Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The “Jennisodes” Podcast is Now Live

My interview with Jennifer Steen for “Jennisodes” is now up. In it, we discuss an array of topics ranging from how I got into this bizarre hobby, the body of my work, Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, The Dungeon Alphabet, Fight On! magazine, this blog, and, of course, “Of Unknown Provenance.” You can listen to my dulcet tones by clicking on this link.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beware of Lampreymen…Suckers

My regular readers know that I’ve penned the upcoming DCC adventure Emirikol Was Framed! and that it’s due for release later this year. What is not common knowledge is that I’ve written a second adventure and that I’m currently working on a third Dungeon Crawl Classics scenario.

The second adventure is entitled The Sea Queen Escapes! and it’s now in the final stages of revisions and playtesting. The cover art is complete and the book is almost ready to go into layout. No release date or formal announcement has yet been issued, but I have permission to talk a little bit about it. You can hear me say a few words about The Sea Queen on an upcoming episode of Jennisodes, and those of you looking for more details about my DCC work, Stonehell Dungeon, and “Of Unknown Provenance” should tune in once that goes live.

As I mentioned, The Sea Queen Escapes! is undergoing playtesting at the moment by certain select groups. One such group played through the adventure this weekend. Amongst the players at the table was Jim Wampler, the mind and pen behind Marvin the Mage! I’ve mentioned Marvin in the past and Grognardia gives old Marv some wordage as well in this post. If you’re not currently reading Marvin, I suggest you point your browser over to mudpuppycomics.com and catch up on the fun.

One of the unique monsters featured in The Sea Queen Escapes! are the lampreymen, an sea-going race that makes an appearance early on in the aquatic-themed adventure. Jim Wampler, inspired by the party’s run in with these cold-blooded suckers, created a wonderful illustration of them in his own unique comic style. Both Jim and Joseph Goodman gave me their blessings to share Jim’s work with my readership.

Having no visual artistic talent of my own, it’s always a surprise and an extreme pleasure to see something that existed solely in my head and in written form come to life in an artistic depiction, and Jim’s take on the lampreymen is no exception. I’m digging the bandoleer of pouches this guy’s rockin' as he comes at you with his spear and big old mouth.

Hopefully this small glimpse at just one of the many threats awaiting the PCs inside the cover of The Sea Queen Escaped! “wets” your appetite for more. If you dig this sample of Jim’s work, stop by mudpuppycomics.com for a lot more of his stuff and a lot of laughs to boot!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Make the "Not Be"…Be

Those of you who read my post NTRPGCon report know that a little beastie I whipped up, “The Upside-Down, Inside-Out, Thing That Should Not Be,” was illustrated in gruesome detail by Jannell Jaquays as part of the Artists’ Panel. It was a very popular depiction.

At the moment, there’s a vote going on over at the NTRPGCon website to choose one of the illustrations created by the artists to be reproduced as a miniature. Right now, Jannell’s picture is smoking the competition, but I’d really love to see the “Not Be” become a 3D figure I can use to terrorize my players. If you’re a member of the NTRPGCon forums and haven’t voted yet, you can stop in and vote for the “Not Be” right here. In interest of fairness, you might want to take a look at the other four illustrations on the slim chance that you think one is actually cooler than an upside down monster with eyeballs on its feet, its organs on its outside, and a big gaping mouth with a spine for a tongue. Those can be found here.

Your continued support for the bizarre is very much appreciated around these parts!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Third Printing of The Dungeon Alphabet Announced

Goodman Games added the third printing of The Dungeon Alphabet to their “Coming Soon” lineup today, and I’m passing the word along to you fine folks. To celebrate both the book’s selling out twice and winning the Three Castles Award last year, Goodman Games and I are proud to present you with a new and expanded printing of the old girl. Here’s what GG has to say:

The Dungeon Alphabet compiles inspirational tables on classic dungeon design elements to assist the game master in creating subterranean challenges. This third printing adds eight new topics to the existing twenty-six for thirty-four tables of inspirational materials.

