Friday, August 25, 2017

SHIT RPG CRITICISM IS JUST SHIT.

It's ok to not like this. 

SO
......


... there's a blogpost that came out while I was at GenCon that had a really good go at shitting all over the recent Feral RPG PDF that I released just before I hit the US. 

You can download the PDF that was criticised from here:

www.feralrpg.com

I won't link to the blogpost in question cause it's full of puerile comments and well, really tiresome name calling. Sadly, the endless stream of insults really, really undermines the validity of what I believe is worthwhile criticism of what I've been working on.

I actually really enjoy listening to opinions of people who are critical of your work, and of people who are outside the circle of your target audience. That's why I signed up for 4 hours with Ron Edwards's RPG workshop at GenCon (which was awesome). Some people commented on why would an OSR guy shack up with a storygamer guru? Because someone who knows their trade, even if they're supposedly in an opposed camp to yours, is someone worth listening to. Also: fuck the segregation of the gaming community, I'm just a guy who loves RPGs and Ron's just a guy who's studied them very extensively, so why wouldn't I?

ANYWAY. 

I actually believe that underneath all the shit-talk in the Feral RPG review are some points that are worth addressing and some criticisms or misunderstandings that are worth responding to.

To save you the time of reading the shittier aspects of the post, I've waded through it and pulled out the critical points the reviewer was trying to make. 

Whoever the reviewer is, I actually think you know RPGs quite well and know what you're talking about, and I think the points you're trying to make to RPG creators would be so much more valued and effective if you dropped the trash talk. Try it with your next review, I think if you address these creators who have spent so much of their time and efforts with a little more respect, you'll find your criticisms are better appreciated.

Fortunately you've addressed me, and I'm 1) Australian, 2) lived in New Zealand for four years, so everyone mispronounced my name as Jizz Gordon every damn day, 3) a very thick skinned fellow, so I'll try to answer the genuine criticisms that you've buried in amongst a pile of garbage.


1. YOUR ART SUCKS

Hey, not going to argue with you, you're 1000% entitled to your own taste in art. Don't like my style? No worries, don't hire me to illustrate your own projects. Other people seem to really like it, but to each their own. No beef there.


2. YOUR RED AND PLEASANT LAND MAPS SUCK

Again, that's subjective, I've had a lot of praise from other quarters, but can I suggest you look at some of my other maps here? They're of vastly different styles, some of which you might prefer:



3. FERAL IS NOT A COMPLETE RPG

Based on what is available in the playtest, you're right. it's incomplete, 36 pages out of the 96 pages I've written, and I'm aiming for a 240 page book (240 is very deliberate). Fortunately the 5E D&D system lets you port in home brew material - classes, races, backgrounds, equipment - ridiculously easy. Wizard of the Coast has for the last three years been releasing new playtest material via their Unearthed Arcana articles. There is nothing different to what I'm doing here. Pick one element of the playtest I've released and try it out in your current game. That's all I want anyone to do (and give me feedback about your experience if you can). 

Additionally, how much new material fills out that 240 pages will determine whether I have space to include the core 5E system and make it a fully fleshed out RPG, or whether — in the same vein as say Adventures in Middle Earth — Feral RPG will be a supplement that requires the 5E Core rulebooks to play. I won't know until nearing completion, but my preference is to have Feral as a fully standalone RPG book that DOESN'T require the 5E books to play. Time will tell.


4. FERAL RPG HAS BEEN WORKED ON FOR OVER A YEAR. WHY IS THIS ALL YOU GOT?

Actually two years. I'm father of two kids, one with special needs; I'm their primary carer, plus I work a day job while they're at school and a night job when they're asleep. I also freelance design for other RPG creators, doing layout, cartography and illustrations for them. I get very little time to do what I love doing which is working on Feral, but I do it when I can. This is why I have set up a Patreon (after seeing other RPG creators do the same thing): if people are willing to support me financially (and I'm not forcing them to, just letting them know they can) it means I can spend more time working on Feral instead of chasing freelance work elsewhere. 

Also (as I mentioned above) this is only a small portion of the stuff I've completed. I'm only interested in feedback on what's in the playtest PDF. As I regularly release new playtests, more an more material will be released, and the previously released material will be revised once I've received feedback from playtesters as to the success or failure of the ideas within.


5. WHY HAVEN'T EACH OF THE d200 ANIMALS GOT THEIR OWN SPECIFIC ABILITIES?

That's a deliberate design choice: instead of lots of pages detailing every single species in that table, my approach has enabled me to cover most species in far fewer pages, which means I can get more material about other aspects of the game in there.

I was already considering another d200 table with the same animals listed, including a fast play option where the point-buy abilities are already done so it's quicker to get into the game. Sounds like I should put it in.


6. A LOT OF THE ANIMAL ABILITIES AREN'T REVOLUTIONARY OR PUSHING ENVELOPES

I'm not trying to be either of these. I'm trying to marry a style and setting of play that's been around since the 80's with 5E's ruleset cause it's fun. This is my first RPG. I'm not trying to break the wheel. I think if you took the time to understand that it's more a project of genre emulation than revolutionary design then your expectations will be more realistic.


7. JEZ IS OSR, AND WANTS YOU TO VOTE FOR HIM AT THE ENNIES

I have no personal game camp allegiance. People like to think I'm OSR cause that's who I do a lot of work for LotFP; but then I've also worked with the creator of Monsterhearts, and with the good folk at Magpie Games. Storygame central.

