Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Thoughts on Being a Good Caller

In old-school D&D parlance, a "caller" is a player who acts as a designated suggester for group actions in situations where collective decision-making is required. When a party is discussing plans, it is also the caller who reports the "final draft" of their ideas to the dungeon master. In the right kind of game, a caller can cut down on wasted time and uncertainty.

The procedure of being a caller is based in the important fact that they are "calling" in the sense that they are announcing the group's will, not that they are "calling the shots." Therefore, a caller who is certain of consensus announces it to the dungeon master, and a caller who is not certain asks for opinions and offers their own until they are certain of consensus. To put it in a list:

Caller Procedure

  1. The DM describes a situation and asks the players what they do.
  2. If the players already discussed what they would do in this situation, the caller announces it. (skip to step 6)
  3. Individual PCs act, if they wish.
  4. If not, the players discuss as normal. The caller comes up with suggestions if no one else cares to.
  5. After discussion, the caller restates the plan to the rest of the party and to the DM.
  6. They ask the rest of the party to confirm they said everything right.
  7. The DM adjudicates the new situation.

This is the core of being a good caller: listening, understanding, clarity, volunteering. Everything else is footnotes.

Robert Caney


  • The caller will benefit from tracking standard procedures, such as marching orders, watch rotations, and typical ways the party checks a door for traps.
  • In situations with no pressure and little information, the caller can speed things along. For example, if the party comes to an empty chamber with two identical rooms, the caller can propose something like "shall we have the rogue listen at both doors?"
  • You don't need to report the entirety of a long plan to the DM. Walk through the first few steps and keep the plan in mind, in anticipation of the situation changing. If things go surprisingly well you can just go to step 2 and narrate the next part of the plan.
  • Pay attention to the features of the room you're in, the features of the room behind you, and any patterns connecting them to places you've been before.
  • If another player is mapping, the caller should try not to explore faster than it takes the mapper to map.
  • It often makes sense to describe what each PC is doing. This gives you an opportunity to notice if someone is left out, allowing you to ask them what they're doing. If they are uncertain, feel free to suggest they help another PC or keep lookout.
  • If the plan involves several steps in sequence, try to visualize them to make sure you aren't leaving anything out.
  • The caller's PC gets to wear a big hat. It's just the rules.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Dog Moods

All dogs are good, but some are better at following an adventurer's orders. Dog "hirelings" do not have a loyalty score, rather they have a "good" score and a quirk. When given a simple order, roll a d6 and add the dog's good score. Higher is better. Most dogs range from -1 to +1 good. The goodest dog in the land might be +2. The gooder the dog is, the more expensive to purchase from a trainer. 

Roll a d20 for each dog the trainer is able to sell at the moment; the owner probably has a good idea of what kind of animal they're selling. Each quirk has an optional physical descriptor and an optional rule applied to it, but don't sweat these if you don't want to.

(Note: there is no reason you could not adapt this to all hirelings, but people are sometimes complicated.)
art by Eran Fowler

d20 Dog Quirks
  1. Curious: +2 Good when finding trouble.
  2. Quiet: can smell the dead from far off.
  3. Hard-boiled: +1 tracking and innate sense of justice
  4. Yippy: +2 Good when guarding, -2 Good when silence is needed.
  5. Stygic: can speak an obscure language, no sense of humor.
  6. Unflappable: +1 Good when traversing obstacles.
  7. Cowardly: won't get within 50 feet of evil smells.
  8. Growly: +1 Good to charge something.
  9. Shepherd: +1 Good to protect care hirelings and animals.
  10. Tendril'd: can read minds, no sense of right and wrong.
  11. Playful: +1 Good to charm.
  12. Terrier: +1 Good to attack small things.
  13. Coal Hound: unharmed by fire.
  14. Campaigner: +1 equipment slot.
  15. Comforting: grants a bonus on recovering from mental and physical wounds.
  16. Sensitive: detects diseases, pregnancies, parasites, and the like.
  17. Social: other dogs get +1 good when following the same order as this dog.
  18. Retriever: +2 Good when fetching something.
  19. Veteran: roll a random tall tale for this good good dog.
  20. Roll twice and combine.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

So you have asked about the TeleGLOG

It was a project, a community game. We said we would take Arnold K.'s GLoG ruleset and change it, one person making a new change, one at a time. After a full rotation, we had this document. Not playable or intuitive, but fun and interesting in its own way. When this was passed around, there was a greater enthusiasm. People who had missed the chance to sign up the first time wanted to go for a second round, and popular opinion was that we should that this new ruleset for another rotation, rather than starting from scratch or someone else's hack. Predictably, this document was the result. When the first TeleGLOG was made, someone suggested trying to run it. No one suggested that was possible this time.

Was it worth it? Sure. There are some neat ideas hidden in these diseased brains, and people enjoyed writing and working together. Are the end results desirable to play? Heck, I don't think so. My advice to anyone who sought to emulate this project in the future would be to focus your aim with a smaller team. Check out the Charcuterie Board, that went great.

