Tides of War—Mass Combat in WFRP2e

With On the Edge of Exile on the horizon, I've been thinking about mass combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition, again. Hacking WFRP2e has always beenpassion for me, so I dove straight into this, and came up with the following.

I hope you enjoy Tides of War!

Tides of War is an unofficial fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition focusing on mass combat. This system is broad enough in scope, and general enough with mechanics, that it could easily be adapted to any RPG system, fantasy or otherwise, with minimal modification.


Download Tides of War now! 

Extra Little Worldbuilding Questions

Because my On the Edge of Exile campaign has had to be delayed for a few weeks, I've been going 'round in circles thinking about it. What this tends to mean is I write far too much about it, realise I don't want to plan/plot everything out, and then perform a cull. I'll add stuff, then trim it back, over and over again.

During this process, I've been thinking about some worldbuilding questions that rarely come up in guides to flesh out a settlement. These are pretty minor things, and not every settlement needs them all answered, but having an idea of them will help you stretch the verisimilitude of wherever the PCs go. Also note that for larger settlements - towns and cities - you can answer these per district or neighbourhood.

  • Who cuts the people's hair? 
    • A barber; 
    • The lord's ex-manservant; 
    • A communal hair-cutting circle; 
    • Everyone's Nan?
  • Who pulls teeth when they break or hurt? 
    • A barber-surgeon; 
    • The bartender (because they have a heavy door and string); 
    • They get in a brawl at the tavern; 
    • The local priest of the healing god?
  • Who maintains the well? 
    • A young chap with nothing better to do; 
    • A chartered guild of well-workers; 
    • The guards; 
    • A retired mason?
  • Who settles disputes? 
    • A travelling judge; 
    • Whichever outsider merchants are in town; 
    • A Mafioso; 
    • The lord's children, learning their command?
  • Where do people go when they want to relax? 
    • A back-alley dice game; 
    • A local pub; 
    • A drug den; 
    • A serene garden?
  • Who do people turn to when they have a problem? 
    • A local crime boss; 
    • The constable; 
    • A wise village elder; 
    • A kindly priest?
  • Who does everyone know you can rely on and trust? 
    • An honest bar fly; 
    • The bouncer at the pub; 
    • The sergeant of the guard; 
    • The Robin Hood-esque local pick-pocket?
  • Who does everyone revile or make fun of? 
    • A known thief; 
    • A disgraced ex-guardsman; 
    • The noble lord; 
    • The opportunistic mayor?

As a general rule of thumb, think about the things you do every day, and how the people in your world would fill those same roles. Every time you're out and about, think about how someone in your world would do the same. Where do you buy groceries, or do you grow your own? Who do you turn to when a button falls off your shirt, or do you stitch it back on? Where is everyone getting the thread, and the needles, if everyone sows their own buttons?

As I say, these aren't necessary questions to answer - but they are a useful tool, and they can make boring errands in your everyday life less boring! 

On the Edge of Exile: GM Tools

Now it's time to discuss the tools I'll be using to run this campaign. I'm a huge fan of tools, and I find their inclusion in a game drastically changes the flavour of its play. That's what I'm hoping from each and every one of these tools!

There are three categories of GM Tools that I'm using for On the Edge of Exile: Org Tools, Prep Tools, and Play Tools. There aren't many of them, so I'll be talking about all of them here. This discussion will be about what I'm using, and why I'm not using alternatives.

Let's begin at the top:


Org Tools

Org Tools are those that help me organise the campaign, both internally and externally. They help me frame my notes, and communicate to my players.

Game Bible

Previously, I have recorded my notes in so many different formats, that I've pretty much seen every format of this (at least, every format that I'm aware of). Put simply, a Game Bible is a document that contains all the information that it's pertinent not to forget. That doesn't mean it contains literally everything, but that it contains the main stuff. Little details are lost at the table, and to memory, and that's fine. Big stuff goes in here.

So what does it look like? At the moment it has three sections: The Valley which discusses any important locations, and the regions in terms of their tags, Threats which holds all of my Apocalypse World style complications and story threads (discussed more in Prep Tools), and Dramatis Personae which holds records of all the major NPCs and custom monsters or groups.

Now, why did I go this route? Previously I've used wikis or a curious program called MyInfo to plan campaigns and host their notes, but I find with that structure it leads to waffling - it becomes difficult to use the information at the table. With a single document, I am forced into brevity, otherwise it becomes impossible to use during play. No more than a page per Threat. No more than a stat-block and tags for NPCs.

Facebook & Messenger Groups

Whilst in the past I have used Trello, a wiki, and Obsidian Portal to host the player's hang-out area, I have found each has its problems. Trello isn't well suited to interactions in the way I'm looking for - discussions and banter, planning for future sessions, etc. and Obsidian Portal is, well... Let's just say it took them 2 years to respond to a support ticket, and then after I cancelled my subscription charged me for the following 2 years anyway. There's some history there! Wikis are also a little too dispersed, and they only really work if everyone is keen on filling them out. I no longer believe in giving my players homework, so I'll be avoiding that.

That leaves me with Facebook and Messenger. All my players are already on the platform, and we can now customise them pretty extensively. The Messenger thread is being used for short form discussions, and the group is used more like a forum. Simple!


Prep Tools

Prep Tool are those that help me prepare for the next session, naturally.

Threats

I have made a list of Threats, ala Apocalypse World which will be the main impetus behind the campaign. The idea is that each area or potential story in the game has a Threat, made up of a name, a type, a drive, several moves with some preferred moves, a description, and progress markers. The moves are ways for me to have the Threat act, and the progress markers are what will happen if the PCs don't intervene. I can't give you an example of one without fear of my players seeing it, so I'll make a fake one here:

The Evil Child
Craves mastery.
Will the Evil Child corrupt the town?
Moves:
  • Do something evil.
  • Kill someone.
  • Make someone take the fall for badness.
Progress:
  • The Evil Child tricks someone in town into adopting them.
  • That person's business - a tavern - starts to boom with the greatest beer on tap.
  • A few people have gone missing, but most people in town are in such a drunken stupor for most of the time that they don't notice.
  • The Evil Child uses the missing towns folk as a sacrifice to become even eviler!
The idea is that, when I need to know the next thing to have happen, I just look at whatever Threat seems to be interesting the players the most, and I tick it forward until they intervene.

Goals

I will be requiring my players to tell me what they intend to do before the following session. This won't be a blow-by-blow, but a general "We're heading to Seidenstopp to find out what the go is with this residue" vibe. I want them to form something like goals ala Burning Wheel but not as strictly. I will be awarding XP based on if they meaningfully work towards their goals, rather than for any other reason, so it's in their best interests to have a think about them!


