Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Won't Buy From DTRPG Until They Fix Their Broken Submission System

A vile, tasteless RPG product with a rape-as-sport theme appeared on in recent days. It's been pulled from their catalogue, and rightly so. I hope that DTRPG finds its Ioun stones quickly and states categorically that they will not allow further submissions from publisher Scorched Urf' Studios or author Chris Field to be posted without careful vetting. As a DTRPG publisher myself, I know that once your first product submission has been given a look-over, you can submit more material without waiting for a live human to approve it. And that must work for them nearly all the time, because most of what's for sale there is fine, and they have hundreds of titles added every year. It's almost certain that this piece of misogynist garbage was made public with no human intervention. The author and publisher have a deep catalog of PDFs at DTRPG (including "Busty Extreme! Busty Magic Hentai", a copper best-seller I might add), and most seem to be harmless middle-of-the-road character class expansions or from the "Adventurer Essentials" series, which tells us what we can do with lanterns, rope, and holy water. What DTRPG needs to do is immediately own that it screwed up and that its approval process for submissions needs to be revamped. No dorm-room philosophical discussions about free will, no wait and see, just own it and fix it. Their tweets on the matter so far don't give me high hopes, though.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Get Northern Crown as Part of a Bundle of Holding Deal and Help Kids Read Good

Once upon a time a man wrote a roleplaying game about an alternate history colonial America with supernatural and horror elements. No, it wasn't Colonial Gothic. Or that Witch-Hunter book. Screw those guys. The name of the book was Superpresident Thomas Jefferson Beats Up Charles II while Dangling from a Burning Airship over New Amsterdam. Plus Paul Bunyan. Or maybe it was Northern Crown: New World Adventures. Anyhow, several people purchased the two hardcovers to prop open attic windows and the digital files were hidden in a Masonic vault beneath the Oval Office. Until now.

If you have a yen for gonzo alt-historical RPGs, there's a Bundle of Holding you need to get your hands on: BUNDLE OF THE AGES +2. Northern Crown is too refined for the basic bundle and is only available in the bonus deluxe bundle — NO RIFF-RAFF PLEASE. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to Redding is Fundamental, which I'm pretty sure is an advocacy group that educates people as to the crucial role that Noel Redding played as bassist for of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. A small remittance will go to the author as well, allowing him to continue to enjoy the lavish lifestyle typical of the third-party RPG author/illustrator. Thanks in advance.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

[Iso Battle Map] Fan-Submitted Battle Map

Blue Boxer Rebellion fan Gonzalo DiĆ©z Mata has been building dungeons using my Ultimate Hand-Drawn Iso Battle Maps PDF and was gracious enough to let me share some of his work. I'm impressed with the amount of craft and care that went into making these. It's wild that his dungeon has no dead space -- every square is developed. He used the "low wall" option to indicate walls between rooms. A little colored pencil or crayon on the walls would make it easier to see the shape of each room, I think. Thanks Gonzalo!

Monday, August 24, 2015

[Big Hexyland Redux] The Jade Coast

Sample page from Big Hexyland: Jade Coast physical map and matching node map.

The numbers suggest travel time in days to traverse.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sandboxigons Map Template

Don't settle for hexagons. This node crawl template uses octagons instead so that you can connect neighboring zones with all points of the compass. Get your free sandboxigon template here: (links to PDF download).

Blank template

Example of a completed map

Rock Opera '79 Playtesting

Some shots from my kitchen table of a rock battle in progress. The game mechanic is working great, which frees me up to develop the milieu, the maps, the illustrations.
Testing out the tribal cool powers.

When the stack gets high, you rock harder.

Feedback is not a good thing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How I Make City Maps

1. Make a list of locations for the city and don't worry about where they are in relation to each other yet. Pretend you're writing a travel article about the top must-see places in the city and come up with a name and a one-paragraph blurb for each one.

2. Write each location on a strip of paper (or make it a text element in a program like Adobe Illustrator) and arrange the locations in relation to one another. The feel and function of each place will suggest its proximity to several others.

