Links of the Week: December 5, 2011

As best I can tell, tonight I have read 150 blog posts, plus some secondary ones either linked from the primary ones or to gather related articles.  I didn’t count the secondary links precisely, but let’s use a low ball estimate can call it ten secondary posts.

This means I read somewhere between a third and a half of all blog posts in the RPG Blog Alliance‘s RSS feed, going back to some time Tuesday night.

Of those, I added links from twenty of those blog posts to this page, plus some supporting links (such as filling out a series of posts from a single blog, where only one or two were in the RSS feed).

So, I make it that somewhere between one in fifteen and one in twenty RPGBA links make it here.  This week, at least.

(I don’t know how many people really care about frequencies or the like, but I do have reason to think there are stat heads among my readers.)

Topic: HERO Games Layoffs

The big news this week is, I think, that HERO Games announced that two of its three full-time staff are leaving.

This makes me sad.

I really like HERO, especially from an engineering perspective.  I haven’t actually played the game in over a decade, but I still regularly use it to desk check my work for mechanical balance (before converting back to something much simpler to use in practice).

(Though I think I did my part; over time I’ve gradually acquired almost all the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-edition books I could find.)

Topic: Underdark Gazette Moving

The Underdark Gazette is moving, and will be called Dreams of Mythic Fantasy in future, starting in January.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got a couple of links in here I’ll need to update, and bring to James’ attention to they get migrated over.

/me writes note to self.

Age of Ravens

Generic RPGs: Hate & Love


Prompted by the layoffs at HERO Games, Lowell waxes philosophical about generic rules systems and what may be liked and disliked about them.

B/X Blackrazor

Land of Ice (Introduction)


JB provides an introduction to a campaign setting, Land of Ice, that has its base in a long-ago age of science.

It reminds me more than a little of L. E. Modesitt’s Recluce setting, specifically the books regarding the Angels and the ‘earlier’ Cyador books.

Land of Ice (PC Information, Part 1)


JB describes the character creation rules being used for this campaign.

Land of Ice (PC Information, Part 2)


And now, character class descriptions (which, being B/X, includes the nonhuman races as ‘classes’).

Berin Kinsman

The Intervention:Dramatis Personae


One of the things I really like about Spirit of the Century that I haven’t seen in other games is that part of character creation is outlining a few adventures or special events each PC has been involved in before play actually starts — and that these pre-game events have to involve other PCs, establishing some baseline relationships.  This post describes the PCs for this campaign and it’s easy to see how rich an environment this mechanism provides.

Creating Effective Fate Aspects


Berin provides some good things to consider when defining a character’s aspects… and since they are a key feature of the FATE game, this is important to be able to do well.

RPG: The Middle Ground Between Paper and PDF


Berin about nails how I use RPG books.  Prefer books for casual reading and design (be it setting, scenario, or system), electronic at the table, and build custom ‘books’ having just the material needed at the time (monsters and the like for running an adventure, classes and feats for a character, and so on).

Big Ball of No Fun

Getting Rid of Equipment


I’m having difficulty finding a problem with this suggestion.

I suspect Echelon is going to have a pretty straightforward implementation: if you’re trained or expect to do something, you have reasonable gear for doing so.  You don’t need to tell me your horse has a saddle, saddle blanket, saddlebags, reins, stirrups, and so on.  Yes, you have a backpack or collection of bags and satchels and whatnot to carry your stuff in.

I used to lean toward simulationist play, where yes you do need to note your gear… but I think I’m going to ignore this for a while.  Unless you’ve been stripped of your stuff, assume you have basically whatever standard stuff you want.  Things that give bonuses you’ll probably need to keep track of, and there will be times when you don’t have your stuff (this article mentions escaping a burning building, but I can think of others, such as probably not carrying 50′ of hemp rope when you go to court), but other than that let’s keep it simple.

I like simple.  Screw it, unless there’s a reason you wouldn’t have something, roll with it.


The Black Tower


Ah, Urbe Mortuus.  Not a nice place, and I wouldn’t want to live there… and if you spend more than three days in the city, it is unlikely to be an issue any more anyway.

The Vampire Court


As should be evident, the Boneyard blog has significant interest in undead.

Shouldn’t be surprised, really.

