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

The Midderlands Expanded Preview

 

Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design has very kindly given me a copy of the work in progress The Midderlands Expanded, which is currently on Kickstarter. So in return here’s a quick preview.

What is the Midderlands?

Put concisely its the slightly grimdark, slightly tongue in cheek version of medieval Britain that goes through collectively our imaginations as we visit the many historical sites peppered around this Green and Plesant Land of ours. The first book,  a full-colour hardcover, weighing in at 200+ pages A5, The Midderlands zooms in on the fantasy version of the area that Glynn lives in the West Midlands (Midlands to Midderlands get it?). Its one half setting guide and one-half bestiary of various goblin folk and spiky and foul creatures. It oozes playability and flavour and is copiously illustrated and has attendant maps throughout. While it uses the freely available Swords and Wizardry ruleset, which in turn is based on original D&D, it’s easily usable with the fantasy system of your choice.

If you didn’t get the original book you can pick it up as one of the pledge levels in this Kickstarter.

This New book: Midderlands Expanded

I could be lazy and say, come on its more of the same! But I’ll break it down a bit.

  • Guide to the Havenlands. One thing the original book immediately left me thinking about was what the rest of Havenlands (the wider Fantasy Britain) was like. Well, this section answers that, detailing both the land and its rulers (the Dukes and Duchess). It also looks at the islands overseas neighbours, such as the fearsome Serpent Lands.
  • NPCs. Several fully statted NPCs to drop in your Midderlands game, and some quick notable personages for the rest of the Havenlands.
  • More Creatures. Tentacled Middergloom horrors, Trolls, and more things of general spikeyness abound in this section.
  • The Witchfinder. Want to hunt witches, elves and creatures of the night, generally bringing an atmosphere of fear and anxiety to any village or town you visit? Now you can with this Swords and Wizardry character class.
  • Oddities. A collection of more magic items, and just downright odd special items.
  • Adventures and Adventure Hooks. The Midderlands has its own style, which is not exclusively dungeon crawling, and there is a large section showing this. This book adds a creepy horror adventure location in the form of the Rat Dog Inn, expands upon the rocky outcrop of land known as Brig Tor, and gives seven adventure outlines.

As well as the book itself the Kickstarter also includes a full A2 map of the Havenlands, a GM screen and a Dice Drop Card (or Gloomioom Randomiser Card as Glynn colourfully calls it).

Overall. The Midderlands is a living breathing imaginary version of Fantasy Medieval Britain, with a good dollop of uplifting humour that makes it a fun and easy read. The production values of the first book where high, not only because of the layout, illustrations and cartography but because Glynn choose to use a printing house rather than print on demand. I know he plans to do the same again here. I fully recommend the new book from what I’ve seen in the preview, not only based upon the high standards of the first book but as a wider zoom out on the setting overall and the all the extra meat that it adds to the original.

#midderlandsartbook

The Death Mask of the Evil Emperor

It seems like its been an eternity, but its Fiendish Friday! Here’s a magic item from the end of the Tomb of the Evil Emperor which is one of two adventures that feature in the adventure book Tournaments of Madness and Death, which is currently in production (eta March/April).  Of course this being a Crypts and Things Magic Item, user caution is advised.

The Death Mask of the Evil Emperor

On the surface, this golden funeral mask has a street value of 500 GP.

The Mask has a more sinister purpose. It is the Death Mask of the Evil Emperor, which allows the Emperor to return to the world of the living. Should a person put on the mask the Evil Emperor will take possession of their body, over a period of five nights. At first, the Emperor will invade the character’s dreams and confront the character in psychic combat there. Each time the player character needs to test their luck (which does not regenerate during the period of the possession attempt). If they succeed they win against the Emperor and it is driven off. If they fail, the Emperor wins and turns their dream into a nightmare. At the end of five nights, whoever has won the most psychic battles takes control of the character’s body. The loser is banished to wander the Shroud as a disembodied spirit, who will only be summoned back to Zarth if someone foolishly puts on the Death Mask.

This item features in the upcoming adventure book…

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Midderlands Expanded Kickstarter

Crikey, Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design is at it again. Six months after the original Midderlands book, which focused on the small region of Gloomium soaked land of the title, successfully kickstarted and delivered (sometime before Christmas if my hazy memory is correct), he’s bringing us a sequel, The Midderlands Expanded.

This new book expands the setting to cover rest of the fantasy UK that is hinted at (and apparently expands some of the places I whimsically put in the Midderlands Crypts and Things Conversion Guide) as well as adding more “gaming juice” to the original Green and Unpleasant Land that is the Midderlands.  You can also get the original Midderlands book as part of this Kickstarter.

