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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kobolds Ate the Baby! (and Other Urban Fantasy Myths)

As I toy with the idea of campaign reboot, it got me thinking about urban myths. You know, "Don't flash your hi-beams at on coming traffic or you'll be killed" and just about every emailed chain letter that you can find debunked on Snopes.

What about Urban Myths for a fantasy setting? (which of course, don't have to be urban at all) They can add some nice background material, especially if you had a list of like 20, and each starting character knew one or two. A handful of the myths could even have the reality of the situation be worse than the myth itself.

So maybe Kobolds didn't eat the baby - but a cult of evil cannibals serving their dark lord are stealing babies on the night of the harvest moon for their rituals, and the players may just stumble into their plans. The players have a chance to not only be heroes, but explain away an urban myth.

Now I need to build a list...

Adventurer Conqueror King or Die! - May Have Passed On...

Tonight will mark the 3rd session of Ambition & Avarice, or as I like to call it - Anarchy & Ambition ;)

I'm no longer even sure when was the last time that we ran a session of ACKS at this point, and the summer wasn't friendly to the weekly sessions. That, and the original Adventurer Conqueror King or Die! campaign lost an original member, then we added two players to the group for A&A playtesting, who I assume are sticking with the group even after we end the playtesting.

So, when a decision becomes: "Do we stick with the ACKS campaign or move on to something new?", I've got a feeling we'll be moving on to something new.

There are, of course, an abundance of options.

We could stick with using ACKS in a new campaign, but I think ACKS will be easier to run (and have more internal consistency) when the default campaign for it is released. There are lots of references to a default setting in the classes, but little actual info in the core book itself. It makes it awkward at times to fit it into other available pre-written settings without some crowbarring into place. I'd like to avoid that.

I'd prefer to run a system that is available for free, so my players aren't obligated to purchase the rules. When you game at a physical table, sharing one or two copies of the rule book isn't an issue - over G+ hangouts it is virtually impossible. This would leave me looking at LL and S&W (or even A&A) for the most part. Yes, there are others that are free, but these would be the big two.

We could also go with a game that has a nominal cost in PDF - AS&SH and Crypts and Things would allow for a different game feel - more Swords & Sorcery. If I went that route, I'd offer to purchase the rules in PDF for any player in the current group that doesn't have access. Why? Because I'd hate to drag along a bunch of friends to a system that might not click for them and charge them for the act of getting screwed ;)

I'm also tempted, ever so slightly, to take the 3e setting of Midnight and strip it down to OSR friendly levels. Just an idea, as it is a dark and almost hopeless setting to put the players in. Less heroism and more pure survival.

Ah well, just thoughts for now - A&A in about 6 hours or so. Lets see how it plays out when they hit a new dungeon location.

My Latest Lulu Purchases - Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Deviant Databse

Does anyone make a purchase at Lulu WITHOUT using a coupon? A simple google search usually finds me one that gives anywhere from 15-25% off. I never buy at Lulu without trimming something off of the end ;)

My latest purchases are the Deviant Database for The Savage Afterworld / Mutant Future. It was half off for a copule of hours earlier this week, and I figured it was as god a time as any to grab it. I don't generally run post apoc games, but if I did it would be using Mutant Future in all probability. If nothing else, it gives me a book worth of oddities to throw into an OSR session or two.

The other purchase as Anomalous Subsurface Environment in in soft cover, lower crade papr and it looks damn fine. I already have the PDF, and in some sense, this is a post apoc setting using Labyrinth Lord as it's core.

At least by pushing off my LL session to the end of the month I should have the time to get to know the source material.

Fun times :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Labyrinth Lord Session Tentatively Set for October 29th

As I stated during the "big poll", I'll be running a Labyrinth Lord session (or two) for my blog readers. It is tentatively set for Monday, October 29th at 7pm Eastern.

Yes, it's a later date then I wanted to kick this off, but as the next two weeks are basically me working without a staff, I expect I won't have much energy left for gaming during the week for the immediate future.

As it stands today, I'm looking at running a session set in Anomalous Subsurface Environment. We'll see if that's still the case in 2 1/2 weeks.

