Category Archives: Modules

Gary Con Panel – Goodman Games – How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck

I have played a few DCC funnels at conventions and a few modules at the gaming table. I’ve even been a player in a play test of a module. I can’t mention that, but if my name shows up in the acknowledgements, you’ll know which one(s).

DCC seems to have a lot of interest in their modules, so I wanted to hear what their designers had to say. If I never have a published module, at least I can use the information to help design my own sessions, and games at conventions.

The panelists were Joseph Goodman, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bitman, Brendan LaSalle, and Bob Bledsaw, Jr. There were 20-25 in attendance, among whom were 3 women. When it came time to ask questions, only one of the women asked a question. That’s a significant ratio. What I wonder, is were the other two just there with their male S.O.’s, or were they really gamers with an interest in such things. Just my musings, no data to back up any of it.

What follows are just the transcription of my hastily scribbled and sometimes illegible notes. There are a lot of good points here for planning adventures in your own games, in addition to developing modules for publication.

Joseph Goodman started off by telling us that they have done this seminar multiple times before, and this time wanted to start off with each person telling what things inspire them.

1.) Things that inspire us to get a good output.

Michael Curtis

  • All writers are readers
    • Always have a notebook when reading – make note of certain words that evoke ideas, feelings, etc.
    • Follow up on ideas an author does not pursue.

Jobe Bitman

  • Movies, especiall humor.
  • Camping & hiking
  • New museum
  • New locations and feeling what the experience is like and relate to a fantasy world setting.
    • For ex. hiking is hard work, and there’s no way characters pack all the stuff they say that they do.

Brendan LaSalle

  • Big reader
  • Movies
  • Good TV
  • Poetry
  • Music – Heavy Metal Power Cords
  • Steals a lot of bad guy lines from comic books.

Bob Bledsaw, Jr. (Insight on how his dad prepared for campaigns & modules, from all the materials he left.)

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heilein, A. C. Clarke, poetry
  • Actually running campaigns
    • Notebooks filled with names of inns, NPC’s with brief designations, random monsters, and names & backgrounds for magical items.
    • Village book, fantastic weapons, Temple book, etc.
    • His father didn’t like to lead players.
    • Look at an inn as each class. How does a mage see this inn, a cleric, a thief?
    • What about a monster or obstacle is a problem for a cleric?
    • Leave world open

Joe Goodman

  • Goes to places with unique features
    • Elephant seal hatchery – they are 2,000 pounds and the size of a VW.
  • Monarch butterfly breeding ground – view through fantasy lens
  • Hurst castle
  • Wild zebras on beach near California coastal highway.
  • Alcatraz was a military island citadel before it was a prison.
  • Art and comic books

I think it was Brendan LaSalle who said these two things.

  1. Read Strunk & Whites Manual of Style once per year.
  2. Read what you have written out loud, or have someone read it to you with the Last Draft. If it doesn’t read well, it won’t play well.

A common theme was to playtest a module multiple times to get the flow and pacing right. You have to know how it will play out before you publish it. Someone said if it is a TPK every time, then it’s too hard. If about half the party survives, then it’s about right.

2.) One thing they love and one thing they hate.

Brendan

Love: Brilliant little detail, for ex. Legacy of Savage Kings has a dragon in a cavern with the coins of his treasure lovingly stacked along the wall.

Hate: No matter what happens, you can’t change what happens. He gave examples of NPC’s you can’t kill, or some other thing that no matter what they do it won’t change. It is better to think of what will happen if they kill this NPC, etc. Trust your DM (who will run the module). ALWAYS put the players center stage as the main characters of the story.

Michael

Love: Enjoys ambiguity to cause reader and player to imagine options, avoids set in stone. Leave it up to recipient to fill in the blanks.

Hate: Story should emerge and not be stuck in a narrative since it is a participatory game.

Bob

Be a storyteller, not a story dictator.

Jobe

Hate: Really long details with buried information the DM or player’s need. Make it easy to find.

Joseph

Players are the audience, but the GM is the customer. Word count for GM/Judge is wasted, 1-2 pages at most. Pages should be for the benefit of the players.

3.) How bring ideas together?

Bob – List of Hobbits, only with warrior sounding names. His father’s notes were rich in lore from the books he read.

Michael – Pick three things and create a riff on it. Then come up with a brief synopsis, elevator pitch.

Brendan – Do like Shakespeare – Steal/steal/steal. What if it is a murder mystery?
Take random ideas and throw them at specific thing for the background to see where it goes and what happens.
He is a firm believer in a crappy first draft, just get it done, then refine it.

Michael – If nothing else, do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Find a way to make it an adventure.

Bob – Don’t let your own misgivings stop you from paying or publishing.

Joseph – Get practice, especially with random stuff.

Bob – Some people have favorite modules that are not what is the most popular. Someone will like it, even if not everyone.

