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AAR: The Haunting of Ypsilon 14
15 Oct, 2021 mothership fvtt

Survive. Solve. Save. Pick one.

Back in August, I had a game of Mothership for the first time in ages. Mothership (MoSh) is a sci-fi horror game that leans strongly on the style of the Alien films. Humans have spread among the stars, but it’s grimy, dirty, and technology is fallible. Space is big and scary, but you have to put up with it, to earn some money from The Man. The character classes are Scientist, Android, Teamster, and Marine; and don’t need any explanation if you’ve seen the films.

I honestly thought I’d written about it on here, but I bought a lot of MoSh stuff in ZineQuest 1 when Pound of Flesh came out, and wasn’t writing up my experiences then. After a frenzy of games (and getting back into RPGs in general), Mothership took a back-seat for me. I think I travelled through Gartner’s hype cycle on it - I played a few different games of it in rapid succession. There’s a lot I like about it, but after a while it does feel unfinished, and some of the rules stack a bit messily for me. For example, each class typically modifies the behaviour of rolls for players around them. So if you’re playing this with a 5e mind to a balanced team1

Very soon the promised final version is launching on Kickstarter and hopefully that will answer all the questions.

I ran The Haunting of Ypsilon 14. This blog will contain extensive spoilers! Also CWs for body horror and animal death.

Inspiring food
4 Sep, 2021 rpg food

I’ve seen people try to make healing more and more rules-light in their OSR games. No rolling of hit die. No “1HP per night”. No “well you need to have had at least an hour for your Short Rest”1. Just heal, or die already.

Into The Odd has “five minutes and a glass of water” for healing temporary effects. And Wombat (among others) has proposed “eat/drink/rest makes you heal”. And I wondered how to make eating more interesting, without making it more complicated. How can we add some roleplay, rather than some roll-play?

Tom (cartoon cat) serves chicken and mashed potato. In a cowboy hat
Dinner is served

What I want to play next: September 2021
1 Sep, 2021 next bucket of bolts mousehole press gshowitt troika ironsworn

So, about a year ago, I looked at what games I wanted to run next. I was pleased I wrote it at the time as it reminded me what I wanted to play, and I’m even more pleased now to go back and look at it again.

I have played from the list:

  1. UVG. Admittedly, I didn’t play as much as I wanted, but I got a flavour of it, and of the SEACAT engine. I still want to run this, but it can only be as a campaign; I just don’t see the interest in a one-shot. To me that’s a SEACAT one-shot, not a UVG one. In fact, I’m very interested in using Into the Grasslands to use ItO instead of SEACAT.
  2. Hypertellurians! A few times. I really like the setting but, like a lot of OSR, I find it very difficult to balance. I keep an eye on settings for it, but even the official Mottokrosh ones seem to have terribly difficult enemies to fight. Mind you, I always end up making games too easy…
  3. Beak, Feather, and Bone. It’s a bit like The Quiet Year, but with more birds.

AAR: Beak, Feather, & Bone
23 Aug, 2021 rpg beak feather bone

Finally got around to playing this! The description from the website is better than I could write.

Beak, Feather, & Bone is a collaborative worldbuilding tool as well as a competitive map-labeling RPG. Starting with an unlabeled city map, players are assigned community roles before taking turns claiming and describing locations. Players draw from a standard 52-card deck to determine a building’s purpose and then describe its beak (reputation), feather (appearance), and bone (interior). As buildings are claimed, a narrative for the town and its inhabitants emerges, including major NPCs and shifting power-dynamics.

It’s designed to be played in person, but I’m still playing online1. Unlike The Quiet Year, it does not encourage playing in silence, and the map is already drawn. There’s also no events occurring, any timeline would grow from natural RP.

RPG logo, a birdperson in a cloak

AAR: Into the Odd Stellarium
9 Aug, 2021 rpg into the odd fvtt

I finally got round to trying Into The Odd. It’s by Chris McDowall and a forerunner of Electric Bastionland. I was interested in something rules-light, but I’d previously struggled using Maze Rats. The most contraversial thing of ItO is that it has no to-hit mechanic. All attacks hit, you only roll damage. That’s certainly an efficiency saving, you’re halving the rolls. Players don’t have to wait through a turn and then flub their attack. The only problem, the enemies don’t miss either…

The dungeon I used was the Stellarium of the Vinteralf. The vinteralf are glacier-dwellers, and æons ago built a stellarium to investigate the heavens. It’s been abandoned and forgotten for some time, but the heroes have been told it’s poking out of the ice again. Pillage it!

