Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Bit of OSR History: Advanced Adventures and the art of Bradley K. McDevitt

In the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding  (only $16.5 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain) are three adventures graced with a cover by Bradley K. McDevitt. Like all rpg material, the covers of Advanced Adventures are important in conveying the interior material. Bradley did the front and back covers for Advanced Adventures #2-10. With these 16 illustrations he helped set the visual tone of the modules and informed people of what lay within. He was the first artist that I worked with on a consistent basis and I attest that he was everything one could hope from a professional.







Monday, February 20, 2017

A Bit of OSR History: The Lost Keys of Solitude

The Lost Keys of Solitude is one of the modules in the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding (only $16.35 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain). It is the only Advanced Adventure that both I and my wife Suzi worked on. It started as an idea I had for a location that grabbed her interest and pulled her into authorship.

The basic idea is that a group of monks created a magical prison called Solitude. This artifact was composed of a spire and many individual cells, in which the monks would secure valuable items for powerful people. Think something kinda like Fort Knox for whoever could pay the highest. Over time the group degenerated and eventually the location was forgotten. Which is where the PCs come in, obviously.

I imagined the monks as a sort of Clunianc/Carthusian-esqe order that lived most of their time in their own quarters tending their own private garden (the “Cell” as it is known) and only coming together to pray and eat. I cribbed the monastery map from the great Charterhouses of Clermont and Nuremburg. I then just attached the prison Solitude to the construction and volia, the above ground level. The below ground levels were conceived as a mix of carved work and natural caves (which the keepers used for mushrooming, of course!).

I’m very proud of The Lost Keys of Solitude, there’s the above ground challenges of gnolls led by a pair of spriggan who’ve just managed to kill a tyrannosaur they foolishly released from the prison Solitude, a nest of giant bees, and of course a spirit of a slain keeper. Solitude itself allowed for full freedom regarding what could be in each cell, from valued treasure, to an avatar of famine, a water elemental prince, and an ancient red dragon.

Underground, the PCs can befriend a race of intelligent rats (called Mus Maxumus) and help the fight their enemies (intelligent suped-up groundhogs), combat the de-evolved remaining keepers, and eventually find a pair of giant black gates beyond which they cannot travel (which of course the GM could use as a set up for further exploration).

As a bonus, there’s something like 10 new monsters and half again as many new magic items in Solitude to entertain the most-experience player. Below are some interior illustrations by John Bingham and Jeff Womack. One of the cool monsters is the Bone Sovereign, a nasty undead that can absorb skeletons into itself and grow stronger: it can also “spawn” skeletons back, effectively being its own walking party. Another is the haemovorid, a mix of fairy and stirge (*shiver*), and the last is a jellyhive, a critter that eats jellies and slimes and spits them out as a defense mechanism.





Friday, February 17, 2017

A Bit of OSR History: The Frozen Wave Satsuma

The Frozen Wave Satsuma is one of the modules in the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding (only $16.25 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain). It is the only Advanced Adventure that contains material strongly influence by Asian cultures (Oriental Adventures ftw!). Satsuma began (2010) as an idea Andrew Hind had for an adventure aboard a floating iceberg. Unfortunately, I’d just published a module with a similar theme (The Conqueror Worm, by Alphonso Warden) so I asked him if I could re-work his idea a bit and be a co-author. He said that was fine, so Satsuma came into being! The setup is that a strange fog is rolling into shore bringing fantastic invaders dressed in strange armor and the PCs are sent out to find out what is in the fog.

As I’d recently discovered the remarkable Zheng He and his amazing treasure ships, I combined the idea of a floating iceberg and a treasure ship into a treasure ship made of pure ice – The Floating Wave Satsuma. As you can see by the illustration below, the treasure ships were huge so I had a lot of space to work with. I decided on having the upper decks be “more traditionally” occupied by wako, bushi, and oriental barbarians and the lower decks becoming progressively more strange, ending with a new monster, the krabban (a hybrid of sahuagin and squid). Along the way were an ogre magi, mephitis, monks, and an evil samurai.

The cover for this one was done by Peter Mullen (love his style!) and interior art by John Bingham.






Thursday, February 16, 2017

Redtooth Ridge - AA28 in the Bundle of Holding

(Redtooth Ridge is one of the modules in the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding - only $16 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain). Redtooth Ridge is an exploration of an old abandoned mansion atop the titular ridge. I think it’s a great introductory module that heavily focuses on exploration and throws in enough combat to maintain the tension of what isn’t that dissimilar to a “cabin in the woods” horror movie setup.

Redtooth Ridge is the only Advanced Adventure that comes directly from my campaign. Most of the time, the games I run are too customized to be turned into a suitable-for-all module, but this one managed to make the cut because I was starting out with a brand-new group, and 1st-level modules tend to be the easiest to translate from my table to the tables of all gamers.

