Welcome to the first issue of The Glatisant! Here are some interesting finds from around the old-school RPG internet:
It came from the blogosphere…
There’s a reprint of Deep Carbon Observatory in the works! DCO was one of the first OSR adventures I ever bought (and one of my first video reviews). The revised version looks like it’s going to fix one of my main complaints about the first edition: the maps. They are being redrawn by Dirk Detweiler Leichty (who illustrated Silent Titans), with some tweaks from Scrap Princess.
Here’s one example of the maps below. Definitely a huge improvement in readability and usability. There’s more examples at Patrick Stuart’s blog.
Speaking of Scrap Princess, she recently put out a post about “Flings”: short, 2-to-4 session campaigns with a strong theme, clear goal, and a way to expand them into a full campaign if the players really liked it. Example:
1. A elritch alien warship, pride of a degenerate alien empire, has been struck by a vast void beast mid void-warp, and crashed back into real space, now warped and crippled, the alien crew dying and maddened from the ruptured void shields, and is now in a decaying orbit towards a blackhole.
You and your fellow players have broken free of your containment and search desperately for escape among the cruel amusements , maddened guards, and fiendish security systems
You are: captives used as the payload on psychic cannons, genetically engineered geisha, P.O.W, malfunctioning robots, pragmatic alien serfs
The Aim: Get to an escape pod with enough supplies to make the characters future lives comfortable
The Default: You all are crushed beyond all understandings of the term crushed
The Over-achiever: You get the ship going and start your own LEXX-life
Over on WizardThiefFighter, Luka Rejec (author of Ultraviolet Grasslands) has been wondering, “What if every roleplaying product tried to be useful and accessible to every player at the table?”
An adventure module might skip the read out loud text and provide location descriptions, rumor tables, equipment, encounter tables, and more directly to the protagonists.
A bestiary might include useful materials and mechanics for heroes (recipes, steeds) and narrators (myths, story seeds,) and referees (combat mechanics).
It ties in with Luka’s theory of Roleplaytime, which is a framework I like quite a bit.
At Monster and Manuals, David McGrogan (author of the seminal OSR setting Yoon-Suin, review here) talks about his highly transparent style of DMing, where dice are rolled in the open, rulings are discussed with the party, and the DM is much more on the same plane as the players rather than being an unquestionable black box. But David also points out that:
By making things partially non-immersive through putting the mechanics in the open, the 'feel' is more arch - one is tempted to say Vancian - and there is much less temptation to get carried away with trying to make up a story and start fudging. In this sense it is a bit like postmodern architecture - rather than hide the plumbing, wiring and so on, it's made into a centrepiece.
I’ve been reading Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories recently, and this struck me as exactly right. The enjoyment you get from these stories is not drawn from sympathy for the characters, but from watching clever, amoral tricksters scheme their way out of deadly circumstances (or not). Transparent mechanics put you at enough of a distance that you fall more easily into that headspace.
This however IS the only adventure you ever need. You could run a party through this for YEARS, with more than enough information present to riff on. A perfect OD&D product, with whimsy and wonder without going off in to Funhouse territory.
If you’ve been reading Bryce Lynch’s reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that this is incredibly high praise. Bryce is one of the best adventure reviewers, and he’s brutal and exacting in what he requires from an adventure for it to be good.
Zine Quest is in full swing! Over at Mazirian’s Garden, Ben Laurence presents tutorials for a number of different techniques for making your own RPG zines. Ben’s series Through Ultan’s Door (review here) is one of the most lushly produced zines I’ve ever seen, so he knows what he’s talking about.
The blog Sword of Mass Destruction came out of nowhere with one of the best blog posts on Clerics and religion that I’ve ever read. Part 1 here, Part 2 here. The author has a background in religious studies, and it’s great to see that expertise being used to critique the way that fantasy RPGs make pantheons.
Zzarchov Kowolski posted a fantastic insight to his Patreon recently. Basically, the reason that so many old school rules seems so weird is because everyone is playing with a house rule that they think is a real rule: the notion that you only get one PC at a time. I posted about this on twitter, and @blackdragoncan and @JCiarfuglia pointed out that having multiple PCs is explicitly allowed in both AD&D and Moldvay Basic D&D.
Meanwhile, on YouTube…
Did you know that Jon Peterson (author of Playing at the World) has a YouTube channel? He’s just posted his second video about how to identify dice from the 70s, which is exactly the kind of absurdly specific research that I expect from him. His whole channel is great if you’re interested in the history of the hobby.
The Mud and Blood podcast recently did an interview with Sean McCoy on his smash-hit scifi horror game Mothership (review here). The episode is interesting both because the Mud and Blood crew have only recently begun exploring the OSR, and because Sean is so good at explaining what it is that makes that style of play fun. Lots of great insights into game design and how to make a product that people will want to use.
The Appendix N Book Club podcast recently did an interview with Michael Moorcock, who is (I think) the last living Appendix N author. Lots of great insights into Moorcock’s life and the world of Elric of Melnibone.
The gg no re podcast, which covers a lot of OSR material, has an ongoing series called Dear Gary where they answer questions from listeners. It’s a fun group and one of the only podcasts with live plays that I enjoy.
Elsewhere in hobby gaming…
If you want to see what the Warhammer equivalent of artpunk OSR, check out the magazine “28.” Issue 2 just landed! Packed with gorgeous illustrations, heavily converted miniatures, interviews with giants of fantasy art like Ian Miller…it’s probably the best ongoing publication in hobby games.
What’s new at Questing Beast?
The Labyrinth Adventure Game is out! Sales have been brisk, so if it gets sold out at Amazon I would either wait a day (they seem to restock pretty frequently) or check your local game store.
My Zine Quest project, The Waking of Willowby Hall, wrapped up very successfully! There will eventually be print and PDF copies available for those who missed the campaign. And if you’re a fan of body horror, check out my brother Nick’s delightfully gross Zine Quest project, Madam Maze’s Cabaret of Carrion Delights!
On the Questing Beast channel, recent videos include interviews with Sam Mameli and Matt Finch, a review of The City of Great Lunden, and a look at common adventure design problems found in the Wendy’s RPG.
Over at the Questing Beast Patreon, I’ve released the latest version of Maze Knights, my follow-up to Maze Rats. I’m taking it in some interesting (at least to me) design directions, including having each player control several simple PCs at once. I played in a funnel session of Barbarians of the Ruined Earth at the last GenCon, and the crazy tactics I could pull off while controlling several characters left me wondering why more games aren’t built around that.
That’s all for now! See you in Issue #2!