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Saturday, February 8, 2014

An Update From Alex - Dwimmermount Update # 69

I really like the rough layout version - it looks like something drawn at the gaming table


The following is Alex Macris's update for Dwimmermout from earlier tonight. If you don't know who Alex is and what kind of cred he has, it will be explained below. I've run ACKS, and even though I'm not running it now, there is a bunch of stuff from it that I've stolen borrowed for my S&W Campaign. Give the man a chance to get his sea legs before y'all try to throw him overboard ;)

Hello, everyone! This is Alex Macris writing today's update. If you read Tavis's last update, you know I'm now actively working on Dwimmermount.

Who Am I?
I had a somewhat painful realization (by way of Tenkar's Tavern) that many of you don't know who I am, having never backed any other Autarch products or visited our forums. A short introduction seems in order.

I'm the co-founder of Autarch and lead designer of its all internal products - Adventurer Conqueror King System, Player's Companion, and Domains at War, as well as the upcoming Lairs & Encounters and Auran Empire Campaign Setting. Over the past 2.5 years I've written over 500,000 words of old-school D&D-style content for Autarch. I've also been intimately involved in Dwimmermount since the beginning, having been the one who first wrote James about publishing his dungeon, before handing it over to Tavis. Since the design portion of my last project, Domains at War, is complete, it has freed up time for me to work on Dwimmermount and I will be carrying the development and editing through to completion.

What Work Am I Doing?
I am going through each chapter and appendix of the book and finishing what is called in industry parlance "development" (as compared to "design"). This is the process of fleshing out ideas that the original designer left incomplete, reviewing the material for inconsistencies or imbalances (and correcting them where they occur), and polishing the draft.

Whereas Tavis and the team had previously focused on developing the material surrounding the dungeon, I have begun with a focus on the dungeon itself. At present I am completing development of one dungeon level every two days, to date including The Path of Mavors, The Laboratory, The Reliquary, The Hall of Portals, and The Reservoir. I see no reason that this pace will not be sustainable, so I anticipate having all the dungeon levels developed on February 24th.

As each level is completed, it will be handed-off for proof-reading, then made available to you as word documents so that you can offer feedback in real-time to me about the decisions I've made. If for whatever reason I make a development decision that displeases the majority of the backers, please be assured I'll address it. Those of you who have worked with me on the other Autarch products know that I am willing to work very interactively with backers to make sure that expectations are met. (See the changes to the city mechanics in the original ACKS as an example).

What Comes After the Development of the Dungeon Levels?
Once all of the development work on the dungeon levels is complete, I will do final development on Dwimmermount's introductory chapters and appendices, to make sure that the material in the dungeon levels matches what's in those chapters. The chapters that I'll work on, and the duration I expect each to take, is noted below:

Chapter 1: Introduction (1/2 day)
Chapter 2: Setting of Dwimmermount (5 days)
Chapter 3: Adventuring in Dwimmermount (2 days)
Chapter 4: Vicinity of Dwimmermount (1/2 day)
Chapter 5: Muntburg (1/2 day)
Chapter 6: Overview of the Dungeon (2 days)
Chapter 7: Factions Within the Dungeon (2 days)
Chapters 8-20: Levels 0 - 9 (covered above)
Appendix A: New Magic Items (1/2 day)
Appendix B: New Spells (1/2 day)
Appendix C: New Monsters (1/2 day)
Appendix D: Rival Parties (1/2 day)
Appendix E: The Four Worlds (1/2 day)
Appendix F: Azoth (2 days)
Appendix G: Secrets of Turms Termax (5 days)
Appendix H: Tables (1/2 day)
Therefore it will take another 22 days. That would put completion at around March 18th. I know that I have personal and business travel coming up that will prevent me from working on this each day, so realistically I will push this back to March 30th. Each step of the way I'll be releasing the word documents so that you can see what's being done.

Once all of the development work is done, it will pass to the rest of the development team to lay it out and bring it to print. On every other product I've worked on, the writing got done before the art and maps were finished, but in this case the reverse is true and I expect a very quick turnaround. I will, however, leave it to those more expert in that side of the business to speak to the specific timeline when it gets closer.

That's all for now. Back to work for me.