AAR: Webs of Illmire
8 Aug, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt

Last time in Illmire, the Ranger Leithidir turned out to be cursed by the Deathly Spade. If only Yorivar, Illmire’s druid, was still around! Leithidir would also still like to replace his hand, he’s only been able to find a wooden one.

After a lot of arguing, the party choose a route that involves going through as much forest as possible, to utilise the Ranger’s favoured terrain. This goes well until the edge of the lake, where a Giant Crocodile 🐊 attacks them while fording a river. This ambush is super effective!

AAR: Fake news of Illmire
8 Aug, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt
I’ve got terrible at keeping up with these. Let’s try to sort that out! The players leave the surrounds of Illmire and get supplies, and more importantly recruits to reinforce Illmire. They travelled out on the King’s Highway, and got torrentially rained on. I like AiME and so a good excuse to make this journey a Journey with Exhaustion and suffering1 is one that’s been missing for me up until now.

AAR: My First DCC Funnel
11 Jun, 2021 rpg dcc funnel

DCC RPG logo

I finally had a go playing Dungeon Crawl Classics. As a player, too. It’s a D&D retroclone with those dice, the “funky” ones. We played the game from the Quickstart Rules, which are free, and include two adventures. We played The Portal Under The Stars.

AAR: Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
14 May, 2021 rpg do not let us die cecil howe

I decided to shake up my Evils of Illmire campaign with something different, and I’d been meaning to run “Do Not Let Us Die”1 for a while. It’s by Cecil Howe who made Hex Kit which I’ve mentioned and used a few times.

The premise

text: DO NOT LET US DIE IN THE DARK NIGHT OF THIS COLD WINTER

The premise is basically almost a board-game. The players are nebulous here, they don’t have physical characters, they’re just each in charge of a fraction of a town that is under-resourced for a fearsomely cold winter that restricts the ability to gather resource. They get abstracted to being a Wizard, Fighter, or Thief, with attendant bonus at gathering one of the following resources.

Villagers need wood (collected best by Fighters), to prevent freezing to death immediately. They need food (which Thieves spot best) every other turn, or they will starve. They can need medication (gathered by Wizards) within a few turns or will die of some malady.

It is, in short, grimdark.

AAR: The cult of Illmire
27 Apr, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt
So last time, the players decided to sneak into the cult’s temple in Illmire. Coincidentally they managed to knock out the window to the only room without cultists inside it. This session started with a happy murder of all the cultists desecrating the temple that didn’t surrender in time. Most notably the ranger found a sacred mace, that he very carefully didn’t touch with his skin and passed back to the cleric for safe-keeping.

Alice is Missing
22 Apr, 2021 alice is missing

I finally got a chance to play a game I’d been very curious about, Alice is Missing. It was organised by the very excellent @proopypants. The plot is in the title: Alice, a girl in a sleepy American rural town, has gone missing a few days ago. It’s winter 2020 and you play her friends trying to find her again.

Except only by text.

🙊

TL;DR: It’s great.

AAR: Heart of the Atom Isa
28 Mar, 2021 hypertellurians

It’s Hypertellurians time again! I ran the Heart of the Atom Isa over two sessions, and it finished with the party sledging down a mountain on a moon, on a wave of alien mucus. So, if you take nothing else away from this, then you can do some very silly sci-fi.

A rocket-ship
The Atom Isa

The party’s rocket, the Atom Isa, has its heart stolen from it, and they have to get it back from Argencia, who is seen on the ship’s logs - departing for the tremendostaceans of the Zelteen nomads. The party are:

AAR: The Terrors of Illmire
25 Mar, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt
We continue the tales of the Evils of Illmire. And what I’ve learned while running it. The party start in the sunken Bastion, keeping a Black Skeleton Turned at bay while they rob his throne room. They then have a short rest, and explore the room unlocked by the key on the Skeleton’s belt. Some normal skeletons provide no trouble, but the Wraith they unleash from the cell is much more of a problem, especially when it starts raising the freshly interred skeletons as Spectres.

Design challenge: Icebound horror
18 Mar, 2021 rpg fkr
Jim Parkin likes making and playing very streamlined games. Really, very very streamlined games. He’s into the idea of free kriegsspiel (FK) feeding back into RPGs (the FK revolution, FKR) and summarises it well. This goes past OSR’s “rulings not rules”, and could be encapsulated as “why have the rules? Just talk through the action and agree what should happen”. This requires trust at the gaming table (no /r/rpghorrorstories), and (I personally think) a bit of confidence for the Referee.

AAR: Going Underground in Illmire
28 Feb, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt

So, last time, in the Evils of Illmire… well, it went a bit to shit. See for yourself.

Rancidius, priest of the Cult of the Illuminal Star, and the bandits defer to him. He knocks Vert, the paladin, to the ground, and then pulls a mindphage from his ear.

