Friday, June 1, 2018

Patreon and Extinguish the Sun #01

I just released Extinguish the Sun #01, the B/X & OSR zine I've been talking about for a while. It's available in print and PDF on the Apollyon Press storefront and in PDF on DriveThruRPG. I do make marginally more money selling the PDF on the Apollyon Press store than DriveThruRPG due to varying royalties between sites and the print copy does comes with the PDF. The PDF is $2 and print is $3 plus shipping.

I also started a Patreon to help create more issues of Extinguish the Sun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Magic is No Fun; or How Magic is Like Welding

Magic is pure, unadulterated thought-stuffs, pushed out of the wizard's mind into the world of things. This is dangerous, as concepts don't want to interact with things and stuff, they want to be shielded inside sentient minds. They will leap from existence in the real plane to the shelter of any sentient being's brain. But then they will burrow inside your brain like a wild animal during a monsoon, seeking shelter at any cost.

It is never safe to look directly at a spell, the eyes are the window to your soul and to your mind, and the path of least resistance. Magic must be looked at through your peripheral vision or in a mirror, never directly.

Looking directly at a spell is like offering an invitation, handing your neural pathways to the spell like a bundle of fresh candy floss to a child. If you are lucky, the spell is weak and will dissipate. If you aren't, it will root around and get comfortable, leaving you a gibbering mess, repulsed by all magic until the psychic energies finally drain away from inside your skull, leaving you a shade odder and much more neurotic than you were before.

Inspired by Arnold K.'s GLOG wizards and Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spinning Plates

My current writing work style is to work on one project for as long as I can before draining my 'idea well' and then to start a new project. Then after I have a few projects up and going, I'll go back to my first project. This inevitably leads to a lot of stillborn projects, and a few projects I can never get back to, so I'm going to do a progress report on the projects I'm currently working on:

Unnamed Island Hex Crawl; published by LotFP: ~20% done; I have the map drafted as well as the introduction and a selection of the more dynamic hexes.

Back in Green; Troika! zine: 80% done; getting some editing/playtesting feedback and going to have to commission some artwork

Extinguish the Sun; B/X & BECMI fanzine; 90% done, waiting on a couple pieces of artwork before publishing issue #1

Trampling of the Terrible Tortoise, The; 50% done; small (16pg) B/X Essentials module with artwork by Ian Hagan heavily inspired by Shadow of the Colossus; currently have a basic map and several room descriptions

Unnamed FASERIP Neoclone; 10% done; a retroclone of Marvel Super Heroes but set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk setting heavily inspired by Thundarr the Barbarian and Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

Unnamed Bizarro Novella; 5% done; I just have a rough outline for this.

Phantasmagoria; Sword and planet DCC setting; 20% done; I have all of the classes done for this.

Out of these, Back in Green and Extinguish the Sun are both already almost done, I signed a contract to make the hex crawl so that's 100% going to be finished, and I already have an artist for The Trampling of the Terrible Tortoise, so those will definitely be done. The FASERIP neoclone is probably 25/75 on ever seeing the light of day, and the novella is almost certainly not going to. Phantasmagoria is probably 50/50.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bards are Agent Smith

The eternal battle of Law and Chaos, the movements of the planets in the void of space, they're all just steps in a cosmic ballet. You are the only person aware of the music of the spheres that this cosmic ballet is set to, and you are entrusted with making sure that good experiences tragedy before triumphing over evil, pleasing the ballet's empyrean patrons (A.K.A. the players). If they knew about the music, they may loose their way and step out of line, so you must do anything to prevent that from happening.

In this take on bards, they are attempting to make sure that the players accomplish their mission while never finding out about the massive play (of sorts) that they are taking part in. Their magical powers come from having their actions harmonize with the celestial music that drives everyone else's actions. From this, they can vastly increase their natural abilities, and sometimes even perform wholly supernatural acts. If ever a PC finds out too much about what's driving their actions, than it is the bard's job to make sure that the PC doesn't think too hard about the implications, or to stop that particular line of thought in its tracks.

