Tournaments of Madness and Death cover

I’m so close to getting this one finished. Waiting for the last illustration and a quick layout check then it will be available for pre-order.

In the meantime, I’ve redone the cover – so its less TSR tribute and shows more of David M. Wright’s awesome art 🙂

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M. Wright

Tournaments of Madness and Death in Layout

The next Crypts and Things release, Tournaments of Madness and Death, is currently in layout.

I’m waiting on the last couple of pieces of art from Daniel Barker, who is doing a marvellous job of catching the Swords & Sorcery feel of the game, without being tedious and predictable.

Here’s the introduction to The Furnace, the first of the two adventures in the book, which feature’s Dan’s illustration of the sorcerer Arksal.

Introduction to The Furnace adventure, art by Daniel Barker

ETA Pre-order should open within the next week or so. with a general release mid-late August.

Tournaments of Madness and Death – Coming Soon

If this adventure book was an old school metal release from the 80s, on some creaky little independent label it would be one of those quirky split singles, were two bands would each have a side of the vinyl record.

On Side A is The Furnace. The first convention adventure that I ran when I decided to run an Old School D&D adventure, initially using Labyrinth Lord, and was named after the convention it was run at, namely, Furnace which is held every October in Sheffield UK. I ran it on Saturday night, which is now my annual slot for running OSR games, and despite the naysayers at the bar beforehand, who seemed threatened by my decision to run a game using a system they had left behind years ago, and the my own almost paralysing bout stage fright we had a fantastic time. It was at this point I decided that it was well worth my time returning to the games of my formative years in the hobby. The precise details of the scenario have changed with time, and it’s a more compact and polished-up Crypts and Things write up that is presented here.

Tearing up side B is The Tomb of the Evil Emperor. This was one of my final outings with Crypts and Things as a convention game in my first phase of running the game at conventions, just after the release of the game in 2012. A slightly boozy game at Continuum, a summer affair held bi-annually at Leicester University, which saw the bold adventurers race across the ruins of the Grand Debris, through the buried Imperial Complex, to a final confrontation with the shocking surprise of the true form of the Evil Emperor.

Two sides of the Crypts & Things convention experience. Madness both in the sense that the locations that make up the adventures aren’t your typical garden dungeon. The Furnace takes place on an artificial iron moon held up in the sky by magic, while Tomb is in a city crushed by a vengeful god using a meteor. Death because it was what faced the doomed world of Zarth if the adventurers failed in their mission to stop the Ultimate Evil that threatened the world, and because it was a genuine possibility given the cast of horrors they faced. All “good friendly violent fun in store for all” as the thrash metal band Exodus once sang on their song Toxic Waltz.

Finally Dark, Delicious and Deadly is an insert, cunningly placed between the two adventures, that explains the method behind the madness about how I run convention games of Crypts and Things.

For 3-6 characters levels 4th-5th, explicitly written for Crypts and Things but usable with a host of retro-clones based on the early editions of the Worlds Favourite Fantasy Game, and heck even the modern 3rd to 5th Editions if you can be bothered to put the work in adapting the monster blocks.

ETA Sometime in July, pre-order soon.

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

May is D&D Sale month

DriveThruRpg.com are having a 33% off sale for D&D products of all editions, and Crypts and Things and all its releases are available in pdf until the end of May.

Since its pdf only, I’m matching that 33% discount on the print with free pdf bundles I sell on the D101 Games web store on items I currently have in stock until the end of May.

So at the moment, that is

  • Crypts and Things Softcover £13/$17.5 (normally £20/$27).
  • Tombs of the Necromancer £4/$5 (normally £6/$8).
  • Life and Death £9/$12 (normally £14/$19).

Shipping is free to UK addresses on orders over £10.

Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 5: Pre-made characters

In this the last of a series of excerpts from an article about running and creating Crypts and Things convention games, I exhort you, nay implore you to use pre-made characters.

Use Pre-made Characters

Pre-made characters are a must for convention games. Two reasons why:

  1. They save time. No matter how quick you think, Crypts and Things character generation are, at the start of a convention game it will eat up valuable game time, while impatient players twiddle their thumbs and unexpected roadblocks in the process get thrown up.
  2. The adventure can be tailor-made to make the most of their abilities. You want happy, engaged players who are having fun. The primary way that you can pre-destine this is by having characters who have the potential to be fun in play. While Crypts and Things use Class/Level based characters, so every character is going to have its own niche, make sure that the composition of your adventuring party is made up of characters who will all have a role to play in the adventure. Fighters always have a place, and Barbarians are good all-rounders. Magicians need to thrive in environments rich in magic and mystery, where their magic detecting abilities make them useful for explaining what is going on and detecting magical threats. Thieves are good sneaking through the shadows, taking out enemies using stealth, but are much more useful in combat than their Swords and Wizardry counterparts. For a four-player game merely make one of the core character classes, and you’ll have enough variation amongst the characters. If you have six players, add another fighter and sorcerer, with different fighter specialities and spells in their books than the others.

It’s often joked that part of the style of old-school play is having a pile or replacement characters and it is worth having at least two additional characters in case of impending character death.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death.”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 4: Be the Monster Manager

In the penultimate part of this series of posts about Crypts and Things convention games, I look at an important role of the referee.

