Monday, January 22, 2024

D Monsters at the Opera

A B C D Demon Dragon E F G1 G2 G3 H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Welcome to the D's. Demons and dragons will get their own posts. This one is crowded enough as it is.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Capsule πŸ’Š Games – Part 3: Goals

Artist credit: Julianne Griepp

"What are you playing?"

"Dungeons and Dragons."

"That sounds cool. What it's about?"

"It's a game where you go treasure hunting."

Sounds like a fine premise to me. Sign me up.

A lot of people find the idea of a "win condition" in an RPG to be utterly baffling. The way that you "win" at D&D is by having fun, right? But like... wouldn't that be true of all games? Isn't that just a bizarre dismissal when you really think about it? People don't seem to balk at sports or board games or escape rooms having a win condition. You can both have the goal of "have fun with your buddies" and have the goal of "win the game" simultaneously, believe it or not. In fact, they often reinforce each other! 

Monday, January 15, 2024

C Monsters at the Opera

A B C D Demon Dragon E F G1 G2 G3 H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Not appearing in this post: charybdis, cerebus, and changeling. Inexplicably appearing: catoblepas. Get your shit together, D&D.

[Next Capsule Game post isn't ready yet so I'm changing up my schedule for this week]

Friday, January 12, 2024

New Year’s Resolution Mechanic: Taking Your Time

This is a joke for everyone except Warren to get

Prismatic Wasteland has issued a challenge to come up with a new mechanic for basic task resolution in RPGs. While I appreciate crossovers, ping pong posting, and pretty much anything that promotes active blogging, I also must state that I find this whole premise downright disgusting, and take great personal offense to it.

So anyway here's my submission to the challenge. It's not a good one. Overthinking simple stuff is rarely fruitful for a pea-brain like me.

This post is in four parts. First, I have to rant for a bit about theoretical bullshit for context. Second, I finally explain the rule. Third, I talk a bit about what inspired it and what I like about it. Fourth, I have an alternative to my rule that's much less fleshed out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

B Monsters at the Opera

A B C D Demon Dragon E F G1 G2 G3 H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Credit: Paul Carrick

If you haven't seen the previous post, I've started a series where I'm talking about all the classic(ish) D&D monsters with my brother Ben. Welcome to the B monsters.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Capsule πŸ’Š Games – Part 2: Player Characters

Artist credit: Will Kirkby

Most people would be utterly aghast at the notion of an RPG where you don't get to make your own character. To many folks, they are one and the same synonymous. But why?

Video games don't have any hang-ups about this. Skyrim is cool, partly because you make your own character. But The Witcher is also cool, not even in spite of you playing as Geralt of Rivia, but largely because of it. Nobody has ever been like, "aw man you mean I have to play as Geralt?" No, people are like, "oh hell yes I get to play as Geralt!"

And yet I've seen so many RPG players get bent out of shape merely for having characters randomly rolled instead of personally constructed. I've seen players refuse starting packages like in Electric Bastionland or playbooks like in PbtA games. Which is a real shame! Those games aren't even forcing you to play pre-made characters. They're just trying to suggest details about the world and its inhabitants through character options. That's a really interesting and thoughtful application of design.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Crunch Criteria

I'm gunna be a little self-indulgent and quote myself.
Every piece of crunch you add has a cost. A cost in how much brainpower it takes to learn, to teach, to remember, to use. The essential tradeoff is to make sure that crunch is able to add something really valuable to the game in spite of that cost. I try to only add crunch in the parts of the experience that I think have the most potential for interesting decision-making.
This isn't just talk. I actually have a set of standards I apply when it comes to "justifying crunch" in a system. It's a hierarchy of three levels.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

A Monsters at the Opera

A B C D Demon Dragon E F G1 G2 G3 H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

That's right, we're blogging like it's 2014.

Yes, there are plenty of other gaming blogs that have done this. Some of them with much more to offer than I. But it's fun for me to think about and write about and occasionally it's interesting for you to read about.

This isn't a review or critique exactly, and "analysis" makes it sound a bit too substantive. This is basically just observations and opinions. And sometimes artwork.

My brother Ben helped me write this. Most of our opinions overlap, but I'll note when one thought is particular to him or me.

This isn't based on any specific monster manual or bestiary. Each edition of D&D has its own quirks, but I wanted to talk about the general canon of monsters that appear in most versions of the game. If they're newer, they must be distinct. To create this list, we started by combining the monster books from Necrotic Gnome's Old School Essentials that have been published so far. Some things needed to be added in (they've been saving all demons and devils and whatnot for their own future book, I believe), and some things got cut.

We'll be doing this roughly alphabetically. Some posts will be short, and others will be very, very long.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Capsule πŸ’Š Games – Part 1: Introduction

Artist credit: Katie Hicks

Dolmenwood is now a big deal. But it was a journey to get here. It was originally conceived as a setting by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk around 2013, to be used with B/X Essentials (now Old School Essentials). But by early 2016, they began to flesh it out through the Wormskin zine, making it a full on playable hexcrawl. See, most setting guides merely provide fluff. The GM then has to translate that fluff into gameable content. This is the burden of their prep. But an adventure module takes the next step and completes that prep for you. The forest isn't merely described for your imagination. It's described as hexes, and the hexes are already populated with the gameables. But by 2023 we find out that Dolmenwood is also going to contain its own bespoke rule system, too! A fairly simple one, of course. Basically just OSE with some tweaks and additions. But I can't help but notice that, increasingly, there is less and less you'll have to buy or make or decide upon in order to have the complete Dolmenwood experience. They've got it all handled for you. However, it's still assumed to be an open-world sandbox, so ultimately any two groups are still going to have a mostly different experience.

Not too long ago I wrote a review about Jim Henson's Labyrinth: the Adventure Game. I stumbled over a particular part. It wasn't the first time. Every time I've told someone about it, I've stumbled on this part. That part is, "do I call this an adventure? Or do I call this a system? A game? A setting?" The truth is that it's all of them. It's a complete package. Even more interesting, it's a package built to replicate the experience of a movie, while also still being freeform and including audience-authorship of the experience. It's remarkably successful at threading that needle. You play it and it feels like you just played out the movie Labyrinth. But it also unmistakably feels like you played your version of the movie Labyrinth. It manages to feel like both. And all of that was contained within one book (even the dice!).

Yazeba's Bed & Breakfast is also hard to describe. It's simply itself. It definitely is a role-playing game. But there's a lot of assumptions it's breaking. Players don't make their own characters. They don't even select or roll pre-generated characters. Rather, they play as these characters. They play as Gertrude, Hey Kid, Sal, Parish, and Amelie. These characters with these names and these histories and these personalities. Then, they play out sitcom-like slice of life episodes. But not episodes of your own invention. They play through these episodes. About 50 of them. And by completing episodes, progressing through the series, you unlock these new characters and story developments. It also includes a lot of assets, especially the digital version. An entire virtual interface to play through that elevates the experience. In part, this serves to cut down on prep. But also, it makes the experience more specific to the creator's vision.

These aren't all quite doing the same thing, but they're certainly doing a lot of similar things. Things I'm seeing more and more of and that I find exciting.