Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Forest

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

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

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The Forest 

Roots deeper than soil, farther than sea
No passage is swift, no figments believed 



Travel

  • The forest knows what happens anywhere else in the forest.
  • All forests are connected.
  • Some of the most dangerous and feared individuals end up imprisoned or entombed here.

The Fearmonger in Wood
STR 17, DEX 16, CHA 12, 3hp
Encased in rune-carved wood (A2 against metal)
Crushing grasp (d10) or cloud of spores (everyone in blast loses their speech until they leave the forest) 

  • Wants to cultivate a healthy fear of the forest and have word spread beyond.
  • Takes any form they wish with elements of deer, owl, boar, and mouse.
  • Can call upon woodland creatures for aid and hurry along the seasons, but is outranked by the old trees.  

The Verdant Maze

Place
1: Entwined Wall of Trunks and Roots
2: Mossy Stone Pile
3: Descent into Damp Earth
4: Leafy Clearing
5: Tree Bridge
6: Trailway

Omen
1: Riders Approaching
2: Frantic Movement in the Branches
3: Twisting in the Roots
4: Fading Light
5: Rising Mist
6: Watching Eyes


Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Graphene

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

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

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I love rules-lite systems, but I'm recently moving toward rules that are light but strong

Rules like Graphene. 


Light systems are often praised for how they "get out of the way" once you hit the table. The players don't have to spend a lot of time and energy on the rules themselves, so they channel it into the other parts of the game instead: exploring the environment, making their characters memorable, and good old fashioned problem solving. 

This is something I've always strived for with my own games, but I've started to feel a dissatisfaction when the rules feel completely absent. 

It's a difficult balance to describe. I don't want the GM or players to have to think too much about the cogs and gears of the system, but I want those few mechanical parts to be a more solid presence on the game. 

Reaction and morale rolls in D&D are the classic example here. They don't really add much complexity that you need to hold in mind, but they have a major impact in the way your dungeon crawl plays. Now those Gnolls want to talk to you, and you've got to decide what to do when the Ghouls start to flee toward the dragon cave. Of course the GM could just make those things happen, but it feels different when it comes from a rule rather than a ruling. 

The best anti-example would be one of those systems where you have a dozen +1s and -1s to keep track of, but they usually balance out to some inconsequential modifier that doesn't even affect the majority of possible rolls. Similarly, there are those fiddly little rules that you sometimes forget to use in play... then realise that in forgetting them nothing was really lost. Those are always the most satisfying parts to chop out of a work-in-progress game.

But this desire for strong rules goes further than that. Maybe they're stronger even than the GM. Maybe Rule Zero is losing its shine for me. RULES NOT RULINGS!?

Well, no. I like games that empower the GM, but I want the game to have a power of its own. Just like how you obviously shouldn't fudge the dice, maybe the strength of the fiction and the agency of the players are both enhanced if the rules cannot be broken. 

I suppose this is all adjacent my thoughts on those 3 Tiers of Truth. I've had a lot of fun with loose games that hardly engage with the rules and are mostly improvised at the table, so perhaps I'm just craving something more solid as a contrast. The grounded, impartial, almost sim-like feel of a high-crunch game without the brain melting complexity. 

It might be a futile quest, but I'm going to keep searching for that Graphene. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

ITOR Last Call

Last Call for new Into the Odd Remastered pre-orders! Existing backers, this is also your last chance to modify your order.

At the end of Sunday 15th May the Pledge Manager will close and the final details go over to Fria Ligan.

You can pre-order here, where existing backers can also confirm their delivery details: https://bastionland.pledgemanager.com/projects/into-the-odd-remastered/participate

We're still on track for June delivery, and I'll keep the updates coming as we get closer.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Problems

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

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

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I like encounters that are a problem with a problem throwing problems.

Wait! Hear me out.

Okay, let's assume we're talking about a classic monster encounter that at least has potential to be antagonistic, and think of it this way instead:

  • The encounter poses a defining problem to the players (the troll is blocking our route into the deeper caves)
  • The encounter has personal problems of its own (the neighbouring kobolds are making a racket, disturbing its hibernation)
  • Engaging with the encounter causes dynamic problems that need responding to (you cut off the the troll's head but it gradually begins to grow back. The tiny head starts barfing acidic bile around the room, what do you do?)

Defining Problems

This is the reason for tension in the encounter. Why is this thing a problem at all, rather than just something existing alongside you? Monsters blocking the way is obvious, but you might have encounters that are working against you in less obvious ways (this goblin is following us around but we don't know why). 

Personal Problems

This is the "why" of the encounter, flipped to their perspective. It can be blunt, like a Beholder that finds themselves disgusting at all other beings, or more complex, like a golem that's been bound into performing a likely impossible and very specifically worded task.

Dynamic Problems

These are the turn-by-turn problems that usually emerge if things turn to combat. It's a solid rule of thumb to have each round of combat feel different to the last somehow, and good encounters give you the tools you need to do this without too much forced-feeling improvisation. Remember, the point of these is to create interesting "what do you do?" moments for the players, so things like winding up for a huge attack are often more interesting than the attack itself. 

Standard Caveat

As with all of these guidelines, I wouldn't hold myself to following them to the letter 100% of the time. Maybe that Black Pudding doesn't need to have a personal problem... but at the very least it's useful to think about its wants and needs, however simple, and keep them in mind when running the encounter. Sometimes "hungry, drawn to warm flesh" is more than enough.