Celebrating My 202nd Post

Somehow my 200th post passed without me noticing. But I will not let my 202nd post pass without something to show for it. So I’m running my first contest.

The Contest

In the comments for this post, tell me something game related that you would like me to see me write about. This would obviously be based on my experience and game collection, so you might be surprised at what I write.

The contest ends October 31st, 2012 at 11:59pm EDT and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

The Winner

On November 1st, I will pick my personal favorite comment and one other random comment. Both commenters will receive a free copy of my Take On Magic Items. If you already have a copy of Take On Magic Items, I will give you an IOU for my next supplement – which is in the works.

The Fine Print

I will do my best to write, in a timely manner, a post using the prompt of my favorite comment. But no promises.

And What are My Top Posts?

Burning Wheel Gold – Initial Impressions
Translating Empire Strikes Back into Dungeon World Moves
World of Dungeons by John Harper
Good News Everyone…Bulldogs! RPG is Here!
Hollowpoint Review
Apocalypse World moves in the Fellowship of the Ring
Life During a Wartime – Random Village Generator
The Mah Jong of Tichu
Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney – PDF Edition
Stealing Cthulhu by Graham Walmsley
Diaspora RPG Cluster Creation
Ran my First Game of Dungeon World
Goshen Game Day 2013
Hollowpoint Session Observations
Hacking Together a Burning Wheel Conflict Resolution on the Fly
Customer Service – Evil Hat Style – It is Fabulous
Weird Fantasy – Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Bloodstone Campaign Introduction

Transitions in Table Top RPGs

Consider a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Your group is conversing with the evil Duke in the Duke’s throne room. It is a role-playing scene, between two groups, and things begin escalating towards a conflict. And someone, usually the thief, says “I’m shooting him in the face.”

The game would then often times abruptly switch into the combat subsystem – maybe from another subsystem, but more likely from free-form role-playing that had occurred. There may even be a need to place characters exactly, precisely, and correctly on the detailed map. A map that didn’t so much matter until the game rules required precision.

And don’t get me started about starting a role-playing scene by drawing on a map the Duke’s throne room, and having the players declare where they are standing. Then you are just asking for the players to attack the Duke.

Now, how would you adjudicate the above in D&D 3E? Would you have everyone roll initiative? Would you give surprise to the aggressor? His team? Would you have them use their initiative modifier? Or perhaps either their Bluff or Sense Motive bonus for initiative? Would you give the aggressor a bonus? What about allowing them to use their Bluff skill opposed by their targets Sense Motive to see if they get the surprise.

Most of my campaigns have a notable number of scenes that start out with swords sheathed only to escalate into either a stand-off or an all out conflict. I would like to think that I’m trying to tease out that moment in a story where things either escalate or cool down. And shame on me for not codifying these transitions, though to not be so hard on myself, I’ve been a player in plenty of these, and I love playing thieves.

I’ve witnessed numerous moments where the character declaring the “I stab him in the face” then rolls a terrible initiative and ends up staring as bloodshed erupts around them.

In reading Eon Fontes-May and Sean Dunstan‘s Dungeon World Guide, I had a “Yes that! I should blog about that!” moment. Consider the following text and its paired commentary:

Text: You dig around in the metal eyesocket [of the seemingly inert automaton] and the ruby comes loose, rolling into your hand. As soon as it does, though, the clockwork springs to life with startling speed, it’s hand is shooting for your neck like it’s going to grab you. What do you do?

Commentary:  Here it is, this is the beginning of combat, here. But there’s no initiative, we just slide into it. I describe the beginning of the monster’s attack and wait for the response.

It is that simple moment where things are in motion, and the character must decide.

Any GM, in any system, could follow the above script, but I would wager many GMs would not ask the question and instead look to the various subsystems to attempt to adjudicate this event: saving throw, an attack roll, or initiative.

After all, a GM in most other systems has a pool of dice, just like the players. And I know that when I have dice as a player or GM, I want to roll them.

And why is this different in Dungeon World than in most other games? Because of the structure of moves. To resolve something unknown, a character must trigger a move via the in-game fiction. Once the character triggers a move, the player rolls the dice then adjudicate the results. The adjudication is part mechanical and part narrative, and thus transitions back to the in-game fiction.

In other words, as a GM, I can easily push a character to a decision point, knowing that there will be a move that the character can use to respond – but I don’t necessarily know what move they will choose.

In that move, there is a chance that I, as a GM, will have permission to hit them hard. And more importantly, there is a chance that the character’s player to avoid my trap. But more importantly, the player character responds as they see fit.

Post Script

I still love the scripted actions of Burning Wheel as I feel interesting narratives emerge – it is impossible to predict what will happen after a handful of scripted actions are all adjudicated into a singular narrative.

However, I don’t want to see scripted actions with every interaction. Which is why I feel as though Dungeon World does things very right. Let the characters declare actions, and have most of the GMs moves be “shit is about to happen, what do you do?”

