Welcome to issue #4 of The Glatisant! This newsletter is a free service put out by Ben Milton of the Questing Beast YouTube channel. You can sign up below to get new issues sent directly to your email every month (roughly).
Over at Lythiscaphe, David Perry has been examining how to encourage “problem-solving combat” by eliminating traditional initiative in his Cunning Knave rules.
I think, if nothing else, Problem-Solving Combat can be distilled into a handful of guiding principles that can apply to most any RPG, and that's probably all you need.
Don't Roll Initiative - Just describe the situation and ask "What do you do?"
Don't Enforce an Order - Let everyone discuss a plan, team up on actions or establish a group tactic, then call for the rolls that make sense, in an order that makes sense.
Don't Just Attack - Use enemies to do interesting things that threaten the PCs.
Don't Stay Still - Present new challenges as every round evolves the situation.
Don't Stay Abstract - Concrete details are opportunities to seize.
He also provides an example of how combat might work under these principles.
At Methods and Madness, Eric Diaz also weighs in on the topic.
In the comments of David’s post, Charles A pointed out that he had written a post about this back in 2018, which he termed Phased Real-Time Combat.
However, the oldest version of this that I’ve run into was on the Dungeoncraft YouTube channel:
Finally, over at Was It Likely? Jones Smith presents a very different way to run an RPG so that everything is an OSR-style problem.
Reviews of Note
I like how the immediacy and time pressure plays upon the psychology of the *player* as well as he character - do you use your interrupt now or wait to interrupt an even faster character? Where are you in the sequence? Do you want to interrupt the only person below you, or wait in the hopes that other faster payers will burn their interrupts before you come up? Its very elegant.
In effect, HōL threw out the idea that a work needed to be a polished, complex masterpiece to be legitimate for the RPG community in the same way zines, raves, home studio tapes and pirate radio had done for other media. And did so just before the World Wide Web made mass distribution without the publishing industry a possibility and then the norm.
What I love are all the little details. There’s easter eggs and details taken from all parts of the franchise. Events and characters from some of the tie-in novels (River of Pain, The Cold Forge, etc) are included. The cold war between the United Americas and the Union of Progressive Peoples from Willam Gibson’s unproduced Alien 3 screenplay are used to masterful effect. Even a few planets and details from the Kenner action figure line are included! They incorporated it all, and made it feel seamless and approachable.
On the Alexandrian, Justin Alexander muses on the strange fact that the 5e DMG doesn’t teach DMs the procedures for designing and running a dungeon.
“How to prep and a run a room-by-room exploration of a place” is solved tech from literally Day 1 of RPGs.
But D&D hasn’t been teaching it in the rulebooks since 2008, and that legacy is really starting to have an impact.
Over the next decade, unless something reverses the trend, this is going to get much, much worse. The transmission decay across generations of oral tradition is getting rather long in the tooth at this point. You’ve got multiple generations of new players learning from rulebooks that don’t teach it at all. The next step is a whole generation of industry designers who don’t know this stuff, so people won’t even be able to learn this stuff intuitively from published scenarios.
At Goblin Punch, Arnold Kemp released The Lair of the Lamb, a new funnel-dungeon complete with clear instructions for new DMs on how to run it. His advice for new OSR DMs is also a great starting point for people just discovering the hobby.
At Swamp of Monsters!, Nate Lumpkin has a very inspiring post on how he created his own megadungeon, which his players have been exploring for almost two years. You can hear him talk about it, as well as other aspects of DMing, on the second episode of the new Text to Table podcast.
At A Distant Chime, The Byzantine analyzes Skerples’ Tomb of the Serpent Kings and Gabor Lux’s Castle Xyntillan to see how “Jacquayed” they are, using the diagrams first invented by Gabor Lux on the Knights-n-Knaves forum.
Meanwhile, at Beyond Fomalhout, Gabor himself analyzes Dyson Logos’ dungeon map “The Winter Tombs” to see if it has good structure:
Good structure is still more of an art than an exact science, but it is generally agreed that some structural features are better suited to “map flow” than others, by encouraging meaningful decisions, environmental interaction, and emergent gameplay:
non-linearity, aided by branching and looping elements;
three-dimensional environments with verticality, interesting interconnections between dungeon levels, and a variety of terrain (c.f. “jacquaying”);
relative openness, counterbalanced by occasional bottlenecks usually referred to as “pinch points” or “choke points”, and maintaining significant barriers to make navigation a challenge.