A is for Altar, B is for Books, and C is for Caves: the Dungeon Alphabet has advice, hints, and randomized tables that bring new life to your adventures. 

The entries are accompanied by outstanding art from classic fantasy illustrators and are compatible with all fantasy role playing games. This third printing adds Russ Nicholson to the artist lineup, and also features new illustrations by Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Peter Mullen, Michael Wilson, and Brad McDevitt, including brand new endsheets.

In addition to the regular book, there’s also a limited edition gold foil cover available.

This limited-edition gold foil cover features a beautiful, thematic cover design by fan favorite Stefan Poag! The interior content includes all the improvements of the expanded third printing of The Dungeon Alphabet, including the addition of Russ Nicholson to the artist lineup, and new illustrations by Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Peter Mullen, Michael Wilson, and Brad McDevitt, including brand new endsheets.

With the additional content and art, The Dungeon Alphabet increases size from its former 48 pp. to 64 pp. The “regular” book will retail for $14.99 with the expanded content, which blessedly means the much-reviled “Nice Price” faux sticker is gone from the cover. The limited edition gold foil version will sell for $24.99. You can pre-order the book now at the Goodman Games website.

And since I already anticipate the question, no, I didn’t make up new letters of the alphabet to expand the book! New entries include “P is also for Potions,” “S is also for Stairs, and “T is also for Treasure Chests.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Let’s Talk “Of Unknown Provenance”

I had a revelation this week: I suck at self-promotion. I’ll talk your ear off about whatever cool widget or book that’s coming down the pike that has my attention, but when it comes to plugging my own work, I need a PR guy. A media assassin. Harry Allen, I gotta ask him.

This satori luckily coincided with the fact that I did an interview for Jennisodes to help plug “Of Unknown Provenance” and the rest of my upcoming projects. I’ll provide a helpful link once it goes live, but, in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at “Of Unknown Provenance” and the madness behind the method. Maybe once you see what’s going on in my head, you might be willing to help turn it from a flight of phantastical whimsy to an actual dead tree thing.

First of all: provenance. It’s not a word that gets tossed around a lot, so a definition is in order. In short, provenance is the chain of ownership behind an item. In the art, archival, and collecting worlds, knowing the provenance of something is extremely invaluable when determining its worth. Was that painting owned by a dear friend of the artist? Was is purchased through legitimate channels or did it just appear one day on the market without documented ownership? Establishing a clear provenance is very important in legitimate dealings and collecting, so already you have an idea that this adventure concerns people, places, and things not at all concerned with how they got their paws on the items in question.

When James approached me to participate on the project, his orders were pretty loose. In fact, they boiled down to “do whatever the hell you want if it’s cool.” Now, that’s a constraint I can work with! So with that direction in mind, I started brainstorming. Do a dungeon crawl? No thanks, been doing too much of that with Stonehell and I need to expand my horizons. Hex crawl? Extraplanar adventures across time and space? Again, not really that exciting for me at the moment.

The hackneyed old phrase in writing is “Write what you know.” As some of you are aware, I’m an archivist by trade when not churning out RPG books and it’s a career and institution that doesn’t get a lot of play. I think that outside of the Nick Cage “National Treasure” film, I can’t recall the last time either archivists or archives got a fair shake in popular entertainment. And so, I decided to correct that.

Archives, like museums, are repositories of items and documents with “intrinsic historical value.” They’re places to stash stuff you want to preserve, but don’t necessarily want to lock away forever. A place to keep the grubby hands of the everyman away the good stuff and let those qualified to handle and appreciate it do so under controlled conditions. As John Constantine once said about the British Museum, “It’s where they keep the loot.”

