Archive for October, 2013

October 31, 2013

Truncheon World: The Truncated Dungeon World

Truncheon WorldI don’t like carrying my copy of Dungeon World around. It’s a 400 page hardcover and I’m the one who has to run it, so I don’t even get to take advantage of the +1 vs. haters it gives me. So I made myself a smaller version, with just the stuff I use, in a slightly different order, and called it Truncheon World, the truncated Dungeon World.

You can get the pdf for free at DriveThruRPG. Or you can pay, if you want.

You can get the 6×9 B&W softcover from Lulu for $10.

This is just a shorter version of the text. It won’t let you make characters and there’s no monsters in it. Or examples of stuff, so you probably don’t want to try learning how to play the game from this book. If you want a slim volume that’s easy to reference while running the game, this might be the thing for you. If even this is too large, you’re gonna have to make your own.

This is the B&W version.

October 28, 2013

RK3: The Third Verse

The Third VerseThe third installment in the River Knife series of adventure modules for Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord is done. The Third Verse is a collection of four minidungeons inspired by Tony Dowler’s maps, joined together into one perilous meat grinder of a delve.

Buy the print version from Lulu for US$12. It is 72 pages, saddle-stitched, US Trade-sized, B&W on cream-coloured paper.

Buy the pdf from DriveThruRPG for US$5. It is digest-sized and includes an extra pdf with just the maps.

What is the Third Verse like?

Based on a series of old Red Box Vancouver adventures, this module includes:

  • An abandoned fire temple, complete with old traps and new inhabitants (like exploding ghouls).
  • The tomb of the Red Mummy, and ancient an powerful king, who had malevolent machines built all around his mausoleum.
  • Those machines, churning beneath the surface of the earth, tended by automatons, sending evil spirits against the people who live above, and allowing demons to venture forth into this world at will.
  • And finally, below everything, the shrine of an ancient, forgotten goddess, where the actual third verse, the solution that will cure this land of its ills, is located. But can you make it this far?

The Third Verse is not intended for low-level characters. Experienced dungeoneers only!

See an 11-page preview of The Third Verse here!

The text of this module is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

ALSO: I have a Patreon project for making monster manuals going on right now.

October 28, 2013

New Print Versions

I have added new print options at DriveThruRPG for some of my books. I have not really been happy with the B&W print option Lightning source offers, mainly because they don’t do full bleed and I use bleed on pretty much all of my books except the Metamorphica.

Evil Wizards in a Cave now has a Standard Colour print option, although the book is still in black & white. It just has full bleed. The black inks aren’t quite as rich as either the B&W option or the Lulu version (which is still the best option, in my opinion), but it looks pretty decent, all in all.

I’ve added the Standard Colour option to Adventures on Dungeon Planet, but left the B&W option available, for those of you who are discerning enough to care about the difference. B&W has richer blacks, but Standard Colour has full bleed instead of white space at the edge of the pages. If you don’t care either way, I make more money if you buy the B&W version (though not very much more).

The B&W version of Lair of the Unknown still looks pretty good to me, even with that white space, so I haven’t tried to make a new pdf for a Standard Colour option for that books, although I am currently waiting to see what the Knives in the Dark Standard Colour option looks like, and I may switch that title over if it looks as good as Evil Wizards in a Cave.

The Third Verse will have a Standard Colour print option available sometime next month.

October 21, 2013

New Project: Monthly Monsters

Monthly Monsters!So, I want to make monster manuals, but here’s the thing: I want to make them piece-by-piece, one or two monsters at a time, using Patreon. I’ve teamed up with my friend Nathan Jones, who did the Metamorphica cover. He’s drawing the monsters, I’m writing them up for role-playing games (Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord specifically).

The page is live and ready to go:
http://www.patreon.com/johnstone

It’s still a bit of a work-in-progress, and I’ll be updating it as we make final decisions on the details.

What are monsters?
Here’s the first monster, free for everyone: the Satyrical Dramatists!

Download the Satyrical Dramatists for Dungeon World.

Download the Satyrical Dramatists for Labyrinth Lord.

These are pdf documents, 5.5″x8.5″ format, with a B&W illustration of the monster and several pages of text, including a description, stat blocks, and some rules for using them as player characters instead of just NPC monsters.