Let me know if you would like to participate by indicating as a comment on this blog post. I will probably cap the session at 6 players, but if there is enough interest, I'll run a second session.

Some Words of Advice - From Anomalous Subsurface Environment

In case you've missed it, I'm on a bit of a "mega-dungeon" kick recently, and as such I'm giving stuff that I picked up earlier and read in bits and pieces a second read through. So, in addition to looking at the adventure I'll be running tomorrow night, I've been looking at Anomalous Subsurface Environment.

If you haven't checked out ASE yet, it does not use your standard fantasy roleplaying setting as a background. Players should learn most of these differences through play, but I'll just say there is a smidgen of science fiction in the fantasy.

In any case, Patrick Wetmore does a fine job of giving advice to players new to "Old School" style gaming, and I thought I'd share it here. Hopefully next week I'll be able to give a bit of a review on ASE (work hell permitting - I'm pushing off the Labyrinth Lord session to the end of the month, as I suspect the next week and a half is going to sap my energies).

Without further ado, here's Patrick's advice:


• You will probably die at some point. Possibly repeatedly. That's OK, rolling up a character is quick and easy. Don't take it to heart.

• This is a game of exploration, not of combat – you get much more experience from gathering treasure than from killing things. It often pays to avoid a fight when you can.

• This is also a game of wits – the environment is often a puzzle, and often something you can use to your advantage during combat.

• And it's also a game of resource management. Make sure you've got enough water, rations, and torches to get where you're going and come back alive.

• All that goofy stuff like 10' poles, spikes, and mirrors is on the equipment list for a reason. Mirrors are useful for looking around corners, poles are great for poking things from a distance, and spikes can hold doors open or closed.

• All that stuff weighs a ton, too. Make sure you don't carry too much, or you won't be able to move very quickly.

• Please tell me somebody bought some rope. Never go anywhere without rope.

• Somebody needs to make a map. If you don't, you'll get lost underground and die cold, lonely, and afraid.

Dying Ain't Much of a Living - A Look at Save or Die in the OSR

"Dying ain't much of a living boy!" - Josey Wales

The quote came to me this morning (excellent movie BTW) and it's fairly applicable to the OSR style of play in general. By that, I mean there is an expectation that PCs may die, especially at earlier levels.
Heck, over the last 2 weeks, I think I have 3 notches on my belt, and I'm not running a DCC RPG game right now either ;)

So, at low levels, PCs get to meet death intimately - but something happens as they survive and level. HPs rise, AC gets better and they are no longer as susceptible to swingy things like damage rolls. Threat of death retrenches.

Solution? Save or Die mechanics, which I'm not enthralled with when they are over used, but they are extremely useful in keep the players and their characters on their toes.

I just don't see the need for save or die at lower levels. A trap with enough potential damage is a similar to a save or die situation without putting the onus on the player failing a roll - it falls instead on the trap itself and the damage in generates.

In general, I like to keep the use of Save or Die at a minimum - enough to keep players on their toes, but not so much they expect every door to try and kill them. It should be in the back of their mind, but not their focus.

How do you use Savor or Die? Do you not use it? Why or why not?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kevin Crawford Announces First Stretch Goal for Spears of the Dawn

Yeah, I know - shut up about Spears of the Dawn already. Trust me, I will. Soon. I'm just fuckin' excited to be getting magic in my Stars Without Number. I'm turning into one of those fanbois it seems.
Sigh...

Anyhow, Kevin has announced the first stretch goal for Spears of the Dawn - a 20,000 word starting setting / introductory adventure that he has already written and just needs to repurpose (it was planned for a failed Indiegogo project).

So, a 20k word adventure if funding hits $6k (it's sneaking up on 4k now with 28 days to go) that won't push release of the project back - but will add more art to the public domain. It's a win - win - win.

Oh, and the top tier for support is only $50 - so Kevin is looking for support by gamers at large.

Alright, enough of me slobbering over the idea of magic in Stars Without Number for a while...

