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A digest of smaller Google+ RPG posts from 2012-2015

With the impending shutdown of Google+ — my primary (and generally only) social network and outlet for gaming chit-chat since 2012 — I’ve been slowly making my way through stuff I posted there which, in hindsight, I should just have posted here on Yore.

Some posts stood alone, and should just have been Yore posts all along. I moved those over on their original publication date or on whatever day I happened to be working on them, whichever made the most sense.

But after doing that I was left with a little collection of posts that I like best in digest format — a sort of snapshot of some of what I cared about, tabletop RPG-wise, over the past seven years. It’s as erratic and unfocused as my overall post history on G+, so it feels pretty apropos.

Here they are in chronological order, lightly edited for clarity and to provide context.

February 7, 2012

High school wasn’t very helpful in figuring out who I wanted to be (better at sorting out who I wasn’t) but it was great for figuring out what kind of gamer I was going to spend the next 10-15 years being.

The past few years have made me reassess all sorts of things about how I game and want to game, but the past week or so — a full-bore nosedive into OSR games, hex crawl design, research, and the minutiae of D&D editions — has been mind-blowing and, I strongly suspect, formative.

I’m really curious to see where this leads.

March 22, 2012

This superb definition of hit points over on THE LAND OF NOD would probably have improved most of my D&D games in the past 20 years.

Hit points don’t represent anything solid or real or concrete in and of themselves. Rather, they are part of a complex calculation that boils down to this: “What are the chances that the next moment of mortal peril you experience will be your last.” That mortal peril might be a sword fight, a poison needle, a trap door … anything that might kill you. Most often, hit points relate to combat.

August 16, 2012

All three Engine Publishing books on Studio 2 Publishing‘s shelves at Gen Con (booth 419). That really never gets old!

January 17, 2013

I would love to replace my amethyst Armory dice set someday. The dice at the bottom are all that remain; the rest were chased under couches by cats and lost at friends’ houses while gaming as a kid.

Above them are the closest I’ve been able to get: an orchid Koplow set. They’re really, really close.

And at the top are my very first gaming dice, the d10 and d20 from Lords of Creation (from the very box they’re sitting on). I inked them with modeling paint and sprayed them with matte sealant, which was a pretty terrible idea.

Feb 13, 2013

I started collecting the FR series in 1990 or 1991; I have a vivid memory of reading FR9: The Bloodstone Lands — still my favorite in the series — in the auditorium as a freshman in high school. The arrival of FR8: Cities of Mystery today, more than 20 years later, completes my set of FR1-FR16.

For my money, this is one of the best series of gaming books ever produced, and these little volumes have been a source of inspiration to me for nearly as long as I’ve been a gamer. It feels funny to have them all.

August 25, 2013

After four years, Engine Publishing has a warehouse!

It’s still the office closet, but instead of working out of stacks of boxes (containing books) and moving huge “cheese wheels” of bubble wrap every time I need to ship a book, I can just do it. I have no idea why I waited this long!

December 15, 2013

I just found this while working on the basement. I think I made these in 2006 or 2007 (certainly no later, as I stopped running TT in 2007).

That’s probably the last time I had a business card, come to think of it. I always get less use out of them than I think I will, as much as I like having them.

January 8, 2014

With a hat tip to Brendan S for the idea, here’s a rough breakdown of my 2013 gaming purchases by the categories that sort of made sense to me as I went through them.

There are probably lots of ways I could have done this better, but hopefully I’ll escape the notice of the RPGSTPD (RPG Stats Tracking Police Department) long enough for you to observe my dorkitude.

March 6, 2014

I grew up shopping at The Compleat Strategist in NYC, first at the one on 57th and then at the one on 33rd. Much of my early formative gaming originated from one of those stores.

My friend Stephan just sent me this picture: Engine Publishing‘s two most recent books, Odyssey and Never Unprepared, on the shelf at the 33rd street Compleat.

That right there is blowing my mind.

March 6, 2014

Space marine terminator: “Brother Leopold, I found a flat spot on my armor!

Brother Leopold: “This space hulk will keep — let’s bedazzle the shit out of that flat spot. For the emperor!

Me: “Fuck you, I’m painting that red.

