Welcome to the BEST READS OF THE WEEK!

This is the first list I’ve done in several years so you might be asking yourself, “What’s the BEST READS OF THE WEEK?”

Each week I read through the more than 700 blogs on my blog roll call to and find the best of articles out of the lot and publish links of them on my blog with short descriptions so you can decide if they’re something you’d like to read too. But now I’ve added a podcast version so that if you’re too busy to read the list you can listen to it instead!

MAY 23 – 29, 2020

Back from the Grave by Bruce Heard, from the blog About Bruce Heard and Other Stories: This is a really neat monster created by Bruce for his Calidar game. The “Incarnates” are a sort of ghost in the shell monster. The spirit has been given a physical body that they then use to accomplish their mission on the prime plane. While he made it as an easily adaptable B/X monster it can be used in 5e D&D with slightly more work on the part of the Dungeon Master. Well worth checking out.

Worlds of the Galaxy Trio by James Mishler, from the blog Adventures in Gaming v2: James explores the fantastic shared universe of Hanna-Barbera’s Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. James briefly details the worlds featured on the series and in so doing creates a quick list that could be exported to any space exploration game with little to no trouble. It reminded me of this fantastic time in Hanna-Barbera’s history when they constantly came up with imaginative series that helped push the boundaries of storytelling instead of rehashing the same territory time, and time again.

Whither the Dungeon? – The Decline and Fall of D&D Adventures by Justin Alexander, from the blog The Alexandrian: In this post Justin explores the idea that modern Dungeons & Dragons, which he notes most everything from D&D since 2008, is failing to teach players how to run a dungeon and instead is teaching them to run a module. The argument essentially falls on the idea that unless a skill is expressly being taught that it is failing to be learned. While I disagree with his conclusions, I find myself coming back to this article time, and time again.

Price On Your Head by bat, from the blog Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets – An oldschool gaming blog . . .: This is the sort of post that typifies why Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets is such a fun read. The spell is lead in with this bit of flash fiction that perfectly encapsulates the way that the spell would change things for those effected by the spell. The spell itself can easily be dropped into practically any fantasy game with magic.

Retrospective: How RPGs Work, by Vincent Baker, from the blog anyway.: If you’ve ever wanted to get into the nitty gritty of role-playing games than this is a great place to begin exploring how they work and how to make them work better. Vincent has a lot of experience building role-playing games and he’s always coming up with something worth checking out even if it’s just to see what his next great idea is going to be. In this post you’ll find an indexed list of all his thoughts on the subject since 2009. Well worth exploring.

GRIMLITE by Chris McDowall, from the blog BASTIONLAND: This post is the beginning of Chris’ attempts to build a rules lite version of the Games Workshop war games he enjoyed in his youth. I enjoy watching someone work through his process and reading this, and subsequent posts in the game’s development, makes for some fine reading. If you’re interested in playing a new war game and have some experience with previous games this might be one to jump on and help develop by playtesting the rules in your home games.

The Anatomy of a Dungeon Map by Melon, from the blog Beyond Formalhaut: Like Justin Alexander before them, Melon finds themselves lamenting the state of dungeons in the modern age of role-playing games. Melon calls the dungeon “a lost art” and there may be something to the idea as Melon describes the aspects of the dungeon that they find most appealing and the areas that tend to be off-putting to them as well. While not all the suggestions will improve your own dungeons the discussion is sure to be one that will help you think about how the dungeon should run and what will make it worth playing. 

How I Homebrew a Dungeon by FrDave, from the blog Blood of Prokopius: Inspired by Justin Alexander’s post FrDave has provided us with his version of the dungeon and how it has helped them over the years. FrDave’s personal account describing how they build a dungeon is much more instructive than the philosophical discussion Justin and Melon have provided in previously highlighted posts.

Lost Carcosa Announcement (What I’ve Been Up To) by Tristan Tanner, from the blog The Bogeyman’s Cave: Now this is something that has really peaked my interest. I am a big fan of the sort of eldritch horror that tends to come along with Carcosa and seeing Tristan come at it from a different angle is something that I’m really excited to explore more fully when it’s complete. In the meantime I’m going to content myself with his enjoyable Adventuring in Distressingly Hazardous Dungeons which is a collection of his house rules for OD&D. 

Marengo Campaign: Battle of Alessandria by Jim Gandy, from the blog Camp Cromwell: This post details the events of a war game set during the Battle of Alessandria. What makes it worth reading is that Jim is able to present the game in such a way that I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t try to get back into wargaming once this damned plague is over and done. If you’re wondering what makes wargaming something worth doing then this is a good introduction into the fun of it while putting in just enough of the game jargon that you’ll find yourself wondering where you’re going. Fun stuff!

Using Safety Tools in Virtual Games by Don Bisdorf, from the blog ConTessa: While I’m not generally one to play games with people I don’t already know, there are enough of us out there looking to hop into a game online that it is only prudent to consider some ways to make it safer for all those involved. You don’t need to follow any of the advice offered here, but taking note of what they’re saying might help you avoid a messy situation in your own online games in the future.

A Manifesto by Mark Craddock, from the blog Cross Planes: While you’re bound to find any number of manifestos online this one from Mark is truly brilliant because it’s essentially the un-manifesto. Through a description of his own history with role-playing games he eloquently describes why a manifesto on gaming (and often in life in general) is ultimately doomed to failure.

