Saturday, March 2, 2024

ShadowDark Magic Items

The next campaign I run will use the ShadowDark RPG. I'm not sure when that'll be (I'm hoping a little later this year), but ShadowDark is my choice. I've only experienced it with one-shots. I want to kick the tires on a campaign. 

ShadowDark is a grim, gritty, and other words that begin with g system. It is geared for low-level play, only going to 10th level in the rulebook. There are several low-level magic items included. Some familiar, some not so much. I needed to play around with creating a few of my own. Here is a quartet of magic items I offered on my Patreon. The PDF is free to grab. Some folks prefer the actual item can join and get some cool stuff in the mail. 

These magic items are very specific to my setting, but adjusting them to your setting would only take a little elbow grease. I just thought to myself younger people have no idea what elbow grease means. 

A trio of artists with their fanatic black and white artwork made these cards possible. Carlos Castillho did two of the pieces, Daniel Whitehall, and William McAusland. I used the format of ShadowDark and I like the section dedicated to the history of the item. It helps ground the item within a setting.

I hope this finds everyone well and gaming. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Fun Facts About Medieval Stairways

I'm always writing adventures of some sort and I like to explore the intricate details of  'things' in an attempt to ground the adventure with these details. My Pintrest has a section dedicated to the anatomy and or terminology of things. Tonight, I was checking for names of stair parts. I went down a shallow rabbit hole and thought I'd share some of the things I thought were interesting. I have no idea if these are fact or fiction. 

  • Stairs were build in tight, steep spirals when castles were fortifications, before they became noble homes. 
  • Stairs were built clockwise. To give the defenders an advantage. They assumed the majority of soldiers would be right-handed. Some militaries required their men to fight ambidextrous. I've never read this before, but I think it could make an interesting nuisance.  
  • The above fact is disputed (but still cool) and some say stairways were built clockwise so folks could run their hand on the righthand wall for balance. To compensate for the too-much-grog-walk?
  • Some argue that the newel staircases are so small with no handrails that there was no room for swinging weapons (although it would be a hell of place for a dagger fight) and both combatants would fall to their deaths. A step does1d6 damage. 
  • One other point, I think the best one, if the attackers are already inside running up the stairs, the fight is lost. The attackers are now mopping up and looking for loot. 
  • Steps were built uneven. This gave defenders 'homefield' advantage as they were accustom to the idiosyncrasies of the steps and could take advantage of the situation when an attacker tripped on the uneven step. Also known as a trip step.
If you have any other fun facts about castle stairs please let me know. I was looking around and these seemed to be the ones that came up frequently. 

Friday, December 29, 2023

Resurrecting My Channel With ShadowDark

It's been a minute since I've posted here. Took a little dusting and a few repairs to get The Manor ready for company. I've been wanting to find a different creative channel and I went back to YouTube. I had a handful of videos, the last of which I post over 5 years ago. But I thought I would give YouTube another go. 

I'm starting off with an Unboxing of ShadowDark. I received my box of goodies and turned on the camera. What better time to start now. There is one part where I'm not facing the camera and talking to my bookshelf and a few times where my big fat elbow blocks the camera.

Ivy took the picture for my thumbnail. I had several ideas how to do it. She made it simple and beautiful. 

Click the picture above to check it out or the video below. I'm hoping a revival of my channel helps spark my creativity again. That field has been fallow for too long. 


Friday, March 31, 2023

Random Encounters: Love Them!

Picture swiped for my own purposes from Random Encounter. I want this sticker!

It's been a while since my last entry. More health issues. More computer issues. More blah blah uninteresting shit. This week, my wife grabbed me a new writing laptop that allows me to work where ever I roam. My old laptop had the battery life of a one pump chump on prom night. I upgraded and got back to work on my much delinquent Kickstarter, The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade.

I like the idea of a woman of minor nobility obsessed with the thought of her crypt plundered by adventurers. I mean, you can't call her paranoid when it will probably happen. So her way of combating that issue is to build several crypts with deadly traps and creatures. To murderize those blasphemous adventurers who dare to disturb her eternal rest and take all her shit. 

I grabbed a lot of inspiration from Countess Elizabeth Bathory. The Blood Countess as she is known. If you go to her Wikipedia page it calls her an alleged serial killer. She had her servants help her out. Allegedly, they killed hundreds of girls over a twenty year period. I'm not sure how many experience points you get for a village girl. I imagine it'll take a lot of them to get you to the next level.

