Thursday, February 29, 2024

How I Designed SKills in Deathtrap Lite

 I'm going to spend the next few articles talking about Deathtrap Lite. This little OSR game was my personal passion project in 2021. 

When we started the World of Weirth campaign, Stephen Smith was looking for a scalable skill system that would allow him to determine the outcome of events without relying on the somewhat "pro-PC" skewed skill system of Low Fantasy Gaming. He adopted a fairly straightforward system from the old blog Taps and Tankard. He adjusted the difficulty levels inherent to that system and added a system for skills to grow as the PCS use them, rather than as they levelled up.

 In practice, however, we found that the players were avoiding tasks that would require rolling using the system if they could. My fellow players found that there was some lack of clarity in the rules. Stephen invited me to write a proposal as how I would rewrite and rejig the system so that the players would be more comfortable using it, which I did in a matter of a few hours. But that got me thinking about how I could build a whole role-playing game system out of it...

This is where Deathtrap Lite came from, tweaking an existing skill system into something new and flexible. I'm going to go over the basics of the system with you here.

Monday, February 26, 2024

What Gives them Hope? (Musings in the Hour of the Wolf)


I can't sleep tonight, readers.

Life has handed me a problem where none of the outcomes are good or happy. And one that has made me so frustrated and angry I just don't know how to vent it so that I can relax enough to get to sleep. Housing crisis, living in a city that has become unlivable, skyrocketing cost of living, vaccine-induced brain damage, bad timing, children with special care needs... yadda, yadda, yadda... I wrote a version of this article with all the details, and it was boring. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of compromises to make, and years before any of it gets better. And that brain damage part never will.

And so I fired up blogger to do two things. And hopefully, in the process, keep serving you all. This blog, for what it is worth, is almost as great an escape for me as the games itself. 

The first is to put a thought in your ear, as it is one that makes a campaign all the much richer. Which is the question, where do people find hope? In a fantasy world as dark as Dungeons & Dragons when it is played by us oldsters, where do people find the charge to keep building those keeps on the borderlands, praying alongside those clerics, and going through life knowing they are one goblin raid away from ruin?

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Feycatchers Update

Palworld Promotional Image 
©️2023 Pocket Pair
 I have been working on my Feycatchers game setting for Basic Fantasy RPG, updating the formatting to be consistent with Basic Fantasy RPG. Along with some general edits.

While I am not yet fully compliant with BFRPG style,  I'm getting there. 

It is a take on a setting like Pokémon or Palworld, with a Celtic twist, made for my son who is a Pokémon fanatic.  Tragically I submitted it to the BFRPG forum simultaneously to the OGL scandal breaking and the "all hands on deck" to release a 4th edition,  so it went entirely unnoticed.  I am hoping to resubmit when it is properly adjusted to meet their standards. 

I have run a campaign in the setting from levels 1-7, and while I am too old to have been a Pokémon kid, myself, I had a lot of fun with it. In retrospect adding Pokémon to D&D definitely feels more like Palworld  than Pokémon.  At least the way I played it.

Download  version 1.2.1 Here

CSV Natani: Death Match of the Bands

Iria Ocano, generated in Unstable Diffusion
by her player.

 This is a quick report on what has happened in my White Star campaign over the last few sessions as the PCs played their way through Cascadia's bloody and perilous Deathmatch of the bands.

Session 9: January 22nd, 2024: Intrigue and Politics

Ciara tapped deep into her deviousness to help Leedo sabotage the Black Sun mercenaries. She started by sending anonymous warnings to Princess Dorala. She then faked a legal siexure of some major dockyards on the Taurelian home system, forcing their representative to jump home to sort matters out immediately and leave a proxy to observe the Festival of the Culling.

She also wove a botnet into the local film production systems so that she could weaponize the camera drones being used in the filming.

The band began to plan their tactical strategies while Ciara wrestled with whether to be on stage in a mask, or simply hide so that there was no choice of begin seen by the Alterrians that might yet be hunting her.

Iria, Leedo, Ciara, Pavo, along with newcomers Hrungg and Dj'hurk finalized their contracts as the band Iria and the Bloody Murder and began participating in the 3-day multi-stage concert / gladiatorial event.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Sourcebook Review: Fabula Ultima TTJRPG Atlas High Fantasy

: Emanuele Galletto
Publisher: Need Games
System: Fabula Ultima
Marketplace: DriveThruRPG

 I have been playing a lot of Fabula Ultima: TTJRPG lately. I am about 8 adventures in to a campaign that has been nothing short of epic. I can add to my observations, having played it as long as I have that combat is terrifying in Fabula Ultima despite its twin roots in the combat-heavy Final Fantasy series and the cozy storygame structure of Ryuutama.; I have never seen so much fleeing in terror, running and screaming on the behalf of PCs as I have playing Fabula Ultima. And that is while balancing the game to be within the parameter recommended by the system. Also, that the storygame elements don't suit my play-style very well, nor are they my favourite as a GM, but my most important player, my wife, is loving them, and they have been useful for hacking a particularly complex sequence in White Star as well.

