Our group had our session 1 this past Friday, or I should say perhaps session 0.5 since it appears that half of my table didn't fully fill out their character sheets or somehow forgot a stat or two. So after about 45 minutes of doing that again we finally got started in Morgansfort.
Here are the names of the players we rolled up.
- Ysln Candlewick (Female)
- Swingeld (Male)
- Arjune (Male)
- Cybil Burle (Female)
- Beatrice (Female)
- Canboil Studerman (Male)
For those that might be interested in running the module, it essentially is a fort placed on the edge of the “Western Lands” which are part of the former Urd Empire. The fort is placed right near the edge of civilization which allows for plenty of opportunity to engage in the wilderness. It features three dungeons to explore along with general wilderness areas. The module has a nice bit of information (2-3 pages) that provides enough background information for GMs to give their players a sense of place, but not so much that one can’t easily modify or adapt it to their own setting or needs. A nice summary is provided right on page 1 of the three dungeons and the fort.
There is also a really detailed bit of information of the world’s religions and the fort itself, including details on all of the buildings and numerous NPC’s within the fort.
Our group had two characters randomly roll up clerics as backgrounds so they took an interest in the religion information in the Morgansfort module. I won't write it all out here, but here is a brief summary.
The Hundred Gods: Basically the old world religion. Hundreds of gods from the existing inhabitants of this region. I positioned this that most of the denizens outside of the fort, and under its protection followed this religion.
The Church of Tah (aka the Bethite Church): The official religion of the empire. Known for its corruption and opulence.
The Church of Tah Reformed: The opposite with members sworn to celibacy and poverty.
Arjune from our play group took to the Church of Tah reformed and had in their background “Discredited”. They played to that nicely, indicating that they had to escape to the wilderness to avoid that discredit to their name.
Arrival at Morgransfort
When our players arrived at the fort, I directed them to “The Toothless Dragon Tavern” and to the “Iron Helm Inn” for their rumors. Per the module direction they immediately began a conversation with “Bat” who I made as a toothless old koot of a farmer, who gave them the initial rumor for the first dungeon, which was an abandoned ancient fort.
Cybil was the one who took some initiative to try and find out about other rumors or to find a hireling to go with the party. I used the random character generator on the Cairn website and came up with a ridiculously good character who had stats well above our players and a background to boot named Wenlan. Stats below:
You are Wenlan Candlewick, formerly a ranger. You have a lanky physique, weathered skin, oily hair, and a rat-like face. You speak in a gravelly manner and wear rancid clothing. You are rude yet serene, and are generally regarded as an entertainer.
You have had the misfortune of being defrauded. You are 35 years old.
Armor: Brigandine (1 Armor, bulky), a Helmet (+1 Armor)
Weapon: Crossbow (bulky)
Gear, tools & trinkets: Nails (stacks), Cart (+4 slots, bulky), and Bottle
Bonus item: Longbow (bulky)
Starting supplies: 8 gold, a Torch, and three days' Rations
After a lot of advice solicitation both on the Cairn Discord and on the OSR subreddit, I settled on running Morgansfort (https://basicfantasy.org/downloads.html), which is a free adventure module from the Basic Fantasy RPG game system. It looks to have a nice balance of dungeon crawling, overland adventure, etc wrapped into a single package.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is hard not to re-iterate what others have already said about this book, but when it comes down to it, this is exactly what everyone has been talking about. It is an incredibly cozy and quaint story about a retired adventurer and the people and trials she comes into contact with while trying to start a new life.
The book just simply exudes a level of warmth and charm that you get almost no where else. I can best describe it as a children's book for adults. Everything written here just comes across as incredibly satisfying from the way baked pastries are described to the general atmosphere of the coffee shop, all wrapped up into a warm fantasy-core setting. If you wanted to take the best parts of the Shire, Hogsmeade, and Ankh-Morpork and wrap them into their most wholesome and delectable little packages, then that is what you get here.
The characters are really what make this story shine though and everyone from Thimble, to Cal and Tandri all make this story what it is.
Worth the read all around.
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As someone who is trying to dip my toe into OSR gaming right now, I have been having quite a few conversations online about the style of play and the general community that surrounds that style of play.
While doing my research and prep I have observed what I think is a disconnect between what many think OSR is (or should be) vs a modern 5e system. So what does OSR mean? OSR is Old School Revival (or Renaissance) which bases the D&D game on the early D&D editions. I have spent quite a bit of time over on r/OSR and on Discord to facilitate my discussions on how to structure a game. I came into this process thinking that OSR = Rules Lite = narrative forward design. Many of the OSR systems I have seen tend to pull back a lot of the rules and complexity that modern 5e has. I think the assumption that OSR is narrative focused is incorrect based upon the feedback I hear from the community. Ironically, it almost seems like the OSR community wants more tactical, more grit, more number crunching for battle with out-of-encounter RP to get out of the way. That seems counterintuitive to me when you are pulling away the more complex math and skills you might find in PF2e for example.
I wanted to take a break from 5e with my group because I feel like I am getting burned out on the load of prep that is expected of the DM. Im spending hours each week to prepare maps, NPC's, encounters, etc and my players just roll up to the table. Now my group is pretty evenly split on the role-play vs tactical battle divide of how they play 5e.
Following up on my blog post from a couple of weeks ago, I have been doing some research into various RPG systems that I would like to play. Some of those purchases and inquiries are starting to come to fruition and there has been one system that has really caught my eye.
