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!


  1. this "vayra" character seems extremely well-spoken (as well as smart, funny, and attractive) i would certainly like to hear more about her

    1. wait shit i meant to log out before posting this


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