Friday, December 30

5e Initial Thoughts

When I ran a 5e session on International Game Day I didn't have any of the 5e books myself. I just ran it cold with some cheat sheets I generated from the free rules pdf. One of the young players had the PH and the MM. I also had my 5e conversion guide for B2 so I was able to run the Keep on the Borderlands for a few hours without any issues. But I also didn't come away from the experience with a feel for 5e. Did I like it? Is this a version of D&D I could enthusiastically play and run? 

For Christmas my girlfriend got me a copy of the 5e Player's Handbook so I've had an opportunity to roll up a PC as well as digest the contents. I like it. I like it a lot. If I was to run a regular face-to-face game this is the edition I would run. I think I would do it with just the PH and the MM for books. 

When I first started writing 5e conversion guides for 1e modules I was thrown off and scowled at the quick level progression listed as well as the high XP for monsters defeated. "What the hell, where is the long slog of treasure acquisition and the folder of dead PC's before one hits 2nd level?" I thought. Let the young breed jump on the 5e bandwagon I'll stick with my B/X retro-clones thank you. But the PH won me over. This looks fun to play. I could even resist modifying the rules here and there and live with Death Saves, the mildness of poison, and all day long cantrips which do 1d10 damage. As a DM I can see where I would have more work to do keeping track of all the NPC's abilities, but they are all essential in making them deadly to PC's. Prepping adventures would have an initial learning curve until I distilled what I needed handy at the table. Forgotten Realms will do for a campaign setting. I would make it mine of course, but I find it time saving to have some underpinnings of the game world to work off of. I'd probably also beat hell over the head of PC's and their retainers with the exhaustion rules just to slow the bastards down. Tieflings, Dragonborn I might draw the line there, but go ahead play a gnomish bard I won't mind.

Roll 3d6, in order. I would make my PC's do that. I have some roots which are buried deep...

Monday, December 19

X1 The Isle of Dread 5e Conversion Guide has been birthed

I completed Classic Modules Today: X1 The Isle of Dread 5e  and it is now live. What a monster. There is a decent sized list of Notable NPC's and New Monsters which make up the meat of this conversion guide. Not too many Magic Items and Spells needed conversions and the traps were relatively straightforward.

I did add notes on my thoughts on why I've changed the modules level recommendations from 1e, change in Challenge Ratings and XP awards, as well as why a 5e Dungeon Master should consider dialing down the cash value of treasure.

Like all the rest of the conversion guides being produced by fans working this project I sincerely believe use of the guide will relieve hours of prep work and let the DM focus on using these classics for tons o' fun at the table!

Thursday, December 15

USR Sword & Sorcery Now in Print

Your softcover black and white copy of USR Sword & Sorcery, Rules Lite Roleplaying for Fantastic Pulp Fantasy Adventures is now available for order at RPGNow. This is the first time I have ever printed a book and though small has been super fun to create and offer up to the public. The one thing which shocked me the most (cost wise) was shipping. If there was something I could do about shipping prices I would, but for those turned off by this cash burden there is still the PDF option. The printer's cut was, in my opinion, fairly egregious, but it isn't like I have a print shop in my office so whadda ya going to do? Perhaps there is economy in scale if you create a publication with a super high page count?

Clocking in at 36 pages it sports a "red" cover and includes the introductory adventure Shrine of the Keepers plus a character sheet suitable for photocopying. This new version of my simple roleplaying game has an expanded introductory page on how I see the genre being emulated compared to say epic fantasy. 

The combat section, while by no means lengthy, has been cleaned up for clarity. Bighara had some legitimate critique in his review over at the Zarth Tourist Bureau and I hope these revisions address his points. This includes the magic rules by adding an example of magic for each of the three schools of magic presented. What hasn't been addressed is a bestiary section and a deep magic section. This is because these items are currently being written and will be released as a POD/PDF supplement. Horrors Material & Magic Malignant is looking like a January 2017 release date. It will include a  roster of NPC's, beasts and monsters capable of chewing up your PC's, and of course, many horrible spells and artifacts suitable for S&S gaming!

All in all I think the revision has a far superior layout, has nice fat-sized tables for easy reading and achieves the goal of providing a rules lite rules set which has just enough crunch to enforce the genre. But no rules set truly comes alive without great adventure content to rend, fry, and bleed out the PC's, so I have several adventure which will need to be fully written and made print ready. This will keep me busy well into the summer. There is still the other USR titles which are all in different stages of completion which need to be made ready for public consumption; Anthro USR, Fear & Loathing in Fat City, Broke Down in Bug Town for Western USR, whew. 

Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying and Trollish Delver Games are Copyright Scott Malthouse
Check out all his great game products here! 

Friday, December 2

X5 Temple of Death 5e Conversion Guide Now Available

I've just uploaded Classic Modules Today: X5 Temple of Death 5e, your latest conversion guide to dmsguild.com. My next four titles I have reserved for conversion guides are X1 Isle of Dread, EX2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, CM1 Test of the Warlords, and M1 Into the Maelstrom. X1 should be completed this month,but don't expect the others to be available until January-April time frame. 

In other conversion notes; I've updated Classic Modules Today: B3 Palace of the Silver Princess 5e with monster statistics for the Decapus. Previous versions recommend using the Octopus stats from the 5e Monster Manual with some modification. Being the signature baddie of the adventure I decided it deserved "Special Monster" status, enjoy!

Here is the link for the Classic Modules Today web site for a complete list of current and upcoming conversion guides being produced.

Saturday, November 19

International Game Day...

was recognized at my local library, and it is not anything I would have given a second look. Truly it is an event for young kids and not a grizzled old grognard like myself. Cold pumping a session to strangers, kids no less, is not the game experience I'm looking for. But I ran a game of D&D 5e this afternoon nonetheless, with a bunch of kids and it was a great success.

About a month ago a gentleman contacted me through a game forum looking for someone to play D&D with his son. I responded that I was an adult and his son would need to get a game group started with his peers. A few more emails went back and forth between us and that was precisely the issue at hand. His son hadn't been able to get his friends to want to play. I sympathized. I informed good old dad that I had spent some time over the years trying to get a local game group together myself and our mountain town just didn't harbor folks with the interest. Aspen is all about the super athletic, the super rich, and those chasing the super rich. I could only wish his son luck and encouraged the two of them to keep on trying. Once he got his friends to play a session he would have no trouble continuing play.

Then a couple of weeks later I saw the library advertising International Game Day and I new what I needed to do. I got permission to run D&D at the event. I emailed the dad and said I would be running a game at this public event for kids and we should have a go of it. The hopes were, of course, whatever local kids joined in would be the kernel of a game group the kids would continue on their own.

Well the young tike padded the playing field and he got four of his friends to come along. This new player was going to make a fine DM, I thought. He has gone to great lengths to pursue his ambitions. I was also immensely pleased to see a girl was part of the group. He had a Monk, the rest of the group I handed out pregens. I brought B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. It worked for me when I was eleven. Why mess with success? I had my B2 conversion guide for 5e and there was a 5e Player's Handbook and Monster Manual available so I had all the tools I needed to drive this candy caffeinated train down the tracks for the next three hours. They went into the forest, they went into the swamp. Eventually they pushed forward on the main plot hook which brought them to the Caves of Chaos. Death saves were made, critical hits were scored, the shouting and disorganization mushroomed. It was awesome.

*Bonus points for Jay; near the end of the session a couple showed up. They have been living in the area for a year and had not found anyone who games. They were desperate enough for some D&D they had to take a chance, so I made some new contacts!

Sunday, November 6

Another USR Sword & Sorcery Review

Bighara over at Zarth Tourist Bureau has given a very accurate review of my USR Sword & Sorcery game as well as the additional introductory adventure module Shrine of the Keepers.

The system is definitely begging for a magic and monsters supplement so I will have to reread all my Conan novels and start writing as if the hounds of hell were on my heels!

Saturday, November 5

EX1 Dungeonland 5e conversion guide now available!

I have just uploaded my latest conversion guide of 1e D&D modules for 5e rules to DMsGuild.

EX1 Dungeonland is chock full of special creatures and unique NPC's so I think any Dungeon Master will get their dollars worth with this particular conversion guide.

Please note that the Classic Modules Today products are not the original module. You need a copy of the original 1e adventure module to use these conversion guides.

This is my fifth guide completed and I've adjusted Challenge Ratings and XP awards to reflect the ramped up level progression found in 5e. In an attempt to mimic the old-school flavor of 1e characters will not provide as much XP as straight treasure.

My conversion guide for B2 The Keep on the Borderlands is the first one I did and needs a major overhaul to reflect my inclinations on XP awards. It also needs a major overhaul on "Spell Conversion Notes" and "Magic Item Conversion Notes". If you have already purchased this particular guide look for the 2.00 version going up Monday morning.

Thursday, October 27

BRP Clockwork & Cthulhu Session Reports

About twelve weeks ago one of the players in my BRP Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign starting writing up some very enjoyable session reports and posting them to the community page. Not only were they a delight to read the session reports gave me valuable information on the details of the adventure that I might otherwise forget. With a loose outline of major NPC's and their plots and no particular endgame envisioned the events and items which get created during any session become the adventure seeds for future sessions. I try to remain flexible and get forced to create adventure content on the fly. I don't have a lot of time for world building and trying to nail down every stinking detail just seems to be a bore. I want to get just as much delight seeing which way the campaign will go as the players!

So the value I took from the written session reports deemed experience point awards to the writer. Nothing unusual here either. But another player added their own session report. So I decided any and all PC's can write session reports for xp. If I can get two to three reports from individual players on any given day I start to have a game seen through the eyes of the players. My vision gets supplanted by the characters theater of the mind and once again I am carried along for the ride. Kind of like a police investigator interrogating multiple witnesses to an event. No two views are going to be exactly the same. They all need to be corroborated to establish the truth of the matter. The game becomes the story of the players and not a series of events the Game Master has orchestrated because then the story is just what the players endured at the hands of the Game Master. So yeah, the session reports have become essential food for my enjoyment of the game :)  

Wednesday, October 19

Classic Modules Today

In February I signed on to this project to offer 1e D&D modules converted to 5e rules. I thought it would give me an opportunity to learn how 5e differed from the rules as I was used to them. +Stan Shinn was the organizer of the this project and not only has it given me an opportunity to review with new appreciation the old modules I first enjoyed it has forced me to learn how to do basic formatting, editing and layout with some of the simple word processing tools out there. These exercises have helped me sharpen up my cheap USR publications I have released on RPGNow and there is a long way to go before I think I have decent enough documents to start offering print copies, but it has been fun participating in the OSR exchange of goods.

It also exposed me to bad reviews, and yeah they feel like shit. But there has been more positive reviews and it seems there are many DM's out there who have found value in these conversion guides. Here is the latest one and it sure helps me push on through to complete my current assignments; EX1 and EX2!

Saturday, October 15

The Bearded Trees and Stone Barrows for your OSR game

Memory eaten away by time leaves who the terrible kings of old buried in the Stone Barrows were and what made their reign so terrible, but what is certain is the promise of unspoilt wealth to be won for those who can win their way into their cold crypts.
Why has the speculative wealth of these ancient kings lain untouched over these long years? Why have those who've braved the silent peaks of the Wadzo Nano-Tassis never returned from their sojourns? Is it true the dead kings jealously guard their old wealth and steal the souls of those who dare climb to their last resting place? 

There are several deadly horrors which make summiting the Wadzo Nano-Tassis perilous for adventurers lured to the Stone Barrows found on top. Any approach through the heavily forested flanks of the range requires travel through the Flenn, a perpetually mist shrouded forest. Beneath this thick sheaf of impenetrable gloom are found the Bearded Trees.

The Bearded Trees of Flenn are attracted to the breath of the living. At night the green mossy growth which clings to the damp dark branches detach and propel themselves to nearby living beings. Seeking the breath of the living the light web of moss fastens onto the source releasing a paralysing toxin. Rapidly growing the green "beard" rapidly expands into the lungs of its host, suffocating the victim. A soft phosphorescent glow throbs regularly while the beard feeds throughout the night. By the time noonday sun filters feebly through the ever present fog the victim has disappeared beneath the newly forming mass of moss. Within a month a new tree will have sprouted. Within six months the new tree will cast drifting beards of its own each damp night under the mist shrouded canopy of Flenn. The DM should mention during daytime travel that there is a complete absence of wildlife within the forest. 

The Bearded Trees of Flenn for BFRPG
AC: 14/17 for floating beards.
HD: 3 (for the tree itself. Each drifting beard can take 4 hit points of damage before it is rendered inert).
Number of Attacks: special (at night only); 
Damage: special (save vs. paralysis for three rounds in a row); from drifting beards. A failed roll results in paralysis for twelve hours. Must be destroyed within three rounds or the victim will be suffocated by the beards growing inside and shutting down the lungs and infecting the brain with toxins. The drifting beards must make contact with skin to cause damage. Keeping oneself completely clothed will offer protection as any beard which latches onto a live beings face that is protected will turn brown, brittle and slide off within three rounds. 

