Thursday, April 28, 2022

Development Blog; Designing the Eternal Ocean


As I work on The Eternal Ocean , I intend to blog about the process here. And I wanted to start by talking about what my structure is going to be and my rationale for it.

To start with, what is The Eternal Ocean meant to be exactly, and how is my presentation going to reflect my ideas?

Because I am taking some pretty odd steps.

What Do I Want to Accomplish?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself starting almost any project, and it is intimately tied with another question:

Who is this for?

The answer to that one is already in the dedication to Wreck to some degree: I made this game for my oldest son, who wants to be a marine biologist and study deep sea creatures. He loves anything to do with sea exploration from cartoons like Octonauts and The Deep to watching me play video games like Subnautica to just watching old Jaques Cousteau documentaries. 

He has already consumed an impressive amount of science fiction set in the deep sea, and I would love to help him explore the tropes of that particular brand of SF.

But I also wanted to create a world that reaches a little farther than Subnautica or even The Deep does. I wanted to create a setting where the kind of weird and wonderful stuff that you can see in classic science fiction works like 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Time Machine. So I want a world full of secrets and mysteries. Not just Traveller underwater.

Of course, this idea hasn't stayed just a game for my son. I wanted to create something that, after I had done the work, I could also play with grown-ups. I wanted to make something for fans of classic science fiction like my gaming buddy Thomas.

Accordingly, I decided to make a game that relied a lot on exploration, and a world that had a lot of secrets. And I also wanted to make sure that there would be an incentive for discovering those secrets.

IIn other words, I want to create a game world that is full of secrets that feels satisfying to discover, and that feels more like a classic science fiction story then cinematic sci-fi.

What This Mean for Writing

Rather than creating a mechanical incentive,, I wanted to create an overall narrative reward for making discoveries. To this end, I have created a huge collection of secrets that can reward the characters with rare and unique gear and abilities. More importantly, the game is set up so that if the players wish to leave the planet, they will have to discover one of several particularly complex secrets at the end of a chain of revelations.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Chainmail Played Theatre of the Mind

 This past Monday I put my Hellions of Xen campaign group in the capable hands of Stephen Smith for a fascinating experiment:

Could we play Chainmail with Theatre of the Mind?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


Q: How do you make God laugh?

So, after I had the audacity to post my plans to release a new game last week, my kids finally gave me the second of the two bugs that I had been nursing them through. And while it made my poor little guys cranky and uncomfortable, it flat-out tried to murder me. But, after a week of agonizing pain, I am back to creating.

And I have finally got a draft up of Wreck for your consideration.

Wreck is the game component of my Eternal Ocean & Wreck combination project. I have intentionally separated them in such a way that you could just use the setting with any system, but I wanted one readily available with all the material necessary to bring it to life as well. One that was based on a simple, fast open engine that I could easily adapt to my needs without reinventing the wheel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Deep Dives: Eternal Ocean, Wreck, and Midnight Zone

 A little over a week ago, my son brought a nasty case of influenza into the house. No sooner had they recovered from it than some kind of norovirus followed suit. I have spent the last eleven days caring for two little kids who were perpetually in purge mode. It has left me little time for creative projects.

What time I have had has been pretty thematically inspired.

Octonauts C 2012 Silvergate Media, based on the Children's books by Meomi

Over those weeks I have been dosed heavily with cartoons. My oldest will voraciously consume anything related to deep-sea exploration, and so I have probably re-watched the entirety of Octonauts twice over. I've also consumed nearly two seasons of a cartoon I had not heard of before but thoroughly enjoyed entitled The Deep about a family of deep-sea explorers looking for the sunken ruins of Lemuria. It would make a hell of a campaign.

The Deep is C 2015 Technicolor SA based on the Graphic Novels by Tom Taylor

Friday, April 8, 2022

My Dream WotC 5e Book

The following is a thought experiment. I imagined what I would create if Wizards of the Coast let me design a book for them for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition that could showcase the best independent talents I have run across in the OSR, in the story game movement, and getting third party publishers from DMs Guild.