4.) How break out of the linear mindset?

Michael – Don’t make decisions for the players, just set the scene.

Bob – If there is an intriguing hook, it will draw them in.

Mike – For publication there is a set word count. How might players overcome this obstacle. Come up with 3 or 4 things.

Brendan – Billy goat Gruff, but 25th level character. Create a setting and villains. You can’t cover all your bases. Trust your GM.

Joseph – Mental checklist of

  • Player choices
  • There is a chance for every player to shine.
  • Visual Descriptions – Use hulking humanoid instead of just saying orc.
  • No ziggurats – New and exciting ideas.
  • Good title
  • Good summary  – Focused enough to do a 2 or 3 sentence description – elevator pith.

5.) Bad guy development

Leave as many decisions as possible up to the players.

Base on someone you don’t like.

Don’t lock the front door to the dungeon.

Don’t leave necessary information in an inaccessible place.

No lock without a key. This can be a secret door, or another way around the obstacle. Always a way around it.

Brendan – Once you decide what he is, Imagine as your character or you personally. Such as a dragon or necromancer.
What will you do to stop adventurers?
What will you fail at?

Q&A

How get into the situation?/Start the setting for the adventure? (This was my question. I have trouble getting a good starting point for adventures.)

Brendan – In media res [In the middle of the action/story.] especially for a module, one-shot, or convention game.

Joseph – Robert E. Howard – In media res.

Brendan – Let the players screw themselves. Maybe they are all clerics, so they need hirelings to fill in the gaps. Always have a situation that requires dealing with magic.

Jobe – 1.) Be comfortable with system you are using, and just knowing the system might give you an idea.

2.) Avoid crating bottlenecks, have some secondary way to achieve the goal. A “key” to every lock doesn’t have to be literal.

Joseph – Easter Egg – Some benefit to players that test everything and one room *. Game changers – Players wreck the story line, handle it at the table.

Word count/size?

Brendan – Have a set number of encounters for four hours. For a convention setting, 6 to 8 encounters for four hours. Most modules can be played in four hours.

Jobe – Word count – Write as expressively as possible in the lowest word count.

Joseph – c. 10,000 words is about 16 pages in the format of Goodman Games’ modules.

How develop balance in a module? How do you know you have it right?

Brendan – Playtest/Playtest/Playtest as much as you can before publishing. Run at conventions, local game store with people you don’t know. A minimum of 3 times to playtest, once with friends, twice at conventions, no upper limit really.

Michael – Six months after it is released, you will know if the balance is right.

Jobe – If more than have killed, then still needs work. If less than half killed, then it’s probably pretty good.

Bob – Be prepared for anything. There should be enough source material to plan for unexpected things players do. Always leave a way out of a tough situation, but don’t make it easy.

Mark Hunt – An Interview – The Return of GangBusters

I knew +Mark Hunt from G+ and just happened to meet him at +John Reyst’s Open Gaming Store booth. I recalled seeing a post about Gangbusters, but it had not clicked that it was back. Mark has a license to the GangBusters game! I first learned of Mark with his prolific postings of items for White Star. Many know him for his DCC setting Drongo.

Mark was signing a Gangbuster’s box, and it had the look and size of what I remember from 30+ years ago. The guy asked Mark to sign it and I was really puzzled, thinking it was an original boxed set, until Mark explained that it was his game.

We talked about collaborating on some things in multiple genres/rule systems, one of them being Gang Busters! Wow! I haven’t played in 30+ years, so I guess I need to brush up on the rules….

I did a phone interview with Mark on Saturday, March 12th. Before I started asking interview questions, he mentioned that he is good for the next 3 or 4 years of putting stuff out on a regular basis.

Interview Questions

When did you get your start in RPG’s?
Summer 1979. D&D Red Box and Blue Box. One day in Jr. High, we talked about it in the  Lunch room & met up after school.

What games have you played?
Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, probably hundreds since then. Powers & Perils, Champions, you name it, I played it. I have played every year since then. I once played Champions two years straight.

What games have you ran?
I have ran pretty much just about every game. Which helped a lot with game design, you have to play games and know what is out there, if you want to make games.

I’ve been running GangBusters since 1983. I have enough stuff on hard drive to fill a dozen books without even trying.

What games do you still play or run?
GangBusters, D&D, Swords of the Empire, DCC, Basic, Swords & Sorcery, C&C, Call of Cthulhu, and boardgames, just games, our group tries to keep playing.

How many women players have you had in all of your games?
Dozens, our first group had women back in 1979, and 3 or 4 at a time all the way to the present. It’s easy.

Does you wife play?
No

Does it cause problems?
No, she plays computer games, some are RPG’s, just not table top.

What does she think of your endeavors?
She likes it, especially when they start cashing in. I take what I make and roll it into producing the next game.

