Wednesday, December 19, 2018

poor parenting

I've been neglecting this blog. I've been content being a lurker on most forums and on most blogs, only commenting when I truly feel like I have something to add to a conversation, and largely haven't been making anything new, just working on my own games and keeping my players entertained. With the collapse of g+ I'm losing the avenue of expression that served me the best. In the meantime, I've joined reddit and I've decided to make writing in my blog a regular occurence, even though I believe I only have about 20 regular readers. Hi folks! and thanks for sticking with me during my protacted silence!

Things I want to do in 2019:
- produce a rulebook for my players, used exclusively at my table
- draw more maps
- write an adventure and publish it online
- write in this blog at least once a week

Not incredibly lofty goals, but it's difficult to make time for writing when I don't have a comfortable space to work in. These next few weeks I'm not celebrating the holidays, instead I'm cleaning my house, rearranging furniture, and preparing to sell a whole bookcase worth of board games, card games, and books just to clear out space.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

re-introducing the Horseman

Those seals are broken and the end has come.
Seems like we didn't all get the message, huh?
Well, somebody has to break the bad news to the fools gone deaf.
Better be one tough sonofabitch though.
These motherfuckers are likely to kill the messenger.

Johnstone Metzger once granted me permission to convert his Heralds of Hell playbooks into a legal-size format, and now he has granted me permission again to revise those same playbooks to the second edition rules for Apocalypse World.

This is the second of five, the Horseman, with all new artwork provided by Marie Ann Mallah!

letter size
legal size
full book size

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

re-introducing the Last Child

We knew we’d never live enough to grow old, but our children never even grow up. Between cannibals, plague and the black wind howling in our minds, the souls of our young are snatched from our homes nearly every day.

Except for that one, the youngest. The last one born, who looks at you like they say the sun used to, before all of this. Don’t speak of kill or be killed, this one has other means, so strange to see. Is this child really the last of us, or the first of something else?

Johnstone Metzger once granted me permission to convert his Heralds of Hell playbooks into a legal-size format, and now he has granted me permission again to revise those same playbooks to the second edition rules for Apocalypse World.

This is the first of five, the Last Child, with all new artwork provided by Marie Ann Mallah!

letter size
legal size
full book size

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

re-introducing the Grotesque

They talk about the apocalypse like it’s a curse. They talk about the apocalypse like it took something from them - the golden age of once upon a time. They talk about the apocalypse like it’s an act of betrayal, perpetrated by some malign entity.

They talk about the apocalypse as if they don’t realize you’re standing right there.

Thanks to the generous permission granted by Avery Alder, I have revised the Grotesque playbook to fit with the second edition rules for Apocalypse World, with all new artwork provided by Marie Ann Mallah!

letter size
legal size
full book size

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

random encounters as ability checks

When you traverse an unremarkable section of the dungeon, roll+LUCK (whoever has the lowest).
On a 10+, nothing will accost or surprise you until you enter another room/passageway.
On a 7-9, you're fine for now, but you can hear something in the darkness. Choose 1:
- you can't be surprised
- you can't be prevented from retreating
On a miss, random encounter (the GM determines what and how it approaches you).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Megadungeon to rule them all

I don't think that I really like megadungeons. Not as written, that is. I think most are designed too cleanly, in one way or another, and a megadungeon should be messy and wild.

Stonehell is a wonderful concept, but many of the areas feel too lived in for what is supposed to be living in its halls. Plus each map is too uniformly square, which doesn't really make sense with the history the place has.

The Ruins of Greyhawk are just, well, dumb. Too many things that are designed to hobble a specific playing style, and too many areas that seem disconnected from one another.

I'm GMing Dwimmermmount again, and I have found that the limitation of this dungeon is in thinking of it as a center of civilization. There are no wide corridors for troops to march down, there are no plazas for marketplaces, and there are certainly not enough bathrooms for the supposedly hundreds or thousands of people who once lived here.

I've repurposed Dwimmermount as an old wizard's school and laboratory. Instead of the remains and evidence of soldiers, we have former wizards. The Empire didn't stop the ascension of Termax, a schism of his own students did. This opens up so many more possibilities. The secret society that wants to re-enter Dwimmermount to resurrect Termax is competing with a rival secret society that wants to re-enter Dwimmermount to ensure Termax is dead.

I've included the mountain's ecosystem as something to draw upon for random encounters. There is a magical explanation for why nobody moved in and out of the mountain for two centuries, but I rather like the idea that there are cracks through this magic and the lizards and bugs of the mountain found their way in to become natural prey for the predators surviving in dark hallways for two centuries.