Play Tools

Play Tools are those which will be used in situ in play - the ones which I will have printed either behind the screen, or in front of the players.

In-Game Calendar

I'm far from a Gygaxian GM, and I believe almost the opposite of this little nugget:
YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.
But for this campaign, I am using an in-game calendar. This is part Org, part Prep, but mostly Play. I want the players to be the ones writing in this thing, noting when events will occur, and planning their travel around that. I'm not going to be too cruel on the GM side of things, and (as mentioned with Threats) I won't have things scripted purely by a clock. I will reveal dates when it is interesting to reveal them, and it's then up to the players to record and follow them.

Speaking of which, I intend to jump forward the calendar by 2-month chunks every milestone of play (the players will be in control of when this is, but it will be guided by me on the basis of something significant happened). Sometimes these will be longer jumps, depending on how many sessions it has been since the last jump. Each jump will constitute a settlement phase.

This Fantastic Character Sheet

I love character sheets, and often hate the standard sheets that come with most games. I don't know what it is, but almost universally, official character sheets suck. Indie games are usually the exception to this. *shrug*

So, for WFRP, many years ago I discovered this sheet! This is the one the players will be using.

A Bunch of PDFs

I also have a bunch of old PDFs from my hey-day of WFRP play, most of which I don't know where they came from, and some whose origins are now lost to the void of the Internet. Strike to Stun, Winds of Chaos, and Liber Fanatica were definitely the sources of many...

Empire Weather for determining weather during travel phases - bad results will incur penalties to condition when they are travelled.

The Book of Imperial Names for many of my naming and settlement shop needs.

The Appearance of Morrslieb which I will roll in advance, which will count as an out-of-the-players-hands encounter generator - bad moon = bad luck!

And Total War a fan made supplement for mass combat which is (sadly) pretty poorly edited, but the core is great. It's inspired by Legend of the Five Rings's mass combat system, which was one of the greater parts of that system.

And that's it! It's a lot of tools, but together, they'll largely automate the running of this campaign. Next time, well, I guess the game will have started!

On the Edge of Exile: House Rules #2

Last time we talked settlement management, and faction rules, this time 'round we're talking about travel mechanics. There are some travel mechanics in other WFRP products, but they tend to fall into a broad type of mechanics which can only be classified as either hand-wavey or accountancy. I find myself either a) having to come up with how long it takes on the fly, and for cool things to happen, or b) having to crunch numbers and figure out lots of crap that way.

I wanted neither of those things. I wanted to combine the feel of Blades in the Dark downtime with Darkest Dungeon's camp phases. I wanted a simple system that could be run through, quickly, that would also force dynamic change on play.


This is what I came up with:


Here we get the ground work. You need provisions, and you need to manage your condition. That's it in terms of resource drain for the PCs - provisions, however, are pretty expensive, so it's going to be a lot of tax if they want to mobile larger forces. This was vital. I didn't want the PCs being able to raise bands of warriors without it costing them a lot.


Here we get some of the strategic choices of the PCs. Where, how, and what are they doing during. This section mentions Weather, but that's a GM tool that I'll go into at a later date. For now (unless one of them decides to play as a Jade Magister) they have no way of affecting the Weather rules, except to get a forecast.


The first half of the Travel Actions. I wrote them in a very Apocalypse World manner so that they gave breadth without slowing down play too much. I'm imagining this to play out rather quickly in practice, with each player choosing an action (or to help an action), and then them playing out in order.


And the second half of the Travel Actions. Perhaps the most interesting part here is the Scout action, which as you can see, takes the place of an encounter check. I struggled with this, for a while, because I thought it might not make sense, but given almost always, the PCs would be attempting to evade enemies during their travel, that it worked. This also means PC Skill is more important than the randomness of the GM's dice.


And lastly we have camping. This essentially allows PCs to extend their resources, and (hopefully) recover. There are some more tactical options here, because, depending on the party, it might be safer for them to keep on the move (if they have better results with Navigate and Scout) or to try to camp as much as possible (if they have a high Perception).

The last thing to note is the tags, like Safe, Wild, Infested, etc. These are applied to Regions on the map, which are not exposed to the PCs until they go there, or gather information about a Region.

Now... That's a lot of talk about Regions. But... Huh? Here's the area map for the Valley of Blood I posted a few days back:


See those chunks formed from orange dashed lines? Each one of them is a Region, and each one has a name (like Vale of Disappointment or The Gamble). Each one also has tags on the GM's side of the screen, which tells me how many days it takes to cross, how dangerous, open, accessible it is, and also what the sources of danger and adventure there are. This allows me to run the above rules straight from the map and a list of short notes!

For the purposes of the campaign (and because some of my players read this), I can't yet expose all those notes. But, if there's interest down the line, I'd be happy to post it all here.

You can grab the full version of the above rules here:

Player Travel Sheet Download

So we've got setting, and our mechanics sorted... Next up we'll talk about some of the GM Tools being used to better run On the Edge of Exile!

On the Edge of Exile: House Rules #1

Now, we've talked about setting, so let's talk about house rules for my newest Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition campaign: On the Edge of Exile.

First up, my rule with books in WFRP is everything official is fair game, but it's your job to find it. In my experience, this means that the main books that get used are the Core, Realms of Sorcery, Tome of Corruption, Tome of Salvation, and the Career Compendium. Given we're playing in the Border Princes, I would be surprised if no one bug into Renegade Crowns, as well... But, honestly, my players won't need to do any reading if they don't want to - there's enough in the Core to keep most of them happy!

When thinking about house rules, I like to perform the following three tests:
  1. Do I know the rules well enough to understand what I'm changing?
    I've run WFRP, in all, for about 6.5-7 years of weekly sessions, over the years. Not consecutively, but frequent enough that I know the rules probably better than any other system I've ever read (apart from those I've made myself). I feel confident that I know what I'm changing.
  2. What don't the rules model well?
    Travel and resource scarcity. For a game all about famine, pestilence, and the wild places of the world, there isn't really mechanics for modelling these things. I've always thought it was weird, but I could ignore those gaps. Most of my WFRP games are enclosed city-campaigns, where there's little travel, and the PCs have a home base. Whilst this campaign definitely has a home base, it is far from safe. I'm going to need some more meat. I'm also going to need something to can handle Faction turns, and settlement management!
  3. Do any systems do that in a good and transferable way?
    Well... Kinda. There's some cool travel mechanics in Ryuutama which have been inspirational, but they're altogether too nice. Then there's some interesting ideas in Dungeon World that can be transferred in some ways. Factions I can source from Blades in the Dark and Stars Without Number, so I have a lot to work with, but nothing that does exactly what I want... Which means I pass my three tests and can move onto hacking!
This is a lot, so I'm going to break it into two articles. Part #1 will deal with the Faction Turns & Settlement Management mechanics. Part #2 will focus on the Travel Mechanics.