That said, 1st-level modules also tend to be quite hard to write for public consumption as they’re generally very similar and you don’t want your modules looking like something that’s come before. Finding new ideas is also more difficult at low levels because of the power constraints. Redtooth Ridge was powered-down from my table into the final product because my players were all very experienced. For instance, the vrock (yes, vrock!) that appeared at my table doesn’t show up in the finished module. But the vrock did provide for one extremely memorable scene: My wife, playing a trusty dwarven fighter, who upon seeing what appeared to her as giant-chicken-footprints in the dust on the floor, decided that clucking like a chicken was the appropriate way to see what critter lay behind the prints. Needless to say, that infuriated the vrock and it immediately came to investigate. A few rounds later the cleric put it down and managed to save the rest of the unconscious party. Fun time!

Redtooth Ridge is illustrated by the wonderful John and Daisy Bingham. These two show the encounter with the giant rats in the library tower and the party stumbling upon the secret treasure area guarded by a stone guardian.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Bit of OSR History: The Obsidian Sands of Syncrates

The Obsidian Sands of Syncrates is one of the modules in the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding (only $16 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain). It comes with a GM’s scoresheet as well as pre-generated character sheets if you’d like to run it as we ran it at the tourney at Gen Con 2011.

I wrote The Obsidian Sands of Syncrates for the Gen Con tourney that took place a year after Stonesky Delve. Where Stonesky was designed for two 4-hour slots, Syncrates was only a single 4-hour slot. This meant that the number of rooms needed to be limited to make achieving the finale possible. Because of this Syncrates has only 16 different areas, but I believe they deliver in terms of exploration, combat, and fun.

The setup is that the party’s ship has hit the doldrums on the way back from a far land. Soon ash starts to fall from the sky and the party’s native guides start freaking out, then stab themselves in the chest and jump overboard. The party then falls asleep and wakes up on the black stands of a giant arena, and by giant I mean 1,000’ walls. In the arena is a giant statue of a warrior statue (with a portal in its heel) and a lion statue, while in the stands are giant statues of spectators.

Basically the PCs have been abducted by Syncrates, God of Entertainment, and they’ve been brought to the arena to entertain other gods, who take possession of the spectator statues. The party’s goal, of course, is to animate the warrior statue and combat the lion statue. They do this by solving various puzzles (this is a puzzle-heavy modules), combating a few critters, and eventually taking a place in a throne in the head, chest, hands, stomach, and feet of the statue. (The more PCs can take the more positions the better the statue fights).

If you think, “Hey, this sounds like a giant robot cartoons!” you’d be right: that actually was the main influence. :-) Below are a few illustrations by John Bingham from the module and if you want a more thorough review, you can check out the one at Ten Foot Pole. Also, the Bundle of Holding includes the GM's scoring kit as well as pre-genned character sheets if you want to run it as a tourney yourself, which is always cool.






Monday, February 13, 2017

Advanced Adventures and the Art of John and Daisy Bingham

John Bingham has done the majority of the interior art for the Advanced Adventures, and for the Advanced Adventures currently in the Bundle of Holding (only $16 for 15 modules, so yeah, an awesome deal).

The reason why I've worked so much with John is that I think his style in precisely in keeping with the aesthetics of the early (77-82ish) modules released for 1st Edition. Just take a look at the following 5 illustrations and you'll see what I mean. Not only is John a great artist, he's also a good guy to work with for another important reason: he's always on time. I think over the decade that I've worked with him he's been late (never more than a week) on something like two or three times, which is astoundingly consistent delivery for this industry. If you're looking for an artist, I can't recommend him enough.

Oh, did I mention that after working with John for a few years he told me that his wife Daisy can do color work with him? Now most of the cover illustrations in the Advanced Adventure line are done by the duo. I've attached five of the covers as well so you can see that together they really create some great art.












Sunday, February 12, 2017

A bit of OSR history: Stonesky Delve Gen Con 2010 Tourney

Stonesky Delve is one of the modules in the current Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding (only $16 for 15 modules, so quite the bargain). It comes with a GM’s scoresheet as well as pre-generated character sheets if you’d like to run it as we ran it at the tourney at Gen Con 2010.

Stonesky Delve has a fond place in my heart. I think it’s one of the best adventures I’ve written, and running the tourney was a blast for everyone involved. The design of the module is unlike most other modules as I’d made a conscious decision to make the cavern section (the 1st half) like a true cavern complex and not like most OSR caverns. This means there’s a lot of verticality involved. The below two maps should show you what I mean: one is a top down view and the other the side view. It really is Stonesky Delve, because the characters are going to work to move throughout it.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

A bit of OSR history: The Shadowvein Series

As I hope you know, I’ve 14 Advanced Adventures modules in the most-recent Bundle of Holding (with 10% of sales after fees going to Reading is Fundamental). These modules are all for 1e/OSRIC. I thought I should look closer at three of the modules that form the only series of the bunch, The Shadowvein Series.

The series starts with Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom (for levels 2-4). It was one of the first published products of what is now called the OSR, coming out in August of 2006. Matt Finch (of Frog God fame) was the author and in the module was an underground river called the Shadowvein. The Shadowvein wasn’t detailed, but in the module Matt put forth the idea that PCs could approach the Pod-Caverns from the river and go up to the surface, as opposed to going down. That idea stuck with me, but the chances of a low-level party spending any serious time underground seemed slim to me, given that the history of the game has the underdeeps a nasty high-level place.

