Browsing articles in "Musings"

Seventh Sanctum Data Archive

Jan 13, 2024
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Many of my users also frequent Seventh Sanctum. The site has an astonishing amount of cool random generators which I completely love. His ability has exceeded mine and I’m in his debt for many inspirations. As life progresses, he’s not certain he’ll be able to continue maintenance on the site (I’m in the same boat). As such he’s generously released his archive of data to anyone and everyone. That’s great. I’ll be saddened if the site disappears but life continues.

The archived data is also now available on github for posterity. I’m not going to fiddle with his data. It’s just a backup of the archive he’s generously released. As with all our approaches, it seems his has changed a time or two for the better. It’s always hard to find time to fix the older materials when you always have a grand new plan.

Thanks so much Steve for all the efforts over the years. You’re a legend in the random generator world and the release of the data is amazing.

Data is also here

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Kickstarter for Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.’s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter

Aug 2, 2015
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Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter is quite a mouthful.

The Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter is Ernest Gary Gygax, Jr.’s project to bring his Hobby Shop Dungeon campaign setting into print/publication. The origins of the setting began in 1978 when Ernie was working in the Lake Geneva Dungeon Hobby Shop as a clerk. The project is a product of GP Adventures, a partnership between E.G.G. Jr. and Benoist Poiré.

The initial funding goal of $20,000 was hit in under two days. Three additional stretch goals have been hit since then including an expanded crypt map, cover art by Jeff Easley and a science fiction customization pack featuring James Spawn (of White Star fame). The next stretch goal, if hit, will feature rules conversion for both Dungeons and Dragons 5E and Pathfinder.

Continue reading »

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On the ENnies – or Not

Jul 6, 2015
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Sorry folks, I’m not voting for you or anyone else in the ENnie competition. It’s not because I don’t like your blog, supplement, or website. Nay, its because I don’t believe the ENnies are a valid indicator of the tabletop gaming community.

First and foremost, any award site that requires self nomination is broken. If the supplement or whatever was useful, it would not require self nomination. It would already be known, useful and in the hands of game masters everywhere. I suspect most of them already are.

Secondly, send me free stuff … just equates to getting free stuff. No matter the intent. It’s fundamentally jacked up in my mind. Why should anyone need to send physical products in an electronic age for anything other than a physical product category?

Don’t forget, ENWorld, origin of the ENnies is predominately a fan site for the latest and greatest edition of either a WotC product or a Paizo product. That’s fine. Functionally, they produce more product than anyone else. Quite often, it is of great quality overall. Certainly, it has good production qualities.

I will not vote in a rigged popularity contest. I think the awards are complete crap. If I were a publisher, I might have a different opinion. I am not.

Good luck to the small publishers.

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Mini-Cons: Care and Crafting

Jan 13, 2015

I’ve been running mini-conventions for my old gamer crew for over six years. The reality is that it is very simple and overly complicated all at the same time. These are my experiences and suggestions. Your experience may vary widely from mine.

Constrain Expectations

People expect different things from gatherings of any sort. A mini-convention can take on many fronts and may vary from year to year. Constraints can come from both the location and from the people who are going to participate.

Participants are quite often flexible on what they want to do. However that is a double-edged sword. Pick what you are going to do/play/experience for the weekend.

Open-ended situations can be awesome or burn friendships. The plan doesn’t have to be specific games at specific times. However, it should indicate some idea of what will be played and how often. Pick a general thematic element that fits for what you want and communicate that frequently.

Money Up Front

If you are booking a location, know the cost, then get the money up front from every participant. Either they can afford it, or not. It’s a given from the start; not something that is discussed at the end.

I’ve done this badly over the last 6 years. I’ve always known that I could deal with the costs if a non-payment occurs. It is the worst decision I could have made. Get the payment up front, if it costs $150 or $20 for the weekend, people need to pay before they attend. No exceptions. Monetary disputes can be completely avoided.


My particular situation started out as hotel based and evolved to a location with the ability to support 10x the number of participants. This will vary by each approach but make sure you have sufficient space for everyone. Then add in some additional space if it is a physical building. Keep in mind that every particular game requires specific infrastructure. E.g., playing Magic takes a lot of table top space in comparison to an early edition of D&D.

Also, depending on your approach, every location has limitations. While my current one would house 30 people, there are 2 bathrooms Even with 5-7 people that can confront a challenge. It’s never been an issue for us but is something to consider.

That brings up personal space. Normal conventions allow you to retreat to a hotel room to rewind, recoup, and recover. The more confined spaces do not allow that. Sickness, health issues, and even just a break from people require a bit of space. Likewise, disagreements and arguments. Occasionally we all should just walk away from a discussion and vent elsewhere rather than allowing it to escalate.


Along the thematic lines, pick what you are going to do early. Have a backup plan for when the primary game doesn’t happen. Then have a backup for the backup. Given the small size of what I do, this is difficult. Interests may take everything planned off the table or leave you with no running games if game masters bail out at the last moment. As the organizer, be prepared to step in and run stuff at the last minute or work with the attendees to pick something and a game master. Organic flow can allow someone to dominate the situation at the expense of other participants.

Food & Cooking

If you are in a city, food is not much of a consideration. If you are not, you need a menu or a at least a plan. My group does it via shared chaos — hit a grocery store and buy stuff. That means I get a lot of food leftover when it ends and those bits are never what I’d normally eat. Trying to figure out what do with an 8 person cheese, salami and cracker plate solo is a strange challenge.

Pick a menu. Adjust to the participants. Communicate, adjust and readjust. It should not be complicated but if you have to mix vegans, omnivores, and junk food addicts… Snacks and drinks should be provided by the individual participants. Core meals you can deal with.

