Thursday 27 May 2021

Bastionland Editorial #12 - Focus

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site two weeks after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.



This is not one of my strong points.

I feel like my games are relatively focused. They go through a whole process of distillation and filtration to get them there, as I wrote about last week. Myself, sat at my desk attempting to write, though? That's a different story.

As part of the constant battle against distraction, I annihilated my twitter feed this week. My tweets are still there, I'll still be posting updates, and you can still tag me if you want to draw my attention to something, but the timeline was killing my ability to focus. 

So I winced as I unfollowed everybody.

It feels bad, because there are people there that I enjoy hearing from. But even with the trimming and muting that I'd already done, having the thoughts of 100 interesting people served to me in bite-sized chunks alongside their likes and retweets was taking away from my life more than it was contributing. 

So I made a promise to myself. 

When I would normally check Twitter, I'm going to read something else instead. It could be a game blog, an article about something entirely unrelated, or a book that's collecting dust on my shelf. 

Blogs hold an extra special place in my heart. I won't do the traditional pining for the glory days of the blogosphere right now, because there's probably more great stuff being written than ever. 

Still, I feel somewhat out of the loop. My blogroll is essentially my own reading list, so what  am I missing out on? Let's share the good stuff. Stick your favourite game blogs below for us all to enjoy. 

Bye for now,

Chris, not@bastionland

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Ask the Stars - Fleet, Council, Legion


The final three signs show what happens when we gather behind a joint purpose, be it toward a shared destination, trapped in an endless process, or behind a true unity of identity. Here the vastness of the stars doesn't feel quite so overbearing, with questions garnering a firm YES.

10-1: The Fleet, Rising: Preparations are being made for a great journey. Why are so many travelling together?

10-2: The Fleet, Entombed: Somebody is searching for something long dead. Is there any hope?

10-3: The Fleet, Twinned: Two have been brought closer together after a time of upheaval. How did they overcome this?

10-4: The Fleet, Waning: Pressing on with the journey despite the terrible cost. How much longer can they survive?

10-5: The Fleet, Rooted: Travellers have reached their promised destination, finally having a home. How is it different than what they expected?

10-6: The Fleet, Bowed: A journey has stalled, forced to accept the fact that it will never reach its destination. Is the dead-end really insurmountable? 

10-7: The Fleet, Colliding: A brutal conflict wears down both sides. Why can there be no peace?

10-8: The Fleet, Burning: Somebody journeys further into somewhere they should not be, seeking the ultimate truth. What do they find?

10-9: The Fleet, Veiled: A destination but no directions, this traveller knows that they might never reach their goal. What keeps them searching?

10-10: The Fleet, Exiled: Travellers have been cut off from any contact for years. How have they changed?

10-11: The Fleet, Crowned: There are signs of a lost expedition having reached their demise here. What was their ultimate mistake?

10-12: The Fleet, Reflected: A journey is abandoned in favour of returning home, accepting defeat. What was the final straw?

11-1: The Council, Rising: A spring period begins, with new shoots growing from the dead ground. What toll has the winter taken?

11-2: The Council, Entombed: A place lies in its winter period. What will be the first signs of spring?

11-3: The Council, Twinned: A formerly inseparable pair find themselves in opposition. What has caused this?

11-4: The Council, Waning: Entering an autumn period, a golden age has moved into decline. What was the greatest achievement before now?

11-5: The Council, Rooted: People are enjoying a golden age of plenty and comfort. What are the first signs that this cannot last forever?

11-6: The Council, Bowed: A force finds themselves suddenly without opposition or friction. What will they do now that they are unleashed?

11-7: The Council, Colliding: A maelstrom spirals increasingly outward. What lies at the eye of the storm?

11-8: The Council, Burning: The turning point where pride comes before the fall. What has tipped the balance?

11-9: The Council, Veiled: A maze of words and processes hides a secret. Who wants to keep this from being known?

11-10: The Council, Exiled: A case is made to defend the indefensible. What case does their advocate put forward?

11-11: The Council, Crowned: A powerful group seizes the position of another. Why do they end up with more than they bargained for?

11-12: The Council, Reflected: A natural process is reversed, with shocking consequences. How is this possible?

12-1: The Legion, Rising: A cluster absorbs more and more of its neighbours into one entity. What does this growth threaten?

12-2: The Legion, Entombed: A long forgotten identity is revived. Who can take up this mantle?

12-3: The Legion, Twinned: A group is now unable to act as individuals. How have they become so reliant on each other?

12-4: The Legion, Waning: A once powerful entity is losing mass each day, its power going with it. What caused this starvation?

