Threeforged APs and Reviews

I decided to mosey my way through the many games of The #Threeforged RPG Design Challenge, solo.

My rules are simple.

  1. I’ll play every game I think I can. If a game’s just not suitable for solo, I’ll pass on it but do at least a short summary of why.

  2. I’ll use Pythia’s generators for additional content but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

  3. I’ll use whatever Oracle feels right assuming it is needed.

Note: I am only critiquing these games in a very limited way! I’m looking at it from the perspective of a solo gamer and of a solo game designer looking for potentially useful tools for soloing.

The Skeletons Lamia Variant AP

You know I had to make a variant for The Skeletons; I had this vision of a lamia, trapped in a cave, awaiting challengers and petitioners in search of an oracle.

I don’t feel comfortable releasing it until I know it’s okay with the author of the base game, but I’ve asked so we’ll see.

The Skeletons AP

A game for 1-6 players where you take the role of a skeleton cursed to protect a tomb throughout the ages.

Gameplay is cyclic; first you identify an intruder, then you deal with them while answering a question about your skeleton, then you determine how much time has passed, then you repeat, all with variations that give a strong sense of time passing and the years crumbling the world around you.

Cool stuff.

Sword Without Master AP

I stumbled across a fascinating system, Swords Without Master, and had to try it out. It’s just so clever and appealing, and so different from what I expect from an RPG.

I knew it’d be hard to solo, because a huge part of the narrative drive comes from the interplay of multiple players pushing against each other and the overplayer, but I wanted to try.

Dynasties in Heirs

When I finished the first draft of Heirs of Sea and Shadow I was proud of myself, but I was also mad at myself over the title.

The sea is a fairly important aspect of the game (it’s on an island!), and shadows virtually define the setting, but why, brain, why, are you demanding “heirs”? Are you harkening back to the days of lyrical, golden fantasy, sent into a fit of nostalgia by all this talk of romantic fantasy? Are you just being pretentious?

Turns out, after some poking around and serendipitous discussion, my brain had a plan all along; to add a dynasty, domain, and inheritance system to Heirs.

Thanks, brain. You know I love that stuff.

Wraith Session Two


So as I noted, I’m totally playing this one straight and by the book. Except I accidentally incorporated a rule I read on the original Ghost/Echo thread on the story games forum.

I tried to do it as a screencast but it didn’t go well. For one thing, the native Mac software is sloppy and doesn’t let you pause without jumping through hoops. And who wants to stare at my cursor wiggling while I think about what to type next? What if I have to go to the bathroom or something?

For another, it made me feel nervous and clumsy, and I kept second guessing myself and it wasn’t nearly as much fun. I feel like I should definitely give it another try, but I feel kind of weird about it.

Not as much “game” or action in this one. Mostly because I felt like I needed some explanation, and I’m still feeling my way out on who these people are.

Six Hours to Midnight Actual Play

An experimental playthrough of my oracle game, 6 Hours to Midnight.

As is the case almost always, the names are randomly generated – I ended up picking more of the “real” ones that slipped through than usual because it just seemed to fit.

Content is also generated on the spot as it occurred to me, also as usual – play to find out! – except the epilogue which I thought a bit about and wrote up today.

I did edit a bit more heavily than usual (which is still very little), mostly to remove duplicate phrasing and correct some dialogue, which is always hard to write on the fly.

Mechanics evolved a bit in play, but overall I’m pretty happy with them (and the game itself).

This is a long one, about three times the length of my usual “session”, but I couldn’t think of a good way to break it up since it’s already divided into “hours”.

Ghost Echo Actual Play


I am totally playing this one straight. No hacks, no pre-prep. Nothing. Just read the rules one more time and go.

Obviously I went a little overboard, but damn, that was fun. Not in the effortless way S\lay w/Me is. In a hard, grind it out, make it work, grim triumph kind of way.

Spectacularly fun.

Oh, and here’s the sidekick oracle I used to figure out what’s happening next. Not in Pythia, an old school roll the dice chart.

