Friday, November 29, 2019

Here There Be Dragons

A common misstep I see dungeon masters make, myself especially, is to put off their good ideas. They, or rather I, take their craziest, most heroic adventures, monsters, dungeons, what have you and plan to run them sometime down the road. For myself at least, there are several reasons for this, working together to make my campaigns somewhat less than they ought to be.

The first is the idea of a campaign progression. The idea that I start with small, mundane challenges before diving into the realm of the fantastic. This makes sense, on both a storytelling and gameplay level- you need to set up the world before the characters see its extremes, and you need appropriate challenges for low level adventurers. The problem is that I often overdo it. I’ve never run a liche or a rakshasa, never ran an adventure in the lower planes, even though I’ve run more than one campaign that has lasted over a year. I don’t want to throw out my best stuff right away, and often never get to it. Especially since most of my campaigns don’t last more than a year.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Differences in Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms (Part 1)

D&D is a chance to share a world with people. So after an adventure, you probably want your players to remember the setting it took place it. The experience of being transported to that world is usually one of the important takeaways DMs want to instill in their audience. But unless your players are completely new to all fantasy fiction entirely (e.g. no real exposure to things like elves, wizards, dragons, orcs, etc.) then the baseline assumptions of D&D’s “implied setting” aren’t going to have that impact you’re looking for. You have to go a step beyond to make them feel the world as an element of the story.

Monday, November 18, 2019

What Kind of Content I'll Actually Buy or Use

I'm writing this just as much for myself as for others. When thinking up whatever it is I want to write and publish, I try very hard to keep in mind the question of what other people would even want. I wonder how close it is to the kinds of things I myself want.

If you don't already watch the YouTube channel Questing Beast, then you should. There are other channels that also review RPG products, even ones that focus on OSR content, but they aren't as good as this one. Same guy (Ben Milton) who wrote Knave, in fact. Anyway, you'll greatly enjoyed perusing his video collection and seeing all the wild and crazy shit that he's reviewed. There's no shortage of fantastic content being made by creative individuals in this hobby. So what factors make the difference whether I'll spend my money or not?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

BRAVE 1.0 - My Knave Hack

Here is a link to my custom mod for Ben Milton's minimalist RPG, Knave. [Edit] I've also now included the word document version. You can download this and then edit the text directly. It looks like if you don't have the fonts Ben picked out installed, you'll want those so the formatting is retained (Sebaldus-Gotisch and Crimson Text)
Just like the original, I recommend you print it out. Still just 7 pages, not too many changes. I anticipate editing it even more eventually, but this right here is the result of a fair amount of playtesting and changing what would work better for the folks I've played with.

The beginning lists the major additions, which include an adapted Death and Dismemberment ruleset, Patrick's Starvation rules from Veins of the Earth, my own Advanced Darkness, and then my own system for making leveling up a little bit more interesting. I also based healing rate on current level since every player I've had thought it was weird that you seem to get "worse" at healing the more experienced you are.

To make room for these, I took out all of the designer's notes. They were one of the best parts of the original Knave but if you're reading my version then you're probably already familiar with all of Ben's design choices.

I also changed a number of miscellaneous phrasing matters and small rules that, you may notice, bring the game slightly closer to 5E D&D than it was. Movement speed is 30'/round, an opposed check consists of both parties rolling, an attack roll must be greater than or equal to their Armor, renaming saving throws to Die Checks, etc. These help me and most of my players smooth over the transition between the two RPGs, especially since we usually go back and forth between them. One of the most annoying little hiccups in the game's flow is when someone accidentally makes reference to another game's terminology and then someone at the table who's never played that game says, "wait, what?" When 5E came out I kept accidentally saying "roll a Reflex/Fortitude/Will save" and my brand new players would get confused. It also means that all those passive little details in the rules that I'm really familiar with from 5E aren't wasted when switching to Knave for an evening.

The main reason I named this "Brave" is because, between Death and Dismemberment and my leveling system, this typically makes PCs much more powerful than in regular Knave. I mean, they're still just pathetic murder hobos compared to any D&D character, but it's all relative.


Monday, November 4, 2019


This article is entirely spitballing based on things I’ve been watching, reading, and thinking about lately. So one of the most common elements in RPGs is the idea of gaining experience, leveling up, and improving at your stats. Where other elements have changed dramatically, this has been consistent in every edition of D&D and is present in almost all other TTRPGs I’ve ever heard of. When videogames took inspiration from D&D, this was the element that earned the moniker “RPG,” and to this day is the main reason we refer to Final Fantasy and similar games as “RPGs” even though they don’t really have many of the characteristics most of us would consider more important to defining the medium of “role playing.”

Saturday, November 2, 2019

PSA to Dungeon Masters: Intentionally "Metagame" More

Let’s get through this one right off the bat: people generally take metagaming way too seriously. It’s a transition I see lots of gamers go through. They hear about it early on and spend way too much time and energy thinking about it as a problem that must be overcome or worked around or whatever, they experiment in how to get past it, they insist that metagaming is one of the most serious bad habits a player can have, and then… they eventually get over it. I’ve seen this journey of personal growth pretty consistently in lots of players at this point. So if I’m going to revisit the question of metagaming, I want to attack it from a new angle so that it’s worth it.

DMs are the worst about navigating the complications of metagaming. Yes, DMs.