Thursday, September 24, 2020

Libra (GLOG Hack)

Libra is an urban fantasy/supernatural conspiracy version of the GLOG. Instead of dice, it uses Zener cards - tools used by 20th century researchers into psychic ability.

It has 7 classes (6 varieties of psychic and 1 standard person), an original magic system, and 18 adventure seeds. It's been playtested in a short campaign that reached level 2. Click on the cover to grab the PDF.

Edit: ArkosDawn has recommended a great way to make this game still work online - roll 1d6 ignoring 6 (or 1d5 on a die roller) instead of drawing, and have the player guess for checks as normal.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

King of Dust Zine!

 My cyberpunk management game, King of Dust, has finally been released publicly - you can buy it on here for $4. Thanks for your patience - it's taken a lot longer to release this than I had hoped it would.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

OSR Interviews 2 - Vayra

A: So, introduce yourself - name, blog, favorite color, etc.

V: HI MY NAME IS VAYRA you can find my Works (gaze upon them, and despair) at

I live in the PNW (BC, Canada, to be exact) and my favorite color is being needlessly contrarian.

A: Ah. I'm partial to yellow, myself.

What have you been playing/running recently? Anything you've enjoyed?

V: I'm currently engaged in a (supposedly) weekly Monster of the Week game IRL, which I hate. Beyond that, I'm participating in many GLOGs online: OSR Discord user deus ex parabola's Face campaign (probably the best game I've played), Phlox's Vain the Sword play-by-post, and Xenophon of Athens' run of Deep Carbon Observatory using his own Carolingian GLOGhack rules. I also recently wrapped up a minicampaign of a novel scifi-horror game called Sunless Horizon run by someone whose name escapes me, and am hopefully going to be in an OSE run of Barrowmaze, if we can work out scheduling.

On the GMing side, I recently had to mercy-kill a 3.5e play-by-post (which went the way of most of its ilk, withered due to lack of attention) and am gearing up to run a DCC one-to-three-shot for a "RPG Bucket List" event a discord server I'm on is holding - basically a lot of people signed up to run or play one-shots and try systems they've always wanted to.

A: Hm, I wonder who could've run Sunless Horizon.

Have you run DCC before? What do you think about it?

V: Right? Who could it be?

I have not! I dug into it a bit to make pregen level 0 characters (four each) for my prospective players - it seems awfully complicated, if I'm honest. I'd thought that anything with such a focus on funnel play would have very rapid character generation, but it's a bit overwhelming and would probably remain that way until/unless I fully familiarized myself with the process. I am apprehensive about running combat with something close to 20 participants (though DCC being initiative-per-player in funnel play is a nice gesture towards usability). Besides that though, it seems like a perfectly serviceable D&D.

A: It was the first RPG I ever ran - I thought it went quite well.

And speaking of first games, you were introduced to RPGs through D&D 3.5e, if I remember correctly. How did you move from there into the OSR?

V: My first introduction was actually through Red Box Basic, in elementary school - but we only played a couple sessions (through the introductory dungeon in the box) and I don't remember anything about it except that someone rolled a 1 for their Magic-User's HP and that we got TPK'd by that fucking Carrion Crawler. I do commend that version for being able to teach myself (age about 7), an older student (somewhere in their young teens, the school was K-12) and a teacher I'd roped into it how to play, all of us with no prior experience.

But yeah, I really got into it in highschool with 3.0/3.5e. Long before I'd heard of the OSR, my favorite way to play was E6 - capped at 6th level, before the towering superstructure of 3.5 really starts collapsing in on itself under its own weight. I was also always big on homebrewing and hacking: I ended up making a classless E6 hack using bits from 3.5, d20 modern, and an entirely homebrew firearms system (which I keep meaning to clean up and post, eventually) to run a hugely successful post-apocalyptic campaign - still before getting into the OSR, but I'm sure you can see the parallels!

At some point a few years ago - maybe 2013-2014-ish? - I happened upon the blog of [DATA EXPUNGED], which was okay, and from there somehow found my way to Goblinpunch, the home of our gobfather Arnold K. (PBUH) and a pile of other blogs like Middenmurk (now defunct, here's a good post) and Straits of Anian (likewise). This was my introduction to the OSR, but I never got onto Google+ so I remained exposed to them purely through reading the blogs and immersing myself in the wonderfully Weird settings. I really got involved with the community only recently - mid-March this year (2020) - when I joined Chris Dowell's OSR Discord and started a blog to work on my own Weird Fantasy setting.

A: Let's talk about that setting - the Mountain. Where did that come from?