12-5: The Legion, Rooted: The many have banded together to ensure that all of their number are provided for. What threatens this utopia? 

12-6: The Legion, Bowed: A force is absorbed by an even greater power, taking on part of their identity. What is this new entity?

12-7: The Legion, Colliding: A successful conquest through raw force and numbers. What is lost during this conflict?

12-8: The Legion, Burning: A gathering begins to reach critical mass, with temperature and pressure rising to critical levels. How long before this situation explodes?

12-9: The Legion, Veiled: Faith brings many together to act as one. What is their great work?

12-10: The Legion, Exiled: A force that once supported and supplied here withdraws, leaving this place abandoned. What is left behind?

12-11: The Legion, Crowned: A powerful force takes stock of its achievements, but finds itself without a future purpose. What uncomfortable truth must they face?

12-12: The Legion, Reflected: Attraction is turned to repulsion. What has caused this change?

Thursday 20 May 2021

Bastionland Editorial #11 - Essence

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site two weeks after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


Two of the Methods of the Bastionland Manifesto are Distillation and Filtration.

Clearly these are in reference to spirit production, and the examples given in that post suggest a focus on mechanics, but I've found myself using the same methods for setting design.
Bastionland saw the sister states of Rosevine and Starfall crushed to dust, leaving Bastion as THE City.
And of course we have THE Underground. An infinity-below made up of the very Essence of Underground-ness.
Of course the Planescape inspiration is there, and as I work away on Intergalactic Bastionland I find myself tapping into this idea of essences even more. I've always said that the Living Stars aren't really Space as we know it. Of course there are stars, and ships that fly between them, but it's really a place of ideas. A galaxy of Essences. The Infinity-Above.
Places that start with The. Places vast, but distilled. A single word spun out into infinity.
We've seen it in the Signs, so that philosophy could easily carry over to the fundamental cosmology of the Living Stars.
Can there be a river in the Living Stars? Not a river, but The River and everything that concept represents. A one-way route, from a humble source to a sprawling delta. Water babbling over rocks, sometimes tiny, sometimes the size of mountains. A temperamental force of nature that bursts its banks to flood those that cling to it for life. 
Wanderhome touches on this, where an Island might be a literal island, or any "place kept secret and separate", and I'm eager to explore further.
Not even places, really, but forces that weave between the stars. Each a single tone on the cosmic palette that can be mixed, splashed, or spread. Illuminated by the light or twisted in the darkness.
Through The Forest. Weathering The Storm. Into The Void.
Bye for now,

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Ask the Stars - Child, Traveller, Elder

Now, three Signs that might represent the three stages of our lives. From blank slates absorbing our surroundings, to independent wanderers at the mercy of fate, finally settling as a guiding stone for the next generations. For a straight answer we finally get YES... but life is rarely simple. Every success brings a cost, every day brings us closer to death, and every mark we make on the world will one day turn to dust. Still, it looks nice for now. 

7-1: The Child, Rising: Unrestricted growth blooms here. What's feeding this growth?

7-2: The Child, Entombed: A stark lesson from the past. What has preserved this ancient failure?

7-3: The Child, Twinned: Two forces compete for resources, taking beyond their needs. What has caused this greed?

7-4: The Child, Waning: Starvation is kicking in here, a power now unable to provide for themselves. Who was previously tending to their needs?

7-5: The Child, Rooted: A place of academic learning fills curious minds. What is the focus of their tutorage?

7-6: The Child, Bowed: New life is born to a great power. How is the child different to the parent?

7-7: The Child, Colliding: Youthful rebellion and cries for change. What change do they want?

7-8: The Child, Burning: Somebody is using their knowledge to domineer others. What are they getting out of it?

7-9: The Child, Veiled: A place of obscured knowledge, kept away from all but a trusted few. What are the requirements for entry?

7-10: The Child, Exiled: A new creation is left alone to fend for itself. How are they coping?

7-11: The Child, Crowned: A new creation is announced with great ceremony. What makes them special?

7-12: The Child, Reflected: Vanity has consumed somebody, seeking only to increase their own sense of self-worth. Who is feeding their egotism?

8-1: The Traveller, Rising: The future is laid out in front of you, but it is only one possibility. What action must you take to get there?

8-2: The Traveller, Entombed: A seemingly impenetrable blockade prevents you from taking the obvious route. What's the alternative?

8-3: The Traveller, Twinned: Two distant objects brought together over a great distance. What caused this attraction?

8-4: The Traveller, Waning: A power has been reduced to a mindless, aimless state. What did this to them?

8-5: The Traveller, Rooted: A chance encounter with somebody offering just what you needed. What's the price?