As we all know, loot and adventurers go together like gin and tonic, so the concept of introducing such a store house—combined with my own experience in the trade—seemed like a natural fit. Riffing off that idea, I started thinking about the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the GURPS supplement Warehouse 23, and the Sci-fi series Warehouse 13. What red-blooded, greedy adventurer wouldn’t want a chance at prying open some of those crates and seeing what might be worth taking? OK, I think we’re on to something here.

James Raggi has also been charting a different course for Lamentation of the Flame Princess as of late, setting-wise. From my view, he’s been moving away from your standard pseudo-medieval fantasy setting and looking towards the 15th and 16th centuries, a time when rampant imperialism and the subjugation of anyone unfortunate enough to live in an area possessing value to those empires was commonplace. That tied into the concept of a storehouse of esoteric loot. After all, once the caretakers of such cultural artifacts have been exterminated, who’s left to keep their “quirks” under control? Best to stick those things somewhere safe until somebody can puzzle that out. I’ll also now break a cardinal rule of writing and design that states you should always obscure your sources by saying that Blue Oyster Cult’s Imaginos album, specifically “Magna of Illusion” plays an important role in defining my course for “Of Unknown Provenance.”

Those of you familiar with my Stonehell know that I’m very big on modular design, and not what one usually means when referring to “game modules.” I enjoy telling a big story, but I also realize that not everyone wants to listen to the whole tale, preferring only to take the chapters that interest them instead. “Of Unknown Provenance” will reflect that same design philosophy.  To accommodate that goal, I found myself drifting back to the old horror/sci-fi anthologies of my youth: Tales from the Dark Side, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, Friday the 13th: the Series, and even Freddy’s Nightmares. “Of Unknown Provenance” is an homage to those shows, featuring a central adventure “plot” (for lack of a better word) comprised of several smaller vignettes that twine together to give the players multiple views of what’s happening at the Night Archive. So, if you’re the referee and have no interest in the big picture, there’s going to be lots to loot from this adventure. I’ll even provide the dotted lines for you to cut along when you take out your mental scissors.

I’m still not settled on an “appropriate for PCs of levesl X through X” for the adventure and won’t be until the fingers hit the keys and start exploring the Archive, but likely this one’s going to end up in the “PC sweet spot” of 6th-8th level.

You can hear me talk some more about “Of Unknown Provenance” once the Jennisodes podcast goes live, but in the meanwhile, I hope I’ve given you all a little peek at what to expect from the adventure. If this helps you decide you want to make “Of Unknown Provenance” a reality, hop over to IndieGoGo and make a contribution. My thanks go out to everyone who’s already contributed based solely on my name and the thumbnail description I provided. Hopefully you and the rest of the gaming world will get a crack at the Night Archive and discovering why it’s the uncertain things that make life so interesting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cure Humorous Wounds

High art, this is not, but I know some referees will introduce this particular bit of wonderworking into their campaigns with tremendous glee. Think of it as a companion piece to my long-forgotten One Hundred Random Ridiculous Magic Items Table.

Cure Humorous Wounds (reversible)
Level: 1
Duration: Permanent
Range: Touch

This potent but specific spell cures a single character or creature (including the caster) of all damage suffered from one or more wounds. However, the injuries healed must be humorous in nature. Any injuries sustained in a less than entertaining fashion are unaffected by this spell.  Whether a wound is considered humorous is left to the Labyrinth Lord’s discretion, but suggested comical wounds include an arrow in the buttocks, a sharp blow to the genitals, injuries sustained from custard pies, and other similar damage. If the majority of the players (not characters) succumb to laughter as a result of the wound, it is also considered humorous.

Cause humorous wounds (reverse of cure humorous wounds) inflicts a single injury on a creature if the caster touches his opponent and the victim fails a saving throw vs. spells. The exact nature of the wound can be determined by the Labyrinth Lord or by rolling on the table below:

1) Shot to the Danglies: Lose all actions for one turn automatically. Each subsequent round, the target must make a save vs. paralysis to recover. If the save is failed, the creature loses another round of action as he/she/it groans in pain.

