To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

08/08/2016
by Kadomi
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#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 8

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Do you prefer hardcover, softcover, or electronic books? What are the benefits of your preference?

Are PDF books better than print books? Is print better than digital? Tell us why!

Original picture from The Triangular Room blog.

Not my bookshelf, though I wish.

I love RPG hardcovers. The prettier, the better. The Numenera books, e.g. have such wonderfully high production values. I love lying on the couch and flicking through books, especially stuff like a Bestiary. However, during actual gameplay and during prep, I find PDFs way more useful. The Numenera PDFs are extensively hyperlinked and searchable, and I can copy/paste information to Scrivener or Evernote. I have an extensive PDF library and regularly use DrivethruRPG.

That Wizards of the Coast after all these years have no real digital strategy really bothers me. I mean, sure, they’re now available on two VTTs, FantasyGrounds and Roll20, but where are the official PDF files? It’s 2016, why won’t you make those available? I really don’t understand. PDFs make the game more accessible, because they are a cheap way to play in a relatively expensive hobby. There’s nothing wrong with using a PDF on a tablet at the gametable.

There’s a reason I always endorse Pathfinder even though I am not a huge fan of the actual system anymore. Everything’s available digitally, and within a short time you get access to all rules in the SRD for free. Big plus! I am sure that DnD 5e is a fine system, I hear nothing but good things about it, but the lack of digital formats is disappointing. It works for them on DrivethruRPG with older editions, after all.

TLDR: I love hardcovers, but for actual gaming and prepping, I prefer PDFs. A digital strategy is important to me!

07/08/2016
by Kadomi
0 comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 7

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

What aspect of Roleplaying Games has had the biggest effect on you?

What positive quality of gaming has influenced you the most?

I am pretty sure it’s made me a more creative person. It wasn’t like that when I gamed in my late teens and twenties. Right now, I feel it makes me bursting with creativity and enriches my life. If you compare tabletop gaming with, say, MMO gaming, there’s a much more immediate joy and impact that joined storytelling has on me than killing a hard raid boss. I also read a lot more than in previous years, currently soaking in as many RPG systems that I can (reading Trail of Cthulhu right now).

I recently listened to Talking Tabletop, an excellent podcast, and the guest was Nolan T. Jones, one of the founders of Roll20. Incidentally, did you know the platform originally was for sharing images? Fascinating! Anyhow, Nolan called RPGs the highest form of art. I am not sure I agree with him, but it definitely is a creative art, and I am proud I get to participate in it.

06/08/2016
by Kadomi
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#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 6

Coming up with peppy introductions gets harder and harder, so why don’t I go on with this very short post today?

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Most amazing thing a group did for their community?

This is asking about acts of charity, public or private, that a group of gamers has done for people that they know.

Is that actually a thing? I will be curious to read other replies, because I am coming up blank.

I don’t know about your gaming, but my gaming groups usually just game, in private. Can’t say I recall any acts of charity. Maybe some big name Actual Play Podcasts or streams, who do donation drives. Heck, my gaming groups aren’t even charitable in-game. 😉

05/08/2016
by Kadomi
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#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 5

Same deal, different day. I am amazed I am still writing. Maybe today there’ll be a question that won’t show my lack of actual playing?

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

What story does your group tell about your character?

And there goes my hope it’s not another character question. There are no big stories to tell, so I’ll just go ahead and talk about my most recent characters and her interactions with the party.

In case of my halfling rogue, they would probably say she’s a lovely, charming, and slightly deluded girl. Her teacher took a very naive girl, the daughter of a halfling baker, and trained her how to be a thief. However, he didn’t call it stealing, he called it being diplomatic and solving problems. Discordia was hoping to be a member of the diplomatic corps in her kingdom. On top of her thievery skills, she was very charismatic and skilled at Diplomacy and Bluffing.

My other recent Pathfinder character Thera is a pretty awful bitch. We used the character background options from Ultimate Campaign, which made me come up with the bastard daughter of a rich merchant who fled her home to join a gang of street kids. The brute of the group, she had some skills with the sword but also magic, making her a magus. Prone to fits of jealousy, she had murdered a woman who hit on her boyfriend, a blacksmith apprentice, and didn’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. The other group members thought she was intimidating, bitchy, but also incredibly loyal.

