Labyrinth Lord 2nd Edition

In my mind, Labyrinth Lord was one of the first wave of OSR games in the late 2000s/early 2010s, along with OSRIC (AD&D), Swords and Wizardry (OD&D) and Basic Fantasy (early D&D using D20).  It was the first retro-clone, a faithful replication within legal limits of the Basic/Expert style of D&D from the 80s, that I ran, all the way back at Furance 2010 twelve years ago! So it was my reintroduction to playing the World’s Favourite Fantasy Game back in the early 2010s. Its licensing model greatly inspired me to get off my arse and start writing stuff for publication.

While I’ve not run it since that brief glorious game at Furnace or engaged with it much in recent years, I took a hard pass when they did a very reasonable Kickstarter for a revised edition, I was slightly worried when the Goblinoid Games website went dark a couple of months ago. I get it all the B/X kids are going crazy about Old School Essentials, and its clean, clear presentation with lashings of old-school style art, but man this is our old friend LL.

Turns out that I need not have worried. Creator/author Dan Proctor has taken some time out to reflect and regroup and a proper 2nd edition of Labyrinth Lord is coming out next year.

Labyrinth Lord powering the fun

Labyrinth Lord powering the fun

Final day of funding for From the Shroud Issue 3

At the time of writing, we are about to enter the last day of funding of the From the Shroud #3 which is a Crypts and Things/OSR zine, as part of Kickstarter ZineQuest 4.  The zine is now fully maxed out content-wise as a 64-page full-colour zine. It will have sixteen tales of cosmic horror, each featuring a different alien Other World, the demonic Others that live there and adventure ideas.

The campaign also funded a second twenty-three-page zine, Mancuria an fantasy version of my home-city Manchester, an OSR sandbox setting that every backer will get a copy of.

 

Weird Fantasy and Cosmic Horror?

These are two terms that are bandied around lots when it comes to the Old School Renaissance (OSR),

A quick Google looking for a definition of Cosmic Horror, sends you straight towards HP Lovecraft and his Mythos. The rather nihilistic idea of alien beings, and their incomprehensible actions being the source of alarm and anxiety, rather than blood and gore. To be fair that’s were I came in with the term, with the Games Workshop printing of Call of Cthulhu (2nd edition + Companion with all manner of new art, in a lovely hardcover instead of a bunch of pamphlets in a box which was the US Chaosium offering at the time). Actually, I was more interested in the idea of using it as a Gothic horror game, since rather than Lovecraft I had been brought up on a diet of Hammer Horror films, with a dash of the bizarre and creepy 70s/80s British TV Series Tales of the Unexpected (which sometimes went into the realms of the supernatural). I didn’t really get Cosmic Horror until I read the work of Lovecraft’s peer Clark Ashton Smith a couple of years later. CAS is the master of dry, almost sarcastic, delivery of “oppps man has wandered into an encounter with the supernatural almost outside of his comprehension, and suffers badly because of it”. I personally think he’s a much better writer, than Lovecraft, and he certainly got across the sense of how to use Cosmic Horror effectively.

Weird Fantasy? Again a quick Google brings you to a broad church of pulpy, supernatural, dark fantasy, swords and sorcery, titles and stories, that have their origins in the 1920s with the familiar circle of HP Lovecraft, CAS and Rober E. Howard.  For me as a Brit, brought up on a quaint diet of Tolkien and CS Lewis, it means anything that is genuinely strange and somewhat dangerous by its very nature. Moorcook’s Eternal Champion stories (Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum, Von Beck among others) which I drank deep off in my teens come to mind in a happy way here.

Both flavours are covered by the zines I’m offering as part of the From the Shroud ZineQuest 4 Kickstarter.

From the Shroud #3, is cosmic horror in a big way. The Tales that describe the adventures on Other Worlds and their alien inhabitants are the first proper look at the genre that has previously been heavily mentioned and referenced by some of the otherworldly fiends that are the monsters of Crypts and Things. Now I give Crypt Keepers (C&T GMs) a bucket full of ideas to inflict upon their players, whose characters now can visit the worlds beyond the Shroud.

The nearly funded second zine, Mancuria covers Weird Fantasy. It’s an alternative history take on 21st Century Manchester, with an airpunk theme, with flying airships, steam-powered weapons, and dangerous elements in the form of a zombie workforce that sometimes gets hungry, visiting barbarians on unicycles and pirates who prey on the airships.

Both zines are available on Kickstarter now until Monday 29th August.

 

 

From the Shroud #3 now live on Kickstarter

Live now on Kickstarter as part of ZineQuest for two weeks until Mon, August 29.  Fully funded within an hour, currently smashing through stretch goals, From the Shroud #3 is a zine focusing on the cosmic horror of the Other Worlds for Crypts and Things and other OSR/Fantasy games.

From the Shroud issue 3 on Kickstarter until Mon, August 29.

Also, everything that I’ve done for Crypts and Things, including previous issues of the zine, is available as an add-on, so it’s a great way to either catch up with the releases or get into the game.

