Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Finally Finished Dungeon Sub-Level 1A

It's not looking bad at all, though it took a while to bash it into a proper two-page spread. For the most part, I've just been distracted away from this project with other IRL matters for the last several days and haven't been able to sit down and work on it. I seem to have gotten some momentum back, though. Onto the remaining sub-levels (B through D) of dungeon level 1! 

Next up: sub-level 1B, the "Beastly Foray," a series of crudely-hewn chambers inhabited by semi-cohesive bands of shadowspawn (or what other games would call goblinoids) that, depending on how campaign events unfold in the overworld, may or may not pose a serious and organized threat to adventurers. The challenge for level 1B is going to be accounting for these varying possibilities: the 'spawn may act like wild beasts, or like a disciplined army, depending on whether the overworld is haunted by Forces of Chaos or not.

Here's hoping that bit of complication manages to fit on two facing pages as well!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Some shows are back, and they're mostly pretty good

It feels like a proper "fall TV season" right now, though whether or not that's an accidental result of the pandemic seeming to halt everything for the entire summer, I couldn't say. But, in brief, my general impressions:

• I've mostly caught up on the 3rd season of DuckTales, though I've been saving the new Darkwing Duck episode for a day when I'm bored and need some joy in my life. What I've watched so far has been as good as the previous two seasons: the voice cast on that show really nails it every time.

• Watched the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery's 3rd season last night. The 3rd season is shaping up to be better than either of the first two seasons and loads better than the boring chore that is Lower Decks. If I didn't expect Discovery to be cancelled after this season (because apparently streaming shows never last longer than three seasons), I'd say that the series now had the potential to be the thing that Andromeda should have been back in its day. Seeing Discovery again makes me look forward to The Orville's third season even more, and makes me hopeful that the Captain Pike series actually gets made.

• I just now watched the first episode of season 11 of Archer, and ho-lee shit, was that a breath of fresh air. It was a return to form for the series, exactly what the doctor ordered after three seasons of coma dreams and however many seasons before that (at least two) that the show was kind of starting to suck. 

That's pretty much it. I haven't otherwise had much time to watch TV lately, but I'm sure I'll catch other series as new seasons start popping up again. 

On the publishing front, I'm still trying to get proofs ordered for E&E Core and World of Gaia through DriveThru (what a pain), so for the moment, they're still only available in print through Lulu. I haven't been able to touch Lands of Älyewinn in a few days just because I've been busy. Hopefully I'll actually get to finish writing up dungeon sub-level 1A at some point this weekend, maybe tomorrow. I need to get back into the swing of things and get that module done—it's so close.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Dungeon level zero is in the can

I've finished drawing and keying dungeon sub-levels 0A and 0B, the aboveground sections of the Fiendish Temple. They fit together quite nicely on a two-page spread, if I do say so myself.

So that means that now all I have left to do to get this module done are the underground sub-levels (all fourteen of them, oy…) and the appendices. Hey, if I can manage to knock out two sub-levels an evening, this baby could see publication in less than two weeks! Sweet!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dungeon Cross-Section!

Don't you just love a good dungeon cross-section?

<pic removed>

"It's dead, Jim." …Or maybe it's just come full circle.

I made this post not too long ago about how weird it felt to realize that the OSR has now been around for so long that we can feel nostalgic about its early games—Castles & Crusades, Labyrinth Lord, and what not. That post was spurred by an interaction I saw on the r/osr sub-reddit, where a poster was discussing their nostalgic feelings about Swords & Wizardry, and it just hit me that this whole "let's make old D&D new again" thing has been going on for about fifteen years

That's a longer span of time than I spent playing Classic D&D and Advanced D&D in the 90s.

But that's not the point of this post. No, this is thanks to an entirely different pair of interactions I've had on social media sites recently. And they couldn't be more diametrically opposed.

First, someone reposted this screencap of a page of Dragon Magazine from the c. 1999–2000 release of D&D's 3rd edition:

Man, that brought back some memories. 