I'm writing a small crypt adventure to include in the zine. I want to add more crypts than I have. When you use 'many' in the title you should have more than a few. I'm in the beginning of writing it, and have an idea of where it'll go. But tonight, at the bookstore, with my new laptop, I started working on the Kickstarter Adventure and got to the random encounter section.

A quick history about random encounters and myself. I was not a fan of random encounters in the past. I didn't like the bland 1d6 tables with 1d4 orcs, 1d6 goblins, and so on. It was just a time sink. Eh. Boring. It wasn't until a few moons back, when I started using them. I love to write adventures and decided to mold this aspect of gaming to what I like. It's nothing new, but I gave each random encounter context. When the party encounters the random encounter something is going on. In media res. This encounter had purpose other than to waste time and resources. Also, I don't make all the random encounters negative. I want there to be a chance they benefits from the randomness of the world. Perhaps a traveling peddler that happens to have information about where they're going to reduce the party's chance of becoming lost. Or maybe he has something tangible to assist them, such as a potion or equipment. It adds a nice element of randomness to the random encounters. 

Here's what I like to do with the random encounters and yes, I understand this may make it less random, but it works for me, I roll the random encounters before the game when the opportunity presents itself. Not always, but I like to do this to integrate the random encounter into the night's adventure without seams. As if it were a planned encounter.  I want to remove the meta-game aspect. Example, when the party starts yapping about their next genius plan they will abandon as soon as they encounter the enemy, the GM rolls dice without saying a word. They know. They know the GM is ready to bring down some sort of random thunder on their little imaginary heads. They way I do it, the thunder happens without notice.

I get there are ways to check for random encounter without notifying the party, but this gives me a chance to work it into the adventure. 

Say I roll a couple of random encounters for tonight's game. The party is traveling from Hounds Head to the nearest Northman barrow field because they spent all their money on defective Hugo's Healing Potions. I prepare those random encounters, but I may not use them. If it doesn't fit the flow of the adventure I am not going to bog down play, trying to fit in an encounter. 

Let's go back to the topic of creating a random encounter in context. The con of that is, these encounters are usually unique. If I roll the same encounter then I would need to reroll. Some of the encounters have enough flexibility that you can develop a small plotline, if you chose, about the series of encounters. But most of them are one and done.

If I create an encounter with context that provides meaning. Something as a GM I can run with and find the voice and tone of that encounter. In my Starter Adventures there's a random encounter where the players find a drunk goblin. The drunk goblin pulls down his pants, slaps his ass, and starts making kissing noises. The goblin had a 50% survival rate.  Some thought he was funny enough to spare, where other murder hobos specifically said they are shooting the goblin in his bare ass with an arrow. Either choice it was fun to set that scene. But at the same time, I don't want to have three encounters with kiss my butt drunken goblins. Although now that I'm thinking about it that might be fun.

Alright, enough of this! Let's get to some actual encounters. I share a few I've written in the past and a couple I came up with tonight.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle Review


I thought it odd when I saw big name YouTubers talking about the new starter set WotC published, but I hadn't heard anything about it. I don't keep up on the latest news, but usually when a new box set...especially when a new box set is released, I hear about it. This one, nothing. I also thought the timing was odd. Being that they just released Spelljammer. Usually they throw their latest offering into the pool, watch as the gamers swarm it or greet it with indifference. But there's always a period of time between releases. Spelljammer was released August 16th, 2022. Dragons of Stormwreck Isle was released, well a Target release (I don't know why I find that funny they have a deal with Target, but I do. That's where I grabbed my copy) of July 31st, 2022. And the mass release will be on October 4th 2022. Fairly close release.

That said, let's rip off the plastic and take a look at the latest box set from WotC. Here is what we are supposed to find inside.

  • 48-page adventure
  • 32-page rulebook
  • 5 pre-generated characters
  • 6 game dice

The Box
The box is exactly like the others. Just wrapped with the latest artwork. It's a good sturdy box. No issues.

The Dice
Yup, those are the dice. Let's roll back a few decades and getting dice was a huge deal. They were hard to find and expensive. Today, you can't shake a 10' pole without hitting a dice dealer. So here's my issue with the dice. The quality is fine. You don't need anything fancy, just easy to read. But 5E uses 4d6 rolls for stats and uses 2d20s for disadvantage and advantage rolls. I think adding those extra dice would have been a nice touch. That said. None of the other starter sets did either.

Oh, and they come in a plastic bag. Please be kind and release them. Dice need to breathe. To live in the wild. To frolic among their other multi-sided brethren. 

