Thursday, August 13, 2020

How I Build My Pamphlet OSR Adventures

 Over the last month, I have put out a trio of pamphlet adventures as a way to test the waters in publishing on DrivethruRPG. I wanted to quickly go over my process for other who might want to do the same.

Into the Wizard's Hookah

Love Nest of the Barbarix

The Mind Mills

Plan It Out

The first step is to have at least a rough idea of what I want to create. This is why I use my weird emoji-laden notation system. Any way of sketching it out will do, however. In this case, we have to keep things compact. Using the Five Room Dungeon format is probably your best bet, given the constraints of two pages divided into three collumns.

Get a Template

The most valuable resource I found for making these pamphlets is Guilherme Gontijo's How to Make Cool TTRPG Pamphlets it inspired the creation of my first modules. Among the cool material in the pamphlet is a Template by Bruno Prosaiko, grab it to give yourself  a starting point.

Write Out the Rough

I still use the old AD&D era format still favoured by the OSR crowd. You can see perfect examples of it in any given Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG module. It is compact and functional. It looks like this.

Number. Area Name - An italicized chunk of "read aloud" text to inspire the DM as to how to describe the area, including clues and important details (sometimes in boldface for easy scanning.

A paragraph or two describing important characters, situations, complications, or objects in the room. This is for DM reference to help them run encounters and exploration in the described area.

For ease of scantion, important points are in boldface.

Monster Name (number): Use: the compressed way of expressing monsters in your game of choice here. One for each type of monster. If it a pre-published a page reference may suffice.

Treasure: List magic items, coins, and treasures (with their value in gp)

This is far from perfect, but it is a conventional way of handling the information, and easily compressed.

You will also at least want an introduction, an overview, an explanation of any unique magic items, etc. If you have room, rumour or random encounter tables and a list of possible outcomes are welcome extras.

A Self-Portrait I drew in 2004
©2004 Brian C. Rideout

Get Some Art

I am not a bad artist, but my style of art isn't really ideal for TTRPG content, and I have nothing to work with right now except an android tablet and a few minutes of time with borrowed PCs, so finding art has been a must. 

Once again, How to Make Cool TTRPG Pamphlets is a lifesaver, with links to several  curated collections of public domain artwork. Some of the links are sadly, dead, but others provide excellent content.

For me, the first stop, though, is Pixabay, which is not listed on Guilherme's pamphlet. All of the art used in Into the Wizard's Hookah is from there, as is the cover art for Love Nest of the Barbarix. The brain on the cover of The Mind Mills started as a vector image from Pixabay, too, but has been edited beyond any recognition. 

If you are like me, you won't need much other than a cover piece. However, if you are feeling ambitious,  a few images to use as icons on your map can add some spice to your design.  My map for Into the Wizard's Hookah, for example, used a handful of vectors from Pixabay;

Map, Into the Wizard's Hookah; ©2020 CC-BY-SA Brian Rideout 
Made with Dungeon Scrawl, GIMP, and images from Pixabay.

If you want to be able to manipulate or edit images for your pamphlet, you have a few options. Adobe Photoshop is a great choice, but can be costly. GIMP is a free GNU alternative that, while slightly harder to learn, can do everything Photoshop can do, and often better.

Map from "Love Nest of the Barbarix"
CC-BY-SA Brian C. Rideout
Done using DungeonScrawl and GIMP
Make a Map

Whether you are literally creating a dungeon crawl, a hex crawl, a town map, or a point crawl, there is a free app that will do the job beautifully. Here is a list of some of my favourites:

  • Donjon can generate both randomized dungeon maps and gorgeous atlas-style world maps.
  • Worldographer is amazing for creating classic wargame-style hex maps.
  • Dungeon Scrawl is my new go-to for dungeon maps. It has a Photoshop style interface and some incredibly smart features. It is in open beta and getting better all the time.
  • The stamp-based Inkarnate makes elaborate looking battle mats and isometric maps very quickly.
  • Fantasy City Map Generator does great town and city maps.

Cover Panel, "How to Make Cool
TTRPG Pamphlets "
CC-BY Lantern's Faun Press
Plug it Into the Template

If you are using Bruno Prosaiko's template,  then your next hurdle is to get your text into Pamphlet format. You will likely have to do a lot of editing to make it fit. This format demands your design be tight as possible.  Keeping unfortunate page turns and orphan lines can be tricky.

This is where How to Make Cool TTRPG Pamphlets is extremely useful. Advice on fonts, headings, image placement, text size, etc., are absolute gems.


Unless you are publishing your own system, odds are good that you might need to put licensing information on the pamphlet. In my case, the OGL is required. Obviously, of I put the OGL on a pamphlet there would be no room for content.  I try to do my due diligence by adding a link to my OGL page and a QR code for people examining the pamphlet in print media.

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