Lady Blackbird Hack Actual Play

After wending my way from Trollbabe to Stranger Things, it was inevitable that I’d find my way to Lady Blackbird (and the excellent The Lady Blackbird Companion). Up front, I will say, this system is amazing. Flat out brilliant. It might just be the most perfect fit for my solo play style that I’ve found yet.

So of course I hacked it, without even trying it out first, and then labeled the result an “Actual Play” just to add insult to injury, ha.

Noir Nights Session 4

So much action – my poor vampire hero’s being bounced around like a ping-pong ball. And his best ally right now is a sun-based mage. And the woman’s he depended on for a life line in this crazy surreal experience is out for the count.

You may notice that every time I think things are getting boring I make something action-y happen. That’s because boring is bad and action-y is good. Now you know.

Noir Nights Session 3

This one’s pretty combat heavy so it runs a bit longer; just read the dark text if you’re not interested in my terrible math skills. Or read both and bask in your superior ability to add things together correctly and not forget to add in damage modifiers. It wouldn’t be so bad if I forgot to do it consistently, you know?

I also forget to use Perilous Intersections completely, experiment with my “CAGE” system which morphs into “iGM” and then “iGMsr” over the course of the game, and then I completely forget to use anything at all after that. I’m seeing a trend here…

Noir Nights Session 2

And here’s where I start using Triggers and Secrets. I think I was writing the panel roughly concurrently. They make for a seriously exciting game, but as I mention in the Spotlight post, too many of them in one game make for a seriously pulpy experience.

In a more sedate game too many can get a little hard to justify, but in a pulpy, hard-boiled game where a man with a gun can walk in at any moment it’s just exciting.

Noir Nights Session 1

This one’s a little older, from right around whenever I introduced Triggers and Secrets to Pythia, actually. So maybe mid-October. I’m thinking it was supposed to be spooky for Halloween. I really should start putting a date right up front in the log. Wonder if I can find room in the GUI for a timestamp button.

As always, “session” is used loosely, because sometimes I run right through and sometimes I get distracted. And it’s pretty much played as it lies; if Pythia suggests something I try to run with it. Oh, and the oracle for this one is FU.


Noir Nights Introduction

Noir Nights is all about the two-fisted, hard-boiled noir action! Okay, not really, I’m pretty bad at all of that stuff. But I am practicing. Heck, the body count is already like twice what it normally is in one of my sessions! (Yes, that means two people died.)

Consider this an homage to all my favorite noir authors, with or without vampires.

Trollbabe & Stranger Things Actual Play

A short log in which I demonstrate that I might, in fact, have some sort of multiple personality disorder. Not that that’s a surprise to me – my GM notes are littered with notes to my future self like “Hahaha, this is where they discover she’s a traitor!” and “Oh, he’s a ghost, that’s so evil, I bet the party freaks out!”. Past-me is hilarious but disturbingly pleased at tormenting my players.

Anyway, no long rambly essay this time. This AP is an experiment with Trollbabe/Stranger Things, continuing my exploration of narrative games and featuring my character from the S\lay w/Me actual play.

Slay with Me Actual Play

This ended up being quite the ramble – skip to the relevant stuff if you’d like.

So… this is a little hard for me to post, because, well, you may not know this about me, but I am cripplingly shy. It takes me a dozen tries to hit “submit” on anything, even the most innocuous and polite comment. I am right this moment considering deleting this entire essay. But I’ll be all vulnerable for a moment and try and tell you some stuff. Context for why I decided to play a game called S\lay w/Me.

Dunscaith Session 3

I always have to really push myself to run combats – it’s not that I don’t like the combat part, it’s just that combat is always a real challenge to run for me. It requires focus, which I generally don’t have a lot of, and it requires following rules, which I generally fail at. I tend to think of it as a fail state.

That said, I think abstracting the NPCs out with an oracle helped immensely.

Dunscaith Session 2

This is where I start to get a bit bored with the dungeon crawl in general. The old prisoner seemed unlikely to provide much of interest, at least not right away, and I couldn’t think of a way for Fin to approach the NPC party (or be able to offer them much if he did so). Fortunately things started looking up immediately after we went down a level.

