Typography

I’ve been reading through my copies of Workskin (Norman & Gorganmilk) again and I’ve also got The Peridot (David McGrogan) kicking around my deks now because of it. I quite like the idea of throwing some ideas into a zine like this so that’s what I’ve been working on recently. (This something that I played around with before if anyone spotted my unlaunched Patreon and was actually what Merchants and Civilisations was originally for.)

Anyway, I keep finding hurdles to slow myself down with. I’m unsure why I’m that kind of person. One such hurdle was “I can’t even tell if this text should be justified or not.” I ended up Googling for it and found Butterick’s Practical Typography. It’s full of advice that I’m working through. I’d recommend it for anyone writing who isn’t likely to get an editor or layout person.

It talks a lot about typography not being about aesthetics. Instead, it’s more about being appropriate for your subject area and being in the right format to sink in as completely as possible whilst reading.

For completion: with regards to left aligned or justified, it suggests following personal preference. There’s apparently little evidence of one being better than the other. I’ll go with left aligned right now, because it leaves more space for notes, but I don’t have a strong preference.

I did wanna do the preface centred but was heavily berated by Butterick’s chapter on that.

A poem showing off when centred text can be used. The irony is that the poem is written centre-aligned despite the advice.
A poem from Butterick.

The Barrelled Barn

This is a tavern I wrote for an adventure, and then realised I probably don’t need a tavern. If nanowrimo has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t throw away content though. Feel free to run with this.

The Barrelled Barn is a tavern so called because the stables-and-henhouse is made from a huge structure made from nailed together ale barrels. The tavern is run by Falen the Kind, a gnome. He’s nailed many wooden pitons around the bar which he climbs with great grace to get up higher; behind the bar, up to bottles, even lighting the candles.

The tavern is quite large with many secluded nooks and even semi-private rooms which some people have taken their drinks and food into. This allows for many different people to be in here whilst still keeping their conversations quietly to themselves.

Falen talks kindly about all his customers but he knows most of them quite well from over hearing (“well, it’s not my place to say, but…”). He suggests a few people who are looking for some work done.

Jaxx the Impaler is a well-known orc who runs the Impaler fighting ring nearby. He has dark skin with many red highlights where his skin has scarred from accidents in the ring. He’s always on the lookout for people to send into the nearby forest to collect owlbears, dire wolves, or even aurochs. He wants them brought back alive and ready to fight against each other, or an eager gladiator.

Teeth the Tabaxi comes from a far-flung place, which is very clear by his accent which is difficult to understand at the best of times. He’s still not gotten used to the strength of ale in these parts, and slurs all the more because of it. He’s an ex-smuggler, though he still has many friends in the game. He’s often used as a man in the middle for giving out messages between smugglers. He knows the location of the hideout of a recently murdered pirate; he’ll give it the adventurers for the right price… and a look at any maps they come across. Teeth will almost definitely try and steal something from the adventurers’ mid-conversation. He has Sleight of Hand (+8) vs. their passive Perception.

Tracker Blue is an incredibly fashionable half-elf who specialising in piercings and tattoos. She’s surrounded by men and women who are hanging on to her every word. They’re each proudly presenting their tattoos. The conversation they’re all aflutter with tonight is with regards to the minor infestation of ash zombies who seasonally pass through the dried natural waterways (accessible by some defunct wells). They’re all curious if the zombie’s glittering ash puff would look good if used as a tattoo ink, and are willing to pay a good price for a few bags full of the stuff.

The Long Night of the Sidhe

A review with spoilers, for DMs.

The Long Night of the Sidhe is an adventure with strong Irish ties that leads players through decades of torment trying to rescue the world from the Sidhe’s everlasting night. In order to figure out what’s going on and eventually free the world from darkness, players need to dive deep into the time-warped realm of the Sidhe (which aligns well with the feywild, if you wanted to play it like that).

I was a player in this adventure during Cork RPG Con, it took about twelve hours to run through and fit perfectly into the time slots we had. Due to it being an adventure for the con, it was the DM’s job to keep us moving at constant pace which affected the game for me in both good and bad ways.

The bad was that it meant the adventure had to be set along a railroads, with not a great deal of interaction with the world. There’s the constant force of being pushed forwards and little opportunity to go investigate elsewhere. Going backwards through environments isn’t possible, due to the nature of literally falling deeper into the feywild. This could very much be down to how this run of the game played out, but there was little time for roleplay. (Although, I know this is how many players like it.) Interactions with other characters are often utilitarian; a conversation to push the story to the next stage.

To highlight this, there’s one stage in the story where a girl demands that she joins you. Her aim is to protect a village heirloom, rather than hand it over to you (where it could be perfectly safe in your bag of holding). No matter what you try to shake the girl, she’ll hang on, because she’s required for the story a little later. There was no reasoning with her in a way that felt purely for a simplified story.

