Showing posts from August, 2023

DIY Elfgames

I have been sort of doing some soul-searching with regards to my participation in this whole thing. I've said before, when I was in a pissy mood, that I'm only really here for low-stakes math problems and litcrit. The (more elaborate) truth is that I am a really casual player of tabletop games, and I hope the "casual" and "player" stands out. This is not my number-one favorite hobby, and I have other hobbies that I do more often and with greater interest. I say constantly that tabletop games are mostly an excuse for me to hang out with friends, which is true. I don't play tabletop games because they're tabletop games, I play them because my friends are playing them. On that note, I also tend to be a player, not a referee or game master. It's not that I don't like refereeing—I'm happy to, especially when it means I get to host people—but that is also secondary to my desire to just hang. With that being said, while taking the opportunit

Hex Population by Regional Capacity

Was re-reading S. John Ross’ essay, “ Medieval Demographics Made Easy ”, and I wanted to figure out my own take with less number-fidgeting and more discrete quantities. Then, instead of generating an entire region at once, we can take it piecewise and maybe even do some procedural generation on the fly during a hex crawl. Settlements & Base Population Let’s start with basic types of settlements, and some base population numbers that we can modify as we please later. Why not like below, assigning the below types as well as a range somewhere between 1 and 20? Then we can roll d20 for what type of settlement we have. d20 Settlement Base Population 1-10 N/A 1 11-14 Hamlet 10 15-17 Village 100 18-19 Town 1,000 20 City 10,000 A six-mile hex has an area of ~31 square miles. Finding the weighted average of the table above, I’ve determined that a random hex will have a (base) population density of 620 persons per hex or 20 persons per square mile. Tha

FIVEY: Pregame Survey

I shared this on Twitter and Bluesky earlier, but wanted to blog about it and also retype the Q&A section so it can be used outside the sheet itself! Below is a "pregame survey" that I wrote for my homebrew heartbreaker FIVEY , which asks participants questions in order to help the table align on expectations for the game and how to play it. This is because I play D&D with people who have a wide variety of play styles or come from different game cultures, and I want to accommodate those different crowds. One question I asked myself while working on this was: why accommodate instead of specializing? Is it possible for one ruleset to please everyone? Or does a general ruleset please anyone? My answer is that D&D , as a cultural "practice", mostly comes down to a certain aesthetic and formal ruleset. The specific way in which people "use" D&D varies wildly, and even one particular version of D&D can be employed to different ends. Think

Torches, Lanterns, and Resource Consumption

I've been suggesting for a while that one could read torches in OD&D , sold in bundles of six for 1 g.p., as being used at a rate of one per turn rather than one per six turns (i.e., one per hour). My rationale is that if rations are sold in bundles to last 1 week, that would make torches analogous to rations—one being the main resource of underworld exploration, and the other being the main resource of overworld exploration. Even weirder is that the text does not specify the rate of ration consumption: although they are sold in bundles, it is not necessarily clear if one ration is consumed per day-turn or if the entire week's rations are eaten at the end of a week. If torches are analogous to rations, then the same question holds for them too. That's all just a matter of accounting, though. Whether the resource-bundle is consumed as one unit or as multiple smaller units, this all implies that six torches are (or should be) consumed per six turns. But now I have stumb

FIVEY: Recreating 5e Characters!

I thought it would be fun to take two of my old D&D characters from high school and turn them into FIVEY characters! Actually, not just that: they're my first two characters ever, dating to 2017/2018. Let's see what happens! Chad, Human Fighter Chad was born into a merchant family and went to college for business, but all he learned was how to fight, how to party, and how to pick up chicks and twinks despite his average bod and mediocre personality. “If my big sword won’t impress you, my personality probably won’t either.” He also has a pet chihuahua named Sadie whom he takes with him everywhere he goes in a baby carrier. The illustration above was by my partner! Of course, we both imagined him to look like Lucky Luciano. I played Chad up to level 6, though I think I started him at level 5. D&D Features & Traits Chad’s top three abilities are strength, constitution, dexterity, and charisma—for some reason, these are all 18 and 20, so I think we must have rando

Equipment Versus Supplies Again

Realized lately that the amount of money that characters start with in classic D&D is kind of obscene. I've attached a screenshot of Fantastic Medieval Campaigns above, which does not account for price variation between the different versions of the game but otherwise illustrates this point. Let's suppose our typical character starts with 100 gold pieces, and they purchase the following starting equipment: Backpack (5 gp) Sword (10 gp) Shield (10 gp) Shortbow (25 gp) Quiver (20 gp) Rations (5 gp) Waterskin (1 gp) Wine (1 gp) Rope (1 gp) Lantern (10 gp) Flask of oil (2 gp) Pole (1 gp) Iron spikes (1 gp) Mallet & stakes (3 gp) Mirror (5 gp) That's 100 gold pieces, sparing no expense—going out of my way to ball hard and reach that total number. Here's the thing, though: there is a great disparity in costs, especially between "worn" equipment, random adventuring gear, and consumable resources. Since our total is 100, each of the costs listed above also s