Faction Turns & Settlement Management


Let's begin with what I am most keen on - the PCs running a settlement! Now, I don't want this to dominate play, but I want it to be the impetus for player action. I want this to fill the same niche as the Crew in Blades in the Dark - it is the character that the game is ultimately about, and the PCs are facilitators for that shared character.

However, I want the settlement - Dunkeldorf - to be its own thing. It has problems and people within it that the PCs don't control (yet). So I've mixed in a little Sagas of the Icelanders and Apocalypse World hardholds... Here's what I came up with:


Sooo, as you can see, the settlement is getting the literal character treatment. Dunkeldorf has stats, and those stats advance as the PCs perform actions that would make them advance. I am keeping the Adventure Phase pretty loose... It's everything that isn't the Settlement Phase, basically. Speaking of:


Here you can see there are specific actions to take during the Phase. I wanted to give it some structure and mechanical weight, but not go overboard. I took a large leaf out of Torchbearer's book for this one! Now, the meddling of outside forces:


Cool cool, so we have some Stars Without Numbers / Blades in the Dark style factions going on. I'm actually going to run them like Apocalypse World Threats, but we'll get to that in a later article about GM tools. Now, the finishing touches:


This is basically my edge-cases, and ways for me to introduce the teachings of the Fate Core fractal: everything can be added as an Extra, if needs be.

Both this, and the Settlement Sheet I created to hold this stuff, is free to use and hack, provided below!



I hope this goes a bit further to explaining what On the Edge of Exile will be like! Next time round, I'll discuss the Travel Mechanics I've been brewing up...

On the Edge of Exile: The Setting

It's time to talk about the setting of my newest Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition campaign: On the Edge of Exile.

Now, it's already been established that the game is taking place in the Border Princes (the companion splat book being Renegade Crowns), but a) what does that mean, b) it's a big place, so where exactly, and c) why is it being set there? 

I'm going to leave the first point to other articles, because it'd be regurgitating a lot of the same. These two (1, 2) do a good job of explaining the majority of it, but here are some key points to remember:
  1. It's not a nation, but a frontier.
  2. The rulers hold little to know legitimacy, and are little more than thugs controlling small stretches of land through force.
  3. The land is mostly barren, arid, and brutal. Badlands, crags, scrub land, marshes, and thorns.
  4. Think Wild West meets the Balkans.
Let's dive in, shall we?

Where Exactly?

Let's have a look at the map:
See? It's big. We've got a lot to work with, here. Lots of terrain types, lots of points of interest, and lots of cool words to spark play.

For those who aren't Warhammer nuts, here's the wider map of the Old World, so you can get an idea for context:
And a quick guide (remember that all this is fake-Renaissance!):
  • The Empire (the place with Nordland, Middenland, Reikland, etc.) is based on Germany,
  • Kislev is based on Russia,
  • Bretonnia (the place with Bastonne, Quenelles, Carcassonne, etc.) is based on France/Arthurian England,
  • Estalia (the place with Obregon, Magritta, Cantonia, etc.) is based on Spain,
  • and Tilea (the place with Niragliano, Trantio, Remas, etc.) is based on Italy.
Cool, so we're south of the Empire and Bretonnia, and east of Tilea. To the south of the Border Princes is the Badlands, a horrible place infested with Greenskins, and to the south of that we have Nehekhara (fake Egypt) which is filled with undead, and to the west of THAT human lands begin again with Araby (*sigh*, I probably don't have to tell you what that is based on - sadly, much of the Warhammer lore is pretty racist, though I try my best to remove those parts and give them justice).

Ok, back to the Border Princes. Let's zoom in on the section I chose:
A valley dominated by the Blood River. Why this valley? Well, let's look at what's surrounding it!
  • Barak Varr is the largest city in the Border Princes, and is controlled by the Dwarves. It is the only port in the region, and super well defended. The Dwarves here jealously guard their stranglehold on the Black Gulf, and don't really care about the rest of the valley so long as ore keeps flowing in from the mountains.
  • The Old Silk Road is the longest road in the world, and goes all the way through the Worlds Edge Mountains, across the Dark Lands, to Cathay (*sigh*). It is a major trade route, where untold riches flow, and where lots of illegal things occur. Bandits, smuggling, extortion, and heretical magics traded.
  • The Iron Rock is a huge Greenskin stronghold held by the Iron Claw Orcs, which are (or were, at least) led by one of the most terrible Greenskin Warbosses of all time, Gorbad Ironclaw. This is a great, impenetrable, super dungeon, which I can use to cool effect.
  • The Black Crag is another Greenskin stronghold that used to be a Dwarf Hold. The Dwarves want it back, and it likely has lots of cool treasure in it sealed away from the Orcs. Even more fodder for adventure! Also, the Red Fang Tribe that controls it apparently hates the Iron Claw Orcs, so there's room for playing enemy factions off each other, and working for the Dwarves to help take back the Hold.
  • The Badlands are on the doorstep. That means we can use the very shittiest parts of the Border Princes terrain - all that useless arid land - as a set piece. This is the Wild West. People here have hard lives, and they can barely scratch a living out of the dust. The very land they travel through will be an enemy of the PCs!
This section of land is also 200km to a side, which, if the land was perfectly flat (which it isn't), and was easy to cross (which it isn't), it would take just under a week to traverse from side to side. That's PLENTY of room to work with!

So, I snipped this area out, and got to work. Here are the results, so far:
Pay no attention to the orange regional markers - that's a mechanical thing which I hope to write about later... The PCs will be controlling the terrible little hamlet of Dunkeldorf, and I added in four major towns controlled by four other Princes: Sumpfstadt, Montagne, Collina, and Seidenstopp.

...but WHY?

Well, that's a big question. There are many reasons.

The first is that, many years ago (over a decade ago, now), I began reading an Actual Play report on RPG.net called The Shadow of the Sun. Now, if you know this campaign, or you choose to go and read it (I encourage that, as it's awesome, but beware that it was never finished), you're going to see a lot of similar themes. Hell, the entire framework of the game has been adapted over to here. I loved that idea, and more than any other I've ever seen for a campaign, it has stuck with me.

Secondly, this is not the first time I have tried to run this campaign. Previously, I ran two sessions, many years ago, of what this campaign started out as before the group fell apart due to external reasons. (Well, actually severely internal reasons - I got cancer and had to go to hospital for nearly a year, but that's another story!) I then attempted to adapt this game to Dark Heresy 1st Edition a few years ago as a campaign called Into the Expanse, but my group weren't really keen on it, and frankly, it wouldn't have worked at the time. Now, it very well could work!