It’s seriously a shame that game died at level 2. Our group of three street girls trying to make it in an urban campaign was really kickass and we had some excellent RP that really flowed naturally. Unfortunately, the GM dropped off the face of the Earth, but I wouldn’t mind picking it back up.

04/08/2016
by Kadomi
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#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 4

Another day, another question answered for #RPGaDay 2016. If you want to join in, check out RPGBrigade.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Most impressive thing another’s character did?

From a player’s perspective, I still fondly remember the hijinx of my SO’s utterly unlikeable halfling ranger. She had the charisma of a rock, but she was wild and daring. The group was investigating the kidnapping of a local lord’s daughter and sneaked through an ogre hideout. Not sure you could call it sneaking, really. There was a cave, with a swinging log trap. Euphoria managed to jump onto the swinging log, sat astride and rained her arrows upon the enemies’ minions. I think the minions were goblins. It was crazy, and fun, and I enjoyed it.

Yeah, I really should be playing in more games instead of GMing, shouldn’t I?

03/08/2016
by Kadomi
0 comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 3

On we continue with #RPGaDay 2016, today with question number 3.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Character moment you are proudest of?

This will be a very short response. I’ve only ever played in one long-term campaign, as I almost always GM. I played a halfling rogue called Discordia, short Disco. My SO played her irritating and very uncharismatic sister Euphoria. They fought non-stop. I would love to say that I had grand character moments, but the highlight was probably when Disco managed to pick a lock and managed to free all party members from their cells when they had been kidnapped by a group of henchmen. Hardly a huge character-building moment. What I learned in this campaign though is that in order for your players to have fun, you should shine the spotlight on each character, not just one of them. But that’s a totally different story.

One of these days I’ll be a player again and will have proud character moments, honestly.

02/08/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 2

On we go with #RPGaDay 2016, with a very tough question:

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Best game session since August 2015?

I’m currently running three games, and in the course of the last year I also played in two other campaigns. It’s very tough to decide which one was ‘best’.

Instead I’ll go for the most memorable and fun event that happened, in my Rise of the Runelords campaign. You know, this thing you totally haven’t planned for, and then you just roll with it.

We originally started this game in September ’14, and last October, the party of six investigated Thistletop, the goblin stronghold where the Big Bad Evil Girl of Book 1 was hiding out. Thistletop is a small island connected to the mainland by a rope bridge high above the sea. The party had managed to sneak into the basement without alerting any goblins and took care of Nualia’s mercenaries there.

They decided that they wanted to check out the goblin situation first before finding Nualia and sent their gnome ranger Fynn ahead to scout. She found the goblin forces, about 20 of them, with their leader and his riding gecko in his throne room, and was spotted. Fynn decided to tell the leader that she was a new mercenary that Nualia had hired, and that apparently he hadn’t been introduced yet. Then, she rolled an 8 for her Bluff check. I rolled a 2 for his Sense Motive check. He totally bought it.

She then went downstairs again to discuss this development with the others. Seeing as bluffing had gone so well, the rogue snuck out and headed to the rope bridge, which had a trap mechanism he had figured out. His Disable Device check was high, so I let him rig the bridge. The ranger went back to the chieftain and told him that Nualia had given the command to assault the town, and that his forces should cross over to the mainland. She rolled an 8 again. I rolled a 1. It was meant to be this way.

The full forces including the leader on his gecko crossed the bridge and fell into the sea, to be eaten by the bunyip in the water. A few goblins clung on, so the party cast spells to have the remains of the bridge go up in flames. It was a tragic defeat, and a fantastic moment for the party. Ultimately, it was much cooler than the massive battle with 20 goblins would have been.

Only downside: they missed Chief Ripnugget’s cool loot, which drowned in the sea…

Alas, Chief Ripnuggest and your trusty mount, you were too easy to fool.

Alas, Chief Ripnuggest and your trusty mount, you were too easy to fool.

I’m a bit sad that this was the last game we played in a party of six. The rogue player quit after that session for personal reasons. We’re now in the middle of book 2, and the party is about to head into the Misgivings. I hope it will be as memorable as Thistletop turned out to be.