More Prizes and Possible Endgame Tweak for the OSR Superstar Competition

I have received offers to add more prizes to the competition, so it will require some tweaking of the later rounds. The tweaks will only add, not subtract from the prize list (I'm working on finalizing the prizes offered and the tweaks and I suspect I'll be adding some more cash to the pool - this is what your purchases through the links here at The Tavern for RPGNow help fund)

I will allow those donating prizes to enter the competition, as their entries will be scrubbed of identifiers when they are passed on the the judges. Some of those donating for the latest round of prizes are small publishers, and I would hate to exclude them just because they are looking to add to the prize pool.

(if for some reason I'm needed to break a tie, and one of the entries is from a donating individual, I'll strong arm a temporary 4th judge as the tie breaker)

So, if you contacted me about adding to the prize pool, yes you can enter and yes you can gift. Win / Win ;)

The competition should open tomorrow :)

Session Recap for the Swords & Wizardry "B" Team as They Romped Thru "The Manor Issue #3")


Last night was another more or less monthly session for the Swords & Wizardry "B" Team. I had planned to do a session recap myself, but one of my players did a much better job than I could ever hope to do.

The session really was a blast :)

You can catch the session recap over at the Gaming Ballistic Blog.

(note, I did make some modifications to +Tim Shorts excellent adventure)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Announcing the Panel of Judges for the OSR Superstar Competition



You can't have a competition without an excellent Panel of Judges. I'd like to present the panel for the OSR Superstar Competition:

+Rob Conley - Rob has had his finger in many an OSR project. He's also the man behind the Points of Light setting books and Blackmarsh (free in PDF). You can find his blog at Bat in the Attic

+Tim Shorts - Tim has been a sounding board of sorts for different events I've run at The Tavern. He's probably best known for his excellent zine, The Manor and his blog Gothridge Manor

+Mark Gedak - Mark is the man behind Purple Duck Games, a prolific publisher of Pathfinder and DCC RPG adventures and supplements. He has also been a generous contributor of prizes, both print and PDF, here at The Tavern.

When the judges get their entries to judge, there will be no names of the entrants attached, just corresponding numbers to my list (sorry Tim ;)

Just to make a quick note, +matt jackson will be contributing the unfinished map for the final round of the competition. You can find Matt's blog here at Lapsus Calumni

OSR Superstar Graphic is by +Richard LeBlanc . He blogs at Save Vs. Dragon

Yep, kicks off this weekend :)


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Announcing The "So You Want to be an OSR Superstar" Competition

I like a good contest. My readers like a good contest. Some of my readers like good contests enough that they even donate prizes and awards and such. So it is with the "So You Want to be an OSR Superstar" Competition.

What the heck is this about?

Real simple - some one suggested we put together a competition allowing fans of the OSR to strut their stuff. They even ponied up cash monies. R H should take the blame and the credit for the underling idea, as well as the seed for the prizes.

The competition will kick off this weekend. It will consist of three rounds.

The first round will seek new and unique magic items for the Swords & Wizardry game. We are using the S&W rules because they are free and can easily be converted to other OSR games or the originals they are based on (and they are my current "go to" ruleset). A panel of judges will pick 8 entries to move forward to the next round. I will not be part of the panel of judges and I will only vote if there is a tie that needs to be broken.

The second round will seek new and unique monster designs. The 8 entries that qualified from the original round will participate in this round. In addition to the panel of judges, there will be community voting. The community voting ranking will be the equivalent of a judge's vote in the tally of votes.

The final round will consist of an incomplete dungeon level drawn by one of our premier OSR dungeon artists. The finalists will need to complete the map in their own fashion. Their magic item and monster design will need to be included somewhere in their dungeon level. Again, the community will help vote on the entries.

Prizes for the first round will consist of $10 RPGNow Gift Certificates donated by The Tavern. 8 in all.

Prizes for the second round will consist of $25 via paypal donated by our own +Rob Conley . 4 prizes in all.

The grand prize will consist of $250 via paypal donated by RH as well as the OD&D Reprint Box that was recently released (I'll be donating the reprint. International shipping will be deducted from the $250 - so yes, the competition is open to all).

All entries will be posted here at Tenkar's Tavern. All entries will be considered as entered under the OGL. Any and all entries may be compiled by Tenkar's Tavern or one of our friendly helpers into free PDF(s) available to the community. Entrants retain all rights and authorship to their work, except as modified by the OGL and stated here.

So, this shit kicks off this weekend.

The first round will be open for entries for a week. The judging will take approximately a week, maybe more depending on the number of entries. The first round of entries will be posted to the blog in the they come in, in groups of 5 or 10 (depending on the number of entries) after the entry period has closed.





How Important is the Plot to a (Mega)Dungeon?

