Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sad Story of Tik Tok the Half Human

My favorite orc pic. She's beautiful. By Jang Keun-Chul

S:19 D:14 C:18 I:5 W:11 Ch: 14
5th Level Half Orc Fightress

She don't remember much. 

She's a Gal-Aktar Gal. Mountains. Orcs. Hollering. Bloodshed. Was good with bloodshed. Knows enough to know that she doesn't know much, and that's how they got her. That other orc tribe. Killed her people, all the rest. Tricked them. Enslaved her. Tortured her, too. "Tik Tok" they mocked, like Time was running out. She didn't understand. Time has legs? Too many things in her head.

But she knows this: she's the Last One. Which is why she's King. Just a King with out a tribe. But one day there will be a new tribe. It's just up to her to make it. So she's here for fame, fortune, and family. First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the woman. Man. Whatever. She misses Gwynn. He made everything make sense. Would have been a good Queen.

But Gwynn has gone. Now everything bad is now worse. Found a tribe. Lost it. Hard being King! Too hard for Tik Tok. So much thinking. Tik Tok no good at thinking. Tik Tok no good at kinging either. Stupid crown. Tik Tok throw stupid crown in the sea. Stupid Sea. Stupid Tik Tok.

There was a dragon. There is a war. Tik Tok not sure who's fighting. Tik Tok not sure who she's fighting for. Tik Tok so.... Tik Tok not sure what Tik Tok is any more. Tik Tok thought she was King. Stupid Tik Tok.

Tik Tok like this beer though. Beer good. Tik Tok drink lots of beer. Tik Tok feel better. Tik Tok can't hear them any more. Humans nasty. Just as nasty as orcs. Half-orc they shout. Go away Half-orc.

Tik Tok half-human too. But no-one ever calls her that.

Tik Tok wonder what halflings really are. Tik Tok wonder what lings are.

Tik Tok wonder. Why life so shit? Life shit on Tik Tok from great height ever since she remember, which is at least three weeks ago. Maybe ever four.

Tik Tok have great axe though. Life not all shit. Axe make Tik Tok happy. Can't Tik Tok just be happy? Axe make Tik Tok very happy. Maybe Tik Tok swing Axe all the time. Make Tik Tok always happy.

Rules say Tik Tok not allowed to swing axe all the time.

Tik Tok mad. Stupid rules. Gwynn make Tik Tok happy too. Tik Tok swing Gwynn all the time! Only... Gwynn gone.

Tik Tok sad again. Beer not working anymore.

Stupid beer.

Stupid Tik Tok.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A World Without Magic: 5th Ed D&D without the sparkly bits

As much as I love the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, one of the few issues I have with it is the prevalence of magic in so many of its classes and in the base setting.

I find the overabundance of magic in the 5th Edition makes magic far less magical and far more mundane.

Forgotten Realms doesn’t really do it for me; I’m more of a fan of worlds where magic is very rare, such as Game of Thrones, or non-existent, such as historical games in our world.

Hopefully this document provides enough variety of gameplay untouched by the arcane.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Adventure Module Survey Results

Yeah so this isn't scientific by any means.

1) Preferred Game System
Labyrinth Lord / BX : 25%
Lamentations of the Flame Princess: 12.5%
Dungeon Crawl Classics: 10%
Agnostic: 10%
5E D&D: 7.5%
OD&D: 7.5%
Swords & Wizardry: 5%
Dungeon World: 5%
Other 5%
Basic Fantasy: 2.5%
Warhammer FRP: 2.5%
Castles & Crusades: 2.5%
Adventurer Conquerer King: 2.5%
AD&D: 2.5%

The complete lack of Pathfinder tells you I didn't ask over at the Paizo Forums. But basically for indie press it seems that LL/BX is the way to go, especially when you roll in LotFP which is like its evil sister. And if you think I'm echo chambering with this, the only game I'm playing on here with any regularity is D&D 5E.