Future monsters will have different details, including possibly maps of their lairs, random tables (for treasure and other things), and maybe even short scenarios.

I’ll upload a second preview before we start this thing in earnest. It’ll be full colour, too!

Why these two rules systems?
The games I play the most right now are various versions of old-school D&D and various Apocalypse World games. When I run a fantasy game, it’s either Dungeon World or Labyrinth Lord. These are the games I like playing, running, and writing monsters for. If you only like one of these games, that’s cool, you can just ignore the other version because we’re not putting the two together in the same document. If you don’t like either of these games, sorry, but this is how it is. Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord.

What is Patreon?
Patreon is a pledge-based crowdfunding website. Unlike Kickstarter, you sign up to pay money each time a creator makes a thing, so maybe you’re paying a musician one dollar for each new song they release. Creators only get your money after they release content, not before. It’s not a pre-order facsimile. Like Kickstarter, there can be pledge levels where you can get more stuff, and stretch goals based on total monthly funding levels. If a creator takes a month off and doesn’t release anything, you don’t pay them anything. If they release a bunch of things in one month, you can pay them once for each, or you can limit your total pledges each month to a specific amount. You can pledge as little as one dollar, or as much as you like, and you can change or cancel your pledges at any time. Check out their website for more details.

How will this Monthly Monsters thing work?
Okay, so the basic gist of it is this: we are going to release a monster a month, unsurprisingly called the Monthly Monster. If you pledge $2 each month, you get the Monthly Monster emailed to you each month. When we have enough monsters to make a book, we’ll make a book and you’ll get a pdf of it sent to you for free, as long as you’re still subscribed to pledge. That sounds like it would take a long time, though, right?

So there’s bonus monsters every month. If you pledge $2 a month, you just get the one Monthly Monster. But if you pledge $4 every month, you get both the Monthly Monster and all the Bonus Monsters! How many Bonus Monsters are there? That depends on the total funding level, but there’s always at least one. These will all be included in a single package, too, so they won’t count as multiple releases. There won’t be multiple releases each month, either. One pledge amount and one release, no more than once a month.

Stretch Goals
We, Nathan and Johnstone, need this to be a financially viable project for us to undertake. Neither of us can afford to spend months at a time making monsters, hoping a book will sell once it’s finished. How many monsters we can create each month depends on how much money we’re making from them. More money, more monsters! It also affects how much time we can spend on these monsters, and whether or not we can do them in full colour (which takes longer).

Here’s the current breakdown of total pledge amount stretch goals and what we can do at each level:

  • At $200: The Monthly Monster will be full colour, not B&W.
  • At $300: There will be 2 Bonus Monsters (for a total of 3 monsters each month).
  • At $500: At least some, and maybe all, of the Bonus Monsters will be full colour.
  • At $750: There will be 3 Bonus Monsters (for a total of 4 monsters each month).
  • At $1000: Every monster will be full colour after we hit this level of total pledges.
  • At $1500: There will be 4 Bonus Monsters (for a total of 5 monsters each month).

These figures are independent of your individual pledge amount, of course. At the $4 level, you get all the bonus monsters, no matter how many there are. The more people that pledge, the more monsters each person gets for their pledge, and the faster the book gets done. And when the book is done, all pledgers get it for free (everybody else will have to buy it normally), and then we can start making a second one.

Pledge Levels
So, why should you even pledge for this project in the first place? Why not just wait for the book to come out at the end? Good question. It’s probably cheaper if you do that, but this isn’t about getting the best deal on a book. If you just wait, it might never even happen, and you won’t be able to get it for any price. This Patreon project is about making sure it does happens, and helping us build something a piece at a time. Without your support now, I can’t guarantee we’ll keep this project going in the future.

That said, we also have ideas for rewards we can give to people pledging at the $5 level and higher. If you’re interested in this project, I’d like your feedback on what kinds of things you’d like to see from us. Some of our ideas so far:

  • A pledge level where you get to request a monster from us, once per season.
  • A  pledge level where I also mail you a physical copy of the book when it’s done, no extra cost to you.
  • Random draws for original artwork. The higher your pledge level, the greater your chance of winning.

