#DungeonDrawingDudes – Week 4

For the last three weeks, I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day in July, there’s a suggested Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw. If you have a look on Instagram, you can see what everyone’s contributed. I’ve put my contributions here, and you’re welcome to use them in your games if you like them.

I already wrote about my thoughts on day 22’s challenge.

I like drawing gnomes:

sewer-dwelling gnome

I haven’t been drawing bugbears as often as gnomes, but I’ve also been becoming fond of drawing bugbears:

bugbear shaman

Here’s the Chant: planar diseases, gods and sad penguins

I normally write a roundup post on Wednesday, drawing together a whole lot of content about roleplaying games (particularly 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons). This week got away from me a bit, so here it is on Friday:

For players

For players and DMs:

  • ‘The Path of Notes’ Monte Cook Games – this article looks at how the game Invisible Sun has been designed so that players have got to take notes, which will end up becoming a memento of their adventure

For DMs:

Content I’ve published recently:

  • ‘Goofy Descends into Hell’ – in the most recent Planescape adventure I played in, we used the Open Legend system instead of D&D
  • ‘#Dungeondrawingdudes: Week 3’ – each day this month I’ve been participating in the #Dungeondrawingdudes challenge, so there’s now three weeks worth of my illustrations (like this tiefling street-performer), which you can download use in your home game 
  • ‘A Cheeky Response to #Dungeondrawingdudes’ – I thought one of the #Dungeondrawingdudes challenges was a bit disrespectful, so I made a cheeky response
  • ‘Redcaps and Violence’ – #Dungeondrawingdudes and Nerdarchy got me thinking about redcaps and the tendency of violence to escalate
  • ‘Valley of Eternity: The Hunt’ – last week I had my first attempt at running a game of Valley of Eternity, the existentialist penguin roleplaying game

Goofy descends into Hell: My first experience of Open Legend

Last Sunday I played using the Open Legend system for the first time. Our dungeonmaster has been keen to run a Planescape adventure about breaking out of the prison-plane of Carceri, but hasn’t been finding that Dungeons & Dragons rules promote roleplay or collaboration as much as she’d like.

Having a look at the rules, what I like is that character creation is very flexible. Rather than offering classes and races for a specific kind of setting, there are a whole lot of basic character attributes that can be used in different ways. You could use the ‘Alternate Form’ feat to make a lycanthropic character or a shapeshifting druid. You could use the ‘Companion’ feat to represent a character’s hired bodyguard or an animal companion or a sibling who tags along for adventures. So it’s very modular, very flexible. Because there’s no detailed flavour tied to the attributes, you can use them for a whole bunch of genres and settings, or for a mashup of genres and settings. That meant we were able to have an adventuring party consisting of a halfling, an orc and an anthropomorphic cartoon dog.


I think the downside of the openness and flexibility is that the game can depend a lot on the ability of the players to get their character across. In our adventure, I was playing a psionic orc and another player was a shady halfling. The third player, when he was told he could play as anything or anyone, said, ‘I’ll be Goofy.’ I think that was actually really helpful because we know who he is and what he’s like, and we get how cartoon slapstick works. He was able to get the character concept across easily by having Goofy walk up imaginary stairs or elongate his arms in order to catch falling adventurers. I think my psionic orc and the sinister halfling were less clear, so it was harder to get into the swing of things.

Back to the positive: another thing that makes Open Legend stand out if the way that dice ‘explode’. If you roll a die, whether it’s a d4 or a d20, maximum rolls are repeated and added. So If you had to roll a d20 and a 1d6 and rolled a 20 and a 3, you’d expect to get a score of 23. But because you rolled a 20 on the d20, you would roll the d20 again and add the result to the 23. If you rolled another 20, it would explode again. The same thing would happen with the d6 if you had rolled a 6 – you’d roll it again and add the result to your score. This means that you can end up with some really high scores and results, and it means the game really lends itself to characters every now and then managing ridiculous, epic achievements.

* * *

If you want to check out Open Legend, the rules are available for free on their website. You can also try out their free, play-to-learn adventure, ‘A Star Once Fallen’ or support their Kickstarter campaign to publish their Amaurea’s Dawn adventure setting.

