The 10ish Best Reads of March and April

Welcome back to the Top 10ish Best Reads of the Month! After an unfortunate layover for March due to computer issues that slowed me down substantially and that ended up utterly destroying my entire database of rpg blogs. So I spent the better part of the last two months rebuilding my rpg blog database to 380 active blogs and reading nearly 5,400 blog posts!

Each week over on Dyvers I read through all of the blogs on my list and gather the Best Reads in one place and over the last two months the blogging scene has experienced a revitalization of creative energies as new bloggers have begun to enter at a rate not seen since the launch of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. What’s driving this new influx of bloggers seems overwhelmingly to be Fifth Edition’s success with bringing in new players - and we’re all better for it as these new authors are really trying hard to expand what we think of as possible with the Dungeons & Dragons game, and with role-playing games in general. Their ideas touch upon the weird pulp fiction cornerstones that have helped make the OSR such a vital force in the role-playing game blogging scene without falling into the trap of creating things that no one can use. Yet they aren't bound to the same ideals, strategies, and codes as more established bloggers tend to do.

So what do we have to look forward to in this dual month’s Best Reads? This time we’re back with guides for creating a Feudal, European Setting; Railroad Manifestos; creative settings; a free game you can play with strangers and friends you love to mess with; and one of the best d100 tables I’ve ever seen. Get ready because this month was a wild one!


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10. The Art of Wargaming: A Lexicon by Stelios V. Perdios, from the blog The Word of Stelios: If you’re like me than you’ve probably never actually played in a war game, or perhaps you’ve only seen them from afar, but you’re nonetheless interested in them for their impact on the history of role-playing games. War games are fascinating affairs with a level of gamesmanship and trash talking that is sadly missing from most games in this world.

Without question the barriers to entry into this facet of gaming are high and range from the extraordinary cost of putting together a miniature army (and assembling, and mounting, and painting . . .), to finding the right ruleset, to just understanding what the heck they’re saying. That’s why I’m so thankful for this relatively short article by Stelios. He takes the most common terms, used across a wide variety of war games, and is able to quickly demystify many of the them without confusing his readers. Well worth reading for any one interested in exploring the roots of role-playing games

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9. Quirks and Sanity by Jeff Russell, from the blog Blessings of the Dice Gods: Jeff possesses an analytical mind that always seems to be finding the hidden connections between various rule sets and house rules across the breadth of the hobby to create some incredibly useful rules of his own. In this latest effort he manages to create an effective quirks and sanity system that might be more at home in Call of Cthulhu but which transitions perfectly with Dungeons & Dragons styled games. If you’ve never explored one of his rule variants before this is a great place to jump on board!

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8. A Hungry Empire by Luke Gearing, from the blog ANT-LERRR: Sometimes the thing that you need most for you campaign is an enemy nation that’s relatively simple to understand yet infinitely complex in what they will do next. In this short, yet fascinating post, Luke is able to create just the sort of villainous nation that every campaign should have and that will give your adventurers countless opportunities to confront them, explore their lands, and hide in the shadows whenever they come near. A really good enemy to bring into your home campaigns.

For someone who has been blogging less than a year it’s amazing seeing how quickly Luke’s creativity is maturing. His posts are consistently becoming more useful and I can hardly wait to see where he will take ANT-LERRR in the coming years.

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7. Deals With the Devils by Trey, from the blog From the Sorcerer’s Skull: With the upcoming release of Wizards of the Coast’s latest storyline, Rage of Demons, it’s easy to get wrapped up in them and forget about the Devils. After all, the Devils have been played out and everyone knows what you’re getting when you run into one. That, of course, doesn’t hold true when you have people like Trey twisting the traditional tropes that surround our fantastical creatures to make them into something new and exciting. None of this is surprising for long time readers of Trey’s as he’s consistently taking the standard and shaping it into something exceptional.

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6. Castles in the Sky Part 1: History, Mechanics, and Trade; and Castles in the Sky Part 2: Religion, War, and Conquest by multiplexer, from the blog Critical Hits: Imagine for the moment that in your campaign world that one of your players has come up with a way to introduce mass flight, the sort that would allow for whole castles and all who come with them, to the game. What do you imagine would be the consequences of that on the world? In this insightful two part article multiplexer explores the ramifications of such an invention through the brief history of the Vox Mass Levitate spell and onward through the changes that it would bring about in a world dominated by magic.

