I could go on and on about this thing. An excellent curse/geas provided by the God Of Swords (who can do a wish for you …), the fetal duckling horror that emerges from the giant duck egg. (Of course that’s what happens! OF COURSE! And that’s the sign of a good encounter, when everyone says “OF COURSE!”) VTT maps provided, a very god intro summary of what’s going on. This thing is is ready to go.
The designer has a knack for using the right words to really make you excited about running the game. The writing immediately makes you understand what is going on and gets you going to run it. That’s a special gift, and, I think, the absolute hardest skill to learn in adventure writing. And the designer does this over and over and over again, in every paragraph.
AROS is the rare sort of adventure that I would not only consider running, but that I would consider running by the book. Rarer still, AROS’ roguelite elements and its full embrace of the positives of metagaming result in it being an adventure that benefits from repeated games, even with the same group.
Geek Gamers does a flip-through review of the multiple Ennie Award-winning book Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Adventure Game (which I worked on). She looks in particular at how to mine aspects of the book for solo roleplayers.
Imagine Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe got together and wrote a fantasy setting inspired by ancient Sumer or Assyria, but somehow managed to do so in the 1920s. And imagine that they had done this with the foreknowledge of that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Shaka, When the Walls Fell". Then imagine that Jorge Luis Borges edited what they had done and added some of his own thoughts. Then imagine they gave it to Edgar Rice Burroughs to write a series of novels set there.
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New and Upcoming Books
L.F. OSR has designed a limited print edition of my Creative Commons ruleset Knave. Get them while they last!
Monsters and Manuals gives an update on his long-gestating setting Behind Gently Smiling Jaws, which takes place in the memory of an immortal crocodile.
A Thousand Thousand Islands announces the upcoming adventure Reach of the Roach God, which includes a frame for a whole campaign.
Into the Odd is getting a deluxe, remastered version from Free League.
Vulgar is an automated language generator that includes phonology, grammar, vocabulary a lots more.
From Sheep and Sorcery: 1d20 Strange Destinations Beyond the Magic Door.
Zuldroom: The City of the Worm. Hideous metal walls like mounds of gibbering alien flesh suddenly frozen into iron. Flesh Golems patrol the streets. Everyone is lacking different organs. The howl of a train whistle. The stench of meat gardens. Honeycombed red mesas stretch out endlessly beyond towering walls.
Goblin Punch describes the origin of Gelatinous Cubes.
The Mad Queens Court creates a setting in which all kings are cannibals. The more they eat, the larger they grow.
Speaking of Kings, Goodberry Monthly describes an island populated entirely by tyrants.
The Grand Idea was to lower the exit cost for tyrants so that they would increasingly give up their power and go retire in luxury and peace. If the exit costs of tyranny were high, the Order reasoned, then tyrants would cling to their power, forever fearing retribution and betrayal. If they could easily leave when things got dicey, then they would, accelerating peaceful transfers of power.
Political science theorists (and the tyrants themselves) loved this idea. Everyone else hates it.
Rise Up Comus took a Stephen Biesty castle cross-section and turned into a d66 table.
Monsters and Manuals gives some advice on creating interesting settings: continually ask, “What then?”
Spiceomancy proposes that all Dragons are murderhoboes. They see the game world in the same way that players do.
According to a dragon, everyone else is an NPC. You’ll need to demonstrate your own player-ness and buy into their worldview if you expect to be treated as a sapient being. Other dragons are rarely exempt from this scrutiny, although they do acknowledge that if anyone were to be a self-aware actor, it would probably be someone who looks like them.
Numbers Aren’t Real presents another Black Auction catalog, listing 13 more terrifying artifacts available for bidding.
22 more three word swords from Archons March On.
