4/21/17

GET LAMP

What happens to "dead games", and genres, how people hope in them, how tiny small communities get fractured, and divided, and how all this indie stuff influences the greater, mainstream. A must-watch for us all in these troubled times.




4/16/17

ECHO CHAMBERS


I was on last.fm for a long time, that's a smart radio, which means that it plugs into whatever application you listen music with, and keeps a record of what you've listened to shape your own personal tracklist. So far, so good. But then, it matches you with people having similar tastes, which means that you're bound to meet your clones, and encouraged to interact with them.

Now, that's probably not a bad thing if you look for like-minded friends of all sorts, but it is certainly bad if you look for honest feedback, and want to take the pulse of your ecosystem, because you're bound to find yourself on a self-asserting loop.

There's a strategy on social networks in general which will lead to the same delusional result: the exclusion strategy, through which you ban, and block people with different views. You do this when you crave for confirmation, or want to shine amidst people who can in no way threaten your stance. The final result of this tendency is that you end up interacting with an echo chamber, which has no other purpose than confirming yourself. Some people need this, why not. But problems begin when they confuse their own private echo chamber with the ecosystem itself.

I saw recently a publisher, not a bad guy in himself, honestly, innocently saying that he's broke a new record by becoming the first seller on the same platform as mine, Drivethrurpg. I did before him, as did many others. Since I assume he is being honest, I sincerely think that he had no clue whatsoever. He, and the few other people sharing the same echo chamber do think, that they're “doing things to the OSR”, “mapping the OSR”, changing things, twisting them their way, or “representing it”. It's a narcissistic, deeply delusional idea which can survive only in the confines of an echo chamber.


So now, I agree that it's not easy to leave the echo chambers. You have to reach out for people if you want to do so. You find them in groups, communities, chats, everywhere but it takes the effort to go out there, and to talk to them. Going by proxies is good method, that's how I ended up on a Romance Writer group on Facebook, the Wizards of Istanbul, and a D&D 3.5 group. Now, I don't write Romance, but I write. I don't live in Istanbul, but hey, Wizards, and I don't play D&D3.5 anymore but I design RPG stuff. Sure, I've found controversy, and different views there, but that's what I believe the internet is for once we've gone past the infancy of self-promotion. There are thousand of places in your ecosystem where you're literally nobody, but it takes the courage to find them, and to explore. That should be the least of the requirements for a delver, and an adventurer.

4/15/17

FLOWER LICHES OF THE DRAGONBOAT FESTIVAL, FIRST PEEK


Work's going hard, and well on Flower Liches of The Dragonboat Festival, my forthcoming Chinese ghost story, Kung-Fu action movie adventure, detective story Oriental OSR release — best suitable as an extension to the original edition Oriental Adventures or Old School Renaissance Asian releases such as Mad Monks of Kwantoom, Qelong, Yoon-Suin, Red Tide, Valley of the Five Fires, or even Narcosa* on the psychedelic side.

Copy Editing — Done
Artwork — About halfway there?
Cartography — Almost done

*All terms used with permission from their respective authors, and publishers


Here's a peek behind the curtain —





4/13/17

IT COMES DURING PLAY


When writing, and designing adventures, and game supplements, there is a temptation to bash in with powerful, evocative scenes, and long-winded descriptions. There's a writer in each designer, and a designer in each writer, and it's important to be able to draw the line between the two, and to adjust to it in order to produce interesting, gameable things.

Too long a description, and you strip the DM of his storytelling role. Too scripted a scene, which you need to do if you want it to reach narrative impact, and you railroad the players, and eventually confine their game to your imagination, and space instead of letting it unfold at each game table as it should. As always, scarcity is the sign of success. Sometimes, it's half of a hint of what might happen hidden in a stat block, or an otherwise innocuous location key. An adventure is a minefield of hooks, and triggers. You can play some of these triggers mechanically by embedding them into the system — giving a gust of wind spell to enemies, for instance, so that torches will be snuffed, or setting high chances for wandering monsters, and preparing an especially gruesome monsters' list can both lead to horror situations. You don't need to say how horrible this all is, just to setup things so that the horror will happen during play, by itself. Or you can plant the triggers with flavor, giving a distinct tone to the adventure.

Whatever the method, you're bound to miss the mark if you overdo it, and start to TELL. It may not be as attractive as a good book. There's a reason for that: it's an adventure, which is meant to happen during play, and not a piece of your imagination that you're suppose to impart, and port to game tables that will be forced to configure themselves in order to play your thing. Follow this track, and you end up with a coffee table book, a novel, an interesting thing possibly, but not with something people will play, and have their fun with.

That's why the best adventures may seem bland to the beginner's eye sometimes, think Tomb of Horrors. Where's the demilich background? Where are the powerfully evocative room descriptions? What's the reason for the traps, and how come they're not fully described as the horrible over-the-top thing they obviously are? Because you find this all out, DM, and players included during play. That's why we remember Tomb of Horrors, and will forget coffee table books. In Game Design, everything is attention to details, not to the powerful, the scripted, and the poetic, that you should keep to the writer's side. We can be both! But there's nothing worse than a frustrated writer designing games, or a frustrated designer writing books.


