The Glatisant: Issue #15

50 Years of Fantasy Roleplaying

Welcome to the 15th issue of The Glatisant, Questing Beast’s free monthly newsletter. Support it on Patreon and get access to the secret Questing Beast discord channel! Comments on Glatisant issues are now enabled, so you can can leave your thoughts below. You can also read previous issues here.

50 Years of Fantasy Roleplaying

April 17th was the 50th anniversary of Dave Arneson’s first session of Blackmoor, marking the origin of roleplaying games as we know them today. I recommend checking out the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor to get to hear from many of Dave’s players about that experience.

Here’s a video of David Wesley (who created Braunstein, the first RPG) playing with Pete Gaylord, the first wizard and subject of the oldest surviving character sheet.

Uncaring Cosmos and Realm of Zhu take a look at some of the early influences on the development of RPGs, such as gamebooks, Mastermind, Diplomacy, and Hyboria.

In 1984, just one year after the release of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Games Workshop was featured on British television. At the time it was primarily a hobby shop selling products like D&D and Runequest.


Reviews

Gundobad Games has very high praise for The Black Wyrm of Brandonsford, a player-driven, open-ended adventure for low-level characters:

The closest extant adventure to which I'd readily compare this little-known module is the seemingly ubiquitous Winter's Daughter. With all due props to that triumph of layout/organization - and although this may sound like heresy to the average OSR fan - I'm much more excited about the idea of running Black Wyrm than Winter's Daughter, even though tonally the two could fit quite easily in the same campaign. Yeah, folks, I'm serious. This is a really good starter module.

Patrick Stuart reviews Swordthrust, an AD&D adventure that seems to get things remarkably right:

Does Swordthrust introduce (as a CORE element) that most-loathed of all design tropes, the backstabbing questgiver? And does it somehow GET AWAY WITH THIS????

Yyyyyes. yes it does.

The backstabbing wizard situation is set up with enough skill and has enough thought put into the circumstances; the slow reveal of information, the build up of knowledge, the likely result of interactions, and most importantly - the paradoxical no-win situation for the dungeon which will misfire on the wizard if they do actually win, that it carries off this most laborious of concepts with a degree of elegance and grace. Like watching someone dance with a barbell.

At Questing Beast, I compared The Worldbuilder’s Notebook (by Swordfish Islands) and the Field Notes GM Notebook, reviewed five new issues of A Thousand Thousand Islands, and evaluated the pros and cons of the classic Grimtooth’s Traps.

My mansion-crawl adventure The Waking of Willowby Hall received a review by Bud’s Zine Review and Dave Thaumavore, who normally doesn’t look at DnD material.


D&D Cosmology

Bloggers this month have been reworking the structure of the D&D universe. The Nothic’s Eye examines how denizens of different planes would conceptualize reality. For example:

The Rilmani allege that every Plane shy of the Outlands is in fact one plane, The Counterweight, which weighs vastly against the great point of the Spire. Should any one faction gain dominance over the Counterweight, the weight will shift, the Spire will topple, and everything of consequence will be destroyed. 

Meanwhile, the philosophers in Bearded Devil’s city of Hex conceive of the universe as only six planes: Anathema, The Dreamlands, Fairie, Jotunheim, The Material Plane, and the Netherworld. The way these planes are related is the subject of hot debate, with 12 different cosmologies proposed, such as Mythosolipsistic Subcreationism and Celestial Toad Theory.

Archons March On constructs a new nine-fold cosmology from the starting point of the alignments. Each has its own unique virtue, realm, language, and creatures.

Chaotic Good: Its Virtue is Liberation. Break all chains, throw down all masters.

Its Realm is the Castle Dissolute, a fastness that secures the alignment's ideal existence within, or an infected cyst in reality, depending on your perspective. A prismatic crystal barrier, hyper-cubic, watchtowers garrisoned by guards of mutative variety. Within a howling void, individuals' shapes and separations dissolving and shattering.

Grognardia remembers a page from Dragon Magazine #73, where the inner planes and their conjunctions were displayed as a cube you could cut out and fold up.


New and Upcoming Attractions

Skerples is nearing completion on The Monster Overhaul, a 300+ page monster manual with 200 creatures designed for ease of use. Lots of great art as well.

Prismatic Wasteland has a number of projects in the works, including Big Rock Candy Hexcrawl, The Barkeep on the Borderlands, a wizard funnel, and the eponymous setting/system Prismatic Wasteland.

Lost Pages announces the release of the Chthonic Codex Omnibus, Lumberlands, and more.

Games Omnivorous have released Undying Sands, a hexcrawl that comes with a bag of illustrated cardboard tiles you can assemble on the table.


And Now a Word From Our Sponsor…

Now on Kickstarter: New Sidequest Decks: Each card is a mini-adventure with the most important map on one side (use other cards for more maps), & the other side is an adventure outline: background GM info, a couple of story hooks, several encounter ideas, and follow up ideas.

Want to place an ad for The Glatisant’s 7,000+ subscribers? Email me at questingmaps at gmail dot com


Mapmaking

For those running starfaring campaigns, here’s a map of all the stars in earth’s neighborhood, organized using a neural network so that 3D distances are represented fairly accurately on a 2D plane. Uses 1-lightyear hexes.

On twitter, Ben Sack shows off his nearly completed Labyrinth drawing. Check out this timelapse video to see how he drew it.