Once reaching the wind torn heights finding, let alone entering the subterranean tombs of ancient kings, adventurers will have to contend with a lunar cycle which will allow entry. 

For three nights surrounding the arrival of the new moon giant lizards will issue forth from the barrows themselves. Moving the huge blocks of stone which plug the entrance with their ridiculously strong tongues the Rock Lizards seek the dew and moisture which regularly coat the granite peaks. If there happens to be a rain storm when the prehistoric beasts emerge they will appear as in a stupor with their large jaws open and long tongues lax on the ground. After an hour the beasts will come out of their daze and return below, pulling the blocks back into place. Otherwise the lizards will remain on the summit sponging up moisture for at least four hours. In that case the Rock Lizards will be aware of and disturbed by the presence of the adventuring party and will move to attack.

 Rock Lizards of the Stone Barrows
 Number Appearing: 3-6
AC: 15
HD: 7
Number of Attacks: 1 of 3 types
Damage: from bite 2D10, from trample 2d8, and tail 2d6. 

With the lizards dead or dazed in a rainstorm a party of adventurers will find it easy to enter the stone barrows and descend into the unexplored depths. 

Only the Shrouded know of the Rock Lizards habits but for some reason never dare enter the stone barrows. They are an unknown race of beings which can be found only in the mist shrouded forest of Flen. Possibly an alien race which arrived in the world with the bearded trees, they live in symbiosis amongst the horrid woods. Abroad during the day clothed in elaborate suits composed of woven tree fiber the Shrouded harvest moss and bark for their dwellings and food. They nurture moss gardens in ravines carved by burbling streams winding down the slopes of the Wadzo Nano-Tassis. Camouflaged beneath stripped and limbed trees only the sound of flowing water will generally indicate the presence of inhabited structures below. At night these secret dwellings may be spotted by the fluorescent moss which they use for illumination. What moves these alien settlers to treat with interlopers, who knows? There are very few who even know of their existence and they prefer to keep it that way.

The Shrouded
Number Appearing: 3-18 abroad in the forest. Many more live within several "cities" within the forest
AC: 14
HD: 2
Number of Attacks: 1
Damage: from Spears and Stone Axes 1D8, from Paralytic Dart Guns save vs. Paralysis or be paralyzed for four hours.  

Wednesday, October 12

Anthropomorphic USR beta

Here is the current version of the rules. Need to finish with an equipment list and an introductory adventure before it is released in the wild.

Please take advantage of this free beta version and kick back some feedback when you get a chance.


The final product has been released on RPGNow. Includes introductory adventure, get your PDF copy of Anthropomorphic USR here.

Saturday, September 17

Review Undercroft #7

The OSR has spewed forth the best reflex action towards startling talent with the curdled froth of independent zines. The turgid underground of free thought every child learned to articulate with a Tonka Truck in one hand and a headless GI Joe doll in the other on top of a sun soaked sandbox is given free reign with the current OSR zine scene.

I dipped my financial toes in the water very selectively. These selections were Vacant Ritual Assembly #4  and The Undercroft #7. They just felt the most punk rock, to me, at the time.

The most important quality of a zine for myself is there is "stuff" I can use immediately at the table with a flick of a page. No lead in, no boxed text, just an immediacy of game content felt personable, new and ready to go.

Which is kind of contradictory on its face; looking for original content that is quickly grasped and made useful? Do I ask too much? Apparently not.

Both zines met my illogical desires and demands plus more.

Undercroft came in a hand-made envelope with a secret stamp while the zine itself was embellished with flecks of red ink, fingermarks, the impression of someone bleeding to death on the pages. I think I was all in for less than seven bucks to have this bizarrely personal piece of game artifact delivered to my mailbox on any given Tuesday from across the world. Art and presentation are the stand outs from this zine. The content is a bit iffy, but it passed the immediacy test with the last article containing a must have NPC. There is nothing more valuable to  me as a GM than a useful NPC. Not that I used Old Sigvor in toto, just that it gave an intended villain another face, more depth than I would have otherwise presented. The other articles and tables in the zine will be useful in their time, but I really enjoyed holding this brutally wrought gift in my hand.

Vacant Ritual Assembly #4 doesn't have the same level of dirty handed elegance but the pages are brimming with useful content. The front cover art is awesome. That wanky line art is just the right kind of loose scribble which sparks ideas in my game head. Very Traveller or Gamma World. I pulled a dream trance setting for a Sword & Sorcery campaign from its slim pages. A whole druidic battle cult race religion was available fully formed from its pages which inspired a Dying Earth BFRPG setting. I needed a lotus den for my then running Sword & Sorcery campaign and well the zine had that too. All in all promising adversaries devised "through a terrifying cosmos of adventure-gaming psychedelia." was well articulated in less than twenty two pages.