Campaign Mastery

Back to Basics: Campaign Structures


I find it curious that Mike labels this article ‘Back to Basics’, given the complexity of the campaign structure he ends up describing.  I think ‘Fundamentals’ would have been a better word choice.

Over the course of this post Mike describes increasingly-complex plotlines and their interaction within a campaign, and how they can be diagrammed and managed.  Part of me wants to say “if you need these tools, things might be too complex” (I’m a big fan of simplicity, and I know that this level of complexity would have blown my last groups of players away), but I think understanding and having the tools to do so is  valuable.

I will need to reread this article when I have more time to digest it.

Casting Shadows

December RPG Blog Festival — Heroes Living & Dead


Casting Shadows is hosting the RPG Blog Carnival this month, where the focus is on Heroes Living & Dead.

Dragon Age Oracle

[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Magic


Glimm continues his hack of Dragon Age for Diablo, exploring how spell casting will work.  Short form: same rules, different spell lists.  This makes sense to me.

Emergence Campaign Weblog

Game-Mastering Ritual Magic


I have looked only briefly at Eclipse (and somewhat to my surprise didn’t much like it, given the intent behind it).  On the other hand, the rituals Thoth presents here are rather more interesting to me than D&D 4e’s used-to-be-a-spell rituals.

Giblet Blizzard

I almost hope this blog name is referring to something getting killed violently enough guts go spraying everywhere, and not a new Dairy Queen dessert treat coming to a store near me.

DungeonFu for Google+


Any tool that makes it easier to run games in a Google+ hangout has my attention.  I haven’t tried this one, but that it seems to be designed for this purpose seems promising.

Glimm’s Workshop

Fluffy Crunch


Glimm explores the difference between D&D and BattleTech books, and the balance of focus between fluff and crunch.  D&D leans toward crunch and mechanics, with some fluff as introductory or example material, and lends itself more to setting-neutrality (with the reasonable expectation that DMs will tend to build their own settings, or use the crunch from one setting in another once they’ve filed the edges off).  BattleTech, on the other hand, has a ‘stronger’ setting component and the mechanics presented are there so those taking part in the setting know how to model things.

He likes the BattleTech model and wonders what it would look like if D&D supplements were done the same way.  I’m inclined to agree; the most memorable supplements I’ve found are for the Accordlands (from AEG) and for Iron Kingdoms (from Privateer Press).  In both cases there is signficiant space allocated for the fluff, and it made the books stand out more in my mind.  Yes, a monster book is a monster book, and the crunch can be picked up and used elsewhere, but I remember the level of campaign-specific information present in these supplements and how it engaged me when I read it.




I didn’t include this post in last week’s links because it was ‘just background material’, but with RPG-Geek’s post on guilds I think it valuable to include this week.

Hack & Slash

On Skills

-C is working on what is shaping up to be an epic series examining skills in RPGs (D&D especially).



I think this is the first time I’ve seen this site, and I’m mildly overwhelmed by the number of posts I want to read.

I don’t have time tonight, so I’ll just mark the site as a whole.


Hits and Points


Chase is looking for a way to reconcile D&D-style damage and healing.  He finds some nice things to say about my recent post On Hit Points and Healing.

I think hit points have long been a confusing issue for people, back to the days of “a human fighter can take more physical damage than a horse!” complaints in AD&D (I don’t remember seeing them with regard to BECMI, even though much the same rules applied).

The Iron-Bound Tome

What’s a Sigil?


In short, a sigil is the physical or sensory manifestation produced when a magus casts a spell.  The sigil varies from caster to caster, but should fit some theme of the caster.

The term as defined here originates in Ars Magica, but I agree with typhoonandrew that it could make a good addition to most campaigns.

Knightvision Games

Floating Cities

Because being a city floating in the sky may not be unique enough for a setting, kvgames provides a series of lists (or simple tables) to help define them.

Land of Nod

Notable Nobles — Part the Last


As the label says, Matt provides the last part of his Notable Nobles series.  This time, in a major blowout, he provides three dwarven lords, each with three titles epithets.

I really should collect these into a single table.

Family Feuds


Demographics, local industry and markets, favored colors of clothing… Conan doesn’t care!

(I don’t remember where I first saw the comment that “if Conan wouldn’t care, neither should you”, but I can sympathize with that position when it comes to setting.)

