Saturday, May 18, 2024

Detectives in Space, Desperate Cowboys, Freezing Barbarians, Mystic Pilgrims... Or all of the Above!

Looking to start a game? I have some campaign ideas that might inspire you.

How I Pitch my Campaigns

When I am ready to start a new campaign, I put together a handful of "pitch documents" that give the players a taste of what they might expect with the game. The style of my pitch documents varies a lot by mood and inclination.

Recently my wife and I concluded a one-to-one Fabula Ultima campaign, and have been, after a couple of false starts and a few weekends where life just got in the way, looking to start something new. I recently prepared a document with four campaign pitches for a one-to-one game based on our current leanings, taste, and media intake.

As this could be a useful tool for assembling a group, I thought I would share a (slightly tidied up) PDF version of the document.

Pitches May 2024

Generally speaking, I give a fictional preview either written like a movie trailer, or a summary of precipitating events written like the back of a book cover.

Then I create a couple of paragraphs explaining the game of choice, the role the PCs might start with, and what kind of overarching experience I hope to provide.

I used to add in some evocative art hunted down on Pinterest. These days, I try generating something custom using an AI. It seems like a good, non-commercial use for the tool.

The Pitches

In this case I have a Scifi Detective Noir that is drawing a lot on Philip K. Dick, as well as an old favourite podcast, Black Jack Justice; a natural fantasy story based on a fusion of Babylon 5: Crusade, The Slayers: Try, Legend of Mana, and Sorcerer Hunters; A cowboy story that is intended to be a massive and dark expansion of my Vulture Rock wargame scenario played in Cowpunchers; and there is an AD&D scenario there inspired by the copious amount of Manowar that has been on my CD player in the last week (I'm also on my 15th play-through of Skyrim).

Feel free to steal and use these, and I am happy to answer questions, if you want more information about how I intended to use them.

But these particular campaign pitches just didn't sing. They weren't quite what we were looking for.

Trying Again

I sat for awhile trying to think of what I might try differently, and started taking the most appealing elements of each into a totally different beast.

I am currently enjoying the novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons as well. If you're not familiar, it is a dark and surreal (and much more serious) science fiction take on The Canterbury Tales which involves a group of pilgrims being sent to their deaths on an alien world, telling about their experiences on a previous voyage there. Hyperion is a pretty influential book in science fiction media, but is not itself very well known. If you have played Borderlands, Bio-Shock, Mass Effect, or Amnesia games, you have probably heard a lot of references to it.

I decided to blend my four campaigns together: a dark western story, but with a mystery focus, set in my own science fiction world, to which I would add in some heavy metal notes. And while I was at it, I decided to toss in some elements of Mass Effect and Borderlands (a fantastic Sci-Fi Western setting)

 What I ended up with is a frontier space colony world full of ancient hyper-tech ruins that can create miracles, where runaways, psychics, criminals, and cultists are rampant. I called it Adaro

I've written a lot about realizing a science fiction setting in the past. One thing that I find to be axiomatic is that if you are not using an established setting, you need to work a lot harder to tell your players about it. When I write science fiction pitches, I add a lot more detail to it before I pitch it.

Adaro is written as a series of three monologues from very different perspectives, and two dossiers written for a government agent, plus a couple of definitions, and I feel it does a great job of doing heavy lifting.

Steal This Planet!

Tragically, it just didn't sell to my wife as a home game setting. However, i feel like Adaro might be just the thing someone else is looking for, so I am going to toss the pitch document up here, and see if any of my readers want to steal it and make it their own.

Download it as a PDF here:

Adaro: A Mythic Space Western

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Game Review: Death in Space

: Christian Plogfors, Carl Nibeaus
Publisher: Stockholm Kartel, Fria Lagan
Engine: Mörk-Borg Compatible (OSR)
Marketplace: Fria Lagan, Amazon, DTRPG

Death in Space is a sci-fi horror game set in a distant future where the Universe is beginning the process of heat death, and humankind, after aeons of expansion across Space, are now in steep decline.

The game's setting, which is heavily baked into the structure, is the Tenebris System, a star system that had been at the heart of humanity's final war; many powerful mega corporations and space empires fought for centuries over gems found on moon in Tenebris which were so flawless and possessed such fantastic properties that they would revolutionize the manufacturing of spacecraft, computers, and hyperspace gates 

By the time the war was over, humanity was so beggared and in such steep decline that it didn't matter anymore: no one had the means left to use the gems.

Now humanity is clinging on to an existence where they make nothing new: everything has been repurposed and recycled over and over again. An alien force, the void, is creeping in, infecting, tainting, and mutating everything it touches, and that can be heard in strange whispers on radio waves across the Universe.

 Humans live in poverty in the wreckage of their once great empires. In Tenebris, most of the population lives in The Iron Ring: a hoop of fused hulks of space stations and starships in orbit around the moon where the gems were once discovered.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Swords Against Madness

 Swords Against Madness
, my new gonzo OSR solo TTRPG podcast launched today, and I have to start by saying that I have never felt a more warm welcome for anything I have ever done. Abel from The Iron Realm, Simon from Legend of the Bones, John from Tale of the Manticore, and T15 from Legends from the Fireside all dropped by and said hello, and asked me how they can help and promote me. I am blown away by how awesome a crowd this is already.

Swords Against Madness is played using Swords & Wizardry Complete and a bevy of tools from tables stolen from ICRPG to the Pendulum World-Building Assistant, to the Dungeon Dozen. I am turning the gonzo weirdness is going to be turned up to the max.

If you are interested in Swords Against Madness, you can learn more here! Or listen to it through YouTube here:

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Welcome to the Deathtrap: Year 4 in Review

I have been writing Welcome to the Deathtrap for four years! I can hardly believe it has been so long!

In the last year I've put out a couple of light games, like Drakken and Dragonette, I've nearly completed my complete edition of Deathtrap Lite, and have a couple of other rules light games in the works in my spare time. I haven't spent nearly as much time as I would have liked on reviews. I have a backlog of books I've read, or have almost finished readings, but haven't had much of an opportunity to review.

The ebb and flow of the 'blog has definitely reflected the good and bad times in my life. In the past year and a bit, I have partially lost use of my hands, feet, and lips, and developed chronic fatigue due to a brain injury, I've been forced to move once, and nearly had to do so a second time. I've lost 28 lbs. I've tried to go back to work, and found myself too ill to do so effectively. I've learned a new skillset, and I'm starting a business.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Podcasting Your Campaign Notes

I am, generally speaking, awful about keeping notes as a DM. When I run  a game, I am so deep in the flow moat times that writing things down doesn't occur to me. Three days later, I can usually tell you exactly what happened without referring to my scant in-game notes. But by the time a week has gone by, I am stuck in the position of sometimes having to ask, "What was that NPC's name again?"

It really isn't the best way to do things and has been the source of a few jarring moments in otherwise great game flow. I've started making quick audio notes after sessions so that I can have a quick refresher before the session begins.

For the sake of building some enthusiasm,  honing my craft, and having a little fun with my friends, it occurred to me that I could turn these into a podcast with a tiny and very specific audience. Although, once it is in full swing it might be interesting to other players who want to see how those older 1970s style rules and 1:1 time play out in an actual game.

Once the 5-10 minutes of audio notes are recorded, I also realized that I could also record some of the lore about the campaign setting in a fun delivery package that helps me avoid lore dumps in the game. "Here's 5 minutes of stuff you might want to know and might be interesting, but isn't game critical - and you can skip!" seems like a winning formula. Especially as it is as much about me as them.

If you are curious, here are my first to proper session versions of the micro-podcast:

Silver Gull - Episode 2

Silver Gull - Episode 3

Silver Gull - Episode 4

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Day Tripper, Analysis and Thoughts

This is part two of my discussion of my experience with the AI game master and role-playing game Day Tripper. See my previous article for a transcript of the actual play 

When I played Day Tripper, one of the first things I noticed was a slightly wonky pacing. While the game doesn't have a limited number of interactions, the AI game master is designed to really hurry things along: up to and including taking agency away from the player to desc

Monday, April 8, 2024

My A.I. Gm Experience: "Day Tripper" pt.1

 It is no secret that I love playing around with machine-learning models to create images, songs, and the like. "Generative A.I." is entertaining, even if its products are usually dull and uninspired. And you can get some damned good results with ethically sourced tools.But the moment you try to create anything too complex with it you end up witnessing otherworldly horrors beyond human comprehension.

(Believe me, if my hand's weren't fucked up, I would be doing my own illustrating! It would be less traumatic.)

I seriously doubt that an A.I., especially one trained by a large corporation, could do a great job running a game. But could one carefully trained by an indie developer do a halfway decent job? Recently I tried out the Scifi LLM "A.I." role-playing experience "Day Tripper" by Tod Foley, designer of Core Micro and Uniquicity, (and generally fun interlocutor.)

I am still processing my experience with "Day Tripper" and I am going to present a transcript of my first adventure here. And then I will pick Tod's brain to clarify my thoughts, and share my analysis of the experience with you in my next post.