Trophy Gold has some optional light weight rules for journeys that have the players slowly building up a point crawl style map of the world. One thing I like about the suggested approach is that it feels very much like Dark Souls, where part of the fun will be discovering the unusual connections in the world. The game is very collaborative in nature, and there is an expectation that things develop organically through play, with input from the players alongside the GM. You could certainly run things with a more well defined game world, but it feels a bit counter to the spirit of the game.
I’m curious if these moments would feel the same, when the players all know they are produced through the luck of the dice rather than the world building of a DM. I’ll need to play to figure that out. My copies of Trophy Dark, Gold, and Loom arrived a couple weeks ago. They are incredible, and if you are lucky they will reprint and sell many more.
My boy Nate–the man running what sounds like the greatest 5E game ever–reviews one of the greatest video games ever, Elden Ring. I am a huge fan of Elden Ring, and plan to write about it one day. (I liked this game a lot. Nate’s feelings are a bit more thoughtful, nuanced, and mixed.) There is so much you can steal from that game for your games of D&D. If you have a PS5 I would strongly recommend you check it out.
Goonhammer writes about the history of GorkaMorka, which proves to be far more interesting than you might expect. This is a look back at Games Workshop, and how it grew into the corporate behemoth it is today, through the lens of this one game. It’s a fascinating read.
This winter the Sword & Board is running a Mordheim campaign. Mordheim is a beloved skirmish game made by Games Workshop many years ago. Players each control a warband exploring the ruins of the Mordheim, collecting the remnants of the meteor that destroy the city, Wrydstone. The game is famous for its John Blanche art, flavourful setting, and its rich detailed campaign system. As you play Mordheim your warband will grow in power game, end up maimed, likely both. I have wanted to play Mordheim for ages, and this league presents the perfect chance to do so.
To start, I needed a warband. I wanted to reuse as much stuff as I owned as possible, and settled on playing Undead. This gave me the chance to continue painting my minis from the Cursed City board game, and build a few extra people using kits and bits I owned. I ended up painting more minis than I need to start, but I have options depending on the direction the campaign takes my team.
Khaimpo the Wretched finds himself in the employ of the Vampire Lord Volchyakrov, exploring the ruins of Mordheim. He is joined by the mercenaries Vrouwer Koning, Humeurige Van Dame and the coward Peters Van der Peters: the dregs of proper society. Zombies, Dire Rats and degenerate Ghouls round out this decrepit warband.
I’ve played one practice game of Mordheim, which was a lot of fun. The rules are … old school: there are tables, lots of dice rolling, and rules scattered throughout the book. Warcry feels like it’s the stronger game, but people aren’t playing Mordheim for its tight game design. Mordhiem is a narrative game, and its the story of this campaign I’m looking forward to seeing unfold.
Getting ready to play Mordheim has been a lot of fun. I enjoy painting, and having the activity be focused around play makes me enjoy it all the more. It can be easy to lose steam with bigger painting projects. Skirmish games present a nice opportunity to build, paint, and play quickly. They are a great way to get into the hobby.
Sean shared a pretty cool project on Twitter, which has really blown up: #dungeon23. The idea is simple: grab a day planner and write a dungeon room a day. At the end of the year, you’ll have a Megadungeon. I love it! Not enough to do it, of course, but I have been enjoying seeing what people produce. If you decide to start this endevour, I suggest you follow Sean’s advice: keep things simple and have fun. Treating a project like this as if it was your second job is a recipe to give up by March.
I have been reading the Mothership Warden’s Manual over the last week, the “DMG” for Mothership. I find a lot of dungeon master’s guides fall short. People manage to run D&D in spite of its rulebooks, not because of them. Mothership’s Warden Guide is superlative because it breaks down how to get the game you just bought to the table: it understands why these game master books should exist in the first place. There are very few books that pull this off well.
Mothership’s Warden’s Manual’s very first spread is a step by step breakdown of what you’ll need to do to run your first session. There isn’t any faffing about: you’ve bought this game and you want to play it, here’s what you should do to make that happen. There’s even pictures of an example notebook so you can see what sample prep (and how little you probably need to have fun) looks like. Mothership is a horror game, and so one of the first things the game master is going to have to figure out is what makes a horror game different than your typical game of D&D. Here Sean breaks things down in a very approachable way, with what he calls the TOMBS cycle. You can use Mothership to run all sorts of games, no doubt, but the Warden’s Manual helps frame the sorts of games that likely make the most sense, by walking you through prepping such games in its opening section. The advice on prepping a game also serves as an introduction to the game and genre itself.
The middle section of the book is what I think of as more typical when it comes to DMGs: what are the mechanics and logistics of actually running a game? (Here Sean also tackles what must likely be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people coming to Mothership: when should you roll the dice?) Into the Odd has great advice on running the game and I think this section from Sean is of a similar pedigree. Sean also talks more about the sorts of scenarios that are likely to come up in a Mothership game: investigations and social encounters. Again, what he’s chosen to focus on in this book helps frame what the game is about.
Finally the book concludes with how to start and run a campaign. Like the opening of the book, this section is concrete advice to get you going. Sean’s goal is to have you running a campaign quickly, not fall into the trap of prepping instead of playing.
Reading this book made me want to play Mothership again. I could do it better now! This book is likely so good because it’s written as if it was going to be someone’s first RPG. This is probably a ridiculous assumption, but the book is all the more accessible because of it. I’m a very experienced RPG player at this point in my life, but the sort of guidance Sean’s put down in this book is useful for everyone. For experienced players who are bringing their own baggage to the game, a book like this helps clear up assumptions and gets you playing all the more quickly.
As I said at the start, I think there are very few DMGs that are actually any good. LotFP’s Grindhouse Referee book was my previous high watermark for these sorts of books. Raggi wants you to play his game and its infectious. For all the edginess of the line, the Referee and Tutorial books are so weirdly welcoming. Raggi’s online persona has some real wrestling heel energy, but his books for new GMs are written from a place that feels really friendly and inclusive. He really included everything you’d need to understand what a Weird Historical Horror RPG was about. (There is even a section on how to recruit players for your game—weirdly dated in this age of online game.) Brindlewood Bay is another game that is written with such care for the player that will run the game. It goes into great detail about how to start playing the game as quickly as possible. What your first session should look like, exactly. That these are all horror games is interesting. A coincidence? Something for someone else to discuss.
I met up with Alex, Brendan and Paul last night from the #torontOSR posse. We tried to play through James’s The Cursed Chateau, but spent much of our time together drinking cocktails and catching up. Almost certainly inspired by this experience, Alex writes about one-scene adventures as another form of one-shot play.
Man, Twitter really does feel like a hot mess right now. And if we are all being honest with one another, it already felt like a hot mess, right? Warren from I Cast Light explains why you should be getting back to blogging: BLOG! Good God! What Is It Good For? When I started blogging (a million years ago) social media didn’t really exist as a thing, and people would share all the ephemera in their heads on their blogs. Some of your tweets are probably stupid, and should just disappear into the ether. Some of your tweets are probably worth simply posting to your blog: especially those that spark discussion. I wrote about “microblogging” here at Save vs. Total Party Kill some time ago. Anyone can start a blog and contribute to the wider RPG scene.