Five years after buying Space Hulk, I’ve finally started painting my marines. As you may have guessed, miniatures aren’t really my wheelhouse.

March 10, 2014

Lords of Creation (1983, designed by Tom Moldvay) was my introduction to gaming in 1987. I never owned its three modules as a kid, but they were all surprisingly cheap so I closed out the line on eBay/Amazon.

Revel in those covers! They’re totally fucking glorious. Plus, the “-akron” in Omegakron is Akron, Ohio and The Yeti Sanction is (as Brad Murray pointed out) a parody of The Eiger Sanction; this isn’t a game that takes itself too seriously.

April 27, 2014

Behold! For I am all of Spelljammer, and I am totally fucking awesome (and underrated).

I’ve loved Spelljammer since I first picked up the boxed set in 1989 or 1990 and moved my campaign there (as I did every time a new setting came out), and as of this weekend I finally closed out the line.

May 19, 2014

It’s 1989. A pimply-faced, floppy-haired Martin, age 12 or 13, was introduced to D&D a few months ago.

He’s standing in The Compleat Strategist on 57th Street in NYC, picking out dice to go with his AD&D 2e PHB, DMG, MC, and Time of the Dragon.

He picks these.

I knew if I was patient I’d eventually find the exact pack my first dice came in. I still have a few of the actual dice; some were stolen by cats or lost under friends’ couches. It’s like stepping into a time machine!

July 12, 2014

I first heard of Living Steel around the time I started gaming, when I was in my early teens. I picked up the boxed set and hardcover rulebook in college, back in Michigan (mid-1990s), and have been slowly acquiring the other supplements ever since.

Today I closed out the line.

It’s so not my kind of game mechanically, but the hook and the vibe and the guts of it are fabulous. I’d love to play it as written and using a lighter system someday.

July 31, 2014

I stumbled into collecting U.S. editions of Call of Cthulhu back in high school and have been slowly doing so ever since. It’s one of my favorite RPGs, and has been for over 20 years. I also enjoy the irony that until the forthcoming 7th edition its rules have remained basically unchanged for 30 years, making it one of relatively few games where there’s no compelling reason to own multiple editions.

Today I added an edition I thought I’d never see, the 25th anniversary edition (white hardcover), and thought that deserved a quick picture. Right to left, top to bottom: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, UK 3rd (also available here, so I mostly count it); 4th, 5th, 5.1; 5.5, 5.6, 20th anniversary, 6th softcover; 6th hardcover, 25th anniversary, 30th anniversary.

To my knowledge, I’m only missing two editions, and my odds of acquiring them seem poor: the designer’s edition of 2e, of which only 200 copies were made, and the “more limited” 20th anniversary edition (gold Elder Sign on the cover).

September 13, 2014

My desk, where I do Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew work, in the state it’s in about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time there aren’t any piles on the end.

The piles are books I’m reading, need to shelve, need to review, or otherwise am currently using in some form.

November 17, 2015

From this excellent post about sales stats for RPG retailer BlackDiamondGames.com:

Also, because I know you guys like lists, here are our top 10 titles with the extremely high 17-40 turn rates:


1. D&D Next: Dungeon Master’s Screen
2. D&D Next RPG: Dungeon Masters Guide
3. Pathfinder RPG: Strategy Guide
4. Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters

Wait wait wait. What?! One of these things is not like the others.

Closing remarks

On balance, I greatly enjoyed my time on Google+. It had a huge impact on my gaming, from meeting my current Seattle group to learning about all sorts of cool products to making friends to changing my gaming philosophy over time.

But having gone cold turkey a month or so ago, when my gaming group stopped using G+ to schedule our sessions, there’s a flipside: I’ve found that I don’t miss checking G+ nearly as much as I thought I would.

That gnawing feeling of a social network needing to be checked, maintained, curated, and managed, and of needing to deal with the small percentage of assholes I encountered there (who consume an outsized amount of time and energy) — I don’t miss that at all.

Nonetheless, though: On balance, G+ was seven years largely well spent, and I’ll miss the connections and gaming choices it helped me to make. I’m taking a social network break, maybe for good, but I’ll still be posting here and I’m quietly active on RPGnet and RPGGeek.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

Rory’s Story Cubes are one of my favorite improv GMing tools

This Adventure Time dice bag rides in my gaming bag every day, just in case. What’s inside?

