Friday, February 24, 2023

Playing Stonetop (and Other PbtA Games)

Work continues on Stonetop, my "hearth-fantasy" adaptation of Dungeon World set in an iron age that never was, in which you portray the local heroes of a small, isolated village near the edge of the known world. It's going more slowly than I'd like, but we just added the "Playing Stonetop" chapter to the main book, and I'm quite pleased with it. 

This is a chapter that's addressed to the players, including:

  • The Conversation
  • Your Agenda (as a player)
  • The Flow of Play
  • Dice and Moves 
  • Your Principles (as a player) 
  • Other Things to Do (and not do) 

A few of the Stonetop Kickstarter backers commented that the chapter is a good, overall introduction to and solid advice for playing PbtA games in general. Hence me reposting them here. 

I'm not about to claim that this advice is universally applicable to all PbtA games. For example, I don't think that the "Flow of Play" is the same in Stonetop as it is in games like Monsterhearts or Cartel or even Apocalypse World, which feature a lot more PC-PC drama. 

But for PbtA games where the PCs mostly work together against adversity presented by the GM (like, Monster of the Week or the Sprawl or Impulse Drive, to name a few), I do think this stuff is largely relevant. 

If you're a new player in a game like that, or a GM trying to help new players "get it," maybe this will help?  

playing Stonetop
© 2022 Lucie Arnoux, used with permission (click here for more)

Anyway, here's "Playing Stonetop".

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Stonetop Pre-Orders Available at Backerkit

 So, uh, this happened:

As we mentioned a few times in the Kickstater updates, we've been absolutely blown away by the support and the enthusiasm. 

I've been trying to focus on finishing the two books, and keeping on top of the (considerably enlarged) Stonetop community on Discord, and just haven't gotten around to posting any follow-ups here. I'll be aiming to more of that soon, as I've got a few things to talk about that might be relevant not just to Stonetop folks but to anyone who plays and tinkers with Dungeon World or Homebrew World. In particular, I plan to talk about:

  • How and why I changed the names of many basic moves
  • How and why I'm changing Drives (Stonetop's take on Dungeon World's Alignment rules) into PC Instincts
  • Stonetop's updated rules for Followers, which are iteration from those presented in the Perilous Wilds.

In the meantime, if you missed the kickstarter and would like to preorder the books or the PDF, you can do so here:

Pre-orders for the physical books will remain open until a few weeks before we go to press. If you pre-order either the physical book or the PDF, you'll get access to the current preview playkit and an invite to the Stonetop community on Discord. 

Shipping costs will be added as you check out, but for the books, they are:

  • US: $15
  • Canada/EU/UK: $22
  • Norway/Switzerland: $38
  • Australia: $25
  • New Zealand: $30
  • China, Macao, Hong Kong: $14
  • Rest of Asia: $29
  • All other countries: $70-100
Shipping costs above include customs and VAT for international customers.  

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Stonetop Kickstarter: March 1st, 2021

We're finally doing it:

Here's the teaser text:

The Stone has always been here, in the center of the village. It’s larger than life, older than anything, etched with runes. When storms roll up from the south, as they often do, the Stone pulls lightning from the sky and the village shakes with thunder. Visitors cower. The locals? They barely even notice.

You are one such local, someone who calls Stonetop home. You’re one of a handful of notables—admired, or respected, or maybe even reviled. When there’s trouble, people look to you for the solution. Or as the cause. Or both.

And right now, as the first wildflowers appear beyond the Old Wall? Trouble is brewing. The world itself is darkening, like the sky before a summer storm. Folks can feel it. They’re afraid.

These are good people, here, in Stonetop. Your kith and kin.

If you don’t step up to protect them, who will?

I've been working on Stonetop since, criminy, 2013? It started as a "playset" for Dungeon World with beefed up rules for managing the steading's prosperity. Then it became a whole slew of custom classes with a unique structure, and a bunch of creepy artifacts. And then I started tweaking basic moves, and eventually acknowledged that this was going to be a standalone game.

I've run over 75 sessions with 5 different groups. I've played in over 30 sessions myself. We've had something like 60 different playtest groups. 

And now, finally, the end is in sight. We'll be launching the Kickstarter on March 1, 2021, closing on March 31. Target fulfillment is October 2021.  

Jason Lutes of Lampblack & Brimstone will be running the Kickstarter and publishing the game. You might know Jason/L&B from The Perilous Wilds, which is where we first collaborated. Jason is also doing layout, editing, and art direction.

Illustrations will be done by Lucie Arnoux, a UK-based artist whose work includes reportage, children's books, set design, and comics. That's her work up above. Here's some more:

(details, including a sample chapter and a more art, after the break)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Преодолеть опасность: Defying Danger, the RPG... in Russian!

