Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hour of the dragon - Robert E. Howard

I've been plowing thru a metric butt ton of Robert E Howard's stuff.
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/36031

Currently reading "The Hour Of The Dragon".  And every single moment of this story, I keep thinking to myself, this would make a PERFECT event based adventure.  I know a lot of us don't like to hand hold players, or railroad them.  However using the story line as it stands, there's lot of possibilities for it to "go off the rails".  The story can be used as a great starting point for an adventure.  And if you are so inclined to have a few "events", then there is more than enough to get those creative juices flowing.

At one point, (sorry a bit of a spoiler).  Conan escapes and is trying to get the hell out of dodge.  Cue a "city escape" random encounter table.

Rolls a 5 - Hmm well you went down a street and it turns out to be a dead end.  The bad guys are about 10 steps behind you.  What do you want to do?

BY CROM! I WILL SWING MY SWORD AT THEIR HEATHEN HEADS!

Seriously this is an amazing work of fiction, and considering how long ago it was written.

I can totally understand why people pick up and run barbarians of lemuria.  A fighting fantasy campaign would work well with these story too!

Often when reading AFF adventures, they are written out in a event based, story board kind of thing.  At least the older adventures were.

I know.... railroading.  I think the biggest trick is to be able to change with the players plans, and jump to something new, wing it if you have to!

Anyways, read the story if you have a chance its quite good!


Friday, February 26, 2016

Old School Interviews available at drivethrurpg

I took sometime over lunch to compile all of the interviews I've done on this blog, and post it up as a pdf download on drivethrurpg.com

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/175746/Old-School-Interviews?src=slider_view

These are people of the “OSR”, old school publishers, role players, graphic artists, cartographers.  It’s been my pleasure to read their responses, invest time in researching what makes them tick. 
Included are: 
Thaumiel Nerub of D-oom Products
Tim Shorts from Gothridge Manor
Mr. Dyson Logos
Venger Satanis from Kort’thalis Publishing
Frank Turfler from Middle Kingdoms Adventure and Trading Co
Johua De Santo! - Interview with Genius Loci Games
James Spahn of Barrel Rider Games
Joe Johnston of Taskboy Games

Monday, February 22, 2016

Character Backgrounds

I've really enjoyed the background's section of 5e, I find it really helps to get your mind in the game, and become your character.  Atleast from the stand point of "Who am I? where did I come from? what has lead me to this life? etc".

That being said, just randomly rolling stuff on a table does help to a degree, atleast as a starting point.  Although sometimes you might not get exactly what you want, or it might lead you down a different path than you originally anticipated.

Just lately I was asked to take part in a play by post.  I wrote up a brief description of my character in the forum, and was given the following feedback.  "This is the best character portrait, ever." - The DM.

Here's the background.

Harnoth grew up an orphan on the streets of Port Tenobar. At an early age his family was murdered by the local guard. The “incident” was covered up, and poor Harnoth was left to fend for himself. Having had enough of the big city, Harnoth kept a wary ear to tavern doors, in hopes of finding a way out. By a stroke of luck, he bumped into a rather portly druid who was leaving for parts unknown. The druid was part of an order that kept an eye on nature, and the balance in the world. Harnoth grew to love their ways, and their god Ordana. Word came that a forest in the north was being overrun by demonic evil, and the druid’s in Harnoth’s company up and left in the middle of the night. A note left by his rucksack, left the words that cross his mind on a daily basis. “Go out and find your calling, we will meet again, Ordana be with you”. 

So for the sake of FUN! and something to write about I think what I'm going to do is start writing up some character backgrounds, you can feel free to use them if you like, turn them into a character you might want to play, or maybe an NPC. 

Note:  To keep it open ended when writing about "Gods" I will put the following "So and so is a follower of a Chaotic God".  You can then fill in with appropriate god.  Same goes for towns & dwellings, etc. 

So without further ado.

Childebert Bophin (Female Halfling) 

Regardless of how much has been written about the Halflings love of cooking,  Childebert is god awful at it!  She could burn water!  Because of this minor problem with cooking Childebert learned to work in the wood mill growing up.  As time went out she became extremely strong!  Easily lifting twice the weight most hobbits could.  She has spent many years as a guard for the small halfling village, and on occasion she's acted as the police force as well.  For the most part the only issues that have cropped up are minor disagreements about the taste of cheese or ale.  Another trait that is usually assumed when you see a halfling is the ability to break into locked boxes, and sneak.  Childebert isn't quite comfortable with those types of halfling traits, and is more happy and capable with a large hand axe and shield. 

STR:14





INT:12


WIS:14

DEX:11





CON:12

CHA:8




Dexel Markin (Human Male Magic User - ) 
Dexel is the closet human version of the "Bumbling wizard" that you can get.  In fact if there was a medieval dictionary, his picture would be in it beside "bumbling".  He really means well, but because of his lack of wisdom, and adventure prowess he fails more often than he succeeds.  In the true human spirit however, he never gives up!  More often than not he will suggest the entirely wrong course of action, or hand a potion to someone thinking that its a healing potion, when in fact it's more probably poison.  Dexel's only saving grace is that he is insanely funny, and a wonderful person to be around.  Because of this the crew that adventures with him, tends to put up with his rather odd antics. 
STR:13





INT:12


WIS:8

DEX:14





CON:13

CHA:11


Tathaln Valxidor (Female Elf)
Along time ago Tathaln's family were nobles in the forest realm of the Elves.  Her great uncle practiced necromancy in secret, his mind was twisted.  Because of this, it was eventually found out.  Ever since then the entire family has been shamed.  In some cases family members self exiled.  Tathaln has made it her mission to root out all necromantic evil, and in doing so she hopes to redeem her family. 