2) Preferred Module Dimensions:
A5/Half Letter Size: 41.9%
A4/Letter Size: 41.9%
6x9/Digest: 6.4%
Don't Care: 9.7%

Take your pick: A5 or A4. Your production costs on an A5 are going to be higher (it's 7c/A5 page down here vs 10c/A4 page at the local print shop). A4 is good for bigger maps, legibility; not so good for postage.

3) Preferred Module Length (in time to play... longer = bigger = more $):
One Session: 31%
Two Sessions: 41.4%
Three Sessions: 13.8%
Four Sessions or more: 13.8%

4) Encounters per Session:
3.7 was the average respondents' answers.

So with the majority preferring a two session module you're looking at 7 to 8 encounters per adventure module.

5) Main Map Location:
Inside Loose Cover: 72%
Opposite Page to Encounter: 20%
Back of Book: 4%
Other (gatefold map that pops out the side, like Qelong): 4%

Pretty obvious really, the D&D classic loose cover is the fave.

6) Adventure Requirements:
Here's a whole bunch of insight:

"Interesting NPCs atmospheric design"

"Either intriguing concept that makes me want to run it (and is something I wouldn't've come up with) or very strong utility/replay/expansion possibilities that save me work or act as the spine of a whole mini-campaign."

"A premise that will pique the players' interests"

"non-linearity is a must."

"Good art"

"Good layout and art."

"Somewhat plausible storyline!"

"Gonzo rules!"

"A simple concept done well"

"Good map, non-linear"

"Not be a railroad; not be a loosely tied together bunch of blanks that I have to fill in myself; not be boring (not a high bar to clear, I'll happily buy and run your goblin-infested abandoned dwarven mine if it's well executed. Gonzo and weirdness by itself are not selling points for me)."

"An interesting hook and, hopefully, competent writing and editing. Actual player choice is always great."

"Interesting hook that I feel I genuinely couldn't think of myself within the confines of 10 - 20 minutes long trip to the toilet"

"Either intriguing concept that makes me want to run it (and is something I wouldn't've come up with) or very strong utility/replay/expansion possibilities that save me work or act as the spine of a whole mini-campaign."

"map with keyed locations that have enough description I can run this more easily than making something up myself."

"Something interesting, a lack of the mundane, something unique, some freedom from a linear plot and a nice chunk of player choice - also traps and puzzles are the hardest thing to think up on the fly, so make sure those are good - I can steal them even if the rest of the module is dull.
Also just follow these suggestions and you should be okay:"

"It can't be a railroad. And it has to have some idea I wouldn't have thought of."

"Give me a reason to buy it. Awesome artwork. A review of someone I usually trust raving about it. An idea that makes me say "that's neat." Something I haven't seen before--and by now, I've seen a LOT of fantasy RPGing. Make a cheapish PDF available with some way for me to get a couple bucks off the print version if I decide to buy the print version. Unless you're publishing The Excellent Travelling Companion you'd better make a PDF available. First, that's the thing I'm more likely to actually use at the table, and second, if I like the way it looks I'm pretty likely to buy the hardcopy."

"Interesting concept, but not so off-the-wall that it'll be a campaign-breaker or only good as a one-shot. Needs to present something I couldn't easily throw together myself. Needs to be adaptable to my campaign setting. Decent art is a plus, and good layout/graphic design will get me to pick it up in the first place. There's a lot of junk on DriveThruRPG to sift through, so it could be well-written, but if it looks like amateur crap, I'll skip it unless it has a lot of recommendations."

"Flexibility. Guidelines. No railroading."

"Non-linear, site based. Doesn't screw over the players (so basically not LoftP)."

"A sense of humour."

7) Generic Monster Stats:

Complete Monster Stats in Module: 45%
Abridged Monster Stats in Module: 30%
Reference to Monster Stats in Core Book: 15%

Whole hog please.

8) Preferred Price Point for an 8 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: 33%
$5-$10: 67%
$10+: —

So that averages out to be $5.85 for an 8 page Module. 73c per page.

