It’s time for us to host the RPG Blog Carnival again, and this month the topic is “No Dice”. Read on to stimulate your brain with new ideas and fresh takes from the TTRPG blogosphere.
If you’re a reader, here’s how it work:
RPG bloggers from around the globe will drop links into the comments below. You can check them out there or come back to Rising Phoenix Games at the end of the month, when I’ll post a summary of all the posts (that’s New Years Eve, the same day as our birthday!)
If you’re a blogger, here’s how to join in:
Check out the ideas below or come up with your own take on “No Dice”, publish an RPG-flavored blog post, then drop it in the comments of this post, below. Because I’ll need to get the summary up on New Year’s Eve, please get your post in by the 28th of December.
We’ve tried to keep the topic as open as possible, so hopefully you’ll find something to inspire your articles this month. Here are a few thoughts on the topic:
Mechanics. Every game has mechanics that aren’t linked to the dice. Maybe you’ve invented diceless mechanics, or you want to discuss some rules from your favourite RPG that don’t require rolls. Tell us about them.
Beyond the Game. Roleplaying games are what they are because of the players, and story is a vital part of the game that goes beyond dice and numbers. Pick some aspect of the game that doesn’t involve mechanics and discuss it.
Weal and Woe. Luck is an important part of most roleplaying games, so tell us about the time your party’s luck ran out, or they were exceptionally fortunate. You could create items based around luck, a monster that eats or creates luck, or a trap that looks like a giant D20.
All About the Story. Sometimes the best sessions have very little rolling involved. If you’ve had such an experience we’d love to hear about it.
‘Tis the Season. Give us a list of Christmas gift ideas for roleplayers, but avoid dice.
No Limits. The dice often set the limits, but we’re not setting any for you. If you’ve got an idea that falls outside the theme and want to take part, please join in the fun still.
Feel free to drop more ideas in the comments below.
Till the end of the year, have a good one, stay safe, and keep rolling!
Three Stone Stories is out and on its way to earning its Copper Seller medal. It has two 4-star ratings so far.
With the release of Undersea Sourcebook: Water Magic we are halfway through the development of the series. We’ll probably focus on the monster book next, which I’ve done a substantial amount of development work on already.
The Grimdark Pamphlet is progressing well, and we’ll return to it in 2023 after some freelance work in early 2023.
Our larger solo project is top-secret for now, so I can’t say much.
In refocusing we’ve let a few games go, including several miniature skirmish games that we’re selling off to larger publishers. There are also a few paused projects, which we’ll sit on until the time is right.
Mayas & Dungeons and Camp Karate
Some opportunities are worth grabbing with both sets of talons, and we had two great opportunities this year.
In March I was asked to develop a small game to promote JAST USA on April 1st, and this became Mayas & Dragons, a small (and free) print-and-play solo dungeon crawl.
In July we participated in Drive-Thru RPG’s ZineQuest, creating Camp Karate. It was a great opportunity to get eyes on our products, and we remained within the top 8 entries for all of August.
The Fat Long Tail
One pleasant surprise was our 5e Madness Cards making more sales this year than in all of 2020 and 2021. I added a PDF version for home printing after a customer’s request on Drive-Thru (thank you, Lee). We’ll be adding a version of the Pathfinder Second Edition Madness Cards for home printing in 2023.
Goals for 2023
Next year will be more of the same:
Develop the Grimdark Pamphlet, according to the roadmap.
Develop the Undersea Sourcebook monster book.
Take part in ZineQuest if possible.
Develop our Solo RPG master plan (mwahaha).
We’ll be moving away from social media in the same way we pulled back from the blog, but there’s still time to snag a book from our latest contest:
Be sure to check out other collections in the comments or by searching for the hashtag #ShowYourRPGShelf.
The T’s and C’s
Entries close November 30th. One entry per person. The winner will be announced in December 2022. The judge goblin’s decision is final. Winners will be determined by dice combat (we’ll roll ’em). Keep those pics family-friendly, please.
Last week we journeyed to Yomi, the Japanese land of the dead mentioned in the ancient myths and legends of Japan. Let’s explore further so that you can use Yomi to inspire your own campaign setting, or as a campaign setting all on its own.
Journeys in Yomi
There are two ways to enter Yomi. For most, death brings them to the threshold of the Gray Gate, beyond which lies the narrow, winding stone stairway that leads to Yomi. A few brave—or foolhardy—folk have journeyed to the physical location of the gate, which is hidden beside a rural temple in the town of Higashiizumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. These travelers, though they go of their own free will, experience the same things as those who are brought here by death: a compelling draw to descend the steps and discover what lies in the mists below.