STR:14





INT:12


WIS:9

DEX:14





CON:13

CHA:13

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Out of the abyss playreport - Blingdenstone

Well we finally made it to Blingdenstone.  Which is apparently in a bit of a state.

(apparently I need to read a bit more Salvatore).

The PC's made their way to a tavern as per usual, after a brief discussion with the Gnomish ruling council.  The gnomish council was going to take care of Zagnap's body, and give him a proper burial.

Our monk (Tolgrin) has a major alcohol problem.  Once the PC's arrived at the tavern (I was playing a NPC half orc during the first part of the adventure).  My new character met them in the bar.  He was sitting with a group of elves when the PC's walked in.  He then stood up and ran over saying "MY VISION HAS COME TRUE!!!! THE GOD'S SPEAK TO ME".  (I'm basically a crazy cleric).

Anyhow, quick discussion, I tell them that I'd love to join them, as I had been sitting in the tavern for weeks on end waiting for the rest of the Elves in my party to leave for home.

At one point the other 2 PC's strongly considered not allowing me to come along.  Which was quite funny.

After relaying my backstory to Tolgrin & Ravana, Tolgrin suggested that I did in fact need a "NEW GOD!".  Hayden (my PC) comes from the neverwinter wood, a small colony of moon elves.  While a child still there was a horrible fire, my parents died and I was taken in by a priest, who I owe my life and religion to.  My entire body is badly burned with scars.  As well, I have a major speech impediment (I spent the whole session talking with my tongue pressed up against the inside of my lips).  Of which I received inspiration.

Our monk then decided to make a rather grand speech to all the NPC's that "If they would like to get off this crazy train, now would be a good time, since Blingdenstone is a fairly safe place".  We managed to have Jim Jar the Gnome leave our little group.  He demanded payment for his time with us.  Since we did not have a clue how  much gold we actually have (as our bard who was keeping track of it wasn't able to make the session yesterday, laying floor boards).  We decided to pay out Jim Jar by giving him a few hand crossbows that we recovered from some dead bodies.  He was more than happy and planned to pay off his debts in Blingdenstone and then open a tavern called the "Rustle & Glomph" named after Zagnap, our departed gnomish druid.  (Which was a nice touch by our DM).

After a few drinks in the tavern we decided to go and check out the marketplace.  Cue random encounter!  We were looking for a gnomish merchant, that we were supposed to deliver some stones to.

ERMAHGERD! Giant floating bloobs of nothingness (Gelatinous cubes).  A fight ensued, some PC's got trapped within.  Ravana saved the day by utterly ripping the cube into itty bitty pieces with her dual rapiers.  #badassed.

I believe we found a few magical items, including a drow sword within the cube.  Which is strange isn't it?  

After the fight, my cleric decided to "pray to god", which by the way is Eldath goddess of peace or some such shit.  Turns out one of the NPC's is also named Eldath.  (Cousin perhaps?).  This of course is entertaining.  Eldath.... yes? no not you!

Cue monk "YOU NEED A NEW GOD!"

Apparently my piety is called into question, as my god hasn't helped me with my speech impediment and scars yet.

Back to the adventure.  We find the merchant, give him the stones, he tells us to not say too much about them to anyone.  Monk says "that's okay we won't say anything to anyone about the SPICES right... yup the SPICES".  In return we received a sexy gem worth quite a bit of moolah.

The gnomish ruling council proposed that we clear out the north western section of Blingdenstone where the gelatinous cubes are coming from.

We go and check it out.  On the way over there, we talk to some guards that have a Medusa behind a door, locked up.  They want her taken care of.  None of us appear to have a mirror!  Which is probably a good thing as none of us had, had bath's or fixed our hair in sometime.  We decide to leave the Medusa alone for the time being, and make a check at the market for a few mirrors.

We go and check out the northwest section, and great cthulhu! there is a LOT of slime over there.  After a few failed checks to see if we could possibly use acid on the dead cubes, we decide to leave the cavern of slime and make our way back to the market. Of course we had a brief discussion with the king of slime.

and that is where we left off.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Renown & PC's

Kicking around the idea of creating a system with factions and renown, not un-similar to the way it is done in 5e.  However it will be based on the God's, and how they oversee the players.  For every act of Goodness or Evil, the PC's will receive 5% to a percentile die.  When it comes time to ask for something from the gods, they will take their starting base percentage of 10% + whatever Renown percentages they've have earned.  This will allow for a progression from peon to a very godly person.  The only issue I can see is that as the Renown grows, it will become vastly easy for the God's to side with the player.  So maybe a compromise.  After say 55% anything that is asked of the God's may come with a Quest, or a negotiation of some sort.

