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Saturday, April 3, 2021

New Creature: Champignon Ubermensch (Mushroom Supermen for Swords & Wizardry)

 


Champignon Ubermensch (Mushroom Supermen)

Hit Dice: 4/7

Armor Class: 6/17

Attacks: Bite (1d6) plus Special

Saving Throw: 13/9

Special: Spores

Move: 6

Alignment: Neutral

Challenge Level/XP: 4 HD (5/240, 7 HD 8/800)

Campignon Ubermensch are the result of magical manipulation of a fungal species by a high-level wizard. Barely sentient fungi were imbued with intelligence, which being incompatible with the very nature of fungi, drove the newly aware fungi insane. Campignon Ubermensch seek decomposing bodies to feed, grow and reproduce, and are happy to help living creatures move on to such a state.

Their special attack is a Spore Attack, 5' radius (10' radius for 7 HD UM). Usable once per hour, all within the radius must save or be blinded for 1d6 turns.

Bodies of the victims of Campignon Ubermensch have a 5% chance of becoming one themselves in 1d6 days if the body is not burned.

https://www.tenkarstavern.com/p/ogl.html

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Friday, April 2, 2021

Indiegogo - The Fiend of Turlin's Well (S&W and D&D 5e)

For some reason, every time I read the title of this project, I see "Friend" instead of "Fiend". Then again, I am the same person that types "Time" for "Tim" almost all of the time, so maybe it's me ;)

The Fiend of Turlin's Well is billed as a "psychological horror adventure in a sword & sorcery setting, for 5e D&D and Swords & Wizardry." Its the first Necromancer Games/Frog God Games adventure that has come with a warning to the best of my knowledge:

A Quick Content-Warning On This One: The Fiend of Turlin’s Well is a psychological horror adventure in a swords & sorcery setting. It contains numerous gory descriptions and situations that go beyond the ordinary style of swords & sorcery fiction and are more what one would expect in horror fiction. There is a dark element in most sword & sorcery fiction, which we embrace as a part of that literary genre, but The Fiend of Turlin’s Well unquestionably crosses over from the swords & sorcery approach of “dark-by-implication” into the horror genre of “look-into-the-dark.” Many of our fans have asked for adventures like this one, but by the same token we don’t want to surprise or ambush fans who expect a pure swords & sorcery genre adventure. If you’re interested so far, then by all means, please read on …

 The Basics

The Fiend of Turlin’s Well seems like an ordinary city adventure at the beginning, set in the Turlin’s Well District of the City of Bard’s Gate, but gets darker and stranger as events move on. An unknown troublemaker is progressing from vandalism to kidnapping to murder, and the district’s civil order starts to come unraveled as the city watch remains helpless to stop the very visible crimes. The adventure is for introductory-level characters (level 1-2), but the players should be experienced; the courses of action aren't obvious enough for beginning players.


Spoiler Alert: For the GM Only

Torad Yarog, the Fiend, is not only a doppelganger with multiple personalities, he is also the captain of an inter-dimensional ship and a favored cultist of the Demon-Princess Teratashia, Mistress of the Gaps between realities. Hunting him down leads the characters to an old manor house in the city filled with gruesome evidence of the Fiend’s crimes, and clues that allow them to pursue the truth onward to the Death-Ship of the Roach Princess (soon to be released via Indiegogo).

No Pathfinder version with this one, but if you are a Patreon backer of the author he has permission to do conversion notes. Note, you'd still need a copy of the adventure.

12 bucks in PDF, 24 for the Print plus PDF. I'm in at Print plus PDF.


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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Freelancers are Interchangeable Widgets or Cogs, or So I've Heard


You aren't something until you are something.

Freelancers are hired for a specific reason - to provide content at a price that is profitable for the publisher and that, hopefully, requires the smallest amount of editing and/or rewriting.