8-6: The Traveller, Bowed: A great deal hangs on the flip of a coin. What is the risk and reward?

8-7: The Traveller, Colliding: Pure, random destruction is crashing through here. How could it be redirected?

8-8: The Traveller, Burning: A roving messenger is delivering important news. What makes it so important?

8-9: The Traveller, Veiled: Somebody is flying blind, trusting themselves to fate. Why are they so confident that things will work out?

8-10: The Traveller, Exiled: A wanderer is utterly lost, with no idea where they came from. What is the only clue?

8-11: The Traveller, Crowned: An ambition without clear direction, so doomed to fail. Why are they dead set on attempting it anyway?

8-12: The Traveller, Reflected: A sudden change of fortune, for the better or worse. What signals this?

9-1: The Elder, Rising: Something is dredged up from the past. What value is it today?

9-2: The Elder, Entombed: The death of a long-standing institution. Who is mourning?

9-3: The Elder, Twinned: An ancient power is now reliant on the support of another. Why must it be kept running?

9-4: The Elder, Waning: A once great power has fully slipped into decline, a shadow of itself. What small ember still burns there?

9-5: The Elder, Rooted: A place has stood here since the dawn of time. How has it survived so long?

9-6: The Elder, Bowed: Power is peacefully past on to a new generation. What caused this transition?

9-7: The Elder, Colliding: A violent stamp-down of authority. What is to be gained from this?

9-8: The Elder, Burning: A timeless tradition must be honoured. What does this require?

9-9: The Elder, Veiled: A method has been carried out for centuries, with no understanding of how it works. What is produced this way?

9-10: The Elder, Exiled: A great power is condemned and cast out in favour of a replacement. What was their crime?

9-11: The Elder, Crowned: A monument to the defining work of a generation. Was it worth the cost?

9-12: The Elder, Reflected: Somebody clings to power beyond their welcome. Who wants to see them dislodged?

Friday 14 May 2021

Ask the Stars - Hand, Mask, and Eye

Continuing on from the previous section, these three signs show three different ways of interacting with the world. Conjuring, coercive, or contemplative. For straight answers they say No, but... not so much dead-ends as challenges to be overcome. 

4-1: The Hand, Rising: A new power is rising, seemingly out of nowhere. Who is really behind this?

4-2: The Hand, Entombed: A great project lies abandoned, half-complete. What was its purpose and why was it not finished?

4-3: The Hand, Twinned: A master and servant rely on each other for their work. What binds them together?

4-4: The Hand, Waning: A creative force is starting to fade, the fire reduced to embers. What doused the flames?

4-5: The Hand, Rooted: Somebody has created a position of safety, but stifled long-term growth. What will hold them back if they stay here?

4-6: The Hand, Bowed: An enterprise lies in ruins. Who cared enough to destroy all this work?

4-7: The Hand, Colliding: Weapons of war are being forged by the dozen. What makes these weapons different?

4-8: The Hand, Burning: A beacon is calling out to all in sight with a deliberate message. Why is it no longer true?

4-9: The Hand, Veiled: A creator works on their calling, a tribute to their beliefs. What do they believe?

4-10: The Hand, Exiled: A small group have become entirely self-sufficient, and want nothing from you. What do they have that you want?

4-11: The Hand, Crowned: A great tower lies toppled, no more than ruins. What was its doomed purpose?

4-12: The Hand, Reflected: A monument announces the greatness of its creator. Are they are great as the monument suggests?

5-1: The Mask, Rising: A lie grows beyond your control. Where has it spread to?

5-2: The Mask, Entombed: A shameful memory comes to light. Who is hiding it?

5-3: The Mask, Twinned: A longing for companionship drives somebody to betray their morals. What is the collateral damage?

5-4: The Mask, Waning: Somebody in a desperate situation pleads for your help. What makes it difficult to help?

5-5: The Mask, Rooted: Somebody is clinging to an identity that is holding them back. Why can't they break free?

5-6: The Mask, Bowed: A debt of shame is being paid through toil and servitude. What crime would cause such shame?

5-7: The Mask, Colliding: A firebrand is gathering support for a violent cause. Why do people follow them so readily?

5-8: The Mask, Burning: Somebody is overcompensating for feelings of insecurity. Where does this insecurity stem from?

5-9: The Mask, Veiled: A demagogue spreads a persuasive message of their faith. Why do people believe them?

5-10: The Mask, Exiled: A being with no identity, having cast off everything from their previous life. What is the one clue to their past?

5-11: The Mask, Crowned: Some force whispers in the ear of a powerful being, driving them to want more. What does the whisperer stand to gain?

5-12: The Mask, Reflected: A mirror shows your true self. What do you see?