As readers, and DMs, we need to give the same attention to details. Small, puny figures, and numbers, and maybe an adjective here and there: that's where the fun that's going to come is hidden. Game Design isn't an Art, it's a Craft. That's, personally, how I craft adventures, and random generators — not saying I'm successful or not, up to you to judge from what you play— I plant seeds, little mechanical systems that I know will trigger scenes all by themselves, a word here, a precision there, so that piece after piece, building block after building block, I know that it will shape a memorable adventure that will make sense as a whole, during play.

4/12/17

THE END OF A CYCLE, AND A NEW HOPE

There's been a lot of talk lately, partly spawned by the Fuck the OSR conversation at Knights & Knaves, sparked itself by This Blogspot, and partly because, as I will explain, the current cycle is dying.

MY OSR was Grognards, and punks. It was like the Ramones rather than the Sex Pistols, who frankly, were just a fashion show. It had ODD74, Dragonsfoot, Knights & Knaves, James Mal, Rients, the TAO, Carcosa already, my own AD&D game tables, this OSR sucks website( remember it?). Then came the new kids on the block, mostly Zak and a bunch of friends and followers. Kids who hated the Grognards, and didn't identify with them, kids who wanted to do new things, and that's a good thing. They had no experience of it all, and that's a good thing because youthful recklessness leads to success says the Yi-King. Everything was blogs back then, like this one. And very little was Facebook, or G+.

There's a band called Cinema Strange, which did Deathrock. It was a small band, a bunch of randoms doing average stuff. So what did they do? They released an album, and there was written «The Leading Deathrock Band» on the album, and people believed it. Like the Sex Pistols being punk, you know. And people bought it. And they became The Leading Deathrock Band for real. That's exactly what the new kids did. «We are the OSR», the leading whatnot of the OSR, etc.

And it worked. It worked because the new kids had clout from outside, they were doing porn, Art, stuff. And there were people there. And geeks went like «Wow, a geek who fucks», or gets fucked, whatever. So clout indeed. A clout that had nothing to do with the actual quality of their design, or creativity, and everything with their clout alone. So Zak patches up sloppily his own campaign notes without even putting the effort to edit them, and here comes Vornheim. He should thank James Raggi a thousand times else this half-baked thing would have never been readable. But hey, Vornheim from «The Geek That Fucks», The Leading OSR guy. Honestly, my friends and myself had better, more interesting, funnier campaign notes in 1990, and we would have laughed at the idea of publishing them as is but everything's possible with clout, and pretend Art, and friends in juries. There are two adventures in it with barely understandable maps, tables that would been original in 1985, tidbits of rules which have been done before a hundred times and weren't the best, and okay, the die-drop mechanic, which is new, good, and interesting but really, that's all there is.

I worked in a Social Gaming company once, in France. Our games were Free to Play so it was vital that people talked about them, but also did so positively. The problem was that we had a bunch of vocal people out there who were getting abrasive, and Bad for Business. Do you know what we did? Well, simple, we hired them as consultants. We didn't give a shit about their ideas though we were all like «we love your input, yes this will be in the game, thank you, you are so awesome». And we did put some of their stuff in our games, and paid them, just to keep them quiet and say good things and say that D&D5 was Old School (seriously, people...). And it worked, and that's not a good thing because once you've said that, then you've said that everything is Old School, and that nothing matters. But hey, people are stupid thinks the Big Bad Business. Well, not all of them.

So back to Cinema Zak the Vornheim Consultant. Of course, the guy's ego inflates like a fucking zeppelin from Corfu, and he starts shitting all over the place. The place, by the way, is Google +, which is sooner or later getting down. So he starts promoting his friends who can't write, and do art like 5-years old kids and it's all getting to feel like a Contemporary Art gallery where you're supposed to be ecstatic in front of broken toilets else you're shit.

Now, the ENnies, the most significant award we had. The ENnies were depressing. It was like a corrupt government with awards that felt given to the industry majors for no reason. But it has judges. So what did the new kids do? They promoted their own judges, their flattered them, they pushed them into the positions like lobbies do. And of course, they won. The funny thing with inflated egos, especially if they're inflated by hollow winds instead of genuine, deserved success, is that they tend to explode all over the place, and to hurt themselves. This is coming to us super-fast like a train wreck. Yes, the ENnies needed to be shaken from this nigh-invisible corruption, that was good. But they were shaken with a similar corruption, and that's where it starts to hurt.

Do you see the trend?

  1. Everything and nothing is Old School
  2. The Awards are still meaningless
  3. The Industry bought your silence
  4. G+ is dying
  5. The egos are so inflated that they will shit on the OSR itself as a whole in no time after having used it. Trust me.

The current cycle is dying, and it's a good thing. We'll get rid of those people, and it's a good thing. Grognards and punks, unite!

