Ding! Level Three

anniversary_10-4We interrupt our normally scheduled Picture Thursday to announce that Papers & Pencils has completed its second year. Woo! It’s honestly kinda hard to believe. By the time I reached the site’s 1st anniversary, I felt as though I had been writing for years. But the second anniversary completely snuck up on me! I didn’t even have time to ask my ladyfriend to make a doodle for me this time.

As with last year, I thought it would be valuable to go through the past year’s posts and pick out the gems to share with anyone who might have missed them. Even with the long break I just finished taking, there’s about 200 posts to go through, so I’m just going to dive right in.

Lively Locals: 6: The Godstone, 7: Lilbr, Village of the Dead, 8: Hero’s Rest –  The Lively Locals series is one I think I enjoyed writing more than anybody enjoyed reading. And I’ll be the first to admit that it is far more hit-and-miss than my other “Friday game content” series are. All the same, last year had several which I thought were great. Lilbr, Village of the Dead in particular would make for a fantastic adventure location. Also, because nobody asked, Lilbr is an anagram of Brill, because I like Brill.

Merciless Monsters 6: Octorok for Pathfinder – Just as I was starting to think about what would become my LOZAS project, I decided to take the most classic Zelda monster there is, and stat it for Pathfinder. Because I’m a nerd, I decided to figure out how the creature’s anatomy functioned, given their strange ability to hurl rocks from a large orifice on their bodies. I’m still rather proud of what I came up with.

Seven Cursed Items for Fun and Profit – There’s nothing particularly special to mention about this post. It’s just seven cursed items which I still think are pretty cool.

Legend of Zelda Adventure System: Notes on Magic – The Legend of Zelda Adventure System, or LOZAS, was never finished. But it produced some of the coolest ideas I think I’ve ever had. The magic system, in conjunction with the spell list, is something I’d love to revisit in a future game system.

Zelda Adventure System: Rationale Behind the Game’s Experience Mechanic – Aside from being notable for the ridiculously long name, the mechanic I debuted in this post (having a single type of difficult goal which, whenever achieved, grants a level) was and is quite popular. I’d go so far as to say that of all the mechanics I can claim credit for, this one is the most well liked. Which is cool, because it’s a great mechanic.

Merciless Monsters 7: Fotavyon – The Fotavyon may be my single favorite monster I’ve posted on this site. The thing makes a freakin’ minefield of exploding eggs around its lair. And the art cbMorrie made for it is phenomenal.

Streamlined Skill RollsBlogging, or indeed any creative effort, is an odd beast. Sometimes the stuff you think is crap turns out to be very popular, while the stuff you work hard on gets ignored. I really like the streamlined skill rolls system, though I don’t think many other people do.

Using an Open-World Video Game as a Campaign Setting – I think I enjoy remembering World of Warcraft a lot more than I enjoy playing it. I’d still really love to do this sometime.

Campaign Management Toolbox – Orchestrating a campaign has always been a struggle for me. Running sessions is easy, but making good notes, and creating a world which is both consistent, and alive, is a struggle for me. Gathering / inventing these management tactics has helped a lot, though not all of them were as useful as I thought they would be when I started out. My technique needs updating. Perhaps there’s a future post in that.

8 Rules for Dungeon Improvisation – To be honest, I’m not sure if this post is good or bad. Am I repeating shit that everyone knows, or am I sharing the secrets of a skillset which not every GM has? Am I being pompous about my ability, or does this post actually help people? I hope it’s the latter. I don’t like being pompous, and I like being good at things.

The Girl and the Granite Throne: Chapter Four, and Chapter Five – I love writing The Girl and the Granite Throne. I love it when people read it, I love hearing what they think of it. I love the never ending slog of revisions I go through, which I’ll never be happy with no matter how many times I go through it. Unfortunately, 6 chapters (including the prologue) in 2 years is not a great record. It’s hard to prioritize a project which can never make me money (Wizards of the Coast owns Vecna, who plays a central role), and hasn’t been all that popular with readers. (Not surprising, this is a gaming blog, not a fiction blog).

Despite that, I’m not giving up on TGatGT. I have enough story plotted out already that I could get to chapter 50 and still have more story to tell. Chapters 4 and 5 were huge leaps forward in quality, and easily represent my best fiction writing so far.

(Which means I really need to write more fiction).

Vampiric Classifications 1: Hierarchy and 2: Types – I love vampires, and I enjoy the challenge of creating comprehensive lore. These posts are easily the best things I put out during a very long dry period of shitty posts. (I had an extremely unfortunate situation going on at the time). Were I to write them again, I’d change a few things, close a few loopholes, etc, but that doesn’t diminish how cool these posts already are.

Magical Marvels 8: The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams – Back in 2008, when I was playing World of Warcraft for several hours a day, I had a sword. It wasn’t the best sword for a Warlock. It wasn’t even all that great. But it had two things going for it. First, it was the best sword I could get. And second, it had the coolest name and the coolest appearance of any item I’d ever possessed. It was huge, and purple, and had a partially translucent appearance to it. And while I eventually replaced it, I have fond memories of it, and those memories inspired me to make perhaps the coolest magical weapon I’ve ever posted on P&P.

Feat Slot System for Pathfinder – The Feat Slot system popped into my brain a few days prior, when I was writing another post about feats. I sketched a quick outline of it, and got some positive / curious response, so I expanded the outline into an entire post. The Feat Slot system is one I would very much like to integrate into a future game system as an official part of character advancement.

Simple, Deadly Poisons – It’s hard to reinvent something which has been part of tabletop games since their inception. People have been thinking about traps and poisons for nigh on 40 years now, and just about everything has been done and tried. And while I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone else had come up with this idea before me, I still feel as though it’s one of my bigger accomplishments to have come up with a method of running poisons which is, in my most humble opinion, better than any other I’ve seen.