Useless thing, so much for control. You were supposed to have betrayed the party much earlier! Not that I suppose you needed to, you’ve been much less competent than I expected!

The monologing continued in this vein for some time. Once “Father Rand” got this out of his system, he dispatched the group to the cult HQ for sacrifice to the Fearmother. However, en route, the cult see mantismen causing problems ahead, and resolve to tip the party into the Gecko Pit and call it quits.

But they’re keeping the loot, of course.

AAR: Consequences of Illmire
6 Feb, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt

In the last writeup, the party was surprised by an owlbear…

But before that, I got the party sketched! This was done by HodagRPG, see their zines on itch.

Four panels showing a half-elf cleric, half-elf ranger, dragonborn sorceror, and dwarven paladin
The party of three half-elves and a dwarf

Clockwise from the top right, we have:

  1. Leithedir - elf/human ranger
  2. Vert - dwarven paladin
  3. Yentor - elf/dragonborn sorceror
  4. Corkas - elf/human cleric

I really like the sketches, so do my players. It was about the cost of a round of beer, and in Feb 2021, that is an option I do not have. 🍻

Character: Father Tireless
1 Feb, 2021 spire art kirilot

To celebrate playing another game of Spire with Alone in the Labyrinth, I got my character sketched!

A very nice person drew him for me, find Kiril here or on insta.

My character’s a middle-aged carrion-priest, who cares for the downtrodden drow in the city of Spire from his small temple. The hyenas consume the dead and ensure the souls pass up to god.

That’s not even my character, that’s just a stock class in Spire. My actual character is that Father Friendly, who helps the needy by summoning magical offal (stock spell!) is also a ruthless hunter of those that have wronged him or fellow drow. He has a brutal prey-hook, can summon a murder of crows, and his hyena is pretty handy in a fight too.

A Carrion-priest, holding meat in one hand and a scary dagger in the other. A raven sits on the dagger and hyenas guard him. He is smiling.
Father Tireless

Playing by post, in 2020
30 Jan, 2021 pbp 2020

Christmas 2019, I decided to give playing by post (PbP) a try. What I mean here by PbP is the concept of playing an RPG, by writing alternate sentences or paragraphs of text, with other people (typically not in real-time). This seemed like a great way of balancing the goal of playing with new people without having to learn how to play games over the Internet, which at that point, didn’t sound fun1.

I was surprised how immersive it was, and tried starting a game as GM myself, and then in my RPG boom around March, joined a bunch of online communities and played a few more games. AFter briefly being in too many games, I had a second resurgence towards the end of the year. Overall, I’ve been in at least eight.

And I must be honest, I struggle to recommend the format. Let me explain.

Photoframe, a Minimum Viable Product, done wrong
24 Jan, 2021 photoframe sqlite python

I have a spare laptop. I’m not going to spend ages cutting it up to make an actual photo-frame, and neither will I build one from scratch with a Raspberry Pi Zero.

I’m just going to put it by the TV and see whether my wife and I look at it.

Requirements:

  1. Show pictures after power on
  2. Get pictures from the NAS
  3. Auto-update them

How hard is a bloody digital photoframe?
19 Jan, 2021 photoframe sqlite python

Screencap of my photo database
How many pictures?

I like taking pictures. How many pictures?

Well, you know, some.

$ find ~/pix/cam -type f | wc -l
10167
$ du -sh ~/pix/cam
47G     ~/pix/cam

That does not include pictures taken on my various mobile phones. And how many have I printed? Well, I think I have less than twenty framed. And I made two photobooks, and I’m not sure when I looked in them last. 😬

I try to finesse them down, weed out the crap (there’s a lot of bad pictures), crop, enhance, etc. And that’s hard and is a never-ending job and I’m just looking at them on my computer then, and my wife doesn’t see them at all.

So, let’s show ‘em off. This is a solved problem right? Right?

AAR: Unexpected Evils of Illmire
10 Jan, 2021 evils of illmire 5e fvtt

Continuing from part one, this post summarises the next two sessions. The party decide they want to investigate the bandit camp (shown by the tower in the map below).

Hand-drawn hex-map showing Illmire, with a tower to the east, mine to the north, lizard to the west
Things close to Illmire

This of course is Just Great as I’d prepped the temple because they were very keen to go back last session. I had the map in FVTT though with some walls on it, so it was more-or-less ready to go. I just didn’t have NPCs, encounters etc ready.

AAR: Barrowmaze wrap-up
10 Jan, 2021 5e barrowmaze

Apologies for the delay on this writeup, it’s back from October. The Barrowmaze campaign continued on a little longer, but then fizzled out to be replaced by the Evils of Illmire one in December.

