Sunday, 9 February 2020

Dungeon Room Descriptions

I don't know whether it's just me but I generally find room descriptions in scenarios pretty poor. This thought was highlighted when I read through the "Tower of Zenophus" scenario in the back of the Holmes D&D Ruleset. It's a decent dungeon crawl scenario which I think still holds up today (as long as you can suspend your disbelief about why and how certain rooms are populated) and which I enjoyed running a few weeks at local games shop, Distinct Gaming, over in Belper. My beef with room description is more in the format than the content. They just generally seem to be written in a fairly haphazard way that requires reading the entire description before they can be summarised for the players.

I put some real thought into the actual format I think is the best after listening to Goblin Henchman's podcast episode, 12 - Audio Dungeon | not that one, which puts forward an idea of creating a dungeon based on audio messages of dungeon dressing sent into his podcast. (His blog also has a post dedicated to the idea - Collaborative Audio Dungeon). My initial room description was around two and a half minutes so I spent quite a bit of time refining it down to a minute. And this process of refining lead me to rethink the format.

Currently I working along the following lines for my ideal room description format.


Initial Description


I want a brief description of that the characters will initially see, hear and smell on entering the room. Variations between what characters with Infravision or with a light source see need to be noted.


Detailed Description


Each objection/area within the room should be described in turn, separated by paragraphs so depending on the order the party examines the room it is easy to access descriptions of what they find.

Events likely to occur should then be detailed.


Undoubtedly I'll refine this format as I get back into writing room descriptions but I think it's a good starting point.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Is Mapping Really Old School?

This post is to support my podcast of the same name, Is Mapping Really Old School?

I'm a big fan of player mapping but sadly it seems to be something I've seldom encountered in games, the exception being a monthly B/X game I play in where a map is produced each session.

Personally, I find mapping one of the most enjoyable parts of a session and enjoy mapping both Dungeons and Wilderness. I always find it particularly amusing when a map seems to go back over ,usually because of an error, and that in itself can often lead to amusing player character interactions and often ongoing jokes about map making abilities.

As you can see in the maps below the fact I have little to no drawing ability has not held me back from producing the maps. I have no definitive legend, although I try and stick to the old, "standard" symbols but I can be inconsistent at times.

I play a bi-weekly face to face GURPS 4e/Dungeon Fantasy game and a couple of sessions ago we ventured into the Dungeons of Thraal for the first time. I took it upon myself to do the mapping and came up with the map you see. It uses approx 10' per hex.


The Dungeons of Thraal
At the latest session I added to the original map and needless to say the map immediately went off the square paper, a common issue with mapping. When this happens I usually add the same letter on each piece to denote where they join together.
This map is one I did retrospectively of an online game I played in mid week using the Black Hack system. It was theatre of the mind so the map is produced from the written notes I took from the GM's description. The scale of the rooms should be fairly accurate but not the corridors.  I produced it mainly to see how difficult it was to produce a map from a written description, bearing in mind my written notes may have been inaccurate. It quickly became apparent to me that corridor lengths were something that we'd deemed unimportant. I made this 5' per hex to allow for more legible drawings to be added. 









Sunday, 24 November 2019

My Plan To Run Some RPGs

Although I'm playing in plenty of RPGs at the moment, I play in weekly AD&D 1e, Bi-Weekly GURPs 4e, Monthly B/X,  D&D 5e, DCC & One Shots arranged on the Audio Dungeon Discord Server (Barbarians of Lemuria, Black Hack, Bushido & Low Fantasy Gaming arranged so far) and a proposed 13th Age Glorantha Duck Campaign, I rarely get a chance to GM a game. I really need to change this as I ran some D&D 5e, D&D B/X & RQG last year and enjoyed it very much, although I was very rusty for the first few games.

To rectify my lack of GMing I'm starting a three pronged attack.
  1. I've setup three dates early Next Year, Jan 12th, Feb 9th, Mar 8th, all on a Sunday to GM some RGQ over at Bean Gaming in Leicester and agreed to run a RGQ at Glorantha Games in April. I've also tentatively had agreement from my long standing (30+ year) RPG group for me to run some RGQ in January.
  2. I've put some feelers out on Audio Dungeon Discord to see if there is any interest in a Old School Essentials Wilderlands session.
  3. I intend to put some feelers out to see if there is any interest locally in playing OSE. TBH I don't hold out much hope as most people seem only interested in playing D&D 5e.