The games I play and run each week are Pathfinder and 5E D&D. I've never run LotFP. That doesn't mean I'm washing my hands of them, either; I REALLY love a lot of what the OSR produces in art and word, but I just port them over to 5E cause that's the system I like best. I also prefer simulationist games to narrativist, but that's not an OSR exclusive.

As for the ENnies, yeah! I love winning awards and being recognised for what I do. It's a lovely feeling, and if you voted for me this year or any other year, thanks so much!


8. YOUR BACKGROUNDS SUCK (I THINK? HARD TO TELL WHAT YOU'RE SAYING)

I really like writing the backgrounds, they're part of 5E, and a fun way to define the tropes you're going for in your 5E game. It's a pity you only bring up the Cop background; that was pretty easy to write, whereas the Freak and Experiment were harder and have additional material. 

Also, from my experience running 5E for the last two years, the background the players choose has a seriously big impact on the style of character they play. The players I've run for rely on them heavily to define the differences between characters of the same class. Spending time writing them is definitely worth doing given how much influence they have on the game.


9. WHY HAVE STARS AND QUALITY RATINGS ON EQUIPMENT?

Some people work visually, some verbally. Ultimately yeah, I could just commit to one or the other. It would only save a narrow column's worth of space, but maybe I should to save possible confusion.


10. THE DICE ARRAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CHARACTER SHEET SUCKS

I've run Feral at three conventions now, and out of the 18 people who've played, 7 had NEVER played an RPG before. It's a fucking honour to run their first game ever. Having the dice array really helped them.

For anyone who doesn't want a dice array at the bottom of their character sheet, I've already produced character sheets with out them so there's more room for features. It's in the character sample PDF. Have a look at it and tell me that satisfies your criticism.


11. THE WEALTH SYSTEM SUCKS

You know? I can't tell you if it works yet because I haven't run a long campaign of Feral where the wealth system came into play. The three convention games didn't get into that aspect of play, so yeah, it's quite possible it doesn't work. But that's the point of a playtest: produce new experimental material to see if people can or can't make it work. If the feedback on the wealth system is mainly negative, clearly I need to change it. You have strong opinions about it, and that's totally fine. I look forward to other people's feedback. It's quite possible it sucks. If it does, I'll change it.

The abstract wealth gimmick is pretty much the same as used in White Wolf's Vampire games and others, btw. 

The daily/ weekly/yearly wealth is there to help people get an indication of what each wealth level is like. It's not perfect, and the numbers aren't meant to add up; it's a generalised indicator and to be used as such. I can easily chuck it if the feedback is predominately negative about its inclusion.

Also, I'd just like to point out that you save the largest part of your criticism for what I consider to be the least important part of the game.


12. THE EQUIPMENT SYSTEM IS JUST PORTED IN FROM D&D 5E

Actually there's two new things you missed that are probably worth looking at more closely.

- the Equipment Packs, which is a spur-of-the-moment item system that avoids meticulous record-keeping of every item; it's had 9 hours of playtesting and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so far no complaints.

- the Firearms section, which includes all kinds of modern weapons (modern for the 80's anyway). This has been playtested for 24 hours in three different con games, and all up I'm really happy with how it works in game. Take a look.


13. IT'S NOT MUCH FOR A YEAR'S WORK

I wish I could have produced so much more, but as I explained above, I really get very little time to work on it. Additionally I'm doing the whole project — writing, game mechanics, graphic design, illustration, and marketing so yeah, I don't expect to produce as much as I could if I just threw down a .txt doc. But that's not what I want to produce. 


14. IF YOU SUPPORT JEZ'S PATREON, YOU RUN THE RISK OF NEVER SEEING IT FINISHED 

That's true; life might have other plans. But as far as I can tell, I'm 100000% dedicated to seeing this through to the finish, and the more people who support me on Patreon, the faster it will come into being. At no point am I forcing anyone to do so, and people can opt out at any time. I clearly state the amount of time I expect the project will take based on the amount of patronage I receive. People can be their own judge of whether it's worth their support or not.

Go here if you're curious:


Yes I am totally pimping my patreon. Why wouldn't I?




And I think that addresses every one of the criticisms made.


TO THE CRITIC WHO INSPIRED THIS POST

Whoever the author of the blog is, I hope you understand that your blog has the potential of being a really good site of constructive game criticism. 

You clearly know a fair bit about game design, and are motivated enough to pour a considerable amount of time and effort into critiquing other people's games, but hiding what good you have to offer underneath a pile of bile does neither you or the creators you address any good.

I hope that by addressing the better aspects of your blog I can encourage you can be more respectful of other people's creations and of other people, and if you have valid criticisms to make, that you make them in a more meaningful and productive way. 

We all do it for the love of the roleplaying games, we all just want to create new avenues for fun and pleasure. There's no need for the bullshit trashtalk. People will appreciate your efforts a lot more if you drop it.

Respect.

Jizz

ohwait.

Jez

Thursday, August 24, 2017

GEEEEEENNNNNNNCCCCCOOOONNNNNNN


OK.... so this is a massively loooong and suuuuuper indulgent post buuuuuut I really wanted to get down every single memory before I forget them. And if I met you and didn't mention you below please let me know, I hate I'm already forgetting stuff. OK. HERE GOES:

SUNDAY, 33 YEARS AGO:

Nude dudes on frogs. There are probably better covers out there.