An Odd Duck that Dungeon World

This week, I released Take On Magic Items, a magic item supplement for Dungeon World. Take On Magic Items has even crawled its way up to the 6th slot on RPG Now‘s Hottest Items – as of today it’s slipped to 9th. And you can’t even buy Dungeon World at this point – it looks like it will be available late 2012.

You can, however, freely and legally reference the plain documents either in raw XML form at Github or in a prettier, albeit artless, HTML form at book.dwgazetteer.com, or download the ePub or PDF. These are the most current, free, publicly available versions of Dungeon World.

It is also possible that you have one of the Dungeon World red books, which contained a fully playable version that has some notable differences – Hit Points, Monster Levels, and Saving Throws – than the current iteration. There are echoes of D&D’s original edition changes in Dungeon World.

You can also find the freely available, and quite good, Dungeon World Guide by Eon Fontes-May and Sean Dunstan to help you get a better grasp on Dungeon World – especially if you are coming from the highly structured combat initiative systems.

Or Travis Scott‘s “Things” – a collection odds and ends. I never did say it loud enough “I love me some Stygian Coins.” And don’t forget the bonus material at Dungeon-World.com.

Or, perhaps you want to purchase Josh Mannon’s “Within Devil’s Reach“; A Dungeon World adventure that was successfully kickstarted before the latest Dungeon World iteration was announced. And there is Thornburg. Both of which are part of Josh’s Gears of the Worm God campaign.

So at this moment, the Dungeon World community has supplements available for purchase while the cornerstone product cannot be purchased; But we are not in the lurch because Sage Kobold Productions has licensed Dungeon World via Creative Commons and released the text on Github.

I am waiting, as if in the Christmas advent season, for the arrival of the print version of the game. But its absence is not keeping me, nor others, from producing additional content. In fact, I have a few other Dungeon World ideas rattling around.

Take on Magic Items – A Dungeon World Magic Item Compendium

Today I released my first published RPG supplement “Take on Magic Items.” It is available at RPG Now. This collection of 24 eclectic magic items are crafted specifically for Dungeon World; Though, I believe, many of them could easily be converted to most fantasy systems.

There is a 2 page preview available at RPG Now, but here is a list of the item names, as well as the text for the Porcelain Pig of Prosperity:

  • Bearded Shield, The
  • Bell of Freedom
  • Belt of the Brawler
  • Boots of the Trailblazer
  • Bladed Gloves
  • Chains of the Drowned
  • Chalice of Fealty
  • Crimson Scimitar
  • Gloves of the Pickpocket
  • Hairbrush of Fallen Locks
  • Jellied Eyes
  • Jug of Liquid Metal
  • Miser’s Amulet
  • Occum’s Razor
  • Phylactery of Remembrance
  • Porcelain Pig of Prosperity
  • Ring of Regeneration
  • Ring of Spell Turning
  • Rosary of Contemplation
  • Sanguine Mask
  • Spear of Spiritbinding
  • Tattered Dice Pouch
  • Traveller’s Fork
  • Writ of Demeter

Porcelain Pig of Prosperity

This poorly painted porcelain pig figurine appears to be the work of an artistically dis- inclined student.

When you place a single coin in the pigs small slotted mouth and leave it there until the next sunrise, two coins exactly like the original can be found in the pigs slotted rump. The coin in the pigs mouth is gone.

When you gently polish the pig and glee- fully mutter the phrase “Give me, give me! Pork, pork! Now! Now! Now!” the porce- lain pig grows and permanently transforms into a succulent, aromatic, roasted hog large enough to feed 30 people. Inside the roasted hog’s intestine can always be found a new Porcelain Pig of Prosperity.

Men have went mad searching for en- chanted coins to feed to their pig…but the wise realize that this can’t possibly work… can it?

Thornburg by J.B. Mannon and Jeremiah Shepersky

Thornburg by Jeremiah Shepersky and J.B. Mannon, with art by J.J. Sloane and maps by Matt Jackson.

Having previously ran J.B. Mannon’s Ziggurat of the Sun Princess, and finding the setting very evocative, I was curious about his latest Dungeon World project. This was a solicited review – I contacted J.B. and asked if he would send me a copy for review.

What You Get

You get an evocative map of the village of Thornburg, a handful of NPCs with instincts and moves, a handful of described locations, and some advice and initial questions to ask the players.

First, and foremost, I really love Matt Jackson’s map of Thornburg. It is hand-drawn and provides hints of little stories rippling through the village – I particularly like the unexplained grave in the woods.

The Thornburg supplent begins by stating that until you begin asking and answering questions about the village of Thornburg, nothing is happening in this town – the write-up instead puts potential energy in the various NPCs.

The advice reiterates what Dungeon World advises; Ask questions. Lots of questions. And Thornburg provides a solid list of loaded questions to ask. By building on their answers a GM knows what the PCs are interested in exploring. Below is an example:

The town of Thornburg is known for its local legends, what is the most disturbing legend you have heard of?