Have you ever had a woman GM?
Yes, a few. They are just like everyone else.  I’ve played all over the world so I had all the kinds of game masters that you can think of.

You played all over the world because you were in the Air Force?
Yes for six years and it included the1st Gulf War. We used to play Twilight 2000 in Germany back in the 80’s. A game where we go to war with Russia and get stranded in Europe when it happens. We used all the strategies and tactics we knew, and we had more authenticity than most people.

You seem to have an eclectic taste in genres and historical periods, do you find it hard to focus with so many different irons in the fire?
No.

Why not?
I like to read all kinds of stuff. I know a lot about this, this and this. If there is something you need to know, read a book. My dad says, They hide things they don’t want people to know in a book. A game designer should always be reading, and learning more stuff.

You got your start, at least in my experience, of publishing ships, classes, and supplements for White Star. Was that your real start?It was actually Drongo, then Planetary Transmission and some free items for White Star.

NOTE: Drongo is a DCC compatible setting.

I know you have a Napoleonic era game in the works, and other things, what can you tell us about that?
Swords of the Empire will be ready by the beginning of next month. People can follow on the G+ page and watch development of it, and see how it has changed and evolved. I revise based on feedback from others’ comments in the community.

The latest project seems to be a runaway success – GangBusters.
Is that a game you played back in the day?
NOTE: See above, he’s been playing and GMing it since it came out in 1983.

What made you decided to go for a license to GangBusters?
It was just sitting there and I just asked if I can use it and it went from there. If I like it, there has to be others that like it. If I can sell enough and it can pay for the effort I put into it, all the better.

Is it an exclusive license, that is, are you the only one licensed to do anyting with GB?
So far, I’m the only one out there. I’m working on several things, just making stuff work. I can’t go into more detail at this time.

How hard was it to get the license to do this?
More or less I just asked Rick Krebs and he was receptive. I can’t get into any details on that either. There is stuff [other famous IP] that people can probably pick up if they put in some effort to research it. It is not impossible, is the best I can say.

What did Rick Krebs say when you asked him, was he excited?
Others had talked to him and it never went anywhere, so I showed him what I can do and he purchased it and reviewed it. When the writer likes it and says keep doing it, that’s a seal of approval.

Why the twist with the “Weird Tales & Paranormal Investigations?
Actually it existed in the original setting. In Polyhedron magazine, they had an adventure with giant bugs that took over a farm. I did not create it out of thin air, it existed in some shape or form in the original game.
The original game talked about various ideas for how to expand it. All I did was expand it. I read all the articles where they mentioned GangBusters. I am making it modular so you can use or not, or expand or not, cause at the end of the day it is still a game of cops & robbers. If you can’t find an adventure after a night of watching TV, with so many police procedurals that are on now, I can’t help you, NCIS, X-files, etc. Warehoue 13, Thin Man, etc. There is so much that fits.
Me – It’s seeing the connections.
Mark – Exactly. I increased the book size to show what you can do with it. It doesn’t have to be just gangsters. You can do journalists. The Incredible Hulk is about new reporter chasing the Hulk cross country. The players  could be a pool of reporters in an Enquirer type organization.
Me – GangBusters is set in the same time period as H.P. Lovecraft was writing.
Mark – I’m staying away from the Cthulhu mythos, there is more out there than just that.
If you want to play Call of Cthulhu play it, it’s a great game. If you want to go in different directions, play my game. Play GangBusters, there is enough out there to keep you busy

I really like the NPC card decks, what was your inspiration for those?
Old police mugshots. I make cards with mugshots, with enough stats to run. I made the first 18, then another 18, and eventually I’ll have a full deck of 52 cards. Literally take a card and you are ready to play. At Gary Con I passed out cards, and said, this is what stats mean and we were up and running in minutes. NPC’s, bad guys, players, etc. They are small and portable. Once you know the rules that’s all you need. Keep it in your wallet and you’re ready to play whenever and wherever. [See this YouTube video for a sample of the cards.]

Me – They make a great tool for a pick up or convention game for pre-gens. There was a lot of buzz from those who played in the games Mark ran.

It’s been mentioned on the G+ TSR GangBusters Community, that you plan to do a Kickstarter. I know that you have a goal to have everything ready before the Kickstarter and to keep it manageable. How much can you tell us about that?
I’m still working on it. Eventually there will be a box set, hard back book, GM screen, and modules, plus add ons will all be figured out and done. So once we hit our goal and are funded, I will order and ship. I did a test run of box sets, and people are impressed with what I have now. Some have shipped to Spain, England, all over world now. I hope a Kickstarter will help it reach a bigger area.

When might we get wind of the Kickstarter?
Depends on when I get done with something in the background – I can’t talk about it – then preparing for the Kickstarter will start to speed up.