It is painfully prep-heavy, but once you get into the rhythm of designing NPCs it speeds up dramatically.

One of the most useful parts of the early game is in the section on collaborative world-building (which, as an activity, I have mostly just thrown out, tbh.) In that section it describes the most common modes of play that have appeared in Final Fantasy games, as well as other Japanese RPG video game series like Ys*, Phantasy Star, Dragon Warrior, and Earthbound. Namely High Fantasy, Natural Fantasy, and Technofantasy. It covers the tropes, plot structure, world design, and antagonist character development principles of each of those subgenres.

When it was clear that my family was hooked on this particular Fabula Ultima campaign, which I had decided to go whole hog on the High Fantasy tropes for, and I saw this come out only a couple of weeks after the campaign got rolling, I decided that I needed to grab it. I have found it a very useful and well-designed tool, and I have referred to it quite a bit over the course of the campaign so far.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How I Used One-to-One Time in the Silver Gull Campaign.

Time Magician's Academy
Generated with Unstable Diffusion

One-to-One time is making the rounds again on Twitter, so I decided that it was time I gave a concrete example of how it worked for me in my Silver Gull Campaign. 

You can see reports about and articles inspired by my campaign here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Silver Gull is part of my Xen: Weird Fantasy setting, and I played it with a mix of Swords & Wizardry and Deathtrap Lite. (and supplemented with AD&D1e) Xen is a world with an eight-day week and a fairly elaborate calendar you can read about in my setting document. This document also contains a summary of two months of downtime activity.

My rule was that, barring my own ill health, every week of real time was eight days of time in Xen. So, after each Monday night session, my players had seven days of downtime before the next session. I would advance the date in Xen seven days after the last date that passed in the session.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Joy of Learning (Getting into Podcasting)

Life never sits still for me. There are always new challenges and new troubles. This is nothing profound. I am sure most people can say the same. In my case, it is high time to start a new business so that I can start to earn while working around my health limitations.

I have decided to start using the audio production skills that I learned recording audiobooks for Audible, coaching, writing, and as a UXD to offer my services as a producer, editor, and developer for podcasts.

  • I have no worries about the technical process; I know my way around Audacity, Wordpress, BluBrry, and dHTML. 
  • Nor do I have much difficulty in developing content ideas, coming up with good descriptions and SEO.
  • For the podcasts I hope to produce I can write and I can act. I have spent many years getting certifications from Toastmasters, I've hosted a television program before.

Where I am weak these days is understanding how to best devellop and optimize RSS feeds, on marketing podcasts, and the various options that Podcast 2.0 has to offer for monetization and publicity, etc. And so I have been diving deep into material like the Audacity to Pocast and every relevant book I could find in my public library.

And few things make me happer. There is something about ploughing headlong intto new ideas and skills that wakes me up and makes me come alive.

As I was contemplating what to do about my poor neglected blog this morning, I realized that the same reason I have been letting it slide for the past week is the same reason I have loved writing for you all over the last few years. I love sinking my teeth into a new system, a new setting, or a new world. I like learning how to build fun new experiences using the tools of TTRPGs.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Let's Talk Adventures: DCC #68: The People of the Pit

: Joseph Goodman
Publisher: Goodman Games
Marketplace: Goodman Games, DrivethruRPG 
System: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG 

I first played The People of the Pit in March of 2019 and I have very fond memories from this module.

At that time, I had joined the Dungeon Crawlers Discord, a DCC fan board that I was assured had a great LFG section, and was not disappointed.  I joined a group that was going to meet every Thursday. We would play either a published Goodman Games module, playtest our own module, or bring an adventure of the right approximate length, and run it. As soon as we were done, the GM would rotate. We all had our own PCs, but they,would not be allowed a vote in party decisions while we played.

We started with Sailors on a Starless Sea, which only two of my six characters survived. One of them, Podrux, immediately became a group favourite.  A tailor, but a wealthy one with gems in his pocket, Podrux wasn't raiding the citadel of Chaos because he was trying to save his kin... No, he was on this adventure because these bastards owed him money, and they can't pay up if they're dead. My fellow players loved the cowardly,  greedy, sarcastic bastard who was really the village usurer. Especially as he got his hands on magic power and immediately started trying to figure out how to get more.

Our second game was a playtest of my module Vikings on a Starry Sea, which I will publish one day. Followed by a GM who had a plot in mind, and started setting up what would be his own episodic plot. In which Podrux defrauded a town of incredible wealth, sacrificed some pets, and started courting power from a few patrons.

And then came The People of the Pit. This Sprawling Dungeon was one of the weirdest I'd ever encountered in a way I'd really liked. It is, to me, one of the defining modules of the Dungeon Crawl Classics catalogue. Given that it was the second DCC module released for Goodman Games' own new TTRPG, it had to be. I would not be surprised if it was a big portion of the reason Goodman Games was such a hit.