9) Preferred Price Point for a 16 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: 5%
$5-$10: 80%
$10-$15: 15%
$15+: —

And that averages out to be about $8.00 for a 16 page module. or 50c per page.

10) Preferred Price Point for an 32 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: —
$5-$10: 47.8%
$10-$15: 34.8%
$15-$20: 17.4%

Averages out to be about $14.57 for a 32 page module. or 46c per page.

11) If you could name one adventure module as the benchmark (big publishers, indie module or homepress, doesn't matter) what would it be and why?
Whole bunch of different suggestions here:

"The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar"

"I really like the old TSR modules for the amount of information they pack into a low page-count, frankly."

"B5 Horror on the Hill or U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. They have good maps, keyed locations, and let you quickly run a game instead of having to read the entire thing in advance of running it."

"RPL and Vornheim are still my gold standards in terms of organization and content. I'm also a big fan of Keep on the Shadowfell from the 4e days. Big maps, a big folder to hold two stapled books. If you're going for an A4 sized book, that's my preferred way of doing it." 
"No Salvation for Witches, and J Waltons Planarch Codex for Dungeon World"
"A Red & Pleasant Land."
"Sailors on the Starless Sea Because - 16 pages, 10$, great art through out including pictorial handouts, awesome hand drawn isometric maps, The Players can go numerous ways and still end up at the climax. It is crammed full of all sorts of weirdness and roleplaying inspiring moments."
"B4 was an excellent introduction to "how to be a DM" (as is "The Lost Mines of Phandelver"). R&PL is awesome, but much more than a module as you're defining it. So's Qelong, but again, same thing. X1 is how you do a wilderness adventure right. D1-2 might be a good touchstone for more straightforward dungeon crawling."

"Qelong and Forgive Us."

"Sailors on the Starless Sea, short but comprehensive (had everything) and also emphasizes that you can have BIG ADVENTURES with 1st-level characters."

"Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1 by +Patrick Wetmore because it got me back into old school gaming and it has such great gonzo content that can be expanded upon by the user. The Orbital Gods are pure genius!"

"One-Page Dungeons (or, at least, the best of them), because they look good, they have all the info I really need right there, they're easy to insert into my game, and since the authors are forced to conserve space, there's no useless bloat like game fiction or boxed text. Also, stuff that Zak Smith does, because even if his ideas end up being too out-there for my relatively vanilla pseudo-Tolkien game, they inspire a ton of ideas and get me thinking along lines I might not have when left to my own devices. Flavor and setting conveyed via random tables is a brilliant idea. Finally, +Dyson Logos' maps are luvverly, and make me want to run dungeon crawls."

"I think U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh was great and I really enjoyed L2, forgot its name Assassin's Knot? and I got a lot of use out of A2 separate from the Slaver series."

"Oh, and good god I forgot City-State of the Invincible Overlord!"

"Tegel Manor by judges guild. Most fun ever both as a player and then running it as a GM
the original I6(?) Ravenloft, because it had a fun card-based "fortune-telling" mechanic that determined important details like the villain's motivation and weakness. Also, isometric maps!"

"A Thousand Dead Babies by Zzarchov Kowolski - it's small, it is complex yet simple to run, it is awesome."

"Anomalous Subsurface Environment is tits, both in content and in the way it's all presented."

"Necessary Evil for Savage Worlds. Best purchased campaign I've ever ran. For something a little more D&D, though, I'll go with Night Below. For something more standalone, Small Niche Games kills it about every time out. Inn of Lost Heroes is a favorite."


"Mutiny on the Eleanor Moraes."

"Advanced Adventures #26 - The Witch Mounds by Keith Sloan. Not the best looking module, true, but manages to fit a 4 sessions dungeon in 12 pages (and with several new monsters)."

"Servants of the Cinder Queen"

"Servants of the Cinder Queen by Jason Lutes. Interesting location, enemies, plot, beautiful presentation."

