Links of the Week: April 9, 2012

Nice, quiet week off, I’ve done a lot of reading.

Hall of Fame Additions

10 Secrets to Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters

Charlie Jane Anders wrote an article at about Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters.

I’ve included the summary list, you’ll have to go to the post to see the explanations.

  1. Give them at least one definition characteristic.
  2. Give them an origin story.
  3. Make sure they talk in a distinctive fashion.
  4. Avoid making them paragons of virtue, or authorial stand-ins.
  5. Anchor them to a particular place.
  6. Introduce them twice — the first time in the background, the second in the foreground.
  7. Focus on what they mean to your protagonists.
  8. Give them an arc — or the illusion of one.
  9. The more minor the character, the more caricature-like they may have to be.
  10. Decide which supporting characters you’ll allow to be forgettable after all.

This has obvious use with Nonplayer Characters in roleplaying games.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Design.

Cartographers’ Guild

I can’t believe I haven’t linked to the Cartographers’ Guild before.  This is a gross oversight on my part.

The Cartographers’ Guild is perhaps the best resource I have found when it comes to drawing maps for roleplaying games.  The quality of some of the maps produced here is phenomenal, and quite often the people who drew them are entirely happy to explain how they did it.  Happily, while being able to draw is helpful, in many cases the right techniques can help get you past poor drawing ability.

For instance, a couple years ago I posted a mountain drawing tutorial.  It’s due for update (I’ve tweaked the techniques a little and my mountains look better) but I think was a decent first tutorial.

I need to start drawing maps again.  And not spend the next couple hours reading CG and looking at the map porn.

Cartographers' Guild banner
Cartographers' Guild

Added to the Hall of Fame under Graphics Resources.

Save vs. Dragon: Scrutinizing the Scroll

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr at Save vs. Dragon knows quite a bit about writing technologies of olden times (at least, I assume so since he is ‘an educator on the history of graphic communication’).

He is writing a series on ‘Scrutinizing the Scroll’ that explores the various elements and technologies that go into creating written works.  For those who liked the AD&D model of magic item construction rather than the abstraction presented in D&D 3e and after, this promises to be a useful reference.

  • In Papyrus, Parchment and Vellum he starts with the substrate the work is written on.  In fact, he goes rather earlier than the easily portable media and includes cave walls and clay tablets.
  • In Comprehending the Quill he describes a range of writing instruments, from ‘fingers’ through styluses, pens, and brushes.

I imagine the next in the series will be inks, then he might continue with binding or other storage mechanisms.  In any case I am finding myself wanting to get back somewhat to the old school item creation where it actually mattered how you did it and what tools were used — you don’t just throw a bit of money and time at it and you have a new item.

Incidentally, I’m really looking forward to his d30 Companions being available.  I’ve been a fan of his d30 tables for a while now, and am likely to pick up a d30 or two the next time I hit the FLGS (I was there yesterday and it slipped my mind) because this d6+d10 thing is getting old.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Elements.

The Game Crafter

The Game Crafter is a print on demand online store for games.  They can do custom printing of playing cards and game boards of a few set sizes (ranging up to about 10″x16″ — though this needs to be folded for shipping, where the 10″x10″ doesn’t), and evidently have bins of standardized/generic pieces such as meeples and other tokens, plus play money and the like.  They don’t seem to have custom tokens or punched chits, at least not yet.

Overall I’m impressed.  It looks like I could prototype a card game for under $10 (though shipping to Canada might put it over that), and a smallish boardgame for a reasonable amount as well.

And if I want, they’ll even handle the store for me… so if I found I had something I was happy with and wanted to sell it, they’ll do it on a one-off basis as people buy it.  The fees they charge look pretty reasonable, especially given that is so so much lower risk than a more conventional printer contract (thousands of copies and I manage shipping to customers, etc.).

Added to the Hall of Fame under Game Design.

Kickstarter Projects

King for a Day

jim pinto worked on many of AEG’s D&D 3.x supplements, including the Toolbox and Ultimate Toolbox.  He’s working on what sounds like it’s going to be a huge campaign adventure — made huger by already hitting his first stretch goal, with weeks left to go.