I realised I had too many small RPG groups. I know why this is, I like small groups of people in person - I’d much rather go out with three people than eight. The problem though is with a party of eight, it matters a lot less if someone can’t make it.

AAR: Wretched
10 Jan, 2021 wretched loot the room

Treated myself last night to something out of my pile of 2020 Kickstarters, The Wretched, now in its second printing

The Wretched is a game about human resilience in the face of overwhelming odds and almost certain death. It is a game about isolation, fear, and perseverance.

You’re the last survivor on a spaceship, with a dead crew and a creature crawling around trying to get in and finish you off. What could go wrong? Everything.

A jenga tower, the rpg book, cards, journal

2020: Best Books
3 Jan, 2021 books 2020

I read a lot.

I used to just read my favourite books again and again, only buying new books by authors I like. However in an effort to get away from computer screens more, I bought a Kindle and tried buying only books on sale. Well, 200 books later I am reading so many different authors I forget who I’ve liked and who I’ve not finished the samples for. I realise GoodReads is just an advert for Amazon, but it’s reasonably useful for tracking this information. In an effort to own my own data though, I’m recording my new favourites here, so I remember what I like and why.

Unlike the best-of comics post, this one isn’t numbered.

2020: Best Comics
2 Jan, 2021 comics 2020

In 2020 I read a lot of comics - it was a lockdown thing. Also a Humble Bundle thing, they’ve done some great packs from Image and Humanoids (as you’ll see). Due to this, the comics have mostly in eBook form on a tablet, although I did starting buying physical editions of the ones I liked. Here’s the comics I’ve read that I really liked, in order, starting with my favourite.

There and Snack Again: Lord of the Welsh cakes
1 Jan, 2021 there and snack again lord of the rings

LotR boxset

So, I’ve covered the prep, now, how did we get on?

TV showing title card for Fellowship of the Ring

🎶 * swelling chords * 🎶

There and Snack Again: Prologue
31 Dec, 2020 there and snack again lord of the rings

My wife and I don’t binge-watch much. I just don’t quite have the patience and she’s not going to sit on her own and mainline TV for a day. But Lord of the Rings is special.

The films came out for a set of Christmases lets-not-discuss-how-long-ago, and we associate them forever with nice festive times. These days I try to actively avoid watching them as I don’t want to see them too much and spoil them for myself somehow.

But, we all know what 2020 has been like. And, despite being pretty well-avoided by the rigours of 2020, it still meant we couldn’t see family and friends, with plans getting cancelled pretty late. And earlier this year I discovered There and Snack Again from listening to the Desert Island Discworld podcast. And we normally watch LotR at this 🎄 time of year.

Well, now.

To be clear, the idea, in Nate’s words:

to watch all three Lord of the Rings films (extended editions, of course), while attempting to eat everything that got eaten on screen

This is clearly a noble goal, and considering there’s very few things we can do in Tier 4 right now, why not match this quest?

checklists of food
Some planning started.

Tide Clock
27 Dec, 2020 micropython tideclock docker

Never written up the few technical projects I’ve done on here, so here’s an old project, a clock to show the next sea tides. I got it on hackaday, which I’m very pleased with.

A photo frame containing a map of Walton-on-the-Naze and an electric ink display indicating the next high tide
A tide clock, complete

There’s a set of journal posts on the project page for it and source code.

AAR: The Start of the Evils of Illmire
23 Dec, 2020 evils of illmire 5e fvtt

Time to start The Evils of Illmire!

The Evils of Illmire
The Evils of Illmire

I got this via its kickstarter earlier this year as it looked nice, and more importantly, it was cheap for digital. It’s the sign of a good one that I wish I had it in print as well now! Handily, it also has a D&D 5th Edition conversion, that came a little later than the main booklet.

It is a sandbox set around the town of Illmire. As the title hints, shenanigans are afoot…

Chocolate Christmas decorations
22 Dec, 2020 chocolate christmas toblerone

So, I, uh, bought another giant Toblerone. Now I have 4.5kg of chocolate to use up.

Yes, they come as a single bar of giant one-pound triangles 🔺🔺🔺. It looks awesome but is a very impractical way of eating them. Each triangle is about the size of a “normal large” bar. Normally I just chop it up and we eat it like popcorn (i.e. in quantity).

However, every now and again, I’ll try doing something with it

A plate of chocolate decorations

AAR: Grant Howitt’s Stone The Crows
10 Dec, 2020 gshowitt stone the crows fvtt

STAAHHN THE CROWS, IT’S AAHNLY THE BLEEDIN' TOWAAHH OF LAAAHNDAAAN

This is an actual line from the video game of ‘Vampire: the Masquerade’. It has always stuck with me as an ARPG that wasn’t that bad, but with some cracking voice acting.