Runequest Glorantha

To run the RGQ I need to re-read the rule book and concentrate on understanding Shamans and become more familiar with all the magic spells. I also need to re-familiarise myself with the Broken Tower starter adventure and finish writing up my own adventure, Bye-Tore & The Snow Dog as well as putting the next couple of adventures down onto paper as they are currently sitting exclusively in my head. I was intending to format my notes using the Jonstown Compendium Creators Circle templates, which I also need to look at.


Old School Essentials & the Wilderlands

Old School Essentials (OSE) is the system recently published by Necrotic Gnome via a Kickstarter. It's effectively a re-formatting of the D&D B/X which is my favourite RPG system. The Wilderlands is Judge's Guild campaign world which first saw the light of day as a published work in 1976 as The City State of the Invincible Overlord. I created my own implementation of it over at scabard.

My intention is to run the OSE including the optional Advanced Fantasy books. I intend to run it within The Wilderlands set in Map 6, The City State of the World Emperor, around Tell Qa in the Smyrsis province. My Wilderlands setting would be a sandbox faithfully using Bob Bledsaw's original version of the Wilderlands where ever possible but taking from other sources as appropriate as well as including a lot of my own fiction. I'll use James Mishler's version of Tell Qa as the base for the city.

My Wilderlands will have a mixture of scenarios I've written and also some published scenarios, each dropped in at set locations, so the Keep on the Borderlands exists in my Wilderlands campaign, as does The Isle of Dread.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Protecting My RPG Collection

Initially my RPG collection stood on bookcase in my bedroom at my parents house. When I left for college I can't recollect exactly where I used to keep the books & magazines. I'm sure the "essentials" went with me to polytechnic but I assume the bulk of them remained at my parents house.

I never really acquired enough RPG material for storage to be an issue in those early years but I can remember that when I finally moved out of my parents house when I was 26/27 I took my RPG stuff with me and have a vague recollection of it collecting dust in a spare room in the house I was renting before collecting more dust in a spare room in the first house I bought when I was 28.

Two moves later and more dust collection and in 2003 I found myself moving abroad to take up a job in Sri Lanka and looking to rent our house in the UK out so I boxed my entire collection up in a couple of boxes and dumped them up in the attic with only a minimum of precautions. I still rue throwing my collection of White Dwarf, Imagine & Adventurer magazines away thinking I would never use them again ..

And so there my RPG books remained, despite me returning to live in the house again in 2007, until 2017 when my interest in RPGs was sparked again and I braved the attic to locate my books. Certainly more than luck than judgement my RPG books remained intact with no water, rodent or any other noticeable type of damage.

So I cleared out the book case in my bedroom and brought my entire collection down from the attic and stored it on the bedroom bookcase. I started adding to my collection rapidly and decided not to leave my RPG books condition to chance but invest in some protection for it.

40 Sheet Plastic Wallet
I decided to leave the hard backs as they were but to place all the softbacks into plastic wallets. Looking around on Amazon I soon sourced two types of plastic wallets I liked.



150 Sheet Plastic Wallet





They both were A4 sized, had poppers to help seal the wallet, ring binder holes so they could be stored in ring binders and were side opening. The difference between them was simply the number of sheets they held, one held around 40 sheets, the other around 150 sheets.

The wallets easily held A4 sized sheets and booklets and the side rather than top opening meant that it was easier to slide the contents in. The poppers were easy to open and close so all in all they turned out to be an ideal solution as far as I was concerned. I haven't yet found a softback book too large to fit into the larger of the two wallets


Left is 15mm, Right is 25mm
The next decision was which A4 binders to use. There was a lot of choice but I wanted flexible rather than rigid folders with the ability to insert a label into the spine as I intended to create my own spine labels and print them off. I found what I was looking for on Amazon and settled on two sizes, 15mm and 25mm, the size the width of the spine and consequently dictating how many pages they could hold.












Fitting the plastic wallets into the A4 binders is easy and the only issue I really found was being ruthless in upgrading the size from 15mm to 25mm binders if the 15mm binder started to get full.















The spine inserts were fairly easy to create. I just used Word and created a table with the page in landscape. It took a little bit of trial and error by printing off the page , cutting up the spines, trying them in the ring binders and then adjusting them in Word and repeating  until I had them how I wanted them.

Screen shot of my Word document




Note that the spines also need to cover space on the front of the folder too. I sourced the logos off the internet.






Old Bookcase
As I mentioned above originally I had my RPG collection in a bookcase.













