Monday, March 31, 2014

Project Updates

Lots of stuff going on over at the Manor, mainly its me been avoiding them.  Here is the status updates for my current projects.

Manor #6
All written.  Cover art done.  And it looks pimping good.  I'll share the cover later this week.  +Jason Sholtis got his pimp daddy on.  Needs a few more pieces of interior art.  Needs proofread.  And I'm having a printer situation.  More on that later.

Manor Compilation
Cover is done.  +Johnathan Bingham and his wife, Daisy, did an amazing job.  I am in the process of figuring out the POD stuff.  I think I may have the cover done, but not sure.  I tried to watch those frickin' videos, but they are all over an hour long and right now I don't seem to have the patience for it.  I need to though.  And  also have some tweaking to do to set up the entire manuscript.

Starter Adventures
Everything is done.  Art.  Writing.  Editing.  All I need to do is what I need to do for the Manor Compilation.  I need to get wise and get it done. 

On another front is my printer is vomiting yellow ink across everything.  I want to thank Epson for their quick and friendly response....bzzzzz....those wanks didn't help for nothing.  While I dug my Epson for a while, here is why there will never be another on my desk.  First, they refused to acknowledge the problem of their printer spewing yellow ink, even though there are many complaints about the same problem.  They wanted me to keep sopping up the ink with page after page.  A temporary fix.  In addition to that, when Staples would put out their coupons for store purchase, every-time Epson ink was excluded.  I could use it on any other brands, but Epson.  While my Workforce got me going its time to change it up and get something more reliable and more customer friendly.  I'm doing research on printers and I plan on getting a new one later this week.

And as an aside, I've now joined +Erik Tenkar's b-team, a S&W complete game that is exploring +Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Arch Mage mega-dungeon.

I've also joined +Douglas Cole's group for a GURPS campaigned called the Alien Menace.  The first game is schedule later this month.

All this is in addition to my regular Monday night crew.  +Chris C. is running his Ephemera campaign tonight.   We've wore out +Ken H and he needs a GM nap.  Right now, four out of the five of us, could pick up the GM reins and run with it to give the 1st string GM a breather.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Discovering the Amount of Poo You're Willing to Dig Through

Last night, was the first night, where I found myself a member of +Erik Tenkar's B-team.  +Peter V. Dell'Orto and +Douglas Cole rounded out the trio of adventurers that showed for last night's festivities.  Erik used +Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage for the adventure.  He asked his group of B-teamers what mega dungeon did they want to explore and Joe B's mega-dungeon left all the others to eat dust and to choke on rat excrement. 

B-Team Roster
Douglas Cole as Rul
Peter v. Dell'Orto as Mirado
Me as Minister
Man-at-Arms as Red Shirt 1
Man-at-Arms as Red Shirt 2
Torcherbearer as Not Long For This World

So we do what all manly men of adventuring do, we went shopping!

Four healing potions and three new hirelings (see above) our merry band of adventurers journey our little asses over to the entrance of the castle.  Which we find has been commercialized.  They even had a tent.  A group of bored guards ask us what our group name was...we didn't know we needed a name.  We went with either Ogre Heads or Ogre Heds or Ogre Hed, I'm still not clear on that point.  Then we discovered we needed a license.  I was waiting for "Do you have a flag?" next.  Fast forward, we pay the 12gp to avoid the higher taxes when we exit.  Why not, we are frugal, forward thinking men.

Into the castle we go.  Stairs.  They go up and they go down.  We stayed on the first level.  We find mosaics.  Some graffiti wangs and humor about said wangs.  Then we find a mosaic with our three faces on it only aged.  Sans the wangs.  We pondered the significance for a few moments and Minister postures in his liquid wisdom and thus spake, "It is neither killing us, nor making us money, let's move on."  This would be the highlight of Minister's young adventuring career.

We move LEFT into a corridor.  Poked and prodded until we heard the squeak of 2000cp.  Giant rats.  Thousands of them.  They poured out of the walls and ceiling...okay, there were only six, but they were very big.  BATTLE!  Minister gets a big chunk torn out of his haunch.  Rul and Mirando make quick work of five of them, but are unable to defeat the meanest and largest of the pack.  Minister used a technique learned from of Mirland Highlands where he studied with the Viscus Monks and with a frighteningly accurate strike the monstrous rat king lord was killed.

The party fearing the wound would taint my spiritual mojo they insisted on me healing myself.  I did this thing out of respect of my fellow adventurers.

We traversed the maze like corridors of the mad archmage.  We found traps randomly placed.  And we came to a door and we looked inside.  Rhinoceros! Yes, Mirado.  I disbelieve you.  And so it was, a rhinoceros illuseonist.

Then we found a room full of poo...that was it, poo.  A foot and a half deep.  Of poo.

Then we encounter dwarves.  There is no correlation between finding the poo room and then the dwarves, but the elven side of Minister had a good cluck.  We spoke to the little people.  They were timid, but gave us a little lay of the land.  They paid 5gp per kobold ear.  Each head usually comes with two, so that's a 10gp dinger.

Our next encounter was terrifying.  Three zombies wearing boaters and the leader of the trio wore a beaver skin coat and was armed with the deadliest ukulele I'd ever seen.  Minister attempted to turn them with his holy symbol, but has it facing the wrong way and nearly turns himself from the battle.  This was a sign of things to come.  The gods were displeased with Minister and their wraith soon became apparent.  Rul and Mirando hacked and chopped until the undead horde were in too small of pieces to ever attack the living again.

Within another room, we found five potted roses.  I  believe they were from the Baronne Henriette de Snoy variety.  Very nice.   After to simple, but cautious vandalism we found a map...a map that tells us of where treasure is buried.  While I appreciate the effort of the map maker, he obviously did not consider his scale and that the x that marks the spot is a mile big.  So that means if we did 3' x 3' holes to find this treasure we will only have to dig 1,032,533.3333 holes and we should find it.