The RuleBook

It's a 32-page rulebook, staple bound, that let's someone develop a character from 1st to 3rd level. Later on I'll get into the character sheets and they alone can walk someone through the progression without the use of the rulebook which is handy. This book is written specifically for a starter dungeon master. It explains the very basics. It does what it's meant to do, but here is where this particular box set starts to fail. In the Essentials Box Set a GM Screen was included. Having all those modifiers, task difficulty numbers, skill lists available to you at a glance is a huge benefit. A new GM won't have to halt a game to look for a chart. 

Also, it doesn't go into how to roll your own character. It has the pre-gens. Which I get, but it would have been nice to have a small section on how to create your own characters which they had in previous sets.

Overall though, the book does its job and gathers the most important bits and pieces in the game.

Pre-Gen Characters
Inside you'll find five pre-gens. A Lightfoot Halfling Rogue, Wood Elf Fighter, High Elf Wizard, Human Paladin, and...I'm not sure what the 5th one was. I got two the the lightfoot halfling rogues.
Maybe the halflings don't last as long and that's why you need two. 

The character sheets are on sturdy paper. Has all the information a player will need to reach 3rd level. There is a lot on these sheets. So handing a new player one of these sheets might look more like work. But 5E has a lot of content wrapped up in character creation and it's all organized neatly. 

To add on to what I said earlier, it would have been a good idea to add a couple blank character sheets so players can learn how to roll up their own characters. 

The Adventure
Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is the 48-page adventure included. It's set in the Forgotten Realms like the others. I can't say I am a huge fan of the adventure. Here's why. It's a starter set for both players and DMs a like. The adventure starts off with a fairly involved RPing section with numerous NPCs (11 of them!). I think starting off with a fairly simple premise and hit the ground running into the next dungeon to explore is the way to go. For both sides of the screen. 

Also there is too much content of the Forgotten Realms. If I'm just starting I don't care about that stuff right now. I want my focus to be on learning the system and running a adventure. There are many sections that could have been removed. Making the adventure more terse and easier to navigate. Some of the descriptions of encounters are a half-page long of explanation. Way, way too much self-indulgent fluff was included. I know this is a personal preference, keeping things short, but I also think it's a smart way to execute a beginning adventure. 

The adventure itself is okay. It has a handful of interesting encounters. Some situations for the players to think through so it's not all hack and slash. You gain levels by completing chapters. No keeping track of xp.

Lack of Extras
The biggest disappointment in the box set was the lack of the extras that could have made it better. Much better. As I've stated above, adding those extra dice would have been a nice touch. Adding a couple blank character sheets. But since this is a Starter Set and you're trying to draw in new players, and I am assuming younger players, you need some visuals. There are zero in here. There isn't even one of those beautiful Mike Schley fold out maps included. Having a gorgeous map sitting on the table alone will cause little imaginations to go wild. They are in the book for the DM to see, but not the players. Add a few monster cardboard tokens or cards to show the players when they encounter them. One of the first encounters in the game is shambling zombies of drowned sailors. Imagine a little one across from you when you show them that card. "They're chasing after you Jimmy what do you do?" And if nothing else, WotC is trying to move people to on-line gaming, then offer a code to download monster tokens for your on-line game. I think they really missed the mark.

How does Dragons of Stormwreck Isle stack up against the rest of the 5E box sets I have?
Definitely on the bottom. There should be a couple of empty boxes in between it and the Stranger Things Box Set. DoSI lacks soul. Lacks excitement. It fails to do it's purpose. I am defining that purpose as drawing young gamers into tabletop roleplaying. It doesn't do that. Where all the other ones do. Big time.

The point of a Starter Set is to get people playing. WotC's effort with this box set is miserable. They have done the minimum. It shows they weren't excited about it. And probably one of the reasons why it was released quietly. It definitely doesn't belong near the other starter sets they've issues over the past few years. Those were some of the best ones created.  

So if you're thinking of getting a Starter Set, bypass this one. Put your towards Lost Mines of Phandelver or the Essentials Kit. Those are wonderful places to get people involved in our fantastic hobby. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Growling Mage Tavern

The other day I used Frog God Games Journey Generator. There was a set of tables to create an inn or tavern. So I rolled up one because you can never have too many taverns. So here is the Growling Mage Tavern. 

Some of the tables have what other buildings that may be around the tavern. This one has a full compliment of services and buildings. 