In some cases, I quite like irritating people who need to be irritated. Robert Smith

1/27/17

HOW I MAKE AN ADVENTURE

Following up upon PatrickStuart, Goblin Punch, and JP Claytonian, here's mine.

TOO MANY IDEAS

I always have tons of ideas floating around. Always has. Some are for books, which I never get to write, some are fun-sized, they're for adventures. I have tables of ideas with small percentages telling me how much of this and of that has been done. I have ideas standing in folders at 90% and they've been at 90% for years. I have ideas at 5% and just can't get them out my mind, but I can't write them either. And if they've made it that far, to the list, it means they're solid. They're all good, they're fucking brilliant but they're like tough nuts to cracks, all of them, things that long for life but don't have a form yet, and go bump in the dark at the moment.

I have my regulars. They stick with me, and I never write them. And I have plans for them. I can't think about an adventure, I can't write anything whatsoever without being able to imagine it in my hands, like an object. I know what the adventure name is, and who will do the art, and sometimes what will be on page 56, and how. I have all this in mind, for each of the 20 or so of them. Like a fucking publishing house robot. That's why what you saw so far, RotU, MmoK, Castle Gargantua, and 71B are like the tip of the iceberg, there's a whole hidden world below, but it's coming out at its own pace.

Sometimes, it's nothing much. Like Castle Gargantua began because BECMI multiplied by 8 the HD of gargantuan monsters with this wizard named Gargantua, and that was insane, and I love Rabelais, and Jack and the giant, and boom the title happened in my mind, and I had to write it. And before I started I just remembered there was this idea number #7 somewhere about a megadungeon that's been explored so many times that the adventuring parties had become the real monsters. So I was happy because idea number #7 could happen too. And at the same time, I was pushing deeper my solo play systems after Mad Monks of Kwantoom, and refining them, and improving them, so I thought «hey, let's make it three ideas in one, Boom!».

Generally speaking, the thing that makes me take the step and tricks me into writing over 200 (digest-sized) pages is that I sincerely think that this all will be a simple 32-pages affair I'll end by the weekend. But then the « how cool is that! » effect kicks in and there are sections and sections piling up with new madness that I don't have the heart to break. When I start, it all gets in the flow and that's why I end up that way. And like everyone, I like feeling a sense of progress, I like feeling like « wow this one is better than the last one ». Every single time. I hope it's true but maybe it's not, and that's just me trying to put all that into perspective, and maybe there's none.

THE FLOW

The problem is that once the idea has started, I can't stop it. I see it everywhere. I buy books connected to it, I read them, I take notes. When I open G+, I look at the art people have done, and I think about how I could use it in my adventure, and how expansive the people are or reasonable, and I check their portfolios, and I look for fonts. When walking in the streets I'm like « Oh, this is so Rabelais », etc. It recedes after a while for projects that have become real big, but always lingers about, till it's released.

THE WORST METHOD EVER


Watch out. I start with the layout. Remember, I need to imagine the adventure in my hands, I need to SEE it becoming real. I usually start with a single piece cover PDF, then the book block, and that's how the files are named PROJECT SOMETHING BOOK BLOCK 1.4, PROJECT SOMETHING COVER 0.2, etc. So I start with a layout, and I plan ahead for all the sections, the titles, the subtitles. That's the math part. On the creative part, I keep tabs and notes about everything. Sometimes it's just a small notepad, sometimes it's heaps and heaps of notes. And I write, and do the layout, and connect with the artists, all together, at once. And then I write, from A to Z, in the pages' order, like a robot again, typing a bit too hard on my keyboard. Meanwhile, I take new notes, I hand-draw diagrams to deal with the back-and-forth interaction that's bound to happen when you do this. Details become major things, major things get scrapped, 100 pages of them sometimes. Idea number #17 connects abruptly at page 36, so I rewrite pages 1 to 35. It takes ages, it's beautiful, it's a process. The true weird thing is that, while it's the opposite of what one should do, this process works for me. I'm getting good at it, I anticipate, I handle multiple consequences and twists together like a Time Lord, so that eventually, I don't redo anything much by now.

5/12/16

ZENDIKAR RIM: TOTAL CONTINENT KILL

We were getting started on our Zendikar campaign with the local team, using James Wyatt's Planeshift: Zendikar, the first Magic: The Gathering/D&D5 crossover ever. To me, this setting is a mashup of World of Warcraft's Burning Crusade — the one and only best WoW extension so far —, Dark Sun, and Pacific Rim. Soulless titanic alien creatures, the Eldrazi, have awoken, and threaten to destroy the whole plane. They're basically Kaiju monsters, opposed by gigantic feral elementals, and angels.

I wouldn't play D&D5 in a classic medieval fantasy universe where some grit, and heroic play is required. Now, D&D5 is quite fitting for the epic, the only style I deem suitable to Zendikar, so that's what we play. First level characters can communicate with everyone through telepathy, at-will cantrips inflict up to D12 poison damage, etc. Greyhawk? Most certainly not. Zendikar? Yes.