Third, the Border Princes are open. They are Warhammery, but they are undefined. I love defined settings to explore, but I chafe against them to run. I love the openness of Blades in the Dark, the suggestion of a setting. That's what Renegade Crowns gives you, and I find prepping for the Border Princes, and the mini-games it offers, almost as fun as running the damn game.

Fourth, and most of all, the Border Princes are perhaps the best place in the Warhammer world to talk about my favourite and most closely held theme within my games: anti-fascism. The Empire is a fascist state, if ever there was one, and in the Border Princes, you have the chance to work under that system, or go against it. Given the campaign question of On the Edge of Exile, it is a perfect proving ground.

I hope this gave you a bit more insight into why I chose the Border Princes for this campaign! Next up, I think I'll talk house rules and custom mechanics...

Introducing: On the Edge of Exile

Hey folks, I've been a bit quiet recently, what with releasing my first commercial game and beginning production of two other games (All Shall Fade and Astrorotica, both of which I hope to talk more about soon), but I thought it was time to give a bit of an update.

I've been running two campaigns recently: Curse of Strahd using Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and Ameshirel: A World Reforged using my own playtest Do or Dice. The former is going very well, but the latter has hit a bit of a slump. Things need to change - system reworkings, campaign re-scoping, etc. I'm putting it on indefinite hiatus, and will work on something else whilst those changes percolate in my brain.

That means, in the meantime, I have a free fortnightly slot! Last night, I pitched a few campaign ideas I had to the players of that slot, and between the three ideas, one shone out. In the interest of curiosity, the other two ideas were Short Straws using Firefly RPG (Cortex Plus), and Stockholm Syndrome using Part-Time Gods of Fate.

The idea that won out? Let me introduce to you On the Edge of Exile, a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition campaign. (Yes, that's right, I'm returning to my favourite system/setting!)

I'm hopeful to post many article about this game, in the coming months, featuring the character creation notes, my changes to the mechanics to handle various things the original Core didn't do great, my mix of GM tools I'll be using, campaign notes, and so on. For now, I'll leave you with the blurb of the campaign, and the overarching campaign question I'm using to steer this ship:

Blurb

On a far frontier, at the start of Spring – Nachexen 17th, 2524 IE – a settlement comes into view. It is a dreary place – tiny, diminished, and left to ruin. Little more than an outpost, Dunkeldorf is nonetheless suddenly very important. The reason? A porous stone found only at the bottom of the village's old well. Known as Morr's Blood, when ground and mixed with mordant, it produces a black dye that never fades. For Reikland, capitol province of the Empire – whose colours are black and white – and for a growing noble class that favours fashionable blacks, this is of the highest priority...

But not so high that they'd travel all the way out here, into the Border Principalities, to collect it themselves. No: this is a backwater.

This is a frontier haunted by every danger and horror imaginable. This is no place for folks of a finer lot. No: this is a place for folks like you.

You were something back in the Empire. You were a star pupil, a promising young cadet, a prodigy of the Colleges of Magic, a well-bred noble ready for courtly life... And then something happened – or rather, someone happened to you. You pissed someone off. Was it something you did, something you said, some consequence of your birth, or just wrong-place-wrong-time? It doesn't matter, now. You've been exiled – you've been given this highly important but inglorious position.

But at least it's yours. Your fates are now intrinsically tied. It's just a shame you can't trust anyone in Dunkeldorf – at least, not yet. With everything out here arrayed against you – the depredations of wicked cults, the foul Greenskins, and the greedy eyes of other Princes and worse – you have your work cut out for you.


Campaign Question

What will it take for our heroes to betray the Empire?
My prediction? Very very little.

Dirty Aces is on DriveThruRPG!

Today, as of 00:38 AEST, I became a published roleplaying game designer. Imma-need-a-minute, folks!

Dirty Aces is finally live on DriveThruRPG!

Check out Dirty Aces now!

(Mobile Link)



Dirty Aces is a tabletop roleplaying game about a group of wanderers, vagabonds, ne'er-do-wells, and unlikely heroes who are bound together by fate/Karma/ka - whatever you call it. They only have each other to trust, with the whims of the world set against them.

Who are these wanderers? Where are they passing through? What is biting at their heels? Dirty Aces is built for any situation that fits into the above - from Joss Whedon's Firefly, to Stephen King's The Dark Tower, or anything in between.

Inside you'll find:
  • A diceless engine utilising regular playing cards to resolve conflicts,
  • A simple character creation system so you can make your party and play all in a single session,
  • Fiction-first, success-with-consequences mechanics, so there's never a question about what comes next,
  • Tables for campaign creation seeds for you to create your own unique setting in the style of its many Touchstones.
Game Information:
Number of Players: 5 (4 + 1 Dealer)
Length: 2-6 hours
Pages: 19

Lastly, I'd just like to take this time to thank everyone involved in the production, playtesting, and support of Dirty Aces thus far. You're all amazing, and this work wouldn't have been possible without you. Love you, folks!

#200WordRPG: DOGMA

#200WordRPG is one of my favourite yearly traditions, despite how young it still is. This is my second year entering - last year's entry can be found here. If you're not sure what #200WordRPG is, well, it's a challenge to write an entire tabletop roleplaying game in 200 words or less, with no graphics or special formatting. It's all about the words (all 200 or less of them).
This year, I present to you DOGMA!

You and at least two others (there is no maximum) are an entire religion, throughout its timeline - from inception, to corruption and subversion.

Your religion is growing. It will do great things... Before it is twisted, and made rotten. We play to see it fester.

The first player describes a moment of SPIRITUALITY: a fact about the religion at its founding.
//Thou shall not kill.

The second describes a FABLE that explains it: written long after, it obscures the spirituality from morality into rote learning.
//St. Cain didn't kill the sinner, but cut off their hands, feet and tongue so they could never sin again.

The third describes a MISINTERPRETATION: long after the fable is written, how is it subverted and corrupted for personal gain?
//King Auger cut out the tongues of all non-believers, stating they were now, or would become, sinners. He declared their exsanguination was God taking their deaths into Her own hands.

A player who hasn't described a Spirituality begins again. New Spiritualities must reference or retaliate to a previous Myth or Misinterpretation.
//Suffer not the sinner to live.

The religion stagnates when everyone has misinterpreted something.
//Religion fades when spirituality is forgotten.

Record everything.
I also did pretty it up a little, and uploaded it here (and put it on my portfolio here).

If you play it, let me know!