Growling Mage Tavern is newly constructed tavern a days travel east of Hounds Head. It was built upon with the ruins of a Northman homestead. The base of the tavern and a good portion of the wall is the original construction of the Northmen. Graham the Grave is the owner and has a staff of six others that assist him with keeping the tavern running.
  • there are no rooms to rent, but travelers can camp within the stone walls, but if attacked must assist in the defense
  • ale.....2sp
  • wine.....5sp
  • roasted pork with fried mushrooms.....4sp
  • bread and cheese.....2sp
  • roasted eggs and sausage breakfast.....2sp

Stone Wall: The stone wall is 5' high to keep out wolves and other nocturnal predators. Holly Brewston tends to the wall. She has a pile of stones behind the outhouse. Those that are short on their tab are tasked with going into the forest to gather stones or make various repairs on the wall or other buildings.

Stable: There are eight stables. One stall is occupied by a yak as all times.  Graham has a chance of a riding horse for sale (2 in 6 chance, triple the listed cost). It costs 5sp a night to stable a horse which includes two feedings and a grooming. Edrea of Eccleston takes care of the stable services. Prices are not negotiable. 

Blacksmith: Merl Rey is the blacksmith. He makes horseshoes and nails. He repairs some tools and on occasion he'll repair some weapons and armor. He'll only do this if he knows and likes the person. 

Outhouse: There are three stalls to do your business. The waste drops 30' into a small cave system below. There are rumors of an otyugh living below due to the noises heard through the poop holes.

Chicken Coup & Dovecote: There two are tended by Jolene Johnnycakes. There are thirty chickens on average, they produce the eggs she uses in her meals. There are are over sixty doves used as meat birds and also their eggs. 

Graham the Grave is the owner of the Growling Mage Tavern. The name came from his fellow adventurers who often took pleasure with aggravating the stoic mage. Graham kept the name, secretly liking it. While the tavern isn't making money, but he has a small fortune saved. He plans to clear land to encourage others to settle. There have been trouble with wolves and heard rumors of a worg nearby. He'll give a generous reward to anyone who brings him the worg's head.

Holly Brewston is a broad woman with a big smile. She is always working on something. She cleans the tavern, maintains the wall, and tracks the patrons who are volunteering. 

Erdea of Eccelston takes care of the horses. She is here for a short time to get money to upgrade her equipment so she can adventure again. She is often found next to the stables cooking up a meal she trapped or hunted. She likes talking to adventurer types and knows the surrounding area well and warns of massive packs of wolves. 

Lindley Hawkins is one of the servers in the tavern and Graham's significant other. She keeps the everyday business going and handles any issues. Since Graham doesn't have the tolerance for stupidity. Lindley is nice until it's time not to be nice. She's also a trained mage with several nasty surprises at her disposal. 

Jolene Johnnycakes is a halfling who does the cooking. She is fanatical about eggs. She'll talk about eggs for hours. 

Merl Rey is the blacksmith. He is only doing it as a favor to Graham. He hates being in the Komor Forest. He'd rather return to City of Scorn. That's where his friends and guildmates are. But Graham promised to help him with money to open his own smithy in Scorn.

Edmund is the 'bouncer'. Edmund is eight years old. He has the innate ability to look at someone and get them sober. This usually causes people to reconsider their actions. Lindley found him Scorn and adopted him. He is a peculiar little one, she believes he may have untapped magic abilities. 

There is a more detailed version of the Growling Mage Tavern over at my Patreon. You can grab the PDF for free. And if you like what you see please consider joining. 


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Who Wants an Adventure? A Cool Location? How about an NPC Card?


July I created three 'things' for my Patreon. You can see Viviana above. She is my 34th NPC Card. An elven mage with some anger issues. She is statted for OSE rules. And the artwork is by Quico Vicens-Picatto of Misfit Studios. 

Next is The Maggot King. An adventure that'll take the players back a few hundred years to face an undead abomination, but the truth is, he was more of an abomination alive. This is a quick adventure for a single session. Artwork is by Yuri Perkowski Domingos

And lastly is Crystal Hunters. A location with interlacing situations going on for the party to get entangled. How could they not want to help out a party of poor miners against the giant Mining Guild. Dean Spencer and William McAusland helped bring this location to life.

Those who'd like to sample of collect my offerings, head on over to my Micro-Adventure Patreon and the PDFs are free. And if you'd like to get these in the mail please consider joining in on the fun. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Going Through the Spells: Find Traps

Yeah I went for the obvious, but still funny meme. The next spell up is Find Traps. I think it's a straight forward spell, but let's take a look.

Old School Essentials
Duration: 2 turns
Range: 30'
Trapped objects or areas within range of the caster glow with a magical blue light. 
Magical and mechanical traps: Are both detected.
No knowledge: About the nature of the trap or how to deactivate it is granted.