The players, with pre-generated characters, all 2nd level —

Adrian, playing Balshath, a Neutral Female Merfolk Warlock of the Great Old One
Colin, playing Zargan Kyor, a Chaotic Neutral Merfolk Fighter
Ian, playing Yashal, the Purple Lotus, a Chaotic Neutral Female Merfolk Fighter/Cleric
Manuel, playing Zaur Khot, a Chaotic Evil Human Barbarian
Pierre, playing Lucumon the Mad, a Chaotic Evil Human Fighter
Quentin, playing Khan Bal Udar, a Neutral Merfolk Ranger
Rajyashree, playing Sha Aarthan, a Neutral Evil Merfolk Rogue

We're playing RENEWAL, a vignette adventure of my own craft. So, what's a vignette? It's like a cut-scene, some action which happens at some place, and time where your main characters aren't. You play pre-generated characters (they all will be mephits in the next one) and follow their adventures this way. When it's over, you play your own characters again. Of course, the cut-scene has influence upon the action at hand, and eventually, upon your characters. In RENEWAL, it determines whether the Sea Gate has been destroyed or not before the campaign starts, it's a prologue with half a continent at stake, and the awesome opportunity to throw the official lore over the window.

Also, the Marie-Antoinette effect, we play with a soundtrack made of anachronistic nowadays music. Here's the introductory track.



Halimar Basin in Tazeem, a violent abysmal sea enclosed within gargantuan cliffs. The Sea Gate, the greatest, and largest city of Zendikar looms above the Sea Wall, the Sky Rock and the Lighthouse shining up above. Down the Basin are the Squamous Pits where the giant squids are bred, and the prison where the most dangerous criminals are locked. Like all the player characters, for instance.

Here are a few pictures of the prison: guards with their nether rays, the central vortex where the sea STOPS and the human Tide Wizards on the sunken terraces holding the sea back with their magic.




In the cells, their magic doesn't work, and they felt a compulsion not to move away. Locking each and every cell (there are 2 of them), there's a curtain of strangleweed in lieu of door or bars. Except one day, the magic comes back, and the compulsion wanes as something HUGE thumps in the background.

The characters don't know it yet, but the Eldrazi have come, wading into the sea, to destroy Sea Gate. They have crushed the hedrons and ripped off the Ley lines which supported the magic of the prison. Balshath uses all her spells in vain on the strangleweed, Lucumon the Mad charges through it, only to end up bound, and slowly strangled. Sha, through his knowledge of druidic magic, kills the strangleweed with repeated poison sprays. The others shout, and do nothing. Sha leaves the cell, quickly followed by Zargan, heading for the central vortex where all the guards, and wizards are. The back wall of the cell suddenly cracks open, and enters a Benthic Infiltrator, for which I've used the stats of a Nothic.



So, back wall: Nothic. Front wall: Strangleweed. Oh, the joy.

Balshath tries to communicate telepathically with the Eldrazi, and ends up with a short term insanity. BAD IDEA. The Benthic Infiltrator begins to attack Yashal, and Khan, but misses almost all its attacks during several rounds. As the combat becomes sluggish, Sha destroys the other strangleweed with his cantrip and frees Lucumon from its grasp. All flee in the direction of the central vortex, the benthic infiltrator wandering away in another direction after a few more unsuccessful attacks, probably in spite.

There, they find the guards struggling against dozens of small Eldrazi such as the one they've just fought, the Tide Wizards weaving spells to wake the krakens from below. Taking advantage of the confusion, they flee to other locations, deeper within the prison, that they've seen before, run past the Squamous Pits to the Opalescent Horizon, a gathering room with septhedron thrones. Balshath tries to talk with the nether rays instead, only to be devoured on the spot. Exit the warlock.

A Fathom Feeder has broken into the room, spreading rapport spores as they enter, a weird telepathic effect that allows them to connect telepathically with each other, but also allows the feeder to have precognition of their next moves! Follows a short combat during which Lucumon the Mad, Sha, Zargan, and Khan run for the septhedron thrones, Zaur tries to take the Feeder down bare-handed Conan-style, and Yashal runs away. The Feeder gives them a festival of opportunity attacks and hacks Zaur into pieces before running into a chase after Yashal. Exit Zaur.



The others sit on the throne, and using their telepathic link, manage to activate their hedron magic. They find themselves transported to a Watery Grave where three gigantic statues of angels loom, triggering a mindbreaker trap. Lucumon the Mad, and Khan, manage to defeat the mind trap while the others get locked into it, and back to the Opalescent Horizon, from which the Feeder has now gone. Yashal outruns the thing, and hides near the Squamous Pits where the giant squids run amok in panic. Fortunately, they don't notice her as she remains very, very still, and silent.





Back to Lucumon the Mad, and Khan, who now find bronze ladders leading INSIDE the 80 ft. tall statues, all representing six-winged angels. Yes, they are mechas. They gain control of one each as the cave's ceiling opens up into the sky, and fly to the surface. This is where I give them the stat blocks for Planetars and tell them “here's your new character sheet, now play”.



