Nephew Wrangling

We’ve got Lady M’s nephew staying over this weekend and he is, like many lads his age, absolutely obsessed with Tesla cars.

With that in mind, we arranged to take him to a nearby Tesla showroom where (following some calls) he was allowed to explore the vehicles and discuss all sorts of details about them with the slightly bemused staff.

Safe to say his mind was blown by the opportunity to literally get his hands on vehicles and tech he has been reading avidly about for so long.

So engrossed by all this was he that we had to bribe him with lunch to get him back away from the showroom..!

And then he and I spent a good portion of this afternoon playing games, including an epic session of N-Tropy which resulted in a terrifyingly large towering edifice of balanced pieces of wood straining the laws of physics.

It’s been lovely having him around and having some time to bond a bit. A quiet Sunday still awaits too.

You Know You’re A Geek When…

So, rather unexpectedly after a chance refresh of a webpage, we have in quick succession got our hands on an XBox Series X and it’s predecessor the XBox One X. With how much like hen’s teeth the stock of either are it is rather bemusement to suddenly have an embarrassment of tech in the house as we usually run it into the ground before replacing anything.

It probably says rather more about us than is comfortable that we were geekily happy to just watch install and upgrade progress bars march across the screens while we sweltered in the heat. I suppose we’ll have to start thinking about a new TV at some point…

Sound Levels and Tech Revolts

Well, that certainly happened… we had a lot of fun in the game, but our sound levels were plagued by gremlins at various points so the stream sounds were apparently very vague in places.

Ah well, we’re neither professional or charging so while it’s an annoyance it isn’t the end of the world.

As for what happened? Well there were investigations, hints of ancient atrocities, and waves of zombies pouring out of a crumbling rookery. All that, and Coal is still missing…

The video stream should be available through the YouTube channel link in the menu at the top of the page if you want to sample the chaos.

Housebuilding and Tabletop Shenanigans

The D&D session on Sunday was a quiet one with two main goals – to allow the group to finish outfitting the house their adventures have now bought outright, and to ensure that everyone had transferred their character sheets to http://www.dndbeyond.com and installed the Beyond20 extension in their browsers.

Why? Well the character sheets and their management is more user friendly than Roll20 in our opinion. They’re especially more useful for newer players in terms of managing items, actions, and spells. I’d found them so much more intuitive while playing with my other group that I suggested a sidestep.

The browser extension makes for a seamless transfer of rolls to the virtual tabletop in Roll20 during the game, and has some nice configuration options that allow some tweaking along the way. I’ve had to shell out a bit of money to rebuy some source books and upgrade my monthly subscription, but in support of a regular group I really don’t mind that.

All the tests seem to be working, so now I’m fleshing out some encounters using the tools available on the site, and we’ll see where the group wanders next.

Supporting Endeavours

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

Gaming Occurred

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:

And I still forgot who everyone is

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.

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.