I like this spell. It's useful by letting the party know about a problem, but doesn't offer a solution. It's an abstract description so it doesn't so the trap itself, but the object or area. So it would show the hidden rope and pulley that releases the falling block. But a section of the ceiling glows blue. And for some reason I enjoy that it glows blue. Knowing me, I would have it glow blue for the first three times, bit on the fourth casting a trap glowed green. Watch the party speculate on why it's green. 

Duration: 3 turns
Range: 3"
Area of Effect: 1" path
All traps -- concealed normally or magically -- of magical or mechanical nature become visible. Note this spell is directional, and the caster must face the desired direction in order to determine if a trap is laid in that particular direction.

Sometime I wonder how I played AD&D for so many years. The spell is straight forward yet the need to put in the caveat about the 1" path just seems to give a dickhead GM a reason to mess with players. I'd just rule if its with 30' sight range of the cleric it's good to go. And where's the blue glow?

D&D 3ed.
Duration: no idea
Range: no idea
Notice traps as a rogue does.

...I should say I play 3rd edition once when it first came out. Once. I never played it to figure out how the casting works and the descriptions for the spells are all around one to two sentences. I'm sure somewhere there was a place that told you how long it lasted and what range it was, but I couldn't find it. But the description is about as succinct as it gets. It carries the spirit of the spell.

Find Traps is a tricky choice at 2nd level. I think it falls in the mid range of usability. The reason it's not higher if the duration. The cleric would need to already suspect a trap was in the area to cast it. It's not one to cast and start wandering around. The cleric casts it to confirm what is already suspected and it doesn't last that often.

But what if the trap isn't mechanical? Say you have coins in a chest coated with a contact poison? It is neither mechanical or magical. As a GM I would still have the coins glow blue, but give no further comment. Since it is a spell that will probably only detect one trap it doesn't threaten a trap laden dungeon. 

That's it. I'm out. Until next time we look into the nastiest of the 2nd level cleric spells in my opinion, Hold Person!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Going Through the Spells: Bless

Last year I went through all the first level cleric spells, focusing on the Old School Essentials system. Then I compare the OSE version against the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons version of the spell. And if that's not enough, I throw in a random third system spell comparison. 

So let's jump into the 2nd level spells. First one up is Bless.

Old School Essentials 
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 60'
May be used in one of two situations:
1. Battle: Allies within a 20' square area who are not yet in melee gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls and a +1 bonus to moral.
2. Ritual: Casting bless may also form part of rituals or purification or consecration, at the referee's discretion. 

Reversed: Blight
Incurs a -1 penalty to morale checks, attack and damage rolls of enemies within a 20' square area. A save vs. spells is allowed to resist the blight. 

Bless is a useful spell. Especially when you have a combat option, which is always a benefit, but it's that second option, the ritual component I really like. It's one of the few times where a spell's affect is not specifically determined by the text. This gives the GM and the players additional opportunities to utilize bless in game and in different ways. I don't recall using bless in that way in my game and this is one of the reasons I'm doing this series, even though I've been playing for over four decades, I'm always learning new things. 

The only thing that doesn't make sense to me is the exclusion of those already in melee combat. Do you have to pay attention to get the bless? If so, aren't the archers drawing arrows and aiming, spellcasters prepping spells, thieves strategizing from the shadows? There is no reason the ground pounders up front shouldn't be blessed. 

The reverse, blight, is less exciting. Maybe because it's focused more on a combat aspect. I think I'd add 'defile' as an aspect. Where a rival cleric can contaminate or unsanctify a holy site. Any special properties the site may have held are now gone. I can see an evil cleric sticking the stinky pinky into a batch of holy water contaminating it.  

Duration6 melee rounds
Range: 6"
Area of Effect: 5" x 5"
Upon uttering the bless spell, the caster raises the morale of friendly creatures by +1. It also raises "to hit" rolls by +1. A blessing however, will affect only those not already engaged in melee combat. 

Reversed: Curse
Curses the enemies with a -1 to morale check and "to hit" rolls. The spellcaster determines the range of the spell (up to 6") and it affects all creatures within an 5" square centered on the point the spell was cast upon. 