It would of course be up to the GM to give and take away Renown points as far as the God's are concerned.  They could even setup this up for when a player levels up.  Making note of any changes in Renown prior to the leveling.  So the player would have their initial score, and then whenever they leveled up the GM would add that to what he has kept track of.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mini Setting - The Continent Of Crimhuk - The Isle Of Tunga

Located east of the city of Yahleui is the Isle Of Tunga.  Within the isle is the small city of Tunga, which houses the descendants of the city of Yahleui.  They are in fact sister cities.  The monarchy of Tunga sent out missionaries, tradesmen & merchants to work the land to the west, Crimhuck.  Years ago the crown was usurped by the Merchant's guild's within Yahleui, and they have since ruled the city.  That being said, there is still strong trade between the two cities.

The current monarch of Tunga, Uchdryd Llwellyn The 3rd would like to reestablish Tungan rule within Yahleui.  Rumours have circled that he is in talks with the Harr-Gar of Tilla and the Gandalah from the Frozen.  A possible war is on the horizon. 

The isle is made up of mostly swamp land, very few if any vicious predators still remain on the Island, having been hunted to extinction years ago. 

The current Tunga army is in tattered remains of its former self.  Having just finished defending itself from occupiers to the south.

Tunga is known as a very smart city, there are university's and higher learning institution's dotting the city.  Certain taverns in the wealthier parts of the city play host to philosophical evenings where Sages discuss and debate the merits of pretty much anything.

The city is decadent.  Most citizen's live lavishly, some off the profits of trade missions, other's from illegal activities.  The use of narcotics and the trade of which has increased ten fold in the last few years.  Brothels, bathhouses, and general house's of ill repute can be found on most street corners.

It is said that beneath the isle of Tunga is a huge underworld of tunnels & treasure.  The ancients had meetings with some of the races from under Tunga.  Word has been past on since, that has went from rumour to legend.  No one nowaday's is entirely sure if this is in fact just a rumour, or that it is true.  The northern half of the island, is not well charted, as most of the population lives in and around the city of Tunga.  If I was a foolhardy adventurer I'd start there.  (just saying). 






Creative Ways To Kill Off Those Pesky NPC's

Conversation with DM, "I need to find some creative ways to kill off some of these NPC"s".

ME:

1.  Traps!
2.  Running head first into pits of slime
3.  Poisoning by ale
4.  Caught stealing beheaded.  or hands cut off.
5.  Found out significant other is pregnant.  (alternatively found out they are pregnant) must go home take care of offspring.
6.  Working for enemy, lets out a bit of info that is very valuable.  killed with poison dart.
7.  Mild heartattack
8.  Dysentery from Gnomish food.
9.  Found disemboweled in back alley. 
10.  Complications from STD's.




Monday, February 15, 2016

A little break from Crimhuck - A Oriental Campaign Idea

I've been kicking around the idea of running a oriental campaign.  It's amazing what flipping thru a few different DMG's and your imagination will do.

So here's the premise I have so far.

A large city that holds the emperor and his seat of power has been overthrown by the invading Rakasta.  New's has come that the emperor has been slain.  The previous guard/army has either been killed, captured, escaped or pressed into service of the new warlord.  (Samurai's)

Not far from the huge city is a small village on the outskirts of the empire.  This is where we find the hero's.  Some of them are leftover's of the previous regime (samurai's), some are monks from a nearby temple, some are ninja's, and some are wu-jen (sorcerers).

The village is in trouble of being overrun by the invading Rakasta.

The local factions - the monks, town guard, and possibly the ninja's (not sure on this).  Are desperately trying to stop the advance, but they are dissuaded at every turn.  Some members have switched allegiance.  Other's have been bought.

A new army must be raised, to combat the Rakasta problem.  But that's not the only problem.  Some seer's say that they've seen dragons in the sky.  Other's believe a new emperor must be found first.  The PC's maybe sent to envoy with another nation to discuss trade talks and help with the Rakasta problem.

There are of course spies everywhere.  And because of the change in government there is chaos in the streets.

That is all i've got so far.



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Crimhuck Bestiary

As you can tell, Crimhuck is a wild continent with a lot of similar creatures that we have on Earth, however most of them are the GIANT versions!  As well, there are Dinosaurs roaming freely throughout the land. 

This is a tentative list, I will be creating some new monsters for Crimhuck as well.  