Cairn is a New School Revival system, which if I am being honest, I don't know exactly what that means. The term is used online often in conjunction with the Old School Revival (OSR) terminology, which references the D&D methods and designs from the early eighties. I'll talk about that more in another post, but I wanted to highlight a bit of what has caught my eye with Cairn. I'll be summarizing a bit on my interpretation, so this may not entirely be the designer's intent with the system design.
"Cairn is an adventure game about exploring a dark & mysterious wood filled with strange folk, hidden treasure, and unspeakable monstrosities. Character generation is quick and random, classless, and relies on fictional advancement rather than level mechanics.
It is based on Knave by Ben Milton and Into The Odd by Chris McDowall. The game was written by Yochai Gal."
The entire rules set is about 24 pages and can be downloaded over at cairnrpg.com. There is some very nice design aesthetic as well around the character sheet and pamphlet.
One of the key things I would like to try and do with Cairn is to explore some of the tropes and mechanics that D&D 5e either falls short on or that our play group has not explored. For the purposes of my planning, I have solidified around three main concepts that I would like to explore with Cairn.
- Make wilderness survival matter. When characters venture out into the wilderness the management of their resources and the risk/reward to exploring should be tied into the system. The further they explore, the greater the treasure reward could be, but also the higher the risk. Getting back to a safe haven after your adventure should be considered in their resource management
- Make money matter. D&D 5e hands out a lot of money and after a few levels, characters have more than they can possibly spend. Additionally, living expenses become a chore and a waste of time when they have hundreds of gold burning in their pockets. Cairn's limited inventory system may not only help the player spend their money, but also manage all of the items they have and make considerations as to what is most useful for the adventure they are entering into.
- Explore character advancement outside of the traditional “leveling up” system. There is a concept known as “Foreground Growth” where the characters can grow and advance through in the world and their adventures, not from resting overnight. I love the idea of exploring the concept your direct encounters and experiences lead to specific growth. Perhaps you had a close encounter with a Hag in the wilderness and as a result you learned about their critical weakness.
This would be my first time running a system like this, so I am hoping to build the campaign around an adaptation of "The Lost Citadel" by Green Ronin Publishing. I am hoping that the concept of a single, last human city will help to facilitate this campaign style since the adventurers will have to head out into the wilderness and try to make their way back. Adventuring further from the city can result in increased risk and increased reward.
Cairn has a lot of nice hacks built by the community to further some of the dungeon and hex crawl mechanics. I think that would be really fun to dig into an explore as a core component of the campaign.
If you are not in the tabletop gaming world, you may not have heard about the controversy surrounding Dungeons & Dragons for the past couple of weeks. In short, Hasbro, who owns Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), who make D&D had leaked an update to their gaming license that would've imposted some severe restrictions upon content creators, 3rd party publishers and pretty much anyone who did anything creative within the D&D world. What is/was known as the Open Gaming License 1.0a (OGL) has been around for around 20 years. This licenses allows content creators to create content in and around D&D without imposing upon WOTC's copyright or trademark. For example, you wouldn't be able to call your book a D&D book, but you could say something along the lines of "it is 5e compatible and has these new monsters I created".
This all got into a big mess when WOTC had their new OGL leaked. There were many problems with it, but most notably it appeared to revoke the previous license, implied that WOTC could claim the rights to creator's work and required creators making more than $750,000 annually to pay ~25% royalty. It was a shit show to put it mildly.
Gizmodo broke the story and it put the fandom into a maelstrom as WOTC failed to repond. When they finally did, nearly two weeks later, the community was not pleased.
As result, multiple companies in the TTRPG industry have now struck out on their own to avoid any potential issues like this in the future. The backlash to WOTC has been so strong and so swift that they have essentially now created more competition in the market against themselves. Kobold Press has announced that they are making their own RPG system, code named Project Black Flag, which will likely be a 5e compatible system (aka 5.5). MCDM productions announced their new system and Paizo has announced they are leading and effort with multiple other publishers to create a truly open gaming license to be called ORC that can be applied to any gaming license.
On top of that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cory Doctrow have chimed in with numerous other sites detailing how the original OGL was not even needed and how it even restricted some rights which might be inherent.
In the end it has been quite a disaster.
At this point I don't intend to stop playing D&D, but I think this might be an opportune time for our group to take a look at some other RPG systems and try those out for 2023. Paizo has put many of their books one sale this week to encourage some different play.
While folding laundry this morning I had a minor epiphany that subsequently lead to a resigned sigh. (The picture by the way doesn't really have anything to do with this post beyond the observation that the ends of this towel have apparently shrunk). For those that know me, you know that I absolutely dread folding the laundry. It is like the bane of my existence and despite all that I found myself folding laundry this morning quite contently, in addition to doing some other minor house chores.
For the past week I have been off work on holiday and despite the sort of rush of the holiday and family, and friends, I mentally finally have had a chance to sort of catch up with the rest of my life. I even had a chance to enjoy some Netflix, even work on some music. The whole "Fight or Flight" rush of my life had an opportunity to just simmer down and I didn't feel like I had a mountain of horses and other personal items backing up, or at least I didn't feel like I had an urgency to get those things done before the week ended. And I think because of that I was able to fold some laundry today, for an hour or so and not feel any stress about it at all. I didn't have anything else specifically on my list that needed to get done.
With the end of the holiday looming and work coming back up tomorrow though I can feel the sense of anxiety already begin to creep into the back of my mind. Right off the bat I have a meeting tomorrow morning to kick the year off.