Critical Hit and Critical Fumble Charts for Pathfinder – Being honest, this chart is a tad bit bland. I never had very good luck with it, as my players seemed to almost exclusively roll on the low, boring results. That said, I like that all of the results are grounded and believable. Charts with wacky results are fun, but there’s something to be said for a more “realistic” chart, even if realism isn’t a design goal I often praise. (Also, Tatsubo’s comment was highly educational for me).

Fallout 3 Tabletop Game 1: Characters, 2: Skills, 3: Equipment, 4: NPCs and Foes – This game system is not good. It was never really meant to be good. Any casual reader will notice that it’s extremely crunch-heavy, requires lots of work on the part of the players to maintain their characters, and just generally doesn’t follow my design aesthetic. The goal wasn’t to make a game I’d call good. The goal was to recreate Fallout 3 as a tabletop game, and in that effort I think I succeeded well enough, and learned some interesting things along the way.

And it’s still totally playable, I think. I’d like to run it sometime.

Moving with Subtlety, and How to Roll Dice for it – This is a stealth system based on the Streamlined Skills System mentioned above. I quite like it, but it also had a lukewarm reception.

Pathfinder Class Analyses, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Wizard, Alchemist, Cavalier, Inquisitor, Oracle – Holy shit that was a lot of links to find. The Pathfinder Class Analysis series has been one of the most edifying projects I’ve undertaken for Papers and Pencils. Going through each class and its abilities, thinking about what I would have done differently and spelling it out in detail, is a large part of what inspired me to take my leave of Pathfinder, and begin thinking about finding (or making) a game which is more in line with my sensibilities.

Checking for Traps is Bullshit – This post taught me an important lesson which, truthfully, makes me a little sad. Regardless of how much work you put into writing something valuable and interesting, the attention it gets won’t be able to hold a candle to a mediocre post with an inflammatory title. I think this post received more comments than any two other posts I’ve put up.

For those interested, Courtney’s response on his own blog convinced me I had been wrong.

D&D Christmas Carols: Dark Lord Wenceslaus – I was shocked this didn’t get more attention. It’s a video of me making a total fool of myself. What does it take to please you people!?

Deadly Dungeons. All of them, except 1, 2, and 6 – I’m not going to link these individually, because there’s something like twenty good ones in this past year, and I don’t need to develop carpel tunnel any earlier than I already will. This series is probably the best thing I’ve ever introduced on the site. Its given me an opportunity to make some really cool maps, and share some of my best dungeon ideas. The awesomeness of this series is part of what convinced me to start spending more time producing game content, rather than working on game mechanics.

Placing Treasure – While placing treasure is a pretty basic GM skill, I rarely see sourcebooks offer advice on how it can be done best. Perhaps nothing I wrote here was news to more experienced GMs, but it took me a long time to figure this stuff out.

Crafting Weapons & Armor in Pathfinder – Fixing Pathfinder’s crafting system was probably the most ambitious thing I ever tried to do within Pathfinder’s ruleset. The difficulty involved in just getting the damn thing to work was profoundly disheartening. None the less, I’m proud of the outcome.

Magical Marvels 10: Glasstouch Dagger, Magical Marvels 11: The Steedmaker Barding, Magical Marvels 12: Silvertongue Ink – None of these really have much of a story, or any interesting additional information to share. I just think they’re super cool magic items. And that’s what this post is all about: sharing the stuff I think is super cool.

Ability Scores Weighted by Race – I worked hard on this idea. I think I spent an entire evening pacing my apartment, trying to figure out the best way to mate the decision of which race to play, and the rolling of ability scores. I knew I had something, I just didn’t know how it should look. The work paid off, the idea is great and people responded to it quite favorably. Easily one of the best mechanics I’ve made.

Simple Attack and Grapples – At the start of this year, I was heavily invested in working on a project called “Rocksfall.” It started as a Pathfinder hack, but grew into an entirely unique system when I decided that I wanted to rewrite the combat rules from the ground up. This is what I was working with.

Book Review: “At the Queen’s Command,” by Michael A. Stackpole – A book review for a book I quite liked. In and of itself, probably not a post which would end up on this list. Except for the fact that the book’s author, Mike Stackpole, is a childhood hero of mine. And not only did he share this review on his twitter feed, but sent me a message thanking me for writing it. I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I don’t even know what cloud 9 means, but I was on it. That’s how stoked I was.

When Ginny Bo Fails a Morale Check – An awesome idea, stymied by the fact that Ginny Bo did not survive long beyond the writing of this post.

Merciless Monsters 13: Simonlefera, or “Cricket Wizard” – The Simonlefera marks the beginning of a shift in the way I develop monsters. A shift towards the unsettlingly bizarre. A shift towards bolder mechanics, divorced from the normal game structure. Plus that’s gotta be some of the best art I’ve ever personally produced.

Vendor Saving Throw – A clever mechanic, although Brendan’s criticism in the comments is probably correct. There’s no need for each community to have a different saving throw.

Free Module: The Hidden Tomb of Slaggoth the Necromancer – My first gaming product. A significant personal milestone, for me, and a fun dungeon adventure if I do say so myself.

LS and the Fuzz Covered Vessel – It seems strange to include a week old post in a retrospective. But next year’s retrospective won’t look at any posts prior to this one, so if I’m going to point it out, I have to point it out now. And I think it’s a pretty great post, with some pretty great ideas. The idea of forcing players to literally memorize their spells, in particular, sounds really fun to me.

And that’s it. Hope you enjoyed this past year, and I hope you’ll enjoy the next one more!

The second annual reader census will probably go up next week.

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