#DungeonDrawingDudes: Week 3

For the last three weeks, I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day in July, there’s a suggested Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw. If you have a look on Instagram, you can see what everyone’s contributed. I’ve put my contributions here, and you’re welcome to use them in your games if you like them.

This week I got a bit behind on the challenges because I was also working on miniatures for the penguin RPG I ran on Thursday and illustrations for an original roleplaying game a friend has been writing. So I did a lot of catching up today, and really enjoyed today’s challenges. I like running city-based adventures, so I enjoyed drawing the first of a number of urban creatures:

Wizard busker:

wizard busker

Tiefling street-performer:

tiefling street performer

Goblin cut-purse:

goblin cutpurse

I also appreciated the vegepygmy challenge, because it meant I read about a monster that I wasn’t familiar with, and it turned out to be fairly interesting. (They basically start off as a brown mould that could infect an adventurer.)

vegepygmy chief

Another monster that I hadn’t read much about, and appreciated the opportunity reflect on was the redcap, which I’ve already written about here.

I also enjoyed drawing the troll messhall cook, because I like drawing ‘monsters’ in incongruous ways that challenge us to think about them differently.

troll messhall cook

Redcaps and violence

On Monday, as part of the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge, I drew a redcap, which looks kind of like a warped garden gnome.

redcap

I came across this video from Nerdarchy, about redcaps, and I think they make a good observation about redcaps’ relationship with violence. Redcaps appear at the location of a murder, if the murder occurs in a place where the regular world and the Feywild overlap. (A bit like the concept of thin space in Celtic spirituality.) Someone who knows what they’re doing might be able to summon redcaps as minions, but the risk is that they will just kill the summoner. They might follow the person who summons them. But if they do it will only be as long as their master provides more opportunities to kill. If their master doesn’t give them more opportunities to kill, they will kill their master. It seems to me that this monster speaks to us about the tendency of violence to keep generating more violence. Just recently one of our government ministers has been suggesting that our country should become a major arms manufacturer, but that we would only sell weapons to appropriate countries. It seems unrealisitc to think that in the chaos of war, we would be able to control who ends up with our weapons or how they are used.

Here’s the Chant: mesmer class, planar portals and circus adventures

For players:

  • ‘Mesmer’ reddit/UnearthedArcana – a spellcasting class that focusses on illusion and control, along with a figher archetype based on the same idea

For DMs:

For anyone who’s wanting to reflect more historical background:

Content I’ve published:

#DungeonDrawingDudes: Week 2

For the last two weeks I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day in July there’s a suggested Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw. If you have a look on Instagram, you can see what everyone’s contributed. I’ve put my contributions here, and you’re welcome to use them in your games if you like them.

I got some of the challenges mixed up this week – did some on the wrong days and did a stone giant instead of a storm giant. But it’s still been a good disciple drawing something each day.

One of the challenges I’ve enjoyed most this week was the ettercap, because it’s one of the monsters I remember from the computer game Baldur’s Gate, which was my introduction to roleplaying games. They’re kind of creepy because they’re a bit like spiders but they also look disturbingly human.

ettercap progression

#DungeonDrawingDudes: Week 1

For the last week I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day in July there’s a suggested Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw. If you have a look on Instagram, you can see what everyone’s contributed. I’ve put my contributions here, and you’re welcome to use them.

One thing I’ve realised so far is that it’s a lot more sustainable to be sticking to black-and-white line drawings – especially when I have other illustration projects I need to be working on. I think it’s also meant I’ve been able to be more reflective.

On day one I decided to draw the crab warrior as a crab lord. (Animal lords can be important in Planescape, so I’ve been keen to work out how to approach them. I’ve also got to come up with a sheep lord over the weekend.) I’ve also been working on stats for a crab lord on D&D Next, but I’ve been finding it difficult – the platform’s still got some problems. I’ll probably post what I’ve come up with here over the weekend.

Crab Lord

On day two when I was thinking about how to approach the pirate’s mimic, the obvious approach was to portray it as a treasure chest. That’s how these monsters normally disguise themselves. But I wondered about drawing a mimic disguised as a boat? I imagined adventurers trying to escape a pirate ship and jumping into the lifeboat, only to realise it has sharp teeth. It should be no surprise that this also got me thinking about the fear Australian society seems to have about boats, hiding the fact that many of us came here by boat ourselves.

pirate's mimic - Drawing 1_1

On day three I drew a wereshark, which I’ve already reflected on here.