King for a Day is a long-term campaign adventure written and developed by jim pinto, author of the World’s Largest Dungeon, Toolbox, Ultimate Toolbox, numerous d20 products, and a few other projects you may know of from over the years.

King for a Day walks gamemasters through a one-of-a-kind gaming experience mixing middle ages style fantasy with tension-ridden horror. The campaign-adventure includes nearly 100 NPCs, over two dozen plot threads, three hamlets, an entire valley to explore, charts, advice, timelines, and so much source material you won’t be able to use it all the first time around.

System-neutral, the adventure walks GMs through how to incorporate the story elements and run one truly epic campaign-adventure for any number of PCs.

King for a Day is a new and exciting project and your funding will help make sure the maps and art are the best they can possibly be. Thanks for taking time to read this and I look forward to writing and updating you all on “King for a Day.”

Funding for this project ensures quality maps, and art. Without your support, this book will be hand-drawn by me. And no one wants that.

Project closes April 30, fully funded (1336/800 when I looked).


Dave Howell has put together a product consisting of polyurethane tokens that really appeals to me.  From what I can see, the tokens are durable, nicely weighty and “kinda non-skid”, and they actually stack well.  Eight (or nine) different colors, with distinctive symbols on each to make it easy on color-blind people.  It’s clear to me that he’s put a lot of thought into the design of these items.

Some assembly required, but it doesn’t look too arduous.

PennyGems Rainbow

Currently almost 10% funded (334/3500 when I looked).  I’m leaning toward the Full Spectrum ($90 level) for myself.

Unique Dice Towers Launches!

John Redman builds dice towers from laser-cut wood.  Relatively small ones that fold up for convenient storage.

I don’t use dice towers, but I can see their appeal.

Unique Dice Towers Size
Unique Dice Towers Size

Project closes May 20, and is currently 640/1000 funded.  I’m pretty sure he’ll be fully funded in the next six weeks.

Science & Technology

Ten Most Extreme Substances Known to Man

I’ve never handled any of these, and while some of them are pretty nifty, others would probably kill me on the spot.

  1. The Darkest Substance Known to Man
  2. The Most Flammable Substance
  3. The Most Toxic Poison
  4. The Hottest Substance Ever
  5. Most Acidic Acid
  6. The Most Explosive Explosive
  7. The Most Radioactive Substance
  8. The Hardest Substance
  9. The Most Magnetic Substance
  10. The Most Super Superfluid

Blog Posts

Adventuring Archives

Libranchylde has been reskinning some monsters, a practice I enjoy.  It sometime surprises me just how much mileage you can get out of this.

From the Ashes

purestrainhuman scored big on craigslist, a collection of RPG materials I’d like to have for myself.

Well, to be honest I’m not so interested in a few of the items mentioned, but I’d love to have “a complete run of Dungeon Magazines”.



Chris McEntree talks at length — at great length — about game design in Rational Design: The Core of Rayman Origins.

Almost all of my game design is for tabletop RPGs (and a bit of board game and card stuff) so parts of this essay don’t apply to me… but a surprising amount does.  If you’re interested in game design I recommend taking a look.

Harbinger of Doom

I didn’t see this post by Brandes Stoddard on The Problem of the Fire Mage until now, though it responds in part to my post No More Fears (or Fire Damage).

He has a point that very high fire resistance is effectively immunity.  Indeed, that’s rather the point to replacing immunity with high resistance — even a small fire elemental is going to be pretty resilient against fire, unless you can bring enough fire.  Yes, this means the fire wizard is going to have ‘less fun’ when facing fire elementals… and I agree that that situation is because fire wizards tend to be all about the burning.

Now, I’m a big fan of reskinning spells, and this is a wonderful opportunity for that.  A fire wizard doesn’t just throw fire around (which frankly I think would be boring anyway).  He also summons fire creations, dismisses them, dominates their minds ( does not indicate they are immune to mind-affecting effects; I’d be quite willing to let fire wizards replace ‘humanoid’ with ‘fire elemental’ in their spells).

