Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Do Not Go to the Risus Monkey Blog at this Time

I don't know if anyone has attempted to read the Risus Monkey Blog in a while but avoid it entirely at this time. It has been hacked and the site attempts to take over your browser. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Somehow I'm Getting Ready to Run Two Campaigns for Two Groups of Novices.

So in the last two weeks I've been approached by two separate groups of my friends looking for someone to run D&D for them. One group is going to be all the ladies and will consist of my Wife, our friends R and C - who have not yet met but I think will like each other. The other group involves my friends W and B and a whole passel of their homies. Other than my wife and R not one of these fuckers has played Dungeons & Dragons (or any other role-playing game for that matter).

Kids I am fucking stoked. 

I know a lot of Game Masters aren't really all that excited to run for new players but I think it's fucking boss. There's nothing like seeing someone break that barrier between believing that you're only allowed to do so much and the realization that the only thing you can't attempt to do are the things you can't imagine doing. 

I want so desperately to do them a solid and rock their fucking faces off. 

I'm only really nervous about the group with W and B because they haven't got an experience player to show them the ropes. They're literally standing on virgin soil trying to figure out if how the fuck to open a coconut for the first time in history. That's fucking exciting shit right there!

Do you remember that moment when you're sitting in your den and suddenly it clicked for the first time? That you could do anything your imagination would let you do and the only thing holding you back was a dice? God I'm so excited for these cats! They're about to get to experience one of the best moments in gaming for the first time and all I have to do is give them the right nudge and let them run! 


Ah, shit. I need to figure out what I'm going to run.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ratik, as Far as that Goes.

Yesterday my brother was looking at the World of Greyhawk map and he noticed the land of Ratik. He was curious about the little nation, and I'll be honest here, I was too. In my years of running in Greyhawk I never ran across the province as I tend to focus south of the Nyr Dyv and out west towards the Sea of Dust.

Ratik was new territory for me to explore; and the thing is, Ratik appears to be new territory for everyone else too. As best as I've been able to tell it was only mentioned in four places: (1) the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, (2) in an article in Dragon 57, (3) the Living Greyhawk website, and (4) the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. That's not a lot of information to go on.

Mounted Knight by Arthur Pyle

In the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set (pg. 32) the Archbarony is revealed to be an offshoot of Aerdi and to be a province ruled by the rather competent Ratik line. They have strong connections with the dwarves and gnomes of the area and are respected by the raiders and nomads surrounding them. When the hordes of humanoids began attacking Ratik not only weathered their advances but drove them out of their lands. Unfortunately this sent the humanoids south into the Bone Marches where they wrecked havoc.

Aside from the prosperous logging industry the only aspect of the Ratik description that I found worth noting was that in the north Ratik woodsmen were armed with bows and patrolled that boarder while in the south "hillrunners" were equipped with slings and watched the southern boarder. 

The article from Dragon 57, Developments from Stonefist to South Province by Gary Gygax, (pg. 13 - 16) is largely a battlefield report. While there are some interesting tidbits here it largely points towards the steady development of the fractious area without anything all that substantive given away. The only thing that I found interesting was that the dwarves in the Rakers (the mountain chain to the west of Ratik) are largely holed up in their mountainous fortresses as they are being besieged by gnolls and like-minded humanoids.

After this all I found on the area is from the Living Greyhawk website and Gazetteer (pg. 88 - 91) which largely express the same information though with the Gazetteer providing more depth to the reader. Our leader is now Lady Evaleigh of Ratik and the barony is now completely divested from Aerdi. To be perfectly honest, while this provides the reader with the most information on the area from any of the sources I have it's largely a mess. This brings up one of the problems that I have with the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. While it provides players with some of the most current information on the setting as of its publication it also tends to feel a bit like the authors are attempting to throw everything they can think of at the players. It makes things feel rushed and discombobulated at times (especially in less developed areas like Ratik). 

