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What ROLE-PLAYING have you been doing?

13 Feb 2020 22:39 #307105 by Ah_Pook
My wife and I are going to play DnD for the first time this Sunday. We're pretty excited about it.
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14 Feb 2020 00:13 #307109 by Michael Barnes
Excellent! What are you running or playing? Are you doing 5e?

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14 Feb 2020 06:16 #307110 by Ah_Pook
Yea 5e. I'm not sure exactly what we're running. It's us and two other newbies, and a friend of ours who has DMed for a long time running things.

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14 Feb 2020 18:38 #307125 by Michael Barnes
You’ll have a grand time- 5E plays really smoothly and it’s designed to be satisfying. In contrast to 1e and other OSR versions that are designed to start you out with a total failure of a character that dies from a flubbed death save 100 ft into the dungeon.

Which is way more satisfying! LOL

My OSE group meets Sunday for our bimonthly event. They are doing Keep on the Borderlands. It’s a party of -10-, so I’ve gotta weed some of them out.

I’m mixing it up a bit. I’ve got the curate at the keep (which I’m calling Fang Rock) as the secret chief of the chaos cult. The cult has convened a Convergence of evil monsters at the Caves of Chaos. The goblins are only their because the Hobgoblins made them. The Orcs believe the Curate is the ressurrection of their primeval serpent god. The Gnolls have been driven insane. The Kobolds believe a Dragon Egg is hidden in the Serpent King’s tomb, but it is actually a Medusa egg that the undead Yuan-to necromancer Xiximanter wants because it’s his bride. He is the secret hand behind it all, with the Curate doing his bidding.

The whole thing is going to lead into Dwellers of the Forbidden City, which is going to be accessed via the Temple of the Serpent King.

I’m thinking about running Fever Swamp for the swamp area but adding Lizardmen instead of hillbilly humans.
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14 Feb 2020 23:14 #307130 by Shellhead
Dwellers of the Forbidden City was one of my favorite 1st edition adventures, but somehow it fell flat with my group. They got in did a few encounters, and then bailed on the place, never to return. Maybe I just had the wrong players, because the Forbidden City is a nice variation on the archetypal lost civilization trope.

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15 Feb 2020 20:24 #307148 by Ah_Pook
as far as i can tell my wife is going to be a goth firbolg who got kicked out of their tribe for liking monsters too much. in her words "i didnt get kicked out... i left!"

weve been reading the players handbook together. its fair to say that we are excited. will post back after our first session. :)
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24 Feb 2020 14:03 #307419 by dysjunct
A brief review, session report, and some rambly thoughts.

So, Trophy. The game was originally published in CODEX magazine, a publication put out by Gauntlet, in late 2018. Since then it’s been refined and played by many different people.

I’m not involved with the Gauntlet-RPG community, so I’d never heard of Trophy before randomly seeing it on a Kickstarter geeklist. I checked it out and ended up backing it. It does a lot of things I like.

The elevator pitch is that it’s a one-shot fantasy horror game, centered around doomed treasure hunters going into a forest that doesn’t want them there.


System-wise it draws mostly from CTHULHU DARK, with a smattering of BLADES IN THE DARK. Character creation takes maybe five minutes. You pick a name, an occupation, and a background. Your occupation gives you three skills; your background gives you one — if you’re a sellsword who used to be a defrocked priest, then your skills are athletics, defense, weapons, and omens. You can also choose up to three “rituals” that you know. Rituals are spells. The spell descriptions are very light, similar to MAZE RATS; ex.: “Project (observe a remote location in spirit form)”. So it’s up to the GM or group exactly how it works as far as range, duration, etc. Same with the skills — they are just descriptive tags, so the scope of the skill is unspecified and group-dependent.

Characters have one numeric stat, Ruin. Ruin starts at 1. You get +1 Ruin for each ritual you know at the start of the game. Ruin represents a combination of physical, emotional, and psychic damage. If your Ruin reaches 6 then you’re dead, insane, or otherwise out of play. The forest reclaims you.

There’s three types of dice rolls: Ruin, Risk, and Reduction. You need two colors of d6s, about four of each. One color is light and the other is dark.

RUIN: The GM calls for a Ruin roll every time your character sees something horrifying. You roll a dark 1d6; if the result is higher than your current Ruin then your Ruin goes up by 1. If your Ruin goes up, but it hasn’t hit 6 yet then you get a Condition (more on those later).

RISK: The GM may call for you to make a Risk roll for doing anything, well, risky. You name what you want to happen if you succeed, and what you fear will happen if you don’t. Then you build a small pool of d6s. You add a light d6 if your character has an applicable skill. Then there’s Devil’s Bargain, a BITD artifact — basically anyone at the table may propose a setback of some type. You don’t have to accept the bargain. If you do accept it, then you get another light d6 — but whether you succeed or fail, the setback happens. If you choose to push yourself to the point of risking body and mind, then you get a dark d6. And finally if you’re using a Ritual then you get a dark d6.

