Blog Posts

Random Clergy Generator

Tags:
random tables
role-playing game
Published:

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a campaign that involves a monastery. As I’ve explored the campaign, I figured that I might as well create some potentially useful generators.

This is heavily influenced by Roman Catholic tenets and organizational structures . Much has been drawn from LordsAndLadies.org and Wikipedia.

Duty

What is responsibility of the clergy member?

d20 Duty Description
1 Bishop Spiritual and political head of multiple parishes (e.g. a diocese)
2 Archdeacon A cleric having a defined administrative authority delegated to him by the bishop in the whole or part of the diocese.
3 Deacon Minister to the physical needs of the congregation.
4 Abbot/Abbess Head of the abbey
5 Prior Oversees the internal life of the monastery, responsible for the monastery when the abbot is gone
6 Subprior When the prior and abbot are away, the subprior is responsible
7 Almoner Responsible for distributing alms to the poor
8 Barber Surgeon Responsible for shaving faces, tonsures, and performing light surgery
9 Cellarer Responsible for provisioning the monastery
10 Infirmarian Oversees the infirmary
11 Novice Master Oversees the postulants and novices
12 Lector Entrusted with reading the lessons in church
13 Guest Master Responsible for overseeing any guests
14 Refectorian Responsible for refectory where meals are served
15 Sacrist Responsible for the safe keeping of books, vestiments, vessels, and maintenance of buildings
16 Cantor Leads the church choir
17 Postulant a person that has come to the monastery to take the vows; watched by the Novice Master
18 Novice a person who has completed their postulancy and within the year will take their vows
19 Brother a monk that has taken the vows
20 Father an ordained priest

Timeline

Table 2: When did they join the clergy? If you roll the maximum value, roll the die again and add the new result to the previous result; Repeat if you again roll the maxium value.

d8 Age Joining this chapter Background before joining
1 10+d8 Yesterday A foreigner banished from their land
2 10+d10 Last month An orphan taken in at age 1d6-1
3 10+d12 Last year A noble born with a gift of land
4 20+d8 1d6 years ago A free person with an aptitude
5 20+d10 2d6 years ago A serf that fled his liege
6 20+d12 3d6 years ago A soldier forsaking the way of war
7 30+d20 1d4 decades ago An outlaw posing as a free person
8 30+2d20 At age 11 A slave that escaped his master

Masses

A monk’s daily routine includes numerous religious services.

d8 Mass Description
1 Matins at midnight
2 Lauds at dawn (approximately 3am)
3 Prime approximately 6am
4 Terce approximately 9am
5 Sext approximately noon
6 Nones approximately 3pm
7 Vespers before dark (approximately 6pm)
8 Compline before retiring (approximately 9pm)

Virtue and Vice

Answer the following questions related to the clergy member’s perception of vice and virtue.

  • They lack this virtue?
  • They exemplify this virtue?
  • They loath this vice? They personally hold it as the worst of all vices.
  • They conceal, yet are consumed by, this vice?
d8 Vice Virtue
1 Lust Chastity
2 Gluttony Temperance
3 Greed Charity
4 Sloth Diligence
5 Wrath Patience
6 Envy Kindness
7 Pride Humility
8 Roll 2 times Roll 2 times

Methods and Means

Determine a clergy member’s method and concern.

d6 Method Concern
1 Repenting for the congregation
2 Toiling over the sacred relics
3 Shepherding the sacred text
4 Glorifying the lands
5 Expanding the buildings
6 Depleting the brothers/sisters
7 Protecting the guests
8 Purging the offerings

Observations of Dungeon World at Michiana Board Gamers

Tags:
dungeon world
role-playing game
session analysis
Published:

What follows are my observations regarding the Dungeon World game that I ran at Michiana Board Gamers. The other post was already ridiculously long, so I’m splitting it up.

Observations

Michiana Board Gamers

What a fantastic facility! An area church has graciously offered space for us to use. The people were very friendly and inviting. Michael, thank you so very much for being a host and ambassador for your church.