A reply to a reply to a discussion about Losing


Some good stuff happening over at RPG YouTube right now. Matthew Colville began by discussing Losing in an RPG, and +John Harper followed it up with an add-on/challenge to that topic. I've posted both below, but also expanded on John's wisdom, based on how I've seen, run, and played games for the past many years.
Hold on to your characters lightly. When your characters experience adversity, that isn't happening to you as a player. Take the good with the bad, and accept that everything that happens to your character is part of the story. Look for how that can be interesting and dramatic, rather than good or bad, winning or losing.

This isn't to suggest that you shouldn't enjoy winning, but rather to encourage you to also enjoy losing, because even when you lose you can create great story. The Force Awakens would be a worse film were Han not killed (as gut wrenching as that was). Boromir wouldn't be as interesting a character had he not sacrificed himself. A Game of Thrones would not have been as compelling if Ned wasn't decapitated.

However, to cap this all off, I'm still a firm believer in what +Adam Koebel has now popularised: killing a character is the least interesting thing you can do to them. They can lose, and sometimes death is the logical result of a loss, but more often than not you can scar them, or defeat them, and allow them to live (and struggle) another day for a better story down the line.

Finally, regular readers may not that it's been a month since my last This Week - this has been somewhat intentional. I've needed a break, to refuel and to reorganise my thoughts. It's been very needed, and I feel a hell of a lot better after it all. I should be getting back into regular programming soon!

This Week: Leaders, Scenes, Hags, and Silence

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Normally these come out late on Sundays, but I moved this one earlier for two reasons: a) I missed last week, as I was unwell, and b) I won't be able to get everything in order night, because I'll be at Port Robinson & Madeon's Shelter Live Tour in Melbourne! Woo!
(Image from Shelter Live Tour.)
So, without further ado, let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I started playing Terraria again, as it's been many years since last time, and I really enjoyed it then. The game has been updated significantly, and there's now a lot more to do. I don't know if it will keep my attention for very long, but I am enjoying it. I don't have much to say on this topic beyond that it's worth checking out again, if you used to play it!
(Image from Steam.)
I've been diving back into Civilisation VI, trying out the new Poland DLC, and getting ready to try the even-newer Australia DLC. Whilst I'm finding them game is holding me generally less than V did, I am enjoying the faster pace of DLC. I can't remember how I originally bought it, but whatever I did, I've been getting each DLC without paying additionally for it... Maybe I got the deluxe edition, or something? I don't know - I'm pretty confused, to be honest.
(Image from Rock Paper Shotgun.)
Anyway, Poland has been a lot of fun - even if I have every single other world leader angry at me all the time. Which is interesting. I've also been through a nearly 1000 year war with Sumeria, during which time they've sent a total of 2 Bombards and 3 Bazooka troops to my shores. I haven't bothered to retaliate. Yet.
(Image from PC Games N.)
Australia looks interesting, though it's a little distressing to see that there is no mention of our history before European settlement. Which is super weird, given that the civilisation only covers 1-to-2 of the Eras in the game, and just ignores the 50,000+ years of Aboriginal Australian history (and there's some insanely interesting stuff in there). I'm hopeful that we get an additional leader - like Greece - to account for this. But, I doubt it...

What I've Made

I've been working pretty hard on Do or Dice recently, attempting to get the changes brought up during playtesting into the game. I'm having to restrain myself from too quickly and too radically, changing things though - I've been toying around with a new central mechanic, but it would be unwise to jump ship without properly testing out the existing one. I'll be posting up a discussion on which one I settle with, once I have settled!
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Speaking of discussions, I posted up the first piece of Do or Dice rules on Friday, and it's already worked out well. There has been a reasonable amount of conversation surrounding it, and that conversation has already helped me work through it. It's great to start interacting more with the design community, like this. As +Steve Dee said "scenes are good".

What I've Run

I ran the first actual play session of Ameshirel: A World Reforged, using the Do or Dice ruleset, and it's done exactly what I hoped - poked holes in the game. I've always been a firm believer of test fast and early, but it's always been difficult to execute that belief. Do or Dice is now getting fortnightly playtests, and I am hopeful to increase that rate. If any folks out there are keen to get a playtest copy, please let me know!
(Image from Wizards.)
My Curse of Strahd campaign got another session (which brings the total up to 7, with 5 of them still unposted in the diary, for that I apologise, but unfortunately cannot see changing in any significant way, any time soon...) It was a great session, and I finally got to use Old Bonegrinder. Needless to say, the PCs shouldn't have let the Night Hags escape. They'll never sleep easy again!

What I've Seen

For some strange reason, I started watching the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series on Netflix a few weeks ago, and I'm making a lot of progress through it. I find it's interesting enough to have going on in the background whilst I work, but not cerebral enough to demand my attention always. I'm definitely enjoying it, though I do find some of the themes problematic. The first two seasons glorify war a little too much, but the later seasons seem to deal with the bad sides a lot more (which is awesome). I'm enjoying seeing pieces of the EU fall into place with the new canon (like seeing Saw, etc). Worth checking out, I think.
(Image from Screen Rant.)
On Friday night I went and saw Martin Scorsese's newest film, Silence. It's about two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who travel to Japan during a period of religious inquisition, to find their mentor. It's pretty fucked up, to be honest. It's brutal, and it's basically all about torture and resilience. It's also very very long. I'm still unsure if I liked it. It's definitely not a film you can enjoy, but at some point you need to recognise that it was worth seeing or not - and I am yet unsure of that. I think it was worth seeing, but I still need to unpack it a little bit...
(Image from Esquire.)
The visuals and the score were fantastic, though, and if you're a fan of Adam Driver or Andrew Garfield, their performances were amazing, so that may encourage you to see it. I do, however, believe the film will have less impact on you if you haven't gone through some kind of crisis of faith (whether that made you more devout, or as in my case, led you to apostasy). If you do see it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the film!
(Image from BBC America.)
Lastly, I started watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency last night, and half an episode in, I was hooked. I've now watched the first two, and I am keen to watch the third! It's a really weird, really curious mix of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It's also unlike any of those things, and much weirder. I can't really explain it, except by saying that I desperately want to play it as a roleplaying game.

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

My Advice for Running D&D 5e Monsters?

Run 4e Monsters...

No, seriously.

I, like many, bounced off Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, because I found the rules overly complex for what they were trying to do, and moving ever further away from roleplaying and back into wargaming. Now, there's nothing wrong with wargaming, and there is definitely a place for it (a place that I enjoy as well!) but for me that isn't in my roleplaying.
(Images from Wizards.)
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition reverted a lot of those changes, and brought the game to a point simpler than 3rd Edition, which meant I was once more interested. Whilst I have many (many) gripes remaining about D&D as a whole, I have gotten almost 3 years of mileage out of 5e, and I can see a lot of merits in it.