Thornburg then goes on to include a section on Fronts, but it is in worksheet format. I think this is a weak spot. For me, the Fronts should come out after the first session, not during. There isn’t quite a clear explanation of this section.

The final section is a list of locations and NPCs. Each location has a slice of the map, a description, and one or more NPCs with an illustration. The NPCs are an interesting bunch. Lots of odd behavior in these characters, but most importantly, the NPCs have fully fleshed out moves and very unique instincts.

Final Thoughts

Thornburg costs $2.50 in PDF or $5 for both print and PDF. The map is a great rendering of a Fantasy village. The concise advice for running Dungeon World is very helpful for those new to Dungeon World and it’s Apocalypse World Engine siblings. The NPCs, portraits, and locations are interesting enough that the price is right.

Buy this if: You like village maps; You want a little kick to get your Dungeon World game going; You are looking for a village that has the potential for odd things lurking around the corner.

Don’t buy this if: You are looking for a dungeon crawl, looking for only non-human opposition, you aren’t planning on sending your characters through small late middle ages villages.

Helping Other Gamers With Consideration for the Visually Impaired

As one of the regular hosts at Games on Demand at GenCon, it was my duty to match games, facilitators (i.e. GMs), and players. Three exchanges of players looking for games stuck out.

One exchange was someone saying “I’m glad I have money so I don’t have to volunteer to get my badge for GenCon.” This left a bitter taste in my mouth, but underneath that derision was a valid point: He wanted to play games. And I happily paired him with a game run by a passionate GM – I think he ended up playing Monsterhearts, which I know was out of his comfort zone; I think he enjoyed it.

Another exchange was with a couple and I assume their teenage child. They were waiting for games and got to the front of the line only to find that they weren’t interested in any of the available games. And they really didn’t want to leave the front of the line. They wouldn’t accept my promise that of all the remaining games, each of the GMs were passionate about running their game. Eventually they left disgruntled without taking a risk.

The third exchange was with a middle aged woman whom had obvious low vision issues – the white cain was my visual clue. I had seen her walking around the entry way, and at one point another host guided her to a place where she could sit and not worry about getting jostled around. And there she sat patiently.

During this particular slot, I was fortunate to have a second person helping with hosting. And as things were brought under control, I approached the woman who was so patiently waiting.

As I sat down with her, I asked about her vision issues, so I could understand how I could pair her up with someone. It turned out that she had something similar to Macular Degeneration – her central vision was gone. I explained that my mom had Retinitis Pigmentosis – my mom has no peripheral vision and only a pinprick of central vision – and was herself nearly blind.

In helping this woman, I thought of my mom, and how she struggles to play games with even the most simple of components.

Clearly any game with a heavy reliance on maps and tactical movement was out of the question. So she was in the right place as most of the offerings were Indie games, in which maps are eschewed; Or more appropriately used as a visual augmentation.

While she was waiting, she had been carefully listening to the tables discussing their games. And she quickly began asking questions.

“Can you tell me about that game over there? It sounds interesting, but I’m afraid I’m not into petty conflict and teenage angst.”  – I explained Monsterhearts, and she said “No thank you.”

“And that one sounds like there is just too many dice for me to manage,” she said in reference to what I assume was Mythender.

We went through a few more, and for one reason or another they weren’t good fits.

I asked her if she had heard of Fiasco, and she said no. Here was a game that required very little in the way of visual information. I then went on to quickly explain it, but it became evident that she wasn’t looking to play a bad person, nor did she want the other characters to be bad.

That greatly narrowed the field; There is something about tragedy tourism that Indie games aspire to. We worked our way through the offerings, and it was clear that she knew what she didn’t want to play.

I had an “A ha!” moment, and went to talk with Marissa of Magpie Games. She was prepping to run a game of Our Last Best Hope. And I asked her for the quick run down of the game and paired that with the woman’s request.

Sure enough, this would work out. The woman was very much interested in playing a character trying to save the earth from a catastrophe – bad things could happen to her character so long as they weren’t inflicted by other non-GM players.

Afterwards, I talked with Marissa and it sounded as if the woman enjoyed the game. And while there are some visual aspects to the game there were others helping, and the game went off rather well.

This exchange left me wondering what other games would work for people with visual impairments.

Other Games For The Visually Impaired

Our Last Best Hope – there are some writing elements, but really this can be handled by other people helping out.

Fiasco – while the setup may be a bit challenging, once the game is rolling, it should be relatively easy for someone to play.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple – yes you are asked to record your story in one sentence, which may be challenging to write, but why not have another person be the scribe.

InSpectres – While the character sheets are very busy, they can be distilled into something quite compact.

Cthulhu Dark – Each character has two concerns; What is my insanity score and what is my profession. Simple characters. Simple rules.

School Daze – Characters are a simple collection of information; Should be easy to mentally juggle. Not a lot of text to wrestle with.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it may prove helpful for those of you looking for a game to play with someone you know who has vision impairments.