New adjustable shelving
But the bookcase was soon overflowing so I purchased some adjustable shelving (I used the Algot range from Ikea) and this was a noticeable improvement!
New adjustable shelving














Of course, all this comes at a cost. Each plastic wallet is approximately £1 and each binder £1.75 so any softback books I now purchase I add at around £3 per book to include protection for them. The cost of the adjustable shelving was several hundred pounds which will probably work out at less than £1 a book when the shelves are full.

However, all in all I'm pretty pleased with the system. It provides room for all my RPG books to stand vertically with the softbacks safe from damp and dust. Of course, I need to remember to take all the hardbacks off a couple of times a year for dusting but that's really no big hardship.

Printing my own spines means I can easily identify where any books are and can easily move books between folders as I can just print off an updated spine fairly easily.



Saturday, 29 June 2019

Al-Qadim

For around the past 12 months I've been playing in a regular Tuesday group in the Al-Qadim setting. We have 5 regular players, Dan, Gareth, Jazz, Michael & myself, have lost one player Richard along the way (due to moving house out of the area) and Nathaniel is an irregular player. Ham is our DM. The group make up is quite different to most the other groups I play in as usually I am the oldest player but we have players from their 20s right through into their 50s. We play at Ham's house, around a table in his front "gaming" room and Ham kindly supplies the drinks (or at least Sophie his daughter does!) and the players supply nibbles. Sessions are 19:00 to 22:00 although we sometimes spill a little over.

I found this group via a post for another group in the East Midlands Roleplayers Gaming Group. The other group was also DMed by Ham and was looking for an extra player so I joined but after just a couple of months the group stalled due to a combination of illness and other weekend commitments. At around this time Ham started the Tuesday group so I asked if I could join this as I really wanted a regular old school group (as I was playing Pathfinder on a Wednesday at the time) and have been part of the Tuesday group ever since.

We use a Facebook group to communicate, usually just to confirm sessions and who is attending.

Although Al-Qadim is an AD&D 2e setting the Tuesday group uses an extensively home-brewed AD&D 1e rule set to play. As I cut my RPG teeth on AD&D 1e back in the early 80s this suits me as I've become increasingly disillusioned with D&D 5e as a ruleset.

In Al-Qadim I play a Sha'ir/Thief with a Djinnling Vamoosh (after Souki my first Djinnling met an untimely end). The other player's characters are:
Dan: Alard, MU & Jandolier, Cleric/Ranger
Jazz: Levandes, Paladin
Gareth: Ravi, Cleric & Azhbool, fighter
Michael: Ahmaan, Fighter
Nathaniel: Haroun, Magic User/Thief
Richard: Tze, Monk
As you can see some players have more than one character and it is expected that if any player is missing from a session another player will play their character(s). I seem to usually end up playing Haroun if Nathaniel is missing but have played Ravi, Tze & Jandolier. The characters are all around 6th level.

Ham maintains a campaign journal on Dragonsfoot, The Parsantine Expedition to The Land of Fate

We use miniature figures and each character has it's own painted figure. I believe Ham supplies & paints the figures, although it maybe that other players have brought/painted their own figures. I've no particular interest in miniatures so Ham has certainly supplied and painted mine.

The format of the games in Al-Qadim is usually Ham offers us a particular scenario via a patron or disguised genie (which my character Farouk is notoriously poor at detecting with his 25% chance to "Detect the work of genies") and we usually accept and play the scenario but occasionally we decline if we fancy exploring a different area of Al-Qadim.

We've also all met up socially as well for a few beers last Christmas and I've turned up at Ham's for a coffee and a natter on the odd occasion the game has had to be cancelled due to lack of numbers. All in all it's a great group, real old school, relaxed feel to the play with everyone committed to working as a team.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Call of Cthulhu Starter Set Sessions

The group I play Call of Cthulhu with on Friday nights is a select bunch of Che, our Keeper of Arcane knowledge, Ian & myself joined by Dave for the first time last night. Che, Ian & Dave have played as a group a while back, before I discovered the group earlier in the year. Che & Ian have been roleplaying together for around 20 years. We usually play once every two weeks & Che hosts us at his house.

I met Che via his forum posts, first via a Runequest related post and then via his excellent podcast Roleplay Rescue, which I can heartily recommend. I liked his old school approach to things and joined a short lived Castle & Crusades campaign he ran until an untimely TPK (See Vinster's Last Stand). Che will be running a new C&C campaign starting in September, once the school holidays are over as Ian & myself both have kids and between us are away for most of July & August. So the the meantime we've agreed to play some Call of Cthulhu .. Our sessions generally start around 19:30 but we tend to turn up at 19:00 so we can have a coffee and a chat for half an hour or so. The sessions end by 23:00, sometimes a little earlier.