I agree that fire wizards should be better at dealing with fire creatures than other wizards, but I think high resistance is still a better solution than flat immunity.  Normal wizards who throw a fireball at an elemental deserve what happens (i.e. ‘not very much’), fire wizards should have other, better options.

Papers and Pencils

LS describes a way of Making Encumbrance Work that sounds like it would be effective.  Rather than nickel and diming things, only keep track of stuff big enough to matter.  He suggests 5 pounds as the first cutoff (worth 1 encumbrance), then increasing to 2 encumbrance at 30 pounds and one more for every 30 pounds after that.  Total you can carry is equal to your Strength.  Small objects (bags of coins, quivers of arrows, etc.) are bundled before consideration.  Seems straightforward enough.

It reminds me of Justin Alexander’s Encumbrance by Stone post.  The unit sizes are different, but otherwise very similar indeed.  I actually like Justin’s numbers better.

He also explores an historical oddity, Bejeweled Skeletons.  I’m not sure how yet, but I’m certain this will have to come up in a game sometime.

I’m not so sure about some of the Unusual Magic Item Types.  Most of them are okay, but the last one may make some people uncomfortable.  Which wouldn’t stop PCs from using it, if I know them.

Quest for Fun!

BlackDiamond talks about Building the Sandbox, right from initial world geography (using Fractal Terrain 3 to determine the world’s landmasses) up to developing a gazetteer with information about the various city-states.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Michael Donaldson describes five Bone-Rattling Skeleton Variants, skeletons created by variant animate dead spells combined with spells with various descriptors.

  • Dry Bones (Fire)
  • Iron Cage (Earth)
  • Tweak Creakers (Electricity)
  • Nightmare Rattler (Fear)
  • Turnmarrow (Healing)

He’s also got some Skin Crawling Zombie Variants, zombies built in a manner similar to the skeletons above.

  • Warpwalkers (Chaos)
  • Rot Guards (Law)
  • Slush Bombs (Water, and eww)
  • Fleshnaughts (Force)
  • Body Beacons (Light)

Rolang’s Creeping Doom

Chris describes Ten Temples, in response to a request for “a bunch of weird-ass temples”.  I have to admit, I rather like them… I wouldn’t want to attend them, but I do like them.

A Dwarf Says What? ((mis)translations of dwarven proverbs) amused me quite a bit too.  I can easily see how some of these could happen.

Roles, Dice and Fun

Morten Greis plans to Re-imagine DragonLance.  He has recently run a group through some of the early modules and was dissatisfied with the modules.  In this first post he describes some of why this is so (large a combination of too much exposition, NPC demonstration, and seeming to depend too much on the novels — material outside the modules themselves).  This sounds apt to me.

It sounds like he is going to revamp them and bring them to a more modern design standard.  This interests me a great deal, I look forward to seeing what he does with them.

Subterranean Design

DS1 (by murdoch80)
DS1 (by murdoch80)

Anyone else having DOOM flashbacks?


trashcondor writes a rather long preview of Fallen Enchantress.  I don’t play a lot of PC games, most of my time is spent on tabletop RPGs, but this appears to hit a number of my buttons.  I’m a longtime fan of Civilization (played the original back in 1991 or so), and Master of Magic was one of my favorite PC games of all time, until I learned the cheap win (alchemist artificer + ‘army’ of heroes).  I have been wanting a worthy successor that fixes the elements of Master of Magic that didn’t suit me, and it looks like it might be coming soon in Fallen Enchantress from Stardock Entertainment.

They Might Be Gazebos!

Chuck is reworking a various classes and races.  I like where he’s going with Druids: No Hippies Here, and will be going back to check out the other class and race revisions.

What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse…

Lord Gwydion has a Hypothesis: Why some players really fear Save or Die.

I largely agree with his examination and hypothesis, and offer a suggestion for Recalibrating Saving Throws that I think goes a long way toward improving the situation.


John Carter Trailer ‘The Adventure’

I was interested in the John Carter movie simply because of what it was.

I’m inclined to agree with the comments I’ve seen about this trailer — this would have caused me to want to see the movie just for itself.

Way cooler than the ones we got from Disney.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Weekly Assembly: Post-PAX East | The Gamer Assembly

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