Defying Danger the RPG now has the dubious distinction of having been translated more times than I've actually played it!

Alexey Dikevich recently translated the game into Russian. I don't speak Russian or read Cyrillic, so can't speak to the quality of the translation, but the layout seems solid and he's even included an translated example of play (taken from the comments on the original Defying Danger blog post). 

Check it out here:

If you have comments on the translation, or want to send him your thanks, you can reach Alexey at "adikevich" at Gmail.  

You can find the previous translations for Defying Danger here:

If you're interested in doing your own translation, and want the original .PPTX files to work from (yes, yes, I made this in frickin' PowerPoint, don't judge), then let me know in the comments or by emailing me at "jack" underscore "blackfoot" at Yahoo. 

Likewise, if you make your own translation and want me to post it here, let me know!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Major Arcana: The Nhing Codex

Over on the Dungeon World Discord, Razorkiss asked this interesting question:

Imagine you're trying to model scary Mythos tomes in DungeonWorld. Y'know, we're talking about The Necronomicon here. You want to create a custom move that represents the dangers of reading it, the dangers of gaining knowledge at the expense of sanity. I feel like the first instinct would be that this is a +WIS move, because, y'know, the Will save and all of its attendant baggage. But... is that the way you'd really want to go? It's basically saying, "Y'know, Wizard, you'd think you'd be the person who would be all over this custom move, but it turns out your buddies the Ranger, Druid, and Cleric are better-suited for this job..."
When you read the obviously evil book, roll +???

Queue discussion about whether it'd be an INT roll or CHA roll or whatever.

And my first instinct was to treat it the way I treat major arcana in Stonetop. 

(discussion after the break)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Take Watch is a bad move and you're a bad person if you like it

"Did you hear that? It sounds like... click bait!"

Strong personal opinion: Take Watch is a bad move. You don't need it. Dungeon World doesn't need it. I'd even go so far as to say that it is antithetical to the rest of the game.    

Just to be clear, I'm talking about the bog-standard version in the original Dungeon World text. This one:

When you’re on watch and something approaches the camp roll+Wis. * On a 10+ you’re able to wake the camp and prepare a response, the camp takes +1 forward. * On a 7–9 you react just a moment too late; the camp is awake but hasn’t had time to prepare. You have weapons and armor but little else. * On a miss whatever lurks outside the campfire’s light has the drop on you.

It breaks the usual flow of the game. It doesn't add much of anything to the fiction, and what it does add presumes more than it should about how any given PC will react in every situation. (A full explanation, and what to do instead, after the break.)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

My recipe for starting adventures

I've got a little process that I use whenever I start a game of Dungeon World or Homebrew World. It's similar to the first session procedure that's described in the book, but different in some key ways. I've found that this approach reliably kicks off a new game quickly and with a lot of energy, in a way that makes it pretty darn easy to run and improvise.  

Here's the recipe:
  1. Establish the adventure's premise with the group
      > Premise = a fantastic location + a grabby activity
      > Do this before anyone picks playbooks or makes characters

  2. Players create characters, GM writes/updates hook questions, which should establish:
      > Motive: why are they here, doing this?
      > Stakes: what's on the line, why is this important?
      > Urgency: why shouldn't they dawdle?
      > Dangers: what do they expect to face? what do they know about them?
      > Detail: what specifically are they hunting/seeking/fleeing/fighting/etc.?
    Complications: what's getting in the way? making it harder? constraining them?

  3. Do introductions (by name, pronouns, class, and look).
      > Do not do bonds (or in Homebrew World, background questions) just yet. 
      > You're just establishing who the characters are.
      > Yes, you can ask questions, but keep it light for now.

  4. Ask a few of your hook questions
      > Usually 1-3
      > Pick questions that elaborate on or clarify the premise
      > Address specific PCs, not the group at large
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!

  5. Do bonds (or in Homebrew World, background questions)
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!
      > Use this to establish how they know each other, why they're working together

  6. Finish asking your hook questions
      > Doing bonds/background questions often rolls naturally into this
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!
      > Ask additional questions as they occur to you

  7. Frame the initial scene, tightly
      > Start in media res or at least right on the verge of action
      > Who, where, when, doing what?
      > Give up to 3 strong impressions, ideally from different senses
      > Make a soft GM move
      > "What do you do?"

That's the recipe!  More about the background, details, and suggested prep after the jump break.

I keep hearing good things about Delicious in Dungeon,
but haven't read it; just seemed appropriate, y'know? Cuz recipes.