I've played Call of Cthulhu since 2e back around 1983 & played a lot of 3e when I was at polytechnic. In fact I've written more scenarios for Call of Cthulhu than probably any other system although I've actually rarely run it. As usual, there are various reasons for this but the main one I guess was that at the time there was a much better CoC KoAK than me, Bryan, who ran some of the best RPG sessions I've ever played in.

Last night was the second session of our Call of Cthulhu 7e Starter Set scenarios. The first session was 3 weeks ago when we played "Paper Chase". Last night we started "The Edge of Darkness". In both sessions I'm playing Jessie, who is young black female history student with a reckless streak, a strong religious belief & excellent fashion sense. Probably as pretty much as far from my self as I could get. As always I take a while getting into a character, slowly building up the personality. I'm certainly not the greatest role player but I hope I do a passable job at creating interesting and memorable characters. Jessie is currently completely unconvinced about the occult and believes she is involved in a drugs war between rival gangs as the use of hallucinatory drugs seems to be the only way to explain what other people are reporting they have seen.

So far the sessions have been great. Che is a relaxed GM who encourages us to play our characters and is flexible when we go off on tangents. Ian & myself are fairly complementary players as I think it's fair to say Ian is less cautious than me and more combat/action orientated. As I've only played the once with Dave I've yet to get a feel for his preferred style but my initial thought is that he too is more direct than me. If last night's session is anything to go by the concluding session for  "The Edge of Darkness", which will likely be the last session before we break up for our summer recess  should be a blast.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Deserts And Dragons

I currently play in a D&D 5e campaign we call "Deserts & Dragons". We meet monthly over at Distinct Games, over in Belper (in Derbyshire in the UK). We have a pretty stable group but the sessions are structured so that each session we start out at a base and at the end we return to the base so there is no problem if any characters are unable to adventure in each session. I have come to appreciate this is an excellent strategy for keeping an ongoing campaign going as it easily handles not all players being available. I was unable to make last session (along with another player Glyn) but it's been the first session I've missed; we started in January 2019.

I've blogged before about this campaign, writing up the party's adventures from the perspective of Tarquin, my human bard. You can view the posts using the "Deserts & Dragons" tag.

We mainly use a Facebook chat group to communicate and have also used a full Facebook Group for another group (which one of the players uses for a campaign he is DMing) to communicate. We're all friends on Facebook (although it's not a requirement) so it makes it all very easy to communicate.

The members of our group are all reasonably local to Belper, where the game is hosted. The furthest away I think is Derby, 30 minutes on the bus or about 10 miles. When we can we organise lifts for one another. A few of us met up for a few beers a month or so back. It's all very social and laid back which really suits me.

All the players (as far as I can recall) met at Distinct Games as in 2017 Jono, our DM, setup a game as "resident GM" for the shop which was an open table where he ran loosely related one shots. I think there were around 12 of these and I joined about half way through. These were run as half day sessions and two sessions were run each day. Sometimes just one player turned up (which was still an excellent session with just me and Jono), sometimes I think we peaked at 7 players.

When Jono finished those one shots he had a break for a few months but the new campaign was started as full day (10:30 - 16:30) sessions with two groups, one was the "hard core" players from the previous sessions who had really gelled as a team and the other session was for the kids, allowing Jono to tailor the sessions accordingly. I believe there is another group  run in the week as well. Each session costs £5 and the shop keep a tab we pay at the end. They sell snacks & drinks but allow us to bring in our own food as we usually raid Birds or Greggs at lunch time.

One of the interesting things about this campaign is that the other groups play in the same world and the actions one group does are reported to the other groups so the world is fluid, even when we are not playing. The world is set after some sort of terrible apocalyptic even and all the characters live in a city in the middle of a desert. The city has reached capacity and the characters are tasked with exploring the surrounding area in the hope of finding resources for the city and possibly somewhere else to start a settlement. So its mainly a hex crawl with short encounters and is working out really well.

We usually level up after each session so I needed to level up Tarkquin to level 6 and I did so last night, choosing my local The Talbot to level Tarquin up and write him out on a new character sheet.

As with many RPG groups two of the players Chris & Glyn have also turned up to play RGQ at a separate venue, Boards & Swords.

So shortly I'll be off to Belper, catching a bus (as my car is in the garage) which takes about 30 minutes. Our session is 10:30 to approx 16:30.

Dungeon Room Descriptions

I don't know whether it's just me but I generally find room descriptions in scenarios pretty poor. This thought was highlighted when...