The descent is not dangerous or horrifying, as one might expect. Rather, the path cuts down a mountain path at a gentle angle, passing grasses and trees given a regal aspect in the grey light of twilight. No birds or beasts stir, but the hollow knocking of bamboo wood chimes and the shakuhachi flute sounds, somewhere in the growing mists. It is a calming sound, complimented by the rustle of leaves blown on a gentle breeze, or the cascade of a small mountain spring, somewhere off the path.
Each step down the path brings new, muted joys, and most feel no compulsion to turn back. For those who do, leaving the stair or turning back to ascend it is a feat frustrated by the strange physics of the Land of the Dead. A tree, reached just off the path, might hide more of the stair or a dead end behind its knobbed trunk. What looked like a short climb off the path quickly turns steeper than expected, and what seemed like solid footing is instead slippery mud. While the climb down is easy, the return journey is always tiring, and it becomes agonizingly more difficult to make progress back up the stair.
For most, the descent is inevitable. As they near their destination and their path grows darker, the faint glow of the moon seems to diffuse, casting less light but giving an eerie cast to the sky. It is then that the traveler finds the threshold of Yomi.
Running the Descent
Players shouldn’t be forced to make saves as they travel the stairway to Yomi — a description of the effects on their character should be enough for them to realize that reaching the bottom is inevitable. This is not to say you need to force them down the path either. Inventive ideas might allow the party to make significant progress back up the stair, or even escape Yomi altogether.
With this in mind, any adventure set in Yomi needs to include an enticing hook to entice the players on this dangerous journey, and some hope of returning to the world of the living too.
The Lands Beyond
Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. The same journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a landmark they know.
If you enjoyed our little look at Yomi, then you’ll likely enjoy our Undersea Sourcebook series for D&D. Three of the six books are out, covering everything a player needs to explore the world below the waves or take to the seas as a pirate.
Feats & Equipment expands player options with firearms, pirate weapons, and a host of new feats. It looks like feats will be more important than ever going into the next edition of D&D, so start collecting.
Yomi is the Japanese land of the dead. It was mentioned in the ancient Kojiki, a collection of myths and legends purportedly composed in the 8th century. In Yomi, the dead live out a muted, eternal existence, regardless of their past deeds.
RPG Blog Carnival
It’s Orktober… ahem… October, and that means time for another RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s carnival is hosted by our good buddy Kim, over at Beyond the Horizon Games (he also plays Orks). The topic for October is “Worldbuilding“, which is serendipidious since that was exactly what we were looking at in our latest edition of the newsletter.
Campaigns in Yomi
We must always be respectful when setting games in places that are significant to others. We must go as respectful travelers, realizing that we are journeying into a land that others understand better than we do. This short guide can only introduce you to the world of Yomi, but its lore is truly vast, so it might be the perfect inspiration for your own campaign.
Yomi is more like Limbo or the Shadow Plane in Pathfinder than Hell. People do not go there because of their sins or lack of faith, they go there because it is the next step of their journey. People do not usually return from Yomi after they have feasted in Yomi, but that probably won’t stop your players from trying.
Yomi is both a land of shadows and corruption. You might find people covered in maggots or pass through a stranger like a ghost. Yomi is as cold as a tomb, but its residents seem only dimly aware of the cold. The rain hardly ever falls on crops unless it floods the land, the wind never moves ships unless it throws them against the rocks, and the sun is forever pale and powerless.
The responsibilities you had in life might remain in death, but they are no easier. A farmer might work a field that grows only rotting rice, or a baker might put bread into an oven that never gets hot enough for cooking. Emperors still reign, but they too must suffer the entropy that pervades Yomi, as their kingdom falls apart no matter what brilliant decrees they might enforce.
Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. A journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a known landmark.
Encased in black iron plate, tetsuakuto wear hideous menpo face masks bearing octopus designs.
The Tetsuzaku, or Iron Bandits, were feared outlaws that menaced major trade routes throughout the Empire. When they were finally captured they were boiled alive in their iron plate before being offered to a kami of the ocean cliffs. Through some occult bargain, they returned from Yomi to plague those who live near the sea, before returning back to the lands of the dead.
Medium undead, lawful evil
Armor Class 18 (plate) Hit Points 76 (8d8 + 40) Speed 30 ft.
Saving Throws Con +5 Skills Athletics +6
Damage Immunities cold Condition Immunities frightened Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12 Languages Common Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the tetsuakuto to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the tetsuakuto drops to 1 hit point instead.
Multiattack. The tetsuakuto makes two attacks with its naginata. Naginata. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage. On a successful hit, the target must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity save or fall prone.