You may think what you've written is the closest thing to perfection that you've ever done in your life, but the reality is many writers feel that way about their work. What you actually are, as a freelancer, is a content provider. You aren't writing lore. You aren't presenting something magical. Well, maybe you are, but that likely isn't what your publisher is paying you for, and likely such material will fall to the might of the red pen.

Your submission will, hopefully, make enough money for the publisher to make a profit after editing, layout, art, advertising, and anything else that crops up. If it doesn't, the publisher won't be publishing for very long.

Your feelings are irrelevant. 

You are work for hire. You are not staff. You are working for spec.

There are many freelancers. Very few rise to the level that they are sought after by publishers and are followed by fans. The vast majority are interchangeable widgets or cogs in the wheel. They have a job to do and many others waiting in the wings to do it instead if they fail. 

It can be a nasty business.

Does that suck? Sure. But that IS the reality, and many gamers would give their left hand just to be published once by a major publisher, let alone WotC.

Self-publishing has its own hurdles and its own rewards, but you won't be an interchangeable widget with IP that you own, that you control. Something to think about when considering the place of a widget...



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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Candlekeep Mysteries Fallout, Freelancing Drama

So, I've covered the Candlekeep Mysteries Freelancing Drama on The Tavern's YouTube channel, but I was asked to provide a summary on the blog side of things. Long story short (you can read the long story at BoLS):

WotC decided to do an adventure collection to be written by authors from marginalized segments of society. This is the same collection that had the wheelchair-accessible dungeon.

Graeme Barber, perhaps better known as PoC Gamer, was signed to write one of the adventures in question. As Graeme stated on his blog:

Its form and content had made it through the pitch and drafting process, and I had no reason at the time of submission to suspect that it would be subject to the edits and modifications that went into it. Especially because we (the writers in general) had been hired specifically because we were “fresh voices” and “new perspectives”.

So, what did Graeme submit?

He submitted an adventure with potentially world-changing fluff:

I determined that I wanted to link back to the Days of Thunder and bring the Grippli back, all by building on what had come before and that was current.

This delved deep into Yuan-ti lore specific to the Forgotten Realms, building on the schism implied in the Tomb of Annihilation about Yuan-ti that weren’t evil (or at least weren’t hostile) and just wanted to exist. The idea was that good Yuan-ti were working to hasten the awakening of the World Serpent, the mother goddess of the serpentfolk, by recovering an ancient tome from the crypt in the old temple (from the story in the book). The evil Yuan-ti want to stop them. The Grippli are caught in the crossfire.

The adventure started with finding the book, and there was a list of things the players might be looking for in Candlekeep. They would find the book, and the first part of the mystery was figuring out how to read both stories that were on the three cylinders therein. The stories were legends from the Batrachi Empire, involving the various frogfolk of the Forgotten Realms. This would reveal the temple, and then lead to the characters learning about the Grippli village. Further investigation revealed lore about both the Grippli and the Yuan-ti. The mystery then shifted to investigating what was happening.

The emphasis here was on the ancient nature and unknown materials that things were made of from the Yuan-ti side of things. The sword was a literal fang from the World Serpent, the scale mail made from a giant snake unknown in the modern era. Metal fittings were made of a mysterious copper alloy. The Yuan-ti had more nuance, and the adventure added a mythology and history to them that could open more doors if desired by the DM and players.

The Grippli were presented as having had patron deity return and bring them back up to speed with the gift of literacy in their ancient language; they had art, nothing was primitive; I used the terms simple and utilitarian, and the domed mud brick village was filled with colours and decorations. Their village was a mix of new made buildings and impossibly ancient buildings and edifices that had withstood the test of time. 

What was published? The adventure without the fluff:

 All references to the Batrachi, World Serpent, Days of Thunder, the tome, or any other motivations were removed. The Yuan-ti were reduced down to just being evil for evil’s sake for the most part (without the cut lore, it makes less sense), the Grippli had their culture stripped out and so on. Colonialist language and imagery around the Grippli was inserted as well, moving them from being simple and utilitarian with obvious culture and technology to being “primitives” who “primitively decorate” their thatched huts with crab bits.