Let me stress that again: I would really, really like to hear your feedback and ideas about this project if it is something that interests you. Not just pledge reward ideas, but your thoughts on stretch goals, using Patreon, monsters, and other aspects. This is really new thing, not just for us, but in general. There’s a few people using Patreon to make role-playing game materials already, and they’re all pretty different. We want this project to be successful, for us, for you, and for other people who want to use this model in the future.

Hey, thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope you’re interested.

October 18, 2013

Setup Questions for Nonhumans

So, when you’re running a game, you need to spend a bit of time coming up with what elves and dwarves and stuff are like, right? Or you could just let one or more of the players do all that and spend your time doing more important things, like thinking up exciting situations to put the PCs in. So here are some questions you can ask people playing elves and dwarves and children halflings to get them to tell you about their societies.

DWARVES

  • Do all dwarves have beards?
  • Do dwarves have books, or some other kind of writing? How do they make them?
  • How does one build up a good reputation for themselves amongst the dwarves?
  • What dangers do dwarves face, deep down below the earth? How do they deal with them?
  • What do dwarves think of halfling pipeleaf?
  • What does dwarven romance look like?
  • What does family mean to dwarves? What must a dwarf do to be disowned?
  • What is your favourite kind of stone? What does this say about you, compared to other dwarves?
  • What kind of music do dwarves like?
  • What place do oaths have in dwarven society? What happens when someone is branded an oathbreaker?
  • When do dwarves wear masks?
  • When dwarves leave their homes to live amongst humans, what do most of them do? Is there a guild for dwarves? Do humans expect you to all perform the same kind of work for them?
  • Where do dwarves get their wood from?
  • Which animals do dwarves keep in their underground homes? Do they have steeds or cattle, that are praised amongst other races for their ability to live and work underground?
  • Why do dwarves have such a rivalry with elves?
  • Why do dwarves live underground? Are there dangers on the surface, some kind of enemy scouring the earth for dwarves to kill?
  • Why haven’t dwarves poured forth from their halls to conquer the kingdoms of the other races?

ELVES

  • Are elves really as stoic as the other races think, or are there times where they express their emotions more readily?
  • Are musical instruments just as prized by the elves as song is?
  • Can elves really talk to plants? Why do people think they can?
  • Do elves change colour with the seasons, just like the trees do?
  • Do elves ever eat meat or are they strict vegetarians?
  • Do elves only live in forests? Where else do they live?
  • How common is magic among the elves?
  • How long do elves normally live?
  • How well do elves get along with dragons?
  • What are elven naming conventions like? Do you have a secret name, or more than one, even?
  • What do elves think of fire? Do they believe in a god of fire?
  • What happened the last time the elves went to war?
  • Who are the natural enemies of the elves? What creatures do they fear the most? Are these the same things the other races fear?
  • Why are elves so secretive?
  • Why are there so few elves?

HALFLINGS

  • Are there barbarian halflings, living in the wilderness, with no hint of civilized agriculture?
  • Do halflings tend to feel small and uncomfortable in the company of other races? Do you?
  • Halfling lawyers—you opinion?
  • How many songs does a halfling know? Do your people prefer to write their own, or do they borrow whatever songs they like?
  • Is there such a thing as halfling literature? If not, why not? If so, what is it like?
  • What are halflings like after they find religion?
  • What contributions have halflings made to human society?
  • What do halflings think of theatre?
  • What does red hair on a halfling mean? Are there limericks about red-headed halflings?
  • What is the most popular halfling sport? What do you think of it?
  • What kind of reputation do halflings have amongst the other races?
  • What’s the one thing no halfling would be caught dead without, when they go travelling?
  • Why are halflings such good gardeners?
  • Why do halflings love to gamble so much? Is it all halflings or just some?

cc-by unported 3.0

Oh, hey, if you want to take a bit of Red Box Vancouver cannon for your own game:
Dwarves all talk like Sean Connery.
Elves talk like surfer Keanu Reeves.
Halflings all have Italian accents.

Last post was this stuff for character classes.

October 17, 2013

Setup Material

Here’s a list of stuff to help GMs run character-driven adventures, arranged by class.
If you’re playing Dungeon World, you can use these bonds instead of the normal ones. If you aren’t, you can use these bonds to create links with other PCs or important NPCs.