There are many differences so I listed them.
  • First big difference of note, the AD&D bless spell is a 1st level spell. This is huge. Because in AD&D you get bonus spells for high wisdom. And the fact clerics get spells starting at 1st level compared to OSE, at 2nd. This means access to this spell is wide open comparatively. 
  • Absence of a bonus (or penalty) to damage rolls. I agree with the absence. I don't see a bless affecting the amount of damage done, but definitely the ability to hit an opponent.  
  • The duration is significantly different. Melee rounds are 1 minute in AD&D. So the bless lasts 6 minutes. Faster than a one pump chump on prop night. OSE version lasts 6 turns. Huge difference. This blessing would need to be done in the heat of battle otherwise it'll quickly fade after the fight starts. (thank you to Possibly Adam Morton for the time correction)
  • While maybe not a difference, but a distinction, is when casting reverse its called curse instead of blight, but acts the same relatively. In OSE the third level Remove Curse has a reverse called Curse. So imagine that's is the reason for the name difference. 
  • Also, the reverse, Curse, hits friend of foe when cast. OSE notes that enemies suffer the penalty while in AD&D, everyone within the area of effect must make the save or suffer the penalties. 
I'm not a fan of the AD&D version of bless and probably one of the reasons I rarely used it myself back in the day. Seems an ineffectual spell with little upside compared to, in this case, other first level spells, like a cure light wounds, light, or even detect magic. Bless would be way down on my list. And it doesn't have that cool role-playing component, ritual, written in like the OSE version.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Duration: 1 minute/level
Range: 50' radius
Gives the caster and his or her allies a bonus of +1 on attack rolls, morale checks, and saving throws against magical fear. 

Reversed: Bane
If fills the caster's enemies with fear and doubt, causing each affected creature to suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls. morale checks, and saving throws against magical fear.

Slightly different from the OSE version. I find it interesting that it gives a bonus specifically against magical fear, but not against a creature that produces a natural fear. I'd think it would work for both. And I'm inclined to take it a step further and say a bless would provide a +1 to all saves for the duration. 

I also like that it gives the front line fighters some love. They don't have to disengage to high five the cleric to get the bless. 

I prefer this duration compared to the others. I like that level is taken into consideration to extend the affect. And again, I'd like it seen taken a step further by maybe adding an additional level of  blessing. Say a 5th level cleric casts the bless, then the bonus (or penalty) would be at +2 (-2). I don't think this unbalances the game and keeps the bless spell more relevant at higher levels. 

So that's it from the murky sylvanlands of PA. I hope you are enjoying this series and if you have any input please comment. I do have the monitoring option on due to waves of spam. 

Thanks again. The spell coming up next...Find Traps! And you know what meme is going up with that spell without having to tell or show anyone. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Kickstarter Alert: Delvers to Grow

Just when you thought it was safe to take a break from Kickstarter, another one comes along and drags you back into its money devouring maw. Douglas Cole, the man behind Gaming Ballistic, Slayer of Dragon Heresy, Headlocker of Dungeon Grappling, and a pile of gaming material that could choke out a hungry umber hulk has just released his new Kickstarter, Delvers to Grow

Doug provided me with a sneak peek of Delvers to grow so let talk about what's inside. First off this is for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Of course it is, Doug is 'the GURPS guy'. And being GURPS is a point buy system, creating a character can take a bit. Delvers to Grow is a tool to assist players to create characters in minutes and GMs to create NPCs. 

Before we go any farther, this isn't a Kickstarter for one book. No, no, no. There FOUR delver books and if that's not enough there is an adventure by Peter Dell'Orto the other 'GURPS guy'. Let's take a look at the four Delver books first. 

Delvers to Grow: Build a Bjorn. Doug has included base templates with basic and advanced modules. Loadouts and spell lists are there for a fast selection. 

DtG: Fast Delvers. This book focuses on thief, martial artist, swashbuckler, and scout. They specialize in precision and deadly accuracy.

DtG: Smart Delvers. We got yer spellcasters here. We got yer bard, cleric, those druidy folk, and everyone's favorite, the wizard. Spellcasters take a lot of effort so this will help cut your time at the table.

DtG: Strong Delvers. The workhorses of the adventuring party. The men and women upfront standing toe-to-toe with their enemies. Jack up your barbarian, holy warrior, knight, and it wouldn't be a Doug book if it didn't include the wrestler. 

I love the idea of the different books for easy reference. The other huge benefit is the three point levels for each template. One at 62, another at 125, and the last at 187.  So these books go with any level of game you're running. 

Oh wait, you thought we were done? Nope. We still have the adventure, The Crypt of Krysuvik. Grab a few of those 125 point character templates and get your ass going on an adventure! Here's the blurb.

In The Hunted Lands northwest of Nordvorn, The bandit Krysuvik is said to have gathered much ill-gotten plunder, and taken it to his grave. It is yours . . . if you can find it and take it. Delvers have tried and failed to find his hoard. But a new clue has come to light that might put adventurers on the true trail of the treasure. The Crypt of Krysuvik provides details for the various locations that contain the clues – and tricks, traps, and monsters – that lead to the treasure. Slay, sneak, and negotiate your way to wealth using your own Delvers to Go or the included pre-generated characters.