BOSR titles at the Drivethrurpg.com D&D sale

DriveThruRpg.com is having a big sale on D&D stuff which finishes tomorrow.  Its all pdfs, but its a good chance to check stuff out for a very very low price since titles are discounted up to 40%.

D101 Games has a selection on the sale, and Crypts and Things is 40% off.

There’s also a number of Brtish OldSchool Renaissance (BOSR)on sale

The Midderlands, Monkey Blood Publications fantasy take on medieval Britain, with the expansions is listed.

Cthulhu Hack 1st ed. Not specifically a version or even a take on D&D, I suspect this is listed because its derived from the The Black Hack. A new edition is incoming, but I’d still recommend it.

Scott Malthouse’s take on fantasy British folklore, published by Osprey Games, is also in the sale

If you re after old UK TSR stuff, that’s all in the sale.

Personal recommends from this long list, U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (1e), Fiend Folio, UK2 The Sentinel (1e) and its sequel UK3 The Gauntlet (1e), and UK 6 All that Glitters (an all time favourite of mine).

Why I Wrote Beyond Dread Portals

A guest post from Paul Mitchener (Liminal, Age of Arthur, Hunters of Alexandria, Tombs of the Necromancer to name a few author credits) explaining why he wrote our multi-dimensional Fantasy Adventure game, Beyond Dread Portals (now coming to Gamefound.com on 1st June).  Take it away Mitch! 

For me, it’s not usually a selling point when I hear that something was over 20 years in the making. So I’ll just say that Beyond Dread Portals is based on ideas I was playing with, and a fantasy campaign I ran about 20 years ago. The campaign was human-centric, without the usual elves and dwarves, world-hopping, and started the player characters off at high level, letting them rub against powerful enemies and make big changes to the setting.

As is the way of such things, I enjoyed it and then moved on to other things. But periodically I went back to it, sketching more things out in the setting, and started playing more with the mechanical side of things. It still wasn’t something I was aiming to publish, but it was something I was writing for fun.

It was only more recently, though still years ago now, that I started taking Beyond Dread Portals more seriously, thinking of it as something for other people to enjoy. This meant feedback, tightening up the writing, scrapping things which didn’t fit, and overall thinking about the design. Best of all, it meant more play, this time with a view to playtesting. It felt very natural to speak to Newt about this, as someone who likes and has published things of a similar nature and knows about tight game design.

Early feedback from Newt led to something simpler and better at the system end of things, and better presented and explained from the setting point of view. Best of all, he was engaged with it, clearly enjoying the setting and the concepts.

This is drifting away from the question, though… why did I write Beyond Dread Portals as something for publication? The short answer is that I needed to! But more specifically, it started to feel like it offered something a little different. Specifically.

  • Human-centric world-hopping fantasy. World-hopping is nothing new, but being more human-centric is rarer when combined with high magic world-hopping fantasy.
  • Military expansion of an empire and all its ills, while the core of the empire is thoroughly rotten.
  • Exploration of different places and cultures.
  • Political intrigue with competing factions and player characters absolutely changes the setting as a result.

As for the game system, it was a fun chance to design broadly in the OSR space, with all of its creativity, while still doing absolutely my own thing. Beyond Dread Portals began as an AD&D 2e setting but became something fresh and new. The inspiration there – things which effectively gave me permission – included rules sets which changed things to fit a concept, such as Newt’s own Crypts and Things – and systems I think of as post-OSR, which weren’t at all clones of the older D&D books, but changed things, sometimes radically. I won’t give a full ludography here, but some things I wanted from the design were.

  • A broadly familiar feel to the rules, as expected from the base. There are ability scores, classes, and levels – I’ve kept what I wanted for the game, and changed other things.
  • Rules elements that fit the setting along with simplicity. There are three broad classes – warrior, expert, and magician – and setting-appropriate abilities which customise these classes.
  • Less of an emphasis on looting and fighting, but more on exploration and intrigue. The combat rules are solid and streamlined, broadly as expected from the basis, but not everything is about combat. For instance, there are experience rewards for seeing new places, and firm guidance for the use of social abilities.

Taking the DIY ethos of OSR gaming on board, Beyond Dread Portals is my D&D, with my sensibilities. I can’t wait to see it out there, so that it’s no longer mine but ours.

Beyond Dread Portals is coming to crowdfunding via Gamefound.com on 1st June. 

The free artless preview edition is currently available via d101games.com. 

Five Star Review of Crypts and Things Remastered over at Drivethrurpg.com

Although Crypts and Things has been out a good five years now, once in a while it gets a 4-5 star view over at DriveThruRpg.com. As quoted below, this one was especially useful since Patrick Y, the reviewer, had just finished a campaign.

I just concluded a six-month campaign, taking a party up through level five. Everyone had a blast and would have been happy to continue. My experiences track with the previous reviews. Crypts & Things is an excellent OSR game that captures everything I like about the Sword & Sorcery genre, without including tropes that more properly belong to high fantasy settings.