Saturday, May 4, 2019

Elf Stones

I woke up this morning with what may be a complete understanding of elves.

It's Their Infravision

When I was a kid, I always wanted to play an elf in D&D, specifically because I'd have infravision and could "see in the dark". Getting older I moved away from that because it felt lame, but then the other day I saw this gif and it hit me that elves usually appear so aloof and borderline disgusted with the world because they are visually accosted with actual out gassings of everything in the world.

Yes non-elves, their smile does look pained because every single one of your farts is an assault on their eyes.

Naturally, it would follow that elves themselves wouldn't fart, or burp, sneeze etc. But their bodies would have to do something with that stuff, and as elves are normally depicted as being somewhat "pinched" anyway, it seems likely that their body would compress the disgusting stuff into a sort of pearl, or stone, or "pill".

These elf stones would naturally be terribly pungent in their aroma, and in civilized circles they would be discreetly disposed of. But outdoor types, such as hunters and rangers, would likely value them highly and probably carry around a small pouch of the things. They could wet them, and flick them onto targets they to help track their quarry.

Would likely prized by more traditionally disgusting races such as goblins.

Elf Stones:
All elves produce d4 "elf stones" each week. The stones are about the size of a pinky fingernail, and appear to have a hard opalescent casing that subtly flashes purple and green in the right light. If soaked in water, the casing will begin to disintegrate and the stone will become incredibly sticky and rapidly adhere to flesh and hair. Elf stones without a casing have an incredibly pungent, cloying, aroma that some compare to the smell of rotting roses. A stone that has lost its casing will stink strongly for 72 hours, and even if the stone is found and removed, the smell will linger for d6 hours.

Elven Rangers and outdoors types, will traditionally wet the stones by sucking on them for a short time, and they can flick them onto any target within 50' with surprising accuracy (+5 to hit). They deftly manipulate the wet stones with their fingernails and (to non-elves) never seem to get the smell on their person.

During periods of high stress or poor diet, elves can produce up to d10 stones per week. Half Elves have a 50% chance of producing elf stones in lieu of other forms of excrement.

Friday, May 3, 2019

The thing about G+

Patrick asked if about people’s feelings on G+ being gone. He doesn't miss it.

I do.

It took me a few weeks to bring myself to delete the app (and inbox) from my phone, and I still tryto click where it used to be out of force of habit.

But what about it do I miss? Patrick’s points about it having been on a major downturn for quite a while are very much on the nose, so why even miss it?

1. It’s core idea was excellent. The root of google plus itself was excellent. The wall is a wonderful way for me to find and consume content. It was simultaneously a good way to share visual and text based content. The wall pushed my dopamine buttons because there was this mild “hunting and finding” element to it, that didn’t descend into the tumblr/Pinterest wall madness.

Circles were exceptional. I didn’t use them to post to (almost always posting publicly because I always wanted strangers to be able to find and reference my stuff if they stumbled upon it). Rather, I used them to sort people I was following. It enabled me to basically rank the content/people I wanted to see. I bundled up illustrators and nap makers. I bundled up Game Masters. People in Texas. Layout people. People I personally considered “elite posters”. General posters. And perhaps most importantly: The Abyss.

There are lots of damaged, or depressed, or politically obnoxious, or meme posters, etc out there. On the whole, much of what they post is stuff I’m not really interested in. Perhaps it’s even mostly trash. But. There’s always a chance they’ll post something good. Something quality. And so, a couple times a week I could peer into the Abyss and hunt for the quality. While simultaneously keeping the garbage posts out of my home feed.

Likewise I could focus my feed down and say: “what are the mapmakers and illustrators talking about this week?” and I could glimpse more focused memetic “pulses”. I miss this more than anything about the platform.

2. The good times were great. The golden era was phenomenal. Full stop. The crumbling, and destruction doesn’t change the fact that the good times were just so fucking good. Perhaps the branches all bloomed so heavily that their breaking was both natural and inevitable.

3. It was a Goldilocks zone for posting. Twitter is too shot and fragmented to have decent conversations or make truly decent posts. Reddit is a cesspool. Everyone worth a damn is banned from Mewe is all walled off and only members can see your posts. Blog posts have always felt more “formal”, perhaps that’s just me, but I feel like I need to try with a blogpost whereas G+ felt perfect for half formed fragments that could then get “workshopped” in the comments. Discord is too transient and fulfills different needs. Tumblr is both insular and undead.

G+ just really nailed “microblogging” better than anything else I’ve ever seen.

4. It had just enough critical mass. Swordfish Islands likely would never have existed without G+, and the pledge data on Kickstarter showing pledges that came from a G+ link are pretty significant. And I’m sure that doesn’t just apply to my Kickstarter. 

It may have been a small community, but the people were actually fucking real, and they backedeach other’s projects with real money. Perhaps other platforms are like this too, but those platforms appear to lock the post access behind paid promotions. 500 people may like your page on Facebook, but only a tiny fragment of those people will see your post unless you pay. G+ did not seem to do this (at least on that level).

The key that made all this possible was the ability to share circles early on. Community hubs were able to basically curate people. And since G+ more or less pulled all its early adopters from bloggers, those early curated circles had a foundation of “here are people who produce, relatively consistently, and of good, or better, quality.”

That was just unbeatable.

It was special. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. It will always hold a special place in my heart, and my life. Of course I’ll miss it. But perhaps the line gets all muddled when someone says G+. Are they talking about the platform? Or the community? Or bits of both?

