Friday, January 3, 2020

Advice from the Blogosphere

In the past year, the Old School Renaissance, or New School Revolution, or whatever you want to call the sprawling, vaguely defined, slightly overlapping set of family resemblances that make up the online tabletop roleplaying scene, has entered a third age. (The first age, arguably, was the pre-GooglePlus blog scene, and the second age was inextricable from G+ as a platform for sociability.)

In the wake of these changes, I really missed the hole left by the retirement of Sophia from Die Heart and the passing of James from Dreams of Mythic Fantasy. I also kept thinking about Aaron's from Twisted Cities advice about how to get more art by re-blogging and link-sharing.

Fortunately, there are a few people already doing the work of scene-making. Frothsof from Thought Eater has weekly Blog-O-Rama posts, Sohinfo from Alone in the Labyrinth has started weekly Five on Friday posts, and Ynas Midgard has bimonthly Excellence from the Blogsphere posts. I also think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Alex Schroeder and the tools he's made for connecting the blogosphere, his Links to Wisdom and his RPG Planet, as well as Nick LS Whalen and his ongoing Blogs on Tape project.

I felt inspired by their example, and I wanted to start collecting blogposts I like from time to time. Based on what I've collected for this first outing, apparently what I really like right now is advice for how to do things.

At Throne of Salt, Dan's love for Mothership continues to inspire some of his best writing.

Jack from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque had a couple posts I really liked. In It Feels Good to Have Made Something, he walks us through the process of home-printing a zine, and talks about the costs involved at each step. In Nine Assumptions in Game Design, he identifies some of what he calls the "unspoken and unconsidered assumptions that influence the design of role-playing games."

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse has a nice post about Karst Cave Systems explaining where caves come from and how they could work differently than built dungeons.

Dan from Redtoof finished a long-running open-table sandbox game, and offers advice for running your own in Lessons from the Unbroken Lands. He offers lessons on downtime, campaign pacing, and treasure.

Vulpinoid from Observations of the Fox has a really helpful page of Map Tutorials.

Over at Melancholies and Mirth, Lungfungus wrote Wheels within Wheels, which walks us through the process of building a dungeon out of loops instead of straight lines, and shows just how quickly the number of possible routes starts growing once even a few loops intersect.

Ben from Mazirian's Garden also had a couple posts I particularly enjoyed. So You Want to Make a Zine has more advice for printing and assembling your own zines. In Check Out These Character Sheets, Ben also shows off some really good-looking character sheets and talks about what makes them both attractive and functional.

Evlyn at Le Chaudron Chromatique returned to the scene this year, and gave us PDF Versions of My Zines, among others.

Paul at the Indie Game Reading Club offers us 50 Lessons About Roleplaying, starting with the observation that "you can’t fix real-world problems between players in your make-believe space," and continuing from there.

Hmmm Marquis wrote Magic User Spells Based Off Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Grecian Magic.

Trey at From the Sorcerer's Skull does so much interesting worldbuilding it's hard for me to pick my favorites. I especially liked his Solar Trek reimagining of Star Trek set entirely in our solar system, his Omniverse reinterpretation of a combined Marvel and DC universe pegged to actual American history, and his transhuman cyberpunk Planescape of Gyre. The fictive history of Armchair Planet Comics is also worth checking out.

Over at Failure Tolerated, Sean gives us A Crash Course on Marketing Your Indie RPG, which includes some nice advice about how to figure out who might be interested in your game and how to bring your game to their attention.

Paul from Dragons Never Forget has summaries and reviews of over 400 roleplaying blogs in The 2019 Great Blog Roll Call, which is an impressive bit of curation.

Skerples from Coins and Scrolls has a three-part series on RPG publishing. First How I Plan and Write RPG Books, second How to Become a Hundredaire on DriveThruRPG, and third How to do Reasonably Well on Kickstarter. There's always a danger of self-mythologizing when you write this sort of thing, so I appreciate a focus on practical advice borne from recent real-world experience.