Why, it’s a big ol’ pile of Rory’s Story Cubes (paid link)!

I carry these to every game because they’re one of the most useful improv tools in my GMing toolkit.

Here’s my full assortment:

That spread includes the following Story Cubes sets (also noted is where they appear in the above photo; all are paid links):

I don’t find every Story Cubes set to be perfect for improv GMing — Actions (paid link), for example, doesn’t really meet my needs (but it might meet yours; YMMV, and all that). There are also newer sets I haven’t considered, but I worry that having too many dice in this bag would dilute some of its potency; this amount is a good fit for me.

What I love about Story Cubes

These dice are well-made: a nice size, tumbled, etched, and well-inked. They’re easy to read, even for my aging eyes.

The symbols are whimsical, but also tuned for what I find to be an interpretive sweet spot: It’s a dinosaur, but that can mean a literal dino, an old person, someone with antiquated habits, a museum, an archaeological dig site — and so on.

That interpretive sweet spot applies just as well when rolled together — better, even. The instant context provided by the rest of the roll, and my imagination, makes different meanings pop out at me.

Three examples

The most common thing I do with my Story Cubes is reach into the bag, grab a handful (no specific amount) of dice, roll them, and just look at the results for a moment. I generally do this when I need a jolt — perhaps I’m feeling stuck, or I’m considering an element of the game that I hadn’t considered before, and some random inspiration seems like it would help.

That’s totally unscientific! But it works for me.

But I sometimes use them for more specific things — like coming up with NPCs (which I wrote about on Gnome Stew three years ago).

I usually use three dice for NPCs, drawn at random from my full mixed set. Here’s a sample throw:

That could be: a planar traveler who uses a magic gemstone to slip into other worlds, a globetrotting hypnotist, someone under the influence of a cursed jewel (ignoring the globe; I often do this if I can’t use every die in a throw), and so on.

Three dice gives me enough to work with, but doesn’t overwhelm me with details to think about. (An especially important NPC might merit more than three dice.)

I also like to use them to think about what’s going on with [X], whatever X might be at the moment — a conspiracy, a faction’s agenda, a mystery, etc. For those throws, I generally use at least five dice, and occasionally more than five. Here’s a five-die throw:

The first thing I thought of was an adventure hook: giants are using enchanted bees to put people to sleep so they can steal their treasure. I read the dinosaur eggs as sleeping babies when I first saw that die, and interpreted the heart to mean that this was a charming, Disney-esque plot rather than a more serious one.

If you looked at those throws and started getting ideas for an NPC or other game element, then you’ll probably like Story Cubes.

A security blanket

Lastly, I like just having Story Cubes nearby when I’m GMing, because I know they’re there if I need them. Zero-prep GMing still makes me nervous sometimes (and I suspect it always will), so knowing I’ve got a proven, useful tool for getting back into the groove — or finding the groove, or unsticking my brain — in my gaming bag is comforting.

And that’s one of the coolest things about Rory’s Story Cubes (paid link): They have a million gaming applicatons. Throw in being inexpensive and well-made, and they’re incredibly easy to recommend.

Categories
Dice Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

Tiny dice purses

I have a container fetish.

Not a problem, mind you,[1] a fetish.

Browsing in office supply stores is dangerous for me. When we moved to Seattle, and everything I owned became, at some point, another fucking thing to haul across the country, I threw out a box full of smaller boxes.[2] I own more dice bags than anyone could possibly need. Ditto tiny tins for storing gaming bits and bobs. I blog about bags.

So when I picked up a pair of Flytanium anodized titanium d6s, the next thing I went looking for was a tiny container to keep them in. Not my regular dice bag, because metal dice are heavy and not always kind to plastic dice in transit, but something specifically for these dice.

As is so often the case when it comes to weird little things like this, I found what I was looking for on Etsy: tiny coin purses.

This little guy is the perfect size for these two dice. I love it.

The purse is lined fabric, and the outer layer is fairly thick. It provides plenty of padding for whatever the dice bump into, and it fits into my dice bag. And unlike a box, it keeps the dice from rattling.