Being a dedicated 2nd edition player at the time, I had that copy of Dragon. (Back then, I made sure to buy every copy of Dragon as soon as it hit the shelves and I could scrape together enough cash to afford it.) I followed the 3e previews and teasers with avid interest, and I bought into the hype for 3e that seemed to have seized the whole AD&D-playing community. We all felt that the AD&D system was old and creaky and badly in need of modernization, it seemed, except for a few stuffy grognards who clearly just didn't know what was good for them.

Those old-timers were not treated kindly by the majority of gamers who were eager for change.

Little did we know at the time how right the grognards were. With a few exceptions (namely Basic/Classic D&D and 5th edition), the arc of D&D has largely been one of departure without improvement. 4th edition was worse than 3rd edition, which was worse than 2nd edition, which was in a few key ways worse than 1st edition, which was arguably worse than the original game. (5th edition is not worse than 3rd or 4th editions, but it's not great either. Its particular merits put it about on par with 2nd edition in terms of how good a game it is—and this is to be expected, because its goals are much the same as 2nd edition's goals. Classic D&D, meanwhile, is and has always been a mere streamlining of OD&D and can rightfully be considered part of "0th" edition for the purposes of this chronology.)

So, given this fact—that by and large, every time a major new edition of D&D has come out, it's generally been for the worse—this other interaction is particularly irksome. 

On a different website entirely, I was told by multiple OSR enthusiasts that it's a good thing the OSR is moving away from retro-clones and towards rules-lite mini-hacks because leaving old D&D behind for new and improved games is a good thing

Wow. I mean, just wow.

To see that sentiment expressed within the Old-School Renaissance, and without a jot of awareness or irony, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. That's not the spirit of the OSR. That's the spirit of fantasy heartbreakers and the hype leading up to 3rd edition. But it certainly does seem to be the pervasive feeling now: retro-clones? Passé. The only one of those we need is Old School Essentials (because, didn't you know? the only old D&D edition relevant to the OSR is B/X!). Everyone else can go play Mörk Borg or whatever the flavor-of-the-week is and sneer at the grognards clinging to the old ways, looking to the past with their rose-tinted glasses and their nostalgia. 

I mean, gag. We heard all of that shit before, twenty years ago! Things really do come full circle. Only now, instead of feats and skill points and a la carte multi-classing, the clarion call is for games that claim to do the play-style outlined in the Finch Primer and the Principia Apocrypha better even than OD&D does.


I knew that I was right to get out of the OSR when it started to get weird. But now it isn't just weird anymore. Now it's a movement that's totally lost itself and become the very thing it was born to fight.

Finally working on the dungeon. In the meanwhile, this is how the hex-crawl has been formatted.

Here's a little three-page excerpt from the hex-crawl section of the module.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Finally finished mapping the overworld

Every last little lair, fortress, cave, and mini-dungeon in the Älyewinn module hex-crawl has finally been mapped: drawn, inked, gridded, labeled. My poor drawing-hand… it aches so much right now. I've still got scanning and photoshopping to do. And then I can finally finish laying out and editing part four. I still haven't touched the big dungeon yet, but it's so tantalizingly close. Hopefully I'll have time to work on it in the next day or two.

Nothing else tonight. Just a gripey update. ¦o

UPDATE: And now, at long long last, the hex-crawl portion of the book is done. *GASP* I made it. I can finally work on the dungeon now. Let's see, what all is left?

— Preface & contents
— Page references
— Draw and write up THE DUNGEON from my old notes
— Something like five appendices
— Take a few final editing passes

And then I can finally publish this puppy. And I still haven't gotten around to releasing either Engines & Empires or World of Gaia in print form on DriveThruRPG, because I keep catching little typos and having to re-up the files, which takes a bleeding week for the printer clear each time. UGH. Well, maybe fifth time's the charm. But at the rate things are going? Maybe I'll be able to order proofs of all three books at the same damned time!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Making headway on the hexcrawl

