Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Links of the Week: May 28, 2012

Some more links this week.  A few (big!) Hall of Fame entries, a longer list than usual of videos (mostly science — Feynman! — or science fiction), some blog posts (still losing ground there) and a Kickstarter project.

Hall of Fame

Fantastic Maps (Jonathan Roberts)

Jonathan Roberts has a site, Fantastic Maps, full of maps and tutorials.

He’s done a number of commissions for RPG products (tabletop and computer), and is doing the Game of Thrones map book.  This guy is good.

I’ll have to see about digging up some examples of his work.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Cartography and Maps.


Polyhedral NPC Relationships

This started off as an entry in my Links of the Week for May 28, but I got caught up in what I was talking about.  After about 600 words I decided to pump it up to its own post.

Jim over at Carjacked Seraphim got fired up by my Polyhedral Pantheons series and started exploring how a similar mechanism could be used to create a Polyhedral NPC Matrix.  The basis is fairly simple — he uses an icosahedron from Scattergories (d20 with letters instead of numbers).  Each face gets assigned a name beginning with that letter, and the NPC is associated with the NPCs found across the edges of the face.  Simple and easily applied, and if you need to randomly select an NPC you just roll the die and look up the name — and you have some built-in links to other characters that might be relevant.


What is the Bare Minimum?

A question for RPG designers (pro and amateur, whatever):

What is the bare minimum core rule set required to get a game off the ground?


  • Characters are already created (half a dozen pregen).
  • Character-specific rules are attached to the character sheet and don’t need to be repeated, spells and feats and skills and stuff count for this, as does character advancement.
  • Truly introductory stuff (what is an RPG?) is irrelevant, at this point this isn’t going to be picked up by someone who doesn’t already play.

Additional Context:

  • Probably focus on D&D-trope play.  Maybe have the seven iconic classes (fighter, cleric, wizard, thief, elf, dwarf, halfling) as sample characters.  Oh, and ‘bear’ because I’d goofed on the original version of this post (“the bear minimum core rule set”) and got caught… and decided why not go for it?
  • There would be a simple adventure or something (because this does not provide the rules or guidelines for constructing one) with the information needed to run them.  “This room has a fire trap, so roll a Reflex save to avoid when someone triggers it by stepping on the red square.  A character with the Trapfinder ability can roll a Spot check to notice it before anyone steps on it” sort of thing.  Probably five rooms or so, to exercise more than move, kill, loot.

I see:

  • common game elements (ability scores — what each one does; does not need ability score modifier tables because those are on the character sheets already).
  • task resolution (including basic combat and skill/ability checks).
  • game processes (like ‘how a fight works’).
  • … I’m out.

This is not for a rule set to be built upon, nothing about character design or construction, nothing about writing adventures, no monster or spell selection or design considerations.  These things should be known in order to build this package, but I’m looking for the bare bones get-to-the-table content.

Links of the Week: May 21, 2012

Not a lot of time to read blogs this week, I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing, and got in some good game play Saturday night.

I do have some additions to the Hall of Fame and a Kickstarter project that excites me no end.

Hall of Fame

Cartographer’s Guild

Moved from directly under Graphics Resources to the new Cartography and Maps section.

Djekspek (deviantART)

Djekspek’s deviantART page has some gorgeous maps and one-page tutorials for specific map features.

I see tutorials for

  • City Icon
  • Castle Symbol
  • Trees on Maps Reference
  • Compass Rose
  • Small Island
  • Canyon

The maps cover a range of topics and styles.  I see dungeon maps, city maps, island maps, several different projects and views (I have never mastered isometric, even when it was simple drafting in school).  I wish I could find time to learn to do this so well.

Oh, hey, it appears that Fantasy Maps is the same artist, Herwin Wielink (I’m working off links I’d collected through the week but didn’t have time to review; I thought this was for a different site).  There is a fair bit more material at this site than the deviantART page.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Cartography and Maps.


ACK or Die! Session 3, Purging the Goblin Hall

Hey Pop, how’s it going?

Good, I’m glad your leg’s doing better.

I’m doing fine, thanks, but it was touch and go a couple times.

Y’know how I hooked up with that group and we cleaned out Paco’s salt mine?  Well, after that Father Oran asked us to look into a problem he was having at the church.  Turns out some goblins were breaking in from the sewer.  We captured one and killed the rest.

People have been getting sick lately.  After we killed those goblins in the sewer, Thatcher thought the goblins might have come back and were fouling the water.  Remember the goblin hall you told me about, upriver from here?  He asked us to go check it out and see if they were there, and it turns out they were.


ACK or Die!

For the last three weeks I’ve been part of a group playing in a campaign using the Adventurer Conqueror King System, being run by Erik Tenkar, in a Google Hangout and using Tabletop Forge.

