Monday, June 26, 2023

Classy World-Building Phase 2-2

 So, here is round 1 of building a world to go with the classes in the Drowned World. I started with The Braid, and I will work through the list at a pretty random pace. Once I can get Campaign Cartographer onto my new system I will start putting these places on a map.

It's tight, it is simple, and it is full of hooks to work with.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Renaming QuAD

 I recently discovered that QuAD was the name of a TTRPG by Nathaniel Cole of Alliterated Games released in 2016. While you cannot copyright a title, out of respect, I am going to rename QuAD RPG to Drakken going forward, with file updates pending to match.

Classy World-Building Phase 2-1

Art by Arthur Rackham.
So, to set up a world that has been reset by a terrible Deluge, I a, going to need to cover how it was drowned. This is the least interesting part of planning a world on some levels. Nobody likes excessive info dumps. So I have contained the Deeds of the Gods and their rules, the cause of the Drowning, the origin of the PC races, crammed into one page.

Relevant: Minimum Necessary Boredom by the Angry GM

This is the necessary evil of writing a session. But if it is done well it can be mined for adventure hooks, character backstory ideas, and themes. 

It also gives context for how the classes will play their role in the world.

Here is my first write-up:

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Classy World-Building Phase 2-0


[Note: the game QuAD RPG has been changed to Drakken]

After my test run of the Drowned World fizzled, because the mechanics of BECMI D&D didn't quite match the promise of the character class descriptions, I sat down and I wrote a whole new role-playing game to accommodate it: Drakken RPG.

I have shared a copy of Drakken using just the classes from B/X D&D on

From its inception, however, Drakken RPG was meant to be the backbone of a Drowned World campaign (take two). And even before I finish fully writing out the B/X D&D compatible version of it, I had already adapted all the classes I had shared last month and earlier this month to it. I could sit down tomorrow and play a version of the drowned world that probably better reflects the tone and intended experience of the Drowned World.

But what is the point of sharing the BX version of the classes, and my "Sword & Sorcery" version of Drakken RPG if I'm not also going to share a finalized version of Drakken RPG for the Drowned World?

As it is, in my Google docs I have a 100% ready game. I could pick up and play the Drowned World with friends with no problem at all. Sharing it, however, requires me to have enough of a gazetteer of the drowned world that anyone else could pick up the book and play it too.

And so, in order to finish the book I'm working on, I am going to have to build a gazetteer other people can use.

I'm currently working on the first part of that, describing how the world was drowned and what is left of it. Including introducing the major players in the game's pantheon.

Once I have established those core elements of the setting, the next step is to have places that the players might visit or be from

Thankfully for me by building the world using classes specific to the setting I've already done a huge portion of the work.

Many of the classes I've designed, like the Wobun alchemists, the Windlass machinists, or the mysterious Demalion time wizards all come with the idea that they are from a specific place and a specific culture that teaches them their abilities. For each of those classes I can describe a particular Homeland that has nurtured them.

For a few others that are members of a secret society, like the thieving Braid, they suggest an urban environment in which they might have arisen. Likewise, the sSorched gunslinger Rangers suggest their own wild West like Homeland where the firearms they use first of rose and are now a jealously guarded secret and part of their culture.

I can easily make one land per character class, give a sense of where it is on the world map, what the people who haven't ascended to the lofty ranks of level one adventurers are like, give it a few quirks, and name a few people and places in it, and have a gazetteer every bit as good as the one in the Dungeons & Dragons 3e Eberron Core Setting Book, which I consider the gold standard for campaign setting designs for Dungeons & Dragons.

All I would need on top of that is some central location where characters of almost any stripes might end up  a borderland setting with lots to do and plenty of danger. I could also use one metropolitan setting where characters can go and see people of all stripes and trade valuable goods. And probably one monstrous land of intelligent beings who are clearly not meant to be player characters. Tossing another dangerous and strange wild, and you have a very complete setting.