3. Once you've got the locations set, draw bubbles that enclose two or more locations that seem to share common themes. The thieves' guild, the pawn shop, the illegal fighting pit, and the not-quite-legitimate surgeon might make a good group. Congrats, you just made a neighborhood. Let's call it Lookout Alley, as in, look out if you go there at night.

4. The narrow spaces between the bubbles suggest borders between neighborhoods, defined by natural or human-made structures: main streets, canals, walls, chasms, rivers... Go ahead and label them as such.

5. Any big empty spaces between bubbles must be empty for a reason. Are they lakes, swamps, royal palaces, market squares, burned-out areas, cemeteries, hills, harbors?

6. Where are the shops, inns, guard houses, etc.? Who cares? Legal amenities and public services usually don't make a secret of themselves. You can just add them to the map whenever a PC needs to find one. What's cool is that if the inn or guard house is in Lookout Alley, you already have some idea of what sort of character it would have.

7. Last thing, make a map to the best of your ability that corresponds to your schematic but don't label anything. That's for the players to explore. Fancy lads like me will scan the map and superimpose the schematic on top of it.
Schematic overlaying city map.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

[Free Iso Dungeon Maps and Adventure] Welcome to the Plunderdome

High time to give a little bump to Welcome to the Plunderdome, my classic fantasy adventure and its jaw-dropping iso maps. I wrote this adventure and drew the maps for my own game group a few years back, and it's all available for free. The stats are written for my Dungeonteller Fantasy RPG rules set, but the adventure can easily be adapted to your favorite RPG system.

And the maps look like this.
You can download the entire adventure here.
You can grab just the maps here.
I also have the maps for the planned-but-never-published sequel, The Deeps of Chaos, here. This is one of the Deeps of Chaos maps. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

[Rock Opera '79] Adventure Module Teaser

Rock Opera '79 will come bundled with a full length rock opera adventure. Here's the blurb for it:

RUMBLE IN THE BEMUSEMENT PARK: a Rock Opera ’79 Libretto
Can the band get their hands on Count Popula’s enormous organ?

Count Popula was once the biggest thing on televid. His wholesome music variety show had the citizens of the New Frontier on the edge of their vinyl seats every Saturday night at 8. After daring to book some rock acts on his show, the Count was cancelled, and his showbiz days were done. He sank his fortune into an amusement park on the outskirts of Disctopia that was shuttered by day, open by night. Count Popula’s Scarecastle was a place of dazzling lights and disorienting carnival rides, suffused with the far-out tones of an unseen electro-organ, said to be played by the Count himself from a secret studio somewhere beneath the park. The teens who grew up on his show came in droves to dig the trippy scene. But rumors of guests gone mad and glimpses of shadowy figures tending the rides amid the glare soon had the youth of the city running scared. It became more of a dare than a date to pass the park’s gates. Attendance slowed to a trickle, and then, nothing, and one by one the lights winked out, and the organ was silent.

It is the year 1979. The lights have flickered on again, and the organ is playing once more — a haunting tune drifting through the abandoned park. Is the Count still tickling the keys? Has someone else discovered his secret studio? Recruited by members of the rock rebellion, the band must brave the haunted park, beating scavengers, burglars, and rival bands to the punch to uncover the mystery and retrieve a most prodigious organ that's even more than it seems.

This is an adventure that will take a group of 3–5 novice rock heroes from 0 Fame to 4 Fame. It includes a keyed map, printable battle mats, and print-and-cut counters for the heroes and their foes. The ideal introduction to the world of Rock Opera '79.

Monday, August 3, 2015

[Dice Table] Fantasy Market and Vendor Generator

Here's a dice table that allows you to quickly generate a market/bazaar and any vendors you encounter there.

Download PDF here.

Or just read on...


