Sunday, July 31, 2016

July should just die

but what do you do, as a GM, when the PC's are driving a story better than you could? How do you keep up?

Classic Traveller Sector ETU-AI215

Ridicules how the simple set of rules presented in the original Traveller game can lead to a fully satisfying and realized sci-fi game world. I ran an adventure arc with a module written for a classic fantasy setting. Adapted for sci-fi horror, and ended up with a fully fleshed out universe setting. 


Part of the Outer Frontier (who knows what that means) this scrub of a Traveller universe I was forced to create it after ruminating over what would be the consequences of the PC's actions.. When I mean sparse I'm talking four systems total, tenuous jump routes built on jump one tech, and not a lot of civilization. Just to keep it manageable in my GM mind. But even these limitations I enforced on the homebrew subsector the emergent play of the PC's has sprung so many tentacles I can't read enough science fiction to keep up with the possibilities.  

Great game system.







Cool Things in Clockwork & Cthulhu

Today a PC decided to dispatch an NPC the party was interrogating. No torture or anything. The NPC was answering questions, rather compliant tied up in a chair. But without hesitation, matchlock pistol to the head! The player just couldn't see an answer to the problems the NPC represented short of death. What that threat looked like for the PC I don't know. Nothing to be done about party paranoia.  Hurray, must mean I'm running the game right.

Any who, so the NPC  is now an open cavity of brains spread over the ale and blood soaked bar table and the PC has a moment of reflection. Have I gone too far? Blowing out the brains of a defenseless enemy? The player asked me if there was a need for a sanity check. I was like whatever, you killed a hardened mercenary, your fine.

On reflection, I thought that was kinda cool. The players are invested enough in the campaign that I don't have to hammer home consequences. They are creating their own experience to the events because the story has come alive at some point for all participants.

This campaign has been rocking really well by I think these elements;

Quality adventure product,

PC buy in regarding genre tropes,

and a GM making the action where the PCs are which means hacking the hell out of the published material to bend and reflect the PCs actions in the game world.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I'm an okay GM

but a fucking lousy player. Why?

[Addition 07/29/16]


I have to agree with the comments. Running games means I get to play all the time. If there is no game on I can world build. I'm used to playing at my time, when I want. I have a bigger time bank of play when I run.

There is a PC chee which is way different than the elan of well executed GM fiat (just being a good game master). I can't just snatch it up all the time. I'll define PC chee as inner listening, with moments of outward playing. No luxury of time. The game is on and time to be efficient with each touch of the ball. Is it harder or easier, Player or GM? Neither, both are worthy of pursuit towards fun and excellence. I've just done one more than another. Switching "roles" it shouldn't come as a surprise that the work is different enough a conscious transition is helpful when flipping. I probably have informal ways to make transitions. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

World of Xoth NPC's for USR Sword & Sorcery

Off and on I have been putting together a Bestiary. Saving the stats of the animals and people I had to come up with as my online players chewed through the campaign world over two and a half years of play.

The PC's thrashed their way from the forgotten city of Akhlat the Cursed, to the tea shops of Taikang City and probably saw more Deep Water Belly Fish then they cared to.

Here is a sampling of some of the NPC's the players have come across in these past adventures...

Town & City NPC's

Agrapurian Thugs,
A8 W6 E4 H07
S. Hand to Hand +1A, Intimidate +1W.
Leather Vest, +1DR. Club +1A.

Now this is a tough mountain town (ripped from the pages of REH) found on the Khazistan side of the Kharjah Pass and the PC's had just survived a hard seven days march through wasteland. The only reason they didn't get their ass handed to them is because they went straight to the fate of carousing heavily and they rolled well and the Crypt Keeper's NPC's rolled poorly.

Ghazorian Town Guard,
A8 W6 E4 H07
S. Hand to Hand Combat +1A, Authority +1W.
Leather Vest +1DR, Small Shield +1DR. Spear +1A, Knife +1A.

In the pay of Sea Lords the PC's made fools of them when hired as assassins. They left town before retribution could be exacted by the next paying pouch of gold.

Corrupt Sorcerer,
A6 W10 E8 H09
S.Ancient Lore +3W, Bind Demon +2E, Move Silently +2A, Connections +1W.
Dagger +1A,

Once again the PC's channeled the Conan vibe of this Sword & Sorcery campaign and struck quickly against a formidable foe. It is hard to command your giant snake and female vampire slaves with your head blown off by an ancient ray gun.

Khazabad Pit Fighting Champion, A10 W6 E8 H10
S. Unarmed Combat +3A, Intimidate +1W.
Leather Arm Band and Greaves +1DR. Spiked Knuckles +1A.

The PC in the pit straight up rolled better than the NPC. That is what I liked best about adapting the USR rules to try a simultaneous combat method and a critical hit table. I as the Crypt Keeper never new how any combat was going to play out. I felt I had the best of both worlds. A combat could end quickly in unmitigated savagery or turn into a brutal exhausting contest. Another PC bet heavily on the right side of this fight.

