RPG Explorations header image (old man at desk looking through a book)

RPG Explorations

It's about to be a new year. So, a new start?

So, it’s about to be a new year, and yes, I think I need a new start.

The last half of 2023 was a rough one for me. A job I enjoyed was quickly pulled out from under me when the company closed down completely. Well, there was a bit more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. Out of the blue, I was suddenly out of what I thought was a stable job. Ah well, we move on.

Then, it took much longer to find a new job than I thought it would. That whole process drained much of any kind of creative juices I may have had. After a day of submitting resumes and sending emails and LinkedIn messages, I didn’t have any energy left to do anything creative. I did eventually find something new, thankfully. But it was a tough process, that I do hope I don’t have to deal with again anytime soon.

Then, as a side note, a project with the same inspiration I was using was released. Theirs is a much more professional and cool looking game than I was working on, for sure. I’m not too sure that my own project is exactly like this one, but we have the same inspirational base, and I don’t want to step on any toes. But that’s fine, too.

I do have another project I’ve resurrected lately that I’m hoping could be my first, real RPG release. The content is about 75% written, but there’s still all of the editing and layout that needs to be done. But, I’m excited, once again, to get back to working on these kinds of projects. And with some excellent starter templates like Clayton Notestine’s Classic Explorer, I have a feeling I can get something put together in the first quarter of 2024.

In addition to putting together a game of my own, I would like to start posting some solo RPG playthroughs here on this blog. I have a bunch of Four Against Darkness expansions to run through, in addition to many (many, many, many) other RPGs. I’m excited to see what comes in the new year, and what may become of this blog.

Moving the blog

I initially set up this blog on Wordpress.com because I thought I would be posting often and could put to use many of the features that the Wordpress system allowed. However, that has not been the case. So, I’m moving this off of Wordpress and onto the VPS I host at DigitalOcean.

This will remove a monthly bill, which is nice, but I do hope I’ll get to posting more in the next year. I took a bit of a break from both Dungeon23 and the TTRPGs that I had been working on, so there really wasn’t much post about. I was laid off from a job several months ago, and that sort of killed any kind of motivation or inspiration I had built up. But, I started a new job a bit ago and I’m starting to get the itch to make some progress on my TTRPG projects again! So hopefully there will be some signs of life here coming soon.

I’ve also moved comments to Disqus, since the blog software I’m using doesn’t have something built in. I’ll have to see how they work out. I also have many adjustments to the design I want to make, so it’s going to look a little rough for the time being.

Dungeon23 Update #1

I’m now just over a couple of weeks into the Dungeon23 challenge, and it’s actually going pretty well. I’m still feeling my way into the challenge, but we’ve only just begun. As it progresses, I should get a better handle on my voice in the process.

As mentioned in my first Dungeon23 post, I’m wanted to do some overland hex mapping, as in addition to dungeon design. Well, I started with some hex mapping (see images below), but then instead of delving into a dungeon, I found a keep and began mapping something above ground. The mapping and points of interest came from the Pocket Lands (and D100 Lands) tables. I figured I’d follow what the dice rolls decided.

My initial descriptions started out as if I was playing the game (as omnipotent observers) surveying the land and objects. After four or five days I switched to a more descriptive language, and dropped the “we are” and “we see” language. I’m still ironing out how I’m filling out the descriptions of the rooms and areas, but I’m sure I’ll nail it down soon. I’m definitely new to this sort of thing, so a bit of “figuring it out” should be expected.

Here is an in-progress photo of my initial hex crawl map, as well as the design of the keep itself (which still hasn’t been fully exposed):

The beginning of my hex crawl map, and interiors of a keep (for Dungeon23)

The beginning of the hex crawl map, and the interior floors of a keep

I remember how I would design castles and dungeons on graph paper way, way back in the day and this is bringing those memories back in waves. Whether what I’m working on now will every be used, I can’t say, but it’s been so much fun so far.

I should also add that I have a new resource for building out this world, and that’s Matthew Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design. I replied to a post on dice.camp by Sean Kelley (go and subscribe to Sean’s excellent YouTube channel: How 2 RPG), where he was showing his new hardcover edition of the book. He offered to sell me his first edition softcover, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve only just begun to dig into the massive trove of content tables, but I’m positive it will become a very handy resource.