Our next encounter we engaged in battle with monsters flies from the 3rd layer of Hell.  Their razor sharp legs and massive maws snapped together with enough force to cleave a mailed horse in half.  While Rul and Mirado battle the flies, Minister sees a sign that he's been forsaken by the gods...

This divine sign of punishment repeated itself consistently through the night for Minister.  Like the Scarlet Letter, he bears a Scarelt One on his chest to signify his shame.

Another poo room.  This time the poo is only six inches deep.  Apparently we've discovered how deep the poo limit in depth.  Eighteen inches was too much, but we had no problem sift through six inches.  In the poo we find a silvered dagger.

Into another room and three firestorm beetle with pillars of flame flaring from their backsides charge us.  Rul's blade slices the fiery beetle into parts and wounds the second.  Mirado finished the second one off with a might cleave and nearly kills the third one.  Let it be known that one attack from these beast can kill an entire village.  So it was up to Minister to save everyone.  Feeling the shame of the unholy one on his chest, he finds the strength to rear back his mace and call forth the faith he holds as dear as his life and struck the vicious beetle down.  Within their lair was a gold ring with a ruby inset.

There is another door across the room.  Minister uses his highly trained elven sense to state the obvious, "There is a door over there."  And in we went.  Corridor after hallway after alcove we discover another door.  This door's wood breathed a contempt for all life.  So Mirado opened the door and attacked by three abominations brought to life by necromancy.  But Rul and his sword, dispatch all the efforts of evil in a single swing.  Bones clattered to the floor in a symphony of their futility. 

Although we did find a big X on the floor and wanted nothing to do with it so we left.

It is now getting late.  The torches were burnt to their stubs.  Our rations only had the peas and gristle remaining, but we continued on.  Another door.  Mirado broke it open and was riddled with a shower of magic missiles.  The vile mage was accompanied by two men-at-arms.  And behind them all was a chest.  Minister watched the short battle, but did not want to give the mage another chance to act so his other secret was revealed.  He walked into the room and put the marauders to sleep with a word.  The other members of the Ogre Heds were amazed.  Yes, I to am a mage.

Their look, 400gp and a very nice magical dagger that opened up letters with a single swipe.  Minister had been needing one of those.  We briefly questioned the men-at-arms and discovered they were only hired goons to the mage.  All they wished is to return to the surface world.  The mage we sent him back to the gelatinous underworld from whence he was spawned.

 With now even the peas eaten and the gristle chewed on, we decide just one more room.  After a brief battle with a series of doors be backtracked to the sound of distant laughter.  And it this is where we come full circle.  We started with rats and ended with rats.  After a quick battle our reward is sifting through less than eighteen inches of poo.  We discover a broken golden chain.

With our loot in hand.  Our red shirts still intact, although somewhere in the mix we lost the torchbearer, but I hadn't noticed.  We journeyed to the surface. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

RPG Carnival: Virtual Table Top Gaming

+Douglas Cole, yeah, the same guy who inflicted you with my interview, is promoting RPG Carnival featuring Virtual Table Tops and Online Gaming.  So here's my entry into the ring.

Fantasy Grounds 2
My first experience with a VTT was Fantasy Grounds 2 many, many moons ago.  We used this one for years.  There have always been issues with miniatures showing up for some and not others and connectivity issues for those will a slower internet.  But I think this is the most refined VTT available.  In my opinion it is the best looking table top, its virtual dice are the best I've ever seen and the rule support is fantastic.  Some my complain about what it costs, $39 to be able to run a game, but its a one time cost and there is a ton of support.  I've considered updating my license to the Ultimate License that way my players don't need to have a license of their own. 

  • Great ruleset support
  • Looks fantastic
  • Best virtual dice
  • It's easy to organize maps and documents
  • Adventures support
  • One-time fee

  • Connectivity issues
  • Vanishing pogs
  • Need to have some knowledge about ports
  • License cost may scare folks
Overall this is my VTT of choice, but because of the connectivity issues its tough to get some of my players in the game.  This was an issue over a year ago, but it was enough to make us move to the next VTT, but when I run my next games I would prefer to run them in Fantasy Grounds 2.

Roll 20
Roll20 is the other VTT our group uses.  What I like about this VTT is its simplicity.  It doesn't have a lot of extras (although its building them) it is easy to use and we've had a lot less technical issues.  Another thing that will appeal to folks is its base membership is free.  So you can hop on Roll20 and get a game started within minutes.  They have a cool on-line store that is building a cool library of pogs and maps.  Now you can subscribe at two different levels: Supporter which is $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.  With that you get a dynamic lighting feature and mobile tablet support. Mentor which is $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.  You get a lot more extras with this bundle.  Click on the link to see all the goodies that get stuffed into your basket. 

  • Initial membership is free
  • Easy to use
  • Very few technical issues
  • Growing store
  • The dynamic lighting feature is great

  • Clunk and ugly dice roller
  • On going subscription cost
  • There is a learning curve on how to organize campaign information
Both of these VTTs are great.  Each has their merits.  And both enable me to get together with my gaming friends and have fun on Monday nights.  Which is really, what it's all about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Letter About XP to My Players

Attached you will find the XP reward for session one.  It is broken down in 5 sections.  Most are obvious.  The Role-Playing category is one you get for just showing up.  However, I do give a bonus XP to who pleases me the most.  Muhaha.  Or whoever I think was the catalyst for that session.  And finally, you will all be able to gain more XP by doing a write up of the session on your blog.  Dan you could do on on Google+ if you want.  If you do a write up you'll get a 10% XP bonus.  None of that 13+ strength or being human will get you a bonus.  Lazy bastards.  You'll have to work for this bonus.  If you have any question please let me know.

I stole the 10% XP bonus thing from Tenkar.  I feel no shame for doing it.  I admit it.  I would do it again.  The RP bonus I like, I hope it gives the players a little more motivation to move the adventure forward.  The Miscellaneous category is my catch all.  Ken's guy was at death's door and was revived by a very strange acolyte of a death god and marked.  I figure that was worth a few XP. 