MOSAIC Strict

Back in February, Michael Prescott of Trilemma Adventures proposed the MOSAIC Strict format for writing RPG rules. These rules don’t refer to mechanics outside of themselves, making them extremely modular and adaptable to different campaigns. Since then, a number of blogs have taken to writing MOSAIC rules, which are collected by Michael here. The rules cover mass combat, fishing, freeform magic, carousing, dueling, and many other situations.

Chris McDowall and Brendan S. (Wonder and Wickedness) also spend time talking about MOSAIC Strict and its potential pros and cons on a new episode of the Bastionland Podcast.


RPG Awards

Sundered Swords and Silver Shillings presents the first ever Gloggie Awards, highlighting the best rules, classes, races, art and design work for the Goblin Laws of Gaming, as decided by a panel of GLOG bloggers.

At Questing Beast, I take a step back in time to look at my favorite releases from 2019.


Open Strategy Games

Chris McDowall at Bastionland has two posts about running Matrix games. Think of Matrix games like an RPG, but zoomed out. Instead of playing a single character you’re often playing a whole faction, which allows your actions to be broader and longer-term. I’m a fan of taking the RPG concept of tactical infinity and applying it to games on other scales (like running a whole squad), so I find this fascinating. “Matrix game” is confusing name; I like Chris’ term Open Strategy Game better.

Dreaming Dragonslayer, who is playing in Chris’ game, also has two posts on the subject, with examples of the rules and player handouts he is using.

I also stumbled across this older post on Japanese Net Games, a kind of massive, play-by-postcard RPG that could involve thousands of players at once.


Thousand Year Old Vampire

Tim Denee has a fully-illustrated playthrough of the solo RPG Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings.


Theory

My favorite piece this month came from Luka Rejec, who writes about how the “Internet RPG Community” is an illusion.

I see people proclaim themselves leaders of ‘the community’. They are not because it does not exist. Everyone has just their name out there.

I see people put their faith in ‘the community’. They are vulnerable because it does not exist. There are just floating words in the electric aether.

I see people demand ‘the community’ do something for some just cause. It cannot, because it does not exist. It is a wilderness out there.

When players are debating several different plans, Matt Colville has a psychological trick for prompting players to pick the most interesting or entertaining one.

The Luminescent Lich observes something I’ve often seen myself: players rarely use combat rules like stunts, charging, fighting defensively, etc. Instead, he proposes that you make combat more interesting by focusing on designing gameable monster behavior.

At Questing Beast I sat down with Sandy Petersen (Call of Cthulhu), John Wick (7th Sea, Legend of the Five Rings) and Lloyd of Lindybeige to discuss RPG topics like sandbox campaigns, allowing players to establish facts about the world, classless character creation, and a lot more.

At Le Chaudron Chromatique, Evlyn has developed a method for creating artificial beings using spell recipes. For example:

  • Level 1 spells recipe: Dreaming Flame Homunculi

  • Spells: Shield, Light, Charm Person, Floating Disk and Sleep 

  • Needed: candle made of rare material worth 1000GP 

  1. Cast shield upon the flame to form a magical mold.

  2. Gently blow the flame while casting Light into the shield. 

  3. Cast Charm Person on the light to give it a personality. 

  4. Cast Floating Disk upon Shield to enable it to levitate. 

  5. Cast sleep upon the light to connect it to the dreamland.

This create a friendly sleepy will-o-the-wisp like homunculi. 

The Alexandrian discusses how to develop villains that players hate and how to roll with player strategies for taking them out. This is based on a classic post of his, but I’m glad he’s putting it into video form.


Worldbuilding

d66 Classless Kobolds presents the 20 submissions to his “Play Worlds Not Rules” challenge. Each is a short setting for RPGs with random tables and advice on how to run games in that world. Perhaps a good complement to MOSAIC Strict?

FORKLIFT JOCKEYS by Sigve Solvaag

You work in the warehouse. You have a forklift, and day in and day out, you haul pallets, finish orders, deliver the goods. Recently, a film crew has shown up. You all signed contracts. Your workplace is now also the site of a reality show. It’s never easy for you. Many things can happen. Deadlines, overtime, trouble at home, hostilities with co-workers. The film crew is egging this on too--they want drama.

My favorite bit: Never have I been so compelled by mundane subject material turned into something riveting as I was when I first saw the warehouse droptables.

Paper Elemental has two posts continuing the Wandering Titans series, which describes massive monsters that can wander from hex to hex like a weather pattern, changing the environment in strange ways as they go.

Goodberry Monthly describes three weird materials crafted in the Underdark: Black Glass, Stained Glass, and Force Glass.

A number of famous art pieces have been made with Glazz'gibrar Stained Glass. There is record of them still.

The Cup of Queens supposedly contains the souls of every royal of the Spider Queen dynasty. Sipping from the cup is said to bequeath the drinker temporary knowledge of the Power Words, but also a frenzied cruelty.

Liche’s Libram uses Scryfall’s ability select random Magic: The Gathering cards within different categories to create a setting generator.

Patrick Stuart describes 20 weird trade towns.

12. The Perpetual Gyre

A huge wheel, as if from a divine chariot of cyclopean cart, rolling endlessly, but very slowly, across the land in looping ellipses the size of continents. The huts and homes hang from its spokes on swings so they are always the right way up. Prices depend on where things are in the wheel at the time. Shops that are easier to access at the bottom have high prices. If you want to try the difficulty of climbing to the top you might get a better deal.

Luka Vanzella has started developing a setting filled with infernal operas and ants that have evolved to draw summoning circles.


That’s it for this issue! Leave your feedback in the comments below!