Peter wrote it so I can guarantee you it'll be excellent. 

So How Much is this Gonna Cost Me?
Glad you asked. He's got a lot of pledge levels, but I'm going to talk about the ones I think are the sweet spot. At $35 you're getting all four Delvers in PDF and The Crypt of Krysuvik. Plus the stretch goals in PDF. Only $35!

But if you're like me PDF is okay. I use them for reference, but there is nothing like holding a book in your hand. At $70 you get all of the above in print and PDF. Wait, that deserves a !

There are many other pledge levels that cover even more material and Doug's back catalog. Make sure you check each pledge level and get the best one that suits your needs.

Stretch Goals
I like how Doug runs his stretch goals. It's not based on the pledge amount, but on the number of backers. This series of books are called Ready to Raid. 

At 600 backers Bandits and Outlaws is unlocked. These are the bad guys. Each is a complete character, with a bit of background, stats, equipment, and suggested use. Includes a full color icon for each character.

At 750 an array of SpellcastersUse them as sages, hirelings, crackpots, adversaries, or starting characters. Again, spellcasters tend to take up more time than other characters/NPCs to create so having a batch of them ready to go is a huge benefit. 

At 825 backers Delvers and Thegns is yours. They can act as prominent (or not-so-prominent) townsfolk, rival adventurers, hirelings, or grab-and-go characters.

At 1000 backs Doug unleashes the final stretch goal of Pirates and Vikings. The other books come in at 24 pages, this one expands to 40 pages. A Viking longship, complete with two-dozen raiders? Oh yes. A modestly crewed 60' merchant or exploration vessel? Yep. Tack on a rowed longboat and a large sailboat, each full of pirates. Each vessel will have a hex-map illustration in the book.

In Conclusion
This is Doug's 11th Kickstarter. He's always funded and over delivered. He makes great gaming books. Delvers to Grow looks like another success in the making. The price point is generous and the quality is always top-notch with Doug. So don't resist the pull as your wallet floats out of your pocket and vanishes into the ether that is Kickstarter. It's a good thing because in July, yes this July, your mailbox will groan with amazing amount of great gaming content. Click any of pictures or links to pledge!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Artist Spotlight: Luigi Castellani

Luigi Castellani's work is someone I've used for years. His artwork ranges the entire gambit of fantasy, to sci-fi, cyberpunk, to halflings riding owlbears. I've been a member of his Patreon for years. Each month I get four pieces and each piece comes in three versions. B&W, grayscale, and color. 

I love using his art for my NPC Cards because they have so much personality that they write themselves.

While I focus on fantasy he has a lot of great art featuring other genres. 

Above are a couple examples of  his science fiction art. 

If you're looking for a versatile artist with a healthy back catalog and producing new pieces every month. Here are links to check out and follow Luigi Castellani's creations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Starting a Campaign: Crawlers of Scorn


It's been over a year since I concluded my last campaign. Time to get into the GM's chair and begin the next chapter in my world building. The focus moves south of Hounds Head and the Komor Forest to a town known as Scorn. The seat of power of Baron Maybray. 

Welcome to Crawlers of Scorn

This campaign starts as an urban setting and I'll see where the party takes it. Streets, alleys, shops, tenements, and more NPCs than I can name. Most shy away from urban crawls, but I love them. I spent years wandering the streets in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and loved every second. I hope to capture some of that gritty magic and develop an interesting setting where opportunities are not just in a dark tavern.

The system I'm using is Old School Essentials with home rules, of course. The platform leveling is not something I enjoy so I plan to create a more step progression with added bonuses each player can chose from upon leveling. This will allow them some diversity of their abilities so not all 3rd level fighters or thieves look alike. 

This my map of Scorn. I need to find the original copy this one bears the mark of a previous game. Each of the dark shapes are a group of buildings. And if there is space between them there is an alley. And the open areas are the thoroughfares. While I Scorn is a gritty setting, I am not trying to emulate a realistic medieval town, but one that is influenced by history with a lot of dark fantasy spice through in.  

Example of the city blocks broken down into individual buildings. These blocks are what are circled on the larger map.

I'm keeping the party small. Probably four players at this time. I'm using Roll 20. More than four players and a GM it tends to get noisy and I think it's a great number to create diversity without overcrowding

I am using a blog to record sessions. Some entries have links so the players and myself remember and track what has gone on in past sessions.

Here's a couple of examples from a one-on-one campaign I've run with Joe the Lawyer. 