I can firmly recommend this. The original book was delivered on time to a high quality (full colour, properly printed not POD), and was one of my favourite releases of all time. The previews on the Kickstarter show more of the same. I’m in 🙂

Here’s the KS video.

Behold the Muckus!

It is a little-known fact that the bloodshot eyes on the cover of the Muckus version of The Midderlands, are googly-eyed Glenn’s (creator of the book) own. You see every time he goes out and in Midderlands parlance “Gets Bladdered” on a special gloomium ale (known as Green Monster) at the local tavern, he wakes up the next morning with bulging bloodshot eyes. Quickly he pops them out and puts them in a jar kept by his bedside for this purpose. New eyes have fully grown by around lunchtime, while the red eyes have been inserted into the leather cover. See how the red eyes (which includes Glynn’s rather swollen third eye – which pre-Green Monster bingeing is hidden behind his heavy set brow) glowers accusingly at his current set of eyes for all the proof you need in the world.

While the Muckus edition was a high-end Kickstarter reward, you can pre-order the regular version of Monkey Blood Design.

Green is the new Black!

Rejoice fellow OSRians, Glynn Seal’s (aka Monkey Blood Design) The Midderlands, as previously Kickstarted and supported by this here blog, has been released;

As a stretch goal for the Kickstarter I promised a Crypts & Things Conversion Guide, so you could use the Midderlands (which uses Swords and Wizardry as its base) without much fuss with C&T.

I’ve just finished the conversion guide, which is on its way for proofing/checking before a quick layout and release as a freebie via DriveThruRpg.com and the D101 Webstore, which I anticipate will be sometime next week.

In the meantime, he’s a quick excerpt from the C&T Conversion Guide.

Gloomium

Gloomium is everywhere in the Midderlands. It seeps up from the Middergloom, an ambiguous underworld below the Midderlands. It is toxic and corrupting. It is green in colour and is the source of much strangeness, corruption and twisted magic. This section explains how gloomium works in the context of Crypts & Things magic system.

As a Source of Khaos

Crypt Keepers should assume that the seepage of gloomium is the source of Khaos monsters and mutations, for games set in The Midderlands.

Corruption

Whilst in the Midderlands, use the Gloom-touched rules (Midderlands page 10 and 11), instead of the standard Crypts and Things Corruption table on page 64 of Crypts & Things.

Green is the Brightest Colour of Magic!

While in the Midderlands there is only two colours of magic; Green and Colourless.

Green is the magic of gloomium; it’s harmful, toxic and glows a malignant shade of luminous green when cast. It causes corruption when cast, using the rules on page 84 of Crypts & Things. All the spells on the Black Magic spell lists (see page 50 of Crypts & Things) are Green.

In addition, the following new spells from the Midderlands are Green Magic spells:

Curse of Old Hobb, Gloomium Shield, Middergloom Missiles, Morgontula’s Vomit.

Colourless magic is everything else (i.e. Spells from the Grey and White Lists). It does not have a colour when cast and its effects are usually boringly beneficial or utilitarian in nature.

What Did That Do? (see Midderlands page 74) is a colourless spell.

While in the Midderlands ignore The Summons of Evil rules for casting beneficial (white) magic.

Also, ignore the rules for Blood Magic (unless you are using The Others from Crypts and Things or a similar body of Demonic beings who provide magic for blood sacrifice).

Sorcerer’s Magic Sensitivity to Gloomium

Gloomium is green-hot, radioactive stuff as far as a Sorcerer’s magic sensitivity ability (see page 23 of Crypts & Things) is concerned. It drives many Sorcerers ‘up to the wall’, with the constant throbbing of the temples when their magic sense is triggered by a pool of the green stuff in some swamp, or from a creeping feeling of unease because the house they are lodging in is built over a large gloomium deposit. This does have the benefit of sorcerors being great at finding gloomium.

Using Gloomium to Regain Magic

Since gloomium is nasty raw magical stuff, sorcerer’s may regain magic by ingesting it. This is a particularly dangerous and insane practice which is not recommended by the Royal College.

The procedure is thus:

For each ‘gulp’ of gloomium, a sorcerer regains one level of cast spell and loses 1d6 hit points, from the toxic and corrosive nature of the substance, and upon a failed Sanity Roll loses 1d6 sanity points.  It takes one combat round to take a gulp. They also glow bright glowing green for the number of gulps you took in days. All these effects add to each other, so for example, if you take four gulps you take 4d6 hit points of damage and potentially lose 4d6 Sanity if you fail your Sanity Test and you can remember up to a fourth Level spell or any combination of spells whose levels.

