mostly on Discord now, lurking on about a dozen servers and active on 3 or 4. The ones I'm active on are small, the largest with members numbering around 100. I do not even lurk the big OSR server because I simply can't keep up. I mention this because those servers are my main point of comparison.

I miss G+ but not as much as I'd expected. Frankly, I'd grown tired with a number of aspects of the platform by the end. The crowdedness of G+ made a constant chore of just keeping the platform bearable, and the conversations I was interested in having seemed mostly to have played out. The conversations that were happening felt increasingly dominated by chatter, or like rehashes of last year's topics. I also felt that the culture on G+ (reinforced by the site's UX design) created an emphasis on "making", whether the thing made was a blog post or a game product or what have you. As my life got busier that pressure felt more limiting as I sought more casual avenues for my hobby. Furthermore, as my interests branched out into other RPGs that weren't D&D, I found my community there increasingly unresponsive and occasionally outright hostile.

The gaming experience on Discord has been refreshing. I was initially drawn to G+ by ConstantCon and the promise of easy access to games on a whim. As far as I can tell, those days were already over by the time I signed up. On Discord I have found games in abundance and varied in kind. Tellingly, after years of intermittent, utterly failed attempts to get a Monsterhearts game going on G+, I managed to wind up running one in Discord almost by accident, and have had to take some creative measures just to keep player numbers under control.

The social experience has been superior, straight up. I spend much less time thinking about who to avoid and how to avoid them. My communities feel more intimate and trusting. What I lose in granularity of control over my social circle I make up for in a sense of conviviality. I've also had some really enjoyable exchanges with people I doubt I'd have ever much engaged with on G+. While the language for relationships on the Internet remains fraught as ever, I do believe I have quickly made friends on Discord.

As a queer person I also want to shout out to a couple servers in particular that have provided what feels like a distinctly queer space for RPGs - something I never would have asked for but am so, so happy to have. This is not to say that G+ was hostile, exactly, but I did always have a sense of speaking to a more mixed group, even in cases where I may not have wanted to. Discord, I suppose, offers a sense of movement between intimacies, rather than shouting from a fixed position.

Discord is not perfect. For all my talk about the shallowness of "the conversation" on G+, on Discord it's downright impossible to have a comparable, extended discussion of a given topic. G+ was good at creating space for an exchange of ideas, decentralized, spread out over time, but connected. Part of the reason a lot of blogs went dormant (including this one) is because it was just easier on G+, and it rendered blogs redundant except as dumping grounds for overlong posts (like this one). Without G+ as a hub, many seem to be returning to their blogs. My RSS feed (I use Inoreader) has done a good enough job of keeping me abreast. "Good enough" feels key here. It's not the same, it's perhaps not as excellent, but I am satisfied.

I'll close this with a quick thought on "the conversation" after G+. If we're returning to blogs, we'll probably find ourselves looking for ways to recreate the sense of continuity and connectivity that generated so much energy in our old home. I think it will be increasingly important to regard blogs as key nodes in a network that extends into a variety of platforms and communities. That means we'll need to be mindful of linking back to other posts, and helping our readers follow the conversations we're taking part in.

To answer Patrick's question: Do I miss G+? Sure, of course I do. Rest in peace. Thank god it's gone.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Conch Tower (30-Minute Dungeon)

Tristan Tanner has created a really compelling 30-minute Dungeon Challenge. This is both an attempt to make one of those, and to flesh out part of a sort-of-secret project I'm trying not to promise too much about.

This took me well over 30 minutes. In fact, it took me several hours, but Tristan's template (in the link above) was really helpful keeping me on track. The dungeon is rough around the edges, but I'm going to post it now or I'll second guess myself and it will never see the light of day. Hopefully I will get around to cleaning it up and throwing together in the coming days. I would also like to write some brief reflections on making this thing, but that's another post.

Without further ado, here is the dungeon:


Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain II, c. 1940 - 1942

Saturday, February 16, 2019

new post 2019

i am NEVER HAPPIER than when i'm rolling some kawaii ass player character with a Magic School Bus voice rolling on a death & dismemberment table

Thursday, October 11, 2018

GLOG Class: Muse

G+ is shutting down, so I've been spending more time on the OSR Discord. The OSR Discord is big on the GLOG, and has got me thinking about this weird little class I wrote up for that system a while back and never shared. Another effect of the G+ Endtimes is a tentative return to the blogosphere. In the spirit of these developments, here's...

The Muse

Fragonard, "The Swing" - from Wikimedia Commons

Muses are so called because they inspire others to greatness. Their loveliness is effortless, like a kind of gravity. They are charmed souls, born for a softer world, and they break through this one like a ray of golden sunlight. To a Muse the world is like so many drifting clouds, which crowd and clash around them in the most terrible storms.

The Muse is essentially an effort to put a magical-realist Monsterhearts character in a D&D game. Their most important resource is relationships. It leverages the GLOG system's Conviction rules to create a mechanical basis for characters' obsession with the Muse. Because the Muse can also give new Convictions to other party members, it can even generate intra-party conflict as incentivizes other PCs vying for their affection and going along with their stupid plans.

My other major goal with the Muse was to make a character who plays to the metafiction. By that I mean that Muses are inherently special, captivating, and powerful, but they don't know that. To them, things just seems to happen. Someone playing a Muse can fully exploit the character's abilities, without anyone in the world suspecting treachery, because technically the Muse isn't doing these things.

In short, the Muse is the Dame in every pulp story, or Chris Hemsworth in the Ghostbusters reboot.

(Play this to set the mood.)

The Class

For every Muse template you have, gain 1 Obsessed character and 1 Charisma (Max 18)

1: Obsession, Rejection, Passions
2: Charmed Life
3: Beck and Call, Stalker
4: Redemption, Fury


Obsession: For each Muse template you have, you may have 1 character Obsessed with you. Obsessed characters are in love, pining hopelessly for your recognition. This does not necessarily change their overall motives; however, it does change their attitude towards you in particular. For instance, a rival will still try to burn down the inn where you and your party sleep, but they will try to abduct you first so you aren't caught in the blaze.
Obsessed characters effectively have a Conviction to protect and treasure you (even NPCs, who ordinarily wouldn't have Convictions).
You can attempt to Obsess a character at will, the act needing nothing more than a wink, a smile, or perhaps just the light hitting your perfect skin just so. Targets must be capable of something at least akin to love (so a dog may be targeted, but a zombie may not). The target may Save to resist this effect. However, you can only have as many Obsessed characters as you have Muse templates, and the only way to end an obsession is for the character to die, or for you to Reject them (see below).

Rejection: Ending an Obsession is not quite so easy as beginning one. It requires an act of vileness, performed upon (or at least for) an Obsessed party - something that utterly ruins you in their esteem, and poisons their heart with regret. Their Conviction to protect you becomes a Conviction to destroy you - and indeed, they may go to great lengths to do it. You may not replace this Obsession with a new one until you've had a full night's rest to process the ugly breakup.

Passions: Passions are intensified by the very presence of a Muse. Whenever you are around, replace whatever reaction roll system you use with the following d20 scale:
1-: Hostile
2-7: Unfriendly
8-13: Neutral
14-19: Friendly
20+: Helpful
If your regular Reaction system does not use a d20, double all modifiers from Charisma to these rolls.

Charmed Life: Even the fortunes love you. Whenever you roll a d20, roll a second one, making sure it is easily distinguishable from the first. Call this your Happenstance die. Whenever it shows the same number as the d20, something strange happens. This occurrence does not change whether you succeed, but brings some strange magical occurence into the mix.
For instance, say you are trying to seduce someone and both your Reaction roll and Happenstance die show the same number. After applying Charisma, your result is Neutral. The GM decides your partner is indeed quite taken with you, but has somehow begun to sweat oil paint, and needs to go shower in turpentine.
You may also choose to roll the Happenstance die to invoke some beneficial effect on actions that do not involve a roll: on an 18-20, you and the GM work out some beneficial effect. On a 10 or less the GM describes some decidedly unbeneficial occurence - you must choose either to accept it, or stop using the Happenstance die for the rest of the session.
Two more notes: First, the player always gets to know what happened, even if it's "off screen". So, if a Happenstance on a Stealth roll means the party's hushed whispers reach a villain's ears 100 miles away, the player knows that. (The characters don't, unless they have reason to.)
Second: The Muse does not know they are a Muse, nor that they cause all these odd occurrences. They may have some notion that strange luck follows them, but any promises or plans made on those grounds are sure to go awry. I mean, 100% sure. A Muse diegetically banking on Happenstance gives the GM license to fudge against them.

Beck and Call: Once per Obsessor per day, the Muse may attempt to compel them to carry out a single spoken instruction. The target is allowed a Save to resist this effect, and have Advantage on the roll if the request puts them in mortal danger.

Stalker: Once per adventure, at the player's will (but certainly not the Muse's), an ex-lover, former fling, or spurned admirer will appear to woo the Muse. This NPC acts as a 1HD follower with maximum Loyalty, and arrives minimally if poorly equipped for whatever task is at hand. They are clingy, annoying, and utterly devoted, but will leave in frustration at the end of what they judge to be the current adventure (unless the Muse returns their love, in which case they will run off to slay a dragon in your name or something and surely perish).

Redemption: The Muse can peacefully end an Obsession with several hours' tearful conversation. At the end of this, the Muse makes a Charisma check. If they succeed, they may attempt to Obsess the target again in future. If they fail, the target is utterly immune to the Muse's charms and special abilities.

Fury: The Muse may opt to deal 4d6 damage to an Obsessor they break up with. If reduced to 0 hp they are despondent, and Save or die from their grief. If they survive, they are immune to the Muse's abilities.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

So They've Split The Party

My last D&D session ended with the party split three ways. Usually I try to discourage that sort of thing but they're up to some sneak subterfuge and it made sense to let it happen. However, I did call the session early because I simply didn't feel prepared to deal with that kind of complexity.

In preparation for the next session, I put together a one-page procedure for dealing with parties acting in multiple areas simultaneously. The idea was to figure out a consistent way of dealing with these situations without having to do too much handwaving in terms of timing or positioning. The full procedure is below the break. It fits nicely on a single page of Letter or A4 paper.

N.B. This procedure assumes a) an OD&D-style turn structure where one turn represents about ten minutes; b) fairly structured social interaction procedures as per Courtney Campbell's On the Non-Player Character.