When defining a city, instead of spending a lot of time on the more mundane and boring things that might interest us in our world, focus on the conflicts and drama potentially present.  Matt provides a number of tables and other useful bits for devising major families that might be involved in such a mess.

Lawful Indifferent

Skeleton Punching Ipit-Apora


Another fantastic location, this time very gritty (even without the sand).  An evocative description, and I can see ways to use this city-state in a campaign (including that open table sandbox I was talking about running… someday).

Lurking Rhythmically

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 7)


What is involved in actually killing a dragon.

Hint: Not.  Easy.

Long form?  Really.  Not.  Easy.

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 8)


This entry in this ongoing series describes draconic religion.

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 9)


On the history and origin of dragons.

Pellatarrum: Energy Stars


So, having large, local sources of positive energy is good, is it?  After reading this, you might not be so sure.

Pellatarrum: My Orcs are Different


Yes, yes her orcs are different, and it is good.


Guilds of Dual — Basic Guild Concepts for Fantasy Roleplaying Games


As with heraldy (see below), guilds almost always have a place in my campaign settings.  Tony provides some good thoughts and examples of why people might find guild membership worthwhile.

RPG Hacker

GM Checklist for Pathfinder Convention Games

Stan provides a checklist and some additional suggestions for running Pathfinder convention games, but I think they apply to just about any game you’re actually running at a table.  These look like generally good advice.

Shatterworld: Behind the Scenes

Mapping: Style and Scale


Niccodaemus describes, with sample maps, how he manages maps for his campaign.

It’s enough to make me break out my mapping gear again.

Skyland Games

Heraldy — History and Hooks


skylandgames describes some ways heraldry may be applied in a campaign setting.  I’ve got a significant interest in heraldry (though I never really learned to blazon properly) and it’s application in RPGs, and every time it comes up I am reminded of several Dragon articles that discuss what heraldry means and how it may apply to magic items.

Thanks.  I should look those articles up again.

A Walk in the Dark

Contest: Design a Treasure Vault


David has run into a problem I used to have in designing scenarios.  He’s got all the crunch present — he knows all the monsters, traps, hazards; skill check DCs are all calculated, the treasure available in each place is known.

However, the fluff is somewhat lacking.  In his words, “every single one of them has a ‘read aloud’ section that currently blank”.

My Campaign Setting Design articles describe how I go about designing my setting, and the same principles and techniques work for scenarios.  The relevant bit here is that I try to look at the story aspect first, then look to the mechanical implementation of the scenario afterward.  I have found that ultimately, while the mechanical elements can be critical to the scenario’s playability, the story is what determines the success of the scenario in the players’ eyes.

As for the contest, I’d be interested, but don’t have nearly enough knowledge of D&D 4e to be able to do a decent job.

Wrath of Zombie

Well, this is interesting to me.  wrathofzombie is cobbling together — as indicated by the label ‘Frankengame’ — an OSR-style game from a number of pieces.  This looks like something I’ll want to keep an eye on.

Frankengame Breakdown, Part 1- Chargen and Races


Frankengame Breakdown, Part 2- Classes



  1. Hi, KJ, thanks for the link. I called the post back to basics not because the later techniques weren’t advanced – they are – but because the principles on which they are based are fairly basic and straightforward. I hope you find something useful in the post.

    BTW, your website offered an error message when loading that might need looking at: it read

    Warning: file_get_contents( [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed! HTTP/1.1 503 Service Temporarily Unavailable in /f2/kjd-imc/public/wp-content/plugins/statsurfer/append.php on line 331


  2. Hi Mike,

    I was just pointing out that the material is more sophisticated than the word ‘Basic’ suggests. It’s a moderately advanced article about fundamental concepts.

    Thanks for bringing the Statsurfer error message to my attention. I don’t see it (the plugin ignores me because I’m logged in and/or have admin access). I like the information the plugin provides me, but it’s troublesome. I’ve killed it, which should get rid of the error message and hopefully speed the site up a bit.


    • I meant the term to imply that the question was basic. But so long as it is useful, and explains itself adequately as it goes, it should help people. At least, that’s the goal.

      Your point is well taken, though.

      NP with the Statsurfer. Someone would have called it to your attention eventually, I’m sure – but problems like that are never desireable.

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