This is proving to be a lot of fun.  The group is formed of several other RPG bloggers (Charles Jaimet, Greg Christopher, and JoeTheLawer).  Three of the four of us were part of a group run by Greg a few months ago and decided to stick together when Erik started his ACKS game.  This is proving to be a good decision, I don’t remember being part of a group that was this good… and playing via Google Hangouts works remarkably well.

I’m still waiting for the ACKS Player’s Companion, but it’s not due until July.  I can be patient.  I can.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Who would have thought that adventuring on eight hit points, as one of the party tanks (and at Dex 10, I’m slow like a tank too) could be that much fun?  Big boss fight and I’m down to two hit points, and Erik’s already got the ‘cheating death’ tables handy because two other PCs have used them, and we’re out of known healing potions (turns out we had another one that we didn’t know was healing)… edge of the seat, man.  AC 19 (we very early flipped the ACKS resolution system — ‘roll this or higher, but modify for difficulty’ — for a d20-style roll+bonus vs DC; or roll+bonus vs AC+10) is really handy when you’re facing things that have +0 to hit, but when it only takes two hits, or one from one of the big bads, that 10% is still a little bigger than I like.  The non-tanks in the party, having lower AC and lower hit points (which is to say, much easier to hit and could die from a single hit) did the sensible thing and stayed out of the way, lobbing military fire and shooting arrows, having used all the spells earlier dealing with other problems.

Even at two goblins a round each — a longsword +1 never felt so good, and I was finally rolling well, and the +5 damage from Strength, magic, and just plain awesomeness (i.e. ‘being a fighter’) certainly helped — it takes time for two tanks to roll over sixteen goblins before reaching the bosses.

We’re taking next week off, playing on a roughly three out of four week schedule… and I’m already regretting that we’re not playing next weekend.  I want to know what happens next!

My Books, Let Me Show You Them

Justin Halliday asked on google+ about peoples’ book collections.  I decided to put up some pictures of mine.

(Yeah, ‘gallery’, much more convenient way to display a bunch of pictures than embedding them individually. derp)

There are a handful of books actually on my desk that I didn’t get a picture of:

  • FantasyCraft
  • Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide (which reminds me, I need to finish that Polyhedral Pantheons stuff)
  • D&D 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Guide II
  • Complete Divine
  • Complete Champion

The first three pictures are of the shelves in my office.  I mostly keep older stuff I don’t use often on them.

The next two are the books that are currently piled on the couch in my office.  They’re either being moved somewhere else (the HERO System books) or recently in use and haven’t been put back yet (pretty much everything else).  The next three are the shelves in our bedroom (she lets me keep them there?!  Lovely, understanding woman), mostly D&D 3.5 and third-party d20 stuff.  The last picture is of stuff that’s currently heaped next to the bed.  Yes, you may notice Carcosa (which… honestly, I didn’t much like), Castles & Crusades Castle Keeper Guide, and the Pathfinder Beginner’s Box Set.


Fantastic Creations: May 18, 2012 Roundup

I haven’t seen nearly the traffic for this RPG Blog Carnival: Fantastic Creations that I did for Fantastic Locations, so I’ve decided to do a mid-month roundup rather than weekly.


As with the Fantastic Locations roundups, presented in order of blog title and (approximately) date.

Exchange of Realities

Simple Tips for Wondrous Items and Magic describes simple methods of making magic items more wondrous, just like it says in the title.

Why Create It Fantastic? asks an important question, what is the benefit to making things fantastic in an RPG?  Then carries on to answer it in several pieces.  I want to think about it a bit longer before I try to answer this one myself.

Impractical Applications (A Few Fantastic Creations) describes a few magic items that Ravyn has written up for games.


Fantastic Creations: Devising Fantastic Creations

I posted a few new magic items last week a couple weeks ago (I’ve been too busy to take part in the RPG Blog Carnival I’m hosting, how sad is that?), and got some favorable response to them.  I thought people may be interested in how I devised them.

The process is fairly simple.  I use the same Entity Definition template I use for setting and scenario design to store the important bits (what the creation is, why people care about it, and so on) and the more or less freeform ‘Mechanics’ section for the boring part.

To populate each section, I ask myself various questions.  I rarely answer all of them because I like to leave room to fill the answers in later.  Perhaps more honestly, I don’t like working hard to find an answer — the ones that come easily tend to work well, but I find the ones I have to struggle for… not so much.

The questions asked are derived from several sources.  In order of my discovery (or writing) of them:


Link of Fame: “That’s Why You Don’t Have Any Friends.”

I first saw this blog post from Joe the Peacock a few weeks ago.  The link was posted to google+ and I decided to sit on it for a while before seeing if I could get it going again.

From the post,

This is a story about a boy who needed to hear something important.

It is important.  In fact, I think it’s one of the more important things you can learn, and it’s sad that most of us have to learn it ourselves, the hard way, and experience a lot of pain until we do.