FIVEY: Changelings, Scalespawn, and Watchers

Three more character origins! The scalespawn take after the dragonborn and the watchers after the aasimar, but I'm trying to play more with mythic backstories as opposed to the pseudo-anthropological approach of D&D . The watchers also take some inspiration from Enochic tradition and, because I can't help myself, Minecraft YouTube fancanon (if you know, you know). The changelings were just because I remembered how my friends a while ago who played doppleganger twins in the first game I ran, and we irritated each other because at the time I didn't know what a D&D doppleganger was and assumed they were just lookalike twins like Hikaru and Kaoru from Ouran Host Club . Live and let live. If you're interested, please do check out the big FIVEY page where I'm keeping everything together! I've also just put together an updated character sheet, so you can see how everything works. Origin: Changeling It happens that a fairy falls into too great a debt and pay

FIVEY: Character Backgrounds

I have been writing quite a few character origins, to the detriment of leaving backgrounds untouched. For some context, origins are analogous to races or ancestries whereas backgrounds are basically synonymous with backgrounds in other games. However, in FIVEY , origins and backgrounds are functionally the same except for their underlying fiction. Here's some context from the big document : Origins and backgrounds are ‘packages’ of traits that characters can only start with and not attain later in the game. They encompass things such as a character’s ancestry, culture, and profession prior to being called to adventure. Each origin or background provides: 1 title, 1 feat, 1 skill, +1 to a stat, and 2 potential starting items. See Character Packages to learn more and to select one of each (or two backgrounds, if you prefer) for your character. FIVEY, Character Creation, Origins & Backgrounds Origins represent a character’s ancestry or upbringing, whereas backgrounds repres

FAQ U: Why Read Stalin and Mao?

Let’s just tally everything up. The most liberal estimates attribute about 8 million deaths to the Holodomor, the famine from 1932-3 in Soviet Ukraine under Stalin’s government. Just under thirty years later from 1958-62, the Great Chinese Famine under Mao is said to have resulted in up to 55 million deaths (although counts from 35 to 45 million seem more common). Later, during the Cultural Revolution, the consensus among Western and Chinese historians seems to be that 2 million people had died. How about we combine all these for a nice, round number—like 65 million? Would anyone be mad if I said that the governments of the USSR and China under Stalin and Mao respectively resulted in the deaths of about 65 million people, give or take? Can we work with that? Simulated Knave asked a great question (I mean this sincerely), one which might be in the minds of many who come here for the D&D discussion and are then put off by the freaky communist shit: I’ve got to ask, as someone wh

Towards an Abstract D&D Language

To start, a transcript of a chatroom conversation with my friend Nova: Nova: i think the challenge is that you’d need to pick some kind of compatibility points or define a language that fits over multiple ones. So either “we all base it off B/X which honestly feels a concession to OSE i don’t want to give, or perhaps a language where you can refer generically to stats that works through 3/4/6 stat games, that works across all saving throws, that works across A/D AC Marcia: honestly, i see even stats as being non-essential to playing many things (and by defining them, we might be imposing them however generic they are)---which oddly enough might be a point in favor of the highly specific saving throws, except not imposed via system but "handle this situation however is appropriate in your house rules". e.g., a save versus poison could be a constitution save, a fortitude save, or a straight-up save versus poison save; it's less important how it is implemented than that

Mao Zedong's Quotations: An Informal Review

the main difference between [fascist Italy and communist China] is ideological, i.e. aesthetic. mussolini conceived of fascist italy as a set of classes under the dictatorship of the nation, whereas mao conceived of communist (?) china as a set of classes democratically guiding the nation. marx’s identification of bourgeois democracy as bourgeois dictatorship appears in a new form here! Myself, " critique 4: catching up to speed & the forge " Mao seems to take as his basis that commodity production is a historical constant while capitalists are responsible for its negative effects. Myself, " Joseph Stalin’s Economic Problems […]: An Informal Review In my under-educated opinion, Settlers doesn’t feel very Maoist except in its nationalist rhetoric. At least when reading Mao, I’ve come to associate his thought with class collaboration (via national democracy), peasant revolution, national populism, and abstract philosophy. I say this not to detract from Mao a

FIVEY: Five Fantastic Character Origins

Another one! Actually, five to match the typical demihuman "races" you expect from a D&D . Not doing half-orcs and half-elves. I actually feel like it's a pussy move to use half-orcs and not just orcs. Another challenge I faced was trying not to just go through the motions, the way in which D&D tells you everything you could already guess from Tolkien or popular culture. Elves are old and wise! Booo. So, without further ado: dwarves, elves, gnomes, hoblins, and orcs. They might as well be boilerplate, but let's try to be better than that. Inspirations Before getting into it, I wanted to go over some inspirations. For dwarves, I was especially inspired by the dwarf and misshapen dwarf in Troika! because I adore the idea of dwarves being intelligent constructs or automatons; at the same time, I didn't want to necessarily impose that specific background, so I took the inspiration more symbolically (so the reader can decide how literal or metaphorical their