Next up "The Races Of Crimhuck" 

Ant, Giant
Ape, Albino
Baboon, Higher
Bat
Bear
Bee, Giant Killer
Beetle, Giant
Boar
Black Pudding
Camel
cat, Large
Centipede, Giant
Crab, Giant
Crocodile
Elemental
Elephant
Ferret, Giant
Fish, Giant
Fly, Giant Carnivourous
Ghoul
Giant
Golem
Gray Ooze
Gray Worm
Green Slime
Hawk
Herd Animals
Horse
Insect Swarm
Leech, Giant
Lizard, Giant
Lizardfolk
Locust, Subterranean
Lycanthrope,
Mastodon,
Men
Mule
Mummy
Neanderthal
Ochre Jelly,
Octopus, Giant
Pterodactyl
Rat
Rhagodessa, Giant
Rhinoceros
Roc
Rot Grub
Salamander
Sea Serpent
Shadow
Shark
Shrew, Giant
Skeleton
Snake
Spectre
Spider, Giant
Squid, Giant
Statue, Animate
Stegosaurus
Titanothere
Treant
Toad, Giant
Triceratops
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Vampire
Weasel, Giant
Whale
Wolf
Wight,
Wraith
Yellow Mold
Zombie


Friday, February 12, 2016

Bit of an update to the Crimhuck map

I'm going to spend a bit of time creating hexes for the different sections of the map using autorealm.  Then it will be time to re draw this whole thing by hand.

Still working on the writing component of this.  It's coming along.  My guess is I will take everything I've written, have a read thru and change a few things.

As well I am going to start working on the bestiary of monsters within Crimhuck.  The thought in my head is to stay away from typical fantasy & mythological creatures for this.  Something a bit different, something that has probably already been done before.  Whatever the case it's floating my current boat.

Also because I don't have much if anything happening at lunch I decided to fart around with layout ideas, thanks to the wonderful "TSR layout guide", going with a 1e kinda feel






















Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mini Setting - The Continent Of Crimhuk - The Forests Of Armta

North of Crek Lake lay the forests of Armta.  The forest is densely wooded with evergreen trees.  There are a few path's throughout, some of which may lead north to the lands unknown.  Within the forest is an ancient ruin of an old city.  Getting to it has proved a lot more difficult however.  Prior to the fall of the ancient civilizations of Elves, Dwarves and Halfings, this city was a hub for magical and intelligent thought & study.  The ruins were once known as "Efharion, the city of light".  It has now been over run by "things that go bump in the night".  A very dangerous place.

Deep within the forest it is said that grey humanoids have built a large dwelling within the trees.  Although no one has had communications with these beings outright, there have been rumors of them.  They appear to be about five feet tall with large oval shaped heads, grey in colour, large black eye sockets.

Gang's of bandits and thieves hide out within the forest.  A few local citizens have setup small mining operations near the borders of the forest.

Encounter Table 


1.  Wild Boar
2.  Black Bear
3.  Giant Hawk
4.  Antelope
5.  Wolf
6.  Grizzly Bear

Adventure Seeds

1.  A expedition has been set to find the lost city of light "Efharion", a local lord near Crek lake is paying handsome sums of gold for any information on the exact location of the city.

2.  The forest is alive!  Bushes attempt to strangle you, people loose their whereabouts and get turned around.

3.  A local farm girl was abducted in the middle of the night, there was no trail whatsoever to follow.  The farm is located just south of the forest of Armta.

4.  A evil sage who lives in a tower near the borders of the forest has been amassing large animals.  As to what he is doing no one knows.  It is said that the borders of the tower are protected magically.

5.  The forest is haunted, I've seen armies of ghosts moving throughout it at night.

6.  A local gang of thieves have been hitting caravan's near the borders of the forest, a price has been put on their heads.

7.  Raider's from the forests have burned crops & killed off local farmers, it appears they were in search of something.

8.  A mine within the forest has been over run by a group of foul creatures!

9.  The most curious thing I've ever seen!  A large walking construct came out of the forest, turned around and smashed its way back in.  It was 9 feet tall!

10.  A local priest needs ingredients to cure a rampant flu.  All of which are located within the forest of Armta.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mini Setting - The Continent Of Crimhuk - The Frozen

The village of Tilla is a recent addition to the continent of Crimhuck.  It was established within the last few years by travellers who managed to navigate the "impassable sea".  The villager's are known as the "Harr-Gar", a viking-esq people.  They have started to make a home in the frozen, planting hearty crops and scavenging the land.

The land is dotted with tribes of nomads and barbarian raiders.  One tribe in particular the "Gandalah" are extremely vicious.  They have travelled south on more than one occasion, sacking and burning the countryside.  Although recently the Gandalah warships have been spotted moving east into the impassable sea.  On more than one occasion they have attempted to siege the village of Tilla, with mixed results.  The chieftain of the tribe is named "Snirrgrorr the tempted", he is a sadistic vile conqueror.  His only appetite is that of destruction.  The idea that they maybe attempting to travel across the seas, seems quite mysterious.  It has started the rumour that Snirrgrorr may not be in charge of the tribe anymore.

North of the village of Tilla is "The Frozen", a large mountain range that has remained unexplored.  Some people say that there is land beyond the mountains, but they seem to be impassable.  Roaming throughout the frozen are large mammoths, giant polar bears, seals, large birds.  There is even an active volcano known as the "Grim Peak".

Deep within the mountain range a large asteroid crash landed years ago.  Folks refer to the event as the "great awakening".  Rumbles were heard as far as south as Regla desert.   Some attempts have been made to find it, all of which have been unsuccessful.

Adventure Seeds.