What is the secret to your prolific output? I ask, because it is an amazing story that just floored me. I was giving you a hard time at Gary Con to slow down because you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Last year was my last chemo – I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and going through treatments. I said to myself, “If this is my last year, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and I literally drove myself to do these games, even if only 5 words in a day. After a year, I had a lot. I just hacked it out piece by piece. “Never give up, never surrender,” as they say. Marks’ wife can be heard in the background: “He’s not going to do anything else. By Grapthar’s hammer….”
To the outside world it appeared like I was cranking it out fast, it seemed like a lot real fast. As they say, an overnight success is ten year’s worth of work. A lot of games that blew up were simmering in the background and no one paid attention until they got done.

You mentioned you were seeking a license to do a game with a big name, and well-know IP, but it fell through. 
Any clues to other IP’s you have your eye on? (Probably not, since you don’t want to spoil it.)
Exactly. I’m always looking for more stuff, but can’t mention them, so I don’t get scooped. If it’s not being used, why not? A Lot of stuff is just sitting quietly. It’s not hard if you do the work and ask. The worst they can say is, “No.”
Drongo for DCC is mine and I can always go and do a BX version. As long as I don’t compete with one of their [Goodman Games] products it should be OK.

Any hints about projects coming up?
Oh geeze, let me look at my hard drive. I’ve thought about one or two retroclones, but will mention those when the time is right. I don’t want it all at once, that is, I want to spread it out. Cloaked Avengers is a new class for GangBusters in the next month, like the Shadow. You can add to an existing GangBusters game with mysterious powers. I’m also working on a WWI alternate history for GangBusters.  I plan to stage so it’s not out all at once, and do one or two adventures to flesh out stuff  I already have.

Joe’s Diner was 6 or 7 pages, then 18, then 32, then I made little booklets. The PDF is automatically updated, so it’s done. The only way to get it in book form is in the boxed set.
Me – That’s a smart way to drive sales.
Mark – Exactly.

Have you seen all the talk about yesterday’s press release about the new TableTop Library site?
Yes. I’m thinking about trying to sell stuff there, it’s one more avenue for sales.

Anything else you want us to know about?
Hit me up on G+ if you see me, and help out get the word out, Swords of the Empire, GangBusters , Fantasy game – no name yet. Everything is just falling into place so fast it is ridiculous. I might have Boxed sets [of the yet to be named and released fantasy game ] at NTRPGCon.

GangBusters boxed sets and T-Shirts, and Swords of the Empire boxed sets will definitely be at North Texas RPG Con.

– – –

Mark is a really nice guy, easy to talk to, and inviting. Other aspiring game designers were asking him to look at their stuff, and he was looking forward to it. He knows game mechanics. Just wjile talking about general ideas, he had an idea for something. Being in his presence, I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for games. If we lived in the same town, I’d find a way to play in his games.

Mark is enjoying life and riding this dream of designing games and having a blast while doing it. I expect to hear exciting things in the coming weeks.

The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor – Reprint

I received a review copy of The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, a softcover reprint of the Judges Guild module, including printings 1-4 and some new material. This is a portion of the Judge’s Guild Deluxe Colector’s Edition. The deluxe edition will be a hardcover over sized book, but the various parts can be purchased separately in softcover. You can get a PDF of the original here.

This reprint uses the same cover as the first printing, and a sample of the cover for each printing is on the inside back cover.

I must confess that back in the day, my brother and I judge the products from Judges Guild unfavorably, and for not good reasons. We judged the books by their covers, and not the quality of their information. Thus, until the internet showed me what helpful information and tables Judges Guild had, I was ignorant of many of their good ideas.

One major example is Ready Ref Sheets. It has many helpful tables for assisting a DM with various aspects of game prep.

Fortress Badabaskor is a town, fortress, and four level dungeon. It has a backstory, intrigue and can easily fit into an existing campaign. This town could prove to be a base of operations for adventurers even after they had delved the depths beneath Badabakor. In the 40 pages of this mini setting/module are 8 maps showing the surrounding area, the town, and the dungeon levels with a side-view of the elevation.

Judges Guild uses a stat block that I could figure out easily, except for one thing. CLASS, ALIGN, LVL, HTK, AC, SL, S, I, W, CON, DEX, CHAR, WPN. On my first skim through, HTK had me scratching my head until I started over and read it. An earlier NPC spelled out Hits To Kill, which is used instead of Hit Points/HP. Why, I am not sure. I am sure there are those out there who can comment and enlighten the rest of us. Thus remains the bit I don’t understand, SL. I managed to find this link via a google search, and SL is Social Level. It is an interaction mechanic for encounters. That is something that would be good to define in a re-print that can stand alone. If not for the internet, I would have to find someone with the answer to what this is. Now how does this mechanic work? Which book explains that?

[EDIT: Thanks to +Guy Fullerton for pointing out that a list of these abbreviations and their definitions are at the bottom of the table of contents page.]

