29 March 2023

Random Generator Month 2023 Plans

April is nigh, which means I must begin preparations for Random Generator Month here in Applied Phantasticality. In honor of this year's event, I added a permanent link to the new Random Generator Month ultra-mega-table, which in turn links to various mega-tables, which in turn link to, well, tables.

At this point in time and space, I am thinking about linking this year's Random Generator Month challenge to my Dungeon of Castle Greyauk project. The two projects could reinforce one another quite nicely. Time to brainstorm!

Happy upcoming Random Generator Month!

19 March 2023

Advice and Perspective

I don't think the hobby is served well by those who presume to dictate a "correct" way of running or playing a role-playing game. It is different at every table, it has always been that way, and it shall always be that way. You can try to convert others to your way of thinking, but gamers will do what gamers do—their own thing. If you have what you believe is good advice for those who might enjoy your style of gaming, go ahead and share it, but keep in mind there is no One True Way. Recognize that every table is different and every person at that table is an individual. Respect our differences, and remember that some gamers have needs with regard to accessibility.

If you have a voice in the hobby, use it to help others to participate. Fight for inclusion, not exclusion. Be aware of your responsibility to other hobbyists and those who wish to join.

[This article is cross-posted here in Creative Reckoning.]

06 March 2023

Fashionably Late to the Megadungeon Party

I've given it some thought, and today I finally feel inspired enough to participate in the room-a-day megadungeon challenge. Yes, it means I am two months and a week behind schedule, but I'd rather be inspired and have a late start than uninspired and on time.

I prefer to have a strategy with any undertaking, and my strategy will be this:

  • I'll start with a concept: the dungeon of Castle Greyauk.
  • It will be a funhouse dungeon, a fungeon.
  • At first, I will map it with early published random dungeon generators e.g., 1e AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (Appendix A, pp. 169-173).
  • I'll stock it partly randomly, partly not-randomly.
  • Gradually, I'll replace the use of the published random dungeon generators with one of my own for comparison.
  • Throughout, I will plant the seeds of the main theme and underlying Secret Themes.
  • It will be system neutral, but I might include stats for several different RPGs (Thieves' World-style).
  • Later, I just might publish it.

A plan so crazy, it just might work...

27 February 2023

Accessible Gaming Quarterly Year 4 Crowdfunding Project

I shall be posting this to each of my five gaming blogs because the cause is worthy and time is of the essence. Jacob Wood of Accessible Games has launched Accessible Gaming Quarterly Year 4, a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter to produce four more issues of Accessible Gaming Quarterly, "a zine about accessibility and inclusion in tabletop RPGs." As it states on the project page, "This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, March 9 2023 11:59 PM EST." AGQ provides a much-needed service in this hobby, and I hope you will join me in lending support.

Jacob Wood is also the designer of several role-playing games based on Fudge including Monster Kart Mayhem, Psi-punk, and Survival of the Able.

Purchase Accessible Games products here.

25 February 2023

Reflecting on Fantasy Bestiaries

One of the best and worst things about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the Monster Manual and the Fiend Folio. They provided hours of entertainment to my younger brother and me outside of role-playing. My brother's copy of the Monster Manual was our very first exposure to role-playing games years before we knew what a role-playing game was. If it was a book filled with illustrations of monsters, we were fascinated by it. Once we started role-playing, it was a double-edged sword. It was a useful and inspiring resource for me as a Dungeon Master, but for my players (and for me when I was a player) it was an unintentional source of cheating. Hours of poring through monster descriptions is bound to give players an advantage and spoil the surprise. Alas, as in most forms of fiction, the surprise is at least half the fun. Even the new monsters introduced in adventure modules were destined to reappear in the Monster Manual 2, which would be devoured by DMs and players alike. Some were lucky enough to encounter the monsters as players before the book was published, but as more and more players discovered the hobby, they were destined to have their surprises spoiled by the availability of published statistics.

When Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG was first published, it asserted the importance of monsters as an element of the unknown. They were to be the subject of rumors if they were known at all, and player characters would be encountering them with little to no prior knowledge. This preserved the spirit of adventure prevalent in sword & sorcery fiction (one of the main inspirations of DCC RPG), and it enabled many players to relive the thrill of fantasy role-playing when they were first introduced to it and everything was new. Only a few monsters were included in the rule book to be used as a benchmark for judges to create their own. It seemed that manuals of monsters were antithetical to the spirit of DCC RPG, and yet its publisher, Goodman Games, is running a Kickstarter project for just such a tome entitled Dungeon Denizens, and I have backed it. Why? Am I suddenly feeling the grip of Ye Olde Fear of Missing Out? It may be a bit of that, but I think the more pertinent reason is that, unlike D&D, DCC RPG has less clearly defined levels of challenge in regard to monsters. I need more of these benchmarks mentioned in the rule book to help guide me in creating foes for this system. Regardless of which monsters from Dungeon Denizens I decide to use in the adventures I design, I will keep in mind the excellent advice from Chapter 9 under the heading "Keeping Monsters Mysterious."

So, go ahead and back the Dungeon Denizens Kickstarter project, but if you're playing in one of my games, expect the unexpected.

Dungeon Denizens Kickstarter image.

28 January 2023

Fight or Fright

I just read "Morale, Fear, and Madness" in Archade's Tower, and I think it has some ideas worth testing at the table. I tend to avoid (or neglect using) rules that impose or restrict player character behavior, as I believe situations and the manner in which they are presented ought to be enough to motivate a player's actions, but this article reflects a similar desire to preserve player agency—albeit in a mechanical fashion—and I think it might be a useful alternative. I'll be rereading the relevant section in the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG rule book and pondering the topic.

23 January 2023

Completely Unfathomable Completely Available


The magnificent monstrosity that is Completely Unfathomable, consisting of Jason Sholtis' Operation Unfathomable and Odious Uplands, adapted and expanded for use with DCC RPG by Paul Wolfe, is now available in print and PDF right now, right here.


21 January 2023

Regarding the Recent RPG Industry Kerfuffle

Game rules themselves cannot be copyrighted. You never needed permission to publish something that is compatible with something else. Your game is yours to use as you see fit. Morality clauses are tools of oppression and weapons against self-expression justified by "good intentions." Adhering to "official rules" does not make your gameplay more or less valid in the hobby of role-playing games. Only the joy you get from engaging with the hobby validates it. You do not need a stamp of approval from anyone to create what you want to create or play the way you want to play. Your hobby is yours.

14 January 2023

Crawling Toward New Spellcasting Options

For those who are interested in alternative interpretations of magic in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Reverend Dak of Crawl! has posted Practicable Magic: Reliable Spell Casting for DCC RPG. I think it's worth a try.

01 January 2023

Heightening the Heightened: Abilities and Passive Mutations

Overall, I like the streamlined nature of the rules of Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, but sometimes the streamlining erases important details. One such detail is the nature of certain passive mutations. Mutations by their nature are things that stray from the norm. They are abnormal. So, why do some passive mutations have the possibility of yielding results that are indistinguable from the normal non-mutated range? Here, I am referring especially to mutations that have a chance of altering a character's ability scores, such as Heightened Intelligence. Unless the player rolls 20 or higher, the ability score improves by merely +1, +2, or +3. In many cases, the character might not even gain any tangible benefit. If the ability score were 9, for example, a +3 improvement wouldn't even boost it beyond the average range.

I have an alternative.

When rolling passive mutations such as Heightened Agility, Heightened Stamina, Heightened Strength, Heightened Intelligence, Dual Brain, etc., ability increases refer to the ability modifier rather than the ability score. The ability score is then increased to the threshold of that ability modifier.

For example, a mutant, manimal, or plantient with Intelligence 6 (-1) who acquires the Heightened Intelligence result, "The mutant's Intelligence score is increased by +1," now has Intelligence 9 (+0) because 9 is the minimum ability score at which the modifier becomes +0.

Granted, having one's low Intelligence raised to the dizzying heights of average seems at odds with the term Heightened Intelligence, but at least this method offers a guaranteed tangible benefit with each increase.