If you are in the area, please make sure to check out Michiana Board Gamers.

The Namer

The Namer is an interesting playbook but perhaps served for a longer game. Much of what they do requires a true name…which they can research. So in future one-shots I will make sure the Namer is not amongst the batch.

The Namer also has a fantastic racial move that is perfect in the hands of a player ready to embrace this narrative power:

You were raised on oral folklore and traditions of names and songs which took new life for you when you learned their true origin. Whenever you sing or tell a story to impress, captivate or frighten an audience, take +1 forward against them.

Golden Opportunities

I was trying to hit harder on 6- rolls, and think I did that. But it is still not quite in my nature; I like complications but have a hard time really twisting the knife.

As we were wrapping up Mark noted that I was hitting harder when the players presented a golden opportunity.

Flow of Combat

I’m struggling with the flow of combats. Some of the combats devolve into what feels like hack and slash marathons – lots of 10+ rolls for minimal damage. I’ve been playing these as “okay player keep pressing the initiative…you’ve got free rein.” Should I be making soft moves in between a successful hack and slash?

I asked this question at the Dungeon World Tavern, and there are some great responses. In essence, I’m forgetting to follow-up with soft moves that are my response to the players action. As a GM I need to ask the players “What do you do?”; Also as a GM I need to take the results of each player move and answer the implicit “What do you do?” question that the player ask me.

Splitting the Group

Splitting the group in Dungeon World is rather invigorating…as one group faces a hard question I quickly pan to the other characters and have a quick conversation and end with a hard question…then pinball back to the previous group to hear their answer and determine its resolution.

Playbook Selections and One Shots

I love running Dungeon World one shots with a huge selection of playbooks presented to the players. Once they winnow the playbooks, a story and world takes form – it is a custom creation in which each character is “at home”.

At first with this style of improvisation the world is blurry. We fumble a bit as the questions and answers bring the fiction into focus. I almost always feel that this method results in a session trajectory that is steadily improving.

Moves that Don’t Hit the Table

I’ve noticed in the games I run that players don’t often Discern Realities and very rarely Spout Lore. It could be that I tend to run human-centric games, but perhaps something isn’t quite clicking.

Roses and Thorns

And note to self, adopt Mark Truman’s Roses and Thorns post session wrap-ups. I keep saying this, but rarely give myself time to do this.

Dungeon World at Michiana Board Gamers

Tags:
dungeon world
role-playing game
session report
Published:

And once again, Dungeon World provided the ingredients for a fantastic one-shot experience. I split the session observations into a separate blog post.

For me, the secret is in letting the players pick from the plethora of playbooks and letting those interactions roll around. In particular it is helpful to have playbooks that hint at things far larger than the characters.

Saturday afternoon, I attended my first BoardGamers of Michiana – though it was a prearranged meeting place for playing Dungeon World. I did also manage to squeeze in a game of Ninjato and a few short games.

As we assembled the players began selecting their playbooks:

Preamble

We established a monotheistic region dedicated to Sola. The Knight Templars of Sola devotion is to the purging and purifying light – ready with the thumbscrews and pyres. And there was Shou, a bearer of a piece of Sola; A calming and soothing voice. Hawk knew the true name of Sola. Vess leveraged her fire magic to blend in amongst the torches and zealotry.

Brother Sam, upon torture had confessed that the Monastery of the Setting Sun had fallen to heretical ways. And Gavin was going to lead the inquisition.

Enroute

As the characters embark traveling through the forest, they encounter a burned villages, a destroyed shrine to Gaea with the charred remains of a man

As they draw closer to the mountains, they round a hill and stumble upon six guards on foot (spears and gambeson armor) and a wagon driven by a monk.

A brief exchange, and Gavin orders all of them to stand down; The guards, realizing Gavin is both the law and their superior, flee.  The monk attempts to drive the wagon through the characters. The monk quickly subdued and his wagon brought under control.

