Saturday, August 20, 2022

Midjourney and Campaign Inspiration

I'm an improvisational GM. 

I love random tables. I believe in the oracular power of the dice. I believe in emergent storytelling and character backstories that derive from the first few levels of play.  

My preferred mode of GMing is a skeletal adventure, with some meaty bits available (that I've thought up and jotted down), and then you see where the PCs go.

Moreover, I'm a "tangible" GM. I like minis. I like props. I like item cards and battlemaps. I've always experimented with making "stuff" to enhance my game. 

I ran "Theater of the Mind" as a teen, and while it is a completely valid and enjoyable way to run a game, it is not my preferred mode. 

As a result, I've really started to enjoy Midjourney as an inspiration engine.

CAVEAT: I don't believe that Midjourney is a suitable replacement for genuine art. I support artists. Several of my friends are talented artists. My sister is a talented artist.

But, if you don't know where you want to set your next adventurer, or if you need a scene or backdrop that is unique and evocative, Midjourney can help.

For example, here's a prompt --

elven village, fall colors, hidden valley, waterfalls, statues

Here's the result I received from Midjourney

Evocative, right?

You can pick one or more of them and ask the bot to make it bigger. I'll choose #1 in the upper left.

You can also ask for more variants based upon one of the pictures.  I'll choose #4 in the lower right.

Here's the larger version of #1


It's pretty great. I could share this with my players and, in addition to my descriptions, they'd have a pretty good sense of the elven village by the river.

Here are the variants the bot prepared.


The one in the lower right looks interesting, I'll blow it up.  Upper right too. 



My biggest epiphany is that if you want something specific -- hire an artist.  If you're open to being surprised and inspired, Midjourney can give you fodder for your imagination.

So there you have it.  I could use those two pictures, coupled with my descriptions, to set the tone. 

The pictures themselves suggest places the characters could visit and they present me with potential options for adventure. 

  • Are there places to adventure in that foreboding mountain?
  • Who lives in that tower?
  • That building with the warm light looks like it could be a tavern. Who is visiting there?

When the PCs visit this elven community, in the shadow of a dark (and possibly dangerous mountain) they'll have a better visualization of it. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

My Ideal OSR Campaign Structure/Setting/Settings

 Hi there, it's me, back from a long hiatus... 

Anyway, I had a thought that I might assemble a series of blog posts where I ruminate upon my favorite bits of the OSR and Old School gaming.  Full Disclaimer: YMMV.  These are my thoughts alone.  I'm not looking to pick a fight, just try to assemble a "comprehensive" list of the favorite bits and tools and resources that I would use in an ideal campaign.  

To me, ideal means a campaign that is fully assembled -- not plotted or heavily structured -- but a campaign where all the pieces are organized (as much as possible) so the GM has all their resources at their fingertips.

Here's a starter list of all the things I'd like to identify as resources.  This list is under construction.  As posts are added, they will be hyperlinked here.

  • Outdoor/Wilderness Setting
    • Mapping
  • Primary City
  • Megadungeon(s)
    • Mapping Sources
  • NPC Generator
    • Henchmen/Hirelings
  • Random Tables
  • House Rules
    • Character Creation
    • Combat, etc.
    • Magic
    • Monsters
    • Downtime Rules
So that's where I'll start.  I hope you enjoy the series.  

Friday, November 22, 2019

Counter-magic, Anti-magic, Dispel Magic USING SPELLS

OK, long time no post.  :)  Sorry about that.  I've been busy running several back-to-back RPG campaigns (every other week for years...) and I've had some professional setbacks, but they're getting better.

I'm big into 3D printing these days (2 printers!) see jpacek on Thingiverse.

Still fiddling with my game and trying to be a better GM.


Anyhoo, here's the idea --

"Wizards can use their memorized spells to counter/deactivate/manipulate other magical effects.  Well, at least they can *try*"

This idea is untested in play, but I'm planning to implement it in my game.  I'll post about how that goes.  :)

Exempli gratia --

Melkor, a mage, encounters a shimmering wall of energy.  He uses his senses and his "magic sense" to determine that it's a disintegration barrier.