The book would focus on continuing the arc of the new setting that Wizards of the Coast is currently building towards with The Radiant Citadel A setting I predicted in December of 2020: that is to say, a cleaner, less bleak dimension hopping environment. Planescape, only bright and hopeful.

I'm not choosing all of my favorite designers. In some cases, I eliminated people because they have an open dislike for WotC, or, they are prone to controversy and would make the book a non-starter for the Wizards board of directors. And I eliminated people whose work is so dark or mature that it wouldn't quite fit the 5e frame without seriously distorting that person's creative vision.

My goal would be to bring to mainstream 5th edition the incredible energy variety of design styles, and amazing talent that is out there in indie TTRPG circles.

Part of the point of the work would be to help advertise not just WotC's products, but also draw attention to the incredible industry that has grown up around Dungeons & Dragons and its legacy. To help 5e players both have a 5e game with playing, and see the opportunities to expand their horizons at the same time. Which I doubt would really hurt the WotC bottom line.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Welcome to the Deathtrap Year 2 in Review

 Two years of W2tDT already?! Wow, the time has really flown! I am still enjoying this passion project of mine.

Big Projects

The Cyclopedia

I built a database of helpful OSR rules I call the Deathtrap Rules Cyclopedia that is updated very sporadically.

Crawling the Purple Isles

In the autumn of 2021, I started a project inspired by Tale of the Manticore: I am running a solo game of BECMI D&D with a few mods from The Dozen Dooms set in The Islands of the Purple-Haunted Putrescence. I've been blogging lurid, pulpy fiction based on it on another blog. I call it Crawling the Purple Isles.

This is a series that is definitely not safe for work. However, I use it to share tips and observations on solo gaming, campaign design, and DMing as I go.

Campaign Worlds

I have built three campaign worlds with detailed primer documents and discussed them as part of a series on world-building 

The Aldrune setting is designed for Medieval Romance and is set by default to use Castles & Crusades, although any AD&D or expanded OD&D system will work with practically no conversion.  I may yet try transitioning to Lion & Dragon one I finally get my hands on its corebook.

The setting is has incredibly detailed religions and pantheons in order to create a world and captures the transition between Paganism and Christianity in Europe and the transition between the middle ages and the early modern period at the same time. I use it for my home game.

Xen is more of a surreal sword and sorcery setting with a lot of Science Fiction accents. I am currently running two parallel campaigns in it using strict time tracking and I'm considering trying to run using actual one-to-one time. I'm also currently recruiting for a third campaign run in parallel to the other two. Xen draws heavily on Barsoom, the Dying Earth and Final Fantasy.

Xen uses a lightly tweaked version of Swords & Wizardry, with elements from my Oversix System. It is focused on diagetical ("rulings over rules") play over heavy use of dice.

The Golden Heresy is a setting I started as a doodle here on the blog. It is a sword-and-planet setting where a legion of plane-hopping spies break into fantasy worlds and destroy the barriers of reality so that their master and his legions can invade with heavily-armed starcraft and slay the local gods to free the people from the lies of false deities. It is a setting built with hopping multiple worlds in mind.

Also designed with Swords & Wizardry in mind, The Golden Heresy draws heavily on D&D3.5e psionics, Planescape, and Gamma World.


I have moved away from pamphlet adventures to longer format adventures.

In the Summer, I released Maze of the Screaming Heads: a metaphor for RPG Twitter, the PCs must navigate a maze of samey chambers where it is easy to get lost while insane undead heads shout, scream, and rave at each other, threatening to drive the characters violently insane. Escape requires facing a blob if toxic sludge, sifting truth from fiction in the heads' ravings, or making a deal with a demon price.

More recently, I participated in the OSR Supplement Jam on, where I released The Queen of Decay for Low Fantasy Gaming using the custom ruleset for Stephen Smith's World of Wierth setting. Based on a discussion of the bizarre cover for The Princess Bride by Ted CoConis, it is a psychedelic adventure across a hallucinogenic swamp to save a princess for she is driven insane by a Necromancer that is forcing her to read the dreams of undead cultists.