How important is the plot to a (mega)dungeon? 

It's a simple question with some not so simple answers, so I figured I'd throw it up as its own post.

Is consistency important?

Is it more important to line up the staircases between levels on the map or to ensure the various plot elements don't contradict each other?

Are contradictions in the plot good or bad?

Does it make a difference if the dungeon is "old school" or "new school"?


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

LBBs - Original & Reprint - Men & Magic - Side by side


The reprint is slightly wider than the original (I'm guessing 3/4 of an inch), but the height is the same. The white color of the reprint is going to get dirty fast if it's put into regular play. And I still don't like the new covers.

Oh, and nothing beats the feel of the old covers.


The reprint is however, easier on the eyes. Where there were editing changes in the original and therefore bold print, the reprint fixes that. Oh, and Minotaurs are now underlined as they should be.

The reprint is more readable and easier on the eyes than the original, as it is all laid out new. Even a grumpy old grognard like me can admit to that.

Maybe with the upcoming snowy weekend, I'll get some time to dig deeper into the reprint box.


And I Say Unto Thee - Dwimmermount, What Have We Wrought? (Spare 2k Coppers Gov-nuh?)



Sometimes, you just don't find what you are looking for where you expect to find it. I certainly didn't expect to find the latest Dwimmermount updates over at the RPGSite, so color me surprised when I was told to look there for the latest. I did, and it seems Alexander Macris, who has taken the reins from Tavis, who in turn took them from James Mal, posted to the Dwimmermount thread on the RPGSite recently.
The underlying problems of Dwimmermount all arise from the fact that it is the product of an improvisational Judge with a knack for using random tables and in-game imagination. This shows up in (a) how blandly certain rooms are described, (b) how treasure and monsters appear, and (c) most of all in how the weave of the dungeon ties together (or rather doesn't). 
There is plenty of fun, playable, interesting material for a game table. I agree that a team of independent editors could surely have filled in the gaps in the individual levels (problems A and B) and made each one a more fun experience. But I don't think anyone but an "auteur" (I use that word for lack of a better one) can tie it all together (problem c). 
Anyway, I'm actually drafting at about 3 times the pace I expected - I finished 3 chapters in a week - and am optimistic in what I'll deliver.
A and B and yes, even C were problems in our aborted playtest way back when. Heck, that was 2,000 coppers ago and a few dead rats t00.
It's not that I'm trying to impose my philosophy (that's a forlorn hope) I'm trying to impose coherency. So, for instance:
-- Chapter 7, Factions, clearly states that the Spawn of Arach-Nacha has given the Mad Dwarf the power to create kobolds.
-- Level 1 says that the Mad Dwarf is just mad, and the Spawn of Arach-Nacha is lying. 
Or, for instance, James will say that the Elemental Planes are actually alien worlds lush with a particular element (so like Fire is actually a volcanic world, Water is an ocean world) and then in another place he'll say the opposite.
Etc., etc., etc. 
People who don't care about such things already have a playable draft of the dungeon; many people have already run entire campaigns in Dwimmermount. So the real hold-up is what goes into the pretty book for time immemorial.  
I guess I'd rather be Blizzard, and ship in when it's good, even if it's late, then EA and ship it still borked.
The thing is, even Blizzard ships at some point.

and from the Dwimmermount Kickstarter page's comments from a few days ago (also from Alex)
Some of you might wonder "what problems and plot holes is Alex referencing and why would they require consideration before getting to the real work of writing?" To that, I suppose I have be honest and admit that I am constitutionally opposite J.Mal. in that I'm a preparer and systemizer rather than an improviser. So I'm speaking of issues such as:  
- Why would the Terrim keep the Sleeping God on hand as a deterrent weapon of mass destruction if its activation is controlled by the Great Machine, which is in the hands of their enemies?  
- Why would the Lawful-aligned Prison which has ensnared Turms Termax be under the control of the Chaotic Sleeping God?  
- If Gods such as Typhon are Lawful, why would they create the Eld if doing so would represent a turning away from Law? If they aren't Lawful, what is their relationship to Law and why do they grant Lawful spells?  
- If the Secrets of the City of the Ancients are so amazing, why would a 9HD Dwimmerdragon have stopped the Eld, Thulians, and Termaxians from invading?
And on and on. In the process of answering these sorts of questions, I believe that I will deliver a dungeon to you that will ultimately be a much more satisfying product to read and run. We of course expect Judges to make up their own answers, but at least you can improvise from a coherent framework that fits together.
I never realized how screwed up this mess actually was.

