I’ve been keeping busy doing some graphic work for myr s as they establish their Twitch gaming channel, and it has been a fun exercise in designing to order and continuing to work out how to do things I used to routinely do in older versions of the software available.
As a Twitch Affiliate, there are bonus graphics and emojis available to subscribers, so I’ve been helping design those to add a bit of flair. They’ve been playing a lot of Alien: Isolation, so a theme of chibi graphics referring to that has emerged, and I’m really pleased at how the transparencies work to simplify the graphics, even at smaller sizes.
Compared to the complex work I normally do, there’s a challenge to keep the simplicity so that the image is still clear.
I may even be feeling a bit pleased with the results
So yesterday I was able to escape the curse of the eternal DM and take part in a game of dungeons and dragons as a player for the first time in years. After some initial tech fiddling to run Teams privately on one of my laptops and my phone, and to link Roll20 and DnD Beyond on the other via a chromium browser it all went very smoothly in a five hour session from about 6.30
As a setting, it took place in a slightly tongue-in-cheek Pirates of the Caribbean style environment as I joined a group consisting of many people I’d never met before.
I’d been invited by the Ladies H, and had met our DM once at MCM London last year, but everyone else was an unknown; so my anxious disaster-brain fretted in the hours leading up to getting started. If you’ve ever played with a new group, you’ll know the feeling, and therefore also the relief of a friendly inclusion.
My usual name blindness means I’ve already forgotten most people’s real names, let alone their characters, but I did at least remember to take a few notes:
We shall resume the game sometime around the middle of next month.
This has been a positive thing, and I’ll thank my brain to remember it.
The DDC continued their adventures on Sunday night, continuing with a cautious approach verging on paranoia. Every monastic cell in the abandoned temple was empty, but the kitchen/refectory brought a new surprise: the zombified remains of ancient goblins going through the motions of preparing meals, serving them and clearing them away – unheeding of the fact that there was nobody there, and all the supplies and foodstuffs had long spoiled or rotted away.
With many groups you’d be forgiven for expecting urgent battlecries, but instead the group watched for the moment as Caeluma hugged one and helped it set the table. They recorded what runes and artifacts they could see, and then carefully retreated, closing the door behind them.
And then, because they’re not stupid, they barricaded the door and wrote Dead Inside, Don’t Open – or was it Dead Don’t Inside Open?
Then they took a short rest before trying one of the bigger doors that looked like a grand entrance – that instead led to a corridor and the looming shapes of mansized and roughly man-shaped mushrooms lurching towards them with hands outstretched. With lightning reflexes the group downed one of the figures before sprayed spores stunned the ferocious dwarf fighter and one of the creatures pummelled him lightly in retaliation.
And then another set of spores sprayed out and got a voice speaking in their heads, wondering who they were and what had the myconids ever done to them? Some hasty de-escalation later, including some druidcrafted repairs and healing, and hostilities were called off. The myconids had been trapped in the temple space below while investigating what they called a wound in the world on behalf of the Gatekeeper Druidic faction. A group of humans wearing the symbology of The Mockery had invaded the buried temple on their own quest for The Egg, and been driven off by the mushroom men.
Despite the plethora of fungal and mycelial puns and jokes, an alliance was agreed to deal with what they called The Wound, with one of the myconids leading the group back to a room they had previously barricaded due to the red light shining from under it. The rest of the myconids stayed to contain “the wandering flame” – whatever that is…
There was a lot of laughter and soppiness this session – along with calls for Caeluma to put the zombie goblin back down and to knit the mushroom men some scarves. A fun evening.
The days have been blurring a bit, not helped by the persistent trapped nerve pain in my leg and lower back – but going into one of my branch libraries has given me a bit more exercise as a change in routine and does seem to have helped with the worst of it.
In the meantime I’ve been continuing to draw and play around with software so there’s at least something constructive going on.
I also finally managed to solo complete a legendary list sector in Destiny2 to retrieve the Four Horsemen exotic before the option disappears with the new season later today. There may have been some quiet swearing involved.