BEHOLD BESTOW BEHAVE: A platinum-edged paramerion. Its blade is etched with the names of all its wielder's ancestors with exquisite caligraphy. A chorus cries out in joy when it's drawn. If you are entirely unharmed and unblemished while wielding the sword, you become surrounded by an aura of majesty. Those with hostile intent must test morale to so much as meet your eyes. Royalty will treat with you as an equal. If you are hurt or dirtied while wielding the sword this effect inverts. All reaction rolls are downgraded a step, you are attacked preferentially in combat, and in civilized society treated about on par with an improbably flatulent leper. This curse lasts until you wash the sword with an expensive bottle of wine.
I Cast Light asks Jennell Jaquays about how the influential dungeon design techniques used in Caverns of Thracia and The Dark Tower came about.
The Vintage RPG Podcast interviews legendary D&D artist Erol Otus.
The Small Village Podcast interviews Zzarchov Kowolski (Neoclassical Geek Revival).
Theory and Advice
Spriggan’s Den does a great job putting into words why exploration in old-school games works: the inherent tension between the need to move both quickly and carefully.
The Alexandrian discusses how to deal with players who aren’t proactive.
Grumpy Wizard has another reason to avoid creating plots for your players to act out: writing good stories is very difficult, even for professional writers.
When you play a tabletop role-playing game; treat it like a game and you might get a decent story. If you try to make the game about “your” story, what you are likely to get is a bad game and a bad story.
At Grognardia, James looks at the advantages of long-term play as well as the benefits of players controlling multiple PC scattered around the campaign world.
Matt Colville discusses the concept of “Rulings, Not Rules” (although he doesn’t seem to be aware of its OSR origins) and how one of the main jobs of rules is to provide a common language for players.
Vincent Baker discusses why he rejects the concepts of RPG Exceptionalism and RPG Essentialism.
The act of roleplaying — like, pretending to be someone — is widespread in games, not special to ttrpgs. It’s a technique that games can include, each game for its own purposes, just the same as it might include skill, endurance, memory, pattern recognition, storytelling, randomization, sorting, patience, or anything else.
Gus at All Dead Generations has some criticisms of the Five Room Dungeon and why it’s not well suited for classic play.
Nate Treme walks through how he creates an RPG zine.
Alone in the Labyrinth has a post on running HUD-less RPG.
It’s the ten-year anniversary of Patrick Stuart’s blog, False Machine. He does a retrospective here, highlighting prominent posts from each year.
Dungeoncraft and Runehammer tour the Frank Frazetta museum.
The Awesome Lies blog has a post on the history of gamebooks, like Fighting Fantasy or Choose Your Own Adventure novels.
Welcome to the Deathtrap looks at the evolution of information design in D&D books.
Luke Gearing replaces all XP and levels with a simple boasting system.
Rise Up Comus has a system for “Bidding Lore” when a player wants to know if their PC knows something.
Trilemma Adventures has a great Mosaic Strict procedure for generating paths through map regions.
Miscellaneous Non-RPG Links of Note
PatricianTV has an eight-hour retrospective on the world of Morrowind, one of the most creative fantasy worlds built for videogames.
Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic blog explains Games Workshop’s latest attack on the hobbyists who promote its products and how someone exploited IP law to copyright a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards.
A short documentary by Cutscenes interviews Yoshitaka Amano (concept artist for the Final Fantasy games) and Kazuko Shibuya, who translated his paintings into pixel art.
Platformer explains Loot, a decentralized Etherium-based platform that let people collect and sell (for hundreds of thousands of dollars) descriptions of magic items.
At this point I feel it necessary to point out that there are no adventurers in Loot. There is no game in Loot. There are just items, and pictures of those items, and tens of millions of dollars betting that it will all somehow turn into something much more. As one tweet put it: “Loot is NFT improv.”
Now the question is whether Loot will somehow evolve backwards from a set of in-game items to an actual, playable experience. If so, who will develop it? And how? For the moment, no one really knows.
Rhystic Studies examines the history and implementation of Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, the M:TG card with the longest name.
That’s it for this issue! If you enjoy thus newsletter and want to support it, head on over to my Patreon, where you can get benefits like access to the secret Questing Beast discord channel and early viewing of my videos.