Cavegirls' Game Stuff has two recent posts thinking about how roleplaying games work - Diegetic vs Non-Diegetic, and Why We Have Dice Rolls, Game Mechanics, and Stats. Both these posts are useful for thinking about what game mechanics are and what they're good for.

Paul from Blog of Holding has two very different bits of advice. To fit the 5e Monster Manual on a Business Card, he uses the same kind of statistics I learned in grad school to create very simple guidelines for creating new monsters, using Challenge Rating instead of Hit Dice as the defining characteristic. If you want to write 5e monsters and don't want to reskin, this might be the way to go. How Big Does a Random Generator Have to Be? uses statistics again, and talks about how often repeated results are likely to appear on any random table, and how to avoid too many repeats.

Bearded Devil took a break from the usual highly-entertaining play reports to tell us How I Run a Citycrawl Campaign, and I have to say, he makes Baroque Maximalism sound pretty appealing.

Finally, at The Alexandrian, Justin gives us another defense of game mechanics in System Matters. He also takes on a fun worldbuilding exercise by retelling the history of Greece and Europe in The Nation in History.

You can expect this series to be highly ir-regular. Feel free to post your own favorite blogpost links in the comments.


  1. In the vein of Links to Wisdom and the RPG Planets, there is also the OSR OPML that Ramanan Sivaranjan put together on his blog Save Vs Total Party Kill.

  2. I have high hopes for the blogosphere this year: the quality has always been there, but as the dust settles in the wake of Google Plus I feel there's going to be more discussion and communication between readers and writers!

    Thank you for the shout out: my own small contribution was inspired by Froth of Thought Eater (whom you mentioned above), as well as Dragons Never Forget Blogroll. Through your site I found OSR Planet (as well as tonnes of other blogs thanks to your GLOGosphere round up - thanks again for that!). I should also mention that I'm trying to get a weekly blogroll thread off the ground at r/OSR

    So happy to see you doing so much to promote the community, but I hope it doesn't distract from the rest of your output! I've really enjoyed reading your thoughts this year, particularly the stuff you shared about procedural generation. Thanks again!

    1. A casual comparison of last year's Secret Santicorn to this year's suggests that the blogosphere is doing better these days.

      Several people making small contributions can overlap to build better and more interconnected conversations.

      "Consider getting on Reddit" is one of my new year's technology goals.

      I don't think these sorts of community posts distract from my other blogging. The biggest "distraction" from my hobbies is all the other interests and responsibilities in my life. Actually I find that posts like this are good to write when I'm not ready to finish one of my "content" posts. Seeing other people's energy kind of reinvigorates me.

    2. >I don't think these sorts of community posts distract from my other blogging. The biggest "distraction" from my hobbies is all the other interests and responsibilities in my life. Actually I find that posts like this are good to write when I'm not ready to finish one of my "content" posts. Seeing other people's energy kind of reinvigorates me.

      Indeed: it was a light-hearted jibe encasing a compliment, I of course I have no wish to dictate how you wish to compose your blog!

    3. Oh, no worries! I didn't feel dictated to. Your comment just got me thinking about how I balance a few different kinds of posts.

  3. Thank you for the excellent work you do here, as well as the mention. These are all wonderful selections to highlight.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy! My podcast listening time is somewhere between limited and non-existent, but I really enjoy browsing through the companion posts you put out every week.

      And I think it's fair to say you've pointed my blog out to people who might not have visited it otherwise. I'm sure others have also experience a "though eater bump".

  4. These are all pretty cool posts; thanks for the shoutout, too.

    1. Thanks, Ynas! I'm glad KeK is going well, although I'm hoping you'll feel inspired to write a little more for your heartwarming sandbox.

  5. I had missed a number of these, I look forward to reading them :)

    1. I've started saving links I think I might want to refer to as soon as I see them. It's too hard trying to remember who's blog something was on, and then scouring through to see if I can still find it.

  6. can't help but notice that the Tao of D&D is missing from your list . . .

    1. Also, sorry, forgot to mention it, but thanks for including my site. Much appreciated.

  7. Just figured out why I was getting traffic from this blog. Thanks for the mention :)