Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Bestiary!

I finally finished a bestiary for our hybrid rules! Basically, took monsters from my various scenarios new and (very) old and applied the hybrid stat structure. Play-tested several baddies last Saturday and it went very fluid.
One thing I did purposefully for this little tome (only 64 pages) is there is next to no art. What I found over time is that a brief, evocative description in words is much better than a drawing on a piece of paper that needs to be passed around or held aloft a period of time. I made sure each critter (except for the obvious, like "giant ant") has such a description so the DM can tell everyone at once what they encounter.
The Vacuous Grimoire Volume Three is available now in the Direbane storefront at DriveThru-RPG.

*** P.S. Here is a Vacuous write-up of the Storm Spirit dudes from that famous movie with Jack Burton. Thanks to "Brown Hood" who posted his original stats back in 2002 on EN World. Not in bestiary, but used 'em last game for lots o' fun!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Playtesting The Vacuous Grimoire, Volume One
 at DunDraCon over Presidents' Weekend.

There are a few new twists from the prior hybrid rules we used, but mostly I'm interested to see how accessible the information is during game-time. There was this problem with my retro, digest-sized books that because the material was divided among 6 booklets wasn't always clear where to look.

I will be using Vacuous volumes one and two as a resource during my "official" game Friday night (Cyberhell), and me and my mates will all be using volume ones for our regular game Saturday evening in the Open Gaming Room.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Yes, this is a thing 2 on DriveThruRPG...
The Blackmail tome was "essential gamemastering information" for Judges to navigate the myriad of situations players will encounter exploring the campaign multi-verse. It has been nearly 5 years since Knights of the All Mind and Blackmail, in conjunction with the S.R.D. of the All Mind, were assembled for judges of groups utilizing "modern" accouterments of The World's Most Popular Role Playing Game.

This new work combines these various home brew rules with the Open Gaming License "System Reference Document" into a single reference, a unified rulebook for judges that does the work of walking in old school attribute checks along with racial and class abilities where skills and skill points used to tread.

Also a complete directory for the magical items is included, so this tome is indeed all a judge needs along with Vacuous Grimoire Volume One to play.

Thursday, January 12, 2017
Yes, this is a thing now on DriveThruRPG.
The Vacuous Grimoire is an expanded edition of the former SRD of the All Mind. In one volume the grimoire combines various home brew rules adopted from the variety of influences with the Open Gaming License "System Reference Document" to present a unified rulebook for players that supplants character skill points with old school attribute checks along with racial and class abilities.
The impact of using these ability checks we have found most often is speed of gameplay. D6 "party" initiative resolves encounter surprise and initiative with a roll of two dice. Expertise such as picking locks or tracking creatures in the wilderness are race or class abilities, which isolates these abilities to discrete characters rather than having everyone and their aunt making a roll.
Combining Knights of the All Mind for players with the System Reference Document also adds new rules directly descended from our old game such as for critical hits, fumbles, morale, divine interventions, technological weapons, insect, amphibian, and reptilian races, and new character classes. All fixed to accommodate the style we ran with fun and thrills over three decades of gaming.
But wait, THERE'S MORE! New rules on mana, arcane spell bumbles, and dex adjustments to speed that break conformity just enough so that characters seem more grittier realistic heroes than homogenized stats where most every humanoid creature can move exactly 30' x 4 in a full-out run.
Plus the complete directory and entries for the mechanical effects of common spells from Words of Spells is included, so this tome is indeed all a player needs to play. (Volume 2 in this series will combine material from Knights for game judges.)
Taken together, this new venture hopes to continue "wild west" flavor from this pastime's classic age while being compatible in an unbalanced fashion with more modern gaming devices.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Expanded Vision for Metropolis of Chaos

Original Map for Abyssal City
So, I'm kind of chewing over this "Metropolis of Chaos" thing in the Abyss, looking at my maps from 1980 or so, and it doesn't look so much like a city-size, let alone a "metropolis." Of course there are corridors and chambers underneath this visage which is where much of the old adventuring took place, but it still isn't what I am looking for as a preeminent location to cavort with demons in the deadly and ceaseless combat I envisioned for goodly adventurers entering this locale. Too "granular" for something I'm wishing to be an unworldly large cesspool.