1–2      Unique
3–5      Irregular
6–9      Periodic
10–20  Permanent

Unique: An improvised sale that just happens to be going on here and now. Come back tomorrow and it will be gone, never to return.
Irregular: Think “swap meet”. The market is open when a number of vendors in the area agree to sell or trade to one another and to any friendly locals. It’s a whenever-we-feel-like-it affair, maybe even a chance meeting of two or three vendors.
Periodic: Think “flea market”. The market is open once every so many days, or seasonally. Periodic markets are often tied to important social events or to seasonal availability of the goods being sold.
Permanent: Think “shopping mall”. The market is always occupied. Permanent markets usually have sturdier, more durable structures, with doors and windows that can be secured when the market is closed.

Number of vendors:
1–2      1 vendor
3–10    1d4+1 vendors
11–19  1d6+5 vendors
20        1d8+11 vendors

1– 6     Sparse
7–14    Below Capacity
15–18  At Capacity
19–20  Above Capacity

Sparse: A nearly deserted market, with perhaps 2 or 3 empty spaces for every vendor present.
Below Capacity: The market has 1 empty space for every 2 or 3 vendors present.
At Capacity: The market is full or nearly so.
Above Capacity: Excess vendors are squeezed into odd corners or sharing spaces intended for a single shop.

1–4      Dead
5–8      Slow
9–17    Busy
18–19  Booming
20        Panicked

Dead: No customers in sight. Vendors may fight over you.
Slow: Number of vendors is roughly equal to number of customers in the market.
Busy: Customers comfortably outnumber vendors. You’re always in sight of at least another customer or two.
Booming: Far more customers than vendors. Aisles/public ways are fully occupied but passable.
Mobbed: Customers are thronging the market to the point where it’s nearly impossible to move. It’s pickpocket heaven.

1–7      Haphazard
8–14    Staked
15–20  Dedicated

Haphazard: Vendors are set up everywhere, with few or no marked public ways and no formal division of vendor spaces.
Staked: Vendor space is marked with stakes, painted lines, rugs, ropes, or other impermanent boundaries, with some effort to provide public ways for customers. Reapportioning the market space would take minimal effort.
Dedicated: Vendor spaces are permanently defined by stalls, stone railings, niches, or other structures that would need to be demolished n order to reapportion vendor space.

Vendor Rights:
1–8      Free
9–12    Licensed
13–14  Market Association
15–18  Leased
19–20  Monopoly

Free: Anyone can set up shop for free. Spots might be first-come, first-served, or there might be an understanding that longstanding vendors have first dibs. Arguments over space might be common if the market is above capacity. Security varies by shop.
Licensed: A vendor needs a license from a local authority to operate in the market. It might be a simple matter of presenting yourself to the license giver, or providing some sample wares to attest to their quality, or there might be a license fee or bribe required.
Market Association: Anyone can set up shop providing they pay a fee to a non-profit market association that provides security, cleanup, and maintenance for all vendors.
Leased: The market property is owned by a for-profit venture that makes money leasing market space to vendors, in exchange for keeping the place more or less safe and tidy.
Monopoly: Regardless of the number of vendors, they are all employees of the same entity and any profits or expenses ultimately come in or go out of the same purse. The owner of the monopoly is responsible for cleaning and protecting the marketplace.
You can generate individual vendors using these tables, regardless of what the vendor is actually selling.

Type of Goods
1          Melee Weapons
2          Ranged Weapons
3          Armor
4          Potions
5          Scrolls
6          Gems
7          Standard Magic Items
8          Adventure Gear (rope, lanterns, lamp oil, etc.)
9          Cooked food
10        Raw foodstuffs
11        Intoxicants
12        Personal services (grooming, medical, massage, etc.)
13        Banking, moneylending, moneychanging, appraisals, or pawn shop
14        Instruments, gizmos, and toys
15        Clothing
16        Containers, vessels
17        Ironmongery (nails, chain, locks, keys, hooks, utensils, etc.)
18–20  Unusual (see the Unusual Goods appendix at the end of this document)

Stock Level
1–4      Sparse
5–8      Gaps
9–18    Full
19–20  Overstocked

Sparse: The vendor’s space is nearly empty of goods. The cause could be any combination of high demand and low supply. Chances that the vendor has what you’re looking for in her category of goods is 1/10.
Gaps: Noticeable gaps in the merchandise. You can find what you’re looking for about ½ the time.
Full: Shelves are full of goods. Odds of you finding what you’re looking for are 9/10.
Overstocked: The vendor has more items in stock than can be displayed at once. If it’s not on the shelf, she’s got one “in back.”