I was just going back over my notes from the last couple of sessions and admiring how the group has both started to cohere and to realise that they are still learning the ropes, so to speak.
Delving down into damp lower levels was at least a break from the winter snows that had begun to fall in the morning. The first chamber was marked by a series of statues of ancient deities of sky, earth, and stone and Wall paintings of both Dhakaani (ancient goblin) pastoral scenes and of the passage of their souls to the afterlife of Dolhurr.
There were also four human skeletons in the chamber, each missing their hands in what looked like executions. The heavy doors leading further were sealed with chains and a massive lock. Runes in Abyssal were written on the seal praising the Dragon Below. With little else to go on, a mixture of lock picking and brute force soon saw the way open.
The noise attracted the reanimated skeletons of the goblin guards, but this time the group was able to despatch them quickly with only one minor hiccup. This came when the Dragonborn Kerne chose to breath poison on the skeletons, only to find that they were immune.
The weapons of the guards were made of byeshk metal, a rare ore that made weapons capable of driving off creatures from Xoriat and so these were quickly distributed among the group, just in case. A quiver of magical arrows was also found, and the shafts of bone and obsidian were divided up among the archers in the group.
This just left a strange lever that didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect despite resistance when pulled and some doors that opened up into a wide hallway with more skeletons near the far end against one of the walls.
In their eagerness to investigate, two of the group set off a swinging spiked bar that swept across the hall before resetting. Being hit by it didn’t kill them, but did make them realise what had broken the bodies they found themselves scattered among.
There then followed a period of searching for the trigger and how to circumvent setting the trap off again that led to a series of assisted acrobatic and athletic maneuvers to cross the hallway to relative safety, where the group huddled up against the opposite door to catch their breath and mend their wounds.
Things learned: poisoning undead rarely works, the effects of levers aren’t always obvious, and always check for traps in entry corridors.
Who knows what discoveries they’ll make this week?
Life continues to ebb and flow in its complexities, but the DDC continues to be a creative and entertaining source of comfort, support, and humour in all the oddness around us.
Our latest set of things has been creating quizzes and games to play through shared screens in Discord. Whoever is running the quiz sets up a PowerPoint document with questions and answers revealed in turn, while everyone works together to find the answers. Mre B created the template based on their running similar things with their friends, and myr s has taken up the baton to create rounds tailored to our various strengths and foibles.
Roughly once a week we gather of an evening to play. We start with general levity, and yet despite there not being any competition between players, there’s soon a very serious air as people try to identify TV theme tunes from sight reading music, interpret kinks by their formal clinical names, identify pop culture characters from pets dressed up as those characters, and puns based on shows where one character has been changed – and that was just for starters.
Lateral thinking, chat, and everyone trying to resist googling any answers – a fun combination that is proving as much a draw as the weekly Dungeons and Dragons session.
Oh, and then we used Roll20 to make a Trivial Pursuit board and grabbed four different sets to make a monstrous random hodgepodge of topics from Star Wars, Stranger Things, Harry Potter, and a general family edition. That got very silly, very fast. We’ll have to do that again…
So we’re spending this evening mostly helping Lady W set up a character to join in the DDC adventures. We’re having a quiet evening as people are just feeling a bit wiped out, and it came up in conversation that she had felt unable to join the group as she hadn’t been around for the first session.
We immediately disabused her of this idea. As Lady W has never played D&D before, we’ve been making use of the Roll20 Charactermancer and a copy of the Player’s Handbook to help her create a new persona.
There is much jollity, silliness, discussion, and explanation going on – and therefore a good wind-down to the week. It may not be the D&D session I’d planned, but I think its the one we collectively need today
I spend a lot of time, even if only inside my own head sometimes, preparing material for my tabletop game. Sometimes its thinking of names, or external events for the players to react to. For the most part I’ve tended to think on a mechanic level of what rules to brush up on, or the best tactics to pose a suitable challenge during the game.