 My Lands of Älyewinn module was originally going to come in three sections (campaign setting, hex-crawl, and dungeon-crawl), but as I've worked on it, it's made more sense to split some of the content off into some extra sections of their own, so now the module will have five distinct parts:

1—The Älyewinn campaign setting
2—The Village of Nibelholt
3—Random & Triggered Events
4—The Nibelholt Region (hex-crawl)
5—The Fiendish Temple (dungeon crawl)

Sections 1 through 3 are done. Written, edited, formatted, laid out. I'm presently working my way through laying out part 4, the hex-crawl, which is a big challenge because many hexes also have mini-dungeons in them, and I have to be very careful to ensure that a dungeon and its key are always either on a single page or on a spread of two facing pages. That's tricky, but I'm about halfway through and it's worked out so far.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Ye Auld Village of Wee Folk

The module's "home base" town. Once again, presented without further comment.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Finally done with the hex-crawl. The module is two-thirds done.

I've finally finished with the sandbox and hex-crawling part of the Lands of Älyewinn module. I can finally, finally turn my attention to the dungeon. 

So far, I've written eighty pages of (single-column, 12-point Times New Roman) text. 14 of those pages describe the campaign setting. The rest is the village key, the hex-map key, the region's various one-and two- level mini-dungeons and monster-lairs, and various tools and bits of advice for running the campaign (rumor tables, encounter tables, factions, randomly-occurring and timeline-triggered events that can alter the hex map). 

I don't know what that will translate to once I start laying out and formatting the book, but it's certainly more than I'd expected to write, particularly before I'd even gotten around to describing the aboveground parts of the Fiendish Temple.

It makes me wonder whether my description of the main dungeon won't seem a little… I don't know, anticlimactic? Since I favor terse descriptions and a "two-page dungeon" format (the room keys on one page, the map of that sub-level on other page facing it).

Well, we'll see what happens once I get into writing it. (And whether it changes very much as I clean up the cartography and pretty up the maps themselves.) But I've been looking forward to this part! I fucking love dungeon design! ¦D

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A random brain-dribbling of generic proportions

After writing any post that touches on politics and internet drama, I always feel like I need to write about something fun to counter it. Not that I'm shy about addressing political topics, mind you; I just hold internet drama in total contempt.

This post won't really be about gaming; not entirely, at any rate, although it does brush against the subject. I was feeling nostalgic not long ago, recollecting my first encounter with a beloved and popular anime that everyone knows, Dragon Ball. Like many Americans of a certain age, I first encountered this series when the legendarily terrible Ocean dub of DBZ first aired on Cartoon Network in the 90s. You know: back when Vegeta didn't kill anyone; he just "sent them to another dimension."

Watching that first fight between Goku, Piccolo, and Raditz was a freaking revelation. I was not an anime-watcher back then; I knew nothing about the medium. But I was an avid consumer of kung-fu movies, and man alive, but DBZ felt like the best of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and every goofy wuxia wire-fu flick put together with the amp dialed up to eleven. The fighters shouting out the names of their special techniques was a pitch-perfect detail. (Even if Piccolo's indescribably awesome makankosappo attack—roughly, the "demonic drilling death-flash"—was bowdlerized into the eternally lame "Special Beam Canon.") It made Dragon Ball feel like it somehow must have have been a shining example of a much broader sub-genre of Japanese action cartoons where fighters did that all the time. (Little did I know back then that Dragon Ball was essentially the trope-codifier for that convention, and while other animes that practiced it did exist, they were all latecomers following on the heels of Dragon Ball.)

Ever since then, Dragon Ball has always influenced my idea of what fantasy martial artists (including RPG monks) should be. If a fantasy martial artist isn't hucking literal fireballs made of chi, then you've got yourself an inadequate fantasy martial artist there. Sure, nowadays I may prefer Street Fighter-level hadouken-blasts to planet-busting Kamehameha-waves, but the principle remains the same. (It occurs to me now that as a youngster, I was also much more of a Mortal Kombat partisan, and I had no interest at all in Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat was way cooler, with its Enter-the-Dragon-feeling setting and its other dimensions full of demons and gods. This was probably another reason why I so quickly fell in love with Dragon Ball.) 