1.  A merchant is looking to hire a guard to help him travel to the famed city of Yahleui.
2. A local healer wants to visit "Grim Peak", he believe's that there are plants that grow on the mountain side that have healing properties.
3. A task force is being setup to curb the aggressiveness of the Gandalah.
4.  A wild eyed barbarian claims to have seen strange beings within the mountain ranges of the Frozen.
5.  Fires have spread through out the mountains, some fear that they will make there way to the Village of Tilla.
6.  A ship builder wants to test out a new design and is looking for some hero's to accompany him on a trip south.
7.  Pirates have been spotted in the waters east of Tilla
8.  A vile sorceress is hunting nomads near Tilla.
9.  The dead have risen, all of the past deceased buried in a graveyard on the outskirts of Tilla, have started to rise.  Some believe this is a harmful omen of the end times.
10.  A local entrepreneur is looking for people to help scout the mountain ranges for a suitbale mine.



Friday, February 5, 2016

Mini Setting - The Continent Of Crimhuk - The Southern Swamp Lands

South of the city of Yahleui along the coast are the southern swamp lands.  A dangerous place filled with dinosaurs, lizardmen and mucky things that gurgle in the night.  Pirates camp along the coasts, making it difficult to land anywhere near the swamp.  Deep within the swamps are old ruins, some of which are pyramids.  These pyramids are triangular in shape but with squared off tops.  Ceremonies by the tribes of lizardmen are performed here.  The swamps are ruled by the Lizard King, although he isn’t actually a lizard, but a reincarnation of a god.  Or so the Lizardmen believe.  In fact, he’s just very good at talking his way into things.  An opposing tribe of lizardmen believe that he is not in fact the messiah, but an imposter.  They seek to subvert his rule, and find the lost tomb of the original lizardmen god.  


A rather strange doctor lives within the swamp, he practices strange ritual mutilations and sacrifices.  His intent is to create a new type of being, using genetic manipulation.  


Normally there are no traveller’s thru the swamps, merchant caravans tend to skirt the edges of the swamp.  The coastline is littered with the remnants of sunken ships, plundered for their riches.


There are a few small villages of human tribesman throughout the swamp, they trade with local merchants.  A warlord has been slowly enslaving them to work in mines in the Reglas Desert.


Northwest of the swamps is the Regla Desert, another inhospitable place.

Adventure seeds.

  1. A tribe of lizardmen seek entrance into an old pyramid, something old is buried there
  2. A local tribes woman was kidnapped by a mysterious man in the night.
  3. A war has broken out between 2 lizardmen tribes, spies are needed to infiltrate the camps.
  4. The dinosaurs (or what is left of them) have been mass herding thru the swamps, they have been spotted running north towards the city of Yahleui
  5. Ghosts of old traveller’s have been seen throughout the swamps, they are restless.
  6. A old dungeon trapdoor was located by a traveller, he is willing to sell the location to would be hero’s
  7. A great sorcerer has appeared in the swamp, he lives by himself, any who trespass on his land are immediately extinguished (in a ball of flames)
  8. Strange creatures have been spotted in the night, there eyes glow in the dark and there heads are oval in shape.
  9. Lights in the skies have been spotted.  Elders warn that this is the “end of times”.
  10. A warlord has started enslaving tribesmen, and hauling them off towards the desert
  11. An ancient sword was found by lizardmen, he has since been promoted to general within an army.  They say all that he fights he defeats.
  12. A group of priests have been seen giving aid to villagers and lizardmen alike, they call themselves the “order of happenstance”.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's your turn Joe! - An Interview with Joe Johnston of Taskboy Games

1. How did you get your start roleplaying? What system did you use?
Due to poor archiving, I cannot nail down the precise year I started, but it was in the late seventies. I was below the age of ten.

Some good friends, with whom I had my most splendiferous childhood experiences (most of which involved madly running around basements, woods and other areas devoid of parental oversight), showed me TSR’s B2: The Keep onthe Borderlands.  The back cover of that module informs my attraction to lurid colors.  And the dice were nifty.

While we may have started that module, I more clearly remember going through the otherworldly Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits.  When I finally got my own copy of that module just a few years ago, I was amazed how much we missed in that early run.



At the start of the eighties, my family moved and I entered a new school on Cape Cod (the school had literally opened 4 years earlier).  In my classroom, there was a copy of Holmes’ Basic D&D.  I was flummoxed by the chits.

Later in high school, I joined a role playing club and was introduced to Gamma World and Top Secret.

It is accurate enough to say that the AD&D 1e system and Moldvay’s B/X have seeped into my DNA.  Mentzer’s BECMI stuff is still considered by me to be the “new edition.”  I do not have any newer editions of D&D.

My playing style has always been “theatre of the mind” stuff.  The idea of using maps and minis just seemed like too much work.  These days, the approach taken by utilities like Roll20 where a map can be uploaded and partially obscured is great.  That is far more fun that mapping anyway.
2. How and when did you discover OSR?
If my distant memories are hazy, you would expect more recent events to have more clarity.  And you would be wrong.

After the 80s, I drifted away from role playing to LARP as a rock musician for a time and then later as a computer programmer (which continues to pay the bills).

In the first decade of the twenty first century, I used eBay to expand my collection of TSR Gazetteers.  When Gygax died, I started looking a bit more online to see what the state of the hobby was and very likely it was then that I came across James Maliszewski’s most excellent blog Grognardia, which is still a consulted resource even today.