V: So, after playing 3.5e through highschool (and for a while after), I was pretty thoroughly tired of Generic Fantasy settings. Regardless, around 2014 I started gearing up to run an online E6 game for some pals from leftbook, and for my broken brain that meant creating a fully detailed more-or-less-generic-fantasy setting to run it in. It was roughly patterned after the world from the Belgariad/Malloreon novels (exemplary works of Generic Fantasy) - basically a pastiche of interesting historical empires all smashed into the same time period. My sole concession to Weird was: "'Human' is a generic term for vaguely humanoid species. Common 'races' are orcs, goblinoids, kobolds, lizardfolk, minotaurs, dogmen, etc."
The game never happened, but I still wrote out a whole-ass 31 page setting document for it, in the style of a 3.5e gazette. It is deeply exhausting to read and I will never link to it directly, but it lives on as the basis for the (off-screen, out-of-scope) "Civilized Lands" in the Mountain setting.

More recently, around 2018, I remembered I had all these OSR blogs bookmarked and I started reading them at work (I believe the best way to recover excess value stolen from us by our bosses is to work as little as possible, so I spend a lot of time reading things at work). This drove me to re-envision the setting: I stole the basic concepts, some elements from the history, and one thing I remembered from a short-lived highschool campaign run by my girlfriend at the time - the entire thing would be set on a single, gigantic Mountain. 

I also committed to making it much more thoroughly Weird, starting with the four elements. I had been listening to a series of witch house mixes by a duo named ∆AIMON a lot at the time, one of which was titled WATER BLOOD ASHES BONES, which I thought was an excellent set. Obviously keeping 'water' as an element wouldn't do, so I swapped it out with 'fish' and, well, here we are.
In the future, I'm hoping to slowly produce the Mountain's levels as self-contained booklets, then maybe self-publish them as a megadungeon along with a setting guide. Somewhere along the way I'll also have to actually run it, of course.

A: I hope you manage to run it sometime - megadungeons are really interesting, and it looks like this one will be more interesting than most.

Well, we've talked about playing and writing, so now we only have one of the three pillars left - reading. What have you read recently (an OSR book, an RPG book, just a book) that you'd recommend?

V: Hmm, these won't all be recent, but let's see...

David Graeber, who is probably my favorite nonfiction author, died recently. I consider his book 'Debt: The First 5,000 Years' to be essential reading for any aspiring worldbuilder, and I read it within the last year or so, so I'm gonna recommend that one first. His other books are also excellent, and I would recommend 'Bullshit Jobs' and 'The Utopia of Rules' to everyone as well despite them being less directly connected to RPGs.

A lot of RPG writing and worldbuilding focuses around war. They aren't fantasy or historical, but I would highly recommend people read 'Hammer's Slammers' by David Drake (mil-SF) and read or watch 'Generation Kill' - either the book by Evan Wright or the 7-episode HBO miniseries based on it - (nonfiction) to get a feel for that sort of setting. Both works paint an excellent - and reportedly, accurate - picture of war and the people who fight in it without falling into jingoism common to works about the topic. 

Old blogs! Dig up some old blogs! I mentioned Goblinpunch, Middenmurk and Straits of Anian earlier, but check out Udan-Adan and Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse too. Start from the beginning. I bet there's something you missed.

A: I have read Goblin Punch and Udan-Adan front to back more times than I want to admit.

We're getting close to our time limit - is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

V: Gimme a topic, anything.

A: Why did you choose the GLOG as your OSR system of choice?

V: Ah! That's easy: So as I mentioned, I really got into TTRPGs with D&D 3.5e and mostly played E6 - and as I maybe haven't mentioned yet here, I still really enjoy it. GLOG reproduces the elements of it that I like (low level cap, relatively powerful characters, lots of options) while dispensing with the elements I don't like (too many moving parts). I was briefly in a BFRPG game or two and even that kind of rubs me the wrong way now, as does anything else with uncapped (or high-capped) levelling! It's all about that juxtaposition of power and vulnerability, for me - something that GLOG and E6 do very well, and I find most other things don't.

The mood, the culture, also, is essential. I wrote a whole post more or less about that, in fact.

A: That post looks great! Thank you for your time!

Monday, September 7, 2020

OSR Interviews 1 - Erika

For a couple weeks, I'm going to be posting interviews with members of the OSR community - first is Erika, of Ice Queen's Throne. This is my first time interviewing anyone, so it has some issues; the next ones should be better. If you want to get on the list, I have contact information on my blog's sidebar.

Archon: First, let's talk about something light - have you been able to play anything recently?

Erika: The last game I ran was the final session of my Old School Essentials game set in the Forgotten Realms; we kind of got collectively frustrated at the poor design of the module and cancelled it, so not the most fun session, but onwards and upwards!

A: Ah, I'm sorry about that. I haven't played OSE - what do you think of it?

E: I like it a lot, honestly - I'm about to back the kickstarter for new rules taken from AD&D. The toolbox purity of making sure it's compatible with original B/X stuff is really appealing, as I often want to revive some older module/setting/style of play that I'm curious about. The rules are well presented and easy to run, which is really nice.

A: So, do you think you'll keep running OSE in your next campaign, or is there another system you'd like to try?

E: Honestly, I have so many games I want to try it's hard to tell! I'm running Pathfinder 2e for my other group right now and that's a blast; I'm looking at setting up some one-shots to clean out stuff that's been on my shelf for years and never been played, and I kind of want to run a new World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness game next. For old-school stuff, if I want to do something strictly revivalist, OSE is a good bet; for something more revolutionary I should really try the GLOG and Esoteric Enterprises and Knave and [goes on forever here].