"Ravenloft (I6) is probably the one I've run most often (as one-offs) because it is very easy to grasp for newbies to roleplaying, but I only run it with superficial adherence to the actual module as written. So no. One of the most exciting and interesting adventures I've run wasThe Grey Knight for Pendragon. In fact many of the Pendragon adventures have a lot to recommend them as a template (coming from the time when Chaosium was writing stuff decades in advance of everyone else). Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues for Paranoia was difficult to run because I was laughing so hard at the jokes inside of it. I do like how the old Ironclawadventures were presented (in a sourcebook, so that it introduced players to the material in the sourcebook). I've always had a soft spot for Paul Jacquays's stuff so Caverns of Thracia is probably my choice."

"Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. It's full of iconic locations, it's a run in a wizards dungeon that has been squatted by another wizard that has then been vanquished but it's still full of weird, so it's very DND in its framing. It links deeply to its setting but without letting you know or forcing you. It's full of awesome and comes with a 16 pages sourcebook. It has a big wilderness to explore, and politics, albeit simple. Most importantly, it's a fun exploration module that is full of wonders."

Got some reading to do here...


Looks like my first first foray into indie publishing will be a 16 page A5 (or maybe A4, unsure now) black and white module with a loose color cover, black and white map on the inside with essential info on the map, and if space permits, smaller map sections on the relevant page with the 8 or so encounter details. Which is good, cause that's what I'd planned to do anyhoo. So thanks for confirming that for me, and taking the time to lemme know what you want.

Only real decision is what system... LL/BX is clearly the most popular, even moreso as it's easily portable into LotFP and DCC, but I never run it. Hmmm...

Next.... what kind of adventure?

Adventure Module Survey

Adventure Module Survey Time!
So I'm curious about the following as I'm looking at publishing a few adventures. I've put this survey up on G+, and forums, hopefully will get a decent slab of responses which I'll post in a couple of days. If you want to answer the survey in the comments below that'd be great too. Bewdy!

1) Preferred Game System:
System Agnostic / d20 Compatible: D&D (please list which flavor: OD&D, AD&D, 3.X/PF, 5E, etc.) / DCC / LotFP / LL/BX, etc.) / Other System

2) Preferred Module Size:
A5/half-letter sized, A4/letter sized, something else (lemme know).

3) Preferred Module Length (in time to play... longer = bigger = more $):
1 Session/2 Session/3 Session/ 4+ Sessions.

4) Encounters per Session:
How many do you think you get through on average?

5) Main Map Location:
Inside of loose cover (like old D&D Modules) / centerspread in middle of book / on page opposite map entries / somewhere else (lemme know).

6) Adventure Requirements:
What must the adventure have for you to consider purchasing it?

7) Generic Monster Stats:
Are you a) happy if an adventure refers you to a page ref in the Monster Manual for typical monsters or b) do you have to have all the stats in the module?

8) Preferred Price Point for an 8 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
$5 / $5-$10 / $10-$15 / $15-$20 / $20+

9) Preferred Price Point for a 16 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
$5 / $5-$10 / $10-$15 / $15-$20 / $20+

10) Preferred Price Point for a 32 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
$5 / $5-$10 / $10-$15 / $15-$20 / $20+

11) If you could name one adventure module as the benchmark (big publishers, indie module or homepress, doesn't matter) what would it be and why?

Thanks heaps folks, very much appreciated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


So you peeps like maps, right?

I got what you need right here, customisable world maps that are Pay Whatever You Damn Well Feel Like for the next 5 hours.

From the blurb: "THE LAND BEYOND BEYOND range of interactive PDF Maps offers you beautifully illustrated charts of strange new lands for you to use in your roleplaying games, war games, and other creative projects. 

Evocative and inspirational, they are designed to take some of the hard work out of world building.

Each map is customisable so you can shape it to your needs: you choose the look and style of the map, you choose what kinds of locations are visible, and you choose the names for every feature.

Using the powerful tools in the free Adobe Reader software, you can draw all over the PDF, add notes, new text, and even attach images and concept art to specific locations. A six page User Guide is included to help you make the most of your world.

