Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's it like to do art?

A while back my buddy Brandon and I discovered the board game Twilight Struggle. It's a pretty hard game, and very elegant. We played it as much as we could and got somewhat obsessed with it. We played it hard. At one point we were playing it over email and I was playing so hard that struggling with the emotional ups and downs of the contest became a significant part of my day; became a significant part of the contest. When you're in a contest like that, you play with everything you've got. You don't just try to play well, you try to break your opponent, to destroy them. If you did any less, it would be disrespect to them, disrespect to your understanding that they are playing just as hard. This is what art is like to me. I'm not very good at art. I hardly have any time to devote to it. I haven't achieved any very impressive results. But it's a game I can play hard.


Today in amazing searches: Google Images Underdark.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Pople Need to get a Dungeon by Me

Look, in no way am I trying to say that anyone needs to go out and drop more money on a Kickstarter than they need to. I routinely completely neglect really awesome Kickstarter projects even when started by good friends of mine. I'm a bit of a bastard about it, actually.


But more of you people really need to get a custom dungeon map drawn by me. It's right at the bottom under Dungeon Architect. Only two people have claimed it. It's a pretty awesome perk. I'm just saying.*

Under Groffsburg

So what does the Dungeon Map mean? It means I'll call you up on the phone, or Skype, or your media of choice, and gab for a while about dungeons. Maybe we'll talk about dungeons we have known, good ones and bad ones, what we've never seen in a dungeon but would like to, what we think every dungeon should have. Then I'll draw a dungeon inspired by our conversation. Then I'll mail it to you suitable for framing and also send you a high quality PDF of the drawing.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Custom Moves: Now I am your Master

The basic mechanic of Dungeon World (currently on Kickstarter) is so simple: roll 2d6, add your attribute modifier; on a 10+ you hit it hard, on a 7-9 you get a partial hit or complications, on a 6- bad stuff happens. As a DM, it makes it very easy for me to come up with custom ruling on the fly by creating moves for the current situation.

In one of our recent sessions, Ysolde the Wizard agreed to become the apprentice of Hi Xaphon, a wizard the party ran afould of a couple of sessions ago. Ysolde's player, Phil, and I chatted for a bit about what being an apprentice means. Then Phil took a bathroom break. As the other players were still planning their upcoming Goblin raid, I quickly jotted down a custom move:

When you exchange blood and power with your new master and bind as their apprentice, roll 2d6 plus your Wisdom modifier:

10+ hold 3 7-9 hold 1

You can spend your hold, 1 for 1 at any time for one of the following:
Privacy your master can't scry you, doesn't know what your up to, or sees your preferred version of events.
Help appeal to your master for aid through your magical bond and they will help you in some way appropriate to the situation and their powers
Turnabout turn your apprenticeship bond against your master in some way

Ysolde rolled a 9 or so, gaining one precious hold on her master.

It's funny how moves snowball, though. Later in the same adventure, Terek, the Paladin, laid hands on Ysolde to heal her numerous wounds. On a 7-9 with Lay on Hands, the Paladin takes the subjects wounds onto himself. I briefly described Ysolde's wounds and asked which one Terek wanted to take. "Oh, I'll take that small cut on the arm, since I'm only healing one HP". Of course that was the cut Ysolde received on the apprenticeship bonding. So now our Paladin has some kind of psychic connection with Ysolde's arcane master...

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I Love about Dungeon World: Moves Snowball

It's kind of Dungeon World month, what with me running two Dungeon World games, and the Dungeon World Kickstarter running.

So one cool thing in Dungeon World is the way that moves snowball. In DW, when a player does something that engages the rules, we call it making a move. The thing with moves is that they tend to have ripple effects leading other things to happen, which call for more moves, rolling the adventure along. A really obvious example is attacking some monsters with the Hack and Slash move. This causes the monsters to react to your attach, which leads to more moves; maybe more Hack and Slash, maybe a Defend move to protect your friend, or a Defy Danger to run away, and so on.