BARBARIAN
Bonds

  • __________ does not understand me, or my culture. I will explain myself to them, no matter how long it takes.
  • __________ got me involved in a questionable adventure and I’m having second thoughts about it now.
  • __________ has seen the lands of my home, more recently than me.
  • __________ showed me how to get high.

Questions to Ask

  • Have you brought anyone from your home with you? Who?
  • In what way is your home more beautiful than any other land you have been to?
  • Of all the other people from your homeland, who would you most like to see again and why?
  • What is the most dangerous creature that has stalked the lands of your home? Have you ever defeated one?
  • What is the strangest thing about the lands you live in now?
  • What precious thing does your homeland lack, that these lands you now roam have in abundance?
  • What protects your homeland from invaders (if anything)?
  • When did you discover your appetites?
  • Why can’t ever return to your home?

Situations to Introduce
A portly and venal merchant has come before you to offer you that which you have an appetite for, or a sure-fire way to get it. But this merchant has brought hidden assassins who spring upon you, in full view of the public. Precious spirits are spilled, braziers are dislodged, tapestries catch fire. Who’s ire have you attracted this time?

You stand before the enemy army, ready to fight their champion. But then you see your own side begin to retreat—they plan to leave you hear to fight alone! Why does the commander bear a grudge against you? Who can you call upon from your side to support you? What are the enemy troops fighting for?

BARD
Bonds

  • I told __________ all about performing inside a rich noble’s home and saw the greed in their eyes.
  • __________ helped me make some important contacts. I owe them.
  • __________ is my lover, or was, or would have been, or… it’s complicated.
  • __________ knows I have a secret map.
  • __________ started a fight while I was performing, and payback’s a bitch.
  • __________ would be an excellent subject for a ballad, if only they got into more adventures. So I’ll just help them out with that.

Questions to Ask

  • What are you running from?
  • What’s the best thing about performing for others?
  • Who trained and taught you the arts you know?
  • Why do you travel so much? Would you like to settle down, or no?

Situations to Introduce
Charlatans have been travelling from town to town, selling cursed magical items. You’ve just stumbled across their accounting ledgers, but their guards have just stumbled across you. Have you met them already? What did they think of you before?

For weeks now, you’ve been tracking a band of thieves who have stolen a fantastic artifact that falls right inside your area of expertise. And they’ve just ambushed you. That must mean you’re getting close! Where are you when it happens? What other business did you have here, that’s not related to these thieves?

The Crimson Enchantress has ensorcelled a mob to become violent. Who or what is she trying to provide a distraction for? Who wants you to prevent her plans from coming to fruition?

You’re in the middle of a brawl between the town’s two most powerful gangs. Rumour has it they want to celebrate different festivals on the same day.

CLERIC
Bonds

  • I have intervened with other priests on __________’s behalf before.
  • My deity has marked out __________ as someone important. I must help them fulfill their destiny.
  • __________ has been through hardships that would break me. They can stand against the darkness I see looming over the world.
  • __________ has worked with servants of my deity before.

Questions to Ask

  • Have you ever failed your deity? What did you do to atone?
  • How does your family feel about your calling? Is it a prestigious position, or something that is looked down upon?
  • What did you do before dedicating your life to your deity, if anything?
  • What did you do the last time a rival temple tried to move in on your territory?
  • What social restrictions are placed on the faithful here? How do you feel about this—are they voluntary restrictions, or forced upon you?

Situations to Introduce
Another follower of your deity has been performing miracles. Whispers that she is the “Chosen One” abound, but you know some of those whisperers would like nothing more than to take advantage of her youth and inexperience. Still, you don’t fully trust her. Why?

Demonic influence manifests itself upon the material plane! What’s your relationship to the person acting as conduit? What does your deity have to say about this influence?

The city’s hierophant has asked you to assist in the performance of an important ritual, involving some of the local nobles. Which of your friends and family are in attendance? What’s your history with the hierophant’s temple? Your deity reveals a nefarious plot, unfolding all around you. Which of your deity’s precepts is being violated?

You’re pursuing the kidnappers when they enter the catacombs below the city and a horde of the undead appears to block your passage. Who have they captured and what do they mean to you? What do the rumours you’ve heard say about these catacombs? What else is buried underneath this city?