This could be down to it being run at a con. I’m sure as the DM, with fewer time constraints, the rest of the world can be filled out and players allowed to wonder around it.

The huge upside of always heading forwards is that every scene can have something interesting in it. Less time for roleplay means a whole lot more time for combat, trials, and some rather cunning riddles that bluff and then double bluff players expectations.

Whilst there’s certainly a good deal of combat, there’s typically a twist along with it. In one of my favourite fights, we had to try and make our way across the steppingstones of a river. The water was moving quickly and going straight towards some painful looking rocks. So, of course when we’re all in single file with very little room for manoeuvring, that’s when we get attacked by a crazy Irish fairy-tale creature. Suddenly, cure wounds isn’t so much of a safety net when the unconscious body might falling into the rocks to take a death save failure, way out of reach. Melee only creatures need to be creative and rely on skills they’re not used to (or taunt the monster towards them). Whereas in other games, the challenge in a fight might come from the bad guy having multi-attack and hitting hard, here the challenge was mostly the environment. It required actual strategy that’s often lost in “I hit it with my greataxe”-style combat.

As an Englishman in an Irish story, I learnt a whole bunch of lore I’d never heard before. The monster from above was a dobhar-chu, a kind of dog-otter dude. The Sidhe was lost on me as well to start with, but you learn about them throughout the story. It made me realise how closeted my D&D is. I played just one game away from home and learnt so many interesting bits of fantasy I can steal – I wonder what I’m missing by never having played D&D in Africa or Asia.

The author of the adventure is Mike O’Regan, who’s a good friend of mine. There are two things you can count on in an O’Regan adventure: 1) there’ll be a cool riddle or trap, 2) you’re probably not going to make it out alive. This adventure lives up to both of those expectations without being cheap. The trap is well designed and the ultimate deaths are tasteful in a way that none of the players with be upset about.

The trap-room in this adventure is wonderful. It’s great seeing people work it out because they do get excited by it. I would strongly suggest using a d20 rather than a d100 (like I expect is in the adventure) as it takes a good deal of time to work out the formula, and so some players tap out and leave it to the more studious of the group to figure it out for them. Fortunately, both times I’ve done this riddle-trap-room there’s been a nerdier mathematician around. The lower dice means it can be done on paper easier. This is a fun adventure to be a player in, and it seemed like our DM was having fun running it. I don’t think there’s a great deal of re-playability in it (but there rarely is with most adventures that are telling a story), but it’s definitely something that should be played once.

The Shortlongbow

This stupid joke made me frustrated with how bad at drawing I am.

The other day I was playing a brilliant gnomish ranger. He shoot, he protec, he attac. But then some complete dorks said that a gnome can’t use a longbow. This is outrageous and the community should rally behind cause to get the Shortlongbow into more games. The tall people have had their fun and games for too long. It’s our time now. #gnomelivesmatter

Shortlongbow

Type: Martial Ranged Weapon, Cost: 130 gp, Weight: 2 lbs, Damage: 1d8 piercing, Ammunition, Range (150/600), Two-Handed.

Proficiency with a longbow allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.

This bow has been under development by gnomes for millennia, but has only now come to fruition. Availability is still limited, but your local gnomish trading outpost may well have one.

Introducing, Hodekin

Hodekin are a kind of kobold with more feline features. They share a good many traits though; they want their own hoard and they’re quite happy to find a Big Bad to serve. (This might not actually be what they were back in the days of legendary hodekin, but in this adventure, they are.)

Here’s an adventure I’ve placed them in, where you’ll find them locked away from the world and enslaved by a young, green dragon. He’s spent years splitting them into tribes to hate each other, giving them little time to realise who the real villain is. Will your players make it their aim to just steal a little treasure, or be the liberators of the Hodekin?

There’s only a couple of intended combats in this adventure – one of them being the Big Bad. I was hoping to make more of a social challenge adventure. There’s a number of factions to unite, who have no intent of doing so. And shouldn’t even really be talking to your players.

Hit the image to get the adventure!

This is an adventure that I started writing before I’d done my literature review. So, if I were going to write it again I’d do quite a lot different.

It’s very wordy. Where I’ve offered descriptions of environments they should be short and left to the DM, but I’ve filled in quite a lot of that for them. I was reading Dragon+ magazine, and they were talking about the first adventures written by the British arm of TSR; they came with a “warning” from the publisher that the adventures are more “flowery” than you’d expect to find in American adventures. It’s good to know, at least, that I’m not bucking a trend here.

This is a play test version of the adventure because I’ve not run it myself yet. I don’t have a group I can test things on, at the moment. (To my huge heartbreak!) The layout could be standardised more, with monster boxes just being text, and only using a single column. Plus, the map giving of the water caverns is straight up a Dyson Logos map that I’ve not yet tweaked to be underwater.

The other map in the adventure is handdrawn and photographed by me – on my phone! Not even scanned. So, this is very much an early stages production.

Nevertheless, do let me know what you think.