Dipurian Flesh Peddler,
A6 W10 E6 H06
S. Connections +2W.
Robes and oils.

There is so much hate in this crowd towards the PC's they will never know it unless they return to the Grand Inquisitor's city.



There is a bunch more scattered throughout the three ring binders of campaign material I generated during the run. I want to keep working on compiling them into a "Monster Manual" for USR Sword & Sorcery but I am a bit weepish about stripping them of their World of Xoth trappings because it is not a campaign setting of my own creation. It has the best name for a Sword & Sorcery campaign setting by far. I took the small map and superimposed it on a modified map of Venus with much of the surface covered in water. Irregardless of my world building I was smart enough just to spend time on where the PC's were currently exploring and making that important. I was extremely gratified to see my judgement validated by the Tales To Astound post about making the action where the PC's are at. I didn't know that was what I was doing at the time, it was done out of necessity. But it gelled so well. It made sense cause it was built adventure by adventure and all I did was feast off of the player's actions and acceptance of the genre tropes.

So a USR Sword & Sorcery Bestiary is worth it and should be seen through to the bitter (roll 1D10) end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Maze of the Blue Medusa Shipped Just Fine

There was some concern about corner damage occurring while shipping, but my copy arrived in perfect shape. The book was packed well. It was obvious even the intern who packed my book was infected with the high quality vibe which oozes out of the book. A gorgeous book by any standards.

But how well does it play? I don't know. I'm not old enough yet to play this. But it is just a game book, after all. I will want to have it at the table in some physical form. I have two, three choices? Well, purchasing another book doesn't feel like much of a solution. At fifty dollars I want to have everything I need for the experience, you know what I mean?

There is the PDF which comes with full purchase, there is even just the PDF you can buy which makes the content accessible to most people. Sure there is the cost of printing out your own pages, but you can print what you want and in no way should you feel conflicted.


A marriage , healthy and vibrant, takes time. This book is a deep, luxurious bed for Dungeon Masters to roll in. How many hours have I sweated crappy adventure modules after throwing away five bucks, rebuilding the wretched content into something which would hold my players attention for more than five minutes? Like all of them. Maze of the Blue Medusa does not require this of me. I must study to deliver the content correctly. You would be a fool to think you can just "wing" this megadungeon. Organized in a manner to think you could by unseen hands, unknown hours of quiet talk, maybe there is tape? but the work will foil you. It takes the supposition which TSR threw in every DM's face "You will need to read this adventure module completely before you run it for your players" and actually makes good on the promise. Lets face it, the only reason you had to read a module thoroughly before play was because it sucked and was organized so poorly  the only way you could use it was a total parsing of contents, shred, then appropriate.

Maze of the Blue Medusa rewards the patience of the serious Dungeon Master. It is so dense and digestible and worthy of long drives in the desert with an old cassette playing in a choked out car stereo, angry at the end of life, it is stupid good on the most bald face appraisal.  Patrick Suart  is amazing for holding it all together. All the way. Zack filled in the gaps brilliantly. I'm guessing this collaboration was completed online. That such luminaries, working talent, is being conducted remotely and coherently is staggering. The brick and mortar crowd holding Monday morning meetings contemplating units moved must be shitting their pants seeing productivity dollars go up in so much smoke stacks. The OSR is such the Velvet Underground. Independent, and unprofessional. Which doesn't mean unaccountable. Everyone's work gets criticism, help, guidance, support. It happens because most OSR participants trust if all good effort is put forth a MAze of the BLue Medusa will arrive and all will game immaculate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fear & Loathing USR is now available on RPGNow

With the edition of Fear & Loathing USR up on RPGNow Vanishing Tower Press has four publications, one adventure and three genre specific rule books, available cheaply for download.

One more rules hack of Scott Malthouse's excellent rules lite system Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying game, Anthropomorphic USR, will be done shortly then the adventures for each of these game systems will start to appear.

WU01 Broke Down in Bug Town and GZ01 Fear & Loathing in Fat City will be first in line for release. One for Western USR, the other for this here Fear & Loathing USR.

The one adventure out so far is for USR Sword & Sorcery and it includes Crypt Keeper ref sheets as well as a character sheet.

Thanks Scott for letting me release my own game products utilizing your great game mechanics!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Shrine of the Keepers includes Crypt Keeper Ref Sheets

as well as a simple character sheet. It is a straight forward site based adventure and if you are familiar with the tales of Conan the Barbarian you will find familiar tropes. You will enjoy Shrine of the Keepers if you want to play a sword and sorcery adventure fast and the players need to create characters too. Scott Malthouse's free Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying rules are a breeze to pick up and character creation can be finished in three to five minutes.

The included ref sheets and character sheet give you enough information to customize a sword and sorcery adventure of your own out of the box. For more detailed options you can see my USR Sword & Sorcery rules I wrote using Scott's great game rules.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Western USR is now available on RPGNow

My latest rule book, Western USR,  based on Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying by Scott Malthouse is now available for fifty cents on line as a downloadable PDF. Includes a custom USR character sheet as well. Enjoy!