DRUID
Bonds

  • Me and __________ are tracking the passage of a terrible monster through this land.
  • __________ has fought in defence of my lands before and has my respect.
  • __________ is familiar with the sickness that infects the land, which must be purged.
  • __________ seems suitably impressed by my powers and I just can’t help showing off in front of them.

Questions to Ask

  • Were you always like this, or did something change to make you one with the land?
  • What kinds of people live on or next to your lands, and what problems do they bring?
  • What problem has brought you to leave your lands and venture into unknown territory?
  • Which animal is your favourite? Why?
  • Why does the wealthiest merchant around here welcome you with open arms, every time you show up?

Situations to Introduce
All the animals of the land pass by you, fleeing en mass from the terror that lumbers forward. What do you suspect this mighty monster’s ultimate goal is? What source of magic hereabouts could be powerful enough to draw something so dangerous? Of the people you care about, which ones are closer to it than you are, and why aren’t they fleeing, like the animals are?

The city guards have let you inside the walls, but now they’re demanding the “gate tax,” which you’ve never heard of before and also seems rather exorbitant. At the same time, they just let someone in strange black robes walk right on by them, and you smell something very, very wrong underneath that cloth.

FIGHTER
Bonds

  • Me and __________ were both hired by a boss who turned on us.
  • __________ proved a worthy ally in the last war, even considering that one mistake they made.
  • __________ saw me kill someone important.
  • __________ stood up to me and got away with it. That’s how it is, I guess.

Questions to Ask

  • Do people ask to become your apprentice or squire ever? What do you say to them?
  • Did you join the war willingly, or were you drafted against your will?
  • What did you do the last time someone challenged you to a duel?
  • What happened to all those coins you used to have?
  • What kind of oaths did you swear on the day your old mentor was murdered?
  • Which enemy (or enemies) do you spend the most time fighting against? What do they threaten that you want to preserve?
  • Who wielded your signature weapon before you? Anyone?

Situations to Introduce
Assassins attack you in a crowded marketplace. Why do they want you dead? How did you defeat their leader when last you met them? Do you owe someone, or did you take something that some villain wants for their own?

The festival was in full swing, and then the iron golem appeared, intent on kidnapping shrine maidens and delivering them to the evil warlock who hides inside a local mountain. What did the warlock hire you to do, and why did you have so many misgivings? What will happen if the shrine maidens cannot finish appeasing the local spirits? Which of them do you suspect is actually in league with the warlock?

You stand between the caravan and the bandits. They have some kind of monster with them, intent on seizing some “special” cargo. Why didn’t you kill the bandit leader when you had the chance? Did you know about the risks before you joined the caravan?

PALADIN
Bonds

  • For what they have done, I have sworn to guide and protect __________.
  • I have heard of _________’s exploits and am suitably impressed.
  • __________ gave me food and shelter when I had nothing.
  • __________ obviously doesn’t trust me, and this needs to change.

Questions to Ask

  • Are you dedicated to a particular lord, deity, or social institution? Are you on a personal quest, for yourself? Why or why not?
  • Is there something particular in your past that drives you to fight the good fight? What are you looking to atone for, personally?
  • What do you think about other local authority figures? Are they using their power responsibly, or are they corrupt and venal?
  • What was your first job, and why do they want you back?
  • Why did your family send you away?

Situations to Introduce
The innkeeper’s daughter stumbles back to the inn, clutching her neck, covered in blood. She collapses, dying from a vampire’s bite. Everyone staying at the inn begins to fight. Why did you keep an eye on those fur traders? What is that monk hiding beneath his robes? Why does the nobleman bear a grudge against you? What will you do about the innkeeper’s dying daughter? What will you do about the vampire, still on the loose?

The séance just turned ugly. Which of your dead relatives do you see, standing in the darkness before you? What don’t you want them to say to you? How did the ghost-talker convince you to attend, and what kind of bargain did the two of you agree on? Why is it so important that the baroness doesn’t die during this ritual?

You’re caught in a mob of beggars and vagrants, rioting against the king’s new laws. The mob is surging towards the palace. Where were you trying to get to, originally? You see a team of thieves in the midst of the mob, using strange magic to disguise their activities.

