Guest Post: Setting Out for the Lost City

17 10 2012

‘A side effect of our early RPG experience was that we continued to anticipate that most games would “need” house-rules and believed that we were competent to make them. I can hardly remember playing a game we didn’t house-rule immediately, without a careful reading of the rules and a fair play test.’ — Yup yup yup!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Earlburt is my closest gaming friend, and has done more than any other person to help bring the games I’ve wanted to play alive at the table. He endured my first serious attempts at running role playing campaigns: first with the Car Wars GreenMountainCouriers 2033 campaign and later with my Traveller District 268 sessions. Most importantly, he played in nearly every session of the epic 2029 Campaign. This series of guest posts recounts his experiences running the classic Lost City module… and I am of course pleased that he not only wrote down his reactions but also agreed to have them published here. Thank you, Earlburt!


I was born in 1972, and my friends and I discovered D&D in 1979/80 in the 2nd grade. We started with the B/X boxed set (Moldvay/Cook), but acquired the hardback Advanced books mere months later. We were far too…

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Jeffro’s take on player skill vs. character skill…

17 05 2012


14 05 2012

Just out: A handy bag of containers and supplies in token form to take the paperwork out of dungeoneering. I hope, and suspect, that people will find these darn useful…


Aaaaannd… SCENE!

10 05 2012


At a recent con I playtested a storytelling game by an ingenious game writer. I might still be NDA’d though so I won’t give names.

Storytelling has never been my thing, but for the first time I encountered Scenes. That’s where each person at table takes turns defining a situation, and in each, everyone takes a role and makes things happen. So touchy-feely, right? OK, it can be, but also!

* Every player gets fair ups
* The precious resource of time at table is managed in discrete chunks

Much of our time at table with more traditional RPGs is taken up struggling with how individuals will extract satisfaction from what the group is doing. Me, I love tactics. I like to make elaborate plans that turn the expectations of enemies upside down, strike at the head, avoid predictable confrontations, fight on ground that I control… You get the idea. But while I’m drawing up plans, there are three or four other people trying to do something different with our very limited number of minutes together at that table. One guy maybe just wants the satisfaction of killing as many things as possible. Another may have definite goals for his character that involve, say, selling loot to buy a coveted item in town. One might enjoy playing a conniving scoundrel, or an idiot who tends to screw up. And many players at various tables just want to hang out with their friends.

Everyone ends up waiting sometimes, unable to pursue his or her own agenda. The killer champs at the bit while the roleplayer enjoys bantering with the innkeep. The tactician gets bored and stirs up trouble just for the fun of dealing with it. The social player suffers humiliation when the power gamers min/max the rules and draws challenges that a casually defined character can’t handle. And there’s a good chance of each being frustrated when time runs out and people have to go home.

None of this even mentions the poor referee and his scenario and ideas of plot. Those are just carrion on which we feast, anyway.

Dividing things up by scenes acknowledges the different things gaming can do and the scarcity of time in which to do them. It can be frustrating not to get the scene you want, or have it come out the way you like. Various mechanisms let you weight the importance of different possible outcomes. But the point is, the scene mechanic attempts to organize the limited time instead of throwing everyone into a four-hour soup to sink or swim.


Fooling around with caves

20 04 2012

Mr. Joel is rantingIn the Shadow of Mount Rotten includes a couple of pages on random caves: odds of them occurring, sizes and shapes that simulate what actually happens in nature, water and minerals to be found, etc. Using those tools takes dice, paper, and a bit of time. For just a random cave, there are various generators online. I was fooling around with this one, which has pretty good output for tabletopping:

Now, what I realized is that these cave walls are random walks, creating a kind of pseudo-fractal effect… like a coastline. Set cave density to Highest, background to Plain White, entrances to Four: It’s a map of a world’s continents. A few changes and you have a fjord, or an archipelago.

Anyway. That’s gaming: Using the part of the brain that really makes us human to find story in random outcomes.

Labyrinth Lord vs. Castle Keeper in MORTAL KOMBAT

24 03 2012

Maybe not quite. But over at Dragonsfoot, I just posted some of the reasons that Faster Monkey products sport the Labyrinth Lord Compatible logo.

Today, I am too dumb for the internets

11 03 2012

A banner day for me so far. I managed to delete months of email messages, erase my collection from BoardGameGeek, and have to re-submit my Gen Con events.

Think I’ll just revert to stone tablets and cuneform.

There are two kinds of people…

5 03 2012

When you describe a book as letter-sized, 84 pages, and jammed with 9 point type describing a huge terrain occupied by squabbling humanoid tribes… Some people turn and run. To others, I hope, it sounds like something worth reading.

After almost two years of work, IN THE SHADOW OF MOUNT ROTTEN went on sale today.

Mt. Rotten cover

Get the PDF from RPGNow, at one-fourth off for GM’s Day through March 7. Still only $12 after that.

Preorder the print edition from us for a similar discount. Files are at the printer’s. I can’t wait to see Mark Allen’s beautiful cover image in print.

Opus Next

2 03 2012


So yes, we have a new product. It will be ready for your grasping hands, virtual or fleshly, for the upcoming con season. It’s huge. It’s old school. It’s a little insane. It’s called “In the Shadow of Mount Rotten.

Review copies go out this month. I don’t want to say too much in advance. But Bighara tells me that I should talk about it, instead of laying my work silently on the stoop in the middle of the night and running away. Very well!

To give an idea of scope, here are some lines excerpted from the Charts & Tables list (which supplements to Table of Contents and the Index). I’ll even leave in the page numbers.

Reputation & Ransom Reference Tables……9

Typical Herd Animal by Terrain Aspect……31

Slaves; Prisoners of War……32

Types of Cave……42

Mineral Resources; Precious Ores; Crystals; Richness & Production……43

Ruins Types; Spell results (in temple ruin)……46

Conditions and Precipitation by Terrain & Season……51

Cold & Exposure……52

Spread of Wildfire……52

Productivity of Foraging by Terrain……53

Approximate Yield by Carcass Type (hunting)……54

Barter Rolls……63

Regional Value of Salt……64

Speciality Goods: Slaves……72

Speciality Goods: Ornaments……73

Totem Figurine shapes……73

Caravan Goods……75

That’s maybe 30% of the charts.

You know you have something worthwhile when someone steals it.

1 03 2012

oh crap...So LTTP a bit… or 30 years early. Anyway. Wizards more-or-less simultaneously announces 5th edition, calling for input from fans, and plans to re-issue the AD&D books.

Why would they do either of these things? Money. Duh. And I’m going to arrogantly suggest that the OSR, in its metastasized giant form, is responsible.

5E is vaporware, a concept generated because Pathfinder started outselling 4E. Raggi’s response, as many have noted, is hilarious.

AD&D is being reissued because someone noticed that some people were making money– a little money at least– by publishing their own versions of the rules.

Simple as that. Say what you like but the people at Wizards are not dumb. We in the OSR should be flattered that we are worth crushing.