If this level of accomplishment is routinely being delivered by the myriad of OSR zines currently available then table top rpg'ers are indeed in the middle of a renaissance which will take decades to unravel and appreciate.

Monday, August 29

Thermal Factors

I spent my recent vacation in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. With every exploration into the wilderness I game it out. Yellowstone National Park is remarkable for the thermal features. Sure you have the vast plains, dramatic waterfalls and idyllic grassy meadows, but the warning signs are thrown up for the scalding hot water which just erupts out of the earth.

So the next time your B/X party of adventures are striding across the wasteland unimpeded have the ground they walk on start to erode their foot gear. Three days in and the PC starts taking damage, to their feet. Let them do the calculation. "But I can't survive the march out" if I'm takng damage from just walking.

Don't surprise the players. That is just shit GM'ing. But give them an inclination of  the slow degradation of foot gear. Any asshat of a PC will pay attention to it.

Which leads to the next question; when is it appropriate to introduce a waste land to characters. Only after they have picked a marching order!

Anyways I'm thinking 1 point of damage a day until protection is achieved or environment is left.

Sunday, August 28

I should have ran

but I decided two players wasn't enough. I don't think I have the chops to keep a small crowd entertained. Pretty soon you are down to one person and then you are in a relationship. I have one of those, It is work. RPG's are a chance to sit at the counter and kibitz with the lunch crowd.

But it is better than that. After a couple of sessions you get to see who sits at the front of the class, They want to play and as a GM you lovingly set up the pieces because they are nothing but dreams until another puts their hands on the table.

No one is herding cats here. But the most success I have had with running a game online is with a firm theme, regular set times, and being at the virtual table as the host ready to go.
So when I cancel a session I am seriously conflicted. Even if one person shows up shouldn't I run the session?

I've always decided no because I think a table top RPG runs best with three players minimum. That is one GM and three players. So four. With three PC's gaming the GM has some of the session work lifted off their shoulders because the group of players are going to start creating and carrying adventure ideas. So as a GM I get to start playing more. Less script, more random tables, and more riffing off of cause and effect being driven by the players.

I've had some really good two player sessions. But for regular campaign play I see three players essential to carrying the story.

Tuesday, August 9

The USR Community has been busy

Scott Malthouse's (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying game has gathered a small but loyal following which is found at the Google+ community here.

There has been a new "Hack" of this rules-lite system; a Samurai Noir setting called Blood and Silk by +Talon Waite as well as a preview of +Pete Segreti 's upcoming Roman Empire game Swarm of Barbarians.

+Appalachian Elf has been geeking out over Somnium Void, a Space Opera setting and has been showing off his hard copy of the rules. We wait with baited breath for him to reveal how he had it made!

Saturday, August 6

Google Hangout Campaign Greatest Hits

I've run four campaigns on Google+ Hangouts since 2012 and they have all been stand out examples of the best talk being shopped around here on the OSR gaming blogosphere. Here is why. First reason is me as a Game Master. I haven't done it in a long time. I gave it up a long time ago because I couldn't do it right and I couldn't get good information on why. This all changed because of the internet. I didn't have to try and figure out this problem in a vacuum anymore. There is a wealth of information available and willing game groups are a video chat away so my game is going to be better out of the gate. Stage two; actual play. Playing all the time (for me that is once to two times a month) bad habits and bad ideas start to get run into the ground. Stimulus/response. Like a punk album. Players make the game, but nothing happens without a world builder. And the world builder needs help. I have a job. I have lovely friends and family. I have deep powder to ski while my knees hold out. I don't have a lot of free time. Now I need more material and am making purchases. Spending real money and not running off of old ideas and free pdf's. Well fresh ideas and free pdf's are probably running the show at this point. Either way the salient real time data is bearing fruit. I appreciate well done game tools, adventure materials and random tables that help me run what the hell my players are mixing and matching at the table. This has generated Stage three;

my current  Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign has just been completely taken over by the players. I run sessions now just so I can read the voluminous stories they spin after. I'm thinking soon I'll be slapping restraining orders on 'em all!

Actually, it is more being at peace with my role. I'm a game master. This is the job I can do well in this hobby. My lovely binder with the few PC's alive I treasure are a rare artifact. The binders filled with the scaffolding required for PC's to climb on is my time well spent.

