Dozens and Dragons

what i been reading

stuff i been reading and enjoying

2022-04-28

Quick update to share some links and stuff I’ve been reading and enjoying lately.

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Contents:

Updates: Abenteuerspiel

Abenteuerspiel! v1.5 Update

I love Abenteuerspiel. It’s a minimal system for fantasy adventure in the family of Messerspiel and Trophy. It is the system that I’ve been using in my Lisergia solo game. Something about it just really captures my imagination and tickles my fancy.

The details of the update are in the devlog post, but the biggest change is the discovery that ‘all risky situations are inherently stressful’, which leads to the rule change of including the stress die1 automatically in every risk role.

I’m honestly kind of sad about no longer having the choice to include the stress die, but I understand the justification, and I think it ultimately delivers an interesting answer to the question, when do I roll dice, and why?

Usually the answer to The Question is some combination of the following:

Abenteuerspiel’s (v1.0) dice mechanic is that for any given roll, you assemble your dice pool based on the situation. Take one die for each of the following that is true: you are skilled in the task, you are using relevant equipment, you are using the environment to your advantage, you have assistance, you are healthy and unhindered, etc.

And optionally you can always include a stress die if you’re willing to risk reducing your overall dice pool max.

And I think here is the nuance, and possibly what makes the v1.5 rules (always include your stress die) work: planning out an action in such detail that you have 3 or more dice in your pool more or less negates the risk. And at that point it could be argued that you shouldn’t even bother rolling. Or that if you roll, you succeed or succeed with a complication no matter the roll.

Think about it: if you are skilled and have the upper hand, and have assistance, and are feeling healthy and strong, etc, etc, etc, is the outcome really that uncertain or risky any more? I think not. I think you’ve planned yourself into a pretty guaranteed success.

If there’s no risk, there’s no stress, and no real reason to roll.

Which is a really interesting example of the game mechanics encouraging a particular approach to conflict. In this case, careful and planned out.

And so, although I struggle with having the choice of rolling the stress dice taken from me in this new ruleset, I do think it makes a lot of sense given a slight shift in how one thinks about what makes a situation risky.

Anyway, there are other smaller changes in v1.5. Check it out!

Retros and Postmortems: 2400 devlogs

2400 devlogs

I’ve always kind of liked 2400. And the GM advice section2 common to each game is some of the tightest, best advice out there on running a game. But I also never really “got it”. Why are there so many of them? It’s the same mechanic, the same kind of character creation, with a few different tables.

But then Tocci started writing his devlogs/postmortem series over on pretendo games and it was a real eye opener. I would never otherwise have realized the nuance and the thought that went into each game.

Now I have a dream of running a series of shared-universe games using each (most?) games in the core 2400 bundle.

Get the 2400 bundle on itch:

https://jasontocci.itch.io/2400

New games

I found two games that I’m still reading, both of which are a delight, and amazingly both are free on itch.

Brighter Worlds

https://awkwardturtle.itch.io/brighter-worlds

Beautiful pdf. Cute, whimsical artwork.

There are a couple of things that I immediately loved about this game.

One thing that I really appreciate is the attempt at what the author calls modular crunch: it’s a lightweight, fast ruleset. But it also allows players some fiddly character creation/building. Basically all of the game’s complexity is restricted to character building and advancement. (But even that complexity is pretty minimal!)

Instead of classes, it has callings which for the most part are recognizable tropes/cliches, but with some original twists. The cleric for example is the Cleric of Small Gods, and they have in their possession an actual physical small godling that they must care for and protect. The cleric’s magic is freeform and reality warping. They say something is so in the name of their god, and sometimes it becomes so.

There’s also a eulogy mechanic around death and dying and advancement. Whenever you do something memorable, you add it to your eulogy and gain xp. When you die, the survivors read your eulogy aloud. Beautiful. (There are also really fun additional mechanics around dying. For example, there’s a small chance of death giving you a second chance, and you returning to life but marked by death.)

The game is incomplete according to the author, but is also already quite fully realized as far as I can tell, and I can’t wait to see what they consider the final version.

Five stars.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Between The Skies

https://huffa.itch.io/between-the-skies

This is an amazing piece of work. Primarily a spacejammer kind of project in which you explore the spheres and visit strange locations. It is part setting, lots of spark tables, part rulebook, part theory, and part anthology/bibliography of some of the best OSR games out there. It constantly cites other works and references other games, so much so that it almost a sort of reference book for the genre.

One example of the kind of game this is is that it nimbly sidesteps committing to a single dice mechanic. Instead it provides a detailed list of five different popular systems and explains in detail when you might want to use each of them.

It’s layout is thoughtful and productive.

Still reading it, but already a solid 5 stars

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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  1. The stress die comes from the Cthulhu Dark/Trophy tradition in which you can bolster your pool at any time with an extra die if you choose to accept risk. In Abenteuerspiel, the risk of stress is decreasing the max size of your pool.↩︎

  2. GM: Describe characters in terms of behaviors, risks, and obstacles, not skill dice. Lead the group in setting lines not to cross in play. Fast-forward, pause, or rewind/redo for pacing and safety; invite players to do likewise. Present problems you don’t know how to solve. Move spotlight to give all time to shine. Test luck as needed to check for (1– 2) an encounter or anomaly or (3–4) signs of one nearby. Improvise rulings to cover gaps in rules; revise unsatisfying rulings as a group.

    ↩︎