Friday, December 29, 2023

Japanese TTRPGs for Beginners

Deedlit is one of the original 
Record of Lodoss War PCs, &
an icon in Japanese pop culture
 About a year ago, I did a deep dive into the history of Japanese tabletop role-playing games ("table talk games") out of curiosity.  I shared what I knew, and what I learned, on a Twitter conversation, but my attempt to turn it into a post for W2tDT fell by the wayside when I fell ill. I am finally putting down what I know for those interested.

TTRPGs are a hobby that has had a small, dedicated fan base since the 1980s that has been intimately paired with their video gaming culture.  The two have had feedback loop that has given them something of a unique flavor.

Comptiq, Group S.N.E., and Forcelia

In the early 1980s Comptiq (a portmanteau of "computer-boutique") was Japan's up-and-coming PC magazine. While they started off with a focus on hardware and applications,  their audience quickly steered them more towards computer entertainment.

P.C. video games at the time included a lot of attempts to simulate D&D and Traveller. Series like Wizardry and Elite. A small portion of the PC gaming community took an interest in the pen-and-paper antecedents to popular gaming series, and became the first market for Japanese translations of Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons and Traveler. A fair chunk of Comptiq's reader base took at least an academic interest in TTRPGs, and Comptiq became a hub for discussing them. With the pace of life being what it was in Japan in the 1980s, however, finding a group and he time to play was a pretty big ask. 

Record of Lodoss War

In 1986, one of Comptiq's PC gaming correspondents, Hitoshi Yashuda, persuaded Comptiq to help him put together a gaming group and publish a series of articles about the experience of learning and playing B/X D&D.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

A Dungeon Crawl Fabula Ultima Style

 I'm currently running some Fabula Ultima at home. If you are not familiar with it, it is a TTRPG based on the Final Fantasy video games,  which have had an immense influence on the gaming culture of the 80s and 90s.  It uses a pretty funky fusion of the Japanese TTRPG Ryuutama and Blades in the Dark to create a game that captures the kind of storytelling that made Final Fantasy IV - XII such compelling games. As my wife and I are both long-time fans, and my oldest is just finishing his first ever playthrough of a FF game (FFIV - I am making sure the boy is classically educated. )

I like the game,  even if it is a little heavier on Storygame conventions than my personal tastes ususally run.

Today, I had the challenge of setting up a dungeon crawl as our heroes must brave the ruins of an extinct Dwarf civilization to get to the mountain peak.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Adventure: Red Tidings at Yule

 I just posted a new Level-0 funnel themed around Christmas villains and heroes from European Christmas and Yule folklore.

You won't see Santa Claus here, but you will face Krampus and hoards of Kallikantzaroi, led by the fiendish Belsnickle.You might save the Christmas Gnome, or find out the terrible fate of Morozoko the Yuletide wizard.

All in perfectly dark, gory humour, for those who like the occasional fiendish grin with your holiday cheer.

It is on DTRPG as a PWYW Product!

This module is a labour of love, with multiple playtestings over three Christmases, and a lot of agonizing about design, and especially maps. I made use of last year's Christmas present to make new and better ones using Dungeon Alchemist that I am very happy with:


If you are interested, I have uploaded three of the original dungeon alchemist files for sharing: The Withered Junction, The Sap Pits and Hollow, and the Temple of Annihilation (The Kallikanzeroi village involves a lot of photoshop and perspective tricks, so is not really share-ready.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Redefining the Wargame (for us Lunkheaded TTRPGers)

A while ago I wrote an article on how wargaming has a great deal to teach role-playing groups. The reaction I got was interesting, and best in cancellated in this comment:

It occurred to me that when a lot of people think of wargames, they think of something like Warhammer 40K, and so the definition they're using of wargames is very narrow. It is hard to understand where are the idea of Dungeons & Dragons being still heavily influenced by, and improved by cleaving its wargame origins might be confusing.

I thought it might be helpful to give a broader picture of what a wargame is, and why that is relevant to modern Dungeons & Dragons.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

CHV Natani: Shady Dealings and Ominous Portents

This is the third campaign report from my CHV Natani campaign, which is played using White Star, an OSR space opera game based on Swords & Wizardry. This a summary of the fourth and fifth sessions of the campaign. You can see the session zero and session one here, and sessions two and three here.

Session 4: December 4th: Ice Pirates

Shortly after finishing the asteroid scan, Leedo was alarmed to hear noises coming from Dr. K'twik's cryo tube. The alien tomb raider screamed, glowed, and then suddenly imploded into a mass of goo and bone fragments.

Leedo asked Iria and Roth to examine it, which left Iria vomiting and mildly traumatized. She vowed never to listed to Leedo if he said "look at this" ever again.

Before parting the Veles Sector, the Natani set down on the colony of Veles VIII; the inhabitants of Veles VIII are a group of eccentrics and anarchists who call themselves the Ice Pirates, and do their best to imitate a mashup of alien piratical subcultures throughout history,

The team agreed to split, up and get tasks done quickly, while Iria, feeling ill, decided to take a rest in the cryo tank on its restorative cycle.

Once in, Kuna made his way to the Friend Co. terminal to collect his pay for refuelling the Yszwa and then the system exchange terminal to collect pay of his navigational scans of the outer belt. While he was there a shady alien in a fedora approached him and asked if he was interested in moving some Tarelian Brandy, an expensive but controlled substance known to get those drunk on it into either  homicidal ranges, or sexual manias... depending on body chemistry. Illegal in some systems, and controlled by special import licenses in others. Kuna asked the alien to wait so he could do his research.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

CHV Natani: Getting Into Trouble

The CHV Natani is my White Star campaign where my players are the ragtag crew of a small starship trying to eke out a living in deep space. In Session 1, my PCs formed a crew and planned a journey to haul 72 tons of alien crustaceans to Cascadia where the crew's aspiring rock star Iria Ocano has a chance to compete in Deathmatch of the Stars.

Along the wya, Leedo, the ship's medic is hunting a bounty on a tiny lizard-like alien named Dr. K'twik, an "archaeologist" who has defrauded institutions, stolen artifacts, and sabotaged historical sites across the galaxy.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Game Review: Fateweaver

: Omar Aazam
Publisher: self-published
Engine: Tarot-based storygame

Fateweaver has been on my radar for awhile now. I have a lovely collection of Tarot cards and made a living as a psychic for one of the happiest years of my life. The xcuse to break out my favorite deck and the Mythic GM Emulator was hard really appealing.  I was pretty chuffed when Omar Aazam approached me, asking If I would care to review it, even though he knew that old-school games were more my bailiwick.

In Fateweaver PCs play characters from an Edwardian Steampunk world where predestination is an accepted fact for most of the population.  Their whole culture is built around teaching the masses to accept their Fate. The PCs are members of a rare group of blessed people called Fateweavers, who can choose their own destiny,  deny Fate, and even call upon supernatural powers to pursue their own path.

Every action of the Fateweaver has a butterfly effect on the world around them: their actions can let another person escape their predestination,  setting them on a new course in life. This means that Fateweavers are forces for Change, Dynamism, and Chaos. They are taught to use their powers cautiously and recruited by factions who have a specific philosophy as to how their powers might best be used for the public good... or personal gain.