Monday, February 19, 2024

Corkboards & Curiosities: a New Angle on DMing

Here's a new YouTube channel that's absolutely worth your time.  There's some clever ideas in this video I will absolutely be implementing in my campaigns soon (especially the "what are you thinking" one).

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Fun Dice Tricks with Map Crow

Map Crow is a YouTube vlog that’s hit-and-miss with me; when it’s hot, it’s pretty hot, but when it’s not, it’s pretty meh.  FOR ME, I’ll hasten to point out; there’s a lot of stuff being discussed out there this old troll has seen many different times over the years, nuggets of wisdom rediscovered by new generations.  Reminds me that sometimes the topic I think has been done to death is, in truth, a brand new revelation for somebody, especially with so many new folks entering the hobby.


Anyway, Map Crow’s latest is on fun random encounter tables, and he does some really neat stuff using 2d6.  The sum of 2d6 gives you what the encounter is, while the red d6 tells you what the disposition of the encounter, while the blue d6 gives you their distance from the party.  Check it out; he does some fun things with the interaction between the bell-curve and the flat curves, making a the extremely rare roll of snake-eyes really, really ouch.


His division of his map is similar to what I did when talking about Hex Mapping, but combining the table, the disposition, and the distance all in one roll is very clever.  I’ll still probably default to my own What-Are-the-Monsters-Up-To table (I’m too much in love with how you can roll differently for intelligent and bestial encounters on the same table), but game must recognize game!

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Mad Mashup: One Roll Combat?

Ok, not a single roll to cover the entire fight.  But a single roll by each player to adjudicate not only the success or failure of their attack, but also how much damage they did to their foe and how much, if any, harm their foe did to them.

This should grant us a number of benefits:

  • It’s faster!  And when playing online (something I do a lot of lately), this is important.

  • If you roll high, you hit hard; no more rolling a 19 and then rolling a 1 on damage.

  • Often, both you and your opponent do damage to each other, which makes fights shorter.  

  • Something will happen every time, and we won’t go round after round where you miss, and your foe misses, and you miss again, and your foe misses again…

  • No rolling for the monster attacks.  Roll poorly, and the monsters will maul you!  Roll great and you’ll send your foe reeling.  This is great because:

    • It means a lot less rolling, so things move along a lot faster.

    • We don’t have to worry about initiative and fights can flow more dynamically.

    • Large solo monsters don’t get whaled on by lots of PCs, while only being able to target a single one in reply.  This makes big scary monsters big and scary, instead of dying in the first round to a massive alpha-strike from the PCs.

  • Things this doesn’t mean:

    • It doesn’t mean that monsters won’t attack if you don’t attack; they’ll still try to chew off your face if they can.

    • It doesn’t mean surprise doesn’t happen; if you get the jump on the baddies, you’ll get a full round to have your way without them getting to reply.

    • It doesn’t mean shooting someone with an arrow allows them to hit you with their claws from across the battlefield; ranged attacks will work a bit differently.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Ron Cobb: Implied Storytelling in Concept Art

Ron Cobb is a name to conjure with in the art world, and his work as the  concept artist for the ‘82 Conan the Barbarian movie is well known to me.  At least, I thought it was! 

I came across the official Ron Cobb website and was blown away by the work he did on this movie.  There’s this chonkiness full of soft curves, hints of brutalism in the bones of it all, but softened by earthy silhouettes.  An almost welcoming chthonian quality.  

But what’s even cooler, to my mind, is the implications of a lost age, a more advanced before-time that’s best seen in the castle of King Osric.

I love the mix of heavy timber and almost delicate stone.  It gives the piece a lot of visual interest, but more than that, there’s this implication that the folks who built the timber part couldn’t do the stone part.  And that’s emphasized by this illustration of Zamora’s Gate, not used in the movie.

Or maybe this is just the implication that Osric is an usurper, that he conquered Zamora and hasn’t done a great job of putting it back together again?  Or both?  In any case, lovely work, and effective storytelling that makes the world of the movie feel grounded in a past through implication rather than exposition.  