Sunday, July 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Wednesday, June 29

USR Sword & Sorcery 3.01 on RPGNow

The USR Sword & Sorcery rule book is now only available at RPGNow All my future game stuff which includes any art will be posted there. I'm trying to respect the Fair Use laws and am repackaging my USR PDF's with non copyrighted art.

Western, Cyberpunk, Fear & Loathing, these will all get a make over and will be coming out shortly. The Western USR rules actually should be available by tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 23

Western USR preview

For those requesting a look at my hack of Scott Malthouse's USR for playing western themed rpg's here you go.

Sunday, June 5


I just posted a useful NPC character sheet for your USR game to the Summonings page of the blog.

It has two sheets per page and should be printed longways (landscape).

Tuesday, April 5

So I used tMfBSaT for my first time playing Traveller

and I pretty much killed all the Player Characters. One survived.

I've always wanted to play Traveller, but never got the chance. Never really had a good idea to hang a starting Traveller game around it either.

That changed when I purchased Lamentations of the Flame Princess' The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time. I was like three page in and was sold on running this as straight sci-fi. Reading blog posts about playing Traveller straight out of the box got me really excited about doing this as well.

So I set up a Classic Traveller community stating I wanted to run a game of Classic Traveller based on the movie Alien and see what would happen.

It works. It works really well. Now the players may disagree. I probably could have done a better job, but I think the LBB's and this module are made to go together like Gieger and heroin.

Friday, April 1

USR Sword & Sorcery Rules

[06/21/16] Edit: All my USR products are now only available on RPGNow for sale. Look for future announcements on this blog for new rule books and adventures using the USR game mechanics.

With the addition of magic and magical research rules I have finally completed my USR Sword & Sorcery rpg based on Scott Malthouse's (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying system.

I've also added wilderness and city encounter tables, and a table to see if the city burns down when the PC's (and they will) start lighting things on fire when causing trouble in the more civilized parts of your game world.

Don't forget to download your Crypt Keeper ref sheets at RPGNow as well! Found in the introductory adventure Shrine of the Keepers, it also includes a USR character sheet.

Saturday, March 12

USR World of Xoth Ref Sheet

Working on some referee sheets for my USR Sword & Sorcery game set in the World of Xoth. The untold misery I have caused my players flipping through my homebrew notes for the necessary game materials may now come to an end...

This document is now available on RPGNow. I've added Wilderness and Sea Travel information as well as a Wilderness and Civilized Encounter checks, not to mention a USR Sword & Sorcery Character Sheet!

The full random tables have Wilderness and City encounters, Magical Research Encounter table, and a table to see what happens when your PC's start fires within a city!

Friday, March 4

OD&D for BRP

Here is my suggested hack of Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system for original Dungeons & Dragons.

Roll 3d6 in order for your PC's attributes, except Intelligence (2d6+6). These are the eight basic attributes to be rolled; Strength, Constitution, Size, Intelligence, Power, Dexterity, Appearance, and Education.

Additional attributes are Sanity, Effort, Stamina, and Hit Points. These are figured per the normal rules found in the Basic Roleplaying book.

Skill Category bonuses are assigned the full value of your PC's attribute. For example; Intelligence is the Primary characteristic for Mental Skills. A PC with an Intelligence of 13 would add +13% to all the skills base values. Whether or not a PC can use a particular skill is entirely at the discretion of the the referee.

After your PC's attributes are written down you can chose your character's class. They are Fighting Man, Magic User, Cleric and Thief.

The Fighting Man adds +25% to any one of the four Combat skills. The Martial Arts skill starts at (STR+INT+DEX)% base value for the Fighting Man

The Magic User has the ability to read magic, and this is reflected with a +25% to Knowledge (Magical) skill. This skill begins at (POW+(INT or EDU))%.

Clerics have the power to turn undead at 25% plus POW. They also receive the ability to cast divine spells when their Knowledge (Divine Magic) reaches 51%. This skill begins at (POW+(INT or EDU))%.

Choosing the Thief class grants the PC +25% to the Climb skill.

That's it. The details of a magical character's spells and capabilities will need to be hashed out with the referee.

If a player wants his new PC to be a race other than human consult with your referee to establish racial abilities and restrictions.

"Leveling" is handled via standard BRP rules. To improve your character's skills you need to use them during the game, learn them during the game, and find ways to get trained in them during the game, etc.