Spike Rake. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) slashing damage.
Three Stone Stories: Solo Narrative Roleplay is here!
Your Greatest Tale
Three Stone Stories is a solo narrative role-playing game where you’re the Storyteller.
Tell heroic tales using your own imagination, these rules, and three regular six-sided dice.
Roll the Stones,
Determine the Will of the Dice,
Choose your Destiny.
Look at me, killing monsters for wealth and XP! Experience points (Exp or XP) are a great reward for players and a fun part of the game (it’s all fun though, right?). But do they really do their job? Can we build better RPG leveling systems that include roleplaying?
Leveling up with XP is a staple of the genre and games like D&D and Pathfinder would lose much of their playability without it. Imagine being level 1, forever! Each new level gives you more options and lets you fight bigger monsters and face more dangerous challenges. But has anything really changed for your character? Hasn’t the bar just moved? Has the character’s experience of the world really changed them at all?
Before I sound too much like a jaded grognard, I’m not saying that the system’s broken. It doesn’t need fixing. But what if the system incorporated character development? What if your character didn’t just become more powerful, but their outlook changed and they grew in their understanding of the world?
The Mouse Guard RPG and Marvel Heroic Roleplay both tie mechanics to your character’s goals, and I’ll bet there are a ton of other systems that do too. How does it work? Basically, you gain some penalty or bonus (or both) when your character’s goal or flaw comes into play. These goals or flaws often change at the end of a session or when you level up your character.
In D&D, we have ideals, bonds, and flaws, but they’re not linked to level progression. With One D&D recently announced, are we likely to see that change? What might an ideals-based leveling system look like?
An Ideals-Based RPG Leveling Systems
Instead of (or in conjunction with) using inspiration in your D&D games, players earn experience points when they play to or against their ideals. You can award XP according to four tiers linked to the XP Thresholds by Character Level table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (Chapter 3). For example, a minor use of an ideal, for a 6th level character, you might only award 300 XP. Going against their ideal that causes major consequences might, in contrast, be worth 1,400 XP to the same character.
This XP is awarded only at the end of the session, and could be divided between the players to ensure nobody is too many levels ahead of the rest. In essence, while one character might have had a significant moment of personal growth (or regression), their whole party is affected and learns from it.
This isn’t rocket science, so I’ll be surprised if GMs aren’t already doing something similar. Let me know.
Dragons get good public relations (PR) these days.
It’s easy to forget that dragons used to be the embodiment of evil. They were the Serpent, Satan in the garden of Eden and the Book of Revelation. You know that Vecna guy? Dragons were worse.
These days the public image of dragons is more varied.
I was watching trailers for upcoming movies the other day and was surprised to see how many of them had dragons in them. Some inclusions made sense; the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer has two (a black and a red). House of the Dragon… that’s easy…
Then there was Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Sandman. I’m not so familiar with either franchise, but I didn’t expect to see dragons here. I realized that it was time to get educated, so I picked up The Sandman, Volume 1. I’ll let you know when the dragon appears.
Even Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has what looks like an Aztec representation of a dragon, seen just briefly on screen.
So, dragons are really popular, but is that just in the circles I hang out in? There’s even a mod for Stray that lets you play as Spyro the Dragon. I think that just points to the fact that dragons intrigue us. Ever since our ancestors first picked up a dinosaur bone, we’ve been fascinated with scaled giants.
The RPG Blog Carnival and Dragon Fire
In July, this fascination came home. We hosted the RPG Blog Carnival with the topic “Here Be Dragons“, and here’s what our friends had to say about our fire-breathing friends:
Kim Frandsen of Beyond the Horizon Games talked about Wyrms of the North, a series of articles that ran in Dragon Magazine from 1996 to 1999. He says (and I agree) that the history — the story — behind each dragon is an important part of what makes them work at the table.
In his second article, Kim introduced Patina, a copper dragon with a grudge. Here’s an excellent campaign idea for your table, based around an intriguing creature. This isn’t a simple “slay the monster, get the gold” adventure idea either, and I love that.
Kim’s third article opened up dragons in a big way. I even consider this article a must-read for Pathfinder 2e and Dungeons & Dragons 5e GMs looking to run a campaign featuring dragons, as it deals with some aspects not covered in the core rules. Dragons are Dangerous, and Kim has done some work to ensure they play that way at the table.
Finally, Gonz at Codex Anathema created a dragon-focused campaign based on three one-shots he ran. The article is written in Spanish, but Google Translate in Chrome will get you there in a jiffy! The players get to meet phoenixes during their adventures, so we’re big fans already. And oh, it gets better from there. Give it a read.
Thank you to everyone who contributed this last month, and to everyone who joined us along the way.
Before we go, I’d love to hear from you. Who is your favorite dragon? What setting are they from and why do you like them? My favorite is Niv-Mizzet from the Magic: the Gathering TCG, because who doesn’t love making things go boom?
South Africans love potjiekos, meaning ‘little pot food’, but it does mean braving the cold, sometimes for hours, for that scrumptious dish. Perhaps the Japanese can offer us an alternative: nabe.
On these frigid winter evenings, there’s nothing more comforting than a warm, hearty meal. What better than a one pot dish that you simply throw all the ingredients into and let simmer. Donabe, or nabe for short, means ‘pot’, and while it can be cooked over a fire, it is typically prepared inside, on a stove top, in less than an hour.
What’s in the Pot?
Traditionally, a large clay pot with an inner glaze is used for nabe, but these days, the more economical cast iron variety can be found in many Japanese homes.
Unlike potjie that begins by frying meat, nabe starts with a broth. This broth is made from dashi (dried bonito and seaweed stock), mirin (low alcohol, sweet rice wine), sake (rice wine), soy sauce, and salt. Meat and an assortment of vegetables are added to this. The ingredients vary according to region and taste, but napa cabbage, Japanese leek, enoki mushrooms and carrots cut into a flower shape are popular. They are arranged aesthetically and, in the same way as potjiekos, not stirred but left in place to cook and absorb the flavour of the broth.
South African potjiekos was brought over by the Dutch in the 17th century. The Voortrekkers found this method of pot cooking a useful way to feed a lot of people. Similarly, as sumo gained popularity in Japan around 1909, nabe became a good solution for providing the growing number of wrestlers with a filling, nutritious meal.
Each sumo stable has their own recipe for chankonabe. So called by combining the affectionate term for their leaders (chan) and youth (ko) who would eat together. Chankonabe can contain pork, beef, and seafood. However, before a competition, chicken is favoured as it is believed to be good luck to eat meat from a two legged animal.
You don’t have to be a sumo wrestler to sample this tasty dish. Today, this delicious treat can be enjoyed in restaurants in the sumo district of Ryogoku, Tokyo, or whipped up at home following a simple online recipe.
Every Last Nabe Drop
It would be a shame to waste all those yummy juices, so here’s where mottainai — the Japanese philosophy of waste not, want not — comes in. Once the meat and vegetables have been eaten, the remaining broth is poured over cooked rice to make a second course: ojiya. It’s a bit like mopping up your potjie with a slice of bread.
Nourishing Our People
No matter your preference, nabe and potjiekos have a lot in common. Most importantly, they share the concept of nabe o kakomu — gathering around the cooking pot — bringing communities together, united through good food.
At the furthest edge of the map, far from civilization, the words “Here be Dragons” is scribed across the most inhospitable, unexplored lands. Journey with us, as the RPG Blog Carnival ventures into these lands of legend and danger.
Here be Dragons — July RPG Blog Carnival
Every month, the RPG Blog Carnival takes a turn at a different RPG blogger’s site, and this month it’s here, at Rising Phoenix Games. If you’re a blogger, you can join in by writing an article inspired by the topic and dropping a link to it, in the comments below. I’ll write a wrap-up article at the end of July that covers all of the posts submitted. I hope you’ll join us!
Here are a few ideas, but you can interpret the topic as loosely as you like, we’re not the thought police:
Dragonlance is coming for Dungeons & Dragons (here’s the Dragonlance trailer). Take us back to your gaming table, or try and predict what we’ll see from Wizards of the Coast.
Give us a new dragon for Spelljammer, your own setting, or a different game. Science-fantasy dragons, cyberpunk dragons, superhero dragons, steampunk dragons… there are more themes to explore than I could ever hope to mention.
Maps! The history of the phrase “Here be Dragons” is very interesting and would mean nothing if not for map makers and their art. Give us a map, a map maker NPC, or some ideas about how to use the phrase “Here be Dragons” on our own maps.
The symbolism of dragons can bring up some interesting ideas. How can GMs apply the concepts often associated with dragons to their human NPCs?
So them’s the rules. Let’s dive back into the world of Space Punks for another new race, dragonborn descended from void dragons.
With deep black eyes that shimmer with the light of a thousand stars, void dragonborn display their faint bloodline back to void dragons. This rare variant of dragonborn are known for their insatiable wonderlust and weak grip on reality.
Void dragonborn are dragonborn (Player’s Handbook) with the following draconic ancestry:
*You deal 1d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage from first level. This increases to 2d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage at 6th level, 2d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 11th level, and 3d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 16th level.