• Aaron K

2021 Is a Wrap!

Hey Reader!


Well, today marks the last day of 2021, and with that we're done for the year! We are already working on over 20 drafts for articles for 2022, so we're excited to be with you all in the coming year bringing you even more roleplay content for Zurn, D&D, and other roleplay games.


We thought we'd take a slight detour this week and both reflect on some interesting things we learned during the year, as well as prompt you all for ideas for what you'd find interesting for us to cover.


I. Stories from This Year

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my "Sprites Campaign" group that meets every other Wednesday - this group has been testing material for the upcoming Sprites of Zurn sourcebook where the tallest race you can play is about a foot tall. It's very thematic and the content has proven to be highly enjoyable to use.


One of the things I discovered from that group, though, was an integral aspect of good party dynamics: players that want what is best for the group talking about 1) what they want, and 2) what the group needs. My players have been exceptionally good at working issues out, pursuing quests and tasks that are meaningful to one or two party members, and going all-in on those adventures for the sake of the whole, and that has made GMing for them oh so easy. And with everyone getting weeks where they are the focal characters, even if they are in the hometown of another player character, it seems like everyone is getting a good bit of the spotlight and enjoying it. So from your GM to you guys, if you're reading this: thanks for a great year, :) Can't wait to rejoin you all in 2022.


I'm also GMing a Star Wars group, testing out some of the special rules for the Sci-Fi era of Zurn, and while that group only meets like once a month (and generously gave me a few months off after my daughter was born), we've been able to have some great character development despite infrequent meeting.


This, I suspect, is due in part to the fact that a lot of them are long-time roleplayers, so they know the drill, but I also think that it comes with players being intentional during the session, as we don't meet that often. Since we don't meet every week, the players have been very good to talk with each other about character differences and similarities in-session, and the result is a party that developed cohesion very quickly, settled into their roles easily, and bounce off of and grow with each other naturally.


And as a GM, that makes my life an awful lot easier. So to those who are in that group, you have my great thanks, :) Looking forward to "liberating" those Naboo Starfighters with you in our next session (or one of the other prompts, if you choose one of those, :P ), :)


I've also been a player in six groups this year, each run by a different friend of mine. Some of these were D&D groups, others were Zurn groups, and I enjoyed all of them. One of the big takeaways for me this year was just how much I adjust my playstyle based on the group. In some groups I take a back seat, as the players are experienced with the system, know what's going on, and make heavily informed choices within the context of the game (especially combat).


In other groups, though, I find myself a veteran of a game system with people who have played similar games but maybe not the same game, and thus I find being more active in being a consultant for players when they feel stuck or hamstrung. My fellow adventurers in a recent session ran into a group of werecreatures, and since we were 2nd level we had no magic weapons. This isn't an issue if you're a cleric (which my character is, long live the tank-healer-slayer), but half of the party consists of rogues. So as you can imagine, they felt quite stuck when arrows and blades do nothing.


So instead of sitting back and going with the knee-jerk reaction of the party to run away, I took a moment to note that if we wanted to we could use the copious amounts of rope we have in the party to restrain and capture the werecreatures: a fight to the death isn't the only solution. This hadn't occurred to the players because the Grapple action isn't used that often by most characters, and is used even less by rogues. As it turns out, it helped us both stay alive and accomplish the quest, and we felt like cool adventurers because we used a different tactic from the typical, "we kill them."


And my GMs/DMs have been oh so good to allow the party to work outside of the norm to solve issues, and I really enjoyed that. So to Bradley, Gabe, Jane, Jeremiah, Nick, and Tim, thanks for a great year.


And finally I've been heavily involved in dungeon crawl design with an emphasis on "dungeons in plain sight," which is a concept I'll be discussing more in 2022, so stay tuned for more! Each dungeon is heavily themed at various levels of play, with an eye toward challenging character builds, using verticality and secondary goals to spice up combat, and integrating traps, puzzles, and monsters in single encounters to make things more interesting for the party to accomplish.


Testing them has been a ton of fun, not because I like grindy combats (which is what a lot of dungeon crawls end up being), but because I like living in the headspace of draconic creatures, or plant creatures, or cheese constructs (yes: we have an entire dungeon crawl centered around cheese! The monsters are cheese, the layout of the hideout is based on cheese, the puzzles and traps are cheese-themed - the whole thing is about cheese). Spending a lot of time thinking about what makes each creature type unique has been very rewarding and has spurred my imagination in ways I had not expected going into this, so I'm very thankful for that.


II. New Content for 2022


So what's new coming out of Zurn in 2022? A few things. First, the plan is to release our first PDF on the DM'S Guild, so keep an eye out for that! It will be our 1st level dungeon crawl, The Burrow of Olvadt, which is also incidentally the cheese adventure I mentioned above. It's had several trial runs with different player groups so far, and I've gotten very helpful feedback from some of the testers that has improved the end product, so once we get the concept art back, tighten up the wording, and test all of the random encounters we designed, it should be ready! More info in the future as we get closer, :)


Second, you can expect more tactical and optimization posts this year - I love doing those, and when you make 50ish posts a year you kind of expect to do things like that because my mind is highly math-oriented. One of my goals for 2022, though, is a new series talking about how to flavor your character more: simple tips and tricks that help to add immediate, consistent flavor to your character with no massive backstory required. So more on that soon.


Third, we're actively producing more D&D and Warriors of Zurn content, so I have high hopes that we will have new books launching this year on both fronts. The big holdup right now on both is concept art, so if you know of an artist who wants some work, have them reach out to us!

I'd also like to try out a new game system or two this year. I was challenged by a GM who has been in the industry for over 20 years to try new game systems so that I can both grow in my knowledge of the desires of the RPG community as a whole, but also as a way of seeing where my blind spots are and what I take for granted when writing a rule system, adventure, etc. The current frontrunners for me to try are Adventures in Middle Earth, Journey Away, Humblewood, Savage Worlds, Seventh Sea, and the Firefly RPG, so we'll see how many I get to try. But all of that is contingent on...


My wife and I had a baby! This has slightly complicated getting content out, but she has more than made up for it, :) I'm really enjoying being a dad, and the thought that she will grow up in an RPG family playing games with me is just incredible to believe. So within the next few years you miiiiight see some posts based on my adventures with her, :)


Conclusion


As I write this I'm exhausted from a long day, but wow - I am just blown away with how great a year this was. Thank you for all of you who read the blog and follow us: we would not be who we are without you, :)


Until next year,


Aaron K