Surface. The second Twin of Desolation is unscathed, legions of smaller Eldrazi in it stead. Slowly, it reaches for Sea Gate in a rising blight tide. It's here that we play Time from Inception's OST, on a loop. And fly the mecha angels to the titan. One chance to save the world, and a good start for a campaign. I use the stat blocks of the Tarrasque for the Eldrazi titan because why the fuck not.



Lucumon runs to it, only to be swallowed whole, and slowly digested as he hacks through the titan from the inside. And here. Here. Khan flees. There goes the Free World. Lucumon alone is no match and dies alone within the Twin's writhing tentacles. The Eldrazi destroy Sea Gate, empty the sea. The whole sea. Exit all. The end.


Now that the prologue vignette is over in a TCK (Total Continent Kill), and the tone is set, we roll for the first level characters they're going to play in the campaign. Not Merfolks anymore. Like ever.

1/15/16

SEVEN AT ONE BLOW


SEVEN AT ONE BLOW
GOONIES IN A DUNGEON!

A Grotesque Humor Primer for Epic Zero Roleplaying.

A survival horror comedy plug and play hack compatible with everything OSR, that you can play right off the bat.

SEVEN AT ONE BLOW is an OSR RPG hack in which the characters are always ordinary people cast into extraordinary situations. Because of this, the world is insanely cruel, and even the lowest monsters are creatures which seem to come straight from horror movies, possibly teenager action-horror movies. That would probably be the end of it if the characters weren't so lucky. They have this luck on their side, a perpetual beginner's luck that will help them escape the most desperate straits and let the situations explode into nonsensical hit and miss heroism.

It's not Joseph Campbell anymore, bitches!

& THE WORLD'S MOST ELUSIVE CREATURE
A YETI HUNT SANDBOX!


Featuring a deep frozen yeti hunt with too many twists to be good. Possibly THE yeti hunt.

10/22/15

CASTLE GARGANTUA


The craziest, biggest dungeon ever published by the OSR. A campaign, a massive generator for all character level, and a grotesque setting all-in-one.


It's not about killing monsters, looting treasure, and gaining experience as you delve deeper into some mad archmage's architectural folly. It's about surviving in a loathsome, terrifying environment where nothing is quite as expected. It's about atmosphere, gloom, and despair. It's a thriller. The characters' 10' poles shall be broken, their ropes cut and their rations spoiled. They will die, many of them, many times and there's no happy end when it's over. It's never over anyway.

Castle Gargantua is about the same height as the Empire State Building and the same size as Ceausescu's Palatul Poporului in Bucarest, a little bit over three million square feet, the same size as the entire Old City of Venice. Its rooms and corridors are so huge that condensation clouds of mist hover within and that it rains inside sometimes. There are miniature tornadoes in the spiral stairs and strong drafts of wind when the corridors are slightly sloped. If a curtain would fall, its weight alone would smash a dozen men to a pulp.

Even without using the Castle Gargantua book, these maps have me wanting to run encounters in them — massive towers and kitchens that are now run by creatures the size of mice compared to the original owners - Dyson Logos.

10/15/15

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE: MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM



For those of you who'd like to hear more about Mad Monks of Kwantoom or just to listen to a podcast of raving AD&D DMs about it, here's the link to the latest installment of the Roll for Initiative podcast #158, which is entirely dedicated to Mad Monks of Kwantoom!

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE #158: MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM

As an aside, here's a selection of what people said about in reviews these last months.

Mad Monks of Kwantoom has a very nineteen seventies sword and sorcery comic book as well as Marvel martial arts feel to it. It's as if you had time machine and went back in time to your favorite hobby shop and this book was sitting on the shelf (Eric Fabiaschi).

Lots of Saffron and Jade and rare and magical spices, if you get my drift (Noah Stevens).

Truth to be told, "sourcebook" is a bit of an understatement. This thing is not just an Oriental Adventures sourcebook, but also a solo campaign generator. There is a ton of cool stuff in here to "lovingly borrow" (The Frugal GM).

It's socially irresponsible cultural ambiguity (Panju Manju).

If you want to go for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon swordplay, then go for it (Roll for Initiative).

8/1/14

WE'RE ALL STARS NOW IN THE ROLE SHOW

There's a whole section of what makes the OSR so important that I haven't seen tackled elsewhere so I'll give it a ranting shoot in here. When I started to play (Holmes D&D), I was but a kid, and a very small one, and for kids, man, the road to D&D was a harsh uncompromising one.

Because the rules, the system and the people all expected that playing D&D was like following a progression curve that would eventually lead you to design D&D. You started a player, then took a big step forward and became a Dungeon Master, then had, yes had, to write your own adventures. Only then were you considered a complete player and accepted as such. Now, writing adventures when you're 8 to 10 years old can prove tricky but yes, I did.


We didn't have the internet back then so people with a little more craft would handwrite or type their adventures, put some picture on the cover and go xerox all the way to "sell" them around for a handful of peanuts. Every club, every city, every place was a bustling underground network of DIY publishers and THAT WAS PART OF THE GAME.

