11 February 2024

Martian Crawl Classics Crowdfunding in Progress

The Kickstarter project for Martian Crawl Classics, Tim Snider's alternative setting for Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, is in progress and obtainable for the reasonable price of $5.00 for the PDF and the option to purchase an at-cost, print-on-demand copy. Add-ons include the 0 level funnel Dead in the Water, the 1st level adventure The Desk in Room 8-10, and the 2nd level adventure Phage from Below at $5.00 each for the PDF and the same hard copy option. The deadline to back the project is 24 February 2024.

01 February 2024

Random Fantasy Campaign Generator Example

Here is the explication of my Random Fantasy Campaign Generator demonstrated with an example of its use. Suppose you wish to run some adventures that have no predetermined setting (or none you care to use), and you would like the world to grow as the characters explore it rather than spending countless hours beforehand building it from scratch. Where do you start? You start with the location of the very first adventure and gradually expand from there. You start with a roll on the Starting Place table.

Starting Place

With a roll of 2, the adventure starts in a village. It could be the player characters' home village, or it could be a village they are visiting or through which they are passing on the way to their destination. In this case, we'll say the player characters are visiting a friend.

Landmass

With a roll of 4, the village is located on a supercontinent. There may be islands, but most of the world's landmass consists of a single Pangaea-like supercontinent. This suggests that the world might be geologically younger than our planet Earth, and it might even have megafauna or dinosaurs (or weird variants thereof).

Nearest Waterway

With a roll of 4, the nearest waterway is "Sea," which would mean a world-spanning super-ocean. So, our village is on the coast, which means fishing and trade are probably important to its economy.

Nearest Geographical Feature

With a roll of 12, the nearest geographical feature is "Volcano." The villagers may believe the volcano is dormant, or they might not know it is a volcano. In the real world there are actual communities built in the craters of "extinct" volcanoes (e.g. Mt. Tabor in Portand, Oregon, U.S.A.), but we'll set our village at the base of the volcano at the edge of a bay since we established that it is a port. If the volcano were to erupt, there would be time for people in the village to react.

Most Prominent Architectural Achievement

With a roll of 6, the village's most prominent architectural achievement is a library. In general, the impressiveness of a location's most prominent edifice depends on the location's size, prosperity, cultural priorities, and level of technology. Given that our location is a fishing village near a volcano on the coast of a supercontinent, perhaps we could make the library the only building that (miraculously) withstood a previous eruption. A village was gradually rebuilt from the ruins of the destroyed city, and it was decreed that no building shall ever rival the library in magnificence. The importance of the library has grown as a consequence, and scholars from near and far come to the village to study there.

First Patron

With a roll of 6, the player character's first patron will be a local official. In this case, it would be logical to make that local official the Head Librarian, a person of importance with vast knowledge. Regardless of the adventure's premise, it ought to be easy to think of way to link it to the Head Librarian's interests.

Best Place for Rumors

With a roll of 12, the best place for rumors in the village is the well. Sure, there may be gossip aplenty amongst the scholars at the library, but the rumormongering at the well is more reliable.

Summary

In a coastal village at the foot of a volcano, the adventurers have come to meet a friend who is connected with the Head Librarian of a famous library that is the sole remnant of an ancient city. The community well is the best source of information of a non-academic nature, as the hardworking villagers are honest folk and more cosmopolitan than most. All of this is taking place in a world dominated by a single supercontinent.

These initial details provide the ingredients for a larger world of interconnected places, cultures, and adventures that can be expanded as needed.

14 January 2024

Random Fantasy Campaign Generator

The Random Fantasy Campaign Generator can be used as a prompt to create a setting and situation for a party's first adventure, and, perhaps, the initial focal point of a new campaign world that will expand with the party's travels.

Random Fantasy Campaign Generator

Starting Place

Roll 1d4

1. Outpost
2. Village
3. Town
4. City

Landmass

Roll 1d4

1. Archipelago
2. Island
3. Continent
4. Supercontinent

Nearest Waterway

Roll 1d4

1. Stream
2. River
3. Lake
4. Sea

Nearest Geographical Feature

Roll 1d12

1. Barrow
2. Canyon
3. Cave
4. Desert
5. Forest
6. Hill
7. Jungle
8. Megalithic structure
9. Mountain
10. Plains
11. Swamp
12. Volcano

Most Prominent Architectural Achievement

Roll 1d12

1. Abbey
2. Castle
3. Fountain
4. Granary
5. Guildhouse
6. Library
7. Marketplace
8. Mill
9. Monument
10. Palace
11. Temple
12. Tomb

First Patron

Roll 1d12

1. Abbot
2. Alchemist
3. Elder
4. Guildmaster
5. Innkeeper
6. Local official
7. Merchant
8. Noble
9. Sage
10. Spy
11. Trader
12. Wizard

Best Place for Rumors

Roll 1d12

1. Castle
2. Den of iniquity
3. Dock
4. Fountain
5. Inn
6. Guardhouse
7. Marketplace
8. Shop
9. Stable
10. Tavern
11. Temple
12. Well

