Friday, 14 July 2017

How To Guides Galore

How do you write a great adventure?

Anyone who has ever put pen to paper in this hobby knows that is the $1,000 question. It  would be the million dollar question, but, let's face it, very few of us (if any) are making that much off this gig.

I've given my own answers in the Dispatches series (published by Purple Duck Games), particularly the 2nd volume. If interested, you can find them here: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4. However, my goal here today is not to talk about my own work, but the work of others.

How To Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck is by Joseph Goodman, Chris Doyle, Brendan LaSalle, Adrian Pommier, Rick Maffei, Mike Ferguson, Jeremy Simmons, Ken Hart, and Andrew Hind, and is published by Goodman Games.

Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss and How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss are both written by Venger As'Nas Satanis. The first book is illustrated by Bojan Sucevic, Monstark, and Glynn Seal. The second is illustrated by Zarono, Terry Pavlet, Randy Musseau, Monstark, Jez Gordon, Craig Brasco, Joshua Burnett, and Stephan Poag. Both books are published by Kort'thalis Publishing.

It should be obvious, because I am talking about all three, that I have purchased and own all of these products. None of them were provided for me, but you should be aware that I have published material with Goodman Games, and continue to do so, which may affect my judgement somewhat. I have actually met one or two of the Goodman Games authors in person, and enjoy their company. Take that into account.

It should be taken as a given that I don't agree with all of the advice given in these books. The current Goodman Games book was written during the era of 3rd Edition publishing (the text is copyright 2007), which means that some of the advice is based around what amounts to the highly structured adventures of Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons - a far cry from what is needed in a Dungeon Crawl Classics or an Old School adventure IMHO.

I would have love to see an updated version with essays by the likes of Harley Stroh and Michael Curtis. It looks like that is coming! In fact, I think some backers have already received theirs; I will try to comment on this more when I have a copy of the new text in my hands.

Meanwhile, much of the advice in the version you can get from RPG Now is solid, though, and if you hope to write for Goodman Games one day it is probably worth your while to know what Joseph Goodman is looking for. You might want to try to get the expanded version from your Friendly Neighborhood Game Store, though.

Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is shorter, cheaper, and an easier read. Most of the advice in here is good, although there are a few things I disagree with. For instance, in The Arwich Grinder, children are included in the opposition. There are tables included to spur the prospective adventure-writer's imagination, but they are not very extensive at all. On the other hand, Venger's distinction between rails and guardrails is a good one, his writing style is conversational, and his description of adventure structure is pretty well spot-on.

There's actually quite a bit of material on adventure design to be gleaned from How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss. Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss could easily have been an appendix to this larger work.

I've owned How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss for a while now. At first, I bought the book in pdf, but I was impressed enough to buy dead tree copy. It's worth getting. For one thing, there are far more extensive (and useful) tables. For another, it gets a bit into the author's philosophy on running games - not only how, but why, we do this. Even if you don't agree with everything Venger says (and I don't - is it really important to have matching dice? I tend to think not) the essays are none-the-less thought provoking.

So, which should you get?


  • If you are playing 3rd Edition, Pathfinder, or a similar system, the Goodman Games offering currently available on RPG Now is going to be very useful.
  • If you are trying to write for Goodman Games, obviously, the Goodman Games offering is going to be useful, and you might want to spring for the new edition.
  • If you want to read interesting essays from a variety of people, Goodman Games has that. I would imagine that is true for either version.
  • If you are playing Dungeon Crawl Classics, you will probably want the newer version of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck. Be aware that the link in this post is to the older version!
  • If you want an in-depth tutorial of the philosophy of GMing, How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss is worthwhile.
  • If you want a reference work with stuff in it you can draw from repeatedly, How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss is worthwhile (but certainly not alone in this regard - books like The Dungeon Dozen, The Dungeon Alphabet, The Monster Alphabet, etc., also come highly recommended).
  • If you want to be inspired right now, with a minimum of fuss or cost, Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is a good pick.
  • If nudity or sex offend you, avoid anything by Venger As'Nas Satanis!









Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Scotland Bound

I will be headed to Scotland in mid-August.

If any readers live in Scotland, give a shout out!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Mathom Rules!

In the Shire, the hobbits give others gifts on their birthdays, and I have been doing the same with a "Birthday Mathom" every year for the last several years. Here's how you get this year's version:

(1) Post online, anywhere, a review of any Dungeon Crawl Classics product between now and August 3rd. Need a list of DCC products? Here you go!

(2) Drop a comment to this blog post with a link to said review.

(3) Send me your email address at ravencrowking at hotmail dot com.

Each of these steps is important. The mathom is always a pdf, so I need an email address to send it to! That seems to be the step I need to remind people of each year. But, really, it's not too hard....in fact, it's a piece of (birthday) cake!

(See what I did there?)

What?!?!

Wait!

Where are you going?!?!


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Free RPG Day Recap, Redux


It would be remiss of me not to mention that 401 Games, while not carrying every title from Goodman Games or every Dungeon Crawl Classics module, did have Dread on Demon Crown Hill waiting for me, as well as core books and several other adventures. They also asked me to put them in contact with Goodman Games in order to get the funky dice.

I had an early Father's Day after running Gnole House with my older children, so that they could attend their mother's birthday party on Sunday. We used the board games cafe at 401 Games, playing a game called T.I.M.E. Stories. We managed to beat the game just before the store closed.

T.I.M.E. Stories is sort of a locked room mystery played using a board. Unfortunately, once you've finished it, that's the game. Fortunately, there are additional expansions that allow for different game scenarios. I recommend trying the game, but I don't know if I recommend the price tag for a game you only get to beat once.

We had a discussion about getting a copy, with the expansion scenarios, playing through them, and then passing it on at half cost. It would be less than movie tickets for four, if purchased in this manner, and was certainly more entertaining than many films I've seen.

On Sunday, I dropped by Doug Miller Books, where I was able to obtain a Manly Wade Wellman book, The Beyonders, that I hadn't heard of before. There was actually a fair amount of Appendix N material there, although you have to do some looking to find it. Zoinks! is another place where I've had luck rounding out my collection, as is the BMV by Bloor and Spadina.

I'm only about halfway through The Beyonders, but it is (not surprisingly) good so far. As always, when reading Appendix N fiction, I find myself considering how to express characters, situations, and creatures in Dungeon Crawl Classics terms. The Beyonders is short on creatures, so far, but otherwise would fit in well in a Chained Coffin campaign. Or in the Esoteric America of Secret Antiquities. Something involving Michael Curtis, anyway.


Free RPG Day Recap


For this year’s Free RPG Day, I ran Michael Curtis’ excellent adventure, Gnole House, at 401 Games in Toronto. I had scheduled the game to start at noon, but the Free RPG Day give-away started in-store at 10 am, and almost everything was gone by the time I got there. Nonetheless, the store had set aside not only enough copies of the Goodman Games Free RPG Day DCC Quick-Starter  to make sure that every player at the table got one, but I was also given a 4th Printing rulebook to give away. And I did.

This was in addition to a print copy of The Revelation of Mulmo – Tentacled Edition – which I contributed from my own private stash.

(Dueling Grounds, which had been my previous go-to for Free RPG Day events, moved to Peterborough this spring, thus requiring me to find a new venue. I had done one event with Hairy Tarantula, but their downtown location closed last year. Nonetheless, I was glad to discover that 401 Games now has more than ample space for gaming, and actually runs a games café with a great selection.)

Because of its location, I had imagined that there would be a good turnout for Free RPG Day, and planned for a maximum of 10 players. I got four, three of whom had never played Dungeon Crawl Classics before, and one of whom was an old hand who had played in my Free RPG Day game last year.

After a brief rundown of class abilities, each player chose a single character out of the 14 that I had pregenerated using the tools at Purple Sorcerer. We ended up with a dwarf, a wizard, a halfling, and a thief. Because there was no cleric, I supplied two doses of the balm of St. Cuthbert, which could heal 1 HD when applied.

Gnole House is based on How NuthWould Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles, by Lord Dunsany, and The Man WhoSold Rope to the Gnoles, by Margaret St. Clair. Both are good (and short!) reads, and if you have never read them you should. Particularly if you are going to run this adventure.

Well, the fearless PCs found their way to the high, narrow house in the wood, looking for both clues as to the fate of that fearless seller of cordage and the emeralds that the gnoles were believed to own. The thief went scouting around the house on his own, prompting the watch-gnole to leave his hollow tree. But, unlike Nuth, the other PCs weren’t willing to allow their companions to die so easily, and shouted a warning from where they watched from the trees.

What followed was the gnole shaking hands and miming human customs, urging his potential next meal into the house.