Roll your pool and look for the highest die. If it’s 6, then you get what you want. If it’s 4 or 5, you get what you want but with a consequence. If it’s 1-3 then you fail.

There’s two post-roll concerns. The first is that if the highest (or tied-for-highest) die in your pool is a dark die, then your roll also counts as a Ruin roll. So check to see if the dark die is higher than your current Ruin; if so then your Ruin goes up by one.

The second is that if the highest die is not a dark die (either because the highest is a light die, or because there’s no dark dice in your pool) then you may reroll to try and get a better result. To reroll, you add a dark die to your pool and roll the whole pool again.

Regardless of success or failure, the GM narrates the outcome with input from the players as desired.

Risk rolls are the most common roll used. Climbing, sneaking, fighting, whatever. I should mention that it is not possible to defeat any supernatural threats in combat. If you try, your character will die, straight-up, no dice roll. You can fight them obliquely — fight to delay, or to escape, etc. But you can’t kill them. (This is identical to CTHULHU DARK.)

REDUCTION. Once your Ruin reaches 5 — one away from death! — this becomes available. Basically, the crushing psychic weight of the forest is overwhelming you. To stave off death, you may appease the forest. You do this by stating some way you are sabotaging your group of treasure hunters. It should be subtle and secret. Throwing treasure back, or destroying equipment, that kind of thing. If you do this then you roll a single light d6. If the result is less than your current Ruin, then your Ruin goes down by 1 and you may immediately do it again. Once you stop sabotaging and rerolling though, you’ll have to wait until your Ruin hits 5 again before making another Reduction roll.

SCENARIOS. The scenarios are called “Incursions.” They are based around a single-word theme. The scenario in the quickstart, “Tomb of 10,000 Dreams,” has a theme of “sleep.” Then there’s a list of “Moments.” These are sort little evocative phrases or scenic elements that the GM adds in whenever appropriate. TOTTD has 15 different moments, for example “A garden of stone statures, nothing in common but their closed eyes,” “a bear in hibernation, unwakeable.” When designing an incursion, you create the moments using the theme as inspiration.

Then there’s a list of Conditions. Conditions are permanent afflictions, a curse or otherwise from the forest. A PC failing a Ruin check gets one of these. These are also based around the incursion’s theme, e.g. “Vertigo induced by a feeling of falling” and “blurry vision” are two of the ten listed in TOTTD.

Structurally each incursion is divided into five “Rings”. A ring is a not really defined. Sometimes it’s a place, other times a feeling, or whatever. There’s no map because it doesn’t really matter — this isn’t a game of exploration; it’s one of going into madness and insanity.

Each Ring has two parts, Terrors and Temptations. Each is a short paragraph. The terror section details scary or threatening things that make the party want to leave; the temptation section details things that draw them in. When the party has encountered at least one terror and at least one temptation, they can move into the next ring. The terrors and temptations scale up. So in Ring 1, the terrors are not very threatening, and the temptations are more like hints of what treasures lie further. In Ring 4 the terrors are bananas, and the temptations equally bananas — to keep the party going).

The paragraphs have a combination of scenic elements, environmental description, threats, and GM advice. Like, “ask them what they will do with the treasure,” or “they each have a dream where another party member betrays them.” “How is the forest actively working against you?” is a common type of question.

Eventually you get to Ring 5, which is a ginormous cluster of terror and insanity and betrayal and death. Any PCs that survive and get out are broken shells of humanity. Fun!

Incursions are very short. TOTTD is three single-sided pages. That’s introduction, moments, conditions, and all five rings. This means that as GM, you’ll be doing a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to translating the fairly sparse text into an experience at the table.


Last Saturday I ran a one-shot of Trophy Dark, using Tomb of 10,000 dreams. It went really well although I was a bit tired by the end of it and probably not as focused as I should have been.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the game, despite having a GM to move things along, is highly collaborative. On the scale of “D&D” to “GMless hippie collaborative storygame” it’s maybe 75% of the way towards the latter. So you, as GM need to constantly be asking the players questions about the world. “What are you most worried will happen?” “Who is most likely to betray you?” “What do you see here that shows how luxurious the collapsed temple used to be?”

There’s a list of really good tips here:

… and more detail on the asking-questions style of GMing here:

I needed to be doing both that a lot more than I actually did. It works very well for this kind of game. As a horror game, you need to get inside the characters’ (and the players’!) heads. If you can get them to volunteer information about what freaks them out, then your job as GM is a lot easier. You reincorporate that, foreshadow it, etc.

In my game, I had three PCs who went in search of the temple of 10,000 dreams. Along the way they gradually lost their sense of division between the waking and slumbering world, one of them lost his ability to read, and another started seeing constellations in every shadow. They eventually found a tunnel beneath the temple leading to a dead-end chamber full of golden coins. Mistrustful of each other and terrified of betrayal, one of them pushed through the claustrophobic tunnel into the chamber right before the tunnel collapsed and crushed the other two. The surviving PC cackled in the pitch-black chamber, gazing into the constellation-filled darkness, running his hands through the gold coins as his air slowly ran out. (Fade out.)


This game is for you if:

- You like fantasy horror, one-shots about descent into madness and despair.

- You are good at improvising scenes based on very broad strokes of suggestions. I should have gone through the scenario beforehand and imagined what the physical scenes might look like. In play I tended to say generic dumb stuff like “you’re deeper in the forest now, and…” Ugh. I could have broken that up with clearings, glades, copses, rivers, descriptions of the trail, or any number of other things. The scenario doesn’t give it you.

Not for you if:

- Your players want the immersive experience of playing as their character, and asking them to have any part of creating the world outside of their characters ruins this for them.

- You want a traditional game with antagonists, enemies, combat, exploration, and/or a chance of surviving.


As of this writing, the quickstart is still up on the Kickstarter page even though the campaign has ended:

The BackerKit for the Kickstarter should be opening in a few weeks and you might be able to preorder there. Otherwise wait until the game is printed and you can get it from the usual sources.

You can get the original release of the game in the e-magazine CODEX 2, available here:

The homepage for the game is here:

Downloads of character sheets, an open-source System Reference Document if you want to make a game using the framework of the system, and some other stuff.

There’s a bunch of other stuff available in various issues of CODEX, although my understanding is that most of them are going to be integrated into the official printed release of the game. But if you can’t wait, here they are:

The creator held a contest to write Incursions; you can find a link to a Google Drive folder with all the entries here:

You can run all those with just the Kickstarter quickstart, so that’s a ton of free gaming if you want it.


If you poke around those links, you’ll find mention of a related game, TROPHY GOLD. While TROPHY DARK is focused on one-shots, TROPHY GOLD is for campaign play. Your PCs are not necessarily doomed. It ends up feeling like a very-rules light OSR game. You have the basic structure of Trophy, but there’s rules for exploration and treasure finding, as well as downtime and journeying to/from adventure sites. A fun part of the game is the fact that if you don’t bring home enough treasure then your character is out of the game — they can’t afford to maintain themselves, fix their equipment, etc. So you get a fun little incentive to keep going.

TROPHY GOLD is designed for dungeon crawls and the full release of the game will have instructions on converting OSR dungeons to Gold.

Ask questions if you got ‘em.
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24 Feb 2020 18:04 - 24 Feb 2020 18:07 #307435 by BillyBobThwarton
I would appreciate some advice...

I have 3 young children and have taken to the idea of trying out 5e with them.

My rpg experience is limited to one (strange) 4 hr 4e experience at a con and another 4 hr of Fiasco at the same con. That’s it, unless playing a bunch of PC stuff like Planescape Torment somehow helps.

So the same con is this weekend (Owlcon in Houston) and I have reserved a 4 hour 5e session. There is another session afterwards that is pre 1e OD&D by some who claims extensive experience with the system... Signing up would have me drop from a board game session I was fairly interested in... Thoughts on OD&D?
Last edit: 24 Feb 2020 18:07 by BillyBobThwarton. Reason: Clarified editions

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24 Feb 2020 18:29 #307437 by Michael Barnes
I have opinions...….

First, on the con game...I would be VERY hesitant to go in on OD&D/1e game with strangers. That could go badly.

As far as the game goes, I would ENTHUSIASTICALLY encourage you to try it over 5e. 5e is current, it has a lot of great things, but it is also something of a quagmire of options, preset lore, and lots and lots of things geared toward a certain type of play that I don't like. BUT YOU MAY LIKE IT, most folks like the heavy DM story, the superhero characters, 8 different ways to be a Druid, and so forth.

The problem is not knowing who you are going to be sitting down to play it with. The OSR (Old School Renaissance) scene is filled with lots of really awesome, very cool people. BUT there are also some very douchey, gatekeepy sorts of folks and you might come across some pretty crusty older dudes with questionable politics and social mores. Odds are, you'll be alright. But be warned. I suppose it is really the same with any public game, but I would be leery.

Now as far as the kid situation goes...that's tricky too because on the one hand, I'd say go with 5e and in particular the Starter Kit (not the essentials kit). It is -perfect- for easing kids into the game and the campaign it comes with is excellent. It also puts them into the current game, which I think is actually sort of important.