At The Mad Queen’s Court, Vayra presents The Rat Warrens, a free dungeon designed for his GROG ruleset but easily adaptable to other OSR systems. This is just one part of the setting The Mountain at the End of the World. There’s even a 55 page Player’s Handbook for it, featuring new species, classes, spells, and magic swords.
At Goblin Punch, Arnold revises how stats work in the GLOG by removing roll-under. The most interesting thing, though, is the concept of the DM calling for a Lawful Roll or a Chaotic Roll, depending on how much impact they want the stats to have in a given situation.
At Necropraxis, Brendan analyses the survey data he and I collected. The goal of the survey was to try and determine if people who were initially hooked by D&D branched out to other RPGs more or less that people who started with other games.
The blogger at Weird Elf Games has come up with a procedure for embedding lore into a setting in such a way that those interested in it can try to piece it together, while also not boring players who aren’t interested.
Write 4-5 stories as a short paragraph or two, spanning multiple eras of time.
Break it into smaller parts, like symbols, famous items, peoples names, etc
Hide those parts in the world as details and room descriptions
Just delete a few so it is never 100% Complete.
There is also a follow-up post with a concrete example.
At Archons March On, Semiurge has created a d20 table of magic rings:
12. Uncoiling Serpents Ring: A jade ring shaped like the ouroboros. Three times a day you can pull a venomous snake from the ring. The snakes have no particular loyalty or affection towards you. The first snake is of normal size. The second snake is large enough that it would take two hands to toss. The third snake is too big for a single person to throw.
45. Immortal barrel: This barrel is totally immune to all damage. It never cracks, breaks, fails, or collapses. It cannot be disassembled because of this immunity as well. It is not airtight, but you can spend a turn to climb inside the barrel and be likewise protected, if uncomfortable.
Swamp of Monsters has a d100 table of monster mechanics. Slap a few of them together to make something really nasty.
80. They can scramble over the surface of the water They flicker and glitch when they move, they can pass freely through opponents.
Chris McDowall continues to create a huge amount of interesting material for his recent RPG setting/rulebook. At his YouTube channel, he has more than 7 hours of video diving deep into the choices he made in designing Electric Bastionland.
On his podcast, he has 6 episodes dedicated to Electric Bastionland Commentary, featuring guests like Alec Sorensen, Arnold Kemp, John Harper, Sean McCoy, and myself.
At False Machine, Patrick Stuart has some ideas for creating a softer, more Ghibli-esque version of D&D. I especially like the reaction table, which adds a great deal more variety than the standard table.
1 - Angry!
2-3 - Deceptive/Manipulative.
4-5 - Upset/Sad.
6-8 - Busy/Working.
9-10 - Seeking social contact.
11 - Impressed.
12+ - Joyous!
At Whose Measure God Could Not Take, Phlox builds upon this by pointing out:
When PCs feel bound by social customs about violence, it presents all sorts of problems requiring creativity:
How do we transport this captive back to the lord' palace?
How do we draw our foe away from sanctified grounds so the gods will not protect them?
Since we believe this promise from a foe at our mercy, do we accept their promise to take us to their buried loot?
How do we arrange the death of someone we absolutely cannot kill?
At Monsters and Manuals, David McGrogan considers the structural biases in the hobby that tend to slide most games in a D&D-like direction, even when they are a “softer” game like Ryuutama.
Fire on the Velvet Horizon remains my favorite monster manual of all time. At Monster Manual Sewn From Pants, Scrap Princess is creating new plot hooks for each monster, which just makes me want to go back and read the book again. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
At Goblin Punch, Arnold lays out the rules for how metals work in Centerra.
Jason Thompson (the artist behind all of those detailed, cartoony walkthroughs of classic dungeons) has started a new blog chronicling the development of his upcoming RPG Dreamland: Fairytale Portal Fantasy Beyond the Wall of Sleep, which is inspired by the works of Lovecraft and Lord Dunsany. The whole blog is very good, and these three posts do a great job explaining the unique word-based mechanics he’s using to model the laws of Dreamland.
Kickstarters Ending Soon
Emmy Allen (author of The Gardens of Ynn) is Kickstarting a Remastered Edition of her Ennie Award-Winning adventure The Stygian Library. The public domain art is being replaced with art by Alec Sorensen, who previously illustrated Chris McDowall’s Electric Bastionland.
Jacob Hurst (of Hot Springs Island) is Kickstarting a Worldbuilder’s Notebook that features multiple cyan-colored grid styles, smyth sewn binding to lie flat, a reference section, and many more features tailored for gamemastery notes. You can hear him talk in depth about it on this episode of the Plot Points Podcast.
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