Guildmaster Gordon Quarterton visited the site. Commented on the shoddy work of Snickle's shovel, but liked the idea of it. If Snickle could improve on his design Gordon said he'd be interested in buying a bunch for the guild.

Later that evening Snickle went home to fiddle with a few devices he was working on. A few hours later there was a frantic knock at his door. Carl pleaded with Snickle to let him in. After Carl entered he said the Spears of Sarrath were chasing him. He drank a bit too much and threw up the boots of a Spear.

When the players or myself want to recall what happened with a particular person, place, thing, or event, we can click on the link and there should be a 'play date' for each time they interacted and the result. This helps me as a GM to keep track of events and interactions and I think the players will find the information very useful. 

Soon. I plan on running on Mondays. It'll be good to get back behind the screen once again. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Successfully Funded! Some Stats and Insights

The Zine Quest 3 Kickstarter campaign for The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade came to a close. It funded within an hour and had a steady growth through the 14 days. Here are some stats from my campaign. 

Backers: 406 

Pledged: $4616, of that amount $1009 was collected for postage. 

Biggest Pledge Day: $1357 (106 backers) - this was the first day of the campaign. 

Project Followers: 284 at the end. The highest number I had was 301 at one point.

Converted Followers: 124 which translated into a 43% conversation rate. Which is excellent. 

Coffee Pledge: 2 pledged the coffee level. One was my mother who pledge a $100. I can get a lot of coffee with that. Equates to 28.3% of the total pledges. 

PDF Pledge: 115 wanted the PDF. Equates to 28.3% of the total pledges. 

Print/PDF Pledge: 287 wanted the zine in their hands. Equates to 70.7% of the total pledges. 74 are from international backers from 21 different countries. 

Reduced or Cancelled Pledges: There were many cancelled and reduced pledges this time around. It happens. I'm estimating $400 to $600 pledges were cancelled or reduced. The funny thing is when Ivy would ask me the check where I was at, I'd click on my page and a few seconds later I'd lose a pledge. I kept jinxing myself. 

My Take on this Year's Zine Quest: This year I started behind. The original idea I had that was mostly written was too large. And then Jim, my artist from last year, was already booked to the gills. So I was scrambling to come up with something that was interesting that I wanted to work on for the next few months. And search for an artist at the last minute.

I got lucky and I contacted Jason Sholtis. He helped me with my first zine and was available. His style really fit the style I wanted to go with this year.

Over a year ago I did an adventure for my Patreon called The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade. I always loved the title and concept. I wanted to expand it and thought it was perfect for this years Zine Quest. 

Printing: I also chose to go with a professional printer this year instead of printing it on my own. It'll be less stressful and after doing the numbers, much, much cheaper. In addition, it's going to give me a lot more options for layout. I'm excited to play around with that.

Maps: This year I recruited Rob Conley to help me with maps. His maps are amazing and will work great on VTT. I am added his maps for VTT play.

Editing: I have my editng team from last year. Joethelawyer and my wife, Ivy, will clean up my work. Make it look good. 

Distributors: I'm going to read out to distributors this year to carry my zine. I've attempted this in the past, but haven't had any luck. Fingers crossed.

That's a look behind this year's Kickstarter. I've got to get back to writing some crypts. It's been a blast so far. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade Sneak Peek

Here is a glimpse at The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade's Jason Sholtis cover. Still needs tweaks and smoothing out some of the details because of the layout I'm going for. I wanted a 50's horror movie poster look and I'm pretty happy with its progress. 

Then I've been getting maps from Rob Conley. Some folks asked why I didn't use my own maps this time. I wanted to have maps that are clear even if small. Rob's maps are always fantastic and the map pack that'll come with the pdf will be very useful with online play. 

One of Zine Quest's rules is you can have black, white, and one color. Some of my favorite book covers are by Michael Whelan. He did these series of gray scale covers for HP Lovecraft paperbacks with a splash of red mingled in. That simple splash of red made those covers amazing and something that I always remembered. That's what I wanted for this zine. The pop of red. Here's a few sample covers by Michael. 

The Kickstarter campaign is going very well. I funded within the first hour and now stand at 657% funding. Which is phenomenal. With so many projects out there it's easy to get lost in the tidal zine tidal wave. And this was just the first week!

My next post I'm focusing on the zine projects I backed. This year I've invested a chunk of money to get zines. And to get physical copies. Last year, I backed a few oat the PDF level and it's not the same. I need to have it in my hand and on my shelf.

Now for more self-promotion. Please check out my Kickstarter campaign, The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade. It's been a fun project so far. And really, how can you have too many crypts to explore?