RANGER
Bonds

  • __________ and I took down a great beast once, and paid for it dearly.
  • __________ left me in a pinch when they were supposed to come through for me.
  • __________ once talked me into guiding some halflings on the run through dangerous territory, and never thanked me properly for it.
  • __________ was once my enemy, but we’ve since reconciled.

Questions to Ask

  • What did you lose that now you seek to regain, out here in the wilderness? Who took it from you (if anyone)?
  • What monster lives around here and why do you try to avoid it?
  • What’s the most important thing about this forest, that needs to be protected, at all cost?
  • When the dwarves petition to get their lands back from the king, which side of the argument do you support? What’s your relationship with the dwarves like?
  • Where did you first meet your animal companion?

Situations to Introduce
You can see the orcs, just across the river. They have the ferryman and his family captive, and they’re chopping up his boat. The sheriff is itching to get at them. Did he tell you why? What kind of dealings have you had with these orcs before? If they enact their plan, you would benefit in some way—how?

You’ve been poking around some ruins next to the city of Tyr for a few days now, and right in front of you there’s some traders making a deal with a band of monsters. Where do you know these traders from? Do they know you’re there? How far away is the city they’re headed for (and is it Tyr)?

THIEF
Bonds

  • Me and __________ are the only survivors of a dubious adventure.
  • __________ helped me steal something really valuable from someone who is really dangerous.
  • __________ knows where I stashed some loot.
  • __________ still owes me for some stuff they were supposed to fence for me.

Questions to Ask

  • Are you part of a thieves’ guild? Why or why not?
  • How were you involved with the notorious criminal who just turned up this morning, dead in a ditch?
  • What’s the biggest score you’ve ever taken down?
  • Who’s your competition?
  • Why did you return the last thing you stole?

Situations to Introduce
A friend of yours gives you something to stash for safekeeping—something you’ve been trying to get a hold of for months. What sort of danger is your friend in? What job did you already take on in an effort to raise the money to buy this thing, and how soon do you need to complete the contract?

The room begins to fill with water and the manticore emerges from a secret doorway in the ceiling. What other traps did you find here, that haven’t been triggered yet? What were you hoping to find in this dungeon? What do you regret most about bringing the blacksmith’s only son down here with you?

You find your poison dealer dead at home, apparently by suicide. But there is something suspicious—where have you seen that faint bluish tinge before? Which two books are missing from the house’s library, and why would no one else but you notice their absence?

You’re stuck in the city jail. What did they catch you doing? The guards throw a shopkeeper in with you. From the way they talk, a wealthy merchant has bribed them because he doesn’t want to pay the shopkeep for goods delivered to his manse. A very wealthy merchant…

WIZARD
Bonds

  • __________ and I shared a mystical vision, after drinking the blood of the demon world together.
  • __________ has supplied me with forbidden tomes.
  • __________ once brought me safely through the Haunted Forest.

Questions to Ask

  • A wealthy stranger offered you a fat purse of coins to perform some kind of ritual. Who do you think they were and why did you refuse?
  • How do people treat you usually, when they know you are a wizard?
  • What did you miss out on by studying magic?
  • What magical mystery have you been yearning to solve for years now?
  • What strange vision haunts your dreams, night after night?
  • Who taught you magic, and what kind of terms are you on these days?
  • Why does your mentor want you to collect parts of rare monsters?

Situations to Introduce
An arcane tower has suddenly appeared on a nearby hilltop. The local militia broke through it’s gate only hours before your arrival and have not emerged since. Now the overseer of the Stevedore’s Guild is collecting “taxes” and the children of the town implore you to rescue their fathers from the evil-looking, magical tower. Why did you come to this town in the first place? Who do you know amongst the missing? How much do you owe the stevedores?

Finally, you arrive at the magical centre of the Great Forest, a place of power if ever there was one. But the elves have arrived here, too—hot on the heels of a monster. What can this monster offer you for your aid? Why does the leader of these elves dislike you so much? Why is the Elf Queen so interested in your arcane research?

You’re in someone else’s arcane laboratory. Why aren’t you supposed to be here? What would be most useful to you? Were there any defences you had to overcome to get in here? Who’s with you and why did you bring them?

cc-by unported 3.0

Next post is questions about fantasy races.