Also at the end of the session I do a quick calculation of encounters with folks.  There future reaction rolls can be alter by a session.  The range is thus:
 +2 Very Positive Reaction
+1 Positive Reaction
0  No Reaction
-1 Negative Reaction
-2 Very Negative Reaction

For example: Chris's guy, Malcolm had the following adjustments.
  • -2 Reaction for Fenton, failed to follow simple plans.  Will have a hard time trusting him.
  • -1 Reaction for Torp, Torp is disappointed in Malcolm.  He expected more, but understands he is young and he will learn.
  • +1 Reaction for Guard Kevin (forgot what I did call him), He had a great time.  He got drunk, won an epic battle with a bush and never realized he almost died twice.  Thumbs up from Kevin.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Exploration, Quest Completed and One Big Eyeball

Last night's game was very interesting.  Beside the masturbatory references and a few 'that's what she said'(s) it was an exploration night.  Not that kind of exploration night.  The kind where we make the black spaces on the screen go white.  I was determined to cover some ground before the session and we did.  What I didn't expect is getting tangled into one of Ken's puzzle rooms.  The Maze that Jack build so to speak. 

What's so difficult and cool about the puzzle rooms is you don't know your in one until your in one.  I went up a stairwell (or down I forget), tried to use the same stairwell and ah oh, welcome to the screwed zone.  You are now lost. 

Instead of backtrack and trying to figure out how to get back we just plowed on.  Room after room.  We encountered an eyeball in the first room.  Just and eyeball.  We popped it.  That was our battle for the evening.  We kept going until we finally found a secret door.  We searched all the rooms.  Nothing. 

When we found the secret door we found ourselves in the strangest section of the dungeon to date.  When we approached the doors they automatically opened.  Ken did the appropriate whooshing sound effect to imitate the doors on Star Trek.  Kudios for that. 

While we have some knowledge of what this place is, a sort of transporter, teleporter set of rooms we have no idea where they go, how they are activated and no idea who built them.  We've run across some of their technology earlier in the dungeon, but haven't figured out how to interpret it. 

Now here's the cool thing.  We go into a room, it's got a trapdoor in the floor, we open it and we have found the place to revive the dwarves that once lived in these caverns a 1000 years ago.  We were given this quest, I want to say 10 or more sessions ago.  In real time that equals out to 4 or 5 months ago and we finally found it. 

We stopped after gather the dwarves.  While the combat was minimal, we covered a lot of territory and finished a section of a quest.  I think that's one of my favorite parts about Monteport, is the the slow evolution of quest lines.  And we still have a lot of layers of mystery to uncover.  If we live long enough. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Son of a Bitch, Another Great Kickstarter

+Rob Conley revealed this Kickstarter tonight during our Monday night game.  Curse him.  Ivy is going to kick my ass big time.  Rob said he's doing some of the maps for this one. 

I haven't even read what this one is about yet.  It's City State of the Invincible Overlord so that means I am automatically in. 

I'm so dead.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Gamer that I Once Was

I was catching up on my blog reading and came across a post titled The Most Annoying Gamer I've Ever Met over at the Rule of the Dice blog.  I thought it was amusing that he'd come to realize that he was 'that guy'.  That got me to thinking of what kind of gamer I was back in school, in the 80's.

I started in winter of '79, I was 12 in 7th grade.  On the precipice of adolescence.  Like today, I wasn't much of a social guy.  Stayed to myself.  Most of the gaming people I was introduced to was because of Dwayne, he is the one to blame for me getting into this hobby and the only reason I met other kids who played.  We'd meet at the public library after school and squeeze in a hour or two of a game.  I never DMed.  I was a player.

The group of gamers back then was made up the smart kinds.  I was a football player, general athletic guy who enjoyed throwing, jumping, climbing and hitting things (baseball, tackling ect... not fights).  I was not to be confused with a jock.  While jocks played sports I did not belong nor did I want to be within that group.  I played sports with them so I had first hand proof how big of assholes most of them were.  So I was the big one of our group.  I'm no giant, but I'm not a small guy either.

My size and my general knowledge of the other jocks came in handy.  While I was not a fighter, I couldn't stand when the jocks would bully my gamer friends.  So I would tell them to knock it off.  Most of the time it worked.  Especially if we were in the middle of some sport season.  There was only one time I can think of where I got physical with someone.  One of the jock heads jumped my best friend in high school because he was wearing a D&D shirt.  I knocked the shit out that kid and the two friends who were helping him.

In a way I guess I saw myself as a protector of our small group.  We were outsiders.  In the 80's when all the religious nut jobs were claiming that D&D encouraged Satanism and evil behavior in general.  Luckily, my mother didn't buy into any of that bullshit and gave me access to her office supply closet which was like a gold mine back then.

I played the gamed because it was fun and didn't understand why people would get into fights over the rules.  Most of the guys didn't argue with me too much because I was the big guy in the group, but I would have never used my physicality to get a better ruling.  The only time I can think of when I got mad at someone was when another guy stole my dice.  I'd been missing my dice for two weeks and that was a huge hardship back then when dice were very hard to find.  Hobby shops only kept a set or two available and sometimes it might be months at a time before you saw a new set.  In addition, the cash was not there.  Anyway, we got together to game and the guy who stole my dice brought them to the game.  What a gonad.  My anger flared and I resisted the urge to pummel him.  He was half my size, but I was pissed.  Dwayne came to the rescue.  He just reached over and said "Aren't these your dice?"  Then tossed them over to me.  That was it.

As I mentioned above, I was the constant player.  I loved rolling up characters.  I had a manilla folder with dozens of guys I rolled up.  I was horrible at drawing so I would find pictures in books and try and trace them.  I was a lousy tracer.  Still looked like shit.  But I was the player that tried to get the others to work together.  I don't know if that was the sports state of mind where you needed to work as a team to succeed or not, but I tried to get an idea what the DM was trying to do and then run with it.  I wanted to enjoy the adventure as the DM visualized it.  That worked most of the time.  Some folks come to a game trying to establish themselves as an individual.  I came to the game wanting to accomplish something.