Each poster map is designed to be printed out at 17in x 12in / A3 size for you to use at the gaming table with your friends, or you can share your PDF Map online with them and let them add their own comments and illustrations, track their characters’ journeys across your world and make their own contributions.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cinematic Superheroes

Confession: my glutinous intake of superhero action doesn't actually come from comic books. It comes from film. I know it means I miss out on some of the most fantastic storytelling in the genre but I'm a sucker for the spectacular. A sucker for sound, for visual stimulation. Kerplosions, stonking FX, punchy storylines, blaring soundtracks, fast scenes, action action action. That's what I love.

Fuck yeah, Nightcrawler.

So when I imagine a superhero roleplaying game, it's cinematic heroes that are my touchstone, not comic book ones (Hellboy and BPRD are a different matter). I can't tell the difference between Deadshot and Deathstroke. I don't even know who they are.

Which means that when I imagine running or playing in a superheroes roleplaying game I'm not looking for four color comic book emulation, or golden age glories, or gritty 90's angst (though from what I can gather that's what's guiding a lot of supers films). I want a game that combines the flashkerpow high stakes skyscraper smackdowns... with an element that I'm yet to find in the superhero rpgs I've looked at (and I haven't looked at them all, and am hoping there's a game out there that covers this so I don't have to make it myself).

And that missing element is intense character drama.

So much of cinematic superheroes revolves around the conflict of personal ideologies, challenging, affirming or breaking the belief system of the central cast. And this is something that I really want to see in any Superhero game I play or run.

My ideology is better than yours. Nyah nyah.

As much as I find the Mouse Guard RPG to be a beautiful disappointment, there's a section in the game that I would port over. The chapter is titled "It's Not What You Fight, It's What You Fight For", quoting the motto of the Mouse Guard, and it asks the players to examine their characters and establish a core belief system that the Game Master must challenge in the game. Either you stay true to your beliefs, or you grow from what you have experienced.

Taking cues from that I'd have the following bits bolted on to any supers game:

A deeply held belief that guides your actions, and ideal by which you live your life.

The manifestation of your conviction, it is the greater goal you strive to achieve.

The short term task you have set for yourself that brings you one step closer to fulfilling your purpose.

The means and methods you are willing to go to in order to accomplish your missions.

One very upset General Zod, expressing these very things.

Once the GM has a clear understanding of what each character's ideals are, they can craft adventures that specifically target and challenge these ideals, inflicting crisis after crisis to see if they can break the character or forge their beliefs into something stronger.

Tie the effectiveness of a superhero's power to how shaken they are in their beliefs, as though the strength of will that drives them forward is intrinsically linked to the willpower needed to manifest their powers. Characters who's beliefs are battered and bruised, shown to be flawed or faulty would see their powers diminish until they have come to terms with the events that shook them to the core and built up a new belief system. Flip that over, and heroes who's beliefs are affirmed by events in the game can use that ego-boost to punch their powers into overdrive.

Also worth thinking about is what deed will push them over the brink into the land of rage and rampage. We all get pissed sometimes, how come barbarians are the only ones who get to go berserk? Breaking a character, watching them give in to their darker selves, and the struggle that follows to atone or achieve redemption for their actions during their darkest hour is great story fodder.

Even the younglings were killed.

So yeah, these are the dramatic character elements of cinematic superheroes that I want in my games. With added spectacular destruction and eyewizardry.

Lemme know if there's any out there that do this.

Last thing: damn I love this game trailer. Not perfect, just perfect destruction.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


And the last in the series of Goreball related posts
til the rules are ready to be released into the wild is this here preview of the Arena board.

I've spent quite a slab of time designing this and am pretty pleased with how it's turned out. 
I wanted something bright and bloody and soiled and grim all at once. 
Once the rules are finalised there will be reference tables repeated
across the top and bottom for player convenience. 

So it's just wrapping up the rulebook and getting the mini figures designed,
then Goreball will be looking for playtesters. Can't wait.