The dice themselves haven’t yet been rolled at the table (at the moment, we’re not playing any games where 2d6 rolls come up often), but they’ve proven to be fantastic to fiddle with. I keep them on my desk, next to my high-tech worry stone, and they’re a perfect size and heft to keep my fingers busy.

They’ve also acquired a lot of character in the process, which you can hopefully make out in the photo. Anodization wears off with use, which I like, and on dice it makes sense that it’s going to wear off fastest on the edges. I can see some nice wear on the flats too, though; I love how that looks.

But when I get to bring them to a game, they’ll be riding in their cozy little dice purse.

[1] I can stop anytime I want.

[2] Some of which were, yes, full of even smaller boxes.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

Flytanium anodized titanium dice

I play a lot of PbtA games these days, so when I’m eyeing new dice I’m generally thinking about pairs of six-siders.[1] And I’m a sucker for pretty dice.

These puppies stopped me in my tracks — they’re anodized titanium dice from Flytanium, combining one of my favorite metals with one of my favorite colors:

(Sexy dice demanded a sexy book, so I grabbed my sexiest PbtA game, Undying.)

Big purple

Here’s a closer look:

A 1 oz. apiece, they’re heavy — I weighed an old Armory d6 and a Gamescience d6 for comparison purposes, and those each weigh just 0.1 oz. (Make them out of brass, say, and they’d be about twice as heavy; for a strong, durable metal, titanium is incredibly light.)

They’re also larger than standard gaming d6s, 3/4″ vs. 5/8″, like casino dice.

I love the anodization, which is deliberately “uneven” — they have an antiqued look, and with time (and rolls) they’ll scuff and develop a character all their own.

With respect to fairness, they should be as fair as any other machine-made, tumbled, pipped dice. If Flytanium drilled the pips to different depths based on face (shallowest on the six face, deepest on the one face), that would make them more accurate. But they don’t, and that’s fine by me.

Destroy . . . destroy . . . destroy

I’m generally not a fan of oversized dice, but these are so well chamfered that they feel great in-hand — and they roll well. Unlike precision-edge and non-titanium metal dice I own, these aren’t table-destroyers. I’d roll them on most tables without too much concern, though I’d still prefer a pad, book, or dice tray, because heavy dice are noisy.

I strongly suspect, however, that they would be dice-destroyers. When I used to carry metal dice and plastic dice in the same bag, the plastic ones showed wear pretty quickly. Gamescience dice, with their light, crisp edges, went first; after a week, they looked like they’d been through a war. So I’ll be carrying these on their own, not with their plastic buddies.

Old eyes

I wasn’t sure how readable these suckers would be without contrasting pips — they’re anodized all over. Only real table time will tell for sure, but the pips, which are generally shiny, stand out well against the stonewashed surface.

I experimented with rolling them under different light conditions, and only when the light was so dim that I wouldn’t want to game in a room that dark did they become difficult for me to read — and even then, only at arm’s length. Closer in, or in normal light, they’re surprisingly readable.

Flytanium makes d6s in a variety of materials and colors, often in short runs. As of this writing, their website is sold out, but you can find them in other places. (I got mine on Ebay; BladeHQ also carries them, as do other knife- and EDC-oriented sites).

I’ve seen photos of a titanium version with anodized pips and non-anodized flats, and those pips practically glow.[2] I’m going to keep an eye out for a pair of those, just in case some table time reveals that the all-over-anodized versions are harder to read than I think they will be.

[1] And fun weird dice, and old-school dice, and . . .

[2] They’ve also done some that literally glow, thanks to embedded tritium vials.

Categories
Dice

MathArtFun’s d120, Recast 2d6, and MultiDie

I love dice, so when MathArtFun‘s 120-sided Disdyakis Triacontahedron crossed my stream, I ordered one — along with a couple other oddities.

The big red one’s the d120, of course. To the right of it is their “Recast 2d6” pack (a version of Sicherman dice that uses a d12 and a d3), and below those are a d3 and a MultiDie.

(It took me a while to find the 120 face for that photo.)

d120

Weighing almost 3 ounces, the d120 is a hand-filling monster — about the size of a large lime or a small lemon. Like the Zocchihedron, stopping isn’t the d120’s forte — but for basically being a big ball, it actually stops fairly quickly.