After publishing another 20 or so Advanced Adventures, I finally decided to make the underdeeps (at least the not-so-deep-underdeeps) a little friendlier to low-level play and wrote the following two modules #23 Down the Shadowvein, and #24 The Mouth of the Shadowvein. These two adventures (levels 3-5) allowed lower-level PCs a chance to experience the depths without getting immediately TPKed if they were good players.

I’m attaching the GM’s map to this post. Hopefully you can feel the same feeling I do when I see it – a sense of wonder of what yet is to be discovered. Honestly, I’ve considered a Kickstarter campaign to flesh out more of the unexplored hexes, but haven’t decided on such. I think it would be cool, but who knows how many others would? Regardless, this map shows what The Shadowvein Series tries to, and hopefully succeeds in, doing.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Advanced Adventures Bundle of Holding

I'm happy to announce that 14 of my Advanced Adventures have been grouped into a single Bundle of Holding with a (currently) starting price of only about $16 for all 14. That's a damn good deal. It's even better when you know that 10% of all sales (after fees) are going to Reading is Fundamental. That's a charity well worth supporting - putting an average of 4 million free books into the hands of our kiddos.

The adventures have been grouped so that you could take a PC from 1st level to about name level, if you managed to survive all the way, of course. So you should check this out, even if you've already gotten several of the modules in the bundle already, the price is well worth the rest. And well, if you're like one of my customers who already owned all of 'em, you could just decide to donate to RIF anyway - I thought it was awesome that he did so!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Two Tome of Tomes

On Motion
Author: Beretrem
Race: Human
Dimensions: 4x5x0.5
Weight: 1 lbs.
Materials: Leather-bound, woodboard, parchment
Rarity: Common
Fields of Study: Physical universe
Special Knowledge Categories: Physics
Value: 15 gp

This foundational work had incredible effect when first published. Beretrem laid bare the wonders of the universe and mathematically described the laws of motion within this small tome, his only published work. Dying at the age of 25, sages throughout the known world lament what else his bounding intellect would have discovered.


The Stone Giants of the Grimvault Peaks
Author: Logner Snuppe
Race: Fire Giant
Dimensions: 16x20x3
Weight: 36 lbs.
Materials: Cave bear leather-bound, stoneboard, vellum, iron clasps
Rarity: Rare
Fields of Study: Humanoids & giantkind
Special Knowledge Categories: History, languages, law & customs, legends & folklore
Value: 155 gp

The first of a series of three by the fire giant ambassador Logner Snuppe, The Stone Giants of the Grimvault Peaks details the 5 years he spent among them. Snuppe lays forth a basic history, but spends most of his effort discussing language, customs, laws, and legends. Sages debate upon the quality of the work, but most agree it is generally accurate.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Music

Always enjoyed this video for a great song. Both it and the song have this slow patience about them that makes one believe there's a lot of turmoil just beneath the surface.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Music I can't listen to while working...

I constantly listen to music while working, but I just found one I cannot listen to. The Man in Black. There's something about his voice that draws my mind away from what I'm thinking about and towards what he's singing. That's rather amazing. Hell, even writing the brief post was pretty difficult 'cause I'm listening to him while writing this and I'm finding him more interesting than my writing.

Huh. Cool to find things out about yourself that you'd never suspect.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Music for Today

Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, 1976. A truly monumental double album that I've always found hard to describe: for me the pure feeling of the songs on the album make me pull a Bill and Ted "Woah!"

If you've never listened, you should - a most enjoyable education.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Two More Tome of Tomes

Metal Stresses
Author: Unknown
Race: Fire Giant
Dimensions: 12x12x6
Weight: 125 lbs.
Materials: Red dragonskin-bound, brassboard, copper sheets
Rarity: Very rare
Fields of Study: Physical universe
Special Knowledge Categories: Architecture & engineering, chemistry
Value: 200 gp

An ancient work of fire giant origin, Metal Stresses is a long series of tables indicating the tensile, compressive, and shear strengths of a bewildering number of metallic formulations in a bewildering number of lengths, widths, and shapes. Most of the formulas are simply referred to by number, resulting in a mass of unusable information, but scholars have identified over two dozen types of metals in the work, and the numbers have held true under testing. A potential for great wealth resides within if other formulas could be identified. This copy is in Common.


Triangular Set Theory
Author: Master Theosidus
Race: Human
Dimensions: 8x8x1
Weight: 2lbs.
Materials: Leather-bound, woodboard, vellum
Rarity: Rare
Fields of Study: Physical universe
Special Knowledge Categories: Mathimatics
Value: 20 gp

A unique mathematical invention of the master mathematician Theosidus, Triangular Set Theory describes a process for solving three-variable set theory questions using triangular geometry. The work is nigh-incomprehensible (requires 18 Intelligence to understand) and has almost no practical application.


Monday, January 16, 2017

The Clan of the Claw Revealed!

The lobster men ruling the former coast of Maine have finally been brought to light. These cold-blooded bastards look upon normal muties only as food, so watch the waters!

I've reached the end of the critters for Sorcery & Super Science! 2nd Edtion - 55k words done and now I'm on to the fiddly clearing-up bits today.

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