So that's as much information as I have on the nation of Ratik. If anyone else has anything to add from any of the official sources (Living Greyhawk, modules, the magazines, and so forth) please let me know because I would love to continue fleshing out the little nation-state. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January 2018 in Review

So January is over and I'd like to talk a little bit about how it went because that's what I want to do today. Creatively the month was okay. It started strong but the last two weeks kind of fell off. I've got some things I'm working on for this month so if everything goes as planned this should be a stronger month.

Page view wise this last month was very good. I saw an overall increase of 72,462 page views and nearly 4,000 unique visitors hitting the page throughout the month. I'm seeing about 46% return visitors which tells me that the way I'm writing is having a better impact on my readers. In other words, people are not only reading my blog, but they're coming back and reading more over time. That's something that I've struggled with over the lifetime of the blog and it's cool that things are starting to work more in the direction that I've been hoping for over the last few years.

Let's break down the way that the blog is working over the last month with a bit more detail.

Performance of Posts Published in January 2018
Page Views      Title
128                    Welcome to 2018 and Year 5 of Dyvers
117                    The Most Viewed Posts on Dyvers of 2017
130                    2017 in Review on Dyvers
764                    A Line in the Sand for One of the Oldest Settings in D&D
398                    Reader Mail: Where Would You Start an Adventure in Greyhawk?
107                    1,000,000
409                    Greyhawk as a Post Apocalyptic World
206                    The Book Shelf: Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer
598                     I Don't Believe in the Session Zero
339                     Pre-Written Adventures and Me
392                     Magic in 5e D&D is too Easy
146                    A Research List

Most Viewed Posts of January 2018
Page Views     Title
4,600              The Great Blog Roll Call
1,485              The Great Blog Roll Call 2014!      
570                 I Don't Believe in Session Zero
392                  Magic in 5e D&D is too Easy
323                  Pre-Written Adventures and Me
197                  Some notes on the Great Blog Roll Call
179                  A Line in the Sand for One of the Oldest Settings in D&D
174                  The Book Shelf: Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer
164                  Let's Talk About the Meatgrinder Mode for a Bit
146                  A Research List

Bold post were published in January

Blog Earnings: $1.22 in the January. Essentially this represents a doubling of earnings over the previous month. Thank you to everyone who clicked on a link. I can now buy two lotto tickets off Google AdSense earnings.

At this rate I’ll be able to buy three next month and that’s fucking cool!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Research List

Living Greyhawk Gazetteer
  1. Al'Akbar
  2. Allitur
  3. Atroa
  4. Beltar
  5. Beory
  6. Berei
  7. Bleredd
  8. Boccob
  9. Bralm
  10. Celestian
  11. Cyndor
  12. Dalt
  13. Delleb
  14. Ehlonna
  15. Erythnul
  16. Fharlanghn
  17. Fortubo
  18. Geshtai
  19. Heironeous
  20. Hextor
  21. Incabulous
  22. Istus
  23. Iuz
  24. Jascar
  25. Joramy
  26. Kord
  27. Kurell
  28. Lendor
  29. Lirr
  30. Llerg
  31. Lydia
  32. Mayaheine
  33. Merikka
  34. Mouqol
  35. Myhriss
  36. Nerull
  37. Norebo
  38. Obad-Hai
  39. Olidammara
  40. Osprem
  41. Pelor
  42. Phaulkon
  43. Pholtus
  44. Phyton
  45. Procan
  46. Pyremius
  47. Ralishaz
  48. Rao
  49. Raxivort
  50. Rudd
  51. St. Cuthbert
  52. Sehanine Moonbow
  53. Sotillion
  54. Syrul
  55. Telchur
  56. Tharizdun
  57. Trithereon
  58. Ulaa
  59. Vatun
  60. Vecna
  61. Velnius
  62. Wastri
  63. Wee Jas
  64. Wenta
  65. Xan Yae
  66. Xerbo
  67. Ye'Cind
  68. Zagyg
  69. Zilchus
  70. Zodal
  71. Zuoken

Questions Yet to Be Answered
  • What is the point of having so many gods when many overlap each other? Is it a flavor thing or is it simply the glut that often accompanies a setting over time?
  • Should some of these gods be culled from a completed list? 
  • Any god left on the list should have a reason for existing beyond X does Y but with a slight difference. It must be distinct and provide a reason for choosing them over the others. Is it possible for this to occur with an unmodified list?