Afternoon: My parents bring back a copy of Dragon Magazine #73. Down the back of it is this:

Sounds cool.


TUESDAY, 2017:
Morning: 6.30am. Travel to SYD airport with Benjamin from Syrinscape/Dicestormers. Leave 10.15am. Race each other on seperate planes to LAX. Arrive same day, 7.15am. 

Lunch: Flight from LAX to IND. Headbangsleep all the way over. Fly over Grand Canyon but covered in cloud.

Arvo: Land. Uber with Ben to hotel Marriott Downtown. SHOWER. So good. Phone not on global roaming. Not so good.

Evening: Go for big walk cross downtown to get Con snacks. Got a bit lost. See squirrel. Shagged and jetlagged (me, not squirrel). Pick up GenCon: the RPG book/guide. Dinner was buffalo wings in hotel bar with beer and gridiron. Wings tasted so effing horrid I had to wash it down with a burger and fries in room. Fell asleep in food coma watching Watchmen.

WEDNESDAY:
Morning: woke 4am. wrote some Feral. freaking out about phone issues. walked all over downtown trying to solve. back to wandering pre Con halls. bumped into Frank Metzner. thanked him for game, told him story of cousins bringing back red box from American friends at International School in Djakarta, and my first D&D character: nameless fighter, decapitated by pendulum blade trap. wander past GenCon pass pickup line. hundreds of meters of people.

Lunch: meet James and Maria Raggi and Zak Smith for first time outside the Convention; ate at Yard House. Mike Evans, Omar and Dan Domme joined us a bit later. Was really screwed by jetlag, felt like a total space cadet/mull muppet all afternoon. Many stories told/business plans discussed/ideas pitched. First Telling of the Yes Please/No Thank You Epic.


- Mike Evans. Mike was amazing all through the Con, and I had such a cool time hanging with him and cheering for him at the ENnies. Took me into his circle of friends. Love and Respect, brother.
- Dan Domme. Just a big old lumbering sweetheart and always up for anything.
- Omar. Real fun guy and great to game with. 

Arvo: lunch turns into long lunch. Important handshakes were made. I have gone full david bowie.

Evening: slept early evening, finally. late dinner with Dan, Omar, and Mike at Yard House. wander past GenCon pass pickup line. no one there. pass nabbed.

THURSDAY:
Morning: woke 5am. wrote Feral stuff. breakfast with Mike Evans, Patrick Stuart, Zzarchov Kowolski, Chris H. Marriott Downtown breakfast is shit. Company kept was just lovely:


Mike Evans, Patrick's head (even the back of it frowns with unease),
a book full of great art, and some shitty Downtown Marriott food.
Ate at the JW for rest of Con.
- Patrick Stuart. I love his brain. He kept breaking my heart with his uncomfortableness. I just wanted to give him hugs all Con.
- Zzarchov Kowolski. So cool to finally meet Zzarchov, we've done lots of work over the years and he was such a sweet guy. Every conversation with him was wonderful.
- Chris H. Unsung champion of the Con. he offered to put me up in his room early on, totally cool when I passed on the offer later on, was there looking out for everyone at every event, gave me a cool Flailsnail patch, and as always great to game with.

Shitty breakfast done, we all head over to the start of GenCon. 

IT'S MASSIVE. 

Head to LotFP stall to say hi to Raggi, get drafted into handing out 1000 catalogs. Get through 500 in 2 hours. Meet a fuckton of people inc Jacob Hurst who's working booth, sign some books. I keep running into Jacob all through the Con, so happy for him that Swordfish Islands is as successful as it totally deserves to be. Also Jurgen Mayer at one point, cool to finally meet him too.


Zak, James, Jacob and Mike at the LotFP Booth.

Lunch: Zak and Stokes arrive. I escape with Stokes, hit the floor of the Exhibition Hall together. SO MUCH STUFF SO MUCH CROWD. Overwhelmed tbh. But have map of hall with all the booths marked out so I'll be cool. Lose map within 10 minutes. Met with Kevin Siembaida at the Palladium stand, lovely chat with him. Wants to see my work. Cool. Discovered Chuck Walton, artist for Rifts. Amazing. His pencils and designs are astonishing. Wander aimlessly full of wonder.

Arvo: Back to hotel room. Sleep off anxiety attack. Wake up better but still jetlag glaze.

Evening: Head to Patrick Stuart's exec suite at JW Marriott for D&D night. Patrick has gone full Bilbo. We are all the dwarves. Zak, Stokes, Zak's friend Adam, Mike E, Omar, Dan, Chris, Zzarchov, Jacob. PvP dungeon action. Zzarchov takes out three, I land the final kill on Omar for the team win. Zak's Second Telling of the Yes Please/No Thank You Epic.


Gumby FTW!


Late Evening: Zzarchov runs a second game. "Play whoever you want." I cast Summon Man Rider. Zak: Drunk Dwarf. Adam: Fighter who wants to be a Wizard. Has pig. Mike: Cleric. Omar: fighter. Dan... I think had left? Chris: fighter? Stokes: was being awesome tap-in host and doing food and drinks and occassional Barbarian. Patrick: an Arabian gent who's name escapes me. Has pig more intelligent than he. Omar's fighter is Man Rider's mount. Don't tell him Man Rider is 4th level Paladin, can cast Summon Mount at will. Adventure is playtest of Zzarchov's own, exploration of evil monastery. Lots of fun, Man Rider at one point lowered like bait into hellwell full of boneless people. End of adventure, find book of contracts with the Devil. Mike Evans' cleric signs book, trades soul to give Man Rider legs; Zzarchov gives Man Rider four bed legs sticking out of anyplace that anything but useful. Fuck you, Mike. Love Jez.