The old Labyrinth Lord version of Engines & Empires had a boxer class in place of the monk which was very obviously influenced by the likes of Dragon Ball, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat (although the name of the class was a reference to the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 and also certain dubs of Bruce Lee movies that translated wushu as "Chinese boxing"). Since those early days, my opinions on the inclusion of fantasy martial arts in western-milieu tabletop games has changed to match my improved understanding of medieval weaponry and armor—but to this day I still include fantasy martial arts as a sidebar option in the E&E Core Rules.

* * *

Let's take a hard 90° swerve into another subject entirely. This post on The Other Side blog—I had already linked to it in my previous post—pronounces that the work of Run-DMC is hereafter to be recognized as the Official Music of the OSR. Not a bad choice at all, though I do imagine that the vast majority of old-school gamers are apt to lean more in the direction of classic rock and metal. For my part, the soundtrack of my gaming life has always been Led Zeppelin, Rush, Kansas, Rainbow, Styx, and suchlike. Rock songs that imply big adventures and epic journeys are totally my bag, at least when it comes to gaming. (On an only very tangentially-related note: Bill & Ted Face the Music? Excellent movie—exactly how a long-dormant franchise should be revived.)

In more recent times, thanks to my longstanding obsession with the online first-person-mêlée game Pirates, Vikings, & Knights II (a venerable Half-Life mod that one can still download for free on Steam, although the player base has all but dried up in the last year or so), I've also discovered some fun and thematic musical groups that fit fantasy themes even better than mainstream rockers—groups like knightly Jaldabaoth and (of course) piratical Alestorm.

(One would imagine that I'm also into steampunk-themed music, like that proffered by Abney Park, but I don't care for Abney Park's techno-y sound. Steam Powered Giraffe, on the other hand, is unquestionably awesome.)

But, gaming aside, far and away my two favorite bands are They Might Be Giants and Flogging Molly. I've been a TMBG fan for many a year; probably since I first saw "Particle Man" and "Istanbul" on Tiny Toon Adventures as a wee tyke. I listed to Flogging Molly unceasingly as a college undergrad—most of their songs comported well thematically with the Irish drinking and folk songs I grew up listening to with my family, stuff like the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers, songs which were my chief connection to my Irish-American heritage growing up. 

I once ran a short D&D campaign where the adventures had been inspired by the songs of Flogging Molly—as you might imagine, it was a "rebels fight against an oppressive empire"-themed game, and it worked well. I've long desired and often thought about doing the same thing with a campaign inspired by TMBG songs—but in that case, I have no freaking clue what form such a campaign would take, except to say that it would probably be science-fantasy and very weird.

An Irrelevant Dipshit Trolls the OSR. Film at 11.

So you may have noticed posts like this one and this one and this one too taking a principled stand against Nazis coopting the OSR. What is this about? Well, it would appear that a right-wing troll of no meaningful consequence has declared that the OSR supports Trump (click and thereby donate more views to the blog of an insignificant nimrod at your own risk).

Three things.

One: by giving the troll attention, the troll "wins" from his own perspective. That's all a troll wants: attention. Lulz. That's why right-wing trolls troll: they know that we knee-jerk lefties have our bloody principles and that we pathologically have to respond to evil by condemning evil. They know how to take advantage—the same way Lex Luthor knows how to to take advantage of Superman.

Two: as I no longer consider myself a member of the OSR (for game-mechanical and esthetic reasons, not political reasons), I cannot presume to speak for the OSR. I only speak for myself when I say: fuck Trump, and fuck these right-wing assholes who say and believe Nazi-flavored things. (This, despite the fact that they would be the first to whinge at you that they're anti-Nazi too. Hell, the RPG Pundit, who runs the gaming forum where idiots who manage to somehow get themselves banned from RPG.net flee to and take refuge—a place where the aforementioned unnoteworthy dipshit troll hangs out—used to have as his signature the famous Woody Guthrie line, "this machine kills fascists." These fuckers actually think they're anti-Nazi and "libertarian." Guess that's the tricky thing about being a right-winger: you may not support Nazis and Klansmen and neo-Confederates—but they sure as fuck support you. Wonder why?)