Now that we have the internet, our virtual city has different venues. It has Indie Press Revolution, Drivethrurpg, Lulu. I bet you know those names. But deep down, it's the same story, it's where we share this part of the game where we become designers, this part where we reach the full extent of what D&D is, turning us all into writers and game creators.

To a player, the release of D&D5, with or without OGL, or the decisions of the other system owners (think Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dungeon Crawl Classics) is probably good news and won't change much of the way he games anyway. But to the designer intending to release his tidbits on the internet, to the complete D&D player, the way the industry goes and especially the level of creative freedom - either legally or in the nuts and bolts of its system - it allows him is far more important. We're all stars now and we might need to struggle to keep intact the design & release side of the OSR for I don't know where the 5th might lead us, nor do I know what decisions the big boys are going to take but I know for sure that we need that space or else, it isn't D&D anymore.

7/29/14

THE SHAHRAZAD EFFECT



'Players must leave game in progress as it is and use the cards left in their libraries as decks with which to play a subgame of Magic.'

Following the OSR Megamix line of thoughts, I have accumulated a lot of stuff that could intertwine and play together wonderfully over the last few years. In addition, I'm writing new stuff that will hopefully blow a few minds at the moment and somewhat, all this is falling into place like a puzzle (I know, that's what paranoid people say as well).

Did you play Call of Cthulhu Dreamlands? I did. If you wanted to, you could run two campaign that interacted with each other at the same time, almost with two different characters melt into one, a campaign in the 1920s real world, another in the Dreamlands themselves. I've always loved this idea but found what Chaosium did at this time unsatisfactory since the connections were thin. It felt like the Dreamlands were almost a derail instead of a feed for your character's waking life and that is not what I was looking for.

Yet, wonderful possibilities now exist if you plan to play campaigns on the long run, possibilities that can open your game into subgames and allow to spin-off wildly while keeping in line as long as the main campaign is concerned. Your characters could find the journal that starts Zzarchiv Kowolski's Thulian Echoes in another, totally unrelated dungeon, and they could fall in a pit located elsewhere in this dungeon and enter Dungeonland, where there might as well be a gate to the Demiplane of Ducks (there, now you know the name of my next release, soonish, I swear) - in which, as most of you know, there could be a magical entrance to Geoffrey's Isle of the Unknown (where you also find the Dungeon of the Unknown).

When we think of a campaign, we usually think of an overarching plot, a vilain (mandatory says WotC) and interconnected adventures. When we think of a campaign, we think railroading (or we think sandbox but that's another story) but what if the campaign was just a central hub from which hundreds of subgames could emerge? What if we played a sandbox of sandboxes? Think about the Talisman boardgame extensions, you could start in a classic medfan forest and end up in Deep Space 9 anytime. So why don't we think of campaigns with a Shahrazade Effect?

I'm writing something else at the moment (you won't get any clues on this one here, except for Jeremy Hart's splendid cover illustration) where you can spin into another adventure in a dream, enter another in a musical symphony, open a gate to yet another, fall into one and travel to distant Swords & Planet sandboxes, all this wrapped into a single location in less than a 100 pages. So I'm designing the central nexus hub and whatever happens within but I intend to use many, many other adventures when I run it, including Castle Amber, the Pleasure Prison of the B'thuvian Demon Whore, the Infinite Tower stripped right from Better Than Any Man (again, yes), A Question of Gravity and many more. I intend to play with a full Shahrazad Effect ON. So it's like: you find a castle in your dreams, in which you fall into a pit, in which you find an odd journal, etc.

7/22/14

PESSOA & THE SYNNIBAR SCAM

Only sometimes, I am half-tempted to create a movement. Like in a fashion or a rad, like writers in the United Amateur or the Parnassians in Paris. Except I'd do it all by myself. That's right, alone. A movement which would include people I love and people I argue with, people I support and people supporting my writing and each of these people would write in a different style, look different, create different things. So yeah, sometimes, I want to do what Pessoa did. For those of you unaware of what he did, here's the shortcut: Pessoa was a Portugese poet and writer, and a very lonely person. Except at some point, he's created a lot of heteronyms - friends and foes, fictional people involved into some weird poetic renaissance in Portugal. For each of these characters, I can't find any better word, Pessoa would design a full physical and psychological description, he would compute their astrology, think about how they would write, and write texts the characters were signing. And he sent that to actual, real publishers, which published a few of them. Real Fucking Publishers. Imagine that one day, you learn that all the guys who wrote in Fight On! were actually all the same guy using different names. Well, that's what Pessoa did. And people screamed "genius" (well after his death, to be sure) but that was before the internet and the Synnibar ScamIf you want to do that today you need to manage G+, mails and Facebook accounts for all your writer characters and you need to switch your IP everytime you impersonate one of them. If you succeed, you're a fraud and a scam, not a genius anymore because there's an internet cred now and you're basically fucking with the whole trust system it's been built upon. So if you do this today, you can't be caught doing it nor boast about it like Pessoa did. Yet, internet is a playground and there are times I'm still half-tempted to go his way.