Customs as Arrows in a Player's Quiver

 Many players, famously, are uninterested in the minutiae of worldbuilding and social customs. In dungeon games, they want to tell a story together, and while drawing on a shared setting can elevate that, reading background is not collaborative. To that end, I propose refocusing those things DMs want players to be able to incorporate in games by explicitly describing how a PC can use a social custom. This also serves as fair warning to the players about what socially-adept NPCs may attempt. The format:

Name: Generic Name (any additional names in parentheses)

  • Purpose: half-sentence starting with "to"
  • Custom: second-person instruction on what is done and the consequences for breaking the custom.
Arthur Rackham

And examples:

Name: Parley (pax, formal ransom)

  • Purpose: to make conflict less deadly
  • Custom: if you throw your weapon aside and invoke this custom, you must be taken prisoner and have your needs looked after. Nobles are to be given means equal to their station. Killing someone who has invoked parley makes you an outlaw in the eyes of authority, and honorable underlings may help mistreated prisoners escape.

Name: Formal Gathering (promenade, seasonal feast)

  • Purpose: to show respect for nobles
  • Custom: if you throw a party worth 10 gp or more, anyone you invite up to minor nobility must attend and talk to you unless they have a defensible reason. When you throw a party worth 50 gp or more, anyone you invite up to a king must attend. Those who break the custom are poo-pooed by their peers and random encounters on their estate have fewer guards for a week.

Name: Debate (inquisition)

  • Purpose: to inquire about a figure's belief
  • Custom: while a guest drinks your beer, wine, or tea, you are entitled to ask them questions about their divine and temporal allegiances, as well as questions of religious and political doctrine. Unless they baldly lie, you can always tell their vague attitude and feeling. If they baldly lie, they are afflicted with a minor curse until the next sunrise.

Arthur Rackham

Name: Challenge of Arrows (duel, Trial)

  • Purpose: to bring someone to justice
  • Custom: If you publicly impugn someone thought to be virtuous, they have to come and answer this slander with contest of Bowry. The more evidence you have, the closer you get to start to the target. If they lose, or if they don't show, the law acknowledge their wrongdoing and punishes them accordingly. If they win, you risk your reputation.

Name: Sanctuary (formal presentation)

  • Purpose: to respect the sovereignty of rulers
  • Custom: If you present yourself to the leader of a city, town, or temple and promise good conduct, they must take care of you as long as you are not below their notice. If they bring you to harm or hand you over to someone pursuing you, they lose the right to sanctuary themselves.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

All the World is a Stage, but you are a Juggler (GLoG Class)

In ancient times, we called ventriloquists "gastromancers," for we knew they told the future. We let mimes set the aesthetic agenda, because their genius spoke louder than the chorus. And the magi we called wise men and kings were jugglers.

art by TheFantaSim

You can juggle and use a number of one-slot-or-smaller items equal to the numbers of hands you possess +1 for each juggler template, or double that if the items are all especially juggleable.

Starting equipment:  sling and ten twine balls, easily-discarded cloak, pair of devil sticks or poi, one Golden Age Trinket

Starting ken: acrobatics and either theft or etiquette

  • A: Performer
  • B: Catch, Retinue
  • C: Parley, Circus
  • D: R2tDotE,wJwnD

Performer: you seem like you belong when you act like a deferential entertainer. Works equally well on officials, bandits, and lions.

Catch: You can pluck missiles fired at you from the air and start juggling them. This may cause you to drop something else. 

Retinue: entertainer and historian hirelings are fanatically loyal to you as long as they get paid.

Parley: Only a total blackguard or literal snake would violate a parlay under the watchful eye of a Master Juggler.

Circus: Your party gets a +2 reaction bonus when travelers or random encounters happen upon your camp.

Return to the Days of the Empire, when Juggling was not Disgraced: It's back, baby! A blood-bidden and decorum-decked position awaits you.

Golden Age Trinket
  1. Father of History's aborted manuscript. Study for an hour outside a dungeon to learn of an ancient treasure or significant grave within.
  2. once-privileged dialect, the father of modern Thieves' Cant.
  3. gladius, well-worn. +1 damage against unarmored people or horses.
  4. invisible box.
  5. old but distinguished horse. A senate emeritus.
  6. thin red jian. Can be concealed within your throat safely as long as you don't run or shout.
  7. toad familiar of a priestess who was burned as a poisoner.
  8. five silver rings. You can link or unlink them at will.
  9. secret name borrowed from a figure in history. If you want someone to know it refers to you, they do.
  10. wolf's milk. Those who drink it become stronger but lose patience and decency.
  11. silver coin, on one side a face and the other an elephant. The face can report what it hears and the elephant can report whether vermin are near.
  12. six badges of six consuls assassinated. When you die violently, your next character starts with half your accrued XP and a golden age trinket.
  13. lantern, juggleable, that runs on either oil or alcohol.
  14. chain net. Covered in bells.
  15. sandals. Anyone wearing them is considered two one-slot items for the purpose of juggling.
  16. bronze six-pack. You count as having medium armor against attacks targeting your belly specifically.
  17. six ancient petards.
  18. silver greaves with lion faces engraved in them. They can eat fresh meat and it sustains you.
  19. living metal pigeon.
  20. as many juggleable machetes as you can carry.