Later on I wanted to DM.  I would run one-off adventures.  I made adventures and with access to my mother's office supply closet I had manilla folders, carbon paper and graph paper...and access to a Xerox machine.  That was high tech equipment back then.  I had a series of adventures within manilla folders that I used as a DM screen of sorts with the maps and random tables stapled to the folder.

Here was the problem.  Most of the time I was the one that helped keep the group in a cohesive unit.  When I DMed it turned into a Donnybrook.  Every man for himself.  Players killing one another.  Back then I didn't have the skill to go with it.  I'd get frustrated.  I'd spent a lot of time on creating a cool adventure and I felt they shit all over it and couldn't control themselves for a few hours to see what I made.  I always went out of my way to see how they wanted their adventure explored, and they couldn't return the favor.  A huge gamer and life lesson.  It sucked.  So I stopped DMing.  I still made adventures, but they just sat around.

By the end of high school, with everyone going to college or the military, my gaming group vanished within a matter of days.  While my gaming came to a halt at that time, I still sat in my room with my graph paper and college ruled notebook paper and wrote adventures that no one ever went through.

While I don't think I'm all that much different of a gamer these days.  Still I am a player more than GM.  I'm still not all that social.  And I'm the one who gets our group sorta organized and bring them together.  I'm not the only one, but surprisingly I was the one who brought in the two newest people.  And these days I can DM...seems like the results are still the same though, lol.  But these days I have a little better skill set to deal with the chaos. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Edit: Another Random Map Saturday

I put the wrong map up.  This is the map I mean to put up. 
A map I finished a few days ago.  I planned on using it for a micro-adventure, but that hasn't happened yet.  I'm also going through my maps and trying to pick one that might be good for the one-page dungeon contest.  No luck yet.  Until then, I'll keep making goofy maps and hope to find one I can use for the contest. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Question - Unexplored Settings

I've been reading through some older setting books and rulesets lately.  Even purchased a limited edition book for Ravenloft, the sub-dimension of mist, Land of Dread version, not the adventure module.  Sometimes with all the new settings I forget what the old one were like.

I'll be joining +Erik Tenkar's game next Friday and he'll be using Sanctuary, the focal point of the Thieves World setting.  It's one of my favorite setting I've never had the play in.  I'm a huge fan of the books and love the idea of walking through the Maze to the Vulgar Unicorn.

It got me to thinking of some of the settings, maybe they have their own ruleset (like Pendragon) or part of a larger ruleset (like Ravenloft) that I'd love to play in, but haven't.  What would your list look like?

My list looks like this:
  • Thieves World, some of the first gaming books I read, probably influenced my gaming style more than any other books
  • Pendragon, playing in the world of Camelot would be a lot of fun, and I think the way they set up scenarios fits the genre perfect to reenact or rift on the existing legends
  • Ravenloft, had the adventure module when it first came out, bought the Land of Dread supplements, never got to play in the land of Straud.  There are so many cool ideas I could think of using this, the horror movie junkie in me salivates at the opportunities this kind of sandbox would provide
  • Babylon 5, +Rob Conley GMed a short campaign a while back and had a great time.  I mainly steer towards fantasy, but once in a while I love to get into sci-fi action
  • Firefly, speaking of sci-fi action.  I love the show, but not sure how the setting would be for gaming.  I'd be interested to find out

That's the list I can think of off the top of my head.  I'll be curious to see what other come up with.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Got Interviewed

A couple of weeks ago +Douglas Cole put me on the Gaming Ballistic grill and BBQed himself up an interview with me.  I must have been on some good shit because I'm not sure if I completed one sentence.  While I sound scattered (that's because I am) it was a fun interview and Doug was a gracious host.  So if you need a good laugh head on over to Gaming Ballistic and hear me babble on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Side Treks - The Crossroads of Spyley

 +matt jackson, the guy who makes all those cool Moleskin Map series on RPGNow and his maps can be found in many OSR products including my own Manor zine a few times, has released what I hope will be a new line of products called, Side Treks.  His first venture out is called Side Treks: The Crossroads of Spyley.  

These kind of products have always been some of my favorites and ones I like to create myself.  The Crossroads of Spyley is a small location along a forest that can easily be plopped into your fantasy campaign.  If you need an interesting location for your players to stay at along the way or maybe their exploring the forest and need a base of operation this product does that and more.

First off, you get one of Matt's fantastic maps.  He's getting better with each product he produces.  The map is clean and crisp.  He has three buildings at the crossroads detailed within the overall map, The Drunken Dragoon (tavern), Marreno's Store, and a big ass barn.  This strangely rainy location is subtle and effective.  You're not going to find any huge drama going on, but some people going about there everyday life with interesting back stories.  It's a great canvas for a GM to create their own drama that could occur.  

And I love the reason why it is raining.  Nice touch.

I  really like The Crossroads of Spyley.  I will find a place in my current world to place it.  It's too good not to.  If your a fan of small interesting locations that you can use at a moments notice and love good maps then Side Treks: Crossroads of Spyley is for you.  It will cost you $1.99 to get a copy and is well worth it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One-Page Dungeon Contest

One of my favorite events and the one that really cinched me into the OSR is the One-Page Dungeon contest.  In past years it was run by +Alex Schroeder, but this year it is being run by +Random Wizard.  It looks like he's gathered a stellar cast of judges that include +Ernie Gygax, +Steven Winter+Brendan S, +Martin Thomas and a fifth mystery judge.

Each year this contest displays how many talented folks there are interested in this hobby.  The maps and adventures that come out of the simple one-page dungeon format is amazing.  And of course, they are free to download, use for your adventures or plunder for ideas. 

Last year I didn't participate.  This year I'll get in an entry.  Although some of the entries I've seen already are very, very cool.  Lots of competition. 

