Mhu Thulan

Roleplaying games, resources for, design of

Working with the Design Space of a Tabletop RPG’s Resolution System

I want to make decisions about the main resolution system for a game I’m designing, but feel stymied because I don’t know what the relevant design space is. I don’t feel confident that I know the questions I can usefully ask. You can see  a similar problem (while designing a different game) in my previous posts Combining Dungeon World attribute checks with LotFP skills, badly, and in Some numbers for Dungeon World rolls with LotFP skills — I’m coming up with ideas, and generating some stats about them, but I don’t have any clear idea of my goals so it’s all a bit aimless.

I want to know:

  • What is the space of plausibly-useful resolution systems that I can use for a game like the one I am designing?
  • How can I “navigate” that space for a particular game so as to home in on the system that gaves me game behaviour I like?

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Szamitir, a large island

From “The World, Shaped As It Is” by Quentiby Firlmortar, Immergleich School of Acidic Patterns

basic continent map v2

Szamitir is a large island, varied in climate and people. It is customarily divided into the several regions of greatly varying stability, prosperity and potential for the future.


This is the home of the fish-people. No-one should go here.

Catania, the Serene Republic of

Under the watchful eye of the Sorcerer-Queen and her Arbiters, Catania enjoys a blissful peace in a land of gentle rolling hills, bucolic villages, and pastel sunsets.  A model, perhaps, of what other nations could become.

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Simple random attributes lead to average characters?

Jon Spengler says in Rolling D&D Stats is Bad For You, a Reprisal that standard rolling methods generate a lot of mostly-average characters. I.e. many chars with all their attribute close to their overall mean. In contrast, assign-an-array methods tend to give extremes — characters who are strong at one thing and weak at another. And thus the latter is usually better for play.

My instinct was that he was right, but I decided to put some numbers on it to check it, and so that we can measure how much difference the various creation methods make.

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On-the-Fly Dungeon Generation Using The Perilous Wilds

The Dungeon World supplement The Perilous Wilds has an on-the-fly dungeon generator, which I use as part of Low-prep dungeons — a larval proposal. However, despite its CC-BY-SA licence, the text of that has not been available in a editable format. Until now. I have extracted the text of the dungeon generation system, converted it to Markdown, and put in online as a GitHub project.

If you just want to use, not to edit, you can download a basic PDF render of the text.

I’ve left some “see page XX” cross-references in the text, as I don’t know what best to do with them (other than pulling in text that they refer to). For now, I’ve replaced them with “CROSSREF”.

Letter to Thorgrim from Azad von Korp

Letter received by Thorgim on 14 May 936 —


I was pleasantly surprised to see you escape my prison, although after our little duel in the Warrens perhaps I should not have been. You and your associates are clearly potent, and clearly quite hard to kill. It would have been easier for me if you hadn’t taken out Octon’s prize creation, but then the horrid old bastard will be completely solid soon and I won’t have to listen to him.

With regard to “the experiment” — you are missing the plural. That lower dungeon level contains “The Experiments” — mostly Octon’s, but a few happening under my supervision. I keep my eye on practical use, while he just likes to fuse things onto other things.

Anyway… I have a job for you, on terms that you may lke. My spies have discovered that House Zuxian are keeping something very special in a tomb in the Resting Field. Small groups of Zuxuan notables go pack and forth, muttering about how “Gorin won’t like his suggestions”, and “It’s ok about the stabbing, none of us can keep him out of our minds”, and “If I were in charge, I’d just let him die”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds exciting. I want it.

Now, after all the House Verdun trouble we’re all about as popular as Sedgins is, so Disilla is extremely tetchy and very conflict-averse. And unless that hole gets a lot bigger, we’re stuck with her. So I will pay 500sp for retrieval of this thing, but it has to be discrete — no-one can know that I have it. I’ll pay half on delivery, then half two weeks later if those Zuxian weirdos aren’t on my ass about it.

How does that sound?

Azad von Korp


The Gallery Rises

Immergleich Bleak Herald, 12 May 936 —

“… the Head Curator, Petrovel Clawns, denied that such a transformation is exceptional — “Every painting is alive, if you think about it, through its function on our minds and its impact in our lives. This is just paintings being alive when no-one is looking at them, turning on their creators, and wreaking havoc.” Then she gave a funny little noise.

No-one knows why the Shattered Gallery’s paintings, sculpture and pottery have come to sudden life. No-one knows why the places depicted have become more real than the spaces they were kept in. No-one knows what has happened to the 22 nightwatchpeople, cleaners and late-working curators who are believed to have been in the gallery on the night of 10 May. No-one knows what has happened to Forrus Verdun and his six retainers, who went into the gallery yesterday and haven’t yet come back.

What everybody does know is that, right now, art in Immergleich is best appreciated just about anywhere else.

Valuable insights into OSR play

I’ve read a couple of things recently about motives and methods for “OSR” play that make a lot of sense to me.

First, Zak Smith’s article StoryGame Design is (Often) The Opposite of OSR Design captures why many people play OSR games, and indeed any game where there is a strong emphasis on dealing with the challenges presented in the imagined world in terms of common-sense (and expert-sense when available) reasoning about that world (rather than in terms of rules). The claim-counterclaim elements in the latter part of it are particularly good.

(Aside — Zak relates his idea of “narrative” play to Forge “narrativism”. From my memory of Forge theory, a better fit would be what the Forge called “genre simulationism” rather than narrativism. The latter is extremely narrowly defined. I have little interest in refreshing my memory to check this, however, as Forge theory is a swamp.)

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