From the update at the Spears of the Dawn Kickstarter:

Thanks to your open-handed generosity, Spears of the Dawn hit its base funding target hardly 36 hours after it went up. If nothing else, I think you've proved that there's a genuine interest in African-flavored RPG material and that a reliable publisher can see success in providing for that interest.
Now that you've shown an enthusiasm for the material, what's the next step? Give you more of it. In May, I wrote a 20,000-word adventure entitled The House of Bone and Amber for an Indiegogo effort that sadly did not fund. The adventure was complete in manuscript form, it just needed maps, layout, and an editing pass. Now that there's such an obvious interest in the topic, I can easily reshape the material to set it in the Three Lands and make it a Spears of the Dawn intro adventure.
If the campaign hits $6,000, I will add this PDF intro adventure to every backer's rewards. When you get the final Spears of the Dawn full-art PDF, you'll also get a 20K-word intro adventure and a campaign-hub market town to run with it. You'll have everything you need to just sit down and start playing.
And, as a side note, whatever art I commission for this module will also be packed into the public domain package, so you can plunder it for your own projects.

Purple Duck Games Donates in Print Copies of "Through the Cotillion of Hours" For Future DCC RPG Contests at The Tavern


Just a quick but huge "Thank You!" to Purple Duck Games. We now have in print copies of Through the Cotillion of Hours - 1 copy each for the next 3 months worth of DCC RPG Contests (it was nice to see this waiting for me after a crappy day at work).

For the October Contest (to be announced in about 2 weeks) we also have a print copy of Emerald Enchanter that was donated by a blog reader.

This is in addition to a copy of Crawl! that Dak donates every month for the cause.

Add of course others that have donated in the past (and probably in the future too) like Purple Sorcerer, Thick Skull Adventures, Occult Moon, Tim Shorts and others that have donated to make these monthly contests a big hit.

I thank you all - but especially Purple Duck Today :)

Lessons Learned - This Weekend I Will DM By My Own Book ;)

The last 2 weekends I tried to run the sessions "by the book", both in regards to system (Ambition & Avarice Beta) and adventure (Dwimmermount). I think I've learned that adventures aren't a good fit for BTB, at least for me and my players. It was an interesting attempt if nothing else.

This weekend will be the third session of A&A that I'll be running. The adventure itself, a dungeon crawl, is also in an unreleased beta form (extremely polished) and has already been revised since I started my reading (Greg, if you are reading this - no more changes before game time please ;)

I'm willing to tweak things from what's written if it makes things work better for the session, which was part of my failure the last two sessions - by the book can certainly be a recipe for failure.

At least I have no problem with killing PCs - I think I've dropped 3 over the last 2 sessions. I haven't lost my Old School DM cred yet ;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What to Do When You Realize You Have More Money Invested in Future Kickstarters Than Those That Have Actually Completed

A few weeks ago I looked at my history of supporting crowd funded (Kickstarter & Indiegogo projects) and I realized an important fact - this shit is like crack. You start small and before you know it you need a bigger and bigger rock to get the same high.

I mean, why did I support a Stock Art project at the highest amount if I'm not even a publisher? Because of the gawddamn high. I think I needed the high. Why support a project at a level to get two vinyl maps - when I do 100% of my gaming via G+ Hangouts? I needed to reach that high ;)

Believe it or not, I've cut back my funding of these projects greatly - not because the new projects aren't worthy, but because of the amount of cash I have tied up in projects that have blown past their due dates and then some. I expect all of them to get completed at some point, but paying now for something I may, if I'm lucky, get a year from now - again and again - is something I'm trying to curtail.

For me, Spears of the Dawn, which I mentioned earlier today, has a few good things going for it, but the most important is that the low art (but complete) PDF will release at the completion of the Kickstarter. No longer do I have to wait 2d6 months (doubles are rolled again and added to the previous roll) to actually get to enjoy at least part of what I'm paying for.

Holy shit, a novel concept - actually have stuff ready for your supporters when the Kickstarter comes to an end.

Kevin, I hope you are a trendsetter, but not just for breaking out of the traditional fantasy mold, but for crowdfunded projects. Uhm, hopefully you actually get the low art PDF out on time, or you'll just kill this addict ;)

Holy Crap! Kevin Crawford is Doing a Kickstarter - Spears of the Dawn!

