There are two reviews online for The Bone Place of Dreib:
I’ve just published my third adventure module — The Bone Place of Dreib. It’s currently $3 at DTRPG.
Back cover blurb:
“You are alone. It is dark. You have never read a book.
There is something in here with you.
On a hill above a deserted road there is a rocky crown, and in that crown is the Bone Place of Dreib, and in the Bone Place (so you have heard) is a temple of the ancients full of treasures wondrous and diverse. Why it is unlooted and undefiled? Probably the stories about the place, the ghosts that come if you sleep too close, and the list of grave-robbers who never came back.
But the stories are probably bullshit, the ghosts probably just nightmares, and the grave-robbers rank amateurs. You are don’t care about that shit.
And you have this dream every night. A dream that you are alone, that it is dark, and that you have never read a book. You are down there in the earth and there is something in there with you. It is a million years old and it is not your friend.”
It’s built using Old-School Essentials as the rules reference, and I’ve roughly tuned it for 3-4 PCs of 3rd to 4th level.
This one has been a haul — I was doing preparatory reading (on funerary rites and on the prehistoric world), working on it seriously (there are computer files) back in July, and had a playable sketch by the end of August, but the playtest-and-revision cycle took months. Largely this was the pandemic-related difficulty of getting people physically together (I have had it with online play). But now it is done. You can be the judge of whether it was worth it.
I’m currently into Chris McDowell’s idea of “Foreground Growth” — character change and advancement because of specific things that happened in play, with no metagame rules invovled. Partly this is because I’m running Electric Bastionland and thinking about running Cairn, and neither has traditional advancement rules. The problem is that it’s not always obvious how to make it happen — while XP and level and skill point and advancement systems guide you to use them, foreground growth is something that the GM has to support.
So I’ve started a list below of foreground growth opportunities, along with sources that say how to do this or that glisten with examples:
- Provide treasure that is worth money, and thus lets the PCs buy equipment and property and favours and titles
- Some examples of exotic treasures, things more interesting than coins and gems while still not having great non-monetary use — https://www.bastionland.com/2016/05/odd-treasures.html
- Provide items that have interesting power and capabilities
- Oddity examples from McDowall —
- Joseph Manola’s list of magic items with effects that work well in OSR play — https://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2021/10/game-enhancing-powers-game-ruining.html (note the links within to his further lists, including of “double-edged potions” and useful mundane items)
- (Don’t forget that you can tune an item’s usefulness in lots of ways, e.g. by making them single-use, fuelled by something rare, only usable in sunlight/above ground/by an ordained priest etc)
- Oddity examples from McDowall —
- Threaten them with monsters that can change them if they wound them, kill them, or get them to swear fealty to them
- Threaten them with monsters from which interesting treasures can be extracted
- Use a “scars” system that’s triggered by certain mechanical situation
- An early verison is at https://www.bastionland.com/2016/05/active-survival-scars-and-afflictions.html
- A revised version is in Electric Bastionland (including the free version)
- Provide pets and hirelings with useful abilities but challenging instincts or personal goals
- Give them access to organisations who can, if membership criteria are met and/or suitable service is rendered, provide training or services
- McDowall’s early thoughts on Unions — https://www.bastionland.com/2016/05/unions-and-strength-in-numbers.html
- Electric Bastionland text on Unions (in paid version)
- Let them worship at the shrines of dubious gods and receive blessings and punishments and strictures thereby
- Let them hear rumours of locations with strange properties — stone circles, ancient temples, swamps with weird moulds (thanks to Adam Hensley for pointing this one out)
- Use any of the above to give them distinctive personal properties
- McDowall’s examples of “behavioural oddities” — https://www.bastionland.com/2020/06/behavioural-oddities.html
Here are, also, some examples of foreground growth that don’t fit into the above categories (thanks to Yochai Gal for pointing these out):
If you have more categories, or can point me to more good examples, please let me know in the comments and I will expand the above.
Joseph Manola has written an article on magical effects in OSR-type games – which ones are fun, and which ones sap fun and challenge. Come for the insight, stay for the list of magic items that embody the good effects. It feels important.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his lists fit awkwardly with the (e.g.) BX spell list, especially above 2nd level.
Zedeck Siew just wrote a blog post that I really like. It captures what I, as well as him, see as the beauty in the OSR, and what has made it the centre-of-gravity of my gaming universe for years. Not the grognards obsessing over how Gygax ran things, not the fascist-adjacents and the abusers, but the people who embrace rpgs as their own genre and who bring their own weird everything into the game.