Man Rider: Legless no more!

FRIDAY: 
Morning: woke 5am. wrote Feral stuff. breakfast at JW Marriott with Dan Domme. MUCH better. Mike squeezes me into his game of Hubris. Quiet awe at how goddamn big the book is. Mike runs the intro funnel adventure. Epic fun had. 40 enter, 12 leave. Did the pimp sell on Hubris afterwards for him. ALSO: My d20 rolled 4 nat 20s in a row, and then some more. Embarrassingly lucky.


Mike Evans: Killer DM.

No really, he killed most of us.

Lunch: Yard House with Mike Evans. Talk games and publishing for two hours. Speednap.

Arvo: Me, Mike and Omar, plus Ben and Rob (I think?) hit the Swordfish Island game ran by Donnie Garcia, one of the authors. Pick a nihilist ranger called Slink. Fantastic hexcrawl that ended waaaaaay to soon (why I like the 9 hour Con games more than the 3 hour ones). My d20 CONTINUED TO ROLL NAT 20s. More embarrassing. Jacob's there too plus Evan Peterson the third author. Get my copies! 


Omar, Mike, my ridiculous d20, the Swordfish crew: Jacob, Evan and Donnie,
and dammit I think it was Ben and Rob.

Evening: Hot foot it to the ENnies. Fuck up getting there. Late. Beer. G+ing every award that I had a vested interest in:

• Best Cartography: didn't get it, but super happy just to get a nomination as is. 
• Best Electronic Product: Silver to Mike Evans for Hubris. Mike flips the bird to the whole crowd. Think of it as his business card.
• Best Writing/Adversary/Rules/Product of the Year: Silver for Writing and Adversary to Patrick Stuart's Veins of the Earth. Hats off to the winners, but Patrick's writing will always be gold in my heart. Seriously. GO READ THE INTRO TO VEINS AND TELL ME I'M LYING.
• Best Adventure: GOLD!!!! to Kiel Chenier's Blood in the Chocolate. So happy by this stage I'm tearing up for him. Eat shit, haters.
• Judge's Pick: Jeff Rients' Broodmother Skyfortress. I hit the stage for this one, I did the maps so I feel like I can stand up there.

My favourite photo from the whole Con.
Me, Mike, Zak, James, and Patrick dying from embarrassment
at this outrageous display of pure joy.


WIERD THING HAPPENS at the end of the ENnies. Up there with the LotfP crew for a group photo, (it's awesome, I love it so much). then all the winners cram on stage. thanks to the chaos of crowd movement, I'm there, FRONT AND CENTER in the middle of everyone, right next to John Wick (hats off to 7th Sea's many wins!). 

Who's that idiot in the middle.

Imposter much? I privately think I'm getting the award for finally making it after 33 years.

Also met while milling round:

- Chris Helton, who was really lovely and took the time to chat. Lots of talk about Feral. Very kind offer to help support it when it's closer to completion. Thank you Chris.
- Sarah Richardson: Yay! So happy to finally met her. really lovely too (gonna use that phrase alot I think).
- Mark Dias Truman: Didn't get to talk as much as I woulda liked, and didn't get to give him a FUCK YEAH for his acceptance speech. Loved it.
- Marissa Kelly: Man I coulda talked with Marissa all night (and did for a fair chunk of the afterparty at the bar) She's absolutely fantastic. WHEN WILL YOU POST THE ILLOS I DID OF THE MAGPIE TEAM?

Late Evening: Zak's OSR/DIY Afterparty. Oh man. Gonna try list the people I remember talking with...

- Don Stroud from Drink Spin Run. You know when you meet someone and you can tell straight away they're fucking ace? That guy. 
- Sean McCoy. Also that guy. Awesome work on the Judges win for 2018.
- Matt Cramsie, I buy all my RPGs from his store Games Paradise, the best RPG store in Sydney. It's a looong way to go to finally meet socially. IF YOU WANT OSR/DIY/LOTFP IN OZ GO THERE. Also, he will pimp Tim Tams at you all night long.
- Jay Murphy, who was super cool and just an energizer bunny of joy. I'm so glad he broke his leg.
- Adam Obelisk, Zak's friend, who I didn't really get a chance to catch up with at the game the night before, turned out to be a super chill gent and really lovely and I had to stop myself from murdering him to get his shirt. I also kept calling him Ken. Such a dork.
- Kenneth Hite, who I'd nervously mumbled something at while at the Pelgraine booth in hall on Thursday. he kept introducing me as (Ken Voice): "the guy who did my maps in Qelong." Coulda listened to him ramble for hours (and did).
- Jon Petersen, who struck me as a mischievous elf trapped in a man's body. Insisted I drink with him. Insisted I check out one of the Ravenloft modules (I6 I think?) cause the RPL perspective map.
- Satine Phoenix, who swooped in, gave me a big hug then flew away like the queen of the night.
- Ruty Rutenberg, who was a right gentleman. we argued passionately about something. 
- Ken Baumann, who appeared out of nowhere like a magical book fairy and gave me a copy of Blue Medusa. THANK YOU. Another champion all through the Con.
- Noah Marshall, who just loves talking genocide and cultural holocaust.
- That drunk guy who was coming down from playing D&D for 24 hours straight.
- Zak's Third Telling of the Yes Please/No Thank You Epic. By now I know all the chorus lines. Witnessed the most lethal of death stares ever blasted into the back of Zak's head. I will say no more. I'm sure there were more lovely people I've missed. Apologies. Was so high on a happy vibe I had only one drink all night. Some nights are like that. Wouldn't let me sleep AT ALL afterwards though...