5/9/14

MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM


http://www.rapidejdr.fr/product/129506/Mad-Monks-of-Kwantoom



http://www.rapidejdr.fr/product/129506/Mad-Monks-of-Kwantoom


Some say the gods expelled the grotesque and the weak from their ranks at the beginning of time, denying them entrance to the lofty heavens. Demons all of them, they fled to remote places where they had palaces built in which they could dwell and prosper in the glittering shadows, and that among these places, the 1001 Pagodas of Doom of the Yellow Springs Island are supreme, sheltering countless horrors and ghosts.

AN ORIENTAL ADVENTURES COMPANION, A MONSTER MANUAL, A TOME OF WONDROUS MAGIC, AN ASIAN-THEMED CITY, A SOLO CAMPAIGN AND A DM'S AID — ALL IN ONE BOOKLET

Are you looking for an Oriental Adventures Companion? A Chinese-style monster manual with a twist? A tome collecting a hundred brand new mundane magic items? An Asian-themed urban setting? A game aid to help you fill in the gaps when improvising? An endless campaign that you can play solo or with your family and friends without a DM? Good, because you'll find all this gathered together in one nifty package right here.

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, Mad Monks of Kwantoom features a wondrous Asian setting with new character races and classes, crazy unique creatures inspired by matchbox pictures coming straight from ancient China, alternative petty magic items, tables for random dungeon generation and simple house rules for all of this to run smoothly. In addition, you'll find campaign rules to help you flesh your characters out and embed them in the setting, which they can change and mold according to their whims as they proceed to glory, prosperity and — who knows? — immortality.

WHAT ELSE?

Ninjas, tengu player characters, the revised monk character class, the City of Innocent Deaths, the Lucky Charm of Many Ghastly Friends, the Style of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, Pa'kua kobolds, the Monkey King himself, a game that your partner can play and enjoy with you — and you alone, the 1001 pagodas of doom and actual rules for becoming the Noble Jade Empress or the head of the Shrine of the Purple Lady of the Latrines if that's your thing.


This booklet is officially compatible with Labyrinth Lord and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. since these systems emulate the Basic and Advanced editions of the original Old School rules, you can play with them or with any Old School Renaissance gaming system instead.



1/11/13

RUINS OF THE UNDERCITY



Deep beneath the streets of the City-State of Cryptopolis, sanctuary of the lich-thieves and abode of the Red Goddess, sewers and ancient ruins mingle together into a labyrinth of horrors and wonders.

Bring your own character and play solo without a DM with this huge random-generated adventure spanning a full campaign and backdrop setting.

Maybe there are not other players around you, or maybe your schedule doesn't really allow you to engage in a long beer & pretzel session of hack'n'slash. When this is the case, you can play the Ruins of the Undercity solo, bringing your good old characters in or rolling for new ones. You can also use the adventure to play with a few friends and no DM.

In a nutshell, Ruins of the Undercity features an alternate set of tables for random dungeon and monster generation, traps and magic effects tables, treasures and simple house rules to run all of this smoothly. In addition, you'll find a simple setting and basic rules for solo campaign play.


This booklet is officially compatible with Labyrinth Lord and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. since these systems emulate the Basic and Advanced editions of the original Old School rules, you can play with them or with any Old School Renaissance gaming system instead.

6/3/12

DON'T WAIT FOR D&D NEXT, PLAY OWL HOOT TRAIL

I've had a crush lately for Owl Hoot Trail, Clinton R. Nixon's new RPG and decided to playtest it ASAP with the smatter of rules I've found in the Revised Microlite20 RPG Collection. I have no clue about the state of the playtest at Pelgrane Press Ldt., I just wanna play it — and I want to play it soon. I've dropped them a mail, though, so that will eventually become as kosher as it gets.

Owl Hoot Trail is basically an Old School Renaissance tabletop RPG set in a fantasical wild west teeming with magic, dwarves, goblins and gadget science and it promises a lot of fun. Clinton R. Nixon sort of mashed up Microlite with OD&D retro-clones and set the whole thing aflame with Boot Hill, Deadlands and Go-Go-Gadget stuff akin to WoW goblin engineering and D&D Vancian magic. He advises his readers to buy Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues from the 1890's in order to complete the equipment list, and I will. This little gem of a promising game is full of weird wonderful ideas, just read what follows:


  • Exploding pistols,
  • Cool holsters to win initiative ties,
  • State your intent first, roll initiative later — can't tell you enough how much I love this,
  • Skills that match with every stats, and that you can twist the way you want to haggle-roleplay your way out of all the straits, so that it's not only character's skills but player's wits that matters at the end of the day,
  • All your Hit Points back after an extended rest,
  • Blue finish on your gun for $5 extra,
  • And so much more...


