Categories
Tabletop RPGs Traveller

Space Pirates of Drinax: a gorgeous Traveller sandbox

Space pirates!

I buy 99% of my RPGs only in PDF these days, but when a product as special as the Pirates of Drinax (paid link) (PDF)campaign for Mongoose Traveller (paid link) comes along, my heart goes pitter-patter and I have to make an exception.

It’s a sandbox campaign with a fantastic hook: The ruler of once-great Drinax, now a stellar backwater between two great powers, gives the PCs an old ship and a letter of marque, and asks that they secure the allegiance of the nearby worlds.

But, you know, they’re motherfucking space pirates: They can do whatever the hell they want, and the campaign supports it. There’s a neat system for tracking (and changing) how every important planet feels about the PCs, with real consequences waiting in the wings.

Need a bit more structure? The core is 10 adventures that can be run more or less in any order, anywhere. Some are opportunities signalled by rumors, while others are driven by outside forces. All adjustable to your game, of course, with copious notes about how to do just that.

Plus all the great tools I expect in an old school space sandbox: NPCs with motivations and roleplaying tips, ships, planets, deck plans, a gorgeous poster map, tons of info about the Aslan (who are key players in the region) and more. Its roughly 600 pages of material.

From what I’ve read so far, this is a stellar campaign.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs

Trollworld is rad

When my Tunnels & Trolls (paid link) hardcover arrived, I was immediately drawn to the glossy color section. I’d mostly ignored Trollworld when I read the rules in my softcover copy, figuring if I ran it I’d homebrew a setting . . . but this map has me rethinking that.

Rrr’lff is Trollworld’s main continent, and it was created by an egomaniacal dragon-wizard in his own likeness before the Wizard War.

Other fantasy settings are all like, “We’ve carefully considered geography and ecosystems and crafted a realistic world with trade routes for every potato farm, and we’ve named it [Generic Fantasy Name].

Tunnels & Trolls chugs a beer and says, “Let’s play on a dragon-shaped continent created by some douchebag wizard! And let’s call it Rrr’lff, the sound you make when you barf!

Trollworld is rad.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs

Screw bigotry: “#DNDGate: Stories of Inclusivity In RPGs”

One more bit of schadenfreude for the toxic bad actors of the RPG world: Grim & Perilous Studios has trademarked #DNDGate for its forthcoming collection of stories about inclusivity in gaming of the same name.

And filed at least one DMCA takedown against a DNDGater for trademark infringement. Delicious.

Bigotry has no place in gaming.

(Hat tip to Levi Kornelsen for spotting this news.)

Categories
Old school RPG community Tabletop RPGs

Hate speech has no place in gaming: Stuart Robertson’s OSR logo

Stuart Robertson is right the fuck on the money with this one: As the creator of the most widely used OSR logo, he is legally withdrawing the right to use it on any works containing hate speech (as defined by Canadian law).

The thread on Google+ where he made this announcement is epic. If you have as many toxic right-wing assholes blocked as I do it will be a gap-filled but highly entertaining read. Anything that pisses off bigots is a good thing; that it’s a principled stand backed up by Stuart’s apparently infinite patience is all the more impressive.

Hate speech has no place in gaming.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs

Back to RPGnet for the first time in five years

I haven’t used my RPGnet account in about five years, but the principled stand they took by banning posting in support of Trump prompted me to dust it off and give the forums another look.

Their ban was carefully considered (including the nuances around it) and clearly and unequivocally presented, and I couldn’t agree more. Supporting Trump is supporting white supremacy and other forms of bigotry.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery RPG community

Google+ diaspora: MeWe isn’t for me

Having seen several folks I respect voicing concerns about MeWe, hate speech, and hate groups, and after watching the relevant section of the YouTube interview where they addresses that topic, I found the official line pretty unconvincing.

So I emailed MeWe a question about their policy on hate speech and hate groups:

Howdy! I’m a tabletop gamer who is part of the “great G+ exodus,” and MeWe is emerging as a consensus social network for many people in my circles. One concern that I have, and which I keep seeing raised by others, is MeWe’s policy on hate speech and hate groups.

I know you have a policy, and it’s admirably clear and direct. But do you ban hate groups on MeWe? Do you have examples of groups you’ve banned? Or of specific types of hate speech that have resulted in official action?

I’m not talking about specific political affiliations in the sense of mainstream political parties or ideologies, but actual hate groups: the alt-right, white supremacists and nationalists, anti-LBGTQ religious groups, and the like.

I like everything I see about MeWe except this — the absence of evidence that your policies apply to these folks, and have been applied to them. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and to share your response with other G+ folks who have similar concerns. Thanks in advance!

Here’s their official response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and thank you for using MeWe. MeWe has a built in self-reporting system for all members to block and report members and groups believed to be breaking our Terms. MeWe has no political bias as a company and no algorithms that could perform any kind of bias censorship whatsoever. Our CEO is a Libertarian and well known for his opposition to political censorship, political bias, and shadow banning on social media.