SATURDAY (it's now the second day of me writing this gilgameshepic):
Morning:... and when I did get to sleep I woke up at 5am, wired for sound. Wrote some Feral. Breakfast with Zzarchov Kowolski, Dan Domme, and a surprise Sean Poppe. Conceptual work discussion with Zzarchov about mapping a location across multiple dimensions. Got Sean's art zine. Realised I should of had art zines. Interrupted Harley Stroh's game to give him a hug then fled before we could talk. Wandered the Exhibition Hall with Mike Evans in his Feral Teesh. Picked up some loot. Finally met Vincent Baker. Struck me as a very gentle soul. 

Lunch: Powernap.

Arvo: 4 hour RPG Workshop with Ron Edwards. Fantastic brainsmash. Far too noisy in the Con Room so we shifted to the bar at the Marriott Downtown and talked game theory over beers n' fries. 4 guys (me, Trey, Jonathan, Garrick) with their incomplete games, just getting question after question from Ron about alllll kinds of different gaming aspects that are worth considering. There will be a seperate blog post for this. Still jetlagged though. Damn. Nuther powernap. Feelin' old.

Evening: had to pass on Zak & Co's D&D game, tonight was time to hang with the DCC Crowd and they did not disappoint. I've loved the DCC Community for a long time, they're the sweetest drunkards and drunkest sweethearts. Played INFERNO ROAD. I've never seen a game quite like it. Mad Max in Hell. Just beautiful chaos. SO. MUCH. FUN. Got to meet so many of the DCC Crew:

Judge Evie kicking ass.

- Doug Kovacs, who was my first DM at Inferno Road. Everyone said he was real grumpy. They were wrong. He was even grumpier. Died in a fight over the Pharoah's railgun, got blasted over to...
- Evie, the young DM who was just awesome. She was running a DCC game in Hell, but couldn't say the word and had to say Heck instead. She let my past life railroad worker manifest the Demonic Heck Train which was awesome, but then I rolled bad and died and got blasted over to...
- Wayne Snyder's table. Wayne is a beardwizard and a true gentleman, made me feel like part of the crew within seconds. Didn't die at his table; rolled The Twins and had a blast in the final hour of the game catching the Demon Truck and trying to rescue Satan's Wives. Someone with a past life as a nuclear physicist manifested a nuke; blew everyone up just as Satan rose like the Sun to eat us all. BUT... my guy: past life as a Hindu, realised Inferno Road was just one part of the karmic highway, and in that last second managed to get our table reincarnated as cats living with an old cat lady. WE ESCAPED. Post Wayne game tried to give me an Inferno Road teesh; me: "damn, too small, but working towards it," Wayne: "fuck that, take it. It can be your goal." Turns out I lost weight over night and wore it for three days straight and didn't take it off til I got home.
- Jarrett Crader, who is just insane and beautiful. Really supportive of Feral, got to give him one of the 96 page Feral books I had in my bag. Got a copy of Flammable Hospital. Bonkers.
- Tim Deschane, as cool as he is hot. Really lovely gentle soul. Not near enough time talking with him.
- Terry Olson, nuther lovely guy. WHERE WAS YOUR MAN RIDER T-SHIRT TERRY???
- Jim Yoder, amish barfly.
- Jen Brinkmann. Me: "Hey howsit going?" Jen: "Better for meeting you!" Yep, that'll do it. AND CONGRATS ON THE ENNIE FOR SPELLBURN.
- Harley Stroh, FINALLY got to talk with Harley for a good hour. Words fall short of the love and respect I've got this man. Champion. Woulda talked for hours but...

Late Evening: Post-Inferno Road, bullshitting with the DCC crew, when suddenly we were playing Jez Just Wants To Go Home. Me vs everyone else who are DMs trying to fuck me over from getting back to Oz. Words can't do this game justice. Insane? Bonkers? Beautiful? Insane? Ask Noah Marshall or Jarrett Crader or Doug Kovacs. 


You will never be drunk enough to understand this game.

SUNDAY: 
Morning: Woke up 6am. Wrote some Feral. Breakfast at JW Marriott. Last day of the Con, went and blew a fuck ton on all the games I'd been eyeing off for days. Raggi is an enabler.  Spent the morning with Zak, did the GenCon Museum and then the Exhibitor's Hall. He was an absolute gentleman to me all Con and especially that morning, introducing me to every single soul he knew on the Con floor and pimping my wares to every one of them (including Mark Rein*Hagen of Vampire fame) and helping with loot for my boys. Also, Fourth Telling of the Yes Please/No Thank You Epic.


Spot the monster!


Lunch: More Exhibition Hall. More loot. Too short hello with Cam Banks, meet Paul Baldowski from All Rolled Up, great chat, wants to do some products with Feral. Managed to meet up Wayne Snyder and Bryan Mullins, and with some more of my art heroes from the DCC crew: Peter Mullen and Stefan Poag. Both are capital fellows. When your respected art heroes praise for your own work... just the loveliest feeling for the soul.