However, B/X in particular (using Old School Essentials, Labyrinth Lord, Black Hack, or a similar "retroclone" system or even just the ol' red rulebook) is even better IMO for kids. It's cleaner. You don't have to sit there for an hour and a half explaining to them all these different barbarian paths, the difference between a sorcerer and a warlock, all the overwrought backstory, etc. You get them roll 3D6 six times and write those numbers down in order and tell them "cool, you have a 15 Str, that's probably a good fighter". Then let THEM fill in the details rather than the $50 rulebook and the $50 rulebook addition.

But I'm going to do you one better. Do yourself a favor and go download Knave from DriveThruRPG. It's $2.99. It's a seven page ruleset completely compatible (with just a little interpretation needed) with OD&D and B/X. I've been playing with it with my kids and their friends and it is BRILLIANT. It has the standard six stats but it uses a system that is actually closer to 5e for resolutions. Basically, each stat imparts a +X bonus against a standard difficult roll of 15 and you can do the very beloved advantage/disadvantage mechanic from 5e.

But what I really love about is that you don't pick a class. You roll up everything on tables and it takes about five minutes. The gear your roll up kind of determines what you are. So if you get a crowbar and a set of lockpicks, well, that's self explanatory. Or you might wind up like my son and get a big, hulking dude with no hair that for "reasons" headed into the dungeon with a bucket and a length of chain. He wanted a blunderbuss (no idea why) so we ruled that as a crossbow and he said he carries the shot and powder in the bucket. Dope!

Doing the random equipment has an amazing effect with kids. They come up with some totally insane and unexpected ways to use bullshit gear. Rather than fretting that their warforged dragonborn half-orc Druid of the Circle or whatever doesn't have powergaming equipment, they get in there and problem-solve with it.

Now, you can use Knave with -anything-, really, and you could even run Lost Mines of Phandelver with it if you have access to a OD&D bestiary list. You can grab a copy of Keep on the Borderlands and do it and run a classic old school game or you can pick up Deep Carbon Observatory and run something more arty and cutting edge.

I'm still using OSE for my mainline games because it provides more detail and "grit", but for one-offs and for kid games it is perfect.

I'm telling you- getting back to OD&D will blow your mind. Shake off the dust and you will be amazed at how -easy- it is. And it doesn't require any of the clutter and junk that 5e unfortunately seems to engender.

Regardless of how you play, it's going to be fun and you'll suss out what you like and don't like. You may find that 5e is exactly what you and your kids want!
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24 Feb 2020 18:55 #307438 by ChristopherMD
If you or your children may ever want to play with others outside of a Con then definitely 5E. Its about 1,000 times more popular and mainstream than OD&D right now.
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24 Feb 2020 19:00 #307439 by Michael Barnes
That is exactly right and that is the #1 reason why you should choose 5e. It is modern, it is the most accessible, and it is what 999 out of 1000 D&D conversations are going to be about.
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24 Feb 2020 19:09 #307440 by dysjunct
I endorse the preceding three posts. Teach your kids the current edition of D&D if you want them to have a chance to experience the joy of the hobby. You can run some cranky old man game for them later at home if you want. (Said as someone who prefers cranky old man stuff over 5e.)

Re: playing at cons; it's a mixed bag. Your fun will depend way more on the people you play with than the system. And the people are random. In my experience con players fall into two broad categories:

1. People who love RPGing so much they want to play as much as possible and have tons of diverse experiences. They are positive and supportive and want everyone to have as much fun as they are. They will high five you if you roll a natural 20.

2. Weirdos that no one will play with at home, but at cons they can't be shunned, ha ha! They might also high five you on a natural 20 but your hand will feel greasy afterwards and you will subtly wipe it on your pants for the rest of the session.

All the con tables I've ever sat at have at least one person (and up to about half the table) be from group #2; the rest from group #1.
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25 Feb 2020 08:57 #307445 by Pugnax555
Agreed with all of the above. 5e will make a lot more sense to start with, but if your are interested in peeling the skin off and getting to the system's bones, there's an Old-School Essentials Bundle of Holding deal that runs for another week. 13 bucks gets you the full rules pdf, an intro scenario and some other stuff. OSE is hands down the cleanest, most accurate version of the Basic/Expert rules out there. Worth picking up. Or stick with 5e and try not to get mired down in the character creation process...

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25 Feb 2020 11:13 #307447 by quozl
I'm going to disagree and say teach them a simple RPG designed for the age of your kids. You can always teach them 5E later after they know the basics.
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25 Feb 2020 16:51 #307467 by Michael Barnes
I have to disagree on this. The “kids RPGs” I’ve looked at have been incredibly simplistic and even when my kids were 7 and 9 I thought they were really too old for them. With an adult GM, there is no reason a child of reading age can’t play 5e or any other RPG with a little guidance. I think there’s more value in playing with an adult helping out with the more complex parts than there is playing a game that really doesn’t respect or challenge a child’s intelligence, intuition, or creativity. Maybe for kids 5-6, but older can handle any RPG.

I don’t like Pathfinder but the Wardlings thing looks cute.
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