What? You don't know who Kevin Crawford is? Take a moment and download Stars Without Number: Free Edition. I'll wait...

Take a peek at it yet? Quality is written all over it.

Now take a look at the Spears of the Dawn Kickstarter, an African-inspired old-school RPG from the maker of Stars Without Number.

Kevin and his artists are going to donate the artwork from this project to the public domain, for other creators to use as they see fit, to encourage creation.

More importantly to me, it's going to be bring magic and spells to the system behind Stars Without Number.

From my end, I've yet to see Kevin put out less than an excellent product.

I'm in on this one.

Some of Kevin's words from the Kickstarter:


Why This Game?

Spears of the Dawn is intended to be an encouragement to other indie game designers. For decades, we've heard the common wisdom- "African games don't sell," people say. "People can't identify with African character art." "Medieval Africa hasn't got the variety and flavor of medieval Europe." "Players aren't comfortable with an African-flavored setting."

I've just laid down a $3,000 bet that the common wisdom is wrong. I've written this game, commissioned the art, and already paid out $1,800 of the budget in art costs. I've brought on the superb artistic talents of people like Nicole Cardiff, Luigi Castellani, Earl Geier, Andrew Krahnke, and Ian MacLean. I've gone to the sources, looked at the histories, checked out the mythology, and I can say with perfect confidence that medieval Africa provides amazing material.

Everything old-school gamers ask for in a setting is right there for the taking. Monstrous foes, glorious ruins of vanished ages, scheming nobles, brooding kings in splendid regalia, sorcerous cults plotting evil in the wilderness, mighty warriors with magnificent panoply, even red-handed amazonian warrior-women famed for their martial prowess. It's all there, and it's crying out to be enjoyed at your gaming table.

Too often I've seen people complaining online that our hobby doesn't do enough with this kind of material, that the art and settings we build are too often rooted in faux-European settings that waste the wonders of three-quarters of the world. In a former age, it might've been necessary to chivvy some big gaming company into providing less pedestrian material, to convince them to turn their presses and artists toward a different set of topics. Maybe in the past, it was necessary to wait for them to give us what we ask for.

Not any longer. We have the presses now. We have the links to the artists, the connections to the storefronts, the tools we need to make our own games about the things we think are worth emphasizing. We can make it and we can sell it and we can show the world just what we're talking about when we say that something is great and deserves more attention. I'm committed to encouraging this in other one-person publishers like myself.

Because of this, all the artwork in Spears of the Dawn will be released into the public domain. Use it for your own games. Use it for your supplements, or blog posts, or character art, or anything else. Make a new game with it, a better game, and sell it as you can. Show the rest of the hobby what great stuff you've got. I'll even throw in the blank InDesign templates I used for Spears of the Dawn so you can fill them up with your own game or take them apart for your own purposes. Just show us something great.

I'm committed to this project. The game is written and in draft layout right now. I've gotten about a third of the art already finished and in place. I've paid my money and now I'm taking my chances. Is there really an interest in African-flavored fantasy gaming? Are people really interested in seeing African-inspired characters and settings in their game art? I'm betting that the answer is yes, and that Spears of the Dawn can show people just a little of what they've been missing.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Free Game of the Week - Dungeon From a Distant Star (OSR Adventure)

Here's another 1-page adventure offered up by Stuart to the OSR community.

From the blurb:


Buried underground for hundreds of years lies a spaceship from the 3rd planet in the Altair system. While heavily damaged, the ship still has power for many of its systems and doors and lights are still fully operational in most sections. Will you be the first to explore The Dungeon From A Distant Star and uncover it's otherworldly secrets?

An old school one-page dungeon including dungeon map, legend, wandering monsters, random tables and descriptions for 23 separate rooms.

Tenkar's Minor Magical Tidbits - Rat Pack

Rat Pack


This appears to be a stuffed “plush” toy rat, but if the activation word on the label behind the right ear is read, it turns into a 3’ long white rat with three large saddle bags over it’s back. It can carry up to 150 pounds that might otherwise fit into three large backpacks.