Wayne, me, my possessed demonhand, an Inferno Road teesh, Peter Mullen, and mini-Mullens.
Me and Harley being eejits. More possessed demonhand.

Afternoon: Last hours at the LotFP booth spruiking and signing. 4pm YAY ALL DONE, helped Maria and James pack.

Evening: Powernap to reruns of Game of Thrones. Dreamt of Game of Thrones. Was meant to be playing Pathfinder with Benjamin from Syrinscape but their booth got delayed packing and the game fell through. Would have been way cool, but not to be. Ended up late night drinking with Zak, Stokes, Patrick and Jacob playing drinking games, plus educating Stokes on the sex lives of gastropods and glauci.





Late Evening: Got home in time to watch Game of Thrones at 3am. Which was basically D&D TV, and just perfect for where I was. 

MONDAY: 
Morning: Thought GenCon was over. BUT NO. Bumped into Ron Edwards, got a solid hour in, picking up with where the conversation ended at the workshop, plus getting his story and yeah. That guy has quite the brain. ALSO I think I sweet talked him into coming to EttinCon in Sydney next year, TBC. 


Zak, a cooler full of alcohol Zak kept trying to offload,
Maria, James "Yes Please!" Raggi IV, Ron

Then met up with Zak, James and Maria, Jim Wallis for more game shenannigans, Ron and Zak talking things out, Fifth Telling of the Yes Please/No Thank You Epic, us posing as giants for Zak's game.


They might be giants. No really.

Lunch: Adios, cab to the airport as the eclipse is starting. Thought GenCon was over BUT NO. Bumped into Harley Stroh at the airport bar. Total eclipse of the heart. Perfect end to a perfect Con. See Benjamin, Zak, James, Maria, and Stokes right before boarding the flight to LA.

Afternoon: Fly over Grand Canyon. No Clouds, mostly. YESSS.

Part of the Grand Canyon... I think. Sorry, geography nerd.

Evening: Vacant seat next to me on LAX to SYD flight. YAAHHHAHAHAHAAAAAA. cryingofmanlymantearsallthewayhome.

TUEWEDNESDAY:
Morning: Home.

THE. END. 

Special huuuuuuuuge thank you to Benjamin from Syrinscape for getting me digs across the road from the Con, it made such a massive difference being able to retreat at will at ditch bagage (mental and physical) whenever I wanted.

Special huuuuuuuuge thank you to James Raggi for taking me on six years ago and having infinite patience, and for bailing me out when I got a bit stuck at the Con. Four times. WITNESS ME.

Special huuuuuuuuge thank you to Zak for all the things, plus reccing me to James in the first place.

Special huuuuuuuuge thank you to Mike Evans for being a champ over the last six years through think and thin. Let's do awesome things together.

Huge thank you to everyone else for every minute of an awesome seven days.

BIGGEST THANK YOU OF ALL to Vanessa for saying yes Jem, go be with your people, and for holding down the fort while I was gone. LOVE YOU.



BLAAAARGH. Done. You can stop reading now.

"YES PLEASE!"




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Cursed Chateau Maps : ENNIE AWARDS NOM NOM VOTE

So The Cursed Chateau got an ENnie Awards Nomination for Best Cartography. 

If you're wondering what the maps looked like here you go.


Hopefully, when you're voting for best Cartography, you're not voting along product lines:

"I like Cthulhu! I like Lamentations! I like Numenera!"

Hopefully, you're voting on which product has the very best cartography.
The criteria for what makes a great map:

Is it practical, easy to access, easy to use at the game table?

Is it parseable, easy to read, easy to comprehend?

Is it informative, providing as much detail it can without cluttering the map?
Is it evocative, is it easy on the eye?

Hopefully, The Cursed Chateau meets these criteria.

NOW GO VOTE HERE:





Sunday, June 25, 2017

Return of the Man Rider





Previous adventures retold in gripping wordplay here!

Haven't played man Rider in a couple of years. I think there's a bit missing after the last session report above, that I will call Missing Session Twelve... but basically Man Rider survived pregnancy.

ANYWAY.

Session Thirteen (Vaults of Vyzor): Joins cadre of powerful warriors summoned across space and time. Definitely felt out of place. Dusty too. Have been frozen in carbonite for last two years. No princess to kiss when woke up. Sad, but woke. Have joined party exploring Vaults of Vyzor: Slovenia Troll plus Dog of Awesomeness +1, Barnie the well oiled muscletron plus One Eyed Otto, and one armed Yareh. She's cute. See much potential in her, especially after her one handed crossbow loading maneuvre. Convinced Muscletron to be mounted into battle. Still have oily thighs. Explored Vyzor. Found: Wolves, Hungry Like the. Wanted payment in meat. Think Slovenia made deal to feed them Man Rider. Think they would not like it. Found rope pulley thing. Pulled it. Summoned orcs. Killed orcs. Yareh hot. Corridors. Lots and lots of. Killed ghouls. Otto hurt. Otto healed. Otto blessed by Akayle Ozph. Now Otto of Prehensile Eye. Dog of Awesomeness finds secret door in back of shower. Forced to have shower. Door leads to stairs. Stairs lead to Orc lair ruled by Orc bard. Orc ambush. Have buzz saw arrows. Shear Man Rider's buttock clean off. Had worse. Win fight, healed, butt grows back in right place. More orcs. Slovenia perpetrates ruse that convinces orcs to worship Man Rider. Man Rider happy. Slovenia and rest of party kill Orc worshippers. Man Rider sad. Mandolin smashed. Yareh accepts the blessings of Akayle Ozph. Cuts arm off big Orc, wants attached to arm stump. Try to make it happen. It happens, but Akayle gives her Crows Legs as well. So hot right now. Took unrequited love and share of Orc treasure to bar. Got drunk. Lost all money, got new quest from God. Find the Unimaginable Star of Yragnnngrelfffzzzikkrraxxllarrrgghh. Oh great. All Man Rider wants is true love. Too much to ask for? Flowers for Yareh. Must remember.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