Here is a link to the rules to the On-Page Dungeon contest.  They are keeping submissions open until the 30th of April.  So you have a little time to procrastinate.  And like every year, there are some great prizes to snag if you win. 

Time for work, but I'm going to plot my victory dungeon.  Oh yes, the prize will be mine.  Muhahaha.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Peek into Manor #6

I just finished writing up a one-shot adventure for the 6th issue of the Manor.  What I really liked about this adventure were all the OSR resources I pooled to make it fun.  I was going to draw a map, but heck I know to go to find one of those.  I wanted witches in the adventure.  Well I know who to go to for that.  And I was going to go with bats, but after reading this book of spiders and the variety of critters already made for me, a changed it.  Here is a list of the OSRians who score an assist with this adventure.

 All the pieces clicked together with minimal tweaking.  Now that the final piece is done its time to do a read through and then hand it off to the proofreaders. 

The name of the adventure is The Old Hill Fort.  It's a small location adventure that you can plop into a fantasy campaign with very little effort.  Here's the introduction.

Merrick looked at the bodies of the two boys laying on top of stacked stones.  He recognized the one as Tillman, Randolph’s boy.  The other boy’s head had been pulverized, but from the stocky legs and the round belly he guessed it was Mutter’s kid.  Someone took the time to pose their bodies on the stones, arms and legs spread.  Merrick rubbed the gray scruff on his chin and knelt down.  He didn’t see any blood.  The boys were drained some place else.  Hard to tell how long they’ve been laying here.  Probably no more than a few hours.  Merrick heard they were missing since yesterday.  Animals haven’t touched them. 
 Merrick stood, jaw and fists clenched.  His eyes narrowed when he saw the small blotch on Tillman’s palm.  He looked at the other boy and found the same mark on the inside of his forearm.  The side of his mouth twitched and he backed away from the bodies with his hand on his sword.  The dark moon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pulp Mill Press is Open for Submissions

+Sean Robson sent me an email where he confessed, he is a glutton for punishment and is going ahead with Libram Mysterium Vol. 2.  This volume will have a horror theme.  Here are the guidelines from the Pulp Mill Press blog.  Please, please read the guidelines.  Submit accordingly.  It's a huge pain in the ass when people sent single-spaced, weird font or hand-written manuscripts.  Respect the wishes of the editor who already has a very tough job of going through dozens of stories.  Sean is a grade A editor and does an incredible job.

He's accepting submissions until June 15th, 2014. 

If you missed the first volume of Libram Mysterium that features fantasy stories in the vein of Appendix N then head on over to RPGNow and snag a copy for only $2.99 for the PDF or better yet, snag a print copy for only $14.49.  Thirteen tales of the weird and the fantastic.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: A Thousand Dead Babies

I've been meaning to do a review of +Zzarchov Kowolski's adventure, A Thousand Dead Babies, since last year.  The adventure comes in at 20 pages and the art and cartography is done by the excellent and sinister art man, +Jez Gordon.  It was originally written during his crowd funding for his RPG, The Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR) the 2013 edition.  I won't go into detail about his rpg here, but it is worth checking out and has a ton of interesting ideas on how to run a game.  It's unlike any other rpg out there. 

But I'm  here to talk about his adventure.  My first impressions is this is a Harn adventure that Columbia Games would never have written, but wished they had.  That is meant to be a huge compliment.  Zzarchov presents the situation, tales of demon worship and witchcraft have begun to flourish, leading the young and inexperienced priest to enter a panic.

Why is that any interest to a party of adventurers?  Here's what I like about it, the adventure does not pander to the adventurers.  It's there.  It's not going away if they ignore it.  The players will need to find their own motivation and how they decide to approach the adventure.  When I read what the reward for the players would be, I knew I was going to love this adventure.
  • 100lbs of turnips
  • 2 rams
  • 6 ewes
  • 2 acres of pasture
While this may not sound like a lot to heroic adventurers, Zzarchov notes this is property ownership and could turn a serf into a yeoman.  In other words, its a huge fricking deal.  

Zzarchov describes Corroc, a town where the adventure is based.  It is given a general description with highlighted words that are described in more detail later, such as the church and the inn.  But as for the majority of the town, Zzarchov provides a roster of NPCs, their roles within the town and their part in the adventure.  And throughout the book he provides stats for OSR systems and his own NGR system.  There are several of locations to explore.  All these sites are given short descriptions, but there is plenty there to get the feel of location and the folks associated with the site.   Its in these descriptions that Zzarchov set up the adventure with realism and with subtle gestures of the supernatural.  He executes it beautifully. 

I won't go into much detail about the adventure itself, I might slip and give away a surprise.  I think this adventure is about discovery during the process as much as it is about completing the quest.  There are so many fantastic elements he has developed as he plays on the gruesome folk tales of the dark ages.  These fantastical iconic images are presented in realistic manner.

A word about the art.  +Jez Gordon could not have been a better choice to present the images.  His heavy black and white contract pictures are disturbing.  They strike a primal note in your brain.  You don't need to know what it is, but you know its very,  very bad.

I do warn against new GMs trying to run this adventure.  To run this adventure a GM is going to need to his homework and know how to run a true sandbox adventure.  There are many ways to approach how to complete the adventure.  You'll have to be on your toes. 

There is a lot of great things squeezed into this adventure.  I highly recommend A Thousand Dead Babies.  The highest compliment I can give to any product is that I intend to use it in my own campaign...and I intend to find a cool little spot on a map for Corroc and wait for the day they players wander to that neck of the woods.  Well done +Zzarchov Kowolski!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: The Big Book of Spiders

First off, when Dylan told me he was writing an entire book about spiders, I was a little nervous.  I thought it might get monotonous.  Creating an adventure out of just spiders, I wasn't sure how that was going to work out.  Wow, I was pleasantly surprised.  And doff my Steelers hat in his general direction. 