The population is finite, however. There is no restocking of the dungeon happening here. There are 61 kobolds. Once they're dead, they're gone for good. Any result on the encounter table for kobolds should just be replaced with the next option down. In this way, I've also rewritten the random encounter tables, the most dangerous foes are the highest rolls. Kill, defeat, and displace everything that is weak on one level and the only thing that remains are the predatory threats who have run out of prey and food.

The rooms are not static
It's easy enough to just use the descriptions of the rooms and apply some common sense as to what might be in one. There are orcs on this level, so why is this room empty? Let's put some orcs here and have them cooking a snail and moss stew on a small firepit. Where does the smoke go? Nobody has asked, but there a small holes in the surface of the ceilings designed for ventilation. Too small to crawl into, unless you're an insect. Where do the vents go? All over the mountain, it's a three-dimensional maze that is virtually impossible to map!

That's a key trait that I just don't seem to have. If nobody asks, why bother coming up with an explanation for it? Because if I think of it, I need to explain it to myself and then I have an explanation ready.

Who wants in?
I've created a few factions that are looking for passage into Dwimmermount. They're all hanging out in the local town for now, but as soon as the PCs return with orc heads and stories of dungeon delving they'll be making their way up to the gates, and become instant rivals for the loot to be found inside.

The Order of Cytophim. A secret society of magic-users who wish to ensure that Termax is dead and never coming back. They vow to use magic to preserve the Law, and punish those who wield spells carelessly.

Termaxian Cultists. People who believe Termax is still alive, that his godhood is imminent.

Dwarven outfitters. They believe the mountain should belong to them. It was a dwarven home before Termax moved in and displaced them!

Sken's Rogues. These guys are awful!

Queen Ilona. A Thulian descendant who wants to reclaim Dwimmermount as her ancestral home, and rule a new kingdom from it. Inspired by the PCs from the last game I ran in Dwimmermount.

Wait! You're GMing a new Dwimmermount campaign?
Oh! Yeah. Didn't I mention that? I started a new campaign two weeks ago and kicked it off by giving everyone Dwimmermount as an adventure I'd like to run again. We're playing using the Freebooters on the Frontier rules, which is a sort of OSR-ified version of Dungeon World (itself a D&D-ified knockoff of Apocalypse World).

I really like the system for two reasons:
1) it randomizes everything very neatly and in a not complex way that is easy to GM on the fly
2) it is very deadly and careless PCs will get FUCKING MURDERED if they don't take care of themselves

So, I really like Freebooters and I incorporated some elements from the Black Hack into it, and that's what we're playing with. We had one session and everybody really successfully killed some orcs but they made enough noise to draw the attention of some giant spiders and now we'll get to see if they survive the second session.

This is the picture I used for Muntburg, I forget where I grabbed it from:

To summarize, my rules for GMing a megadungeon, or Dwimmermount, anyway:
Nothing is organized, the rooms and the creatures are wild and messy!
The population is finite, and can be killed off, displaced, or recruited/enslaved.
More people want to get inside!

Friday, April 13, 2018


Two years ago, my wife and I visited Seattle, as a prelude to possibly moving there. I have friends in Seattle, I had never been there, and I wanted to experience as much of the city as I could.

I didn't get to do everything I wanted to do, but I returned home looking at the budget for moving there. I bought boxes for storing and shipping my collection of game books, and when I ran out of boxes I bought more. I ended up with 25 boxes of books, which I moved into my basement, and I still had a bookcase full of books!

I made the decision to get out of debt before trying to move out of state, and so I've spent the last two years trying to do that and during that time I would occasionally need a book that was down in the basement, in a box, and if I really wanted the book I would go downstairs and hunt for it amongst the boxes. If I felt like I could make do without it, I would just wing it or use a digital copy of the book.

In December, I decided to pull all of my boxes up out of the basement, and as I pulled books out of the boxes I started to wonder "Am I ever going to play this game again?" and "Why do I own this? I'm never going to use it!" I started putting books back into the boxes, with the idea that I would sell the entire box and ship it to whoever would buy it, as is. There's not much of a return in selling in bulk like this. I've probably spent about 20 grand on gaming books over the last 20 years and in selling half of my collection I think I've only made about 5 grand. I had a lot of rare, collector's items, but I also had a lot of filler and cheap books. Most of it's gone now.

Here is an obligatory picture from before the purge:

At the moment, I have two bookcases that represent the books I am keeping but I would like to get it down to one - this doesn't include board games or miniatures because they aren't selling so well. I put eight board games up for sale and only two of them were bid on. At some point, I may just give the games away to clear out space.