STAR WARS D6 Character Sheet PDF


These Star Wars D6 Character Sheets are to go with my streamlined rules 
based on WEG's 1st Edition Star Wars game, 
with a few special modifications based on playing pretty much every year 
since it came out in '87. 

You can check'em out here:


If you end up using these sheets and think there's something you'd like to see
added to them, leave a comment below. Thx!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Conrunning the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan


C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was one of the few AD&D modules I remember having as a kid. For years I've wanted to run it again, and did so at EttinCon in the Blue Mountains beyond Sydney last weekend. Two 3 hour sessions, 6 players first and 7 players second, using 5th Edition rules. Spoilers ahead.

HSoT was originally written in 1979 for Origins, and published in 1980, then republished in 1981 with a full colour cover and more pages (I had this version). You can get the PDF of it here. Turns out it'll be coming out in 5e rules as part of the collected adventures in Tales from the Yawning Portal. Cool.

1981 version Cover Illustration by Erol Otus 

Information design and presentation has come a looooong way in the 35 years since, and while yakking with Erik Jensen about Tamoachan he mentioned there was an updated version for 4th Edition in Dungeon Magazine #209 (which you can grab here).

The presentation was much improved (boxed text alert) and I ended up using this version when I ran it. Mike Schley did the cartography for the 4th Ed version which was printed and given out as a Game Day reward in 2011:



The hi res map isn't publicly available for download, but I contacted Mike Schley and he not only gave me the digital version of the map above, he then went and found the unmarked player map. Awesome.

I really wanted to have the map printed out as a battle map on the table for the players (I find it helps them focus on the game and cuts out the air time spent on giving dimensions to each room, especially important when you're up against the clock at a Con), but scaled up to 1" = 5' that map would have been over 13 feet long and 7 feet wide. I ended up breaking the map up into five sections: 3 for the first Tier, 1 for the second and third Tier, and 1 for the top of the Temple. Even then I had to do a fair bit of photoshop work to compress the map so the bottom Tier would fit on three A0 posters, and I could only get the scale to 3/4" = 5' but that was ok. Come gametime I had the five maps laid one on top of each other, working our way down trough the pile. As you'll see in the set up, the players begin with a map of the temple which explains why they can see it in-game.



In terms of adventure design it starts with a single "only way out is through" entry point A (the partially caved in room bottom right), with a possible-but-highly-unlikely-they'll-find-it exit that allows you to explore from the top of the temple downwards B, several branches that lead to a single choke point C, several different paths to the next choke point D, several branches and paths to choke point E, and then a fairly straight run to the top of the temple at F with a couple of optional branches on the way.

There was one secret door in the original adventure at G, and I added another a H cause I didn't want the players to see the clear exit off from these two maps so they'd explore the dungeon.

The game would have played quite differently if the maps weren't there on the table, a lot more exploration, but even so both groups were really pushed for time to finish it at all, and with the second group that played I even cut whole levels of maps out in the end. But I was fine with that, cause there was a lot of getting into their characters and I didn't want to punish that investment.

CREATING THE PRE-GEN CHARACTERS

The 1st Ed version has: "In general, party size should be from 5 to 7 characters of 3rd to 7th levels. The average level of the party should be 5th. If fewer than 5 players are involved, the average level should be 6th."

The 4th Ed version only has "for 7th level characters".

I wasn't sure what levels to go with for 5th edition characters, but ended up making eight 7th-level characters for the 6-7 players to choose from each session.

What a fucking nightmare that was. 

Even with the help of Jack Shear and Reece Carter (many many thanks!) it took fucking forever to a) create the characters and b) condense all the character info into one digestible page, with an extra page for spells. As each character piled on ability after ability it really did bring home some of the flaws with the hidden complexity of 5E. I could have created the equivalent in one evening using some over systems I'm familiar with. It took hours and hours and hours...

Anyway, it's done, and it's available here so you don't have to go through my pain:


Top Row: Shank the Half-elven Assassin, Xyla the Human Wizard,
Pinchgut the Dwarven Rogue, 
Jinx the Halfling Bard
Bottom Row: Horhog the Human Barbarian, Ulsha the Elven Cleric, Dendrek the Human Fighter,
Riff Raff the Human Ranger (cursed to look like a Ratling).

I based the characters off these awesome illustrations by Eric Belisle, who's done a lot of great work for Pathfinder and some illos for D&D. I really wanted a set of united character pics all by the same artist, and with that hint of jungle in the designs and these were perfect. On top of that, there's a wide range of color and body type and gender representation so I reckon its a rocking bunch of adventurers.