Before I go further, I want to say something about the man behind the spiders.  Dylan has been producing some very cool and interesting adventures for the OSR for, I think, two or more years now.  I've got a copy of each and every one.  I think he is one of the hidden talents within an expanding interest in old school gaming.  I say hidden because I don't think he gets the notoriety he deserves.  His work is always clean and crisp, interesting and fun and Dylan has a distinct style so his adventures and products are different from anyone else's you'll find out there. 

To the review, The Big Book of Spiders is much different from Dylan's other offerings.  Besides being focused on spiders, there is a very cool narrative that runs through the book.  And as your reading it, you realize you are the one in the narrative speaking about the book your holding in your hand.  Dylan executes this like a professional hit man, cool and calm.

The first section of the book is a mini monster manual that focuses on all the devious species of spiders.  Again, you might think there would be some redundancy, but I am here to report that every entry is distinct.  There are 24 spiders for you to use in your adventures.  And the fact is, I used one of the spiders for an adventure I wrote for The Manor #6.  I read the entry and knew just where to put the creepy little guy.

The second section is spells & equipment.  A close look at marketable resources that a spider produces such as silks and poisons.  Regular items and magic items with a spider theme.  I think I may have to add some of the items into one of my stores.  A fence for a thieves guild and the fence has a thing for spiders.  That would be cool.  And if you need only one reason to get TBBoS it's this, SPIDER GOLEM!  Tell me that doesn't give you an OSR chubby.

Part three, Dylan created a sentient race of spiders that can be used as a playable class.  I'll give you a hint at what its called.

It's an interesting concept and I'd have to see it in play.  A spinner could be the ultimate thief sub-class.

Part four is a short adventure where your goal is to DESTROY a spider cult.  Again, the book you hold in your hand plays a big part in the adventure.  Dylan sets up the situation, describes the rooms, but its up the GM to run it.  No training wheels here.  The maps are well done.  Just a suggestion though, go the bathroom before you run the adventure or you might get a little paranoid sitting upon the porcelain throne.

And the final section is a few riddles that Dylan is so fond of.  I'm even part of an answer to a riddle I got wrong.  I suck at the riddles. 

You get a lot of bang for your bucks in this offering.  I am really surprised how much he squeezed in.  If you want a print offering, you'll need to hop...or what ever spiders I have to look it up...hydraulic pressure?...that doesn't sound right...hydraulic over to Dylan's blog, Digital Orc and you'll find the Paypal button ($4.99) beneath his video presentation.  Or if you use a tablet, e-reader, or I'm to good for actual books kinda guy that will only read PDFs ($3.99) then head over to RPGNow and grab The Big Book of Spiders.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Crap...that's all I got.

I have a couple of reviews I plan to do soon.  Hoping to get one up tonight.  My blogging time has been squished to nothing because I'm trying to finish a couple of projects, work is draining and I have to go on a training for a couple days.  Training on what you ask not interested.  A two-day training on paperwork I answer making a gun motion to my head.

Good stuff going on, I'm learning how difficult it is to put a cover together.  That's been fun.  An unexpected gift from the gaming gods.  Probably just because I'm new at it, but it does seem a little difficult.  I got some help so I should have to swear that much.

I only need to complete the last bit of Manor #6 and I'll have the first draft done.  I want to get it done before my training.  That way I can let it sit for a few days before going over it before sending it to my proof reader dudes.  And dudette.

+Johnathan Bingham sent me the preliminary art for the Manor Compendium.  IT IS FANTASTIC!  I'll share that one soon.  It deserves a post all by itself.  When that gets done I get to do another cover...see above.

I'm going to attempt to review OSR products at least a weekly activity.  Maybe do them on Wednesdays or one of those other week days we have that end in y. 

Off to work I go.  Catch you on the other side of it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Starter Adventures to be Released...Finally

Last night I did an interview with Douglas Cole on his Gaming Ballistic blog and I decided to announce that I will be releasing my next product, Starter Adventures.  It's a project that has been on the back burner for a very long time.  There was a lot of starts and stops, but this time around I reached out and asked for help with the edits.  +Tim Snider came through.  I've gone through all the edits and finished them today.  I also went through and finished the layout today.  

I will release it in PDF and print.  The print will be done with the POD services available on RPGNow and Lulu.  I just need to get it formatted for POD correctly. 

Starter Adventures was made for people who are learning RPGs.  I've written four scenarios for each of the four basic classes.  Each of the scenarios teach something about the game such as the basics of combat, the importance of role-playing, problem solving and there can be many paths to solving a problem.  In addition to the scenarios, I've included a full mapped and detailed tavern.  Your new players will need to meet up some where.  And the last part of the book is a one-shot adventure once your new players get the hang of the game. 

I'm excited to finally be releasing Starter Adventures.  I'll update its status within the next week.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Happenings Involving Gothridge Manor

A couple of very cool things will be happening over the weekend featuring me and one of my adventures.

First, +Douglas Cole from Gaming Ballistic will be mercilessly grilling me during one of his Firing Squad interview.  He just completed one with +Stacy Dellorfano that I had the pleasure of watching an uncut version.  An excellent and interesting interview.  He's also done recently did interviews with +Richard LeBlanc of d30 Sandbox Companion fame and other excellent products.  GURPS heavy hitter, +Kenneth Hite and another godfather of GURPS, +Sean Punch gave interviews.  And of course the interview that caught my attention originally was when he interviewed +Erik Tenkar.  I figured if he interviewed Tenkar, he'd interview anyone.

All the interviews are great gaming candy.  I've watched them all except for a panel discussion.  I told Douglas that everyone comes across so thoughtful and intelligent.  I don't have a chance at that.  I'm going to sound like a truck driver on crack that's been driving for 54 hours straight.  Maybe not that bad, but probably be close.  Oh, and I apologize now to anyone I mention in the interview, I will screw up the pronunciation of your name.

Douglas will be interviewing my 9pm EST time tonight.  I will be armed with Zombie Brew mug, some ice tea and a few words of below average wisdom.

