Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Holy cow.  Ars Ludi linked to Trilemma yesterday, and this guy knows what's what.  Good posts I've read so far:
  • Useful Dungeon Descriptors accurately expresses my difficulties with random room contents tables, and takes a clear stance in favor of informed dungeoneering and informative dungeon design.  Monstrous Effects on Terrain applies the same ideas to the wilderness.
  • Non-Mechanical Difficulty Levels for Monstrous Threats, the post originally linked by Ars Ludi, provides a good explanation of why my players feared wyverns so terribly, as well as a good mental framework for making things scarier then their raw numbers would otherwise indicate (or less scary, I guess, but why would you want to do that?  Oh right so elephants aren't CR7 or whatever, and to explain why commoners can safely keep cats as pets).  Reminiscent of Traveller's per-species reaction roll tables.  This whole schema, and particularly Cohesion, seems perfect for differentiating the otherwise forgettably-similar low-level humanoid species.
  • Gameable Campaign Capital provides a useful taxonomy for understanding and perhaps encouraging player investment in exploration-driven campaigns.  As a concept, it may help explain the failure of the ACKS game when we introduced new players (too much reference buildup in the world and among the old guard, which held no 'currency' with the new players).
  • The whole Dirty Dungeon concept, which Trilemma mentions here and here, is intriguing.
  • How Far Can You See on a Hex Map? is useful for the obvious reasons, if fairly easily derivable.
Also, not exactly useful but entertaining: apparently the 2012 ACKS game had a lethality of somewhere between 100 and 125 milliWhacks for PCs (I figure somewhere between 16 and 20 total sessions and about 4.5 players on average), and somewhere closer to 250 milliWhacks for henchmen.  ACKS: About As Deadly As Fiasco, Unless You're a Henchman.

In any case, more fodder for wilderness campaigning and always good to find a vital blog to read.  Sort of a breath of fresh air from outside the OSR, really (disclaimer: this is not an attempt to define the OSR, but more a statement that I do not get the impression that Trilemma identifies as Of The OSR).  He seems very well-rounded, taking what is worth taking from both storygames and the Old School.


  1. Hey, thanks for the kind words. You're right, I don't identify as an OSR gamer, I like all sorts of games. The thing I dig most about older-school games is the sense of genuinely players striving and the concrete tangibility of the campaign world. In more drama- or character-focused games, the focus is subtly shifted toward /portraying/ characters who are striving. This is awesome, too, but a different experience.

    After a long hiatus, my fondness for OSR was rekindled by, of all things, Torchbearer, which (being extremely mechanically bound) is not very OSR. The experience it produced kinda blew my mind, its laser focus on dungeoneering logistics (e.g. the sheer concreteness of the ever-present threat of darkness and starvation) caused the table to erupt in player-initiated planning in a way I'd never seen before.

    Torchbearer, like most dungeon crawls, needs a bit more up front planning than character-focused urban intrigue - this, plus the very cool one-page dungeon contest, is what sparked my short adventures project.

    Most of my recent blog posts are me trying to refine my GMing and GM-planning approach for this sort of gaming. Offline, I'm slowly building up a project that fits the term 'world engine', as you mentioned in your blog post about open vs. living worlds ( One day it may see the light of day.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, and well said!

      Perhaps I will have to look into Torchbearer, then; I was interested by the kickstarter but did end up passing at the time. If they've done logistics in an engaging way, then it would certainly be worth reading and running in order to learn from it.

      I have yet to take a crack at the OPD contest; my visual skills are frankly atrocious. I've been looking at running some one-shots recently, though, which operate under very different constraints from my usual style - their requirement for temporal brevity might play well with limited space.

      Planning informed exploration games is hard, and seems under-discussed for the level of interest Western Marches generated. On the OSR side I think one paragon of the viewpoint is Courtney at Hack & Slash, though their work is much more dungeons-and-traps focused; perhaps I just need to expand my reading list. I look forward to your thoughts on world engineering!