Essentially, where you could see the welds and joins before, you could now see the chop marks and bolts. The story was reduced to a simple rescue mission against unmotivated baddies with confusing parts where bits of the original plot flashed up as absent. This was especially notable in that there was no plotline or reason for anything the Yuan-ti were doing; the conflict between the good and evil Yuan-ti was left completely unexplained until a tidbit at the end of the adventure that, without the cut content, made little sense. 

So, Graeme went on Twitter to complain that WotC butchered his work and he wanted his name removed from further printings of Candlekeep Mysteries

Here's the thing. WotC wanted a short adventure, not world-changing setting material. What Graeme wanted to write is fine for one's home campaign, but a bit too specific for a generic published adventure. His hissy fit in Twitter and his blog simply burned bridges, not just with WotC but likely with other potential publishers.

As a freelancer, you need to stick to the script. If you want to change the world, you need to write your own IP.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Goodman Games Acquires Dark Tower from Judges Guild - Where Does This Leave the CSIO Kickstarter Backers?


Goodman Games
announced over the weekend that they had acquired Dark Tower from Judges Guild. Not the rights to the property, the actual property.

Here's the relevant announcement:

So step back in time with us to 1980 and have a crawl through the only non-TSR module to ever make Dungeon Magazine’s cut as one of ‘the greatest D&D modules of all time:’ Dark Tower. Goodman Games has acquired Dark Tower from the Judges’ Guild, and will republish it in fully converted 5E and DCC RPG editions later this year. Director of Product Development Chris Doyle will lead the conversion to 5E, and original Dark Tower creator Jennell Jaquays will be included in design work on the new edition.

Strange, considering last May's announcement:

Goodman Games has stopped selling our previous Judges Guild products through all distribution channels. 

Judges Guild will no longer receive income from Goodman Games products now that sales of their titles have ceased. 

We have one remaining product to release, which is a collector’s edition focused on the works of Jennell Jaquays. Jennell’s story is one quite different from the views espoused by Bob Bledsaw Jr. Judges Guild and Bob Bledsaw Jr. have agreed to receive no royalties of any kind from this title. To say it bluntly: Bob Bledsaw Jr. and Judges Guild will not profit from the Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition Vol. 2 focused on the works of Jennell Jaquays. Goodman Games will match 20% of the proceeds of this title with donations: 10% to the Anti Defamation League and 10% to GLAAD. The funds that would have been used for a Judges Guild licensing fee will be included in this donation, as requested by Bob Bledsaw Jr. 

After this final volume, we have no plans to release future Judges Guild titles

Then there was the Kickstarter announcement from the Judges Guild Deluxe Collector's Edition Vol. 2 in November of 2020.

In lieu of royalties, Judges Guild has agreed to donate a portion of proceeds from the Kickstarter to benefit two special charities, as outlined below.

In lieu of a royalty from the production of this volume of the Deluxe Collector’s Edition, Judges Guild has agreed to donate their royalty to philanthropic causes, and Goodman Games will match that donation. Therefore, a total of 20% of the proceeds from this Kickstarter will be donated to charity. 10% will go to the Anti-Defamation League and 10% to GLAAD.

Those royalties would have amounted to about $8,500 from the Kickstarter. How far would that have gone to making the backers of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord Kickstarter whole?  Probably not far enough, but certainly closer than we are now, and I'm sure the monies could have been accounted for in whatever contract Judges Guild would have had to sign.

So, it begs the question - how much were Bob Bledsaw and Judges Guild paid for the rights to Dark Tower? Is that money being earmarked for the floundering CSIO Kickstarter, or is it going to be spent on hookers and blow - or some other such nonsense?

