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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
Robert E. Howards Kull of Atlantis stories were a big influence on Crypts and Things, more so than Conan.
So I’m on this Kickstarter to see three of his stories back in print by Chance Phillips.
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.
By Krum, I’m having a 50% off Winter Sale over at D101 Games!
That means the following have had their cover price hacked and slashed:
Crypts and Things, OpenQuest, The Hollow West, Hunters of Alexandria, Gloranthan Adventures, Hearts in Glorantha, River of Heaven, Project Darklight and their associated adventures/supplements.
Seeing as I want to clear out some space for new stock, the large number of River of Heaven softcovers I have have been reduced to £5 ($7) each. Also its the end of the line for Project Darklight, so it’s your last chance to pick up one of the last five remaining copies of the game for £5.
Free Postage to UK addresses for orders over £10.
Sale ends Jan 31st.
Been holding off buying Mythras or some of its supplements? Got a bit of Crimbo money that is burning a hole in your pocket? Or perhaps you just like January Sales? Then run over to the Design Mechanism Site, armed with the code below, and bag yourself a bargain.
Lawrence Whitaker lays it down….
It’s the 2017 Boxing Day Sale!
From 26th December until 2nd January, there’s 30% off print and PDF books at The Design Mechanism’s store. Everything is on sale, with the exception of our December 2017 release title (Mythic Constantinople and The Lonely Lighthouse).
So if you missed out during the year, or want to introduce friends to Mythras, there’s no better time to snag a bargain!
Simply use the code below at checkout to get 30% off your order.
And if you like sales, we’re having a big D101 January sale that starts on 1st of Jan and runs until Jan 31st.
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.
My friends over at All Rolled Up have signed a deal with Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson of Fighting Fantasy fame to do their world-famous game rolls, dice trays and messenger bags in Fighting Fantasy themes. They had them on sale over the weekend while they were at the mighty Dragonmeet, Now they have returned home and they are now offering them through their web store.
So that’s me sorted for Christmas, only got to decide whether to go with the funky Shamaunti Hills Manticore or the Death Trap Dungeon nasty for my new game roll 🙂
Look here’s the All Rolled Up gang with Ian and Steve, manhandling the goods!
Image courtesy of All Rolled Up
The Crypts and Things/Midderlands Conversion Guide is now available via DriveThruRpg and D101Games.com
So if you want to use C&T with +Glynn Seal’s ever so green and unpleasant land, with some extra gaming juice, now you can 🙂