The rat follows behind it’s master by a distance of 3-5 feet, and is considered to be AC 2/18 with 20 HPs if attacked. The rat may hiss or spit at it’s attacker, but it has no attacks itself. If reduced to 0 or less HP, it reverts to stuffed toy rat form. Saves are made by using it’s master’s saving throw table.

The rat can remain in 3’ long rat form indefinitely. It needs neither food nor water, and does not defecate. Using the command word will return the rat to toy rat form.

This is one of the items from a soon to be released project I am working on for Occult Moon. The rocking art is by Teo Tayobobayo. Yes, I am playing catch up to the artist right now ;)

Looking For Tools to Teach the Novice DM "Adventure Design"

Sometimes my blog topics take off on tangents, whether in the comments section, a side conversation on G+ or spawned threads on forums. Recently, the whole idea of using published adventures has generated a side conversation of "why not create your own?"

The answer to that, for me at least, is time. Writing a usable adventure takes time I do not have. So I buy and use and modify published adventures.

It does raise a question for me - is there a good resource for the novice DM to refer to when it comes to designing adventures?

It might not even be an OSR / D&D resource - good adventure design is pretty much independent of rules.

So, cough up your secrets. Dig the dusty tomes off your bookshelf. Lets find our "Adventure Design for Dummies" books ;)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Prepackaged Adventures - Should a DM Need to Tweak if it's Well Written?

This is in reference in large part to yesterday's blog post about my group's latest play experience.

There is an argument that has been made that pretty much any commercial / pre-written adventure can not be successfully run without the DM making his own adjustments to it, whether in advance or on the spot. Doubly so for "mega-dungeons".

It's an interesting argument. I'm not sure if it's 100% valid, but I do see where tweaking the adventure to your party's history and the current campaign is necessary to properly integrate most adventures, but that should only affect flavor and possibly motivation. The core of the adventure should be able to stand on it's own without major tweaks.

Now, if your campaign has no background, and the adventure is the kick off point, depending on the direction you want your campaign to go, there may be no need to tweak.

Me? I'm a habitual tweaker. I can usually spot the TPK encounters in advance, and tone them down or not, depending on the purpose of the encounter. I go through the adventure and make changes that I perceive will enhance the play experience of my party. It's what a skilled DM does.

But what about a lesser skilled or new DM? Shouldn't an off the shelf adventure be able to give an acceptable return on investment without the tweaks? I'd expect so. A well written adventure should be usable as is by the novice DM and be easily tweaked by the experienced DM, whether it's a one page dungeon or Rappan Athuk.

I think one of the issues with my group's recent gaming session wasn't just running something "untweaked", but the product, even though the latest update shows the 1st level as "laid out", isn't complete. Background references to a history that isn't yet presented (and would have been beyond my ability and available time to backfill) helped create an ambivalence to the dungeon dressing . In it's current state, Dwimmermount would not serve a novice DM well. Thankfully, it's not yet complete. As I said elsewhere, I'll revisit Dwimmermount when it's complete and try a few other dungeons (mega and otherwise) in the meantime.

Oh, and "yes", the experiences will get posted here ;)


More TSR Era Reprints on the Way - I'm Guessing These Proceeds Won't be Going the the Gygax Memorial Fund This Time

Grognardia, The Greyhawk Grognard and Bat in the Attic all have posts about the upcoming latest round of reprints from the TSR days.

Now, the AD&D 1e reprints were marketed as giving part of the proceeds to the Gygax Memorial Fund. AD&D 2e was an attempt to remove Gygax's name from the AD&D line. Well, that and the good ole' "New Edition means more money!"

So, I think it's safe to assume there will be no trickle down to the Gygax Memorial Fund from the 2e sales as the books were "Gygax Free".

The A series and the S series in hardcover is damn interesting. I think there's more of a market for the modules than the rules but I could be wrong. Guess we'll know next spring.