But, in those 3 years I have noticed one thing: the Monster Manual is flat... It's, honestly, very bland. When you boil each monster down, they are merely sliders on the same variables. This one has more HP, that one has a higher damage die, etc. The descriptions given often work well to tell you where the monster may be found, and generally what it is like, but they fail miserably with the one key note that is vital to D&D (given that it's a game about braving dungeons and fighting dragons).

There are no TACTICS.
(Image from Wizards.)
We know where a monster may lair, and what it looks like. We know who probably made it, and where it comes from. We know, sometimes, how it communicates with its fellows, and which monsters it hates.

But we don't know what it does. When it is cornered, how does it fight? We can see that it might claw an opponent, but when and why? Does it just run at the opponent and claw them until it is dead? Does it claw, then run away, then growl, or something else? It might. We can say that it does. But there is nothing in the book to suggest what it should be doing.

This, ultimately, leads to pretty static fights. Unless the GM does a lot of prep before hand, most fights will likely end the same - with monsters moving in, and the two sides grinding down until one has lost.
(Image from Wizards.)
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition did not have this problem!

4e, when you crack open the Monster Manual, is filled with monsters that are accompanied by tactics. Each entry tells you not only what they can do in a fight, but how, and in what order. For most of them, this is just a small paragraph. This means, when you need a monster, or you don't want to prep much, you can open it up, turn to the monster entry, read very quickly, and have an interesting, game changing, way to run that monster.

Here is a cross example between the two books:

Whilst running Curse of Strahd, I needed to use 8 Gargoyles in an encounter in Castle Ravenloft itself (those of you who have played it will know the bit I mean). I read the entry in the 5e MM, and all I came up with was a straight forward fight. There was nothing particularly interesting there.

Then, I had the idea to read the 4e MM, and that spawned an idea of the Gargoyles flanking the PCs, some engaging in melee, and others grappling them to lift them to the ceiling (which is quite high up in this bit) and dashing them onto the floor to kill them. This utilised their abilities which the PCs couldn't match - flight - as well as adding their cruel natures into the mix. This change in tactics was inspired by their flyby ability. I didn't have to change the 5e entry at all, I just had to think about them differently.
(Image from Wizards.)
Note, even, that this tactic isn't the one in the MM. All that happened was thinking about the tactics, rather than the abilities, got me thinking about encounter design differently.

Now, whenever I need a set-piece combat, I turn to the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual first. I encourage you to, as well.

It has come to my attention that Matthew Colville, a GM who does YouTube videos on how to run Dungeons & Dragons has talked about very similar topics on the following video. His videos tend to be awesome, and this one is no different. He's also a great author, and you should check out his books here and here!

Have you used this method before? Which monsters did you reverse engineer in this way? Which monsters do you think could be improved in 5e?

Do or Dice: Intent vs Action

I just read this article from Gnome Stew about Player Intent, and (apart from it being interesting) is a great excuse for me to discuss some of the design decisions behind Do or Dice.

As Do or Dice is leveraging both the Blades in the Dark and Fate Core systems, there are a list of skills that a player can have their character use to perform tasks. However, in Do or Dice, a roll is never called for - at no point should the GM say "I want you to roll Tinker." Instead, the first step of performing a task is to declare your intent - the player describes what outcome on the situation they wish to have.
(Image from Brainless Tales.)

Players don't say "I want to attack the guard", but instead "I want to kill the guard", or "I want the guard to die". This intent is then matched with a skill, but any skill can arguably be used - so long as the player can justify it. Are they killing the guard by Fighting them? Or are they Tinkering with a device that will kill them?
Once an intent and a skill have been announced, the GM can determine how difficult this would be to achieve, how risky, and how much effect the player would likely have. Everything, easily, flows from the fiction.

This process of intent completely removes the problem of the player's engagement with the mechanics missing the GM's perception of that engagement. The player directly states the cool thing they want, the GM sets opposition and announces what's at stake, the player can re-negotiate (if they want to), and then a roll is performed. Everyone - even other players - are allowed to sit on the edge of their seats during this roll because they know what every possible result could lead to (but not exactly what will happen)...

Whilst Do or Dice is still in testing and development, this mechanic of intent over action is central to the game and, as far as I can tell, isn't going anywhere.

If you enjoyed seeing this little glimpse into Do or Dice, please let me know in the comments and I can write more posts like this. It's fun to discuss what I've been working on for so long now!

You Should ALWAYS Meet Your Heroes

Or, by its alternate title...

Picking Better Heroes

I often hear the advise that one should never meet their heroes (and, please note, I'm talking about personal and professional heroes, here, not roleplaying game heroes (what?! Ben's not talking about roleplaying games?!))
(Image from DC.)
This is, as I have found to be, infinitely shitty advice. Some of the best connections I've ever made have been with my heroes... But I think this is a pretty rare thing, in the grand scheme of things. Why is that? Well, because people choose crap heroes, of course!

The underlying reason why people tell you to never meet your heroes is because those people will a) shatter the magic for you, because they're normal people, and b) have crappy views, or turn out to be actually awful people.

Therefore, this post is about how to find people who should be your heroes, and how to make sure that by meeting them, you'll be meeting a future friend, ally, mentor, and all-round amazing person (perhaps a few of mine are reading this right now - sup folks!)

Step #1 - Shop Locally

The biggest issue I see with people when they choose heroes, and then have those heroes disappoint them is that they've decided to put all their money behind someone they don't know, and more importantly someone they can't easily get to know. People look to celebrities, far off figures, and industry giants for their aspirations, and this is fundamentally flawed.

For starters, as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs teaches us, we shouldn't look too far from our current standing, lest we get dizzied by the heights. We'll be Homer Simpson comparing ourselves to Edison. Sure, Edison's a great role model to follow if you want to invent heaps of cool stuff, but if you've never invented anything before, you're going to have a very long road ahead of you before you can get even the slightest blip of a win compared to that name.
(Image from Simply Psychology.)
I suggest looking at your local scene or community. Are you wanting to get into activism? Look for someone active in your area who is doing great work. Do you want to make cool games? Look for a local designer. I guarantee you that there will be people near you who are doing awesome things. Find them.

This doesn't necessarily mean you need to find people geographically close to you - the Internet is a hell of a place. But it does mean that you should stick with the communities you're already in, or can slip into easily. Find your local IGDA meet up. Look on Facebook for local protests. Ask around your local Uni, or Uni Facebook pages, etc.

Step #2 - Do Some Research

Next, find out who your potential new hero is. This doesn't mean stalk them. I'm going to say that again in super underlined bolded italicised text:

THIS DOESN'T MEAN STALK THEM!