For example, Ned the Anxious, a rather foolish apprentice of the Royal College, finds himself in a spot of bother in Cairn Chase Forest. About to be skinned alive by some rather Unmerry Men, and out of spells, he decides to take two gulps of gloomium, from a readily-prepared flask of the substance. This takes him two rounds, during which time the Unmerry Men close on him and fire off bows. In round three, the gloomium kicks off. He takes 2d6 Hit Points damage, rolling a four and a five for nine points of damage, and successfully makes his sanity roll – so keeps hold of his mind. With his innards burning from the liquid, he rememorizes the 2nd Level Spell Web and wastes no time in firing off a sticky web of green stuff at the Unmerry Men. If he had not been so worried, he could have taken his time firing off one Magic Missile this round, and another the round after (two first level spells equalling 2 levels of spells remembered as allowed by two glups). If he survives, he will glow bright luminous green for the next 1d10 days, making sneaking about and hiding very difficult and becoming a magnet for any nearby witch hunter.

Crypts and Things Deal of the Day at DriveThruRPG.com

40% off the price of the pdf bringing it down to $8.40 from $14.00 for the next 24 Hours.

Be a wild Barbarian, a deadly Fighter, a soul-torn Sorcerer or a sword sharp canny Thief, fighting evil tyrants and foul demons in a world rapidly dying and heading towards its final nemesis.

Crypts and Things (C&T) is a Swords and Sorcery Roleplaying game based on the Old School Rules of the 70s/80s. It also draws upon the British fantasy games and game-books of that period to bring a distinctly dark and dangerous feel to the game.

Behold Beyond Dread Portals now has a cover!

Our upcoming release of Paul Mitchener’s Dimension Hopping Fantasy Adventure game, Beyond Dread Portals, now has a cover courtesy of Jon Hodgson.

Hoping to Kickstart this one, once I’ve cleared the decks of some outstanding work, probably either by the end of this year or at the start of next year.

I’ve got a full draft of the game, which initially started off as Paul’s homage to Planescape, but mutated into its own thing. It’s a large fantasy setting, where a magical city-state of Ys sits at the centre of an empire of other worlds connected by magic portals (hence the title). Its also a ruleset – which I’m tagging as post-D&D. It takes D&D as its starting point and then cuts and adds to it to make the ruleset match the setting. The nearest analogy is I can make if that second wave of AD&D 1st edition settings (Planescape, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.) had been self-contained games with modified D&D based rulesets. Bear in mind Paul also takes into consideration 30 years of games design on top of that, although he does so in a way that isn’t jarring to the starting point.

So in short, I’ve got a cover for this 260-page beast, which is when things start getting real and beyond the point of no return.

Expect more updates and previews over the coming months 🙂

Fiendish Friday: In the Street of the Dead

Here follows a short location from the adventure The Furnace, from the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death for Crypts and Things and other OSR rulesets.

The Street of the Dead

In an old merchant’s district, an odd mechanical man awaits the characters in his shop of curiosities.

A well-worn dusty road, 20′ wide, goes seemingly on and on through the city and into the countryside beyond. Alongside are a bewildering assortment of buildings, most of which are boarded up. For this is the custom here in the middle-class area of town. That upon their death, they are boarded up with all their worldly goods inside their old shops. Now the various hammerings and bangs from behind the boards that they are desperate to get out.  Amongst the ruin of this once magnificent street, there is one shop that appears to intact, with golden columns out front and a lovely colourful sign that gives its name “Oeldi’s Shop of Wonders”.

Oeldi’s Shop of Wonders

Run by the overweight Oeldi, who wears a brightly coloured jacket and a blue fez. This curio shop has a 23% chance go having any item a character needs.  Oeldi stays here rather than fleeing the city doomed by the Undead because he is a magical construct created by The Nine (or his Nine Dads as he called them). As he takes damage the fleshy covering falls off revealing a brass body underneath.  If questioned about the entrance to the Iron Moon, he can reveal that it is in the mausoleum.

Oeldi AC 2[18 ] HD 8 HP 34 Attacks 1 Dam 1D6 +1 (Short sword +1 hidden beneath counter) MV 12 Special: Mechanical Construct – unaffected by poison, disease, Breathes fire three times a day (3d6 damage, Successful Test vs. Luck halves damage). Sleep, Charm or any magical mind control methods. CR/XP 10/1400.