Disintegration is Transmutation magic.  Transmutation is the *target school.* 

Here's a bit about disintegration from the d20 SRD.  I play fast and loose, so this is fine for my purposes.

Disintegration is 6th level.  In this case, let's just assume the caster is 2x the level of the spell, so 12th level.

Melkor looks at his memorized spells and tries to see if he has any Transmutation spells. 

His highest level transmutation spells are Fly and Haste at 3rd level.  Melkor is 8th level. 

This is going to work like Dispel Magic
make a dispel check (1d20 + your caster level, maximum +10) against the spell or against each ongoing spell currently in effect on the object or creature. The DC for this dispel check is 11 + the spell’s caster level. If you succeed on a particular check, that spell is dispelled; if you fail, that spell remains in effect.
So, Melkor will add 8 to his roll and the target will be 23.   A couple more things --

The difference in the levels of the spell should matter.  Disintigrate is 3 level higher than his 3rd level spells, so add -3 to the roll.  Melkor is now adding 5.  The target is still 23. 

Succeed or fail, Melkor's spell is used in the attempt. 

A couple more ideas.  

I found this chart using a Google search here.  If you are the rightful owner of this chart and would like me to remove it; please leave a comment. 

What if Melkor *doesn't* have any Transmutation magic OR he doesn't want to burn his Haste or Fly right now?  He can use other spells he has.   Just look at the schools that are adjacent or nearby the relevant school and assess a penalty to the roll as you see below.  The school *directly opposite* the target school *cannot* be used.  Here's a pic --
Each step you are away from the target school, you get a cumulative -2 penalty.  

Melkor also has Stinking Cloud (Conjuration) memorized so he could opt to use that.  It's also 3rd level so he now gets to add only 3 to his roll.  The target is still 23.  Not great odds, but I'm saying there's a chance.  :)

Additional thought --

If the magic is some kind of persistent effect, like the disintegration barrier described above, success means that the effect is merely canceled for caster level X spell level rounds.  In this case, 8th level X 3rd level = 24 rounds.  

Keep track of this duration at the table.  It could add to the drama and the tension.  Maybe the characters dispelled the barrier to get in and they have to accomplish their task before the barrier reappears...

If the magic is an active spell from another caster, the spell is dispelled.  

Further thoughts --

Using this would allow GMs to add items to their game that might help with this --
  • Wand of Dispelling (+2 to roll)
  • P'tau Crystals (focus dispel; remove up to -4 in school penalties)
  • Circlet of Dispelling (add 2 to casters level when dispelling)
Taking extra time could benefit the caster.  Stress and time pressure could penalize the caster

I would remove Dispel Magic from my game in favor of this system.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Green Devil Face 3D Printed

This feature is LEGENDARY in the infamous S1 Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax.  Now you can print (a version of) it for your own game.  Derived from OpenForge, it is compatible with Dwarven Forge and other tabletop tile systems. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Bridge of Sorrows 3D

I might just have to put together a Swords and Wizardry scenario based upon this.  It remains an amazing picture.  :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Cool Little Encounter

In the game, Dungeon Boss, you have a boss fight against this guy -- he's a goblin wizard and he has three shrieker mininons.  They screech at the heroes and drain their powers.  Pretty cool idea for a "low level" boss fight in your dungeons.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Schrodinger's Dungeon as Sandbox Planning Tool

When I’m on the interwebs, I read about GMs and DMs that are constantly planning “story arcs” for their games.  They have this group of “important heroes” and then these heroes go out and do “important things” and that’s the big important story!  

If you like playing that way, that’s cool.  I’m not going to bash it.  I used to play that way -- but I’ve stopped.  