If it it's on Facebook, read the posts they make publicly. If it's in person, ask them questions before reaching out. What are you looking for? Why, politics, my friend.

Despite what many people think, every action, thought, and spoken word has politics tied to it. Everything a person is is a reflection of their politics (even if that reflection is to stay out of politics). By getting a hint of someone's politics, you can get an idea of what kind of person they are. Is this someone who you find respectful? Is this someone worthy of being looked up to?

This is a big breaking point for a lot of people when they idealise celebrities, only to find out they're misogynists, racists, and so on. People's work doesn't always show their politics well - and generally, the more someone shies away from talking politics, the more you should be wary. People who are loud and proud about their politics tend to be stronger voices, anyway, and are ones who will help challenge you (if you decide to jump behind them).

Step #3 - Engage

The third big things is that many times if you're thinking someone is worthy of being a hero for you, they may think it themselves. There is no worse person to be a hero than a narcissist.

Engage with the person, even lightly. Whilst in no way do they owe you their time (and, honestly, they're probably busy), you will need to get a sense of whether or not that person considers you a worthy person to talk to. If they don't, then, honestly, they're probably not that great a person to begin with (sorry folks). This often ties into their politics, as above.
(Image from Black Industries.) I love this book, and it is very relevant to this discussion for me.
As I said, sometimes people are just busy, so don't jump to the conclusion that they are bad people. But if they're too busy to respond to a little reaching out, then they're going to be too busy to be a meaningful hero for you. That's fine, it just means this is the wrong person to focus on...

If they get back to you, and they're awesome, and amazing, and super nice... Or even if they're just willing to say hello back and treat you like you are a person as well. Well. Good job, Potential Hero!

Step #4 - Cut Them Some Slack


In the same way you want someone who treats you like a person, you need to treat your hero like a person, too. And you know what? People fuck up. Again and again. They just do. Therefore, your hero might fuck up from time to time.

Depending on the scale of the fuck up, you should be willing to forgive your hero. If you've shopped locally, done some research, and engaged with them and heard back, then they should be a good enough person for you to cut them some slack.

So do. Cut them slack. And if they transgress too far, maybe coax them back? Who knows, maybe you'll be as much a mentor to them as they are to you...

The true lesson behind this step is that, in the end, your hero won't (if Step #3 was passed) think that they're a hero. They will certainly have their own heroes. And hey, maybe there are those out there who consider you a hero. You don't need to worry about disappointing your fans, so neither should they. They should just focus on being good people, and so should you. Take them as an example and talk to them to learn how to be better. Or not. Just be challenged!

Post Script

I know this was a weird, kinda-rambling tangent from my usual content... But I felt it needed to be said. We get hung up on the people we idolise (and, I mean, free Step #5 - don't idolise people!) and often that clouds our perceptions and doesn't let us actually learn from them. And that's a shame... Because we can all learn something from the heroes out there.

This Week: Puppets, Hacks, Romance, and Challenges!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Run

I ran session #6 of my Curse of Strahd campaign, and finally got a chance to roleplay as Pidlwick II (who is, hands down, one of my favourite characters). I changed him quite a bit from how he is portrayed in the book, but after hearing feedback from my players, it was definitely the right choice. Sadly, it'll be some time before I get around to that campaign diary, as I am massively behind, and massively inundated with work at the moment. Nevertheless, it has given me inspiration to keep working on my backlog of diaries, so the next one will come sometime soon!
(Image from Wizards.)

What I've Seen

I've been reading and prepping (though sadly not playing) Blades in the Dark a lot recently, because v8 was recently released, which means I've also been spending a lot of time on the Google+ community of late (hell, I've even bee writing my own Blades content!). Over there, I got wind that Scum & Villainy, the sci-fi Firefly / Star Wars: Rogue One style hack is in Early Access! I'm yet to get my hands on it, but I am very very tempted to pick it up. If anyone else has purchased it already, please let me know how it is!
(Image from Gamerati. Wrong Scum & Villainy, I know, but still relevant!)
Black and Green Games released Romance Trilogy, and I'm pretty excited about it! Whilst it's not currently available in print in Australia, I have it from +Emily Care Boss herself that inroads to Australian stores are being investigated. Honestly, I'm keen to get my hands on it any way that I can, so I'll probably end up buying the PDF first, anyway (which can be found here, if you're as keen as I am.)
(Image from Black and Green Games.)
The #200WordRPG Challenge is back for 2017, spanning between April 15th and April 23rd! I entered last year with MegaCorp, a cyberpunk storygame about being a director of a MegaCorp and trying to strip it of assets. It was fantastic, and I encourage everyone to give it a try, if you have a design bent. I also encourage everyone to have a look at previous years, as some of the most ridiculous and amazing games come out of this challenge!
(Image from David Schirduan.)
That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Deus Ex, Trenches, PLAYTESTS, and Frontier

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I finally got around to starting Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and I'm enjoying it - though not as much as Human Revolution. Maybe I just need to give it more time, but at the moment it feels very much like it's relying on you having loved the last one to carry it. It doesn't feel enough like a stand alone game. I keep getting the impression that it's pointing to HR and saying "Ay! Look at how cool we still are!"

(Image from SquareEnix.)
But I'm keen to be proven wrong! I loved HR, and I look forward to loving MD just as much. Graphically and functionally, MD is clearly superior, but I've found some things that wrankle me - like the tutorial at the beginning being in places too intrusive, and in others weirdly not intrusive enough. The camera also feels really clostrophobic to me... Which is weird... Anyway, I will report back in 50 years when I get around to finishing it!

What I've Made

After being inspired by Peaky Blinders (which I am now up-to-date on), and with the v8 release of Blades in the Dark (I haven't stopped screaming in excitement), I decided to write a short supplement that covers the Unity War. It's called Remnants of War, and I only just posted it up here on versamus, but for This Week's sake I had to talk about it again.

(Image from Imperial War Museums, edited by me.)
Go here to check it out!

What I've Run

In my continuing efforts to get Do or Dice off the ground, I ran my first session of the proper playtest campaign this week. We're playing in the Ameshirel: A World Reforged setting I am developing alongside it, and things are thus far looking good.

(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
We've got a psychopathic Polder, a gloomy Dwarven coward, a drug addicted Elven alchemist, a mysterious Human necromancer priest, and a Orcish bard who just wants everyone to chill out. I will be posting more about this campaign as it develops, and the rules as they develop from the playtesting! The plan at the moment is to open up playtesting to the public once I have ironed out the kinks with this campaign, and I expect it to be ready in a few months time - SO KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED!