What changed from "After this final volume, we have no plans to release future Judges Guild titles" to "Goodman Games has acquired Dark Tower from the Judges’ Guild, and will republish it in fully converted 5E and DCC RPG editions later this year" in the course of 10 months? I'm guessing an $85k Kickstarter despite the bad publicity caused a change of heart...



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Monday, March 29, 2021

Kickstarter -The Evolutionary Mishap - a Mutant, Martial Arts Adventure

An alternate reality adventure for use with your favorite mutated animal martial arts RPG system.

Thom Wilson is one of the hardest working folks in the Old School Gaming Community. He seems to always be working on multiple projects, and this one, The Evolutionary Mishap Kickstarter, is truly neat. It APPEARS to be riffing off of the classic TMNT / After the Bomb RPGs, and if that's the case, they can easily be used with most any D20 based RPG of your choice. Sure, the classic system in question was fairly broken, but it was broken in some of the most awesome ways ;)

The Evolutionary Mishap PDF is 5 bucks, Print is 15, and print PLUS PDF is 18. Note, this is already written. Editing has commenced and layout should start in early April, so I expect a quick turn around from Thom, which is usual for him ;)

An adventure for new characters for use with your favorite mutated animal martial arts RPG system. Designed for use with the Megaversal System but easily transformed to the system of your choice.

When an explosion in a nearby section of the laboratory sends you and several other test subjects through an inter-dimensional wormhole, you suddenly find yourself transformed into highly trained, humanoids capable of speech and complex thought. You and your fellow lab animals now find yourself in an alternate version of feudal Japan and in the middle of war. Even worse, your existence in this alternate dimension seems temporary and your very life depends on returning to the world from whence you came—but how?

Note that the adventure book does not contain new RPG rules or mechanics - this is purely an adventure for use with the Megaversal system or system of your choice.



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Sunday, March 28, 2021

On Fudging Dice Rolls

 

GaryCon 2008
This weekend is GaryCon, though this year it's virtual. Raise a glass and/or roll some dice in remembrance.....you do you.

Earlier in the week I was chatting with a GM friend of mine, mostly getting her advice on a writing project I was (probably still am) a little out of my depth on. Of course the discussion strayed from the initial topic and in the process I was told that she was going to "stop fudging dice rolls".

Now I'll admit that my initial reaction was more of a "wait, what?" and thinking that's just wrong, but it really got me thinking about the role of the GM, and more importantly, how other people interpret the role of the GM as well.

Now I already know that some of your reading this may have already condemned this GM for her particular style......which is human nature if you have a conflicting style. I've always been a "by the roll" type GM, and player and it's served me well in the past*. Some games you really shouldn't even consider fudging dice rolls, like in DCC where the game balance itself comes from the brutality that is the random dice roll.

Now in this GMs defense, said dice rolls were more like changing a monster's hit point total or under-representing a damage roll to keep from killing a PC. I think most GMs do this as more of a story-telling perspective and to keep the action flowing. Of course I doubt the same type of GM would add hit points to a monster or bump up the damage roll against a PC in order to kill the character because they think the story would be benefitted, which is kind of why I'm against the GM screwing with dice rolls.

Now I can see a different GM fudging dice rolls to the same effect for a vastly different purpose. If I wanted to (well be a dick, but not exactly where I am going....) increase my chances of a Total Party Kill (TPK) or just wanted to hamstring the party in general, I'd fudge the dice obstinately in the "party's favor" to not kill a PC, but bring them down to like 1 hit point. Almost killing a character could be "dramatic", but also is more of a party resource suck than killing said PC. Sure, go ahead and use up your potions and spells to restore that character.......then you won't have them later and I can maybe kill off a few more of the party!

Now I get that this is a game and we play to have fun. I assume that most GMs that fudge dice rolls do so because they want to keep the status quo. They're the storyteller type....well a storyteller type. I'd argue that I'm a storyteller type GM as well, but I let the dice fall where they may......