Monday, January 29, 2018

Magic in 5e D&D is too Easy

In Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons magic permeates the game in the form of spells, abilities, items, artifacts, enchanted locations, and creatures. It is so pervasive that for many players it exists as an omnipresent force without a moral character; much like gravity, it has a power over their existence in that it affects their physical world but no power over their moral character or choice. Magic simply exists and what we do with it is what matters.

I have never been comfortable with this version of magic in my Dungeons & Dragons games, regardless of the edition I've been playing. Magic has always been something of a double edged sword in my games where magic both gave and took away something from its user. This presented itself most obviously in the items, artifacts, and enchanted locations that I created for my worlds as my players were able to immediately discern the effect and drawback from their use. What's more notable is that it created a sense of dramatic tension for my players when some new magical thing was discovered and made their use an important moment. Potions were examined and fretted over; magical weapons were used with trembling die rolls; and glowing portals were held in awe. It gave the game a dimension that it lacked when the sword was simply given a +2 bonus or the potion announced as a Potion of Healing. It gave meaning to the things my players encountered in the world beyond a statistical bonus or quick fix. 

Magic needs this level of tension for it to be meaningful in a role-playing game or else it becomes something ordinary and boring. Look at the way that Cantrips have changed with the D&D 5e. In previous editions theses spells required that the player prepare the spell and think about their use as there were only a limited amount of uses before you had to rest; now, however, the spells can be used at will, without preparation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it makes them less special and their use perfunctory.  

So how do we fix this and make magic more meaningful?

I find myself going back to a book I read years ago by Mark A. Garland and Charles G. McGraw, Demon Blade, which had a profound impact on my thinking about magic in fantasy worlds (it's been a few years since I've read the book so forgive me if I explain this poorly). In the book magic draws its energy by consuming the wizard using it. Essentially it consumes the fat and muscle an individual has on their body in order to produce more powerful magics. Little things, like creating a bit of magical light, might make a wizard peckish but the most powerful artifacts and spells could consume them entirely. It made the use of magic something that a person had to think about before doing, and it made magic users even more terrifying as a person who is willing to end their own life to cause you harm is unafraid of anything you could ever do to them. 

I like the idea that magic has an effect on the players but I'm not convinced of the best way to accomplish this. I could try having a temporary reduction in constitution in order to cast more powerful spells. This would mean that if a player were to cast 9th level spells that they had to have a constitution score of 10 or better to survive the casting. 

It might be double dipping though. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pre-Written Adventures and Me

Last night I was talking to my wife as we were cooking dinner and she made the comment that in the 11 years we've been together that she's only see me run a pre-written adventure a handful of times. I started to argue with her but it's true. The vast majority of the time that I've been running has been me starting the adventure by giving them a location, a few things around them they can shop at, and an assortment of adventure hooks. From there the players craft the story they would like to play by determining where they're going and what they're doing. 

The idea of a pre-written adventure being pushed through my own, weird sensibilities has a certain amount of appeal though. I think I would like to explore this option a bit more in the coming days.  And I think that I should do some actual gaming online again. 

Think of this as a heads up.

The Monument of the Oppressor by Paul Lehr
And the painting by Lehr as a sign of where my mind's at today.

Do Not Go to the Risus Monkey Blog at this Time

I don't know if anyone has attempted to read the Risus Monkey Blog in a while but avoid it entirely at this time. It has been hacked an...