“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
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.
“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)
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.
Much as with magic items, I often find encounter ideas online or in books. I quite often want encounter ideas when running or prepping games. I often can’t find those encounter ideas at the point when I want them.
Jason Kingsley has another good video on the weapons that medieval knights actually used on the battlefield. Top billing goes to the horseman’s pick, used from the saddle to hole the skulls of infantry. He also covers the pollaxe (note the spelling, from “poll” meaning the top of the head), which was for fighting other knights while dismounted.
Swords get only a brief mention — for all their symbolic value, they’re just not much use against serious plate armour.
On this site I have previously referenced articles by Zak Smith, and I’ve engaged with him in the comments section. I’ve not done this for a while, in the light of his past behaviour (see Patrick Stuart’s summary of Zak’s online conduct). In the light of his more recent behaviour, I have now gone through the site and deleted all such references and comment threads.
Futher to that — If you support, endorse, defend, or purchase the products of Zak Smith, or indeed if you would piss on him if he was on fire amid the stacks of the British Library, please do not interact with me in a hobby-games context.