I was reminded of the original 1980 City State of the World Emperor map versus the 2005 tentatively released and never consummated re-imagined Virdidistan (as the World Emperor's City State was named).

Original 1980 City State of the World Emperor Map (Viridistan)
2005 "reimagioned" City State of the World Emperor Map (Viridistan)
First off, the size of the two cities are completely different. The original is at best a half mile across, where as the modern imagined Viridistan is nearly two and a half miles. Secondly, the modern version has, for me at least, a much more aesthetically pleasing shape for an exotic metropolis that once was the capital of a vast empire - much more "Roman" and cosmopolitan whereas the original looks dark ages medieval. Lastly, the modern map looking at it now, is much more playable in that the different quarters and significant locations stand out and are not lost among the "granular" maps of shop interiors, streets and alleyways.

Interestingly, the original did not, a'la City State of the Invincible Overlord, assign shopkeeper and other denizens to specific locations throughout the City State, which actually irked me at the time. However, in theory as I have never tried this, a game judge could use the Shop Guidebook and run players through Viridistan without needing specific streets. Locals would know where they were going and foreigners would be hopelessly lost most of the time anyway. (See, try to imagine life with no GPS)

What I think I might do is establish an area map along the lines of the modern Veridistan map, and run up some various "quarter" or area encounters that could be dropped in anywhere within a region of the Metropolis of Chaos, and then have primary locations for crazy temples, castles, and such for Demon Lords. Even though I will be "reimagioning" my maps, that means I don't necessarily have to throw out the various encounters I wrote for my old scenario. Just widen the proscenium a bit...

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Underport: Abyssal Descent Review

Bryce Lynch over at Ten-Foot-Pole, a blog dedicated to providing reviews of Old School Renaissance products was kind enough to review Underport: Abyssal Descent. Please check it out to see what you think.

Bryce wrote what I consider a very kind and fair analysis of the dungeon. If someone is on the fence about spending $5 for a copy at DriveThruRPG this could provide more of a sense how the scenario might meet your expectations.

Ten-Foot-Pole has been reviewing OSR gaming products going back to August 2011, approximately 49 months worth of reviewing somewhere between 5-10 modules each month. So Bryce has read tons of new gaming products which makes his thoughts pretty valuable in that I don't know of any other OSR gamer who has tackled such a volume to at least be able to compare what a lot of DIY OSR homebrew publishers are throwing out there on the RPG market in terms of style and playability.

One main conceit I have in dungeon design is that the game judge should have virtually every important bit of mechanics to run a particular encounter. As I discussed in a previous post (ha, coincidentally posted 3 days after Bryce's review), including monster stat blocks in OD&D or 1e/2e was relatively simple - maybe 2-4 lines of text or sometimes only 1 line!

With the 3e advent of skills monster stat blocks exploded.  

Knights of the All Mind supplement was intended to reduce the size of stat blocks (and player character sheets). In All Mind most of the modern (and open source) elements are retained, but in a hybrid fashion reverts to using class/race abilities or straight attribute checks to adjudicate things like picking locks, hiding, hearing noises, tracking, etc. from earlier editions of The World's Most Popular Role Playing Game.

Bryce and other present-day game designers have expressed to the contrary, just describe the encounter ommitting all the stat blocks. The game judge can just look up the necessary details in her bestiary. This also has an added advantage of making the encounter pretty much system-neutral.

Not to mention it makes it super easier on the writer because the focus is solely on the adventure. In the two years* it took me to transcribe Underport: Abyssal Descent from it's original version, probably two thirds of the work (or more) was used adding the stat blocks for different creatures that were translated into the All Mind format.
(*two years working very, very part time)

Of course, I am still left with my conceit. And maybe judges do have everything they need - because of the variety of game systems it's probably that each judge translates adventures into whatever rules and bestiaries that are being run at the time. Heavens to Murgatroyd, that's actually what I do running other folk's work.

Well, Metropolis of Evil will give me an opportunity to dance around with these philosophies...