Quality of Goods
1–4      Shoddy
5–12    Serviceable
13–16  Quality
18–19  Masterwork
20        Luxury

Shoddy: The goods here are likely to give you a penalty to skill attempts when used. They might even break. This may also include used goods that have seen a lifetime of wear.
Serviceable: Reasonably well-made goods that will serve as needed but aren’t made with any particular care.
Quality: Goods that are well-crafted, with attention to detail, and provide a small bonus when used by someone skilled in their use.
Masterwork: The goods for sale here are exemplary, showing the highest degree of skill in their manufacture. For skilled users of these goods, they provide a significant bonus to skill or performance.
Luxury: As masterwork, but they look ornate, with exquisite embellishment and detail. The very best.

1–4      Low
5–16    Fair
17–20  High

Low: Knock a little off the standard price for this vendor’s goods. Maybe they want to get rid of inventory, out-compete another vendor, or they just don’t know what their goods should be valued at.
Fair: Prices are by the book.
High: Prices are higher than listed, either due to high demand or because the vendor thinks you’re all suckers.

Sales Approach (add +1 for quality, +2 for masterwork, and +3 for luxury quality goods)
1–4      Hawker
5–8      Hard Sell
9–12    Soft Sell
13–18  Neutral
19+      Cool

Hawker: The vendor tries to persuade you to buy something, anything. She might pull you off the street or put goods in your hand.
Hard Sell: The vendor will steer you towards the most expensive item whether it’s right for you or not.
Soft Sell: The vendor makes suggestions and admits when something isn’t right for you. The pressure to buy is there, but subtle.
Neutral: The vendor is there to take your money, keep the goods in order, and make sure no one steals anything. She won’t talk to you unless you talk first.
Cool: You’re not good enough to shop here. The vendor might consider you unworthy of her attention, and you will find yourself buying something just to get on her good side.

Appendix: Unusual Goods List
1          Ghosts of cats, dogs, and other pets
2          Venoms milked from live animals and vermin while you wait
3          Animated skeleton warriors
4          Bonsai treants and ropers
5          Prosthetic clockwork limbs
6          Luminescent slime lanterns that are powered by table scraps
7          Altimeters and compasses
8          Magic candy (bubble gum of levitation, peppermints of protection from fire, atomic fire balls of dragon breath, spider climb taffy, pixy stix of revealing)
9          Pocket-sized dairy animals
10        Looseleaf potion teas and tisanes
11        Scrolls of puffery that write exaggerated accounts of the owner’s exploits
12        Animated disposable arrow-fodder mannekins
13        Liar’s gear (Return-teleport gold coins, crooked dice, you-dictate forged passes, self-aware card decks)
14        Mystery eggs from unknown animals
15        Remaindered love potions that make the imbiber love worms, drum solos, Brussels sprouts, the color blue, or knock-knock jokes
16        Odd socks
17        Bottled sounds (some pleasant, some cacophonous)
18        Copies of today’s newspapers from various outer planes
19        Spectacles that allow you to see a fixed time interval into the past (5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 year, 1 century)
20        Fill-in-the-blank curse scrolls that require you to choose adjectives, verbs, numbers, and nouns before opening the scroll and directing the curse on someone. (“May you continually ooze (sticky substance) from (body orifice) that attracts (annoying insects), and may you be compelled to shout the word (flavor of ice cream) anytime someone says “Cool.”)