I've ceased to look forward to this except for idle curiosity.

One Man's Opinion - It is what it is

So, I've been told I need to be more careful in expressing my opinions, because my opinions have weight and unintended consequences.

It's not the first time I've been "instructed" on my opinions and the occasional destructive tendencies associated with them, but previously it's been linked to various Kickstarter critiques.

My answer hasn't changed - it is what it is.

My opinions on "whatever" are mine and mine alone. I don't moderate comments here or on G+ based on whether or not I agree with the comments. It's called "discussion", which generally requires different opinions if it it going to be lively. If everyone shared my opinions, there would be no point in discussing anything.

So yeah, there's a fire (or multiple fires) burning on G+ based on last night's ConTesa post (and no, no one involved in the con messaged me, so put the pitch forks away). I think the fire is less from my initial post, but more the comments that followed. My reach is fairly large for the size of our community, so the flames may have spread.

I'll be voicing my opinions as I always have. I apologize in advance for any sparks. You'll need to supply the kindling...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

If You Have a Con and No One Shows, Did it Happen?

In case you haven't heard, Contessa is an online gaming con. It's run by women, with only female GMs, although men can play. It seems to be having recruitment issues this year.

Part of it may be the idea that is is aimed (mostly) at female gamers. Maybe it's just me, but not allowing men to run games seems just a tad discriminatory. But then you can't discriminate against the majority (i think that's in the definition of discrimination somewhere) and men are definitely in the majority when it comes to playing RPGs.

I think the bigger thing that is holding it back is that all of the sessions are Hangouts "On Air". Sorry, I'm not going to play in a session with a bunch of strangers and have it up on Youtube until the end of time. Apparently the reason for the "On Air" part is so disruptive male gamers can be booted (which they can't be in a regular hangout apparently). It looks like male gamers have a bad reputation. I can see why one would want to restrict our access to running the sessions, as who would be there to boot us then?

Before it's even said, I have no problem with female gamers. I like to see them as an active part of the hobby, as it needs all sources for it to thrive and grow. Heck, one of the best DMs I ever played under was a woman back at GenCon in the mid 90s. She was certainly the best I played with at the con, and I was in way too many gaming sessions that year ;)

I just don't think excluding either gender from the organizing of a con and running the game sessions is the best way to encourage gaming with either sex. Segregation was a failure when it came to race and I don't think it fares any better when it comes to gender.

I'd actually like to see Contessa succeed despite the self imposed handicaps. We do need more organized play online and it is a well organized convention from what I can tell. I won't be participating though. The assumption that male players are bound to include their share of "creepy guys" and "that's why we have to record everything" creeps me out...

For those interested, here's the link to the games being run on Contessa. Looks like the OSR has made a showing :)

New Bundle of Holding - RuneQuest 6


RuneQuest 6 is a good game - I just don't have the time to absorb the rules. OpenQuest 2 is more my speed for d100 style gaming. That being said, the accessory products being offered are enough for me to jump on this latest Bundle of Holding.

Maybe I'll convert some of this for personal OSR use...

Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter will add 5 Dyson Logos Maps into the Public Domain for All to Use

Did I mention how awesome +Kevin Crawford and +Dyson Logos are?

From the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter comments section:
Creator Kevin Crawford about 18 hours ago
We do hove nigh to $8K. I've just emailed with Dyson Logos and arranged to pony up enough cash to buy full rights to the five maps he's drawing, so those will be public domain as well. Otherwise, I've mostly been cutting and editing and tweaking to get the layout for the 32-page quickstart in order. The first cut at it has seven pages set, but I'm being obliged to think about exactly how I want it illustrated.
This is a benefit for anyone and everyone that plays RPGs.

You are backing Scarlet Heroes, right?

Monday, February 3, 2014

And Then there Were Two - Two Copies of the OD&D Wooden Box Reprint Arrived Today



I had ordered the OD&D wooden box reprint from Amazon last year, and it looked like it was never going to ship. When I found a Barnes & Noble gift card I had forgotten about, I figured I'd place and order there too. Whichever arrived first I would cancel the other.

Of course, both arrived tonight. Go figure.

I'll be announcing an "OSR Competition" later on this week with donated cash awards. Yes, cash awards. The 1st place finisher, in addition to any cash award will also get my 2nd copy of the OD&D wooden box reprint. I figure it was meant to be as such. Why tempt fate?