But it's not just combat moves that snowball, and they don't always snowball in predictable ways.In an early session, the party's prize treasure, the Eye of the Cylops (which they needed to rededicate the temple of Thor elsewhere in the dungeon) was stolen by a sentient displacer beast with an excellent knowledge of the layout of the dungeon. Delicar the Displacer Beast fled through a series of blade traps pursued by Karl, the fighter. Karl tried to outspeed the trap, so I called for a Defy Danger move. On a 7-9 result, Karl made it through, but with some complication. I decided this meant that the Displacer Beast had time lay a hasty ambush. Karl barged into the next room finding no foe in sight. He wisely choose to scan for his enemy, so I called for a Discern Realities move.* Karl totally blew the roll, meaning that I, as DM, go to make a hard move in response (basically resolving the move however I felt was appropriate). Delicar lept out behind Karl, knife to Karl's throat.**

So now Karl's in a bad place. He contemplates his next move. "Careful," I warn him, "the consequences of failure could be pretty dire." I've already decided that if Karl tries to escape by violence, he might get his throat slit on a failure. Karl decides to talk his way out of this. I call for him to roll a Parlay move. And so on...

* At least I think that's what I called for. I know how the encounter ended up, but the details are pretty hazy.

** Amusingly, Karl managed to get himself into the exact same situation in about the same area with the same displacer beast about 10 sessions later.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Things I Love About Dungeon World: Spouting Lore

Dungeon World Cover Art - Pencils and inks by Edwin Huang, color by Mike Luckas

Dungeon World is being Kickstarted! I've been thrilled to be involved with this project from it's very earliest inception.

Something I love about Dungeon World is how spouting lore works. When your character observes something interesting in the game, and they want to know more, they can spout lore. To spout lore you roll 2d6 and add your INT bonus to the roll. On a 10+, the DM tells you something interesting and useful about the thing you're observing. On a 7-9, they tell you something interesting, but it's up to you to make it useful. On a 6-, the DM does whatever they thing is appropriate. This might mean activating the downside of a cursed magical item, providing ominous hints of looming threats, or whatever.

What I love about this as a DM is that whenever characters spout lore, I'm invited to make up cool shit about my game universe. And the best part is, on a 7-9, I don't have to give a care whether it's useful to the characters. I can just make stuff up. For example, in our current DW game, Magnus the Wizard loves arcane lore. In fact, she gets XP every session where she uncovers it. The party has just killed the nefarious Rat King and chased off it's Ilithid adviser. Magnus wonders how it is that the Rat King sits on an ancient stone throne made of eldritch stone far too large to have been brought into the room from outside. Magnus rolls a 7. So I tell her that she has heard of this throne. In fact, a long dead god sat on this throne when the world was new, before the mountain was raised over the Mine of Khunmar. In a campaign with Ilithids and the growing rumor of Githyanki, I think a dead god makes a pretty good seed for further coolness.

The other thing I love about this is that it's no different from what I normally do as a DM. I make up cool stuff. The DW rules just tell me when and where it's appropriate to do. They give the players something obvious to do in character when they want some lore to be spouted. Good times.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A couple of random moleskin pages

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Monday, June 4, 2012


As a dungeon master, I kind of lose my shit a bit when I have a quiet player. I want to make sure they’re having fun. I do this by interjecting more and more of myself into their play when what I really need to do is be patient and ask questions.

Karen (playing Leman DeSall, the eminently creepy death cleric) is sometimes a quiet player. This is not because she’s not having fun, although my paranoid brain sometimes tries to convince me that’s what’s going on.

So this session I remembered to ask questions. I did this immediately after Leman triggered a carousing mishap back at the tavern. The result is “Romantic entanglement. Roll Wisdom check to avoid nuptials. Otherwise 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.” So I ask Karen what kind of person Leman would be most likely to be romantically interested in. She thinks for a minute and says “someone kind of dead.”

So bang, next morning Leman Desall has entered into impetuous matrimony with one of the sentient ghouls on level three of the dungeon.

This actually solves some problems, since every time the party has put their nose onto level three they’ve fled in horror and fear, leaving a big unexplored area in the middle of the dungeon.

So next day finds the party setting off with a good guide to the main area of level three which they need to traverse to get to their destination on level four.

The party now includes: Karl von Ravenswood, fighter; Leman DeSall, cleric; Ebag the thief; and Magnus the magician.

They are joined by a small army of NPCs: Toe Snap the goblin guide, Rumsfeld the man at arms (who has somehow survived the entire dungeon thus far), a wizard named Ramseses that was hired by Ebag, Magnus’ new bodyguard Hawk (an impressive barbarian warrior), three Antlions that Leman managed to convert to her religion of death and suffering, and Dragna, Leman’s new amorous ghoul bride.

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