So this is what I'll be doing over the next few weeks, along with reviews and it connected thinkpiece. I will be building the world those classes suggest in order to put them in a version of Drakken RPG with a complete setting gazetteer. At the end of which, after a little tidying up and editing, I will post it as another pay what you want option.

I I'm quite proud of what I have achieved with Drakken. It plays in a quick and loose way that blends my favorite elements of Crimson Dragon Slayer, Knave, and touches of vanilla Dungeons & Dragons that I felt both lacked in a role-playing game that sits under 30 pages in length.

I imagine I could easily create a space opera post-apocalyptic, or Western version of this game in just a few days. Which would be a great treat for people who turn out to enjoy Drakken in the future.

This is also a lightweight enough project that I can keep doing it well continuing the much heavier work of finishing the eternal ocean in the background.

In a perverse irony, of course, I built a dark fantasy Knave setting to use for my home campaign until I was ready to do take two of the drowned world, and my wife is utterly hooked on it. Go figure. Might be another thing worth sharing at the end of the day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The Silver Gull Campaign: Fiends in Mirrors

Zeelagur character portrait made w/ Stable Diffusion
and ethically sourced image libraries by her player.
©️2023 D. Westfal
 My players have finally closed a major chapter in the Silver Gull Swords & Wizardry Campaign over the last handful of sessions:

March 20th: Obliteration

Returning from the Fae with a rescued cleric in tow, the PCs all went to the cloning lab Reine discovered and beat the Echthroi flashcrafter there to a pulp, forcing him to tell them where to find the gear they left behind. And discovered that a replicant of Zee had been sent to take the 'Gull.

Friday, June 9, 2023

What's in Drakken? Designing Bespoke Games for Campaign

[Note: the game QuAD RPG has been changed to Drakken]

I am going to just share an article on my design rationale and choices for my new game Drakken RPG,.

Drakken came out of the fact that my wife and kids are dissatisfied with some of the quirks of BECMI Dungeons & Dragons and Basic Fantasy... especially the slow Thief Skill progression. When I ran my first session of the Drowned World Campaign, I got a bad reaction on how poorly those skills performed. I tried replacing them with the pips system from Lamentations of the Flame Princess to make it easier, but that still starts PCs with abysmally low success chances.

Nor did my Skullduggery Die improve things, The Paradigm of the low chance of success for Thieves was baked into the core of any OSR game that includes the thief. And ones that do not are rare.

So I sat and thought about their frustrations and asked myself "given that I want this to be high fantasy with a liberal dose of anime silliness, is D&D working as a system to give the PCs the stories my campaign brief expected?"

Well... no.

So how could I "fix" the game in a way that it gave the experience I was looking for?

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG might have worked for most of it... the skills for thieves are a little generous, and the warriors are a blast. Using their mechanics for my Drowned World PCs might have worked... but its magic system, and its lethality made it a dubious option.

What I wanted was:

  • Simple
  • Fast
  • Low reliance on dice
  • Accomodates a lot of non-standard classes
  • PCs feel competent,  but not superheroic
  • Magic that is powerful, but limited and dangerous.
  • Different gods produce radically different clerical powers.
  • Took as little possible time for administrivia and planning. 
  • Compatible with my OSR material. 

It seemed like I might have to customize the game a fair way from vanilla D&D...

Time to Build a Custom System

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

On The Ethics of Product Reviews: Why People Reacted Badly to the Shadowdark Blitz

On Inertia

Shadowdark cover
©️2022 Arcane Library

I recently was having a discussion with my wife about my blog, and how frustrated I was that I hadn't had enough time to create more reviews lately. I have a wonderful backlog of classic RPG material and small publisher games I've been dying to get to. And, I am sure my regular readers have noticed that I have a terrible habit of deciding on a course of action, and then getting distracted by other projects.

I had stated my intent, for example to review Shadowdark back when it was an incomplete sample document a year and a half ago. Long before it's famous million dollar Kickstarter and the controversies around it. But when I was talking about my plans for the blog and my frustration with having missed an opportunity to have been ahead of the game on Shadowdark, had led to another interesting conversation about review ethics.