I’ve stopped for a few of reasons --
  1. The prep was KILLING ME!  The amount of time it takes to put a “story” together is daunting.  I am an adult with a full time job now.  I want to spend my gaming time playing, crafting or painting minis.  I don’t want to plot out a story.  Personal preference.
  2. If one of the players bails, you have a hole in your story that you have to fix.  The more important that PC, the bigger the hole.  The harder it is to plug.  This leads to massive re-writes of the plot and that goes back to #1 above.  HUGE TIME SUCK!  No thank you.
  3. The railroad tracks must be strong and narrow.  If the PCs get off the path, the story suffers.  You have to make changes, re-writes, modifications, etc.  In one campaign, to keep “the story” on track, I had to resort to time travel for the PCs to wrap some things up…  Ack.  Too many ret-cons, to much re-writing.  Nope.

So that leaves sandbox play.  

If you run a sandbox, you have to be good at improvising.  Random tables are your friend.  You have to be good at tying disparate elements together on the fly or after the fact.  You have to weave some kind of world together from the bits you put out there.  You need to keep some good notes so that the random bits from three months ago mean something -- after all, that thing you made up about the blue fairy queen might just be the thing the adventurers want to follow up on!

So I had this initial idea -- why not create a set/series of random tables -- in advance -- that define the parameters of the sandbox?  These tables are all the prep you’ll need.  You keep going back to them, time and again, to determine what is going on in your game.

Yes, yes.  I know, there are literally an infinite number of random things out there (Abulafia, Wizardawn, Chaotic Shiny to name a few) plus all the dead-tree and/or PDF versions you can find (Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets, Dungeon Alphabet, Wilderness Alphabet, Toolbox, Ultimate Toolbox, etc.)

I’m talking about something else.  A template or structure that you fill in to represent the structure of your world (or parts of your world.)  The template -- how you roll against it -- sets the dynamics of what appears, when it appears, where it appears.  

You could approximate this by using the resources available -- random wandering monster charts, random treasure tables, etc.  That might work out just fine.  How you apply those random rolls to your world would determine the flavor and structure of the place.  If your whole world looks and feels the same, you could keep using the same tables everywhere.

Of course, if the City of Ghouls is different than the Ankaar, city of Thieves, you might need some different tables.

If The Tomb of Sarkos is different than the Crypt of Worms, you might need some different tables.

Of course, of course you could just randomly roll up some more tables.  Fine.  That’ll work.  

What I’m proposing instead is a fixed structure, that always “works” the same, that you fill in with bits and bobs to make each place different.  You’d fill this out initially, you can add to it and/or modify it as you go.  Make changes.  Deletions.  Additions.  But the “structure” for a given site is fixed at the beginning.

This leads me to another part of my idea, what I’m calling a Schrodinger’s Dungeon.  Nothing is fixed until it is observed.  Everything is in flux, until you roll for it.  

This is different than the Quantum Ogre principle, which states it doesn’t matter which way you go -- you’ll always encounter the ogre.  That messes up player agency.

In a Schrodinger’s Dungeon, you don’t know what’s there until you roll for it.  James Maz came up with this idea too, way back in 2009.  Perhaps it’s been rattling around my head all this time?  Who knows.  I’m still planning to “build it” which I don’t think has been done yet!

Now that I’ve Googled it, The Angry DM has an article about it too.  His idea looks like too much work for me (too many stat blocks) so I’m citing it here out of fairness, but I’ll likely not read much more of it.  :)

“Go left?  Go right?  OK, right it is (dice rattle, DM notes what is there) What do you do now?”

As new information becomes available, “You smell the strong odor of brimstone…” the players are free to act on that -- “OK, so you’d prefer to go left?  OK, (rattle, rattle)...”

The map itself can be randomly generated on the fly or just the contents.  The DM can randomly determine in advance or at the table.  I’d probably do a bit of both…

So what does this structure look like?  How does the prep go?  What’s next?

Well, I’m not quite sure.  I have some ideas, but, well, that’s another post.  :)