To help prepare the monk for Gavin’s inquisition, Vess performs a creepy blood magic ceremony…plucking a worm from an apple, slicing open her wrist to cut out a small vein, mixing the two in a golden bowl, then anointing the monk with this bloody admixture. How’s that for +1 forward on an Inquisition!

Gavin attempting to draw a confession from the monk, instead angers Sola. Sola strikes him deaf. This does not stop Gavin from stringing the monk up and burning him as a heretic.

Making Camp

Deciding to rest and recover, Grovo cooks up a fine meal, restoring Gavin’s hearing. Were this a long term campaign I probably would’ve required atonement for Gavin to regain his hearing.

That evening, as Grovo is grooming his pony – also named Gavin – he see’s the glint of spears. Waking Gavin, the templar, with only a moments notice before the guards assault the camp. A frenzied battle ensues as.

Vess rushing to the aid, draws a deep breath and exhales a noxious cloud of death that engulfs 4 of the 6 assailants as well as Gavin and Shou. From Hawk and Grovo’s perspective, the cloud takes the form of a horned face.

To frighten his adversaries, Hawk explains that this was Helaxis of the 7th Pit, a fallen battle cleric of the Sola consumed by the breath of demons. He now gets +1 forward against the assailants.

Grovo, attempting to distract one of the assailants instead draws attention to himself…his leg is pinned…Gavin is surround and being worn down. Hawk attempts to draw the power of Sola by using its True Name, but Sola is fickle and retreats.

On her broomstick Vess flies through the melee pulling Gavin into the air. Gavin drops and crushes one of his opponents but destroys his shield As Vess turns to assess the situation, she belches forth Helaxis and a battle in the sky ensues. Something was waiting for her.

The battle on the ground draws to a close as Vess tussles with Helaxis…Grovo manages to distract Helaxis just long enough for Vess to grab a potion and shatter it, bath both her and Helaxis in acid. Helaxis dissipates but fills Vess’s head with an infernal chanting. She drew unwanted attention to herself.

Gavin commands the surrender of one of the last standing of the guards, and he drops his spear. They learn that there are only two guards remaining at the monastery, as well as 12 monks, the prior, and Symbol the witch.

At the Monastery

Grovo, ever cheerful and friendly, grabs a bag of apples and approaches the monastery. The guards, seeing Grovo’s friendly face, let him in and agree to send four monks to help him with his wagon.

An ambush is successfully sprung; being short on time, I hand-wave any kind of conflict and the characters quickly don the disguise of monks.

They return, and the guise holds up under a cursory inspection from the guard on the tower. Long enough for Shou to demand and receive entrance into the bailey. Grovo knows the peace won’t last long, so he sneaks up to the guard on the ground and undoes his scabbard.

It just about then that the guards realize Gavin is a little large for a monk. Gavin strikes quick, dispatching the guard on the ground. The guard on the bell tower sounds the alarm as Shou peppers him with arrows of light. Only as the bell rings does the chanting in Vess’ head subside.

The monks come out of the kitchen, dormitory, and chapel…see the chaos and they quickly flee into the monastery.

Gavin and Vess charge up the tower…all the while the chanting in her head takes on a fevered pitch.

Grovo, Hawk, and Shou give chase, and through Grovo’s charm and Shou’s command the monks leave the door open for them all to retreat to safety. Inside they see two monks prostrate, the prior chanting a sermon, with Symbol wresting an arm on the prior’s shoulder.

Back to the tower, Gavin gains entrance to the rooftop and with a quick slash, the guard hesitates and hell erupts.

Ashen faces with smokey serpentine bodies erupt from the guards mouth, ears, nostrils, and eyes, all swarming towards Vess. Gavin, cleaves one as it passes, but the other six fly into Vess’s body. The player wanted to stop so she could join another boardgame, and had just rolled a 6-, so I hit real hard.

Shou coaxed Sola to reveal a secret, and a light shines on Symbol revealing the truth behind an illusion; a horned head, with canine snout and cloven feet.