At least we know how WotC is weathering the storm between editions. Reprint cash cow is in effect ;)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Look at AetherCon - Online Gaming Convention November 16-18

There have been a couple of Online RPG Conventions I've seen so far (and actually popped into and out of one a few years back, before the advent of G+ simplifying the whole online social world) but AetherCon is the first one I actually plan on attending. Or logging in for. I'm not sure of the proper terminology in this case ;)

Now, what makes AetherCon more like a real con? To my eyes, it's the involvement of RPG publishers, both in supporting the con with prizes but also manning virtual tables, just like at a real con.

Which ones? This is the current list:


4 Winds Fantasy Gaming
Battlefield Press
Catalyst Game Labs
Chaosium
Chapter 13 Press
d-Infinity
Imperfekt Gammes
Heroic Journey Publishing
Kenzer and Company
Occult Moon
Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Reality Blurs
Silver Gryphon Games
Skirmisher Publishing
The Design Mechanism
Third Eye Games
Troll Lord Games
White Haired Man

I might jump in and play in a Savage Worlds or Castles & Crusades game. Heck, I might even be tempted to run a game, but if I did it would be a DCC RPG session. A zero level funnel, so you can easily grab folks that don't have much or any knowledge of the DCC RPG and throw them in the shallow end of the piraƱa pool ;)

They'll also being running Tournaments for Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Shadowrun and Savage Worlds. The prize pools are nice, but I don't know any of the rules well enough to be one of the last men standing after 3 days of gaming. Maybe if it was AD&D 1E...

Roll20 looks to be the interface they will be using with G+ Hangouts. I guess that means I should log into my account again. I saw they fixed the whiteboard, so all should be good now on my end.

As games and times start getting listed I'll be posting more about this. It looks pretty cool, and it it's half as cool as it looks it could be, it should be an a blast of a gaming weekend.




The Winners of the September Mercurial Magic Contest For the DCC RPG Are...



I'm amazed at how little overlap there was on the picks made by the judges of this contest. Or maybe I shouldn't be, as all the entries were top notch. Still, there can be only 4 winners.

The overall highest score entries were:


Replacement- A clone comes into existence, facing the caster, identical to the original in all respects except for a -1 Personality loss. A moment later, after each becomes aware of the other, the original is disintegrated, leaving no trace. The clone can carry on, but is burdened with the knowledge he/she is "just" a copy. - SAROE, you win the donated copy of Sailors on the Starless Sea. This is the printed version, so I need a snail mail address to send it to you.

Mark of the BeastMark of the Beast. Whenever this spell is cast, the caster takes on the aspect of a lycanthrope of the GM's choice. STR and CON are both increased by 1d4 until the effect wears off, in 1d4 turns. The increased characteristics may be spellburned as normal. Once the effect fades, those characteristics return to normal, but any additional spellburn is automatically healed. - Edgar Johnson, I need your snail mail address so I can give it to Dak so he can get you the latest issue of the Crawl! Fanzine.

"Tag!"-  When cast, the spell is passed to the target along with its effects (the caster can no longer cast it and, the target gains the ability to cast it if possible).
 Tom Grimshaw, you win your choice of Issue 1 or 2 of The Manor. I need your snail mail address so Tim can get that out to you.

Thaumic Dampening - The spell greedily devours the area's latent magical potential! All spells cast within 200' after this spell is cast act as if they were one level lower. Duration 1 rd/level.
 Stuart K, I need your email address so Occult Moon Games can hook you up with your PDF of The Forgotten Outpost.

I need the winner's to email me at erikATtrubluniteDOTnet with either your snail mail address or you RPGNow email address, depending on the prize. 

I want to thank everyone who posted - the entries were awesome!

I also want to thank Tim, Quinn, Mike, Dak and Victor. Without each and every one of you, this contest would not have hit the heights it did.

Adventure Design - Art or Paint By Numbers

It's not easy to design a viable adventure - or is it?

Heck, the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide has a whole section on building and stocking dungeons randomly. I used to bring that, graph paper and dice to holiday dinners and my aunt's house as a kid - I'd usually have a dungeon level completed before we sat down for soup. The fact that the dungeon levels sucked and made no sense didn't matter to me at the time - I'd followed the word of the "good book" and therefore the results must be good.