Dunscaith Session 1

This is about as non-narrative as I get. I tried not to “direct” things as much as I could, letting the story just unfold. It was hard. I don’t think I succeeded very well.

I think perhaps mixing those goals with “test out the ‘what did it do’ magical effect generator” might have been a bit much, too.

Dunscaith Introduction

Dunscaith is an adventure showcasing (and beta testing) Pythia’s dungeon panel, set in my own personal megadungeon world loosely based on Wales in the dying days of the Roman empire (if it were on Mars and there were faeries).

It’s also an attempt to prove that I can create a reasonably interesting dungeon with randomly generated content.

Kyneros Episode 7

Rambling in Hindsight: This is the final log for the Kyneros campaign (so far). At the time, I got distracted and left off right after a minor fight, and right before a big dungeon crawl. I think I might have ended up writing the first mapping panel or something to prep and just never got back to it.

It’s after the end of this segment, by the way, that I realize I’ve been doing XP all wrong and much, much too quickly. Good thing this was all a learning exercise.

Kyneros Episode 6

Rambling in Hindsight: You’ll have noticed by now that I was really bad at Scarlet Heroes, especially combat; it takes me ages to learn a new system and when I get rolling on the fiction I forget things. I won’t start doing damage correctly (and somewhat consistently) for like three more campaigns – about the same time I added notes to my tracker on the mechanics.

Kyneros Episode 5

Rambling in Hindsight: In more recent games, I always split sessions (and scenes) with three asterisks (I used dashes for a while but they screw up the LaTex). Fascinating, I know.

If it seems like some of the mechanics are missing, they are – it’s one of the hazards of beta testing. Any time you see a line end in an ellipses and then pick up again as if a question had been asked and answered, there’s probably supposed to be a mechanic there.

This is the session when I pretty much give up on tracking temperature and weather. I liked the narrative color it added but it was too much to keep track of. Can’t imagine tracking weather for 365+ days of a campaign year just to have “realistic” weather patterns.

Kyneros Episode 3

Rambling in Hindsight: It’s trivial to document your mechanics if you’re working in Pythia, but you’re not limited to the format I’ve used for these logs – there are actually six or seven different log formats. Just want to export the narrative? Sure. Export a file ready for LaTex? No problem. Want one with collapsing javascript for hiding mechanics? Yep. Plus just plain markdown and just plain html. And you can make your own (or remove ones you don’t want) easily.

Kyneros Episode 2

Rambling in Hindsight: I had all sorts of grand ambitions for this – I was going to use The Wilderness Survival Guide (my own home-brewed adaptation, of course) and track things like rations and encumbrance and heatstroke. It quickly became obvious in play that I was hopeless at remembering stuff like that. Fortunately Pythia has space for tracking things. Doesn’t help when you’re looking right at it and still forget to increment or decrement the meter, though.

Kyneros Episode 1

Rambling in Hindsight: I’m posting this but it’s actually from a good while ago – only my second or third attempt at a campaign. I’d actually decided not to post it given that I was using my personal Mythic panel and Pythia core used FU, but now that Mythic is part of Pythia it doesn’t seem like it would confuse anyone.

It definitely shouldn’t be taken as a good representation of what Pythia is like now. More as part of the history of Pythia. The generators and oracles used in this campaign (through the end of the last 11/09 log) are at least pre-1.0.0 (and probably much earlier). Many have been phased out or replaced, especially the ones that generate regions – I ultimately discovered that it just wasn’t a good use of the limited panel space.

With the updated (post 1.0.0) oracles and generators there’s very little you need to bring to the session except your game mechanics and a list of randomly generated names. I’ll hopefully get a chance to post something using those sooner or later.

Kyneros Introduction

For Kyneros, I knew I wanted to feature psionics heavily, along with open world exploration. Basically a psionics-based world built as a sandbox, as randomly generated as I could make it.