DDC Shenanigans

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…

Additional Gaming Resources for RPGS

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.
  • Eberron Unlimited – http://eberronunlimited.wikidot.com/ – is a developing wiki of rules and information, generators and tables specifically focused on the game world we’re using.
  • 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…

Have fun!

Session Two – Or Ticket To Ride

So we had our second game night yesterday – and despite some tech issues on the voice side for a couple of people we had another successful go at it. My aim as GM this time round is to use this initial simple adventure to get everyone, including myself, used to the rules. I have two people (Lady M and myr s) who haven’t really played much D&D at all, while Mre B, Lady B, and Lord S have played but not in a group with any one else around our virtual table. There’s a lot of adjusting and settling in to do – not least of which is finding the right balance between roleplay and rollplay.

Rollplay is what I’ve started calling those parts of the game that rely more on dice results – things like combat for example – rather than the interaction between characters that allows people to inhabit the fantasy. My aim with this group is to allow it to have as much a say in the direction of the story as possible, with the aim of finding a happy middle ground that satisfies and still challenges each person around the table.

Last night saw the DDC using the tickets bought by the university to travel to Fort Light on the borders of Thrane. Even travelling in relative luxury it was still the best part of the week, and I would have been happy to have the whole session be just them talking nonsense and getting up to hijinx. Unfortunately we had enough voice disruptions due to network bandwidth somewhere that the flow didn’t really get started – so I moved the action along.

As they were travelling through civilised lands there wasn’t any form of banditry or disruption to the service on this occasion – indeed the biggest issues was that of characters who had never had gold before not being sure what the trade up values from copper and silver were for working out their change for bar drinks and meals. The journey across the border from Aundair did at least give me a chance to depict some of the lasting scars of magical conflict on the land, and set the stage for the cultural change as they moved into a theocratic nation.

Some quick bargaining by Alfonso got them a cheap ride to the village described by their patron, and they were soon able to locate one of the shepherds who had found the opening in the hill. With his fresh impressions and extra details in their minds, they had no difficulty finding the way in the morning – “past the blasted oak, through the gate, follow the path and sheep droppings to the top of the ridge and the opening will be below you on the other side where the landslip has left it bare.”

They were expecting a cave, but instead found an enormous hall, wet and cold with fungus and mould. A ramp led down to the floor below, and bodies could be seen between two enormous pillars. A forest of man-tall mushrooms was clustered near a hole in the ground below nearer the back but there was no sign of anything immediately dangerous.

The first body proved to be that of the missing shepherd, with his dog nearby, but as the DDC moved to investigate the second, they grew near enough the mushrooms to trigger a wailing shriek from them that roused skeletal human warriors in archaic armour to move to attack them. Nearer the back of the room, a fungal-covered orc zombie warrior in similarly outdated armour pulled itself out of the soil and began to advance as well.

The fight initially did not go well as the party was scattered, and Kerne the dragonborn sorceror and Caeluma the tiefling cleric were nearly pulled down straight away. It was only Briar’s quick thinking as a druid that turned the tide with a healing word and an entangle spell to buy them some time. Valenia and Alfonso managed to damage some of the skeletons, but Kerne was able to melt one and badly cripple another with an acidic dragonbreath exhalation.

At which point, as a cliffhanger, we paused the game.

So – we’re off to a start, and we’ll see where it takes us from here. I seem so far to be getting the balance right – in as much as there is terror and uncertainty but barring anything outrageous the DDC should be able to pull through without major harm.

Day 372 of Isolation

What is days? What is space? Oh wait – hang on, I can go outside – ah, nope. Okay, so instead, while in between sorting a few odds and ends out with emails and remote access to some things, I’ve been experimenting a bit with some of the map pack options in Roll20 to make some maps for “just in case” – because if I’ve learned anything over the years, its that players are distracted by the slightest thing faster than you can yell “Squirrel!”

With a roleplay-heavy group like the current DDC, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. I plopped them down in a generic inn map while assembling things and it turned into at least two sessions of them making breakfast for each other, singing, and trying to teach a tiefling to catch apples with their tail. All the derailments so far have been purely character-chat – aside from the sudden desire to go find a training ground to practice combat.