So for Grant Howitt to make one of his monthly one-page games actually called STONE THE CROWS, and then actually have to raid the bleedin' Tower of London - well, I was sold pretty quickly.

Also it’s based on Guy Richie’s ouevre of Cockney gangster films, which is certainly a fresh change from eurofantasy or scifi, where I typically end up.

And finally, I bought FoundryVTT to move from roll20 and self-host. Helps get my nerd-cred up, I’ve always wanted to run a NodeJS server. So a nice light game to start with, why not?

Hypertellurians: Some thoughts
30 Nov, 2020 hypertellurians

Hypertellurians is beautiful. It’s a lovely book, with wonderful evocative art, and a bunch of really interesting “features” to stack on top of “archetypes” (like classes but more thematic and less capability-based). I won’t go through the book because other people have done it better.

Having prepped and run a single game, though, how was it?

AAR: Hypertellurians The First
29 Nov, 2020 hypertellurians

Finally, finally, I pulled the trigger and tried running a Hypertellurians game. This was done in Discord, with three players. It took about three hours, including us all learning the game. We used Avrae for rolls and I made a Google sheet character keeper but we ended up using the provided pre-gens on the Mottokrosh website.

Unfortunately, this means no pictures.

AAR: The obligatory Halloween game
28 Nov, 2020 5e

I like a spooky Halloween game.

Now unfortunately, I have not found a good way of actually setting a creepy tone over the Internet. I normally use something like Dread or Ten Candles to do that for me, but both are very physical games. The former uses an actual Jenga™️ tower and the latter uses ten actual candles as your strength against the metaphorical as well as physical darkness.

Well, COVID has fucked that. 😷

So, instead, here’s the next best thing, a pumpkin-themed 1st-level one-shot. As usual all arts and assets are from 2 minute tabletop. Ironically not the adventure they’ve published this year, 2020, but from a few years back (I think).

A tactical map showing some beholder pumpkins fighting the players

Pumpkins because of course.

AAR: The curtailed saga of Baconcroft
7 Nov, 2020 the quiet year

Time for another impromptu game of The Quiet Year! Much like last time, I offered it into a roll20 session when we realised we didn’t want to continue a campaign without one of the players.

Scribbled map of the guinea-pig town of Baconcroft in TQY

Steampunk guinea-pigs need water and coal…

AAR: Entering the Barrowmaze, briefly
18 Oct, 2020 5e barrowmaze

BEHOLD! Marvel at the majesty of the Barrowmaze! Gaze in awe at its breadth, its depth! It has hundreds of rooms, leaving years of material to play in!!!

How Far We Got

The party triggered a trap in room 2, and died, fleeing, in room 1. As a GM, not my finest hour. Again. This is the same group that I killed before!

AAR: Off the beaten path, right to the end
18 Oct, 2020 aime cubicle 7 lotr

I wasn’t enthused about the third adventure in the Bree-land Region Guide — but saying that, I haven’t run it. Also, I wanted to keep doing something with Berelas, as at least one party member was quite attached to her, and there’s no further published material on her, to my knowledge.

So, instead, I asked the group where they wanted to go (ahead of the session), and then offered some hooks. Berelas wants to go to Radagast, which is quite a trip away. The players offered to escort her, and I prepped a long Journey and had some vague ideas for some things to do in Rhosgobel when they arrived.

Although, hmm, how to get there.

UVG: Introduction to rock-licking
11 Oct, 2020 ultraviolet grasslands play-by-post

Finally, finally started a UVG game! 💜💜💜

This is mainly running as a play-by-post on Discord for the moment, although we’ve had some short live sessions:

  1. To say “hi” and discuss Slovak culture
  2. To have an encounter lick some rocks

I didn’t really intend to start a new long-form game, but I couldn’t see a good one-shot that would still use the travelling mechanics for more time than it would take to introduce them. SEACAT as a pure encounter engine for me does not hold the same appeal.

AAR: Strange Men, Strange Roads
20 Sep, 2020 aime lotr roll20 cubicle 7

This post contains spoilers for the named adventure in the Bree-land Region Guide for Adventures in Middle Earth, by Cubicle 7 🙈.

What I want to play next: September 2020
12 Sep, 2020 next ultraviolet grasslands delve ex novo hypertellurians delve humblewood beak feather bone

Short post here, here’s the games in my “to-play” pile, sorted by immediacy. I thought it would be a nice way of keeping track of stuff that’s caught my eye.

