Links of the Week: April 23, 2012

Playing catchup again, I’m back into the same month (barely; I’ve finished off up to April 3…).  A busy couple of weeks at work and home as well, and I’m going to be losing about half a day or more per weekend on going to the market (fresh local vegetables again, hooray!) and cutting the grass (even with a riding lawnmower, it’s still a few hours, boo).

Lots of good material, though.  Several completed PDFs printed, some good Kickstarter projects to talk about.

Hall of Fame Additions

Hack & Slash: On Village Resource

-C at Hack & Slash has built a template for describing a settlement, including in each section links to random generators that may be of use.

On Village Resource looks like a good hub for designing a settlement.

I like the way it is presented, too, and I think I’ll consider it for similar templates I create.  I usually build a list of resources on one page, template on another, I hadn’t considered putting them together this way.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Design.

Blog Posts

Exploring Infinity

grimmshade describes how The Danger Room might be implemented in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

I Waste the Buddha with my Crossbow

The Adventure Funnel is method of scenario construction that starts simple and adds complication and detail as you go.

  • Start with a goal, simply stated (things will get complicated soon, and then Your Players Touch It.  Don’t worry about complicated goals.
  • Add obstacles.  Don’t worry about the details, just list things that could get in the way.
  • Explain obstacles and other information.

If something looks like it could be further broken down, start a new funnel.  Maybe one of the obstacles can be trivially avoided if you learn of its weakness.

One thing I notice is that there is nothing here about sequencing the obstacles, just that they may exist.  This suggests it will work with my normal scenario design techniques in that you can use this as a brainstorming tool and fit the pieces together in a graph.  I’m good at structure, can use help with creativity, so this looks like it’ll be a good fit.

In Like Flynn

As part of the A-Z Challenge this month, Flynn is producing a Sandbox Encounter for each letter.

I really like how he presents them.

Normally I might link to each link, but I reckon by this time next week it’ll be in the Hall of Fame so I’ll just do it once when he’s done.

RetroRoleplaying: The Blog

Randall tells us where to Download a  Free Old School Gothic Fantasy Compendium (written by Jack W. Shear of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog — quite the long name, that)  I haven’t had time to read it in detail (and won’t for a while), but a brief look tells me there is a lot of material here and it appears to be well-considered.  However, 116 pages will take me a while to get through reading electronically, and… oh, hey, it will fit my binding materials (the larger zipbind spines can hold up to 85 pages, I was thinking my biggest spines would only hold 45).

Printed, being pressed to flatten the pages again (my printer curves them something fierce) before binding.

Stuffed Crocodile

Geoffrey found a template for creating mysteries.  I don’t often run mysteries.  They are some of the hardest scenarios to write and run, and most of my groups have historically liked to ‘point and kill’ kinds of players — “we’ll rescue the princess, just tell us where to find her”.  Let’s call them ‘tactical rather than puzzle solvers’, in an effort to sound kind.

I like templates that help me present information in a workable form.  This template looks like it does a pretty good job of capturing the key information needed for a mystery scenario.

The Megadungeon

Matt describes some Mapping Mistakes He Always Makes.  I used to make the same mistakes, and it’s why I stopped building megadungeons.

I think I’ve got a better way now.  The scenario design techniques I use let me break a megadungeon down into manageable pieces, and I can explain why each is there and why the PCs want to go to each (or not).  Each region becomes a reasonable size to develop, and because each has a clear theme it is much easier to consider and design them in turn.  I know how they relate to each other, they tend to be sufficiently separated that I can control movement between them, so rather than a collection of hundreds of rooms that need to be developed, I can break them down into pieces of a few dozen to a few score.

He also provides a template wandering monster/group table (percentile-based).  This could be a reasonable alternative to how I Build Random Encounter Tables.

A third post, this time on Restocking the Dungeon Between Adventures, may prove useful as well.

What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse…

Dennis Laffey announced Flying Swordsmen is here!

I had this open in a tab waiting for me to return… I believe because I wanted to have this toward the top of my queue of things to review.  This looks like it may well be OSR Oriental Adventures done right, and I’d really like to take a closer look.

Congratulations on getting this done (Echelon is sadly languishing…), it looks quite good so far.  Printed, being pressed to flatten the pages again (my printer curves them something fierce) before binding.

Kickstarter Projects

A recent article at Strange Design about “The money fountain” discusses some of the impact (and not all of it obvious) Kickstarter and related crowdfunding tools are having on the marketplace.  It will be interested to see where this goes.