Back to the tower, a spawn erupts from Vess’s face. Demonic tendrils of smoke and shadow whip and writhe from her ears, nostrils, mouth, and one eye; The other eye burns with witching purple. And Gavin steels himself for the fight ahead.

In the monastery, Hawk cows Symbol by muttering her true name. Symbol begins to bargain and plead with Hawk…offering visions power. Hawk wrestles with the temptation…

And Gavin, locked in a battle, loses sword, breaks free of a grapple, dives for his sword, as the monster continues to sap his strength.

And Hawk, having given pause, utters Symbol’s true name again and she dissipates.

Finally Gavin makes one last plunge; defying the smokey tendrils to sink his sword into the creature that once was Vess. Gavin, victorious, limps down.

A Collection of Short Session Recaps

Tags:
burning wheel
butcher baker and candlestick maker
general games
Published:

What follows is a resurrection of a blog post I wrote a year and a half ago.

It has been awhile since my last Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker session report.  We have had a horrific time getting together to play. Life schedules can be such a hyrda.

After OnusBone’s comments on my Dungeon World Kickstarter announcement, I feel like I should continue writing the session reports.

Wedding Day Redux

Unfortunately most of this is lost.

Tackling the Tower

This session felt different.  Joe, the game master, came with a set of puzzles/trap rooms that we were going to have to navigate to the basement of the tower.  There were several rooms with physical challenges and numerous ability and skill tests.

So many that poor Margaret, still recovering from her Midi wound managed to advance both Speed and Power both to B5 – Margaret made some ridiculously lucky checks to avoid catastrophe.

The session worked rather well…the consequences for failure were rather obvious (i.e. don’t fall, don’t drown, etc.)  And here is where I note something, that I think, is interesting; But more on that later.

We’re Going to Need Another Researcher

We spent the first few hours regaining some of our traction from a long interlude. With such a long hiatus, it was somewhat natural.  Unfortunately, trying to restart a campaign in a library doing research is not quite starting en media res.

We didn’t learn much through the tower library – I believe we learned about the burial place of our grandfather.  However, while others were researching, Margaret did work at instructing her niece and nephew in Butchery – using Beginner’s Luck to work at opening Child-Rearing.

Through Astrology, Margaret did divine the location the Redguard’s portion of the map; We were going go back to where Julia was originally captured.  The family decided it was time to return to the capital.

First Casting

Margaret survived her first casting of Flame Breath with only a whimper. Alas the details have long since been forgotten.

Observations

Contrast the consequences of a failed physical test vs. a failed “mental” test.  We intrinsically understand what a failed physical test means…you fall, you get hurt, etc.  We are able to map our player understandings to the character’s world.  However, what does a non-physical failure look like?  We don’t learn something, we stop, we get caught, etc.

In the case of climbing, the consequence wasn’t “You can’t climb it” the consequence was “You fall”.  As I see it there are three outcomes of a climb test: “You climb it”, “You are stuck somewhere” and “You fall”.

Compare that to the failed “Research” test.  As a player, I was at the end of my patience concerning information.  We were in a freaking old library of the characters’ grandfather who was a guardian of that which we were trying to learn about.  And we learned nothing.  So when Peter and Anna, Peter’s wife, failed their research test we got a big fat “You learn nothing.”  Then what was the point of the test? Why did Anna get to mark a test for her Research?

If I were at the helm, choosing the consequence for failed research I would have started with “Okay if you fail the test, you’ll learn how to find the portal, but you won’t like the price.”  Then with the failed research, I would’ve had them stumble upon a passage that said “To reveal the portal to the next generation of guardians, the first born of the new generation must be sacrificed.”  Or some such ominous thingAfter all, every single characters’ belief is tied to protecting their family.. The stakes are high so keep them elevated.

Without consequences of failure in the “mental” arena, test mongering becomes standard. In fact, I fired off a string of successive Astrology tests out of frustration and desperation, knowing that the consequences for failing an OB10 test was ”And I mark a Challenging Test.”  In fact, without Astrology, we would be completely lost…but it is an unreliable means of advancing the story.