James writes about the hobby like a well-read adult with a college education and everything.  He articulated the idea that there is something special about those early years of TSR (when D&D was a bigger commercial hit than Monopoly) and that that is worth celebrating.

James’ blog led me to Google Plus, in which I previously had little interest.  I started my own OSR blog in 2011 and started writing the adventure Manse onMurder Hill, which is part of a series that extrapolates what might have happened after the events of The Keep on the Borderland.


This is a long-winded way of saying that my involvement with OSR is all James’ fault and all opprobrium for such should be forwarded there.

However, had I not found such a generous and welcoming community on G+, I would have moved on to other interests.
3. Tell me about Taskboy Games, How did it start?
The word “Taskboy” has been around for, great Cthulhu, fifteen years or so.  It is an umbrella term for all my projects.  Originally, I had thought to make project management software under that title, which is clearly a nod to the Pipboy PDA of the computer RPG Fallout.  However, my project did not pan out, but the domain name stayed.

All the wonderful adventures that were being self-published on RPGNow.com provoked me into thinking I could do the same.  On the first release of Manse, the fiendishly talented Stuart Robertson provided the illustrations and I did the cartography and layout.  Aaron Beck did a fantastic job of copy editing and even created a style guide for me. It was great fun!

To test the market, I released Manse for free and, to my surprise, people seemed to like it.  I released a few one-page adventures (a concept I hope to return to later) which were also well received.

I did not have a master plan.  I was just following my heart.



Editors Note: You can find taskboy games - http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/4333/Taskboy-Games
4. Tell me about your latest release “Adventure Seed’s - Islands”?
Adventure Seeds was originally written for Secret Santicore, to which I was very honored to contribute.

However, that year’s Santicore ended up being a sprawling omnibus.  It seemed like my article could be a nice supplemental for creating adventures, and so I released a modified version as such.

I hope to have a few more in the Adventure Seeds line this year.


5. What are you currently playing?
I am playing catch-up.

I owe Peter Spahn a short hexcrawl for the Valnwall guidebook (which already has a ton of excellent material in it from Pete and many others).

The tentative title of the adventure is Cragshaper’s Errand, in which the party accepts what seems to be a boring caravan guarding gig, but finds it has larger political implications, much to their endangerment.

6. If you could campaign in any world which would it be?
Mystara.  Although I despise the twee name, the locations of Glantri, Rockhome, Ylaruam and Ierendi hold so much promise for fantasy adventure.



On the sci-fi side, the Star Frontiers setting of “the Wild West in space” is attractive.

I also would love to explore a Fallout-like or Thundarr-like world.


7. How is the writing going for The Horror Beneath Graywater Tower?
Gah.

I had that adventure about 80% written when I got blocked.  I still think the bones are good.  When I get the other stuff off my plate, I will return to it.  As with many projects, I start out with a huge idea and then have to winnow it down to something I can actually execute that has strongly coherent.

One of the blocking items was that I wanted the dungeon to be in an extra-planar dimension between the Elemental Plane of Negative Energy and the Elemental Plane of Earth.  Actually making that a gameable mechanic has proven challenging.

X2: The Castle Amber is one of my favorite old school modules (which is another thing James M. and I have in common). I suspect that Graywater will head in that direct a bit more.



From an income perspective, the next project I should work on is an expanded, printed version of Hexcrawl.

If nothing else, James Spahn keeps hounding me about it.

8. Tell me about the “Tranzar’s Redoubt” & “The Manse on Murder Hill” Modules?
Tranzar’s Redoubt is a small dungeon crawl in the classic tradition of a wizard’s fun-house.  Because of my fondness of Gygaxian naturalism, I try to have some level of plausibility to the encounters.  You probably will never see a giant chess board puzzle in one of my adventures, for example.


With Tranzar, every room had to be an interesting place to visit.  Not every encounter requires combat.  There is a lot of treasure in the dungeon, but the best stuff is hard to find.  I am reasonably proud of the Big Bad at the end of the module and I hope that I was modestly successful at subverting the well-worn trope of a wizard’s lair.

Reading The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions definitely affected the design of Tranzar, but I would excuse D. Vincent Baker if he did not notice.



Manse on Murder Hill is a “house crawl” in the tradition of The Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh.  It is the first in a series (hey, I working in it!) that involves a revenge story.  However, Manse is designed to work as a standalone module.  It looks better than even with Tim Hartin’s new maps and David Guyll’s additional artwork.
9. What is one of your favorite adventures other than something that you’ve released?
A few of the classic TSR influences have already been mentioned, but let me throw out some love for the outstanding work that litters the OSR community like rats in a first level dungeon.

Peter Spahn of Small Niche Games just keeps cranking out solid, engaging adventures.  If you only buy one of his products this year, let it be TheInn of Lost Heroes.  That adventure goes to some pretty dark places for bog standard fantasy RPG.


On the subject of Spahn’s, James Spahn’s Barrel Rider Games is another publisher that is hard to go wrong with.  Just pick up his White BoxOmnibus and you will be transported back to the 80s.  Maybe you are too busy playing his crazy-popular White Star supplement to bother, though.

