Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Zine Review: D12 Monthly Issue #4

Cover: D12 Monthly Issue #4
Art by Dean Spencer
D12 Monthly is ©2021 YUM/DM

: YumDM
Marketplace : YumDM.com
Engine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons

 I have made it a point to review every issue of D12 Monthly thus far as a way of showing my support for Russ over at YUM/DM, and I'm always happy to do the same for other content creators. If you're interested in reading my reviews of the previous issues you can find them here: zero, one, two, three.

D12 Monthly issue #4 is themed around magic users and arcane magic. It is a clear evolution of the magazine, and I like the direction I see it heading in.

Like previous issues of D12 Monthly, issue for includes a couple of familiar features. The Location, Location, Location column regularly features a new place in YUM/DM's campaign setting. It has fused with some of the earlier columns as well, now always featuring a number of interesting NPCs, and usually a dungeon location to explore as well as or settlement.

Other features in this issue include:
  • An article on how to keep track of spell components in Dungeons & Dragons
  • An article on using alternate Spell components to amplify spells
  • A spotlight on the quarter staff as the primary weapon of magic users in most editions of D&D
  • An article on the effects of age on magic potions
  • Some alternate lore for the slaad to make them usable in a wider range of campaigns.
  • A set of magical mishap charts along various themes.
  • A feature article on the world of Bhakashal, which has been under development on Dweller of the Forbidden City for some time now and is always an engrossing read.

So far, this is being my favorite issue of d12 Monthly, and that is saying something. Issue zero and issue two were remarkable and said a very high standard.

What I Loved

Increasing Cross-blog Involvement

D12 Monthly has in the past featured a few items from guest writers such as Tale of the Manticore. In this article we got to see Black Dragon Games / Dweller of the Forbidden City give us a detailed overview of his setting. You also see a sponsored ad from Stephen Grodzicki for Lowlife 2090, and some energetic calls for people to get involved. I'm glad to see this, because I think that D12 Monthly has the potential to become a great forum for OSR gamers to share their ideas.

Monday, August 30, 2021

On the Application of Maquillage to the Porcine Snout

After a recurring conversations I have had with NOLAbert and Travis Miller in the wee hours after my Tuesday night Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Cha'alt games and again online -- as well as reading this article on Beyond Formalhaut I felt I needed to add an addendum to my discussion on the design innovations in the OSR/Indie TTRPG scene. Or perhaps it ought to be called a caveat.

Design has become a preoccupation of the indie game developer. And it has been a mix of good and bad on the overall culture.

When you use clever information design, it serves to augment the quality of a role-playing product. It can make a module or game much more enjoyable for the GM to use when running the game.

Likewise excellent graphic design can make a product beautiful and add appeal to collectors. Which is a concern: jams like Zinequest and premium books like modules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess have created a culture of collectors. Some people love having a shelfie-worthy collection, and others seeing their collection as a potential investment.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Designing Layout and Information in Adventures

One of the great joys of reading OSR products is just how many innovations I get to see not just in game design, but in designing layout and information.

The Evolution of Dungeons & Dragons' Information Design

It took some time for Dungeons & Dragons to settle on a solid format for how to convey a scenario. And the style that dominated design in the late 80s through the 90s was serviceable. It could stuffs lot onto  a small space.

From Temple of Elemental Evil (p. 67)
©1985 TSR, Inc. 
Click to Enlarge 

Today its a format that remains perfectly useful. In fact, many successful lines, like Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures use them with only a little modification.

From Sailors on the Starless Sea (p. 7)
©2012 Goodman Games, Inc. 
Click to Enlarge 

Over time, the developers of Dungeons & Dragons have tried a few ways to improve the formula, with mixed results. Personally, I was quite fond of 3rd edition's structure, which clearly signposted monsters, treasure, traps, and tactics using indentation and icons, and presented in a specific order. It also posted Encounter Level at the beginning of each encounter. It was a little less space efficient, but much easier to read when actually running the adventure.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Review : Lands of Legends: Holy

Cover to Lands of Legends : Holy
©2021 Axian Spice
: Giuseppe Rotondo, Mauro Longo
Publisher: Axian Spice
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG
System: OSR 

Lands of Legends: Holy is the fourth volume of the Lands of Legends series by Axian Spice. Each volume consists of two zines with either 10 encounters or 10 locations for each of the 10 Common terrain types used in OSR retroclones. This means each zine has either 100 counters or 100 locations in it.

If you haven't read my previous reviews of volumes 1 and 2 here and volume 3 here, they are well worth your time. I would love to know what the guys that actually and spice are taking and where I can get some, because the creativity that goes into these scenes is absolutely stunning. And this one is exceptional.

While I have criticized some of the past volumes as having a lot of similar encounters, this one has very little that is repetitive. Even where there are multiple encounters that offer characters away to atone for sins or cleanse wounds and diseases, they are all very different in terms of execution, with some atonements requiring sacrifice, some quests, some simple prayer. Healing might be gained automatically, or by simply allowing a magical effect to happen, others might require religious conversion, or drinking sacred water.