01/08/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 1

I decided that this year I would like to participate in a blog event: #RPGaDay 2016. There are two reasons for this: 1. I want to blog more frequently. 2. I’ve been slowly transitioning to write more about RPGs than my other nerd hobbies, pretty much replacing my former MMO passion with RPGs.

#RPGaDay was created a couple years back to be something to do for the folks who can’t make it to Gen Con, which is probably the largest tabletop RPG convention in the world. In order to participate, you answer an RPG-related question every day, for all of the month August. I enjoy the writing prompts and am sure I’ll be rambling away as I usually do. I want to give a shoutout to Blaugust, which is a similar initiative that mostly MMO bloggers do every year. If you want to jump on that train, talk to @Belghast.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Day 1 of #RPGaDay:

Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to ‘roll’?

It really depends on my gaming environment. My favorite will always be real dice. They’re shiny, often-times pretty, and there’s something visceral and satisfying about rolling dice. I actually own a dice tray from UltraPro, to enhance the dice rolling experience. Is there really anyone who would prefer rolling with a dice app? Who knows. I don’t even have a dice app on my phone.

However, when I prep my game sessions, I usually sit at my computer. If there’s anything that requires a roll (e.g. cypher selection in Numenera, or duration of effects in Pathfinder), I use a browser-based dice roller. I usually go with the quick and easy roller that’s available from Wizards of the Coast.

Additionally, I am currently experimenting with dice rooms. In my Legacy of Fire Pathfinder campaign, we had a timejump of a year and the players were allowed to pick a task they did in that year. With one player, I am now playing out what happened in that year off in a solo e-mail adventure. Just a little side plot for her character, per mail. In case we need to roll dice in a task resolution, I have set up a dice room at Roleplayer’s Dice Roller. When she needs to roll the dice, she can log into the dice room, roll her dice, tell me what she rolled, and if I want to be on the safe side, I can check by looking at the dice room log. Also handy for online games that do not use Roll20 e.g. as it comes with Google Hangouts integration.

But again, if left to choice alone, always real dice. Can I say diceporn? 🙂

28/07/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

RPG-Blog-O-Quest #10

For this month’s RPG-Blog-O-Quest, Greifenklaue picked the subject ‘Fantasy’ as opposed to Science Fiction last month. As usual, the first segment will be in my native language German, the second part will have a translation. Game on!

rpg-blog-o-quest

  1. Lieber Low- oder Highfantasy? Warum? – Eigentlich bin ich prinzipiell ein Fan von High Fantasy. Meine erste große Fantasy-Erfahrungen als junger Mensch waren Die Unendliche Geschichte und Herr der Ringe, höher als letzteres geht es ja kaum. Letztendlich bevorzuge ich das Genre ‘Epic Fantasy’. Mir ist jetzt egal, ob der Anteil an Fantasy sehr hoch ist, und es nur so vor Drachen und anderen mythischen Kreaturen wimmelt, oder ob es eher Richtung ‘grimdark’ geht, mit viel Gemetzel und wenig Magie. Hauptsache, es ist eine epische Story.
  2. Mein liebstes Crossover mit Fantasy ist derzeit Numenera, weil es einfach unheimlich viele Kreativitätsschübe in mir auslöst. Numenera kann sehr fantasy-lastig sein, mit Burgen, Königreichen und verschollenen Prinzessinnen, aber die Prinzessin kann auch in einem abgestürzten Raumschiff zu finden sein, oder man hat andere technologische Erlebnisse. Ich find’s einfach nur fantastisch. Shadowrun ist auch sehr cool.
  3. An Oldschool gefällt mir eigentlich nix. Ich bin ein Fan von story-lastigem Spiel, und epischen Abenteuern. Wenn ich Oldschool höre, verbinde ich das automatisch mit sehr dungeon-lastigem Spiel, mit tödlichen Fallen und Gegnern, und TPKs. Ich bin ein großer Fan von Creighton Broadhurst, dem Chef von Raging Swan, der ein glühender Verehrer von Gary Gygax ist. Ich finde aber, dass es Gründe gibt, dass Systeme sich weiterentwickeln, und D&D 5e scheint dabei ja einiges richtig zu machen, und das Rollenspielen zumindest in den USA deutlich zugänglicher zu machen. Neuere Systeme liegen mir einfach mehr.
  4. Im ausgelaufenen Monat war Drachen das Thema des Karnevals. Meine liebste RPG-Anekdote mit Drachen ist leider noch nie passiert. Ich hatte noch nie hochstufige Charaktere, die sich mit Drachen beschäftigen durften. Deswegen hoffe ich, dass wir es mindestens bis Buch 4 beim Erwachen der Runenherrscher schaffen!
  5. Welches ist Dein favorisiertes Fantasyvolk? Warum? – Ich kann jetzt nicht sagen, dass ich ein Lieblingsvolk habe. Wobei ich Halblinge schon ganz cool finde. Die sind so gemütlich wie ich. 😉 Definitiv nicht Elfen, über die lese ich nur gern, spielen eher weniger.