Then, tomorrow between 2pm and 10pm EST, +Rafael Chandler is running a game with the premise "What happens when story gamers visit and old school dungeons?"  I dunno, but I'm going to watch and find out.  Apparently Rafael will be using a section or part or something from my Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams.  In combination with +Dyson Logos's Dyson Delves and +Gavin Norman's Theorems & Thaumaturgy.  And Rafael will also use critters and encounters from his excellent books the Teratic Tome and Slaughter Grid.  An 8-hour long session.  I hope they break for the bathroom a few times or there will another little horror show on the video.  

Sounds like a cool weekend and I want to thank +Douglas Cole for wanting to interview me and +Rafael Chandler for choosing my adventure to be included in his game day.

Headed out for a bit (I have the day, so burn with jealousy)to do some writing on Manor #6. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How Much Reality do You Like in Your Fantasy?

As much as you want is the answer.  In my games, I like a good dose of reality that reflects in a warp/pseudo image of history.  When you walk into a village you’re going to be greeted with suspicion, but met kindly.  There will be a reeve in charge of getting things done.  There will probably be a woodward and possibly hayward.  Yeoman will be present and I do like to throw in a village militia once in a while, but in general the villagers will have little to no experience with fighting.  They will farm the land, tend to flocks and celebrate festivals.  I don’t get into too much more reality detail, but enough to give the players a sense of grounding.

But this is a fantasy game with spell slingers, big green monster that eat people’s feet and the small gray critters that tear apart crops at night while they villagers sleep.  So, for villagers to survive a world with such thing, they have to be tougher, and maybe a few of the villagers are ex-badasses.  I seem to always slip in an ex-mercenary into a village.  Got tired of the fighting life, met a beautiful girl and settled down.  He keeps his sword wrapped in a blanket, in a locked chest, that he gets out every few months to remember what it felt like to hold it in his hand.

Once in a while I’ll mix in a more magical element.  Maybe there is a mage nearby whose studying the magical properties of poison ivy on snakes with three eyes.  But since he needs food and likes a pint of ale once in a while, he is friendly with the villagers and will help them out once in a while.  Or maybe there is a critter in the forest that has adopted the village.  Maybe a gray renderer.  So when half-orc bandits ride into the village thinking it will be an easy target, the gray renderer opens up a large can of whoop ass on them. 

In my game, it’s important to have a balance.  I like adding in historical details.  Especially since I have an exceptionally intelligent group I game with, they pick up on the details quickly and understand what they mean.  Some of the puzzles or mysteries they encounter will be solved with the knowledge of both knowing the reality (historical) in combination of the fantastic elements. 

Even if you run a gonzo game where nothing is off limits, I think it enhances the game with some reality checks.  Say your land is getting overrun by zombie werewolves who are wearing exo-skeleton they found on a crashed alien spaceship that was shot down by the invisible Illuminati laser.  Add swastikas on the armor and all of a sudden you’ve added another element people will recognize.  Now you have all the above with Nazis added.  Your players are going to grab an extra tactical nuke for their z-28 that has a cassette player with volume knob ripped off at full and plays White Snake songs constantly.  Sign me up!

So reality…it’s what I add to my fantasy, not the other way around.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Late Night Map

Here's another map.  A little out of the way village.  It looks innocent enough.  A nice little well in the middle.  Huts and houses huddled near a gentle creek.  The wind rustles the leaves of the forest.  So calm.  So gentle.  And then a big fricking monster burrows out of the ground and makes you crap your pants just before it reaches down and eats your head off.

I love drawing maps.  I can't help myself.

Blue Dungeon Tiles Kickstarter

Recently I've had the pleasure to get circled by +Kevin Chenevert.  While going through the OSR Superstar entries we found an entry by a 9-year old boy who was not afraid to make a splash.  +Rob Conley and talked about giving him an honorable mention, because his item was great and reminded me of the items I used to make in the way back.  We wanted to make a card for him, but since neither Rob nor I can draw I asked the google land of artists for help.  Kevin volunteer and did an amazing job with it.  Rob finished the card last night.  I'll show when he sends it out.

In the mean time Kevin of Red Kobold Games has a Kickstarter called Blue Dungeon Tiles.  It's been going only a couple of days and well over the half way mark.  What I like about this Kickstarter is it's a simple idea (not that, that makes it simple to create) that is very useful and that the stretch goals are manageable and not over the top promising you too much.  These are more my speed because they have the old school blue, they are easy to layout without fiddling with too much and you can mark on them and erase the markings for next round. 

I think Kevin has got himself a great Kickstarter.  Please check it out Blue Dungeon Tiles.

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Tricks for the Old Dog

I've been considering companions of the animal kind.  I'm not talking about familiars.  Never been a huge fan of those, but never disallowed it.  Although they tend to have a short life span in most of my campaigns.  I'm talking about significant animal companions that have followed an adventurer for a significant amount of time.  I'm plan on adding these companions to my ranger and druid classes. 

When someone gets a familiar it is very useful in the first few levels, but then after that (if it lives) it becomes less helpful and sort of an after thought.  I can't remember in my experience, when anyone used one past the first levels. 

Here's my plan.  Animal companions level up with their master.  Makes record keeping much simpler.  So when a ranger reaches a new level, here's what he can do with his animal buddy.  He can chose one of the following:
Roll for extra hit points
  • Add 1d4 hit points
  • Add +1 to hit 
  • Add +1 to damage
  • Add +1 to AC
  • Add a new task it can perform
This way the companion can improve with the character without becoming overpowering.  The new task that the companion can perform can be different depending on the animal type.  If the companion has some magical ability maybe they acquire a new one, or improve an existing ability.

Say the ranger loses his companion in a fight.  It's going to happen, adventurers live dangerous lives.  What would happen then is the player could eventually get a new companion, maybe with a little RPing involved, and the new companion would start as a newb.  Base template stats, and then move up from there.  Or of the almighty GM has been plied enough with praise and pizza, a different, more powerful companion could be found.