My favourite quote:
So, yes: Dark Souls and metal music. But also references weirder, personal, and as-yet-untapped: Zomia, punk zines, walks in backyard forests, Birkenhead folklore, the Permian Period, Moebius, East Malaysian myth – Composted together to the point they become game things utterly unlike anything else, and the stories / experiences you can have in those game things you can have nowhere else.https://zedecksiew.tumblr.com/post/661198838065922049/sentimental-thoughts-about-the-osr
…but I’d recommend you read the whole thing. It’s not long.
I’ve just published my second adventure module — The Bleak Holdfast of the Heartless Queen. It’s currently $4 at DTRPG.
Back cover blurb:
“High above the snow line there is a castle on a crag. It is an object of fear and hatred, because the Heartless Queen holds court there and she is pitiless in her anger and host to terrible friends. Between the Frost Wyrms, the Ice Harpies, and the Frozen Thing that Guards the Bridge, even getting in is difficult.
Most locals stay as far away as they can, but between courage, pride, and burning vengeance there are always some willing to take a shot at it. And travellers from the soft, warm south might hear stories of the Queen’s fantastical treasures and be oblivious about the horrors that protect them.”
It’s built using Old-School Essentials as the rules reference, and I’ve roughly tuned it for 5-6 PCs of 3rd level or slightly fewer of 4th.
(added 26 April) Some prosaic notes for the prospective DM – the module features:
- A 70 location adventure site with a complex multi-path (‘Jaquay’d’) layout
- Several goals the PCs could have within that space
- An unusual environment (a castle made largely of ice)
- Several detailed NPCs, some of whom can be set against each other
- Several distinctive creature and minor NPC types
- An adversary roster to help you predict the castle’s response to disturbance
(if you’re intimidated by my recent productivity, it might help you to know that I’ve been working on this, and The Pit in the Forest, on and off since January 2020.)
I value playing rpgs over reading rpgs, and that’s partly because I have very limited interest in doing the latter — reading most rpg books doesn’t feel like something that’s worth my time. Recently I’ve been thinking about why? Why don’t I enjoy this?
Primarily, it’s because I don’t have that much time I want to spend on reading. So I don’t need volume; I want impact. And by going to wider-interest books I can get:
- Fiction that’s much better written (recent example — Gabrielle Squailia’s Viscera)
- Non-fiction that’s of much greater value because it tells me about the real world (current example — Abulafia’s The Great Sea)
I.e. the payoffs are just much higher.
I’ve just published my first actual adventure module — The Pit in the Forest. It’s currently
$2 $3 on DTRPG.
Back cover blurb:
In Claine Forest near Padduck Village there has appeared a pit. No-one knows where it came from, it just did. It is not so deep that you cannot see the bottom, but people fear it and avoid it. No-one who has climbed into it has come back, having been dragged beneath the surface by unseen hands.
A necromancer has come to the forest, seeking the pit. She does not quite know what she expects from it, but what she hopes for is protection from death.
It’s built for 5-6 PCs of levels 2-3, and to run under most OSR rulesets.
In A Broken Candle, normal xp will only get you to level 6. To go any further, you need to be more than human. You need to be an immortal, a being that defies death, a being that spits in the eye of normal causality.
There are several ways to do this.
Ascent by murder
Learn the Ritual of Spiteful Ascencion and kill an existing immortal as part of it. If you’ve spent a season working closely with them, and learning their heart, you can be confident that it’s you, not them, who will be the one ascending. What you can’t guarantee is that you will ever quite be rid of them.
Ascent by devotion
Identify a god who is able and willing to accept saints, and do a penance of the god’s choosing. If you you precede this with a season doing the god’s mundane worship and propitiation, you can be confident they won’t just make you a god-beast in their image. What you can’t guarantee is that the things the god later makes you do are palatable, legal, or safe.
The God of the Church of the Lowlands is not accepting applications at this time. But there are other gods in the forests and the hills.
One further concern with this method is that the Church does not like living saints, and is often assiduous in its attempts to canonise them.
Ascent by loci
Identify a place of power of a suitable type, and take control of it. If you spend a season or so getting to know the place and its cycles and its history, you can be confident you won’t just be a genius loci, and thus will be able to leave. What you can’t guarantee is that someone won’t attack you through your locus while you’re away.
Ascent by contempt of death
Master, or gain the services of someone who has mastered, the great necromancies. Then die, and rise again. If you premptively bolster your spirit with the minds and bodies of three unlucky mortals, you can be reasonably confident you’ll get past the comma in the previous sentence. What you can’t avoid, however, is that after you ascension you will be fucking terrifying and will smell bad.
Ascent by elevation
Rumour has it that the Risen Men have a way to raise you up. It’s reliable, safe, and makes you more yourself than you have ever been before.