Like the accompanying card says, it’s numerically balanced in the same way as most dice: all pairs of opposite faces add up to N+1, where N is the number of sides. It’s a nifty little beast.

MultiDie

The MultiDie is a d3 (unembellished numbers, on the faces), a d4 (numbers inside triangles, on vertices), and a d2 (circled numbers, also on vertices). After rolling, you read the top face or the number to either side of it; it works surprisingly well.

Recast 2d6

This one is quite clever: It’s a d3[1], in an interesting lozenge shape unlike all of my other d3s (but most like the even-more-lozenge-y Gamescience version), and a d12 numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Roll the pair of them, and you get the same spread of probabilities as an ordinary 2d6 roll. With all the PbtA games I’ve been playing lately, I figured these could be fun to add to my dice roster.

The paint job on most of the dice I received is below Chessex quality (my go-to for non-precision edge dice), but apart from that they’re nicely made. I dig the funkiness of the d120, and the Recast 2d6 set appeals to my inner probability geek. All in all, I’m glad I picked these up.

[1] I ordered a second d3 because I like my d3s to be a different shape than my d6s (it makes them easier to spot in the pile) . . . but I somehow missed that I’d be getting the same style of d3 in the Recast 2d6 set.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

The pound of Gamescience dice was odder than I thought

When I opened and sorted the pound of Gamescience dice I ordered from their website (here’s the listing), I didn’t notice that there were some odd dice “masquerading” as ordinary dice.

At least for me, it’s hard to tell what’s on a Gamescience die until I’ve inked it — I see a decahedron, I assume it’s a d10. Not so! This assortment is weirder than I was giving it credit for, and I didn’t notice until I started inking some of my favorite colors last night.

Here are the first three oddballs I discovered — each has its highest face up.

From left to right, that’s a die numbered 00-40 twice, a decehedral d5 (a d10 numbered 1-5 twice), and a die numbered 10-50 twice.

The d5 I get: Before there were five-sided d5s, there were 10-sided d5s. But for the moment, at least, I can’t think of a situation where I’d need either of the other two — which, now that I’ve typed it, feels like a challenge.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

What do you get in a pound of Gamescience dice?

I ordered a pound of dice from Gamescience the hot minute they came back in stock, and I figured I’d break it down here so folks could see what’s in the current assortment.

Das basics

At $55, it’s not cheap — but neither are Gamescience dice in general, and you get a lot of dice which are currently a bit of a pain to find. The current run apparently doesn’t include any d6s, which is fine by me.[1] I’m in it for the variety, the surprise factor, and to bulk up my stash of precision-edge dice.

I assumed they’d all be uninked (I was wrong!), but that’s easily remedied and I enjoy inking dice. I use an extra-fine point Sharpie white paint marker when light numbers are best, and an ultra-fine point Sharpie marker when other colors will work (most often black, which turns out nice and bold).

So what did I get in my pound of Gamescience goodness?

Oontz oontz oontz

A total of 143 dice, about 43 more than I was expecting! That puts the cost per die at about $0.38, which is insanely low for Gamescience dice.

Here they are out of their bag.

…And broken into groups of five so I could count them.

From here I’ll just go die type by die type, more or less.

22 d4

I’m a fan of Gamescience’s distinctive “truncated” d4s, which have flat tips instead of pointed ones. Some great colors in this mix, too.

11 d6

Yep, although the product page said there wouldn’t be any d6s, my bag included some. Three are printed dice, without etched/indented numbers — not the usual Gamescience approach, although I know they’ve done some of these over the years.

9 funky dice

DCC RPG made these popular, and I love funky dice. My mix included 1d3, 1d5, 2d14, 3d16, and 2d24.

11 d8

Check out that oversized blue monster! Oversized dice were one of the surprises in this bag.

Approximately one million d10s

Okay, not quite one million. Actually 13 — sort of! Here are the 13.

But wait, 20-sided d10s!

There were 24 old school d10s in my bag — 20-siders numbered 0-9 twice, sometimes with a “+” next to one set of numbers, sometimes not.

Buuuut wait, teeny-tiny ones!