08 January 2024

Reviewing Reviews

There is a debate amongst some in the hobby—if not the industry—whether a review of a role-playing game is legitimate if the reviewer did not first play or run the game. The crux of the problem is this: Is it the game or the product that is being reviewed? Take chess for instance. One could review the rules of the game and the experience it produces as an activity, or one could review the physical components of the game such as the board and the pieces. Most role-playing game reviewers rely heavily on the latter because there is the added complexity that no two groups of gamers play exactly the same way. When they do address the rules (as opposed to the details of a rule book such as font, binding, type of paper, or quality/quantity of illustrations), they typically concentrate on how they think they will help or hinder the gameplay. Without experiencing the effect of the rules firsthand, they can only theorize whether a given rule is good or even necessary. And this will vary from gaming group to gaming group. One group might respond favorably to a game in which each player controls multiple characters whereas another might find it a nuissance. One group might consider an initiative rule to be novel and entertaining whereas another group might find it too time-consuming. All reviews are subjective. It is in their nature. I would merely suggest that reviewers draw a distinct line between a review of a role-playing game as a product versus a review of the same as an experience, because both are valid. Sometimes a rule looks better on paper than in practice, and sometimes the rules as written work better than you could have imagined. Too often I have made assumptions about a rule only to be proven mistaken at the game table. The proof is in the actual play. You can a) review the game itself, b) review just the physical product, or c) review the product and speculate about how it might work at the table. Just be clear about your approach.

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

06 January 2024

Table: Secret Door Status

Sometimes a location in an adventure has secret doors that will never be discovered by the player characters using conventional means. This can be made easier for player characters who are actively searching in the correct area by giving them clues or by bestowing a bungling bonus, but if you need something a little more obvious, you could roll on this table...

Secret Door Status

Roll 1d12

1. Ajar.
2. Ajar and secretly trapped.
3. Cracked open.
4. Cracked open and secretly trapped.
5. Locked and obviously cursed.
6. Locked and obviously trapped.
7. Locked and showing signs of attempted entry.
8. Locked and showing signs of successfully activated trap.
9. Magically sealed with prominently displayed riddle.
10. Shut and marked by previous intruder.
11. Shut and obviously cursed.
12. Shut and obviously trapped.

N.B.: This can be used when creating an adventure location (such as a dungeon), but it's especially useful when applied to published adventures that might abound with dead ends and bottlenecks caused by the injudicious use of secret doors. Just make them impossible to miss.

03 January 2024

05 November 2023

Wisdom from Elsewhere 2023-11-05

Reading books and playing actual role-playing games in person in relation to a self-awareness of one's own story is the topic of "RPGs and Storytelling Against the Nihilism of the Digital" in Monsters and Manuals. This is a topic worth revisiting.

29 September 2023

Where Does Experience Point?

Question: If one chooses to use a form of character advancement wherein all player characters are granted an equal meta-rule improvement (such as experience points, attribute boosts, luck points, etc.) whenever they reach a benchmark (such as completing an adventure, accomplishing a mission, surviving a session, etc.), does it undermine the concept of rewarding player characters for clever play?

Answer: No. The meta-rule award satisfies the player for playing the character. The character's reward arises from the fictional setting itself as a result of the character's interaction with it. The player gets to see the benefits of levelling up, improving a skill, or gaining more ability to improve the odds, but the character gets to see the benefits of in-character choices based on whatever definition of success is important to the character, whether it's accruing wealth, building a reputation, gaining followers, attaining a position, solving a problem, promoting a social movement, exploring the unknown, telling new tales, or any other goal. The character's reward is what the character can perceive, not what only the player can perceive. Therefore, it is perfectly justifiable to allow player characters to improve at an equal rate with regard to meta-rule improvement, whilst basing their in-character advancement on their interactions with non-player characters and circumstances within the setting. Three characters who divide a treasure hoard three ways will be regarded very differently if one is a miser, one is a spendthrift, and one is a philanthropist. This is where experience points.

23 September 2023

Luck and the Dice Chain

I think it would be an interesting experiment to alter the Luck rules for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG as follows: Instead of a Luck point giving the player character a +1 modifier to an action, it grants a +1d. After all, if Luck is Chance (and it is), shouldn't it have a random element itself instead of a direct modifier that subverts the very concept? Besides, the dice chain is one of the best ideas in DCC RPG and it is woefully underused.

I think I'll try it the next time I judge. A report will be forthcoming.

31 August 2023

RPGaDay 2023: Day 31

31. FAVOURITE RPG of all time

Everyone's favorite role-playing game of all time is All Time Fave: A Role-Playing Game.

Someone ought to design that...

Or not.

This is certainly one of my least favorite RPGaDay questions...

And this concludes RPGaDay 2023. How did you do?

[For more information on #RPGaDay (or #RPGaDay2023 specifically), read this.]