I have no desire to ruin the adventure, so at this point I am just going to say that a great time was had by all. One player remarked that, for all his years playing D&D, he had never actually been in a “murder house” before. The dwarf turned out to be quite the old-school tactician, using various furnishings to create alarms that would notify the PCs if a secret door opened, checked various pieces of furniture to see if they moved (the secret doors were fixed in place), and so on.

Even with the balm of St. Cuthbert, the dwarf was dropped to 0 hp twice, the halfling once, and the thief once. Only the wizard managed to escape without coming within an inch of death. The dwarf, who had reduced his Luck to 0, only survived by rolling a 4!

Strangely, no “1”s were rolled during the session, and if memory serves the only critical hits were a “16” from the halfling and a backstab from the thief. I rolled dice in the open, as is my custom, and had the players roll damage when they were hit by any creature. This was fortuitous, as more than once absurdly low damage rolls saved the lives of one or another PC, and if the player hadn’t rolled it they probably wouldn’t have believed it.

It should probably be mentioned that the kitchen was made more disturbing when the dwarf made a sandwich.

Good times. Good times.

They forgot the fellow in the tree and, when they tried to set fire to the adventure location, were nearly undone. But, no, the dice went their way yet again! At the end of the session, before handing out swag, I was able to tell the adventurers that they were the first, since Nuth, to ever return from the House of the Gnoles.


Thursday, 15 June 2017

There WILL Be Swag.....

This Saturday at 401 Games in Toronto, I will be running Michael Curtis' excellent adventure, Gnole House. Swag is provided by Goodman Games. In addition, I have a print copy of The Revelation of Mulmo (the Tentacled Edition) that someone is going home with.

And that someone is not me.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Once you realize that restrictions in fantasy actually strengthen that fantasy, all that remains is determining what your coherent vision actually is.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Odyssey Con, Recap

Okay, it is well past time to talk about Odyssey Con, which I attended, along with Brendan LaSalle, at the end of April this year. Con attendance was high for a small con, but gaming attendance was low – largely, I think, because the convention was not set up to allow players to pre-register for games. Nonetheless, both Jeff Bernstein and Forrest Aguirre managed to make it out to play, as well as several people new to Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Full Disclosure: J. Laakso, Secretary and Webmaster of the convention, is also my brother.

Thanks to the generous contributions of Goodman Games, Shinobi 27 Publishing, and Purple Duck Games, Brendan and I were able to spread a certain amount of published Dungeon Crawl Classics wealth around to players, and the convention was able to do a draw for other items – including a Dagon Hardcover of Angels, Daemons, andBeings Between Extended, Otherworldly Edition that had been signed by both myself and co-author Paul Wolfe.

My brother also runs/owns Vault 0, which creates and distributes clothing items for cosplay, as well as some gaming items, such as this pirate-themed dice bag, which I picked up while at the convention. I use a Duluth Trading Companysix-pocket parachute tool bag for a dice bag, which can carry enough dice to kill a small bear. 

The Jolly Roger dice bag will allow me to carry a smaller amount of dice for quick gaming, or when I don’t want to have to carry a huge dice bag around at a convention. This last wasn’t a problem at Odyssey Con, but at Gary Con my hotel room was not even in the same building as the convention. The construction is durable, making it somewhat superior to most of the other dice bags I’ve used in the past. Also, the image on it allows the PCs to know what they are in for! 

Everyone at the convention was friendly, and I had a great time. Nix, who was in charge of the gaming aspect of the convention, was an excellent host. Unfortunately, no pictures from the Mad Scientist room party, wherein it was demonstrated that my nephew Stefan can make a good Rum and Coke even if he is forced to use Pepsi.

Some highlights from the judge's position at the table:
  • TPK in The Imperishable Sorceress after the PCs one-shot the demon and deal with Ivrian. They are killed by waspmires because they want to leave no area unsearched.
  • For the first time ever, running The Arwich Grinder, PCs engage in a serious conversation about worshiping the giant invisible baby.

Some highlights from the player's side:
  • Our band (Haggis Sack) is broken up as the sound engineer from the Isle of Skye won't be rejoining us today. His wee homunculus Mini-Me gets in a last gibe, however, and also manages to rescue my character.
  • Glory or a TPK hinge on a single die roll in Hole in the Sky. Glory is not what the dice have in store!

You can read another take on this convention here.