Before the room descriptions for level one, is this note, and thus a key to what Old School was/is. “Note that each dungeon chamber has a recommended description and some alternate descriptions have been provided to assist the designing judge. Please alter these to suit you campaign!” [emphasis added]

The “designing judge”. That is a helpful turn of phrase. To me, it implies that this setting/module is just an outline for an idea that the GM can modify in whole or in part to suit the campaign. Too many people get on the path of “this is he way it must be”, and lose site of the ability to improvise and shape it to meet the situation.

I really like the alternate descriptions that one can choose to use in place of the ones already there. In some ways, one can mix and match the descriptions in a lot of old school dungeons and not impact much how they play.

Between the town description and the dungeon levels is a table for generating random traps. Like a lot of similar tables from Judge’s Guild, like Ready Ref Sheets, there is a percentile roll to determine the type and then a series of 1d6 tables to further define that trap. There are lots of sub-categories used to flesh out various aspects of traps that get one to think about the depth of such tables, and not just a large number of one line traps. This is a concept akin to story dice that give you words and phrases that you can use to build a description of a trap.

The final eleven pages are a supplement added by Goodman Games, by Michael Curtis. It goes into more detail about some things on level three, and presents some factions for level 4.

Since this is designed with D&D in mind, it is generic enough within that mold to work with little or no modification for various clones. It could even be used for ideas for use with different genres.

The last four pages are re-prints of the ads for various Judges Guild products and sending in S.A.S.E.’s and your money to have it mailed right back to you. That brings up memories and gives a taste to the younger generations how things were before about 15 or 20 years ago.

One thing I soon noticed, on an earlier page halflings are mentioned, and later it mentions hobbits. Seems like the Tolkien estate may not have gone after Judges Guild as stridently as it did TSR over the use of hobbit.

This volume is of much heavier stock than the original such, as I remember them. The pages and cover and slick and shiny. The shininess makes certain angles in some light wash out the test, but otherwise it is very legible.

This is $19.99 from Goodman Games, a PDF of the third printing is on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow for $3.99, which does not have the new material. If $20.00 plus shipping is too much for you, and you can use the PDF, you have options. There are also periodic sales and so forth that can make it easier to dive in.

I have some ideas for how I might use this. Mashed potatoes and aliens anyone?

READ AN RPG BOOK IN PUBLIC WEEK – 2015 – July 26th – August 1st, 2015

Just a little reminder that next week starting this Sunday, July 26th through August 1st, is the second of the three annual weeks for Read an RPG Book in Public Week.

This year, I have not managed to read an RPG book in public during an official week, but I have read part of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook while in my hammock, between two big trees in my front yard. If the weather cooperates, I should be able to manage to actually meet this challenge.

 

2015 One Page Dungeon Contest – Winners Announced

The winners of the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest were announced a few days ago. Check out the 1PDC Google Community.

My entry, The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep, was not among them. I did not expect to win. I knew that there were many who had massively better entries in look, layout, and more from prior years. My entry was an exercise to see what I could do with an idea.

From what I have seen of the winners of the last couple of years, one needs an idea that is solid and well defined with a great hook. The Artwork needs to be top notch, and the layout has to make it all “flow” and draw the reader into it.

I am curious to watch the recording of the Google Hangout with the judges [Link Broken, no alternative, August, 2017], to see if there are any “simple” dungeons that had ideas they liked, but due to art or layout, did not make the cut. Set aside about 45 minutes if you want to watch it all in one go. I missed the live hangout.

Out of all the submissions, there were 3 first place winners, 6 second place winners, 13 third place winners, and 5 honorable mentions. Based purely on first names in each category, it looks like there is one women in each of the last three categories. This makes 97 new dungeons. Since 2009, seven years, that’s about 700 dungeons. Not all are fantasy, not all are dungeons. Still, that is a lot of ideas if your creative well has ran dry. I like to grab and re-purpose the maps for my own use.

One blogger, +Aaron Frost,  of Wasted The Game, is going through all the 1PDC entries and giving his thoughts on them. He has a lot of material.

Daddy Rolled A 1 was a judge last year and again this year. Here is his take on the process.

After watching the hangout video there are a few things one can take away about how to approach this contest.

  • The Past and Storytelling are not as important.
    • What is going on NOW?
    • What situation will the characters encounter when you run it?
  • Brief yet Complete.
  • Set up well in the beginning with an answer to how does it end/get resolved?
  • White space/Imagery/Readable
  • The art is not as important as an idea that is presented well.
  • Spelling and Grammar – i.e. after you spellcheck and grammar check it, get a proofreader.
  • Put enough time into it to do it well.

I know that I had a lot of text. Paring that down to something that “pops” would improve it. That is, express the intent without requiring too much detail.

The hangout mentioned one winning submission that had excellent 2 sentence NPC descriptions that made for NPCs that could be plugged into any campaign.