Holy is by far the strongest of the four Lands of Legends volumes released so far, and that is saying something.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Maze of Screaming Heads

Image from Pixabay 
For the past five weeks I have been fervently hammering away at a module that was so clear in my head it just had to get out.  I call it The Maze of the Screaming Heads. And it is more complex than my other adventures by a degree of magnitude.

This Twenty-two room dungeon features:

  • the outline of a small town setting,
  • five hirelings,
  • a puzzle PCs may choose to solve ,
  • strange environmental hazards, 
  • seven new kinds of monsters including a demon taken from The Lesser Key of Solomon
  • 45,000gp worth of treasure, most of it in the form of rarified knowledge, ancient books, and strange art objects.,
  • one unique magic item, and two new cursed items,
  • two unique spells and the adaptation of a forgotten classic,
  • Multiple ways to escape the dungeon to suit different playstyle.

This adventure is designed for a party of 3-5 Player Characters of around 6th level in an OSR - Compatible adventure game like Old-School Essentials, Labyrinth Lord, or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. 

I am very proud of this creation. I have stolen much of my favorite elements of layout to create a book designed to minimize flipping and make using the book as easy as possible. It should provide 3-8 hours of Strange, atmospheric fun for a gaming group who like strange, dark humor and weird fantasy. 

Here's my back cover blurb:

Ninety-seven years ago the Cult of Malphas created the greatest library of Arcane Lore ever collected : the Maze of Yes'od-caj. They invited Sages and Luminaries from all over to witness its consecration.

When the guests arrived, the cultists set upon them, beheading every sage and trapping their minds inside their undead skulls to serve as the source of the library's lore.

One sage avoided the slaughter and took revenge, poisoning the Cult with a killing spell, sealing the library to all but himself.

Now, a century later, the doors to Yes'od-caj are open, and something stalks the streets, collecting the heads of the wise and holy...

And there is Forbidden Lore and lost treasure ripe for the taking...

This will hopefully set a new and high standard for my creations.

Get it on DrivethruRPG 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Sunburns and Shoals, Making Nature Matter in D&D

I am currently enjoying a vacation with my sons by the seaside, and have allowed myself long lazy days on the beach away from technology. For entertainment, I've been re-reading some of the Fighting Fantasy books I loved as a child. I have been playing games with friends online and been refueling my imagination.

One thing that has been on my mind, as I have been staring out at the ocean is how to get both the Earthly and the Sublime into my TTRPGs. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Review : D12 Monthly Issue 3

Cover Art by Dean Spencer
Issue #3 of D12 Monthly focuses on combat. It brings back the feature Location, Location, Location and has its random encounter table (this time "End Table" rather than "Corner Table"). Otherwise, it mixes up the formula with some different styles of material, including:

  • A history of how healing has been handled in various editions of Dungeons & Dragons
  • A simplified method of handling different kinds of attack vs armor (ex. Piercing vs. Chainmail)
  • A suggestion on how to modernize the concept of masterwork gear from Dungeons & Dragons 3e.
  • A method for handling monsters' responses to PC aggression over time.
  • A discussion of probability on random-roll tables.
  • A system for handling fleeing combat abstractly.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Zzonga Fruit - The Sweet, Sweet Destroyer

For day 6 of #RPGaDay2021, "Flavor," I wanted to draw attention to a strange, but cool bit of Dungeons & Dragons History: the Zzonga Fruit.

Zzonga Fruit was introduced in TSR Product #1037, The Player's Guide to Alphatia by Aaron Allston, which was book three of GAZ0: Dawn of the Emperors.

Doesn't sound familiar? If you were an AD&D player, you might have missed this one. It was a BECMI product. The GAZ series started with GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and ran through GAZ14: The Atraughin Clans, each a two books boxed set detailing a different nation across the world of Mystara. Almost all of them discussed how those nations were affected by a pair of decadent Empires that had their hooks onto almost every other nation in some way. 

GAZ0 Brought it all together, detailing both the Rome-Like Thyatian Empire, and the Fantastical magician-ruled Alphatia Empire. Both decadent, corrupt, and on the verge of causing a global war. (Which then played out in Wrath of the Immortals.) 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#RPGaDay2021 4- Throne

My Son and I are playing Troika! Numinous Edition together. To tap into his current fascination (whales and squids) I built a scenario where his character becomes an agent of the King of All Sperm Whales. And I am hought I might flesh out that NPC Here for fun, and maybe inspiration.

#RPGaDay2021 Catch Up

 I missed #RPGaDay2020 last year, although it seemed like a great way to get a lot of creativity out in a short time. This year my main man Stephen over at Stephen's Hobby Workshop is taking up the challenge, so I thought I would, too.

This is not going to replace my regular play reports and reviews, and I will probably take a quick-and-dirty approach to it, but I want to keep my hand in. It is also a great way to work on the four campaigns I am juggling as GM right now:

So, to catch up here are four short entries for #RPGaDay2021: