If you 1) love Tunnels & Trolls and/or Gonzo Old School Gaming 2) are able to read French or can cope with some Google Translate nonsense, this new release is for you!
For you, Oh happy few, I have the great pleasure to introduce you to The Spider Jungles of Boomshartak, a Tunnels & Trolls adventure where you play jungle trolls in the midst of a coming of age ritual that involves a Shantak bird, a thousand spiders, a fallen Empire, laser guns and a mouthful of frogmen. Sex, violence and success are all optional.
Only on Lulu, published by Grimtooth himself.
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.
- 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...
Shades of the Sunless Realm
- There are two suns: one red and one white, that shed so little light that most of the world is flooded in complete darkness, save for the stars and the thin slice of a crescent moon.
- It's like a surface underdark: most races, except humans, have ultra or infra vision, humans have night goggles, sunrods and lanterns.
- All forests are mushroom or slime forests. Psionics are widespread.
- There are rifts of ashes and silt, petrified forests and huge depressions that were seas ages ago.
- The magic is tied to the two suns and their phases, the red one for arcane and the white for divine.
- Grimlocks, derros, svarts, drows, etc.
- The whole world is at war with no large political entity.
- The technology level is set at the early Renaissance stage: firearms, yes, but very primitive, a little bit of engineering.
- Charts of alliances and connections between countries. Think Divine Right.
- Both a wargame and a RPG: you play a RPG session, and then a wargame, and both games have consequences, a bit like Birthright, Mouse Guard or Zak's God Chess.
- You begin by playing an adventurer's company, with alternate characters and a lot of henchmen and hirelings.
- Your character never becomes a « class » character, though there's a few in the world, all NPC, like the King's champion is maybe a level 4 fighter.
- Characters evolve, though, getting better chances at what they've been good at, and get incredible strokes of luck that no « class » character ever has, they access feats sometimes.
- You play scullions, stable boys and footpads with a permanent beginner's luck.
- At 0-level, an orc is really dangerous. Think of Shelob as a Giant spider and Nazguls as wraiths.
So Dark All Over Europe
- The map is Europe's medieval map. Culture and society is like real medieval Europe.
- But there's no clerical magic and no D&D standard monsters. Instead, there are spells taken straight from CoC, CoC Dreamlands and Doctor Strange.
- Sorcerers, Bhyakees, Deep Ones and al.
The Glory of Yesterday
- Includes a « translation » system mechanic that allows you to play any D&D or AD&D adventure (pre-2nd Ed) without adapting anything
- Uses everything in The Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System to twist it all
- Plays in a custom Greyhawk or Mystara-like setting
The whole UK adventures series were, as an Amazon reviewer said, well ahead of their time. Most of them involve a strong railroading, but not much more than the one you get in your usual Pathfinder Adventure Path. You're railroaded okay, but you don't quite feel like it and there's a bit of space for different options if you want to somewhat derail: that's railroading with a leeway, which I will coin as rollercoasting for future debates and blog posts. Now that rollercoasting has become the standard for many players, these adventures shine as brilliant precursors.
Please tell me what you think about it, whether you like it or not.
1. A Story With Options
In this widespread vision of solo RPG play, you play the hero of a story. The story is more or less defined in advance, and paragraphs are nudging you forward towards its completion. There might be challenges, and many opportunities to die or to fail, but eventually, you'll choose the right path, or maybe become strong enough, and finish the adventure in a blaze of glory. It's like picking choices (more or less blindly I daresay) and trying to guess whatever preplanned route was set by the designers.
The Warlock of Fire Mountain was damn tough. Yet, there was barely a couple of options to get to its end, and one only to finish him victoriously.
2. A Creativity Puzzle
What hit me with Strange Destinies is that you can't really win if you're not playing creatively with the booklet and its rules. Some paragraphs hint you at doing something the text doesn't talk about (make a torch with a wolf's skins? Cook your food? Trap a monster?), some other sound so absurdly tough that you can't really overcome them. Yet, the text tells you what happens when you do. It's like throwing a 12th level monster at your 1st level character in Labyrinth Lord and the text saying "when the monster dies, go to paragraph 127". First reaction is "what the hell?", second is "okay, let's think about it, is there a way to defeat it? What can I think about that's NOT in the text?"
I don't see why solo play couldn't derail from the written text as much as party adventures do. The interesting bit is that you can't do so if you don't really immerse in your character and think creatively.
In Strange Destinies, I've stumbled through mushrooms before, and died because of their spores. Now, as I carry on with another character, a Black Dwarf named Hoderl the Nift, I turn cautiously around their stalks and a bit later, face an incredibly powerful giant ant. The ant was much, much more powerful than Hoderl. What would Hoderl do? Fight dumbly to a certain death? No. He would run, and try to lure the ant into the mushrooms. I rolled a Speed saving roll, rolled high and went back to the paragraph in which the mushrooms were described. I rolled another, rolled high, and went to the spore paragraph with the ant. I kept running, tracing 3 or 4 paragraphs back when the spores produced their effect. Hoderl, who had over 30 in Constitution, survived, and left the caves. The ant followed, heavily damaged by the spores. Once out of the caves, an ogre tried to catch him, but he managed to escape as the ogre was bashing the ant. Hoderl then entered the caves again from the start and I considered the ant as defeated when I got back to the paragraph it was described in.
Some people, probably basing themselves upon A Story With Options, would consider that as cheating. By the time I played Hoderl, I had become an expert of these caves, with over 13 characters having met death inside. This is player's knowledge versus character's knowledge. In my example, player's knowledge is backing immersion, my 13 previous deaths had shaped Hoderl as a survivor. That made him partly him, and partly me: MY player character. As far as I'm concerned, I consider that solo adventures should find a way to produce this immersion feeling, and to offer a decent challenge level as well.
Strange Destinies do, because if you play it by the book, your character will die. Some paragraphs tell you that if you've lit a torch, monsters will flee. Yet, no paragraph ever tells you that you can light a torch. Why? Because you shall know whether your character carries a lit torch or not, you're impersonating him or her, not just rolling dice and picking options.
A few mechanisms help to induce this Creativity Puzzle instead of rollercoasting you into a story: a table of wandering monsters like in Strange Destinies, random loots, random paragraphs, monster evolution and/or diplomacy, etc. Playing solo implies that you, the player, should take a bit of the GM's responsibilities as well. For hard-core fans of option 1, this is pretty much breaking the rules. Yet, no story-based play experience was ever rewarding as Strange Destinies was, a solo adventure in which I was both the player and the GM.
It begins really easy with the few numbers you find in your standard old school Monster Manual. Do you see this Number Appearing line on the picture above? It's about this. I wonder if many Dungeon Masters have actually used this number ever, and the long sections detailing humanoid monsters lairs, allies and structure of power. Surprisingly, most humanoid entries of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons include such details, appropriate to the most absurd figures dungeon-wise. Who can throw 300 orcs in a dungeon? Wouldn't the dungeon become a Bara-Dur fortress of sorts if we did?
I can think of 1 or 2 officially published adventures at least that did : the U3 module, The Final Enemy, the A2 maybe, Secrets of the Slaver's Stockade in a more devious way.
Most adventures make an extensive use of this Number Appearing logic, but they do it in a nutshell: a few gnolls here and there, some goblins — are they many enough to pour a shaman and a chieftain in? Cool. I can think of none who purposely used it in order to create and shape the adventure.
Well, I did. I rolled an orcish tribe and rolled about 250 orcs, discovering two « effects » as I did. Here they are:
1. The Domino Effect
The Monster Manual says orcs must have a strong leader, telling me there's maybe a wizard or an evil priest. Let's put that question aside for the moment, but keep it in mind. For about 250 orcs, I have 8 leaders and 24 assistants. I add flavor here and, inspiring myself upon the Lord of the Rings and my old Sword & Sorcery SPI wargame, I decide that these stockier, more powerful orcs all belong to a special sub-race : white orcs. In Swords & Sorcery, white orcs are followers of the Czar. Hey, why not?! I also get 21 bodyguards, fiercer orcs, cadets of the crown maybe — do they have an uniform? —, and I'm hinted at adding a few ogres. I do, of course. Now, going to the ogre section, I find that ogres often ally with gnoll raiders, trolls and stone giants. Okay, there's gnoll raiders too, then, and maybe a troll or two. Looking at the gnoll entry, I'm told that gnolls follow evil priests. That solves my first question, the tribe leader is an evil priest. The gnolls are also allied with trolls (I have them already) and a few hyenas. Great, I now have a kennel.
This is the domino effect: my dungeon is now stocked with standard orcs, white Czarist orcs, ogres, gnoll raiders, trolls and hyenas, all under the power and command of an evil priest. Since half-orcs are described under the orc entry as well, I add some, giving them character class levels, as lieutenants of the evil priest.
2. The « Stocking First » Effect
The monster section actually says a lot more: it says that orcish lairs might be above ground or underground. I roll, and get underground, which is nice because the same section tells me how good they are at mining and underground constructions. Orcish tribes also sport a name. Mine being led by an evil priest and Czarist orcs, I choose the Vile Rune, a name that tells of northern wastes, ancient primitive religion and evil. Under the gnoll section, I find that gnolls often live in abandoned villages. So here I am, in an underground mining lair with many slaves close to an abandoned village. Since there's a priest, there's a temple too, hidden inside, all bowing to the power of the orcish Czar.
Take a closer look: I have an adventure, fully-fleshed here. It's about freeing slaves, beginning in slavery maybe? It rings an Indiana Jone's Temple of Doom sort of bell in a Russian-like setting. I now need a god about which the evil priest's cult revolves, and so on... Are the player characters hired by the orcish revolution? Knights fighting the evil cult? Mercenaries of a border kingdom threatened by the Vile Rune?