6-1: The Eye, Rising: You learn two secrets, one genuine and one false. What lies between you and the truth?

6-2: The Eye, Entombed: A vault keeps secrets, not treasures. Who holds this place of such power?

6-3: The Eye, Twinned: A relationship is being kept secret. Why can it never be revealed?

6-4: The Eye, Waning: A secret that once held great power is now worthless. What destroyed its value as leverage?

6-5: The Eye, Rooted: A place of impartial judgement stands eternal. What gives them their authority?

6-6: The Eye, Bowed: A guilty party confesses to everything. What brought them to this point?

6-7: The Eye, Colliding: A witch hunt has begun, seeking out enemies within and beyond. Is there any truth to these suspicions?

6-8: The Eye, Burning: A shocking truth is revealed, for all to see and pass judgement. What happens now?

6-9: The Eye, Veiled: Somebody turns a blind eye to something, but not for their own gain. Why would they do this?

6-10: The Eye, Exiled: Something or somebody is condemned, marked as impure or unclean. What is their punishment?

6-11: The Eye, Crowned: Authority must be established here, whether through hard or soft options. What action does the authority decide on?

6-12: The Eye, Reflected: You are compelled to pass judgement on yourself, confronting yourself openly. What is your verdict?

Thursday 13 May 2021

Bastionland Editorial #10 - Menus

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site two weeks after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


I've always loved random generation as a way to spark ideas. If presented with a table of 100 items, I'll usually embrace fate and roll, but other times I'll just look over the list of entries and pick something that grabs my attention.

Looking at Wanderhome this week got me thinking about the latter method. It's a game where you paint the world as you play, especially if you're playing without a GM or, as I did, solo. Normally I'd expect this sort of game to rely heavily on random tables, like the Oracles in Ironforged, but this game is diceless. Instead, the pages overflow with something more akin to menus.

If your character is an Exile then you're faced with a list of 14 reasons you left home. Pick one to be true, one that you tell everybody, and one that you worry is the real reason. Like picking a starter, main, and dessert.

Every part of my gut told me to randomise this. Hack the system and let fate decide. I'll make anything work, so give me a challenge!

But I was missing something.

This "perusing the menu" method led me to really look at the different options. Even the options that I didn't want to take right now told me something about the world. You know I love any method that slips worldbuilding into the players' minds without requiring a monologue.

The devil in me thinks that you could even put entries onto these menus that most players would never want to take just to hammer home an interesting piece of information about the world.

The list becomes almost like a poem. As much a flavour piece as a part of the game system.

Of course we can see something similar with things like equipment lists, but some players aren't interested in reading through them, preferring to just show up to the shop and ask what's available. With a menu the player is implored to look over their options. To consider them. Are they going to order a familiar favourite, or something they've never tried before? Should I try this one, or perhaps I can recommend it to a friend?

Perhaps as you get more confident with this style of cuisine you can start to order off-menu.

You arrive at a Bridge, prompted to pick 2 aesthetic elements from a list of 7. Hm, I won't take "Ancient Engineering" this time, but that little piece of flavour is stuck in my head now. I might use that as inspiration later on when I'm somewhere entirely different.

Next time you're prompted to roll on a random table, consider treating it like a menu instead.

Bye for now,


Thursday 6 May 2021

Bastionland Editorial #9 - Sparks

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site two weeks after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


I've spoken before about how Intergalactic Bastionland occupies a slightly weird space right now. I've been thinking about it intermittently for nearly a year, but as a result of the last year being the way it was, I've found it difficult to even put together something to test out at the table.

Well I'm back to tinkering at it, in the hope that the coming months will grant me a table of friends to ride its maiden voyage.

In the most recent work I've been doing on this game, I'm spending more time than ever on creating sparks. Not Spark Tables as they are in Electric Bastionland, but a slightly different method for combining a couple of dice rolls into the seed of an idea, be it a place, character, fallout, or vague hints at a direction for the narrative.

It feels like this is the game, more so than whether I decide to drop a particular rule from Electric Bastionland or add in a new one for space-stuff.

It's all closely related to what I wrote about getting the game into your head, filling the game with stuff that's going to bring your table to life and inject unexpected ideas, not rules that are there because I feel like they should be.

I wanted Electric Bastionland to be a very small set of rules surrounded by a living world that leaps off the page. But could we go further?

Last year I wrote this manifesto to keep myself on track. To lay out a challenge to myself to keep pushing the boundaries of minimalist design with rich flavour, and avoid drifting toward the middle-ground of RPG design. Make something that some people love rather than something that everybody quite likes.