I would suggest reading through the submissions and learning from them. What did the winners do well? What did the others not do as well that might best be avoided?

One more shout out, +Random Wizard [UPDATE: Random Wizard is no longer on G+. Check out his blog: https://www.kirith.com/random-wizard/] has sold off unused items in his personal collection to ensure that there are prizes for all 13 of the third place winners, a $25 store credit at Wayne’s Books! Talk about a class act! Not only has he given his time to organize the contest, he made sure that third place had prizes out of his own pocket!

There will always be grumblers who complain about things, and complaining is their ONLY “contribution.” It is easy to say that this or that wasn’t right, fair, or the way you would do it. If you are not willing to step up and add something of value to the hobby, why are you tearing down others who are? I don’t know who these complainers are about the 1PDC, they must be ranting on some forum to which I don’t belong. Of that, I am glad. I only know about it, because I saw mention of it on another blog. If the complainers would put forth the energy they spend complaining into making something to share with the others in the OSR, we’d all be better for it. It reminds me of my sons when they complained about doing homework or cleaning their room. If they would have shut up and just done the task at hand, it would have required less energy. Oh well, it is the loss of the complainers. Once we learn what an internet troll is, we know to ignore it, and it becomes as static. It is annoying, but we can learn to tune it out.

I for one am interested to read through the entries. I also am interested in attempting a submission for next year. I may come up with an idea and start working it out to boil it down to the good stuff. Better yet, I’ll take more time on the layout and presentation.

 

Review – Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids

Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids was on sale a few weeks back. It arrived at the end of April. Since my submission to the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest involved druids – The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep, I waited until after I completed my submission to read this module. My planned postings got sidetracked, since I jumped on board the White Star bandwagon.

This module clearly states on the cover below the illustration: “For use with 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(R)”. Unlike others, it is not afraid to say this and also acknowledges that the name of the game is a registered trademark. It is one of three modules currently available from Chaotic Henchmen Productions.

The blurb from the back cover explains what this module is all about: “Dark Druids includes complete descriptions and maps for an outdoor area and a three-level adventure site, and is easily adaptable to most campaign settings. It also includes an outline for further adventuring, a selection of new monsters, spells, and magic items, plus Robert J. Kuntz’s historical context and commentary on this module’s relationship to his campaigns of the 1970’s”

This module is designed for levels 8-12, so it is not a low power adventure. It has the general look and feel of a module from back in the day. The cover can serve as a screen and includes the 1st and  3rd level of the dungeon. The 2nd level is on the last page of the module. This 56 page module has more maps for the outdoors area and illustrations to compliment the text.

After a forward and author preface, there is a section on Using the Module that discusses party composition and challenges, preparations before play, and how to read and interpret the module text. There is a player introduction, which is a lot of text to read. Lastly there is a half page of rewards and additional party resources.

After a page for the GM introduction, there are just over three and a half pages with the outdoor map, starting text, and key to the outdoor map.

The dungeon’s three levels are detailed on pages 9 through 35.

There are seven appendices, A through F.

A – Deals with further adventuring against the drak druids.

B – Is an article about a Dark God.

C – Discusses changes in this version of the module from the 2006 version published by Creations Unlimited.

D – Lists the 16 new magic items in this module.

E – Details four new monsters.

F – Describes the dark druid variant class.

The module was well sealed in cardboard and bubble wrap and sealed with scotch tape in a clear plastic magazine sleeve.

I like the look and feel of this. The maps are well done and easy to read. The text itself is laid out well and easy to read. However, the “Read-aloud text” is in italics. For some rooms this text is the first part of that room’s description, but for others it is later. Thankfully, while not like some italics fonts that I sometimes have trouble distinguishing from the normal font, there is nothing else to set it apart. When actually running this, it would be very easy to miss a key detail. If I were to run this module as written, I would have to use different colored highlighters and ink to note the important parts. I find this to be more of a concern as my eyes age.

When not in a live game situation and no pressure, it is definitely easy to read. There is a lot of information here, it is dense.

It is something that would require a lot of streamlining to run in a con setting. In a con setting it is bigger than can be handled in the average 3 or 4 hour session. There is enough in here, that it would take one massive marathon session to complete the entire module in one go. I can see this easily taking many sessions depending on the focus of the players, and the decisions and rolls they make.

One can easily place this on a list of possibilities, when players get to that level, and fit it into the campaign. AD&D is not that much different from OD&D and modern clones, that this could easily be used in nearly any OSR game. There is a lot in here, that it will take more than a casual reading to catch all that is in here. This could easily be part of a behind the scenes activity that builds up to this module, or it could be a new stand-alone threat. Because this is so dense, I have not managed to read the whole thing carefully, but I like what I see.

This is an interesting concept and ties in with my articles on druids.