Ever notice that EGG himself rarely followed all of the rules in the books that he published. The rules he used at his own table were not the strick interpretation that the masses were supposed to follow.

There is something I'm always reminded about on my job that to me dovetails nicely into AD&D / D&D. On my job we have a "Patrol Guide". When the "Job" wants it to be, it's just a guide, but when they want to screw someone, it's suddenly "rules and regulations" - but the simple fact is it is a guide. It's there to help you, direct you, guide you - but little if any is written in stone.

Dungeon Master's Guide. There's that word again. Folks think if it's written in the DMG it's golden, carved into stone - but the shit is a book of guidelines. The more skilled you become as a GM, the more you can stray from the guidelines. Heck, the more you need to stray from the guidelines. If the rule doesn't make sense? Fix it with a new one. Build upon the guidelines.

Falling back upon a strict interpretation of guidelines while designing your adventure - whether its a sandbox, wilderness, town, dungeon - whatever,  is "painting by the numbers". I did that a a kid. It was not art.

Designing an adventure beyond the guidelines and safety rails is that first step toward becoming art. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is art.

Vornheim is not a gaming product that I personally enjoy much, but it is certainly art. Not just because of the amount of art in it, but for the innovations that Zak brought to it - with his use of maps and running city adventures and whatnot. Zak didn't feel confined by a set of guidelines.

If the guidelines say something that doesn't make sense (I'm talking to you Mr Giant Rats and your 20% chance of having 1,000 to 12,000 CP in your lair!) change the shit up. Or find a reason to make sense of that which fails to make sense.

Which is more pleasing to the eye? A paint by numbers painting of a sailboat, or an actual painting of a sailboat by a skilled artist? If the first was painted by my 10 year old son, I'd hang it on my office wall in a heart beat. Otherwise, I want the actual painting.

Ambition & Avarice Session Recap - Closing the Door on Dwimmermount

Martin McKenna
We literally just wrapped up tonight's session of Ambition & Avarice using the first level of Dwimmermount as the dungeon location.

First, the highlights:

Last week we added Mike G from Occult Moon Games to the group and this week we added David P from White Haired Man. They're a pleasure to game with and no, I'm not trying to stack the deck by adding game and adventure writers and publishers. I just happen to be lucky to know some creative types ;)

Ambition & Avarice is a really tight system. Nothing noticeably off balance (but I do know why Greg put extra attention to flaming oil in his game designed - it's come up in both session - heh).

Now for the rest of it:

We've closed the door on Dwimmermount, at least for now. By my best estimate, the party has completed about 35% of the first level and have found the stairs leading to the next level of the dungeon. There were two party casualties tonight - one in combat and one to a poisoned trap. Two out of five PCs, in just over 2 hrs of actual game play. A bit higher in lethality than I would have hoped for, especially as I allowed the players to start at second level.

The lethality would have been significantly higher if more than 21 of the 68 number locations had adversaries. While that is roughly 31%, and the AD&D DMG sets it at 25-30% (depending what you consider "special" to include), it's a much thinner population than other adventures I've seen. That, and the repetitive dungeon dressing was frustrating some of my players.


I will say this, the best gamer rant I've heard in a long time was to the effect of the following:

"What the fuck! 2000 copper pieces in a rats' nest? What the fuck are rats doing with 2000 copper pieces? Can they even count to 2000 copper pieces? Did Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser have to pick through rat shit to find 2000 rat shit cover copper pieces?"


Little combat and little loot leads to low experience points rewards. I've done low rewards in the past, but this was a bit painful. Under normal circumstances, I'd change and add things in advance and adjust to my group, but we were trying to playtest both A&A and Dwimmermount, and to be as true to both as we could. Currently, Dwimmermount is not a match to my gaming group's style of play.

Could it be they're more comfortable in the sandbox styled game I was running with ACKS? It's possible, but the last few sessions we played of ACKS were using Barrowmaze 1 and there the only concern was the sheer amount of undead. I've also put them through smaller dungeons without issue.

So, we're closing the door on Dwimmermount for now and moving on to a different dungeon adventure next week.

We'll see if the change of setting does the party good.