We are continuously building new moderation tools for MeWe group owners and members. Group owners can already assign as many admins to their groups as they want – and all group owners and their admins can block and remove any group member, as well as change group member permissions individually if necessary.

When it comes to tolerance of different political viewpoints – MeWe stands out from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google. MeWe doesn’t shadow ban, has no political bias, doesn’t manipulate your newsfeed, has no facial recognition, no spyware, no boosted anything, and NO BS. MeWe members and their data are #Not4Sale.

All social media sites have ongoing daily issues with disruptive trolls and bots, and MeWe is no different. We take on those challenges every day to make MeWe delightful and safe for all members. We’re not a haven for violence inciters or porno – there are other sites for those people to go to – not MeWe. We like to say “MeWe is for the good guys.” We’re not perfect – and we’re working on making MeWe better and better every single day.

Bottom line: MeWe is for law-abiding citizens worldwide regardless of their politics, religion, sexuality, and other traits. Of course due to our privacy guidelines we cannot provide examples of any persons or groups that have been reported, and understandably we do not provide examples of any actions the company takes to remove violators. We stand by our Terms and our principles”

That’s a non-response response, which is the same thing as a “no,” and it does nothing to address my concern that MeWe is a happy home for hate groups, and a platform disinclined to boot people for hate speech.

Checking on something like this would never have crossed my mind when I joined Google+ in 2012, but times have changed. All I wanted was something that demonstrates that MeWe implements their policy, and that we have at least some overlap in what we consider a hate group. They couldn’t clear even that fairly low bar.

I’m not devoting time and energy to, or associating myself with, a social media site that won’t repudiate hate speech and back that repudiation up with action. I deleted my MeWe account.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs Traveller

Mongoose Traveller system and sector generator

neuzd offers a dandy Traveller system generator for 1st edition Mongoose Traveller, and it’s free.

What makes it so dandy? For starters, it’s dead simple: click link, get system. The abbreviations for bases and trade codes appear on every output screen (you’ll have to reference the rules, or the web, for the UWP and other codes).

It also hits all my high notes for a random generator: just the right amount of inspiration, quirky without going too far off the rails, and never boring. As an example, here’s the first system I generated while writing this post:

The Bbj Iisog System

“Bbj Iisog” is a great name, weird and not at all one I’d have thought up on my own. There’s a scout base here, and the trade codes signify garden, high population, industrial, and low tech.

Unpacking the UWP stats, there’s a rundown starport on a medium-size wet world with a tainted atmosphere. That world has a high population (1-10 billion) and is governed by a charismatic dictator; the law level is moderate. Its tech level of 4 puts it at the level of atomic science and internal combustion engines.

So, a garden world — that has a tainted atmosphere — with a huge population, one shitty starbase, a dictator, and not much in the way of advanced technology. My brain goes straight to an atmosphere that has a low-level soporific effect on the population, keeping them alert enough to work but docile enough not to rebel — which is handy for the planetary dictator, since there are a lot of people to control. That same atmosphere is what makes this world so fertile: They grow stuff here that can’t be grown anywhere else, and in abundance.

What will the PCs do when they arrive? If they’re in bad shape, they might be stuck for a little while (not much in the way of services at that starport). The planet is ripe for a revolution, but how do you foment one when the very air fights against you? (Sure, everyone has filters, but they probably don’t work all the time — and I bet the dictatorship has a hand in that.) It’s also ripe for stealing some of the weird plants they grow, or running tests to try to find a way to synthesize their growing conditions elsewhere — or a host of other possibilities.

Sectors and sub-sectors, too

But wait, there’s more! This generator also does sub-sectors and sectors, and you can toggle settings for population density and sector location. And on top of that, it can also just spit out name lists for you to use as needed.

Want a ton of systems all at once, with hexes (ready for you to hand-populate your game map)? This generator delivers. And again, I love the names — here are a few from a sample system I generated:

  • VHS-592
  • Garcia’s Field
  • Silva’s Dead
  • Concentrate XCVIII
  • Activity Glamorous
  • Chdydmbahk

Maybe “Activity Glamorous” doesn’t work for your game, and that’s cool: Just hit the link again, and it’ll generate a whole new sector.

The only thing I wish it did was produce a permanent URL for whatever you generate, but for such an otherwise robust (and free) tool that’s more of a quibble than a complaint. This generator is excellent.

Pair the neuzd Traveller system and sector generator with a character generator (like Frank Filz’s generator, or Devil Ghost’s generator[1]), and you’ve reduced the handling time needed to make stuff in Traveller — without reducing the fun factor.

[1] I like these both so much that I wrote Yore posts about them: Filz, Ghost

Categories
Old school Story games Tabletop RPGs

Dead Friend and Two OSR Dungeon Crawls

I’ve added a couple new books to my list of my favorite free & PWYW RPG products on DriveThruRPG (covering about 3% of the 7,500+ products available) that are both so good that I want to talk about them here.