What I've Seen

Lastly, I watched Frontier on Netflix this week (I got through the whole thing, as I've been a bit unwell and idle) and, frankly, I wasn't impressed. The acting, the writing, the... Basically everything felt flat. There were a few cool characters, and some interesting stuff thrown in there - but on the whole it was a mighty Meh.

(Image from Netflix.)
I'm willing to see where the next season goes, and it's worth a watch if you like the time period. Just don't expect anything amazing...

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

Free Stuff: Remnants of War

Blades in the Dark version 8 (AKA "Release") came out this week and I've been insanely excited about it. The new rules are fantastic to read, and I'm excited to get back to running it (which is next week, I believe).

In the mean time, I've cooked up a mini-supplement called Remnants of War which focuses on the Unity War from the setting - a war fought between the frozen state of Skovlan, and the rest of the Empire, which lasted either 36-years, or 102-years, depending on how you count these things...

The supplement features a new Crew type: Legionnaires, as well as detailing the Imperial Military as a faction, and giving a few new bits of gear for military types, including ghostly weapons, Faraday Armor, and grenades.


(Image from the Imperial War Museums, edited by me.)

This Week: Alchemy, Gnomes, Elba, and Strahd!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

We purchased a copy of Dominion: Alchemy expansion, and have now had a few games using it. Despite my continued confusion with the Golem card, I am really enjoying the new meta it creates, and the interesting choices it's brought back. A lot of people claim the base game gets boring (though I never found that to be the case), but Alchemy definitely livens the game up a lot!
(Image from Board Gaming.)
 I've also (though this is hardly a new thing for me) have been playing a lot of Mount & Blade Warband, as I eagerly await Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord! If you haven't checked out M&B before, it's a third-person medieval combat/management game where you slowly grow a name for yourself, and hire a group of soldiers who you train into a (hopefully) powerful army. I play with the mod Floris Evolved because I think the base game is pretty bland - but Bannerlord looks like they've learned a lot from their modding community, and have brought in some of the bets parts!
(Image from YouTube.)

What I've Made

Something I've been working on, called A Gnome's Tale, has made some significant progress, and I'm now going to show you a little bit of it (note: this is the first time any part of it has ever been seen online :D) In short, it's a system neutral random encounter drop-table/art book...
(Image from... US! WOO!)
We're hoping to continue to develop A Gnome's Tale and I'll let you know as more comes out that I can talk about!

I've also been working on my ability to Blades in the Darkify photos to make character portraits for my campaign. I think I've got a pretty good system, which is:
  1. Find a photo.
  2. Go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation, and set the Saturation to -100.
  3. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves, and select the Strong Contrast Preset.
  4. Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Cutout, and set Number of Levels to 8, Edge Simplicity to 3, and Edge Fidelity to 3.
  5. Again, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves, and select the Strong Contrast Preset.
  6. And, you're done!
(Original image from ComingSoon.com, edited by me.)
This process is very simple, quick, and easy to tweak (just adjust any of the above values). It even works better with lower quality images, so you don't need to worry about finding the perfect HD shot - even screenshots from Netflix have thus far rendered great results!

What I've Run

I finally got to run Curse of Strahd again (and reminded myself of the crushing weight of being behind on the campaign diary!) which was amazing. I won't go into details here, but I got to use my Strahd voice for a lot of it, which was a lot of fun!
(Image from Wizards.)
I promise I'll be updating the campaign diary ASAP!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Jam, Arrival, Axebane, and Jazz!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Made

Global Game Jam has come and gone for another year, and it's been an interesting one. I tackled the prospect of Jamming alone, and whilst I don't regret doing it, I've answered that question: I won't be doing it again. Jamming alone doesn't allow you to riff off someone else like a normal Jam does. I had my reasons, beyond just answering that question, for going alone but that's a different story all together.
(Image from Victoria Museum.)

Anyway, I did manage to make something, called No More, Molok! which you can find here. I hope you like it.

What I've Seen

I got to see Arrival at Cinema Nova in Melbourne, and it was fantastic. It's rare that I see a film that is actually about hope, and one where I have as few criticisms as I did with Arrival, which was awesome. I don't want to say much about it, because I feel the less you know about the film going in, the better. For those who have seen it though: I wish the last 5 minutes weren't in it. They felt unnecessary and detracting. Otherwise, it's freakin' great. See it while you can! 
(Image from IndieWire.)

After watching the most recent episode of RollPlay: Blades, the cast Geoff passed on the recommendation of John that folks should watch Peaky Blinders. So I did. I'm one season in, and I can't recommend it enough (even if you don't like or know about Blades in the Dark). It's set in 1919 Birmingham, England, and is centred around a gang - the Peaky Blinders - who run a small section of the city. I won't get into why, but they get wrapped into crown-controlled espionage, communist plots, and all sorts of intrigue-filled infighting. It's been so inspiring for me as a GM, and I have so much left to watch! Two seasons are currently on Netflix, so get on it!
(Image from Netflix.)

I became a Patron of Axebane Games who is creating awesome top-down maps with encounter sheets built in. I love the simplicity of the maps - just print them out and jot down ideas, right into them. It's very freeing, only having a tiny amount of space per room, as it forces you to do away with boxed text or complex ideas. Instead, you write down the seeds of your inspiration, and then you improv at the table. I just had to support this enterprise, and I get some awesome coloured versions early to boot, so I'm very happy!
(Image from Axebane Games.)

I watched the first episode of RollPlay: Nebula Jazz this week, which is the newest campaign on the channel. It's bloody fantastic, and other than Blades, I haven't fallen so quickly for a new show since Swan Song. It's a quirky 80's inspire sci-fi game using Fate Accelerated Edition featuring Adam Koebel as the Spacemaster, Dodger playing Eugene - a wise-cracking Slimething, Jesse Cox playing Qin - an Ex-Guardian giant Komodo Dragon-like Lizardman, Strippin playing Rex - an outlaw Sharkanoid, and Pokket playing Aurora - a robot girl with her best friend Sparky. Seriously, the descriptions coming from all the players are amazing, and I can't encourage you to watch it more!
(Image from itmejp.)

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

Global Game Jam 2017 Theme: Waves!

Woo! Having held onto the theme for nearly 24 hours, I'm happy to report that the GGJ17 theme is Waves.
Which, as you can imagine, has made my job a little bit more difficult.

How do you make a roleplaying game about waves? Well, you don't, really. At least I didn't. As with anything, my product has strayed from its brief. It's now a card game. But, basically everything else is the same. I'm still following 3 of those 6 diversifiers, and I've been following the Accessibility guidelines.

You can watch the GGJ17 Keynote, here!

No More, Molok! is essentially ready. I can't share it yet, but when GGJ is over, I'll link through to the website so you can see the entries!