rpg-blog-o-quest logo1

English version

  1. Do you prefer low or high fantasy? Why? – I consider myself a fan of high fantasy. The first fantasy books I read at a young age were Neverending Story and Lord of the Rings, which is the poster child for high fantasy. Yet, I would say that the fantasy style I like most is epic. It doesn’t matter if this is high fantasy style with lots of magic and dragons, or the gritty, grimdark stories like A Song of Ice and Fire (aka GoT). It just needs to be an excellent, epic story.
  2. My favorite crossover with fantasy is Numenera. Just two weeks ago I waxed poetic about this, how creative this game makes me. Numenera can be a game with many fantasy elements. Kingdoms, castles, missing princesses. Of course the castles can grow continually with self-creating rooms, or the missing princess might be stuck in a crashed spaceship. The possibilities for crossover are limitless.
  3. In Oldschool gaming I particular like nothing at all, really. I am not a fan of the oldschool revival movement. When I think oldschool gaming, I am thinking it’s about endless dungeon crawls, high lethality and TPKs, drawing maps on notepads and micromanagement. I am a huge fan of Creighton Broadhurst, head of Raging Swan, who create some of the best GM aides for Pathfinder (with system-neutral publications now as well). I however cannot understand his infatuation with old first edition rules. There’s a reason games evolve. I think DnD 5e has made big steps on finding a new audience, with the rise of Actual Play Podcasts and streams. I prefer newer systems.
  4. In the previous month, the RPG blog carnival had the subject ‘dragons’. What’s your favorite RPG-story regarding dragons? – None, unfortunately. I never GM’d for a high level party to meet dragons or had a high level character myself. This is why I am hoping my Rise of the Runelords campaign will make it to book 4, to return to Sandpoint…Oh yeah.
  5. What’s your favorite fantasy race? Why? – I don’t actually have any favorite race. I know people out there who play elves in just about any game (like Pike, e.g. ;)) but I have no preference. I kinda dig halflings, because I’m a chubby lady who likes food and being comfortable. Which is not particularly heroic, but fun.

25/07/2016
by Kadomi
3 Comments

RPG Tools: Campaign Management using Scrivener

As mentioned in my Numenera post, I am currently creating a campaign from scratch. This is very exciting to me. However, it’s led to me re-evaluating how I organize the games I am running. With now three different games, I felt that I definitely need to keep my notes straight. I felt I needed a way to plot outlines and story arcs.

Previously, I’ve always been using Evernote. I extensively use the Web Clipper to yank ideas from websites straight into my notes but also, to add the campaign newsletter that I send around for my Runelords campaign. The advantage is that I can use Evernote anywhere I have web access or wifi. This means I can jot down ideas during my lunch break. You can use different notebooks to organize your notes, and tag them. I still don’t feel very organized using it though. Sure, I can favorite notes, and create different notebooks, but I still have to click through my notes or use the search, without having any real way of adding structure. It is however still a great tool for simply taking notes. A ‘jot down your ideas anywhere’ tool.

Evernote in action

Evernote in action

I would like to note that their new pricing model kinda blows. Thanks to my ISP I had Premium access for free for a year. I definitely do not need 10 GB of notes every month nor use all the business features. It would however be nice to sync on all my devices, which was always free until now but which would cost me 29,99 € a year now. Certainly not a pricing that would kill me but a bit over the top just so I can sync on my 3 devices. I deleted it off my phone, and now only use the clients on my PC and my tablet. The web version will have to do when I am not at home.