A: There's always a lot to try, isn't there. I'd recommend the GLOG (because of course I would).

E: Why would you recommend the GLOG? What does the GLOG do well for you?

A: I think it does a lot of things quite well - for one thing, it's incredibly simple - one of my unreleased hacks fits all its rules onto a single page. It's also very modular; I've seen lots of different combat systems, stat systems, and settings, because of how easy it is to change the few rules it has. Most importantly to me, it's excellent at containing setting - through your class choices, you can show almost any genre through the GLOG. For example, there's a couple cyberpunk versions, and I'm currently working on an EE-like urban fantasy hack. 

And, I know this is a peripheral thing, but the culture around the game is excellent - they just keep making things, constantly, and its always something strange.

I know you have your blog, but is there anywhere else you release OSR content? A book or a zine you've written, anything like that.

E: Nothing yet really, most of what I do is specifically for the games I'm running, so I haven't had a lot to show otherwise. I was thinking about doing a hack of OSE and 2e AD&D, but put that aside with the game ending.

A: That's a shame. You were one of the originators of the PLOG movement - do you think that's had an effect on the OSR as a whole?

E: Not a lot? It was more of a personal calling card for myself and Zach about how we wanted to approach our own way of interpreting the OSR, and if it didn't go a whole bunch of anywhere, that's okay. 

Part of the idea of it being about loving your own trash was that it didn't have to be the same as everyone else's trash, and if other people didn't see the value in it, that's alright! Stuff like the GLOG is way beyond the realm of the PLOG, and if that's where people are having fun/being happy, that's what really matters. I appreciate having an idea and a mission statement for how to approach the revivalist stuff I like doing with OSE and other older D&D books.

A: It's a good guiding concept for OSR revivalists, in my opinion. The idea of tearing apart official products to scavenge good bits of them was what drew me to the community in the first place.

Speaking of that, how did you get into the OSR?

E: So for me, I straddle the line between old-school and modern D&D. I picked up D&D when I was like 9, at the very tail end of 2e, and didn't really get to play until I had the 3e starter box set a few years later. But my grandfather picked me up a used copy of the 1e DMG, and I was blown away by how incredibly lush and dense and inspiring it was. I could see that the rules were generally better in my 3.0 books, but the STORY and especially the world was so much better in that old DMG.

A: I've heard a lot of good things about the 1e DMG.

E: Right! there's tons of good stuff in it, so I'm always kind of balancing, the smoother rules and careful balancing and all the little content gimmicks of 3e/4e/Pathfinder with the sheer captivating power of the old-school stuff. and I want to find a way to kind of reconcile those, in my head? 

Have good flexible rules that can do a lot for character creation but also have a lot of room for worldbuilding and sandbox play like the old-school games did. I can never quite settle on one or the other. 

And I remember back in the 3.5 days the older stuff was kind of discarded, frequently given away for free by WotC; it wasn't until OSRIC came out that there was really something THERE to grab on to. The most influential OSR blog to me personally was likely Grognardia, because James Maliszewski's readings of older products really illustrated what they did well and what was worth celebrating about them that my newer stuff didn't have, and that was a convincing argument for trying old-school games off and on over the years. Haven't really quite had it stick yet, but I've learned a lot!

A: Grognardia recently returned to blogging - how do you feel about that?

E: I'm very excited by it! And he picked a hell of a product to come back with in Mork Borg, which is great. James admits he doesn't quite get "it" but he also doesn't have to, he can recognize that it's cool and good without being his cup of tea.

A: Have you taken a look at Mork Borg?
E: I haven't, but I'd really like to, it looks like a lot of fun, both stylistically and gameplay wise. As someone who GMs a lot by choice, Mork Borg is right up my alley, if I can pull myself away from big juggernaut projects to give it a go.

A: I hope you can find time to read it soon. Earlier, you also mentioned an interest in WoD/CoD - do you think there's anything the OSR can take from White Wolf's games?

E: I don't think there's a lot, because a lot of what those games do is very much what the OSR specifically doesn't do or does already do. CoD stories are often very tightly plotted, not a railroad but definitely involving quantum ogres and the like; at the most they're in sandboxes but they're very frustrating grindy ones for the players. 

The OSR definitely doesn't want metaplot, and it has its own toolkits already, so they're not very much alike. Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises is a good example of putting the two together, but it does so by taking some of the narrative ideas in CoD stuff and putting it in the rules, style, and game framework of an OSR game, instead of mixing the two completely.

A: It's been about an hour: do you have any final statements before we finish up?

E: I don't blog a lot but when I do it's usually been about the Forgotten Realms not sucking pre-5e, so you should check out my blog for stuff on that.

A: Sounds great. Thanks for coming!

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3 Release

Commissioned from Scrap Princess excited screeching I've been posting about  Sunless Horizon  for about a year, and after finally gettin...