Fortunately there are a great number of free map graphics made up. They’re searchable through the assets menu, but these all take time and I couldn’t find anything generic enough.

In the end I used a semi-random map for that particular moment. It did prompt me though to have a look at the various map pack options available to purchase through the Roll20 marketplace – rather than so many of the pre-made pretty options.

I ended up with three that look fairly flexible in that they are modular graphics with connectors – I can use the layers to blend the rough edges and the intended size and proportions so far have been quite user-friendly. I

‘ve been practicing with the Stone Building set to make some sort of generic mansion layout. Its not for a particular planned encounter, but is the sort of thing I plan to archive and keep to hand the next time they try something felonious or otherwise random.

Longtime gamers won’t even blink at the option of felonious in the above paragraph – and as this group has designated the rogue as their financier, I feel entirely justified in making up places that may suffer security lapses in the weeks to come.

Now my only concern is going to be what effect having lots of small graphics for the map will be like as opposed to having a single graphic that I’ve made elsewhere and imported. I’m using .png format graphics, so they should be reasonably swift but I’ll report when I start using them in anger. The other difference is that the group is currently five players plus myself, as opposed to the eight or so that the previous Wartorn Campaign had – I’m hoping this imposes a much lower hit on bandwidth and loading times.

Texted by the Government

Although they started making noises about it a few years ago, the UK government never actually got round to making any kind of formal emergency messaging system work. The cynical among us might think that because no one was lined up to get rich out of it that it never got the real push it needed – rather than being concerned that it would be a really sensible thing for a government to do to disseminate important information.

Compare this with South Korea, The United States, or the Netherlands for example. South Korea has been so aggressive in its development and adoption of it that they have reportedly been able to communicate the movements of infected people on their way to get tested or quarantined to minimise potential harm to others.

But no, here in the UK the govt had to ask the four major phone providers to send a text on their behalf to tell me to stay at home, just in case I hadn’t noticed the news in any way, shape, or form.

If it helps focus minds, then good, it’s better than nothing, but I’m already hearing from people whose phones flagged it as spam or suspected phishing attempts. That does not bode well.

About Last Night

With isolation looming for many of us, a group of us self-confessed geeky queers set up a Discord server last night and started playing Cards Against Humanity.

The carnage was livestreamed on the Book of Faces for a while, and I have to say it was a wonderful three hours of letting our collective hair down and laughing at the world. My cheeks have not ached from grinning so much in ages.

Even with the coughing fits and pauses where we had to battle for bandwidth with everyone else using the site it was a great morale boost. It was exhausting, but much needed. Here’s to more, and I think there will be.

With all the worries and upsets around us, having a safe space to unwind is going to be all the more important, and this allows us to keep and make connections even as health dictates we keep our distance. I’d say it may even keep us sane, but that does seem like tempting fate.

Friday already?

My bank have made a recent change that I both like and find irritating. They’ve stopped factoring my small agreed overdraft into the display of my available funds. It’s a small thing but I applaud it as a tool for making me have to think before using it.

There’s also an automated text to notify me if I do use it, and offering the carrot of not paying charges etc if I go back into credit by a certain time in the evening. You get the idea.

This morning I was moderately tickled to see I’d gone five pounds in to my overdraft yesterday, and received the expected text, then another text when I didn’t meet the deadline, promising more charges for as long as I was in the overdraft. Then within minutes of that my pay went into the account – and silence has fallen.

Must be a Friday

Congratulations On Being Alive

There’s a whimsical note to this as it isn’t as grim as it might sound. On my phone I have set a target of a certain number of steps and minutes of activity, all of which is measured by the accelerometer and interpreted by my health app.

Activity can count as running, brisk walking, or anything other than a gentle amble, and so I can aim at some degree of cardio exercise even if I’m just shifting stock or floor walking with customers at work.

My phone of course likes to congratulate me on achieving these targets, and so little notifications appear on my phone when I meet or exceed them, followed by a roundup nearer the end of the evening.

As the font is a little on the small and cluttered side, I therefore keep misreading Congratulations on being Active, as a sarcastic and/or passive-aggressive snipe about still being alive.