......but I'm a lazy GM.

Yes, I'm the Arbiter of the game and have to decide what goes, but I'm telling a story, not necessarily the PC's story. The PCs might be the protagonists, but the way I figure...some of the story has to happen outside of the PCs actions...they just get to see the stuff that comes across their path.

Also, I'm not sure I'm good enough of a GM to properly balance an adventure, much less a campaign well enough to keep the adventure fun for everyone involved. Sure, most games have some rough guidance, but it's well....rough. I'm OK with dead ends, red herrings, and unbalanced encounters and adventures. The rough guidance given can get me "close enough" and my actions in shifting in response to the party isn't so much fudging dice rolls, but changing how the world...how the story...is tweaked in the first place.

Instead of changing a die roll I might add or remove some monsters from an encounter before the party starts the adventure. If they lose a PC halfway through I'm not going to change what they might face should they press on, but if I know that one PC isn't playing I might make that change before play starts for the night.

Having been a HackMaster (4th & 5th Edition) GM I have been guilty of the "Player vs. the GM" dynamic at the table. Of course that was more a role I was playing as I generally root for the PCs, but if they think I'm out to get them....well that's a bit of game-table drama in and of itself. Just one more thing that the players can overcome.....they can get over and "win" against the adventure and again of the GM out to get them. I was a big fan of the GM shield and everything.....

.....until I wasn't.

I think out of necessity I had a con game that I didn't have my usual setup so I was forced to play without a GM screen and started rolling out in the open. 

Changed my life.

Is this a marker of success or failure?
Sure I was already a "as the dice falls" type of GM, but really the players would have to just take my word for it. Rolling in the open let me tweak the adversarial relationship just a smidge. Clearly I'm still a "killer GM", but I'm not faking any of it. Instead of thinking about how to balance the game in the moment I do some rough "math" before the game and let the dice help tell the story that the players nudge and I arbitrate. Much easier (i.e. Lazy) for me to manage. Sure this means that the players may push themselves too far and get themselves killed, which is clearly reflected in my kills stickers above.

My players have to trust that I'll put adventures in front of them they can probably manage. Is that really my job? not really.......but in real life we don't usually try to bite off more than we can choose, within reason. Now if the adventure or encounter goes South and the party doesn't react accordingly...their fault, not mine. Trying to manipulate things to make the adventure/encounter equitable is a lot or work...and I'd rather just take the lazy route and deal with the aftermath.

Hmm......I wonder....

Ok, took a quick break to see if Gary had anything to say about dice rolls in Master of the Game (an aside......holy fuck, this book is going for $70 now!?) Not seeing anything, but there is a bit about Killer GMs (I'm not actually one) and more about GM laziness, which I've more than implied in this post. Yeah...maybe I need to spend less time musing about fudging dice rolls and more reading Gary's thoughts on "Principles and techniques for becoming an expert Role-playing game master".




*I find it hard today to not leave this rambling without a PC story. For a con session I thought it'd be cool to try and roll up a Half-Ogre Fighter specialized in dual-wielding two-handed swords because who doesn't like two 1d12 attacks per round? The adventure was a gladiatorial arena and while I do not remember much from a Sunday morning con game a decade & a half ago, I do remember my PC being pushed off a 120' tower by a wall of force. Since my guy is looking at 12d6p of damage I asked if he could grab a sword in each hand and smile as he faced his impending death. This was HackMaster 4th edition so dice "penetrated", i.e. if you rolled a the top number on a die, you rolled again and added the result -1 to the total. The average damage roll should have been 48hp. Of course, since this is a story being recalled 15ish years later, the GM rolled poorly. Not a single die penetrated, lots of 1's and 2's. Oh and armor absorbed some damage....and Half-Ogres take 1/2 crushing damage, which falls...er, fall....under. Basically my PC managed to survive the fall and walk away from most certain death. Good times.

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