Review – Distress Signal Tundara

Distress Signal Tundara is a new adventure module for 3-6 adventurers of levels 1-2 compatible with White Star. After the cover, title page, one page of deck plans and the final page for the OGL, the rest of this 17 page PDF is the text of the adventure. In addition, it comes with two image files for the deck planes, one with a grid for the GM and one without the grid for the players.

There were only minor production issues. I noted was one typo in the first few pages. A description of a creature used yards, when the map is in meters. And the non-grided map makes reference to the scale of the grid, which is missing. Other things referred to feet using the apostrophe character, which is part of White Box information, so not a problem of the author.

Each referee will have to work out for themselves, whether to use English or metric units, and whether to convert White Box feet to meters. Where outdoor movement is in yards, this is easy enough to hand wave as meters. Feet can be crudely approximated to 1/3 of a meter. Personally, I prefer to use metric in a Science Fiction game, but having been raised on English units, I think in those units, so not a problem for me.

The author did his own graphics, with some open content. I like the cover and the deck plans provided.  It would be nice if the original and now damaged area of the ship were shown in outline, so one knew it’s original structure. But that is only my desire for a complete deck plan for future use. [One thing I wish I had was a 75% view of the ship. Not to detract from the module, but something I feel would be cool to show the players from their scans/view of the ship on approach. The burst of new ship types and graphics by some on the White Star community can help fill this want.]

The premise of this adventure is not entirely new, but is presented in a way that is clear, concise, and ready to run after a quick read and a few minutes to think of how to approach it.

The GM is left to determine how the players are in the area, whether as passengers on a ship, or a ship of their own. This is not a major issue, as it allow the module to fit into an existing campaign, or be a one-shot.

There is enough detail in each area of the ship, that curious and careful players will manage to find something in most rooms. However, there are notes that the referee will have to fill in things that he or she feels are necessary in their game. There are also hazards for players that are rash and forget that there are in space. The issue of explosive decompression of a hatch that is forced open is dealt with, as I was thinking about how I might handle it as I began the text, there it was a bit further in. Excellent!

Several NPC’s are suggested for various ways that the GM might impact the scenario. This gives maximum flexibility to work into existing campaigns, or ideas for similar adventures. There are also potential plot hooks that could lead to more adventures that can easily fit into an existing campaign.

This seems like a scenario that would be a good fit for a con, but I don’t know if it would fill a four hour slot. Still, it might be fun to try it.

There is a lot here for $1.00. I think that I would enjoy playing this as a GM or a player.

Funny: At first glance, I thought the title was Distress Signal Tundra. Tundra made me think of ice, and I thought of the movie, Ice Station Zebra. Now I have thoughts of a White Star scenario on ice. Now all I need is Snoopy….

Review – Star Temple of Saturgalia

The first(?) available third party adventure for White Star, Star Temple of Saturgalia is a six page PDF, that after the cover and OGL leave four pages for the adventure.

This was billed as an introductory adventure. Nowhere in the PDF does it indicate that is is for low level characters. It is obvious from a reading of the text that it is for a group of low level characters.

The method of handling encounters almost guarantees that there will be three space encounters en route to the planet. Instead of a 1 in 6 chance of there being an encounter, there is a 1 in six chance of no encounter. The odds of the encounter ignoring the players or being friendly combined are 50% or greater. So even if there is an encounter, it does not guarantee a chase or fight. The intent of the designer is to have tension. If one is playing up to the tropes of the genre, this is understandable. However, the GM is free to handle this his or her own way.

Once on the planet, there are two encounters, potentially competition from an NPC party, or natives are the greatest possibility. A natural disaster or a creature encounter are also likely. The use of bumble dogs, or a new creature, the gindo, introduced at the end of the module.

This is a very basic outline of an adventure. With the near guarantee of one or two ship encounters, plus two encounters on the way to the temple, it will stretch out the adventure. If you go by the roll of the dice, and there are no space encounters, and the planet side encounters are neutral or friendly, this could be a quick one maybe two hour one shot.

It is an interesting idea, and has enough meat on it that an experience GM could make an evening of it. If you don’t have a list of natural disasters, you will need to make your own table, as the author only gives a couple of suggestions.

The temple itself is a basic dungeon crawl, and it an interesting twist. The map is he standard square rooms and passages, which server to get the point across. The fonts used for the room numbers are not clear, so that some numbers look like each other. I assume that the rooms and areas are numbered in a clockwise fashion, so it is easy to make sense of it, but it still takes a moment to be sure of this. There are also a few grammatical errors, indicating that the text needed a quick review by a new set of eyes or to sit for a few days before finalizing. A suggested description of the natives of the planet, if not a new race, would be interesting.

At one dollar, the items, tables, new creature, and other ideas presented can make an interesting one-shot introduction of the rules to new players, and a skilled GM can easily expand it to be something more substantial in their own campaign.

If you need some help for prepping last minute, this module only needs a few things to be ready to play on short notice.