Want to get a head start? Download the Swords & Wizardry Complete rules from the link to the left right if you don't already have it and think about a unique magic item you would design for the system. More details to follow, but that's the head start. There will be multiple rounds to the competition and multiple awards.

Start your brainstorming now...

Bring Out Your Dead - Some Ideas for Effecting PCs When Returning From Beyond

This table is far from complete, but it came to me as I spent the commute from hell driving in to work this morning. Have New Yorkers completely forgotten how to drive in snow?

Anyhow, I'll add to this as it comes to me ;)

I Once Was Dead and Now I'm Not Table

1 - Raised character must tithe 90% of all earnings for the next 5 years to the church that raised him

2 - Character no longer requires sleep, but healing magic is only 1/2 effective for them as they have "one foot in the grave"

3 - Character has a 20% penalty on future expo earned, as part of his mind is always elsewhere. This also bestows a +4 bonus to mind effecting spells

4 - Character takes on a grey hue to his skin tone. Clerics can turn him as an undead creature equal to his level. A result of "D" causes 1d6 damage per level of the turner. Undead, intelligent or otherwise, will not attack the PC unless attacked first, as they see him as "one of their own"

5 - If the raised is an arcane spell caster, he permanently loses the ability to cast 1d6 random spells that he already knows. All characters suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls, as the body is stiff and does not move as well as it used to. The first point of damage incurred by the PC from each successful attack is ignored. This can result in damage of "0".

6 - PC is "Touched by the Gods" - He is now a 1st level cleric of the god that raised him. Previous class abilities and HP are retained. New HP are not gained until the cleric level exceeds the previous class level. Clerics that are raised become 1st level fighters - holy warriors in the service of their god.
Previous cleric abilities and HP are retained. New HP are not gained until the fighter level exceeds the previous cleric level.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

How Dead is Dead? The use of Raise Dead Spells and the like in your Campaigns and Mine

I don't use them. In my games, dead is dead. Maybe it's because we rarely get beyond the sweet spot of levels 5 to 7, but in my mind, the logistics of Raise Dead spells when taken beyond the player party is just unwieldily.

The king died? Raise him. They burned the body? Find a bone splinter and Resurrect him. Whatever you do, don't Reincarnate him. Fucker might come back as a badger or worse.

I'd rather bring a new character into the party with half the previous PC's expo than prop up the dead for another go. It just seems to lessen the threat all around.

Sure, you killed the BBEG, but did you incinerate the body? No? Shit, he's back and even more pissed. You better pay for some Raise Dead spells in advance because he's looking for payback!

I do remember using such remedies like they were a dime a zone back in High School, but there was no larger world in our games back then. Module to hand scratched dungeon and back again. There was no thought of the places between unless they directly impacted the adventure.

Today, I do think of the larger picture, and Raise Dead and the like make that picture really messy in the overall scheme of things, at least that's how I see it.

Do folks come back from the dead in your games (not talking returning as undead either)? Why or why not?

A Sine Nomine Kickstarter - Scarlet Heroes (If you support just one Kickstarter in 2014...)


Fact - +Kevin Crawford 's first Kickstarter, Spears of the Dawn, was distributed in PDF to backers BEFORE funding closed.

Fact - Stars Without Number is the most successful OSR Sci-Fi RPG on the market - and the base PDF is free.

Fact - +Kevin Crawford 's latest Kickstarter, Scarlet Heroes, funded in less than 18 hrs and has hit it's first stretch goal on only it's second day of funding.

Fact - I am a +Kevin Crawford fanboy ;)

Scarlet Heroes is a set of OSR rules that both stand on their own and easily integrate with other OSR rules that have been released over the years. The rules are intended to enable one on one or two on one gameplay without needing to rework the source material. Want to run Keep on the Borderlands with your non-gamer wife to introduce her to the hobby? These are the rules. Gaming group going to be short the next few weeks but you want to keep gaming? These are the rules. Want to kill some time running through a classic adventure and have no one to play with? These rules enable solo play.

Supporting the Kickstarter gives you immediate access to the current beta of the Scarlet Heroes rules in PDF. Kevin has hinted to me that the PDF may be completed in total before the Kickstarter funding even ends (he is still waiting on some 20 pieces of art).

One of the stretch goals will release the majority of the art into the public domain, just like he did with Spears of the Dawn.

+Kevin Crawford and the few project creators like him are the ones that renew my faith in Kickstarter. If you only back one Kickstarter in 2014, and you are an RPG fan of any kind, Scarlet Heroes should be that one.