Friday, April 26, 2019

What is the game you want to play?

A while back now, I got "into it" a bit with a friend over skill checks. Much has been written on this topic so hopefully I won't be rehashing much, but I felt like I came away with a new personal understanding of my feelings on the matter.

The conversation began, as it normally does, talking about keeping information about the world locked up behind a skill check. A quick scenario (not the one discussed):

A zombie has been killed.
The DM says: "What are you doing right now?"
Player says: "I'm looking at the corpse to make sure it's really dead, and glancing around the room to keep a look out for more."

At this time, one of the zombie's arms is attempting to wriggle away from the body to push a button that will open a door and unleash more zombies.

If a player specifically says they're looking at the corpse, and there are no obscuring environmental effects or other pressures on their attention, I think the DM should tell them that the arm is 1. still moving and 2. attempting to move away from the corpse, possibly even towards something (unsure what it's target is though).

Some would make this a perception check: did you notice the movement? Or ask that lovely question of "What's your passive perception? Something is happening, but I won't tell you what it is unless you have a number above X, or you can just roll."

As we went back and forth over a few scenarios, he said, something to the effect of "You would just tell them where all the secret doors are, and I'm not like that." Yes, I would tell players where the secret doors are (assuming they were looking for them in a way that made sense it would reveal said secret door, and yes I would provide clues in my description of the room/area if applicable that could reveal the location of said secret door and "help them" find it. (he seemed slightly aghast at this)).

And what hit me is that I am very much not interested in the "process of finding things" or the "process of opening things" or the "process of spending a sufficient amount of in game gold and time to learn a new language" as the baseline "normal" of the game.

It is my opinion that if a door is locked there should never be a limit to the number of times you can attempt to pick the lock, unless it's tied to something "real" in the game. Like, "It looks like you can try picking the lock twice before the shambling mound gets close enough to hit you." is good. Likewise, "Your attempts have completely stripped out or broken the mechanisms of the lock, and now it won't even unlock with a key" is good too. Seems obvious, but here's the question about this over on Stack Exchange, and that "vague memory" seems to have an echo.

And so I found myself saying "That's not the game I want to play. I'm not interested in playing a game about figuring out how to open a door, or find a door. I'm interested in the consequences of what's on the other side of all those doors."

If you look at Disney's version of Aladdin, the movie begins at the end of Jafar's adventure to get the door to the Cave of Wonders open. Finding the correct golden scarab halves couldn't have been easy and would doubtlessly be an adventure in and of itself (and tbh one I'd probably enjoy playing), but I don't think it's nearly as interesting as dealing with the consequences of unleashing a genie upon the world.

In Hot Springs Island, getting the gold is the easy part. Getting it home isn't. And what hell could be unleashed upon the world by a massive infusion of gold destabilizing the money system. That's the game I want to play. I don't want to spend a whole game making sure players have payed the appropriate character creation tax to be able to speak the language to find the right person who can give them a map if they make the appropriate intimidation check, and then make sure they can make the right persuasion/insight checks at the docks to ensure they're getting on a ship that's going to actually take them where they want to go and not sell them into bondage somewhere.

Likewise with the dungeon. Yes, some doors should be special. Some doors should require tricks and esoteric knowledge, but I don't think it needs to be every single door. I don't want to play a game about finding and opening doors. I want to play a game about dealing with the problems of rescuing the "wrong" people or unearthing the "wrong" artifact. I want to play the game where the treasure hoard is found, and known and confirmed and it's a race to extract as much as you can before rivals get there.

Perhaps it's just a phase, but it's where I'm at right now.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Silent Titans Pre-Sale is Live

Hi! Silent Titans pre-sales are now live on the Swordfish Islands store. You can snag a copy here:
If you live outside the US, this is a great time to grab a copy as non-US copies sold during this time will ship from outside the US. PreSale ends April 22.

Books sold after April 22nd will all ship from the US.

More information and details to come, but here's the quick announcement!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

A New Map

Hello Everyone,

We haven't forgotten this blog. Promise. In fact, we're working on a whole overhaul of the site to make a more meaningful and focused experience. Soon™

News Item #1 - A New Map

There is a new map of Hot Springs Island by Jason Thompson (@mockman). It is utterly amazing.

News Item #2 - Reprint of Hot Springs Island

We have completely sold out of the first print run of Hot Springs Island (1500 copies)! Thank you! A reprint is coming, and one of the things we were waiting for was this map. It's going to be incorporated into The Dark of Hot Springs Island. We're also planning to do a poster map of it ('cause omg how could we not?!). It should be coming very soon. No firm date, but it's at the top of the stack of things to get done.

News Item #3 - Silent Titans

We are publishing Patrick Stuart's new RPG book Silent Titans. We ran a Kickstarter right at the end of 2018, and the book is expected to be completed by the printer right at the end of March. We hope to have them up on the webstore as soon as they're available. We may even be doing a pre-sale.

News Item #4 - The Tomb of Black Sand

We are currently working on a small dungeon called The Tomb of Black Sand. It doesn't have anything to do with the Swordfish Islands themselves, but it will be done in the same style (in terms of the way the information is presented, and with the goal of being able to be dropped into any fantasy campaign world). It's being done as a part of Kickstarter's Zine Quest event, and is expected to be completed in time for Gen Con this year (August 1st).

There are a few other exciting things on the horizon, but we're not quite ready to talk about them just yet. Stay tuned. And thanks again for your ongoing support!