On day four I drew an anemone monster, and came up with some thoughts about how to use it in an urban setting like Planescape’s Sigil. What I was thinking was that folks might be getting these creatures installed on their roofs to deter feral pigeons, but that they might also be up to something sinister…

anemone monster - Drawing 2

On day five I did a search to see how other folks had approached kraken priests, and I ended up coming across China Miéville’s novel Kraken, which I’m now enjoying reading over the weekend.

kraken priest - Drawing 1_1

 

How to write good trivia questions


On Friday night our household ran our annual trivia night, which helps us cover the rent for our guest rooms. (We host Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who need to come to Melbourne for hospital.)

I didn’t write this year’s questions, because I wanted to be able to be on one of the tables, but I’ve written the questions a few times. I thought I’d write about what I think makes for a good collection of trivia questions.

The first time I wrote questions for the trivia night, I didn’t do a good job. I thought it was a good idea to choose weird obscure questions. I thought people would find it amusing. It actually just makes people feel crap that they can’t answer the questions. It doesn’t make for a fun night. I wasn’t asked to write questions for a few years after that.

These are my suggestions for writing good trivia questions:

  1. Make sure there is only one correct answer, or a few correct answers. The reason for this is that you want to make sure it’s clear if people have the correct answer or not. If you have a question like, ‘Name three towns in South Australia,’ it’s going to be hard to assess the answers because there would be so many possilbe correct answers, and you couldn’t possibly know them all.
  2. Make sure the questions aren’t all on one topic. Sure, you might have a round of sports questions, but make sure the questions are about a wide range of sports. I’ve been to trivia nights where half the sports questions are about Australian Rules Football. This is great for people who like that sport, but it’s going to be incredibly disengaging for people who aren’t. If you do have a particular topic that you do want to be getting people thunking about, I’d suggest seeing if there’s a way you could put one question related to that topic in each round. Because of the nature of our project, we’ve wanted to have a focus on questions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture. (This isn’t about tokenism or political correctness. It’s about reshaping the way we think of our society.) I think the best way to do that has been to have one question in each round. So for the sports round there’d be a question about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander athlete, in the music round there’d be a question about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander performer, et cetera.
  3. Choose a lot of easier questions and just a few hard questions. Through the mistakes I made the first time I wrtoe questions for the trivia night, I learned that it wasn’t actually about writing hard questions. It was about testing each team’s knowledge. People are going to do better and have more of a fun night if they’ve had a reasonable challenge. So I try to choose questions that I can be fairly confident that most tables will be able to answer if they work together. I’ll still make sure each round has got one or two hard questions that only the best teams will be able to answer. But those questions should be the exception. When most of the questions aren’t too hard, there’ll be close scores. It will feel like everyone’s in the race until the end. There’ll be a lot of suspense around who will get the harder questions right, because that will be what makes the difference.

A foot in each world

On Sundays I’ve been posting some illustrations I’ve made for use in Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy roleplaying games, based on what folks on Twitter choose for me. This week tieflings were chosen, so here are three I’ve drawn, representing three of the factions (Dustmen, Athar and Anarchists) from the Planescape setting:

3 tieflings

Tieflings have become a staple of D&D, but when they first appeared in the Planescape Boxed Set they were a fair bit different to the current 5th edition. Some of them have goat legs or spikes or scaly skin. In The Planewalker’s Handbook there is a one-page table to generate random tiefling features. It gives more of a sense that a tiefling could have any kind of bizarre planar heritage. In contrast, 5th Edition tieflings seem to all be pretty similar. (To be fair, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide explains why they all look similar in the world of Faerun, and also allows for more diverse tieflings.)

Back to what I like about Planescape is that the diverse appearances suggest to me that although tieflings are often distrusted because of their fiendish heritage and appearances, they can’t all be put in the same box. A neat stereotype can’t be so easily applied. This line of though got me wondering about how the fiends see tieflings – do they see them as suspicious, just like humans do?