I mean, hey, if you want a game that encompasses all D&D editions and connects a little bit to indie roleplaying — Yes, Clinton R. Nixon, I saw what you've done here with the Skills — don't wait for D&D NEXT, just play Owl Hoot Trail.

4/10/12

UNPLUGGED

An essential part of the game, for me, lies in its social aspect: you meet people face to face and spend hours and hours with them, you get involved into clubs, flyers printing, and all the activities required by the fact that you're actually fostering a social event of sorts. Think about a campaign: that's a night a week, or every other week maybe, for months. And during this night, you meet the same people again and again. One day, they're bound to become friends for good, or to leave the game table.

There are those moments in the early morning where you laugh and talk together about what's happened during the play and the bewildered looks upon the face of innocent bystanders. There's Steph shouting « backstab, backstab » in the bus, Fred and I fighting a lightsaber duel with neon lights, there was this day where I played ZZ Top loud during the game, and the first day I've started smoking pipe, and it was with them, my fellow adventurer friends.

I've made a few of my lifelong friends with Dungeons & Dragons, I've met them at the local shop, at the club or in the wider roleplayers community, friends of friends and the like. To me, that's a whole part of what Dungeons & Dragons is: you risk yourself socially, you get to meet people out of the snug comfort of your boundaries, and you're going to share your passion with them.

There's none of this all online, whether you play with Google+, speak over Teamspeak or Ventrilo, and use tools or not to get your mapping and notes done. None of this all. While I quite like the fun of playing online with a headset, for a World of Warcraft raid maybe, it's quite a different experience from your good old Dungeon in the basement because it basically rips the social need off the game, and thus, rids the game of one of its major benefit. It's like « I'm blogger this and that, hello » and of course, you'll remain blogger this and that forever because nobody will really challenge you over Google+ or maybe D&DI with NEXT, how could they? So, gentlemen, I'm saying, you're taking no risks anymore and take the tiny really useful and good parts of this game out of the scenery, and that's bad.

I know, it's probably the way our western societies go anyway, lonely people everywhere pretending friends with other people they never met, never will, and to be honest, never want to meet. Well, that's not enough for my game.

9/17/11

THE GREAT SCUM HACK : OSR MEGAMIX



I could have chosen. I could have said: we play straight B/X, Labyrinth Lord, Holmes D&D or Lamentations of the Flame Princess maybe. At the opposite extreme, I could have laid my own house rules bare and send them all over the web through this Lulu guy. At some point, owning most retro-clones and original rules, I found myself wanting to choose too many mutually exclusive rules at the same time and I was like “what exactly are we playing?”.

I've got now the answer: we grow up, empower ourselves and play everything we love. We're playing elves as character classes if we feel like, next to an Advanced Edition Companion, or AD&D or whatever elven fighter/thief, we're playing the spells and magic system from Lamentations of the Flame Princess with Dark Sun's Dragon Kings spell casting weird effects, we're playing Holmes initiative, PHB assassins and bards, jesters from Dragon and White Dwarf houris.

The first session my players sat in, they began like “come on, don't tell us we play 1st level again, make it a two” and, to my — and their — utter surprise I went “sure, cool. Now give me those oreo cookies, please. Oh and, while you're at it, eject this Guild Wars, Apocalyptica and Conan OST we've been playing with for too long, and play the last VNV record”.

So did we begin The Great Scum Hack, an adventure set into the Rudingoz random city I'm designing at the moment. It's called “hack” because this introductory adventure shows a way to hack the random city and to play it, say, reverse engineered. I can't think of any better way to write an introductory adventure to a setting/campaign than one that makes it lie from the beginning, it's so boring to wait 12 sessions until a bit of the secrets get revealed anyway. It's also called “hack” because this adventure was originally designed for Rackham's Cadwallon RPG, but disappeared into the nether void when the publisher went bankrupt or so. I was paid good money to design it in 240 pages and it's now 16 pages, going to be cheap and way better.

But it's not the only reason why it's a hack, it's also because there's everything OSR inside when I run it. Characters starting money, physical traits, background skills, contacts and enemies are ripped from Lesserton & Mor ; shop keepers, dead bodies, NPCs and fortunes are from Vornheim ; most magic items come from Goblinoid Games' Realms of Crawling Chaos — or Deep Ones if my players feel like playing one some day — temples and events come from the Classic Dungeon Designer Old School Encounters Reference #4, etc. I could go like “oh you've printed Nicolas' Orc and you want to play one? Let me think about how to make it fit, I'll find something”.

Of course, you're not gonna need anything else than a rules system and the booklet I'll Lulu to run it yourself but if there's something you or your players love anywhere, whether in Stars Without Numbers, Red Planet, AD&D2 Al Quadim, the Hill Cantons Compendium, whatever, just do like I do and get your fun.

One last word: it's not Gonzo, not at all. The universe this all shapes has a very, very strong suspension of disbelief, it's almost seamless, it's rock-solid as a good book saga. Yet, of course, I'm lucky not to play with any rules lawyer or setting expert. What about you? Is your game a megamix as well? Why not?