On the cooking front, my mantra is simple: if you didn’t cook, you clean. That means you wash and dry everything involved. There are the lazy people who will attempt to do neither. Never invite them back. You’ll never know who they are until they show the selfishness that defines them.

Final Thoughts

Talk to everyone who has a run something similar. Every situation is different. You are going to have to adapt on the fly. Not just the first time, but each time.

The experience is a whole lot of chaos but well worth the effort.

5E Treasure Generator + Commentary

Dec 24, 2014
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While I tend to not write generators for recent systems without publisher support, I decided to take a whirl at the 5E system. Mostly, I just wanted to see what the “modern” take on a classic system included or avoided.

My normal process was used for the Random 5E Treasure Generator. It’s simple, straight forward and does not yet contain anything beyond the simple charts.

5E vs 1E/2E Random Treasure

I’ve seen a few comments that suggest the fifth edition is low on magic. I disagree to a point. For individual treasure, there is no chance of finding a magical item. Absolutely zero. Why? I’d wager they intend for such treasure to be found via hoards rather than a wandering orc or two. You can always choose to use a hoard (aka lair treasure from elder editions) over the individual metric if monsters are migrating from one locale to another. For hoards (the 5E equivalent of lairs), you almost always get magic items.

The tables themselves are repetitious. Probably to the point of algorithmically generated. The same set of art/gems values repeat in patterns of 4 along with use of a particular magic table at a proscribed rate. Rinse, tweak occurrences, and toss it back out into a table. Very systematic. The variability works out but it sure looks dull in comparison to the 1E hand-crafted, best guess treasure charts of old.

Gone are the percent chances for a particular item type. The 5th edition tables give you magic as proscribed by a specific table at least 64% of the time when rolling a treasure hoard. For higher challenge ratings, the odds get better in increments (0-4:64%/5-10:72/11-16:84/17+:98). Automatic magic above a certain percentage certainly doesn’t appear to be magic sparse. Thousands of rolls later, I’d say its close to the originals with far fewer die rolls.

It is a far simpler system. No need to look up odd treasure types and roll die. It’s quite simply just a new, arbitrary choice based on Challenge. Same as the old arbitrary choice of treasure type, spun down to use less brain cells. Except the classic treasure types allowed a far better, albeit confusing, fidelity of treasure by creature.

Gems/Art confuse me in the 5E system. If someone wants to detail the exact nature of those items, would it not be likely they would also want to vary the value? When I didn’t have automated tools, I ignored both. Now that I have them, I’m more prone to use them for value variability over type variability. The specific values seem far more useful based on something special rather than generic labels. That’s a failure in 1E, 2E and 5E across the board. At least 1E has random variability. I may add that into the 5E Generator, just because I can.

5E doesn’t have a chance for special items — sentient or artifacts. Logically they claim those should always be planned. I understand that sentiment. On the flip side, sometimes I just roll dice against sentient/artifact tables to spur my imagination. Likewise, if I happen upon an artifact roll, I can just as easily replace that with a map / note / book on the artifact to key interest rather than the item itself.

Oh yeah, maps, totally eliminated. Apparently no one uses them anymore. (I jest). As treasure, they just don’t exist magical or not. They may have been phased out in earlier editions. I used them sparingly; far less than they occurred as random treasure. To see them gone entirely is odd.

What really annoys me is spell scrolls: 1 spell / scroll. Talk about dull. When I played mages in prior editions, I loved scrolls to up my spell knowledge. That and opponents spell books. Those were beyond gold. Perhaps now I just need to poke the elevator button of my level to obtain knowledge.

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On the Bearded, White Guy Syndrome

Dec 15, 2014

An offhand comment by Courtney Campbell during a recent podcast caught my attention. I cannot recall the exact statement but it was something to the effect of “A bunch of white males with beards probably should not…”. His point was relevant. At least to me.

At one point, I had a pretty diverse set of people of people I followed on Google+. The number of folks I saw posts from was far less bearded than it is today. I’ve not trimmed the RPG audience on the platform. Instead, many people have chosen to depart or no longer participate on G+.

On the artist front, the community is thriving, learning and leaning upon one another. Doing crazy, strange, and often awesome things together. Little drama happens among the artists I follow. Plausibly it is just an artifact of who I follow on that front. Likely, it is because they are competing on a differing front.

The RPG world is the complete opposite. It’s filled with nonsense, drama, and a whole lot of stupidity. None of which is particularly interesting — many people just choose to latch onto the latest scandal for something to write about.

I am of the curmudgeon, get off my lawn era. I do not and cannot sport a beard. However, I implore the RPG world to embrace, advertise, and support anyone producing in our community. Criticize on merit; not the sex, race, relationship with Cthulu/English druids or other choices. \

There are far too many white guys with beards in this community and far too few other inputs. Glance around your social media circles or your gaming table, and encourage alternate thoughts to flow forth.

Tarot of Many Things

Dec 3, 2014
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Around three years ago, I mentioned the Tarot of Many Things in a post on the history of the Deck of Many Things. At the time, I thought the Tarot variant would be a fun generator and perhaps campaign idea. The Tarot of Many Things was originally published in Dragon Magazine #77 and authored by Michael J. Lowrey.

To date, I’ve not brought it up in a game but I finally managed to expand the original Deck generator into a 78 card Tarot of Many Things Generator. As with most generators based on specific works, I’ve excluded a few details to encourage people to buy the original document. In this case, a lot of information is missing. The details about how Tarot relates to the card at hand is excluded. From my viewpoint, that information is as interesting as Michael’s results. Especially when adapting it to a non-AD&D game.

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