I’m still a bit hesitant to share much of what I’ve written as the descriptions of what I’ve been uncovering in Dungeon23. But, I think once I get a better hang of what I’m doing, and my writing style gets a bit more solid, I may share some excerpts here and there.

Now, let’s see what’s happening in the basement of that keep…

Dungeon23 Introduction

In his original post, here’s how Sean McCoy planned on creating his Dungeon23 megadungeon:

A dungeon room a day, every day, for 2023. That’s 365 rooms. I’ll do a level a month, so 12 levels. Every week is a little area of 7 rooms, so I can keep my focus small.

That sounds like a lot of fun, but I think I’d like to try it a bit differently. If you read across Twitter, Mastodon, and Reddit how folks plan on participating, you’ll find ideas like City23, World23, NPC23, and so on.

I think for my own adventure, I want to do somewhat of a combination of all of these. I’d like to start out with an overland trek (building out a region or world) and then at times either “discover” and plan out a dungeon, or maybe I’ll decide to build a city instead. I think if I leave my own rules a little loose, I’ll be more likely to keep up with the challenge.

I’m also not going to be terribly strict about participating every single day for the year. If I can accomplish that, then that’s great. However, if I’m only able to write something down a few days a week, I’ll consider that a success as well. I’m not sure how much of my progress I’ll be posting to this blog, but I will try and write up at least a weekly or monthly update.

General resources

In a short amount of time, a whole bunch of content popped up surrounding the Dungeon 23 idea. It’s honestly a bit overwhelming, but there are a few sites that I do think will be an enormous help. Here are some general ones:

Resources specific to my adventure

In addition to those sites listed above, here’s what I think I’ll be using for my own attempt. This list may get longer as I progress with my playthrough.

Dev Diary Zero

The first question I need to answer is this: do I really know what I’m doing?

The answer so far is: not really! I’m just winging it at this point. But that’s fine.

TTRPGs aren’t completely new to me, as I mentioned in the opening post here, but writing one certainly is. As a teen, I spent many hours drawing castles, dungeons, and monsters for D&D campaigns that were never played, but now, 35 years later, I’m taking a different approach.

Solo RPGs, and journaling RPGs in particular, have truly captured my attention. In a way, they look at lot like simple creative writing exercises. But I feel like there is more to them than that. Take Alone Among the Stars by Takuma Okada, for example. Sure, you’re describing a certain number of physical phenomena you discover on planets. But if you play it right, you can see yourself–or a character nothing like yourself–as they discover and record what they see. It all depends on how to approach the challenge.

Now, for the actual “Dev Diary” part of this post. A couple of coinciding events put me on the path towards writing my own journaling RPG. One was me discovering the actual existence of the solo journaling RPG sub-genre. Second, was reading through Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler, and finding within the novel an almost role-playing adventure by the book’s protagonist. Surely these two concepts could be combined somehow, right?

Well, that’s my long-term goal, anyways. I started going back through the book and writing some notes, but then I realized it was going to take more of an effort than I initially realized. Then I remembered another Calvino book, Invisible Cities, that was shorter, simpler, and which could also lend itself to the same journaling RPG format. I decided that was a better place to start.

So, I’ve just recently re-read Invisible Cities, and with my notes, I’m ready to start to put together a much simpler journaling RPG based upon one of my favorite books. I figured it fit right in with the themes of quite a few journaling games. Roll some dice, or draw a card, and then describe what the prompts ask of you. This sounded like a decent first project.

So far, I have many notes and highlights in my copy of Invisible Cities, and some intro text for the RPG ready. Now, I need to start putting it all together into an easily digestible format. I don’t see this initial project being more than two or three pages long, while the one I have in mind for If on a winter’s night a traveler is much more involved and expansive.

My goal is to release the first Invisible Cities-based journaling RPG, and then redirect my focus back to the larger If on a winter’s night a traveler one. If you’d like to be updated when anything comes out, or for any other ramblings of mine, feel free to follow progress at one of these places:

  • My currently-bare itch.io site where I’ll release anything I make,
  • or on my billturner@dice.camp Mastodon account which I’m slowly getting the hang of (I’m trying to make up for rarely posting on Twitter).
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