Games I’ve not played yet:

AAR: Thousand Year Old Vampire - Unferth during Armaggeddon
8 Sep, 2020 thousand year old vampire tim hutchings solo

I played the ENNie award-winning Thousand Year Old Vampire. The story is that you’re a Vampire that can live for Thousands of Years. This game is the Ronseal (™️) of RPGs in that sense. Consider it Highlander, the RPG.

TL;DR It is great.

2 pages from my journal for TYOV

Considering Bees
4 Sep, 2020 5e aaw games

I wanted to try a 5e game but with OSR rules for dungeoneering. For that, I used Considering Bees from AAW which I had in print with VTT assets from their Kickstarter in 2019. This is a level 2 adventure, and pits the players vs, well, bees. 🐝 🐝 🐝

This took two sessions of about 2.5 hours each, and had two PCs each running a single character. We played in roll20. I tried to set up proper dynamic lighting (the new style) but cocked it up reasonably-well so defaulted back to the old version (was showing the whole map to the players). Perhaps next time I’d just buy it on roll20?

Ambushed train
1 Sep, 2020 train bandit

Ross, of 2-minute table-top provides maps, and assets to his patreons, and on his shop. And Dungeondraft packs of those assets. Including a train.

I like trains.

🚂

A tactical map of a train stopped on rails with a bandit camp above

70px for roll20

Smuggler’s beach hideout
31 Aug, 2020 cliff dungeon beach

Well, I bought Dungeondraft. I regret it only in the sense that drawing maps is now my life. Roughly, the workflow:

  1. Paint the terrain (and water)
  2. Paint the cave
  3. Plot the dungeon walls
  4. Draw the cliff-tops as a path that can be edited
  5. Drop on lights, tables, torches, mushrooms, rocks
  6. Export

AAR: Penguins are cute
28 Aug, 2020 the quiet year

Tried having a quick game of The Quiet Year due to a last minute cancellation in a regular game. I normally like planning ahead, even a “no prep” game, so this is a big deal for me. Can I actually just set up a game and go?

Well, yes! 😌

Player: Is this game dark and miserable?

Me: No, someone told me they played as meerkats in a zoo. It’s as light or as dark as you want.

Behold the tale of the brutal religious civil war of the penguins… 🐧🐧🐧

Witchburner AAR: SPOILER EDITION
25 Aug, 2020 witchburner wizard thief fighter

This post is just spoilers for Witchburner. You probably meant to read this one.

LOOK NO FURTHER. YE HAVE BEEN WERRRNNED!

🧙‍♀🧙

Witchburner: After Action Report
25 Aug, 2020 witchburner wizard thief fighter

I ran Luka Rejec’s Witchburner in Old School Essentials over Discord for my wife and a few friends, back at the height of lockdown. None of them had played OSE before, but as this is a pretty social-based story, it didn’t matter too much.

A Witchburner

The plot

The Mayor pats down her forehead with a napkin and looks left, then right. The councilors arranged around her in their finery nod assent. She looks down at the motley witchfinders, spoken for by the Lord Rightmaker. “Our request is simple. Find the witch before All Saints’ Night, before the month ends, and we shall pay you 3,000 cash.” The shadow-skinned councilor smiles, “And the council will cover your stay at my inn.” The bushy-haired priest looks uncomfortable, “Now go, find that witch, before she brings Winterwhite’s hunger on us all!”

The idea is that the rural town of Bridge is plagued by evil portents, caused by witches, and the party is brought in as Witchburners to find the Witch, and Burn them.

Minor spoilers below the break.

AAR: Blood for the blood god
22 Aug, 2020 the quiet year

The Quiet Year is a sort-of-coop map-drawing and story-telling game. You use a deck of cards (special printed deck or there’s a lookup table for a normal playing card deck) to draw events, and use them to tell a story. I say sort-of-coop, in that it’s more like Roman consuls where each day/month it would swap who was “in charge” rather than agree or compromise on a single coherent course of action. In fact you’re explicitly not supposed to actually talk through each event together and agree it. You draw on the map the result of each event to build a recording of the story, and you can start building projects to fix the problems beset by your tiny community.

The events are things like:

An old piece of machinery is discovered, broken but perhaps repairable. What is it? What would it be useful for?

As the seasons turn towards Winter, they get darker:

The weakest among you dies. Who’s to blame for their death?

There are other better reviews, and I don’t really want to do that here. Although I suppose this is a small review of the roll20 module that I used.

I ❤ Hex Kit
16 Aug, 2020 map cone hex-kit

I make maps for my games. And sometimes, I just make maps because I like them. Hex Kit is a tool I use for that, because it’s so easy to get started! Now, I’ve not tried any other software, so I daresay Wonderdraft or some other mapper is better, but if you’re drawing hex tile maps, at a relatively large scale, you can do something easy very quickly indeed.