The first is Dead Friend: A Game of Necromancy, by Lucian Kahn, which is a two-player RPG — one of my favorite types of game.[1] One of you plays a necromancer; the other plays the necromancer’s dead friend. It reminds me of Murderous Ghosts (which I love), and I can’t wait to try it.

In it, you place a ritual symbol in the center of the table, surround it with a ring of salt, move coins around, hum, make strange utterances — and try to pursue wildly opposed goals — like “bring your dead friend back to life” for the necromancer, and “kill your friend” for the dead. It’s a polished and fantastic-looking little game, too.

The other is John Battle’s Two OSR Dungeon Crawls, which provides what it says on the tin. Bland title aside, these are both fascinating dungeons. It would benefit from some editing and a nicer layout, but the content is delightful — so delightful that I dropped it right into my “I’d love to run these modules anytime” folder.

My favorite of the two is The Globe, which involves an enchanted snow globe, a tooth-stealing lich, a host of mummies, a truly terrifying variant of mummy rot, and some deeply creepy moments. It also includes something I’m always excited to see in any dungeon crawl: potentially campaign-shaking consequences based on how the PCs handle it.

[1] When I first started gaming, one GM and one player was the only way I played for a couple of years. In retrospect I don’t know why I didn’t try to link up the separate friends I gamed with, but the intimacy and tone of two-player gaming is so fantastic that it just never occurred to me.

Categories
D&D Tabletop RPGs

The sky is now purple

The Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter, which will surely crack a million dollars and more likely wind up passing 2-3 million,[1] has convinced me that I no longer understand the RPG industry, am an old fuddy-duddy, and should immediately walk up the nearest mountain and become a hermit.

For the past decade, my wife has been encouraging me to make Engine Publishing (or some sort of RPG venture) a full-time thing — because gaming brings me joy, and she loves me — and for a decade I’ve been saying that there’s no money in gaming. That the most respected authors and designers had to claw their way through years of low income and financial instability just to get where they are, and it’s even less financially viable for everyone else who makes a go of it.

But along comes a Kickstarter for one book, from a designer who isn’t a major name in the industry, and the book is going to make a million bucks. (I know there are caveats, shipping and streaming and stretch goals and all that; they’re not germane to my point.)

And more power to Matt Colville for it! This is in no way sour grapes on my part: The book sounds cool (I love domain-level stuff in games), and he’s obviously onto something here. I wish him the best, and I hope the project does even better than I think it will.

But streaming, and for the most part YouTube, have just passed me by. I’m constitutionally unsuited to appearing on camera, and I’m terrible at marketing. This is not a world I understand even remotely.

I anchored my understanding of what a career in gaming might be like to a fundamentally flawed view of the world. The sky is now purple, and my hands are waffles. There is a giant gorilla blotting out the sun. He is, for some reason, drinking a lobster.

I can’t think of anything in the past decade that has made me feel as old and out of touch as the Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter.

[1] Final tally: $2.1 million.

Categories
D&D Tabletop RPGs

Gary Gygax on game prep, 1979

Thanks to Bryan Shipp over on G+, I just checked out this Gary Gygax interview from 1979 on Jon Peterson’s site — and it blew my mind.

Here’s Gary on game prep:

“Two to three hours per hour of play is generally what the dungeon master has to prepare with. He sits down and draws out the dungeon maps or, it could be a village that he is going through, trying to find someone. There’s no question that one of the reasons, as I was mentioning earlier, the young people play more than older people do, is because they have more time.”

That’s right: “Two to three hours per hour of play.” This level of game prep is unfathomable to me. For a four-hour session, that’s 8-12 hours of prep, a 2:1 or 3:1 prep:play ratio!

Looking back at a recent tremulus campaign I ran, I did a couple hours of campaign prep — not session prep! — and that lasted me for around a dozen two-hour sessions, for a ratio of 1:12 prep:play. For the Urban Shadows game I’m running right now, I think I did about three hours of prep — including making my own reference sheets for the game — and we’ve had 12 sessions of about 2.5 hours each, a ratio of 1:10.

But in terms of session prep, my preferred ratio is 0:1 prep:play. I was in the 1:1 range for a long time, when I thought I had to do that; I eventually moved to 1:6, which was a big step for me — but still not enough. For the past several years, my preference has been to sit down and see where the game takes us, just like the other players.

The voice

There’s more gold in them that hills, too, like this excerpt:

The dungeon master’s voice usually gives out before everybody’s ready to quit. That’s the end of an adventure.

What a marvelous image — and a great example of the spirit and enthusiasm of play!

Tests

I like this quote as well:

This is a – people like take to tests. We’re trained to in school. So it’s a testing type of a game and a fun game where you compete – but not against each other, as a group, so a group can work together and find a lot of enjoyment rather than making enemies, saying, “Hey I won the game.” Because you all play and you win as a group.

The whole interview is a spicy meatball, and there’s even a transcript if (like me) you prefer to read than listen to audio.