I’m reasonably sure my phone isn’t actually trying to kill me.

There’s An App For That

Every now and then I like to have a wander through the app store on my Android and see some of the oddly specific programs that people have produced. Sometimes I even try them out. There’s a rare few that find an instant niche and stay, I on my phone for any length of time – and these tend to be either writing tools or means of organising my time. Like many of us I lend weight to recommendations from people I know as well – after all, if someone has enjoyed or found useful an app enough to tell me that they think I’ll have a specific use for it then it would be rude and unappreciative of their time and thought not to at least spend a few moments to consider it.

Also like most of us, I tend to see my phone as quite a personal object – it after all not only spends a lot of time on my person and in use, but stores personal information and access to things that I enjoy or find of use. I see this every day in people who come into the library wanting to print off an email but being stymied when pressed to log into their mail service through a browser rather than through the app on their phone where they entered a password once a year or two ago and have never thought about it since. (We won’t even get into the people who don’t know how to use a mouse and keyboard because they’re so used to touchscreen technology.)

And so finding a useful app that crosses both into the personal and the useful is a great delight – expecially where it is useful to the dynamic between myself and lady s. We live a small distance apart, so anything that helps maintain contact without straying into slightly stalkery territory is a bonus – especially where it comes to the negotiated power transfers that come as part and parcel of a BDSM relationship. An online usergroup of which we are both part was discussing various online apps that could help with monitoring tasks, rewards, and punishments agreed between the participants of a dynamic and there was one that sprang to the fore for the flexibility that it offered – so we’ve been giving it a try.

We both downloaded the app and connected our profiles, and have agreed a number of tasks for lady s to undertake at various intervals during a week – whether several times a day, every day, or several times a day – and a points value towards rewards list for the successful completion of those tasks. There are also punishments defined and agreed for the failure to complete the tasks – and these range from points deductions, through restrictions on certain activities, through to other forfeits.

Activities on the task list include things such as eating a certain number of sit down meals a day, achieving a certain level of step counts, and certain household or personal tasks. Rewards include massages, the purchase of certain gifts, or activities to enjoy together.

As each day goes by, lady s ticks off certain tasks as she completes them, or leaves them if she chooses not to undertake them, and the app notifies me and counts/deducts points or assign pre-agreed forfeits that we can catch up on when we next meet – and for our dynamic it works. It appeals to the need for imposed structure and routine that lady s has without my needing to chase her for updates. The tasks have come from both of us, drawing on rewards and forfeits that we have both agreed – and at the same time, if life gets in the way, it is a matter of a few clicks to reset counters or remove forfeits if felt appropriate.

There are parallels with the reward schemes some parents set up with their children to encourage them to undertake chores in the household, or complete their homework from school – which I think makes the app more intuitive to set up and use as it is full of concepts that many of us have encountered elsewhere – so in many ways it does stand as a somewhat unexpected and yet inevitable illustration of the marketing phrase “there’s an app for that”.

Oh, it’s called Obedience – appropriately enough

Christmas part four or five

I don’t know what it is about this year’s Christmas but its proving rather extended. Between our journeys North and Back Again, we seem to be distributing presents on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and appeals to that part of me that likes putting smiles on people’s faces. It just doesn’t seem to stop right now.

Today was the turn of the Charleesi and her mother, the ex-Lady M. While handing out presents from us, friends, and family we chatted about those friends and family – and how it is now less than a year until we all go away together to Disney. The ex-Lady M continues to pretend not to be excited yet, while the Charleesi and Lady M are just… plotting…

The big gift for the Charleesi this year was one a whole bunch of us contributed to: an XBox. Being her father’s daughter she joined in our conversations while systematically unpacking the various cables and components. I watched her lay them out, strip off packaging and then quietly wire it all up and into the existing AV equipment before squeeing and clapping her hands as it powered up and started its setup process.

Its moments like that which make me so proud, and which make the extended present deliveries so worthwhile, because I get to share the excitement. And in the case of the Charleesi, as she put it, I can now co-op play Halo5 with her. So there’s a bonus 🙂