2) Hot Foot: Target’s boot/foot/hoof/etc. catches fire causing them to hop about comically for 1d4 rounds or until they extinguish the appendage. The small fire inflicts 1 point of damage each round.

3) Eye Poke: Woo-woo-woo! Target is poked in the eyes and cannot see for 1d4 rounds. All attacks and saving throws are at a -2 penalty.

4) Mallet to the Head: A hammer of force descends upon the target, smiting them upon the pate. If wearing a helmet, the basinet is crushed and forced down over the victim’s eyes, blinding them until it can be removed with a successful STR check. Target’s without helmets are stunned for 1d4 rounds and illusionary, tweeting birds circle the victim’s head.

5) Tongue Grab: A hand of force grasps the victim’s tongue and yanks. A successful DEX check must be made to remain standing. Spell-casters are unable to perform magic for 1d4 rounds afterwards.

6) Atomic Wedgie: An unseen presence yanks the victim’s undergarments upward with great violence, reducing their movement rate to the next lowest speed and inflicting a +2 penalty to AC. This effect lasts for 1d4 rounds or until the victim spends a full round readjusting their undergarments. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wanted: 265 Fans with $20 to Spare

There's been some talk going on in the ether about James Raggi's massive July crowdsourcing campaign. Some are sure he's mad, others believe he can pull it off. Me, I'm certainly hoping that the later faction is correct because I really want see the funky ideas I have for "Of Unknown Provenance" see the light of day.

Over at Lamentations of the Flame Princess blog, I read two comments that made my afternoon:

"The names he has writing adventures are "famous" in their own rights. Does Monte Cook have 300 fans willing to pay $20 for his adventure? Does Michael Curtis?" -- Ramanan Sivaranjan

"Of course a Michael Curtis + LotFP module would sell 300+ copies over a reasonable period of time." -- Guy Fullerton

So the question remains, and only my readers and fans can answer it: Are there 265 of you would plunk down $20 bucks for a printed copy and a PDF of "Of Unknown Provenance" and make the adventure a reality? You've got 25 days to make it happen. If it does, know that I remain deeply humbled and honored that you folks would give up the cost of a movie and snacks for me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Of Unknown Provenance on IndieGoGo

James Raggi has kicked off a campaign to get nineteen adventures for Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG funded in the month of July. The would-be authors of these works runs the gamut from industry professionals, up-and-comers, and a few wild cards one wouldn’t expect to see lending their names to a roleplaying game supplement.

One of the names that falls somewhere in that range is my own. Provided the funding is achieved, I’ll be writing an adventure entitled “Of Unknown Provenance.” They say write what you know, so I decided to use a forgotten, near-legendary repository of items with intrinsic – as well as pecuniary—value as the adventure’s framing device. It’s also my nod to certain anthology shows like Tales from the Darkside and Friday the 13th: The Series. The teaser is as follows:

In certain occult circles, sorcerers still trade tales of the Night Archive. Known as a repository for artifacts deemed too perplexing or too dangerous for mortal minds to safely comprehend, the Night Archive was a vault of wonders tended by the devoted few who dedicated their lives to the custody of the macabre and inscrutable. But history, like the weird inks that stain arcane grimoires, is prone to fading and the Night Archive slipped into the mists of legend. 

Now, as the stellar wheel turns above and the sign of Herthas rises once more, rumors spread that the location of the Night Archive is again known by Man. The fate of its collection and the caretakers charged with its keeping remains a mystery, but for those who deduce the vault’s location, a treasure trove of magic surely lies for the taking…

I’m really looking forward to penning this one, so please, if you’re interested in seeing it brought to life, consider kicking in to help fund the adventure. While you’re doing so, check out the rest of the adventures currently up for funding and see if they also pique you’re interest. Both I and the rest of the authors would be extremely grateful.