An astute reader of the Sorcery section will notice that tests already have backed in complications.  Especially when attempting a First Reading.

So, in an attempt change my micro-culture I’m going work hard to demand a consequence before I roll for a test. I ask that players in my games, be they Burning Wheel or otherwise, do the same.  I think this method of positing two outcomes before determining one is good practice as well as helpful in getting the creative elements going.  We build our narratives not only on the paths we take, but by those we’ve considered taking.

Burning Wheel or Dungeon World

Tags:
burning wheel
dungeon world
general games
torchbearer
Published:

An astute reader of this blog will have seen my transition from Burning Wheel to Dungeon World. It is also possible that they would infer my love affair with Burning Wheel is over. But  I assure you that it is not.

What follows is a modified response to an RPGGeek users question:

I have a question, since you seem well versed in both systems: what do you think now of Burning Wheel after having read and played Dungeon World (or for that matter any Apocalypse World hack)?

Picking the System to Run

If I had to pick the game, either Dungeon World or Burning Wheel I would ask one question: How many sessions will this game really last?

If I know there will be 20 sessions or more for a campaign, I would instantly pick Burning Wheel. If I knew there would be less than 5, I would pick Dungeon World.

For me, Dungeon World is an immediately accessible system in which I can get going fast. It has what I would consider a standard shelf life for campaign play - the advancements are traditional; though you can construct  narratively rewarding advancements (i.e. Compendium Classes that offer character variation based on what happened in the fiction.)

Contrast this with Burning Wheel which has a pretty hefty initial investment. But I look and see such fantastic options for campaign play - advancing my character requires advancing my understanding of the rules. It rewards pushing yourself as a player and your character.

To use an analogy,

Dungeon World is Neil Gaiman’s “Graveyard Book”; I find it easy to read, extremely accessible, and altogether enjoyable. I would also have a hard time subsisting on only this.

Burning Wheel is John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” or Dante’s “Inferno”; I find those hard to read but in the reading not only does my reading skill improve, but my understanding of the literary world and references increase as well.

Diving Deeper

Dungeon World, for me, is so very easy to pick up and run with. The Move structure of “fiction -> mechanics -> fiction” is such an amazing refinement on what many of us have internalized.

At Origins last year I ran three distinctly different adventures off the cuff for three distinctly different groups. And each 4 hour session was spectacular for me and the other players.

I have found the loose rules structure extremely liberating in regards to the fiction; Letting the events at the table – both in the fiction and in the questions I ask the players – form much of the game.

Burning Wheel for me is very rewarding game to read and digest. It is a finely crafted system with numerous parts moving in harmony. It rewards both character and player for long-term engagement with the system.

The sweet spot for Burning Wheel is that it provides numerous mechanisms for focusing the game on things extremely close to the characters (Relationships, Beliefs, and Instincts to name a few). The scope of Burning Wheel can feel so much more intimate.

I haven’t run Burning Wheel since running Dungeon World, but that is not because I don’t want to. I have entered a cycle of minimal time for commitment. So Dungeon World’s quick startup time is a boon.

I would highly recommend, if you can find a copy, picking up the Adventure Burner. It is Burning Wheel Headquarters break down of the nuances of Burning Wheel and helps to convey how they think about games.

And while you are at it, I would consider getting a copy of Torchbearer. It is Burning Wheel Headquarter’s love letter to the earlier versions of D&D. It uses the Mouseguard and Burning Wheel engine for a dungeon crawl game.

I am a huge fan of Torchbearer’s conditions. Instead of the wounds of Burning Wheel, which rightly condition a player to say “Am I willing to fight for this?”, conditions are an easier pill for the player to swallow. But conditions are a potential death spiral just as injuries in Burning  Wheel.

Another experiment I would strongly consider, though haven’t done myself, is to take the lessons you’ve internalized from Dungeon World and apply them to the hub of Burning Wheel (the first 70 or so pages).

Also make sure to check out my blog posts for Burning Wheel and Dungeon World for comparing and contrasting.