Monday, February 05, 2024

Stellar Atlas of the Zauberreich: Verðandi, First of the Norn Stars


Verðandi is a G-type star, and among the earliest stars claimed by Humanity, most likely during the Second Diaspora.  Settlement on Verðandi’s worlds date back at least to the collapse of the Confederation of the Golden Gate and the rise of the Republic of Mars as the de facto leading world of Humanity.  It’s believed that Verðandi was the first of the Norn Stars to be colonized.  

Unlike the other Norn Stars, Verðandi held no Precursor artifacts or ruins.  Legend says that the Confederation had rules against settling on worlds with Precursor ruins, and that Verðandi had started as an outpost to supply those guarding the worlds orbiting Urðr and Skuld.  However, as the promise of the Confederation proved hollow and the alliances founded in its name collapsed, Human refugees settled on all of the habitable Norn worlds.  

Some of the most famous and heavily populated worlds in the Zauberreich orbit Verðandi, including Odin, Frig, and Thor.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Stellar Atlas of the Zauberreich: Praxis, Capital System (and World) of the Zauberreich

The capital city of Praxis contains a dozen palaces for the Hexenkönigin (one for each of the Twelve Houses of the Galactic Wheel), the bureaucracy of the Zauberreich, and the most prestigious university of sorcery within the Golden Gate Sector of the Orion Arm.

Praxis is the last of the manufactured worlds; after the destruction of the Sol System in the Dust Wars, Humanity fully embraced sorcery in an impassioned example of the “fight fire with fire” philosophy.  To a degree, it worked; those worlds who refused to join the Zauberreich or embrace sorcery as a means of defense were devoured by the Dust or crushed in the ancillary wars, but the newly-forged Zauberreich survived.  

Even before the Dust Wars were completed, the talisman world of Praxis was wrought upon a lonely brown dwarf.  By sorcery was the brown dwarf tamed, and, to a degree, humanized, but not in the manner of the worlds of the Satya Yuga.

Floating in the upper atmosphere of Praxis is the Comb, a lattice of hexagons fashioned from adamantium incised with orichalcum runes and then covered in gold.  Each segment of the lattice is 12 miles long.  Upon this giant lattice is built the capital city, by turns called Praxis, the Comb, or the Palace of Palaces.  

Looking at only the buildable sections of the Comb, the actual lattice segments themselves, there is roughly 12 million square miles of liveable surface area on the Comb.  The Comb houses something like 2.5 trillion people, giving it a population density of roughly 200 thousand people per square mile.  To say Comb is densely packed is an understatement.  Over 90% of that population is Humans, with a wide range of aliens making up the rest.  Roughly two-thirds of the Comb’s inhabitants are slaves.

The Comb is lit and powered by the hellish radiation of the decaying brown dwarf.  The streets are literally paved with gold because gold is a necessary ingredient in the magic that channels this radiation for the use of the citizens and protects those same citizens from the dangers and heat of the radiation. Attempting to remove the gold, so legends say, removes the protection of the Comb from the one damaging it, meaning they will immediately burst into flame and vaporize.  By that same sorcery, the light rising up through the massive holes in the comb (each over 300 square miles in area), waxes and wanes in a 24 hour cycle that is the Human preference.  Likewise, gravity on the Comb is 0.97 g.  

Sorcery is a matter of daily life on Praxis.  The locals think nothing of it, nor do they question the thousands who get their hearts ripped out and their souls sacrificed to demons every Human year to keep their strange city-continent floating above the throbbing maelstroms of the brown dwarf.  Praxis is the most civilized city in the Golden Gate Sector completely lacking in temples to Astarte.  

Art by Stable Diffusion and JB Murphy (using GIMP).

Monday, January 29, 2024


I’ve been too busy to keep up with the RPG blog-o-sphere lately (more on that later), so I missed this excellent article at Goblin Punch on negotiations between PCs and monsters/NPCs.  It makes a nice compliment to these two articles I’ve written on the subject:

Honey Cakes For Cerberus

More Honey Cakes for Cerberus

I’ve also got this handy-dandy random table for monster motivations that’s definitely in the top ten for things I’ve posted on this blog that I use most often.