So I'll be testing out the fruit of this idea some time soon. A blind step deeper into the mists of minimalism. I might turn back, screaming, but I always want to explore those limits.

Bye for now,

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Ask the Stars - Fang, Wing, and Cage

I can't escape the orbit of this thing. Perhaps I should stop fighting it and let it bloom into something sprawling and bright.

A galaxy built out of signs and positions, unfolding in front of you as you explore.

More prompts than procedures. More questions than answers. Broad strokes awaiting detail.

This approach of "create a giant set of tables that need content" was the spark that brought Electric Bastionland to life, so maybe there's something in that. Twelve signs in twelve positions. A gross of combinations that can each represent places, people, problems. 

The first three signs exist in the shadow of our fears. For straight answers they offer a firm no. Something stops us in our tracks or holds us back. Primal desire for both freedom and security. 

1-1: The Fang, Rising: Seeds of danger lurk everywhere, growing if left unchecked. Which is the biggest threat?

1-2: The Fang, Entombed: A demonstration of brutality has been left as a warning for all to see. What message were they trying to deliver?

1-3: The Fang, Twinned: Hostilities are frozen in a standoff of mutually assured destruction. What is threatening to disturb this equilibrium?

1-4: The Fang, Waning: A wounded or fading power is lashing out with its last breath. What damage does this cause?

1-5: The Fang, Rooted: Walls deter anybody from going within, a hostile response guaranteed. Why would you even want to go in there?

1-6: The Fang, Bowed: Somebody is utterly defeated, but the hostilities continue. Why won't they show mercy?

1-7: The Fang, Colliding: Outright and total war, with no end in sight. How did it come to this?

1-8: The Fang, Burning: A path of ashes is being carved out across this place in the name of pride. What stirred this much anger?

1-9: The Fang, Veiled: The open arms in front of you bear clear signs of being a trap. What gives it away?

1-10: The Fang, Exiled: Something has been driven into isolation for the safety of everybody else. What keeps everybody else away?

1-11:  The Fang, Crowned: A belligerent stands victorious with their spoils. Why is the current peace doomed?

1-12: The Fang, Reflected: A peace has been established. What is being done to mend the damage?

2-1: The Wings, Rising: Something beckons you to the distant horizon. What is calling you?

2-2: The Wings, Entombed: Something was destroyed here so that it could be reborn. When will it rise anew?

2-3: The Wings, Twinned: A relationship is holding somebody back from having true freedom. What is their breaking point?

2-4: The Wings, Waning: A great price has been paid for freedom, and the liberated have slipped into decline. Is there any hope for their survival?

2-5: The Wings, Rooted: A bountiful place provides enough for everybody here. What threatens to disturb the balance?

2-6: The Wings, Bowed: The strong rule over the weak here, but everybody seems content enough. Would freedom be worth the upheaval?

2-7: The Wings, Colliding: This whole place is violently changing into something new. What will emerge from the chaos?

2-8: The Wings, Burning: A devastating truth is revealed, with dramatic consequences. Should the truth be stopped before it can spread further?

2-9: The Wings, Veiled: Something has vanished into the darkness. Who wants it back, and how could it be tracked?

2-10: The Wings, Exiled: A lone traveller passes by, wanting and offering nothing from you. Why are they interesting to you?

2-11: The Wings, Crowned: Somebody longs for freedom, but their cause is likely doomed. What stands in their way?

2-12: The Wings, Reflected: A natural beauty has been transformed into a tasteless vanity project. Who would do this?

3-1: The Cage, Rising: Walls being hastily built to protect something. What business do you have in there?

3-2: The Cage, Entombed: Something has been sealed away for all eternity. What's at stake if it gets out?

3-3: The Cage, Twinned: Two individuals are joining in union. How do they strengthen each other?

3-4: The Cage, Waning: Somebody's loyalties are fading. What made them question their obligation?

3-5: The Cage, Rooted: This place is safe and rich with supplies, but you cannot stay for long. What's pushing you away?

3-6: The Cage, Bowed: A locked gate is flung open. What has changed here?

3-7: The Cage, Colliding: A battered survivor reels from repeated onslaughts. Why won't they give in?

3-8: The Cage, Burning: Somebody is forced to tell the truth. Why did they lie for so long?

3-9: The Cage, Veiled: An unseen power protects something here. How do you know that the protector is there?

3-10: The Cage, Exiled: Duty has forced somebody into a lonely existence. What cause could justify this?

3-11: The Cage, Crowned: Here lies a monument to the Last Stand. How did this final defeat change everything?

3-12: The Cage, Reflected: You are surrounded on all sides for your own safety. Why are you being offered this protection?