What I’d only ever really fleetingly touched on before, however, was open up some of that preparation to the players. In particular, I’m thinking about the bonds and history between them. I’ve never been one for the trope of “you’ve all met down the pub and a mysterious stranger offers you a job” but it has tended to be brief discussions during character creation.
That’s easier to do with everyone around the table than remotely of course, which is why I welcomed Mre B’s suggestion for a formal session zero to kick off the new group. It wasn’t a concept I’d ever encountered before, but a quick read through suggestions online and through a comprehensive guide sheet that they pulled together firmed up the belief that it was a good idea.
I’ll be putting together a page under the Gaming section based on the document Mre B composed. Essentially though the session is not just one of working out links and shared history between characters, but also of ensuring respect at a player level to settle the ground rules of play and engagement.
I’m paraphrasing and simplifying wildly for the sake of brevity here, but it was extremely useful as we had a number of people who didn’t know each other that well, and who were also relative newcomers to tabletop gaming. No other game I’ve run has had quite that combination.
It sparked, and has continued to spark, a wealth of role-playing material and plot hooks, and laid the foundations for one of the most fun and diverse groups I’ve DM’d for in quite some time.
We got back into the swing of things last night in D&D – with a mix of derring-do and investigation, but also tears and laughter in moments of heartfelt roleplay where these new adventurers began to come to terms with the harshness of the life that they had chosen.
Chief among the causes of their introspection was that the stories and songs they had been raised on didn’t talk often about what it felt like to have to make life and death decisions over their friends. The fighting had been sudden and unexpected and nearly seen two of their number cut down in the first moments of their career. Briar, as a child of retired adventurers in particular, was shocked at the realisation that these feelings must have been felt by their parents.
There was also concern about who or what the undead had been before becoming what they were. What lives had they lived? Had they had friends and family? What had led them to die and then be so darkly reborn?
Others in the group took to singing and drinking and dancing to cope – celebrating their lives and raising the spirits of all around them. For some there was study, or the quiet discipline of knitting quietly and watching everyone else.
The former introspection was roleplayed beautifully and brought tears to people’s eyes, the latter celebration turned into a celebration that had everyone in stitches with laughter. An overnight recovery for the adventurers and players – but with the knowledge that a dark mystery remained to be explored with the discovery of an overgrown staircase leading deeper into the hill.
I’m doing a lot of setup and preparation for the new D&D group, and part of that has been going back and updating the resource, reference, and inspiration websites to help me when I need to come up with stuff quickly. Sometimes its needing to look the bare bones of something up, and sometimes its needing something to spark when I need an off-the-cuff name or location description.
As the DDC in its current form is not overly combat-orientated, and has a distinct preference for strategy and talking their way into and out of situations, I’m fully expecting to have all sorts of curveballs thrown my way.
Some of the resources are additional image packs that I’ve bought through the Roll20 market – some of them have been creature and character tokens, but the majority have been modular mapping packs – as each average about $4.99 or so I’ve been finding them very good value for money for then designing and customising location maps.
I’ve also been playing around with the following sites:
Iron Arachne – https://ironarachne.com/ – which has a wide selection of what it calls procedural generation tools for tabletop games, and also a list of other sites providing similar tools. Generating cultures, weather, names, heraldry is as simple as clicking a button, or just looking at the results posted on the site as recently generated results.
Donjon – https://donjon.bin.sh/ – has a huge number of random generators – be they names, adventures, dungeons, or worlds for a wide range of backgrounds and game systems.
D&D Wiki – https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page – another treasure trove of information for quick reference for a number of D&D editions as well as Pathfinder, largely using the SRD kits for those systems.
Deepnight.net – https://deepnight.net/tools/rpg-map/ – browser-based map maker that also has a downloadable desktop app. I’ve used this to map out simple locations and then export them as png or jpg files to upload to Roll20.
Dave’s Mapper – https://davesmapper.com/ – need a quick village or cave system or dungeon mapping out in old-school D&D treasure map style? Give this a look. I’ve used this to quickly throw together at least one location.
Hope the gamers among you – whether players or GMs – find these useful, and I’m always interested to hear of others that people have found easy to use or a little hidden gem…