Review – April Mythoard

I had a package in the mail on Friday, May 8th. I had forgotten that I ordered the April Mythoard. However, I had a feeling that there was something that should be coming in.

April 2015 Mythoard
April 2015 Mythoard

I had not planned to get it, but when I saw that it contained the latest edition of Oubliette #9, I was curious. I had read other positive comments about it, and knew that I would get some other cool goodies along with it, so I took the plunge.

Squarehex Products
Squarehex Products

Along with Oubliette #9 are several other goodies from Squarehex. There is a book mark with large squares on one side and the other side contains large squares with dungeon map symbols. There are two business card sized items. One is blank on one side, and the other side had hexes with outdoor map symbols. The other small card has dungeon map symbols that are black and the other side has the same symbols in gray with labels to explain them. I am not sure if the purpose of these symbols is to give you an example of what such symbols “should” or might look like, or if you are supposed to put them under your hex paper to help you draw a very neat map.

There is a folded piece of graph paper the same size as the Oubliette issue with the grid on the outside. The inside of the graph paper has the OGL license. I wonder if it it the innermost page of the zine, and did not get stapled. Finally, there is a small pad of 7 mm hex paper. The pad it not as wide as a business card, and it is about as tall as two business cards top to bottom. It is so small that it is for a very small area and it well suited to a micro map.

I expected the Oubliette zine to be a full page folded over, instead it is about a half page folded over. The introduction indicates that this is not the usual size. It is a slick card stock cover with click heavy weight interior pages. It is 20 pages counting the back cover, which is a table for generating hit points of creatures from 1/2 HD to 2 HD using a roll of one or more d20’s. Six pages are a mini adventure, two pages with four new spells. two pages on a variation on familiars, four new magic boots, a new monster, and second mini adventure of three pages. While not every idea will be used by everyone, there is a lot in these few pages.

Awful Good Games has a booklet that is zine sized, i.e. half a page folded over. It is a module of 31 pages. It has a slick card stock cover and slick heavy paper for the pages. The text is black over light grey. It is legible as long as the slick paper does not have any glare. Older eyes with bifocals can have trouble with this. If you avoid glare on the page, unless your eyes are worse than mine, you will be able to read it.

Lichfield - by Awful Good Games
Lichfield – by Awful Good Games

Next is a mini setting, a half page top to bottom ready for a standard three ring binder on slick card stock. It is black ink on a lightly colored background. It looks great, and as long as there is no glare, it too is easy to read. It continues adding to the Mythoard setting. I like that they keep adding things to the existing setting. If you want to use this setting in whole or in part, it is easy to do with this. I was glad to see that past month’s offerings are available. I would like to have the complete series of materials, if I can.

Tower of the Everflame
Tower of the Everflame

Next is a Pathfinder compatible supplement from AAW Games. It is For Rent, Lease or Conquest. It is a module about obtaining a home base for the party. It is a 42 page adventure. It is in a slick cover and the pages give one the visual impression of newsprint, but are slick and heavier than newsprint. The print is black ink on a multi-colored background. Most of each page has a light background, and thankfully the slick pages are not shiny. However, lighting and the angle the page is held can make words over darker ink harder to read for older eyes with bifocals. In addition, the layout has the text on some pages running into the border decoration. I think the intent is to look cool, but since it is hard for me to make out the text in some areas, and not every page is crowded, I think it is a layout issue. When the young eyes of the layout people read this stuff in 20 or 30 years, they will curse their younger selves. It is worst in sections of the page where the background color transitions from lighter to darker. Some letters disappear. In the corners of some pages is a leaf motif that goes light, dark, light and the odd color transition takes more concentration to read. I find that prolonged reading of this starts the feelings of a headache. It reminds me of the original PDF of D&D 5 where it had a colored background and was very hard to read. It seems like the intent is to go after the younger crowd at the expense of the older crowd.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest
For Rent, Lease or Conquest

The premise of the module is buying/occupying a building for home base and the villain is the realtor. I do not find that entertaining. As a homeowner who got screwed in the housing collapse, it is too much like papers and paychecks. That plus the difficulty in reading it, I don’t know if there are any useful nuggets in here.

Finally, there are two Dragon’s Quest adventures from Judge’s Guild: Starsilver Trek, and Heroes and Villains. They are in clear sealed plastic. If this is the original plastic and still sealed, do I want to open them? While these were from Bad Mike’s Books and Games, are they worth more sealed? There are definitely from back in the day and the art is of the sort that did not draw me in back then. Some of the JG stuff is really good and I wish I had delved into it back then.

Starsilver Trek
Starsilver Trek
Heroes and Villains
Heroes and Villains

So there is a lot of stuff in here. Some of it is for younger/better eyes than mine. As with “grab bags” one cannot expect everything to hit the sweet spot.

I found some things to interest me, and some ideas for later.