Star system map

Here’s a small starmap I made for a SWN game I was playing in. I think I spent about as long looking up the existing names as I did drawing it.

Rebranding, and also fiddling
14 Aug, 2020 meta

The site’s changed name. Welcome to the Source of Entropy! 🎉 There’s still few images and no logo, but I’d rather get content right first. It’s good for a couple of reasons:

  1. Entropy is used for getting good random numbers in computers
  2. Random numbers are good for playing games like RPGs
  3. Doesn’t show up on Google already (other search engines available)
  4. I’m a source of entropy as I don’t tidy up to my wife’s standards

I wanted something a better more memorable than a nickname I only use on half the social networks around.

Up: verticality in Slipgate Chokepoint
11 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake

One of the rumours about Quake level design is that id Software required all levels to be impossible to write in Doom. Leverage your USP, right? That Unique Selling Point was the game being properly 3D and allowing multiple things to exist in the third dimension. Doom was basically 2D with a height map.

Vertical space isn’t something I think about at all for dungeon design, I’d literally do “a level” or “a room” at a time! So, how can I learn from Quake and make more interesting levels?

Worth noting, a lot of this isn’t unique to Quake, before someone says “platforms existed before Quake”.

Vertical space in Quake

A castle in Quake 1

I can’t remember how to reach the Quad Damage in Gloom Keep any more

OK the last two are more set-piece/flavour things.

Hazards in Quake 1
11 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake

I want to make rooms more memorable in SGCP as at the moment I’m describing “YoU Are iN a pREttY/UGly roOM” and I want to do better. One thing is to add more stuff than just hostiles. There’s already rules in the game for generating those.

I thought about the hazards I’ve encountered in Quake, both in a few hours of playing it here in good old 1985 2020, and also my memories of playing it in the 90s. Turns out it didn’t take very long at all.

Artefact After-Action Report
11 Aug, 2020 artefact mousehole press

Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing Artefact, by Mousehole Press. I wrote some words about it already. In case I didn’t mention before, it’s pretty. Admire how pretty it is, again.

The pretty green Artefact zine

Technically, one should play it in one or two sessions and think solemn thoughts as you meditate on being left behind. I didn’t do that. The game has setup (which I did wrong) and three acts, and I did those all on separate days.

After Action Reports: A checklist
10 Aug, 2020 checklists
Some useful feedback from OSR Pit later, and I want to remember what I want to put in an AAR. I might not write that much for each bullet-point, but I think it’s worth covering it all. The last point about the lesson is my reason for writing these, but if I don’t include the context, then I can’t be sure it’s the right lesson. What did I play? How long for?

My Perfect Session Zero
8 Aug, 2020 checklists

This is a post I’m going to write and re-write. It will never be finished, as, if nothing else, when it gets too long, no player will want to answer all the questions and then it’ll be useless.

Updated: September 2020.

It’s also aimed at myself, and is not intended any other sources, which I also recommend:

An X-Card

©️ John Stavropoulos

Fundamentally, most of the “How do I resolve this problem in my group?” questions from GMs on /r/rpg come down to (IMO):

My player(s) want to play a game like X and I want to play a game like Y

Tomb of the Serpent Kings (5e) After-Action Report
8 Aug, 2020 5e

Finally, FINALLY, ran Tomb of the Serpent Kings. It is rightly held up as a great intro dungeon, for teaching lessons (in a good way) about some OSR concepts to beginner players. We’re talking here about combat-as-war rather than combat-as-sport, and the general idea of “don’t assume your GM is keeping you alive”.

The players I ran this for wanted to play in Fifth Edition, and as I’d chosen the RPG for our last game, I used a free conversion pamphlet.

Spoilers below.

The Zen of Quake
7 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake

Obviously Slipgate Chokepoint has me thinking about Quake quite a lot. I’ve ripped the NIN soundtrack off my original Quake 1 CD that I bought for the Amiga 1200 that I owned. Fun fact, it could run Quake at about 9-20fps depending on the mod I loaded. I’ve installed a bunch of different Quake engines, and hi-res texture packs, then thrown them all out again, for something updated but unmodified.

And I’ve been having a load of fun. These are my musings on how and why I was having fun.

A flying monster

So wait, how much blood is there?
3 Aug, 2020 sgcp perchance

So a recap, if you take an enemy in Slipgate Chokepoint to a high enough -HP when you kill it, you have performed a Gib. Like in the FPSes it is based upon, you get a benefit if you gib an enemy, here that benefit is to immediately perform a second attack with Advantage.

The rules mandate that the GM describes the gib as exquisitely as possible. NO PRESSURE THERE THEN 😬.

