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.