Three: I actually think there should be lots of Nazis in the old-school gaming community. Of course there should! Why would we not want droves of Nazis around?

They have typically have AC 8, about 4 hit points, and save as Ftr1. One well-aimed shot with a revolver is usually enough to do one in, but you can totally get lots of 'em all at once with a fireball, and that's rad. Unfortunately, being 1 HD mooks, they're only worth about 5 to 10 XP a pop.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Because I just *had* to go and add two more dungeons to the campaign module…

I finished drawing up and stocking two dungeons this evening and inserting them into the Lands of Älyewinn module. One is actually underneath the campaign's home base, the dwarf-village of Nibelholt. (It's a nice, creepy-ass barrow crypt with a few rooms that are just plain weird. It was a joy to write!) The other is essentially the campaign's hard-mode, high-level "bonus dungeon," located in the upper left corner of the map, in the hex farthest away from said home base. It's… different and special. I'll say no more about it until I publish—except to complain that took rather a long time to get finished, and I'm still a little bit worried that it's not brutal enough to warrant the amount of treasure I placed there.

Eh, well. It's literally in the most out-of-the-way corner on the map, so maybe it's not such a big deal if it's a teensy bit Monty Haul. 

Anyhow, the point is, I will very shortly be able to get to work cleaning up and re-mapping the big dungeon. The Fiendish Temple. That's where the goods are. I've got some weird-ass rooms in that one. (Much of it was, if I recall correctly, inspired by X2: Castle Amber, but reimagined to suit my particular sensibilities.) That's exciting. 

I honestly can't wait until this thing is finished. I want people to see it.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Module is 50% Done. Outdoor Encounter Tables are Tedious.

That is all.

Well, that's not all. I can say that I've almost finished drafting the text of part 2, the middle of the module, concerning the village and the hex-crawl. The village description is done; the random encounters, random events, and timeline of triggered overworld events is done. (Seriously, why do modules never have these last two features? Stuff still happens in the campaign world, even when the PCs are spending all their time going back and forth between town and dungeon.) I still need to clean up the descriptions of triggered overworld encounters in all the map-hexes.

And I need to draw the village map (gag) and touch up all the maps for overworld encounter hexes that have one-level mini-dungeons in them. Dungeon maps, at least, are fun and cool.

Once that's done, all that I'll have left to deal with is part 3, the big dungeon. Fun, fun, fun.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Nostalgia for Retro-Clones (and also a Rumor Table)

I saw a post on Reddit recently, written by someone who was feeling nostalgic for the early days of the OSR and the "fascinating" feel of Swords & Wizardry. It occurred to me then that I feel the same nostalgia for the beginning of the movement, when retro clones were the order of the day. Labyrinth Lord, for all its quirks—because of its quirks—hits me right in the feels in a way that Old School Essentials never possibly could. And it was nice, for a while, not to have to navigate a minefield of content-free coffee-table books and overcomplicated tomes of discount-rate weirdness and mercurial magic.

Ah, well, such must be the curse of the grognard. We even long the rosy past of twelve little years ago.

Turning to happier matters, I've finally arrived at the point in my module where I have to include a rumor table. I love rumor tables! Especially rumor tables that don't tell you which rumors are true or false! Here's the table that will accompany Lands of Älyewinn: The Fiendish Ethericite Temple—

<pic removed in anticipation of publishing soon!>

Friday, October 2, 2020

"Lands of Älyewinn" is 33% Done!

I have finished writing up the setting chapter! Now I must finally turn my attention to the hated task of writing up a village. I tell you, if I was just doing a dungeon-module here, I'd totally skip this part entirely. But, nooo, I just had to go and settle on a setting with a hex-crawl component… me and my bright ideas.