TL;DR: Bards know about the 4th wall and want everyone to put on a good show for the players.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


On the Shoulders of Giants is live here: I'm still finishing up the DCC-compatible version (I've had very little free time and DCC classes are more time consuming) though.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rules Cyclopedia Review Coming Soon

I just ordered a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia (print-on-demand version via DriveThruRPG) so I will hopefully be writing a review of the print quality and maybe actual rules soon-ish.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Vagabonds of Dyfed: PbtA OSR?

TL;DR: I don't think Vagabonds of Dyfed is as mechanically rich as other PbtA games because of how they discarded playbooks and GM moves, but it can still be called PbtA under Vincent Baker's definition.

I just wanted to comment on an OSR/PbtA Kickstarter I saw: Vagabonds of Dyfed. The Kickstarter is actually structured fairly well: one tier ($10) gives a PDF and an at-cost code for a print copy via OneBookShelf, so I don't have anything to complain about there. Also the company, Sigil Stone Publishing, has created some great products in the past, like Belly of the Beast. They even offer their current draft of the rules, which is what I'm going to be commenting on.

After a brief read through of the rules, I don't think that this is a true PbtA RPG. It uses a tag system similar to City of Mist, and does use the Apocalypse World-derived 2d6 failure/partial success/success system. It doesn't have any playbooks, which is IMO the hallmark of a PbtA RPG: codified actions for a game that set the theme of the setting. Playbooks are also one of the best things about * World hacks because they let players play without ever looking at the rule book. Of course, they aren't the end all be all of what a * World hack is. As the creator of Apocalypse World, Vincent Baker, states, "Is Apocalypse World an inspiration for your game? Enough so that you want to call your game PbtA? Did you follow Meg's and [Vincent]'s policy wrt publishing it? Then cool, your game is Powered by the Apocalypse."

So, this Kickstarter is Powered by the Apocalypse, but in my opinion, it loses the good stuff about PbtA games in trying to adapt the OSR to PbtA.

Here's an example of some moves I wrote for a more traditionally PbtA old school game:
Find traps: When you are travelling cautiously down a dungeon hallway without a direct enemy threat, roll +Dex:
     6-: Your attempts to find and disarm the trap fail, activating the trap instantly.
     7-9: You find the trap but cannot disarm it. You may be able to avoid its effects though.
     10-12: You successfully find and disarm the trap, but there could still be more.
     13+: You manage to set off a chain reaction, where each trap springs another trap, leaving them all harmless as far as you know.
Assault: When you try to attack a monster or enemy with a melee weapon, roll +Str:
     6-: Your attempt fails and the monster gets a free attack against you.
     7-9: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 16 or below but they get a +1 bonus to their next attack against you.
    10-12: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 20 or below.
    13+: You hit your target and deal two points of damage.
Spell casting: When you try to cast a spell under stress or in combat, roll +Intelligence:
     6-: The spell escapes your brain and destroys your carefully cultivated neural pathways as it does so. You take two points of Willpower damage and must meditate for one day in order to recapture the spell.
     7-9: You manage to cast the spell, but the toll of doing so deals one Willpower damage to you as the spell interacts with the target in incomprehensible ways.
     10-12: You cast the spell successfully but are drained by the effort.
     13+: The spell is willing to co-operate with you and all effects of the spell are doubled for this casting.

For my PbtA OSR game, hit points would ideally be divided into three categories, Willpower, Grit, and Fortitude, and don't increase with level. For example, a Magic-User would have five Willpower, four Grit, and three Fortitude, while a Thief would have five Grit, four Willpower, and three Fortitude. This could reduce the need for a save system, as mental or reflex-based attacks just drain Willpower or Grit respectively. Enemy hit points could be one pool and equal to their hit dice in the source material.
I do seem to have a lot of ideas for a much more old school Dungeon World-esque game, maybe I'll try to write some playbooks...

In summation, I think the Kickstarter is well done and I expect them to make a great looking product, but mechanically, it doesn't do what it says it will for me, or at least the current rules don't.