At the risk of sounding sycophantic, your own work like The Lizardmenof Illzathatch is great resource to grab when you need a quick side adventure on short notice and do not have time for a lot of fiddly setup.

Kelvin Green’s Forgive Us is a creepy little adventure for those seeking the claustrophobic atmosphere of something like the movie Alien.



For just ecstatic, punk rock fun, please take a look at Gus L.’s The Dread Machine. He should sell these adventures written in high school notebooks with ball-point pen.  Great, raw fun.

Pretty much everything that the Hydra Collective puts out.  The weird city setting of Fever-Dreaming in Marlinko is delightful and should be stolen from liberally (but I will admit to nothing).

Then there are the sort of monumental epics of OSR that I would hope everyone knows about: Greg Gillespie’s Barrowmaze; Zak Smith’s Redand Pleasant Land; and James M.’s epic Dwimmermount.  These giant works are inspirational in content and in form.  I cannot say that I have fully digested any of them well enough yet.  Dwimmermount in particular is a gift that keeps on giving.  I would love to have been a player at James’ table for that.  Similarly, I would love to be at Zak’s gaming table for pretty much anything.

I am really grateful that James Raggi is around.  He is both a standard bearer for independent publishing, a champion of quality production and a challenge to the rest of us to be as creative as we can be.

There is an embarrassment of riches in the OSR community when it comes to worthy products.  I am sorry I cannot now name all that ought to be.
10. Your modules contain some amazing art & layouts, who are these awesome artists?
Thank you for your kind words.  I am very fond of the work that my team has done.  It has far exceeded my expectations and I just sort of happen to get an impressive collection of talent to work for me.

Stuart Robertson came in for the first round of Manse artwork after I saw his stuff on G+.  I am extremely proud that his art adorns my work.

Two or three years ago, Matt Hildebrand approached me looking for layout work.  At the time, I did not have anything in the pipeline, but I keep a spreadsheet of OSR production resources and put him on it.  Turns out, Matt is really, really good at layout, as many other OSR publishers are finding out.

During the production of Tranzar, I realized that the only way to get my products noticed in the highly competitive sea of self-published RPGs was “to go big” with design.  My strategy continues to be to produce the best-looking products I can afford and cleverly sandwich my little stories in between.

The vision for a design aesthetic is stolen straight from Hellboy: high contrast and low resolution.  The production should be clean, modernist and minimalist.  The look should respect the past, but go someplace new.  As much I as love the look of the old TSR modules, I wanted design that looked forward.  I credit Zak Smith for challenging my thinking on what an OSR product could look like.

With these vague suppositions in mind, Matt came back with a few designs that were all excellent, but one spoke strongly to me.

I am over the moon with the look and feel of Taskboy’s full adventure product line.  Matt knocked it out of the park on Tranzar, so I asked him to modernize Manse too.  I will use him for the Hexcrawl revision and anything else I do, provided he has the time.

Since Stuart was not available for the Tranzar work or the Manse update, David Guyll agreed to work those projects.  Again, when I see an artist I like on G+, I put his or her name on my spreadsheet.  David really nailed the visualization of the ideas in the Tranzar.

Cartography, although fun, is not my core competency, but it sure is of Dyson Logos and Tim Hartin.  If I have to explain why these guys are leaders in OSR cartography, then you probably do not OSR much.  I would love to get more of their work in future projects, but those two are really busy, as you might expect. Matt Jackson and Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design are on my list of talent that I need to work with.

The ingeniously bizarre illustrations of Jason Sholtis really send me.  His stuff channels the weird fantasy of the 80s without nostalgia.

Look and feel is important, but content is king.  Taskboy Games uses technical readers to find those parts of the adventure that do not work or are problematic.  The readers I have gotten have all been wonderful, insightful and way more engaged than I could have expected.  Readers like Paul Go, Kyrinn Eis and Aaron McLin have all applied much needed hammering to my woolly manuscripts.  Their work removed the most desultory parts and made the adventures so much more compelling.

Good production takes talent.  If you do not have talent, you must buy it.  Taskboy Games is a terrible business, but a rewarding hobby.  While I understand the lower demand for print versions of these product, these adventures are stunning as printed things.  They look just gorgeous.

11. When you get a chance to play a character, what type of PC do you like to play?
Clerics.  I love them so darn much.  They aren’t as brittle as low-level magic-users.  They wield some satisfyingly destructive weapons.  They have spells that are immediately useful to the party at beginning levels and game-changingly dramatic at high levels.

They are the thinking man’s dwarf.


12. What are you most excited about in the RPG scene currently?
Pete Spahn’s Valnwall guidebook will help draw interest back to Labyrinth Lord.  Obviously, I am a fan of the LL system. It feels so open (thanks to Dan Proctor) that it demands community contributions.  Without changing any core rules, there is a whole universe of adventures that can and should be produced to make the world of LL as rich as that of Mystara.

Editors note:  AMEN! 

And that, thanks to the OGL, is a playground for all of us.

As I mentioned, the Hydra Collective appears to building some kind of monster. The Hill Cantons just gets bigger and better and nuttier.  They seemed to be have a good time.

Every day, my G+ timeline has new and inspiring illustrations that fire off more adventure ideas than I can capture.  Sometimes, I have to shut off  G+ just to get work done or to prevent me getting overwhelmed and depressed.  Ignorance of the competition really seems to help get work out the door.

OSR is such a creative juggernaut and I am positive that I only see about a tenth of it.

As the careful reader will notice, I do not keep up mainstream RPGs from established publishers.  Although there is a lot of good work there, it just feels like a walled garden to me.

13. I really loved “How to Hexcrawl”. It’s an amazing resource, where did that come from?
I am happy you found it useful.  I have gotten a lot of encouraging feedback about it.

The origin story of Hexcrawl is pretty mundane.  I saw the term hexcrawl but could not articulate how to play one.  That seemed to be the case for a lot of people.

My Hexcrawl supplement is an attempt to explain what a hexcrawl is, how it is different from a dungeon crawl and how to actually play a hexcrawl as envisioned in the B/X and LL rules.  It is a clarification of rules which do seem to contradict themselves at times.


It is interesting that one to the complaints about Hexcrawl is that it does not contain new information about wilderness adventuring.  That as a complement.

One last shoutout to James M.  At some point, James articulated this guideline: D&D is always right.  What that provocative motto is expressing is that a good chunk of the original D&D rule set was thought-out and extensively play tested.  One should try to understand and play the rules as they are written before creating house rules that may end up being problematic.  This is not an injunction against house rules, but a gentle nudge to try the game as designed first.

By collecting wilderness adventure rules into a single place and ordering the rules in a more procedural way, I hope I have made DMs who shied away from running a hexcrawl feel confident that they could do it successfully.

David Cook provided the rules for wilderness adventures in the original TSR D&D Expert Rulebook and he wrote X1: The Isle of Dread, which tries to be an exemplar of those rules.  The problem is, X1 is a sort of masters class in hexcrawling which does not actually follow the rules in the Expert Rulebook.  It is not easily approachable.  Sure, wondering on the island is not too bad, but getting to the place is a little rough, due to the waterborne travel.  The revision to Hexcrawl will cover water travel and attempt to make it a clear (and hopefully fun) procedure to follow.


One last thing of note about Hexcrawl.  Hexcrawl was going to be a G+ post in the LL group.  It would be  something of limited value and relatively short.  After getting twenty pages into the project, it clearly needed to be something more permanent than either a blog post or a social media status update.  In an open forum, I asked the LL group members to comment on and review the manuscript I produced.  Since the editing was done in a collaborative spirit, I did not feel that I could charge for the final product.  Dyson Logos very generously provided the footer to that doc, which was a pleasant surprise.

Hexcrawl is my small gift to the community and that version will always be freely available (although tips are welcome).

The revision I am planning will have the same high production values as my adventures, which means that I will be charging money for it.  It will be available as PDF and in softcover.
14. Football Or baseball? And bonus question Star Wars or Star Trek?
I do not sport.

The second question is easier: Star Trek.

Let me explain.

I like Star Wars.  I was born in 1971 and I am legally obligated to enjoy this wonderful hero’s journey that George Lucas produced.

While Star Wars gets high marks for escapism, it fails to capture my imagination.  I do not care about any of the worlds shown in the seven movies (although the battle wreckage seen on Jakku was evocative and a great allusion to the last rebellion).  I do not find the Jedi more interesting than, say, samurai.  Why the Sith limit themselves to only two members seems like a retconned rationalization that makes little strategic sense.  The penchant for deathstars is darn near pathological.  Cool spaceships though.  If you want lightsabers, may I suggest the work of Jack Kirby on Thundarr?

On the other hand, Star Trek is a setting I want to explore, even with clunker shows like Voyager and Enterprise spraying excrement on the continuity.  The core optimism of Trek is that somehow humans will work together to explore the stars rather than conquer them.

Star Wars speaks to the child I was.  Star Trek speaks to the adult I am.


15. What are the plans for Taskboy Games this year? Anything in the works?
One way or another, the Valnwall hexcrawl will be delivered.

Jason Paul McCartan’s zine, OSR Quarterly, should be emitted this year and contain my article about the Wild Hunt and related critters.

The Hexcrawl revision should be next, both because it is straight-forward and high profile.

Another unfinished supplement kicking about has the working title “Mr. Xang’s Shop of Exquisite Grotesqueries,” which will be fun to write and require outrĂ© illustrations (which seems like a rather good fit for Jason).

Also, Richard Littler’s darkly absurdist Discovering Scarfolk keeps asking to be recast as an adventure.

There are half a dozen adventures in an unfinished state on my Google Drive, with probably another six ideas for articles or supplements.  Keep watching my G+ posts to get a better handle on what next will be emitted from TG.


The main blocker is free time.  The reality is that the priority for this hobby comes after work and family obligations.  In October of 2015, I was lucky enough to join a new company that has been fabulous to work for.  However, I have not adjusted to the new schedule quite yet.  When I do, I expect to have more bandwidth for orcs and such.


Editors note:  Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions +Joe Johnston  I appreciate it! 

You can find Taskboy games -