Robots Part 1, Robots Part 2, and Robots are People by James V. West, from the blog Doomslakers: James loves his robots, and I do too. Check out the first two parts to see what he’s been drawing and the third part for a discussion as to why this sudden obsession has taken hold of him.

RSA: Create Water and Create Food by Bighara, from the blog Echoes from the Geekcave: It is so easy to overlook utility spells as being nothing more than filler but to read Bighara’s discussion of these two spells makes me take a second look at them. Not only do they discuss what the spells actually create, but how to use them in your home games.

Token Quick Megadungeon by Chris Tamm, from the blog Elfmaids and Octopi: As Chris is so fond of doing in this post he blows all of us away. He manages to create a mega-dungeon filled with factions, provides us all with rumors, cultists, encounters, and then a brief description of all 149 rooms.

grodog’s Mega-Dungeon Maps – Revising and Expanding the First Two Dungeon Levels of My Castle Greyhawk by grodog, from the blog From Kuroth’s Quill – grodog’s AD&D blog: If you’ve never read a post by grodog and you’re a Greyhawk enthusiast, such as myself, then you need to take this opportunity to read this post. grodog manages to put his own spin on the way that the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk are laid out while staying true to the original spirit of the work. I’m such a fan of his work.

The Scouring of the Shire by Stuart, from the blog The Great Game: Often when we think about the Lord of the Rings we’re focused on the great battles and the journey to destroy the ring, but in this insightful post from Stuart we’re asked to consider the end of that journey. What would happen if we played a game focused on the period immediately after that great journey when the hobbits return home and find their home completely in tatters?

Knight Errant Generator by Matt Strom, from the blog Ice & Ruin: Just a simple generator to help you drop a knight errant in your home games. It’s just damned useful without becoming too overly complex.

To Puzzle, or Not to Puzzle? 3 Tips on Making Them Work by Neal Litherland, from the blog Improved Initiative: Puzzles are an aspect of the game that I have often struggled with as a Dungeon Master so to see any blog attempting to help me run them immediately gets my attention. I’ve not yet gotten to see if Neal’s tips will work during actual play but they have certainly inspired me to try puzzles again.

How D&D Got an Initiative System Rooted in California House Rules by DM David, from the blog DM David: David is at his best when he’s got his teeth into an idea and begins to really dig deep into the topic. With this post we’re looking into the initiative system (which, as he previous detailed, was largely a mess for the first 10 years of the game) and how it came to be as we know it today. An enjoyable piece.

The Fractal Nature of the AD&D Game by Jeffro, from the blog Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog: While DM David viewed the AD&D initiative system as something of terror Jeffro, by contrast, sees it as a fairly clear process which he outlines in this article. In doing so Jeffro examines why individual initiatives actually do a disservice to the game. Well worth reading in conjunction with DM David’s explorations on the topic as two of my favorites discuss the topic from completely different viewpoints.

The Sad Blue House by Evlyn, from the blog Le Chaudron Chromatique: This is the sort of weird goodness that keeps me coming back to role-playing games. This is a drop in location / adventure based around an abandoned village and of the Sad, Blue House where a blue teenager hides away from the eyes of the world. Evlyn has a beautiful writing style that I always find myself excited to read.

Diadem of Destruction 17 by Roger, from the blog A Life Full of Adventure: This post is written from the perspective of Roger’s character as they explore an underground labyrinth and it is an absolute delight!  Roger has a great writing style that lets this story flow without making it difficult on the reader by constantly bogging down in the minutia of dice rolls and table rulings.

The Importance of Status and Ceremony in Ancient Times by Lungfungus, from the blog Melancholies and Mirth: One of the aspect of my game that I often find myself failing to convey is the notion that there are ways for the players to act when dealing with people of differing status and ceremonial actions that must be obeyed under such circumstances. As Lungfungus points out such things were commonplace in ancient times so to convey them in our home games seems to be a natural progress for the situationists among us. I’m not sure how much fun this would add to the game – or even if it would be reasonable to implement it – but the idea is interesting.  

Are You Experienced by noisms, from the blog Monsters and Manuals: A discussion of AD&D 2e experience and how it failed to be of much use. I’m unsure of how accurate noisms views are on this matter as I need to review the experience rules but I find most discussions of 2e to be enjoyable.

Rolemaster-esque Critical Tables, or, “No more hit points” by Josh from the blog Rise Up Comus: I’ve long been a fan of the critical hit tables from Rolemaster as they tend to make the games very, very dangerous when it comes to combat and so it makes the decision to engage one that players have to think about. Bringing that over to D&D styled games is a fascinating move. I’m not sure if I like the results that Josh has come up with yet, but I’m definitely intrigued by the effort.

Circumnavigating the Eurofantasy in Role-Playing Games by Lich Van Winkle, from the blog Lich Van Winkle’s Return to Game: If you’re looking to move outside of the typical pseudo-European game setting then you might be considering exploring another culture’s world but there are some dangers in doing so. It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing out a racial stereotype. So how do you avoid doing that? It’s a discussion that Lich Van Winkle is interested in having.


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