There are also 8 micro dice, all of which are also 20-sided d10s.

How tiny? This tiny:

13 d%

I got a nice complement of these.

22 d12

Giving the d10s a run for their money, I got a lot of d12s. I love d12s!

8 d20

Well, 8 unless you count the 24 old school d20s — which, after all, is the other way they can be used. (Either ink each set of numbers in different colors, or treat the “+” numbers — on dice that have them — as 10+#.)

Favorites and surprises

I was expecting a few funky dice, but what I wasn’t expecting were dice I didn’t know Gamescience even made: oversized dice, some low-impact dice I wouldn’t have pegged as Gamescience at all, sparkle/glitter dice (which I love), flourescent green and orange dice, and a couple of blank d10s — no numbers or markings, just the little circles where the numbers would go.

A big bag of happiness

This bag of dice makes me happy.

There are some dice in the mix I don’t love, of course, but there are many more I’m looking forward to inking up. There’s a even a complete poly set (minus the d%) in tiger eye, inked in silver — one of the classiest combos I’ve ever seen in Gamescience dice.

I’ll probably start with the flourescent and glitter dice, and then see what else jumps out at me.

Overall, I’m thrilled. If you’re in the market for some Gamescience dice, snag a pound of dice and see what you get — I bet you’ll dig it.

[1] Apparently, they’re not producing d6s at all at the moment. My understanding is that Gamescience licensed their dice, and production, to another company for several years, and only recently reclaimed the license and started producing dice themselves again.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

AnyDice: A handy game design tool

I love dice, I love fiddling with game design, and I love simple tools that make things easier.

At the nexus of those three things sits AnyDice.

Developed by Jasper Flick, AnyDice calculates the probability of each possible result for just about any die roll. (I say “just about,” but it’s never let me down.)

Need the probability curve for d8+d10, one of my favorite rolls for building random encounter tables? It can do that.

Funky dice for DCC RPG? Sure. Dice that don’t actually exist, like d67s? You bet!

AnyDice isn’t a die roller in the sense that it rolls dice and tells you what you got, like the Crawler’s Companion.[1] It’s all about the odds.

Although they wound up being percentile tables in the end, I used AnyDice extensively while I was designing my DCC RPG wilderness encounter tables. I used it to calculate the odds for Hexmancer rolls, to make sure the percentages lined up. Almost every post I’ve written involving math and dice, like comparing dungeon stocking in OD&D and Delving Deeper, was written with AnyDice open in another browser tab.

Writing this post made me realize just how often I use AnyDice without thinking about it, so I hit the “Please Donate!” button and made a contribution.

Math isn’t my strong suit, but AnyDice enables me to use math to do things I enjoy without beating my head against them. It’s a stellar tool for game design, and one I recommend bookmarking and using often.

[1] It has a die roller in the traditional sense built in, but it’s in beta and the functionality — unlike the core of AnyDice — is pretty limited.

Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

Inking dice with a paint marker

Tonight’s dice inking project: a ruby Gamescience set I found in my dice box, and a big, beautiful Armory d30 Guy Fullerton​ gave me. I used an extra-fine point Sharpie white paint marker (paid link) on these.

Ultra-fine point is a great size because it fits the grooves on most dice perfectly, and it’s my inking weapon of choice. But as far as I know, Sharpie doesn’t make an ultra-fine point marker in white, and extra-fine point is as precise as it gets in the world of white paint markers.

The paint is more forgiving of slip-ups that permanent marker by virtue of being easier to wipe off, but it tends to ink around the grooves as well as inside them. I’m willing to bet a few weeks of being used, and bouncing around with other dice, will take care of that.

Categories
B/X D&D D&D Dice Tabletop RPGs

How to reduce the value of a Moldvay Basic set by 50% in 7 easy steps

Step 1

Remove box from shelf.

Step 2

Open box.

Step 3

Remove sealed bag of dice from box.

Step 4

Cut open dice bag.

Step 5

Remove dice.

Step 6

Clean dice with soap and water to remove crayon residue.

Step 7

Ink dice with Sharpie.

Bonus step (optional)

Realize your white paint marker hasn’t come in the mail, and save the dark red d12 to ink later because you know black isn’t going to show up well.