I mentioned this project a couple weeks ago, when it was still only about 10% funded (334/3500).


Finally broke down and decided to do it.  I signed up for the Full Spectrum and helped get to a pledged total of 13,340/3,500.

I think Dave’s going to be some busy packing these things for a while.

Project closes April 30, so there’s still a week to sign up.

Roll20 — Virtual tabletop gaming that tells a story

From the project description

Roll20 brings pen and paper role playing games online the right way, by focusing on storytelling and camaraderie rather than gameplay mechanics.

While looking through the current virtual tabletop offerings, we were struck with a realization: we don’t want to turn our pen and paper gaming into a video game. Unfortunately, that’s what all of the current alternatives offer, with features centered around scripting, automatic damage calculation, and detailed stats tracking. This focus requires that the game master spend far too much time preparing the adventure, and it removes all of the magic from the GM and instead tries to put it in the hands of a computer.

Roll20 takes a different approach. It aims to be lightweight and nimble, so that you can get up and running with your game as quickly as possible. There’s nothing to download, install, or configure, for you or your players, so you don’t need to be a computer guru just to get it working. It features powerful tools to help bring your gaming group together, including video chat, a graphical tabletop, text chat that persists between sessions, and a journal feature to let you share character information and handouts with specific players. It’s also designed to allow the GM to improvise on the fly during your sessions, making it easy to quickly sketch out an encounter and add tokens. Finally, it’s system agnostic, so it can work well with any RPG system, including indie RPGs.

Roll20 is about bringing what’s great about in-person tabletop gaming — the people — and translating that experience online as faithfully as possible, without trying to do too much. We are asking for your help, both financially and through feedback, to enable us to make this vision a reality.

Sounds like a good idea.  I’ve been using Google+ hangouts for a while to take part in RPGs (and it’s a nice step up from IRC, I must admit), but so far finding a good VTT to go with it has been a challenge.  I know a couple of projects (the Project Formerly Known as Dragons for Dinner, and Tabletop Forge) to build Google+ Hangout apps to provide VTT behavior, but something entirely standalone might be good too.

Project closes April 30, and is fully funded (14,589/5,000 last I looked).

Shadow Days – Fantasy, Deckbuilding, Combat & Survival

I backed this one a while ago and it’s closing very soon (9pm PDT April 23, 2012 — about 16 hours after this post goes live).

Shadow Days - Fantasy, Deckbuilding, Combat & Survival
Shadow Days - Fantasy, Deckbuilding, Combat & Survival

It’s currently fully funded and then a but (17,485/7,000 when I looked), so if you want a copy of this game (with a card or two limited to the Kickstarter edition) you’d best be quick.

SLINGSHOT: Stabilizes smartphone video… and more!

This is a simple and remarkably simple device that looks like it could do a lot to make hand-held smartphone videos better, and it looks like a lot of thought has gone into the design.  Strongly considering jumping on this one with both feet (I can get five of these for $70, including shipping?  I know four other people who could use one).

SLINGSHOT : Stabilizes smartphone video . . . and more!
SLINGSHOT : Stabilizes smartphone video . . . and more!

Project closes May 20.  Over a thousand backers and fully funded (24,061/20,000).  Probably won’t go as crazy high as Rich Burlew’s Kickstarter, but I’d guess it will still get several times the target amount.

Science & Technology

Centralia, Pennsylvania

So, what exactly happens when the PCs cast fireball in a coal mine?  Possibly this.

A coal mine under the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania caught fire… thirty or forty years ago, and is still burning, and might for another 250 years.  Sudden sinkholes, gouts of smoke and ash (bad) and carbon monoxide (much worse)… nasty, nasty place.

… I think I’ll send my PCs here sometime.


Basic needs – extreme happiness

You spend three months wandering Antarctica by yourself, the simplest things bring massive pleasure.

I’d like to feel as excited and happy as this guy.  I don’t know that I’m mentally or physically (and especially not financially — three months away from work?) prepared to do this, though.

The Raid Movie Trailer 2011 HD

By way of purestrainhuman at From the Ashes, who describes this movie as

Featuring some of the most extreme martial arts sequences you’re likely to see, an unflinching commitment to realism, and, surprisingly enough, a solid story and capable acting, this movie is the bee’s knees.

This looks remarkably, viciously violent. This is not the sort of movie I normally watch, as much as I normally watch anything, but I think if I did watch this kind of movie I’d like this one.  It looks like it would certainly make good reference material for an ‘Echelon Modern’.

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