Slipgate After-Action Report 2
2 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake stay frosty

Tried the example ‘Frayed Domain’ adventure again with the same two friends.

Changes:

Artefact
2 Aug, 2020 artefact solo kickstarter
So on another Kickstarter I backed the luxury version of Artefact. I didn’t know I was backing a luxury thing, I just like getting physical stuff in the post, and for the (comparatively rare) 🇬🇧 RPGs, I can order at much cheaper postage. Well, it arrived, and it’s very lovely indeed. The idea of Artefact is, from the website: ARTEFACT is a story game for one player, designed for contemplative solo play.

Starting Slipgate Chokepoint
2 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake stay frosty

So I have a Kickstarter problem.

And one of the things I backed this year was this beauty. Go look, I’ll still be here when you get back. It’s basically Quake: The RPG, and is an adventure/conversion for Stay Frosty.

Slipgate Chokepoint book

Automating Char-gen with perchance
26 Jul, 2020 sgcp perchance
I used the perchance.org website to create a Slipgate Chokepoint character generator

Slipgate After-Action Report 1
25 Jul, 2020 sgcp

First attempt, could have been worse. But I got a lot wrong.

AAR: The chicken thief
23 Jun, 2020 aime cubicle 7 lotr

The next adventure introduces an NPC but not for long and I thought it would be fun to introduce them early. Mugwort, a hobbit NPC in the Pony had alleged a chicken thief was due to “them no-good Rangers”. It’s supposed to be a hook for another monster up to no good. But what if it was a Ranger?

🎵 DRAMATIC CHORD 🎵

AAR: Old Bones and Skin
17 Jun, 2020 map aime hex-kit

This post contains spoilers for the named adventure in the Bree-land Region Guide for Adventures in Middle Earth, by Cubicle 7 🙈.

It does also have some maps I drew for the encounters in Hex Kit - maybe it’s worth you peeping?

Legacy Jewelry
20 Aug, 2014 stained glass jewelry
Apologies for the blur I had a go at making stained-glass jewelry in November last year. It wasn’t entirely successful – I hadn’t appreciated the ones I’d seen were silver rather than eutectic solder, which is what this is made with. Eutectic solder does look nicer, but it’s obviously not the right stuff. Additionally I think if I used a soldering iron with a temperature-controlled tip (as I do on my electronics) I could probably make the solder itself look nicer.

Nana nana nana nana, BATMAN!
19 Aug, 2014 stained glass batman

Stained glass batman logo

A friend’s birthday came up, waay back in 2012, and I made him a small batman logo. Actually too small, this is A5 sized and was difficult to get the detail in. I added hooks at the top corners to hang it but as a piece of art it’s a bit difficult to put somewhere. Happily its colours are strong enough that it doesn’t require light behind it to work. Still took about a day though. I think this was when I discovered they don’t joke about the warnings on the bottles in this hobby and the patina wash I’d got over my now painful hands was nitric acid!

Unleashing the kraken!
17 Aug, 2014 lasercut

I’ve been running the Dark Veil arc for my players, which unfortunately seems to have gone offline (both the publisher and any products off DriveThru RPG) and the players have to sneak onto a ship full of pirates and then murder them all bring them to justice. As I was going through the campaign notes the ship seemed cramped and the likelihood that fights between decks could occur and then everyone will start misremembering what a certain stack of dice corresponds to for height and it would get a bit of a muddle.

“How hard can it be to make a ship?” I thought. Well, with a laser cutter, it’s about a day’s work – about half that if you don’t bother painting it.

Bow of a model ship

The pointy bit

Glass Lampshade
17 Aug, 2014 stained glass portal

Well who doesn’t want a Weighted Companion Cube? I realise it’s not the most innovative design but it’s nice and simple, and I like the fact that it hangs over my head. It also goes with my Aperture Science logo.

Stained-glass lampshade

This took a surprisingly long time to make, as I started this in March 2014 and only finished it in August. However this was mainly due to not actually working on it in April-July as I couldn’t decide exactly how I was going to attach the lampshade to the pendant once I’d made it, which demotivated me slightly.

Aperture Science logo
9 Aug, 2014 stained glass portal

Stained-glass Aperture Science logo

I made this back in 2012 and never wrote it up. Mind you, I’m still in two minds as to whether it works well. If you know it’s an Aperture Science logo it looks like one, but I think otherwise it just looks like a camera iris / aperture / spiral thing. Since making this I bought some mirrored glass which might have been better in the middle, as actually I don’t really open the curtains too much – it lets out heat in winter, and lets in sun on my monitor in summer! A mirrored centre would allow me to hang it on a wall. Maybe I’ll look for some adhering foil backing…