So was 7th level the right level? Yeah, if you wanted to play on easy mode. There were two character deaths in each game, but that came from a Save or Die situation I'll talk about in a sec. One character got dropped to 4HP at one stage, but with the cleric packing the heals and the Wizard being an Abjurer at no point were the characters perilously close to death. I reckon you could easily go for 6th level and still be ok, 5th level for a challenging but possible game.

CHOOSING THE CHARACTERS

I printed out the 8 characters on A5 sized card stands and lined them up infront of the players and let them choose which ones they wanted to be. In both games there were 6 players, leaving 2 characters left. I made sure they both turned up later on.

THE SETUP

I really wanted to have an in game explanation as to why the players could see the layout of the shrine and their location within it, and I also wanted to give them a reason to explore the shrine instead of taking the shortest possible path out of there. So I came up with this terrible poem:

Enshrined within the shrine lies the mask of pain divine
An end to all world’s ills when worn the mask reveals
The boon or bane of man in lost Tamoachan

and the following introduction:

You and your friends have shared in many adventures, and now search for the Mask of Tamoachan, a legendary artefact said to grant wishes to the one that wears it. Each of you wants for different reasons, but have all agreed to find it together.

Two weeks ago you broke into the fortress of one of the Sea Princes and stole a magical map. On one side it revealed the location of the lost city of Tamoachan in the Amedio Jungle; the other showed what appeared to be a section of the layout of the Shrine of Tamoachan.

The Sea Princes don't take kindly to thieves and sent bounty hunters after you. In a stolen ship you sailed across the narrow waters to the shores of the Amedio, and struck deep into the shadows beneath the rainforest.

But the hunters dogged you every step of the way, and had coerced native trackers to help bring you down. 

Finally you drew near to the location marked on the stolen map, spotting a junglecrusted temple ruin rising out of the trees ahead — and that's when they attack. 

Poisoned arrows and crossbow bolts whistle around you as you dash through the jungle, smashing through branches, stumbling over fallen trunks, torn by thorns and vines. In the chaos you lose sight of some of your crew, but the plan is simple: get to the temple, regroup and take a stand.

And then with a great roar the ground beneath you splits apart, and you are all thrown down a mighty crevice and into darkness.

From there the adventure begins, with the players starting in Room 1. Away you go.

THE MASK OF TAMOACHAN

Location:
I placed the mask in the trapped Chest 2 of Room 33: Ancient Tamoachan, where the miniature version of the city is found. An Intelligence (Religion) check DC 12 is require to identify which of the buildings is the Shrine of Tamoachan. "Enshrined within a shrine".

Appearance:
The mask looks like a green death's head, furnished out of jade stone and shells, bound together in bloodsoaked leather straps and highlighted with various stone of blue and red. Leather ties from the back of the mask are used to secure it to the wearer. Soft bloodstained leather lines the inside of the mask, and is slightly damp to the touch. Examining the mask for several rounds will show that there is something strange with the jade stone: it seems that the natural white speckling and flaws move. Further examination reveals that these shapes coalesce into vaguely human forms, and that rough faces seem to be screaming.

Power:
The mask must be firmly tied on for its power to function. Once worn, the wearer can commune with the mask, and know that it will grant the wearer its greatest desire. The wearer must make a Wisdom Save. If successful, the mask fulfils the wearer's desire functioning much the same as a wish spell. If unsuccessful, the wearer is instantly killed, their body and soul sucked into the mask. The wearer may use the mask's power once per week.

Destroying the Mask:
Brute force is all that is required. The Mask is AC: 20, has a hardiness of 14, and 20 hit points. If it has any hit points at the start of the round it immediately regenerates d6 hit points.

Why the Characters want it:
I also added a bunch of individual goals for the pregens and why they seek the mask; it made for some great roleplaying when they finally get their hands on it.

Shank the Assassin has a deathwish, and wants the mask either to kill him or take away his pain.
Xyla the Wizard has promised the souls trapped within the Mask to a Demon Lord that has ensnared her master.
Pinchgut the Rogue wants to sell the mask for gold and joools.
Jinx wants the mask to resurrect her lost love.
Horhog the Barbarian needs the mask to cure him of his deadly disease.
Ulsha the Cleric wants to destroy the mask and return the trapped souls to the great spiritual journey.
Dendrek the Fighter wants the mask to heal his missing eye.
Riff Raff the Rogue wants the mask to return him to his human form.

SO WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE PREGENS THE PLAYERS DON'T CHOOSE?

They turn up twice in the adventure.

In Room 33: Ancient Tamoachan — yep, the same room as where the Mask of Tamoachan is found — there is lying in a coffin the shapeshifting Tlacaelel, which assumes the visage of "someone you thought you might never see again" — which is where the unchosen character comes in (or one of the characters if there's more than one). They take the extra character's form, and use the cover story that the natives caught them, bound them and placed them in the coffin as part of some native ritual.

They also turn up at the final battle atop of the Shrine of Tamoachan, in Room 54: The Temple Ruin. The extra character(s) have gone full Belloch: they've sold out the rest of the group, and when they "disappeared" at the start of the adventure during the attack, they were simply rejoining the other hunters, and are waiting for the player characters to do their dirty work before joining in on the attack along side the Olman natives and Witchdoctor. If you want you can also add a few hunters (use Thugs and Veterans from p.350. of the Monster Manual) if the players have survived without much injury.

Thanks to all my players in both groups. Hope you had as much fun as I did.