If you’re not following multiplexer’s efforts on the Critical Hits blog than you’re missing out on one of the most creative and brilliant voices in role-playing game blogging today. She is clearly a force to be reckoned with and I love read through practically everything she writes. Be sure and check her out.

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5. Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting: Introduction, Mayberry or Notthingham; Part 1 Establishing the Setting; Part 2 Structure; Part 3 the Manor; Part 4 Historical Accuracy?; Part 5 Broadly Defined Divisions in Society; Part 6 Religion; Part 7 Putting Things Into the Game; Part 8 A Bit More About the City State of the Overlords; Part 9 Further Defining What’s Happening in the City State; Part 10 The City State in Flux; Part 11 Goals of the Overlords; Part 12 Order and Chancery; Part 13 Ministry of War and Exchequer; Part 14 Chamber of the Overlord and Clan Bulwark; and Part 15 The Royal Guard by Rob Conley, from the blog Bat in the Attic: Attempting to create a Feudal Setting in role-playing games can become an overwhelming task in the blink of an eye as the reproduction of the political, economic, and religious world of our ancestors is a Herculean task. Still, it can be done if you’re determined and in this sixteen part series Rob Conley sets out to demonstrate how he has crafted his own world based loosely on the real history of our own. Well worth reading for anyone interested in creating a semi-realistic world but is overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task.

Rob has already announced that he will be collecting these posts into a single PDF volume as he has done with other similar projects in the past. So if you start reading these and really enjoy them be aware that he will be putting them out in that format relatively soon to make it easier to keep them with you.

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4. The Vengeful Demon of the Ring by Vincent Baker, from the blog anyway.: I love games that you can play at the drop of a hat and the Vengeful Demon of the Ring is just that sort of game. Now Vincent created it to work on the idea that not all participants in a game have to be willing, and if that’s something that gets you intellectually stimulated then that side of the game will be somewhere that you really dig into issues of choice and the like. For the rest of us who just love to torment our friends this game is quick to learn and filled with a world of possibilities for silly fun but it will probably be house ruled by practically everyone who plays it (because that’s half the fun with games like this). Check it out.

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3. The Railroading Manifesto: Part 1, What is the Railroad; Part 2, Methods of the Railroad; Part 3, Penumbra of Problems; Part 4, Chokers; Part 5, More Chokers; Part 6, Addendum: Random Railroads by Justin Alexander, from the blog The Alexandrian: One of the big bugaboos of online debates about role-playing games is the problem of the railroad, where player choice is negated by Game Master fiat. For people who are concerned about this problem there are few others that are as important an issue. Justin’s The Railroading Manifesto is one of the better attempts to grapple with the issue in a meaningful manner and well worth reading if you’re into the debate.

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2. They Wait in Darkness / The Quiet City by Pearce Shea, from the blog games with others: I would gleefully explore the setting that Pearce has constructed in this post for years to come. By turns it is wonderfully weird and then a creeping dread cloys at your mind as you begin to come to terms with the sort of world that you would actually have to explore and I would relish every minute of it. This is a perfect set-up to explore done with an economy of words to prevent an author’s own exuberance from screwing it all up. Arguably one of the best such posts I’ve read in years.

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1. d100 Dungeon Vice by Chris Tamm, from the blog Elfmaids & Octopi: Chris Tamm is a creative powerhouse who’s distinctive writing style will constantly amaze you as he pumps out these trippy campaign write-ups and then follows them up with brilliant d100 tables. AND this d100 table in particular is my all-time favorite from a man who has taken making d100 tables and made it into an art form. From this table alone you could run a dungeon exploration campaign that feels like The Wire mashed up with True Detective. This table has become a permanent fixture at my gaming table and is in my notebook for Game Mastering as one of the best things I’ve ever run across.

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First Post
ZOMG, Lord Dyvers!! I thought Charles Atkins was a different person, but then, I'm not called Hitdice on Google+.

Love the work. :)

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