Anyway, I like the idea of it. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Print Sales Roundup

The cantankerous and inquisitive +Jason Zavoda asked how many sales were print.  So I took off my shoes and began counting.  Here are the results.  These are total sales for the items I sell in print versions.  All of which I make and assemble from my office.  I have a few other print offerings like the Mini Manor and Where is Margesh Blackblood?, but those are freebies I give away.

Knowledge Illuminates: 27 print sales.
My first release, over three ago, keeps getting a handful of sales in PDF.  However, the print version never caught on.  I really like the look of it with Dylan Hartwell's artwork.  He did a fantastic job that sets the mood for the adventure.  I've got a follow up adventure brewing.  Something to do with a certain chest.

Manor #1: 105 print sales.
This one did very well.  There was a lot of excitement when it was released and I remember getting on my blog roll and saw 3 or 4 reviews for it at the same time.  I was very nervous when I released it.  It was great to see the reception it got and gave me the confidence to continue.

Manor #2: 91print sales.
I was able to follow-up with the second issue fairly quickly, I think only 2 months separated the issues.  I really like this issue.  Hugo is a fun guy to role-play.  He's actually based on a PC from years ago.  I've used him several times in games.  The party always comes away either angry or amused.
Manor #3: 72 print sales.
It took a long time to get issue #3 out.  I think it was 7 months between issues.  And upon release there was less interest compared to the first two.  I think by this time there were a handful more zines out there.  While it struggled in the beginning, it continues to get sales, especially in the bundle buys.

Manor #4: 69 sales.
This one was a lot of work.  Especially for +Jason Sholtis who made the mini monster section exceptional with his art.  The adventure I wrote for this issue I never got to playtest.  I rewrote it four times.  Overall I like how it turned out, but still want to know how it plays out on the table.
Manor #5: 51 sales.
My latest offering.  Each zine has sold a little less than the previous one, but they all continue to trickle in sales.  The print sales seem to all come in the beginning.  Then the PDFs continue to sell.  Maybe its because I only sell my print issue from my home.  Not sure.  I'm curious as to what a compilation of Manors will do in print.

Total Print Sales: 415
This doesn't include the 10-12 comp copies each issue.

I have no idea how these sales stack up against the other great zines out there.  Or OSR products in general.  But I'm pretty content with them.  It's allowed me to pay for art, get a few gaming items and gives me the push to continue making more adventures.  I would be creating these adventures either way, but there is something very cool about selling them, sharing it with others and hearing feedback from it.  I enjoy sharing what I do with others.  Including the sales numbers.  So Jason, you wanted the print sales figures.  You got'em. 

GM Games Sale Report: February 2014

With the end of February comes another month end sales report.  There were no releases for GM Games in January, but sales increased slightly.  Knowledge Illuminates hit a stellar goal, over 400 have sold.  Wow.  I'll need to write the follow up adventure I always intended to write for it.  For those brave or foolish enough to open up the chest.

Upcoming Releases
Manor Compilation: I'm going to release the first 5 Manors in a paperback and hardback addition on RPGNow and Lulu.  +Johnathan Bingham agreed to do the cover and I am excited to see what he does with the concept I gave him.  I think that's one of my favorite processes, when an artist creates what was in your head.  
Expected Released: Umm, I would guess end of March or in April.

The Manor, Issue #6: This issue is nearly done.  Again, I have contributions from other gamers.  This time +matt jackson and +Ken H were generous enough to write pieces for the zine.  Matt has created an unusual brothel and Ken has an interesting trio of puzzle rooms.  I'm the one holding this one up.  +Jason Sholtis is doing the cover.  I'm excited to see his own book released with all his d12 tables.
Release Date: Sometime in March.

Untitled Adventure: I love writing adventures.  It's probably one of my favorite things to do.  I've got a couple in the hopper that I've been tinkering with, but I like to playtest them a couple times before I unleash one.  This one is a side project I'm working on.  It's a big dungeon.  Over 300 rooms, but I'm not setting it up as a mega-dungeon, but rather a place where a GM can have the player do a delve and find the money, item or person, using only sections of the dungeon.  There are different entrances to start with.  
Release Date:  Unknown.  It's a side project I'm working on now and then.  I'm planning on keeping it art free because I don't know how many pieces I would need for that big of a project.  Plus, just want to keep it simple.

Secret Project: I've been mumbling about this one for a while.  I am in my final edits with it.  There may be a few art tweaks, but it is on the last turn before completion.  The only reason why I being coy, is every time I mentioned it before I failed to finish.  When I get it formatted and getting proofs back from the printers I'll announce what it is.
Release Date:  Soon.  I think in March.

Now onto the numbers.  A decent month for not having any releases in the past two months.

February 2014
Knowledge Illuminates: released February 16th, 2011, print version released October 29th, 2012
PDF: 3 (12)   Print: 0   Total Sales: 402 (201)

The Manor, Issue #1: released May 5th, 2012
PDF: 3   Print: 1   Total Sales: 325

The Manor, Issue #2: released July 4th, 2012
PDF: 3   Print: 1   Total Sales: 242

Cave of Seiljua: released September 9th, 2012
PDF: (22)   Print: N/A   Total Sales: (555)
The Manor, Issue #3: released released February 7th, 2013
PDF: 3   Print: 1   Total Sales: 148

Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams: released April 19th, 2013
PDF:  (9)   Print: N/A   Total Sales: (273)

The Manor, Issue #4: released July 28th, 2013
PDF: 3   Print: 2   Total Sales: 97
Where is Margesh Blackblood?: released August 12th, 2013
PDF: 1 (7)   Print: N/A   Total Sales: 15 (185)

The Manor, Issue #5: released November 21st, 2013
PDF: 4   Print: 4   Total Sales: 84

Execution Corner: released December 15th, 2013
PDF: 2 (12)  Print: N/A  Total Sales: 24 (115)
Total Sales for February 2014
PDF: 22 (62)   Print: 9   Total Sales: 31 (62)