The search for the right client

So what to do for campaign management? There are several solutions. There’s Obsidian Portal, but for me, that’s less about campaign management but about being the chronicle of a campaign. It offers a wiki for worldbuilding, a blog, etc. I am doing something similar using a WordPress.com blog as adventure journal for my Legacy of Fire campaign: The Adventures of the Cactus-Slayers. I have lots of plans and little time for this site, but it’s wonderful for showing the creativity of my players and their campaign diaries. What I need is a tool that allows me to structure and plot my campaign, without any worries about player access.

I was looking for a software solution. I briefly looked at The Keep, which actually looks to be a fantastic piece of software, but the screenshots didn’t quite grab me. It looks clunky? I dunno, I am probably wrong. There was only a trial version of 1.0, which I didn’t care for.

I had long lusted after Realm Works from Lone Wolf Development because based on screenshots and videos I had seen, it does everything that I was looking for. As the software is by the same guys who created my beloved Hero Lab, I was very tempted. However, there were three issues in my way: high price point, no trial version, no way to export data. The last is really the deathblow. You can’t even print any files! I want to be able to add handouts and print them. I want to be able to export notes as PDF or whatever file format I need. Not offering any of that, plus no trial to even look if the software is what I want killed my interest. Which is a shame, it still looks awesome but export is really a requirement for modern software.

Scrivener, for writers and GMs

During my hunt for a campaign management tool, I stumbled over a post at Gnome Stew, which is an excellent RPG site, btw. It gives a comprehensive overview over using Scrivener for managing an adventure. Of course an adventure is only a part of a campaign and thus, you can use Scrivener to structure more deeply.

So, what is Scrivener? It’s a creation suite for writers, offering a full word processor, a way to structure writing, create character outlines, revise your writing, keep your research handy, use a name generator if you can’t come up with names, index cards and so on and so forth. Unlike Realm Works, it comes with a free 30 day trial. Not only that, it only counts down 30 days of actual use, so if you really want to give it a spin, that’s a long trial period. Despite its focus on writers, don’t be disparaged, because what is a GM but a storyteller, a writer. Unless you are one of those crazy improv GMs who fly by the seat of their pants. Major kudos to you.

I must admit that after first starting the software, it is incredibly overwhelming. It takes you through a tutorial template that is very extensive and will likely take 45 minutes to an hour of concentrated reading and testing. The learning curve seems steep, but it’s really not that bad. Once you understand cork boards and the difference between folders and files, you are really good to go. Also, there are about a million Scrivener tutorial sites out there. Just don’t fall for the ones that want to sell you tutorials, because there’s a lot of good free training stuff out there.

Using the RPG template

Scrivener is template-based. There’s a default template you could work with, or you could do what I’ve done and grab a ready-made RPG template, kindly created by Ricardo Signes. I loaded that into Scrivener. Then I started fiddling, making adjustments, and before I knew it, I was deep into plotting my campaign and prepping adventures.

A very bare-bones cork-board for my planned adventures.

A very bare-bones cork-board for my planned adventures.

Scrivener has a so-called Binder as left side-bar. That’s where you create a structure. In my case, I have a campaign section, where I will outline my campaign in broad strokes. There, I also collect story hooks and track major NPCs that will impact the whole campaign, like the Big Bad Evil Guy.

There’s a so-called Research folder, which you can use to add external files like images, PDF files, etc. I’ve used that to add images of the maps I am using in my adventures. I’ll also add the PDF files of the character sheets of my players. It will be awesome to track that between sessions. I need a good long look at everybody’s skills and abilities. This will allow me to create GM intrusions and RP situations utilizing those abilities and skills.

An imported image file that I am using as an adventure map.

An imported image file that I am using as an adventure map.

Not only can you bring structure into your campaign management, you can also visualize the structure, by assigning icons to folders and files. For NPC folders, I am using a mask, e.g., or for rules sections and GM intrusions I am using a d20. I am sure there’s probably tons more icons out there that could be added to this template.

Changing icons in (my German version of) Scrivener

Changing icons in (my German version of) Scrivener

It’s definitely a much more streamlined and organized way of structuring game information than what Evernote offers. I will continue to use Evernote for what the name suggests: taking notes. The fine tuning and detailed planning will happen in Scrivener, which I will happily purchase.

In case you have any questions about using Scrivener for RPGs, I am happy to answer. If I know the answer, hee. 🙂

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