Be the Monster Manager

Don’t overwhelm the players with streams of monsters, unless that’s the point of the fight scene is that they can never overcome the flood of monsters and should run away!

Don’s mistake combat for automatic-fun. Make sure that you combat encounters are like scenes from a fun film, where the director has placed enemies and scenery in an exciting way, so the combat can play out with lots of unexpected turns and twists.

For example, don’t just throw 1d6+2 Men at Arms at the player characters who are strolling aimlessly through the palace. If you need a couple of men at arms to show up and challenge the characters about there right to be there, do so. It might lead into a fight (in which case they run away to the next courtyard where the rest of the palace guard is hanging out, with the court sorcerer and the King’s assassins who are practicing on various trampolines etc.), but it might also lead to an entertaining moment of role-playing as the players blag their way past the guards.

Next part 5: Pre-made characters.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death.”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Dark, Delicious and Deadly part 2: Pacing

Part 2 of 5 excerpts from Dark, Delicious and Deadly, an article about running Crypts and Things at conventions.

You can Never Have Enough Pace

(as my mate Evil Gaz says).

This is the primary principle to bear in mind when running a convention game. To keep your players entertained you should help to keep the game moving along at quite a speed. Characters should be jumping, running and occasionally fighting their way through the adventure, each location building on the excitement until the big thrilling finale.

If the action drags, something happens

Things that drag the action, which might be acceptable in a home game where you have all the time in the world, need to be quickly moved on from.

For example, there’s a Locked door that blocks the characters’ way. In a home game, you might let all the table of players try something to open the door. The Thief goes through all their abilities; checking for traps, picking the lock etc. Then the magician casts Detect Magic (“is the door magically locked?”), the Fighter uses their strength to force the door, then everybody else follows on because they can all try to bash the door down. Finally, the players extract as much information from the Crypt Keeper, small details such as moss around the door frame, become excruciatingly important (“I lick the moss, to see if it is poisonous or magical.”)

You’ve not got time for this is in a con game. Let one character have a go at unlocking the door. If they fail, a guard (or a passing patrol of guards if the door has nothing behind it) opens the door from the other side to see who is making that noise and play proceeds.

Don’t be afraid to slow the pace

With all this talk about speed, if you or your players are finding it too much, put the breaks on. Slow the pace. Gently put the player characters in a safe place, slow things down to talk to an NPC for example. Let everybody get their breath back and then get back into it.

There’s a time and a place for investigation

I’ll say it up front C&T is not an investigative game. There may be moments where the players have to find secret entrances, talk to an NPC and ask right questions to find out where they are going next, but these are usually quickly sorted out and moved on from. Characters in Crypts and Things, tend to be men and women of action, and the character classes empathise this.

Next part 3: Rewards

From the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death for Crypts and Things (and other old-school class/level based games).

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Crikey, it’s a Crypt Keeper in a Crypt with Crypts and Things!

Dark, Delicious and Deadly part 1: Focus

For the next five Fiendish Fridays, I shall be posting excerpts from “Dark, Delicious and Deadly” an article I’ve written for the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death adventure book for Crypts and Things (eta May?).  This article deals with how I write and present one-shot adventures for conventions.

So without further ado here’s part 1.

Focus on what makes Crypts and Things what it is

This is a big one. If you don’t focus on what C&T does, you might as well be playing one of the other variants of the World’s Favourite Fantasy Roleplaying game. Don’t let the fact that it has many features and troupes of that great Dungeon Crawling Game; Classes and Levels, the six characteristics, experience points and hit points are all there merely to make players and Crypt Keepers feel comfortable and at ease. The familiarity of some aspects of the rules is there to ease the players and Crypt Keepers into the game, rather than dropping them in from a considerable height with a huge learning curve. There’s also a delightful simplicity of the old school rules that makes them easy to build upon.

A lot of what C&T does is through tone and emphasis. The text of the game imparts this, but the extra layer of rules (Sanity, Black/Grey/White Magic, Corruption, Skill use and the abilities of the classes) highlights it too.

The big four points of what makes C&T special are:

  1. Player characters are the Heroes and Heroines. Even if they are anti-heroes, the player characters are deliberately the overpowered main characters of Swords and Sorcery fiction. Never make them the sideline in the adventures. Always put them centre stage.
  2. Enemies are horrible to horrific. As a counterpoint to the above, and to put the player characters in perspective, their opponents are the stuff of nightmares. They murder, they steal (so their victims will starve to death), they even suck souls. Even the most anti-heroic villainous player character should feel virtuous when confronted by the cruel machinations of a Greater Other.
  3. Humans are misguided power seekers struggling to survive (even insane cultists). Also though the default setting, The Continent of Terror, is human-centric, those humans aren’t forming lovely well-ordered Kingdoms. They are scrabbling in the ashes of their dying world for anything to keep them alive or give them a thrill that takes them away from their bleak day to day reality. If the players are looking for inspiration from non-player characters, they will soon find that they have to create that inspiration from themselves for others.
  4. Weird, beautiful and occasionally humorous. Despite the grimdark aspect of the game, there is much wonder and laughter in the setting. Let the players explore that and emphasise the fantastic nature of the world from time to time. It’s a critical factor of why people keep on coming back to the swords of and sorcery genre, again and again. The sheer playful escapism it provides.

Next Fiendish Friday: Pacing.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright