Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Sequence of Deel

High in the hills is a village plagued by nighttime poisonings. Victims claim there is a crone who comes creeping in through windows and chimneys to smother and sting them, though none has seen her in the day. If she exists, she is but one part of the sequence of Deel.
PDF Link: Sequence of Deel
Finally, I'm back to adventure-making! I wrote this adventure to explore my setting's vampires, which feature in the compendium bestiary despite only the briefest of mentions in the Task of Zeichus.

This probably won't arrive in your inbox in time to use for Hallowe'en, but I think the crone is a delightfully creepy way to hook players into a relatively classic dungeon with a twist.. or should I say a tilt.


If you enjoy short-form adventures like this, there's a compendium of 48 of them up on DTRPG!

As always, thank you to my generous Patrons, whose donations mean that the text and map art for this adventure are free for you to use non-commercially under CC-BY-NC 4.0.

Happy hacking, and close your windows tightly!

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Compatible with Dungeons & Dragons

This blog post is compatible with Dungeons & Dragons™ fifth edition. :)

* * *

I'm now in the world of feeling my way through creating various system-specific versions of the Trilemma bestiary, en route to publishing them.

My thought at this point is that there is a lot of murky thinking about what you can and can't publish, and this murkiness is a) deliberately created, and b) mostly helps the big players, like WOTC.

I'm not a lawyer, but this is what I've been able to piece together.

1. Large IP holders want you to believe that their official programs are the only way to produce compatible products

If you want to make a D&D-compatible product, prevailing wisdom is that you have two choices: use the OGL, or use the DMs Guild. (Why is there no apostrophe in that?)

I can understand why the WOTCs of the world would want you to think this. People have a very hazy grasp on copyright law and trademark law, and if they just used their intuition all sorts of IP violations would occur. There's a very common idea, for example, that derivative works are fine to create and publish if you're not making money on them. (They're not.)

Official programs are a way of being really clear about what the IP holder is willing to allow people to do.

2. Licensing agreements describe an exchange

Licensing agreements give you something in exchange for something. For example, if you look at Paizo's compatibility license, it describes an exchange between you and Paizo:

  • You can use Paizo's trademarked "Pathfinder compatible" logo, and the associated font in your products
  • Paizo gets your agreement that you'll only make 2e-compatible stuff, they get a copy of compatible products from you, and you agree not to refer to page numbers in their books.
Both of these things are new rights that each party didn't have previously. You didn't previously have permission to use Pathfinder's trademarked logo, and (of course) Paizo can't prevent random people from referring to Paizo page numbers.


Briefly, I've noticed a few things are common in licensing agreements:

  • You're given permission to use copyrighted text (as in the OGL)
  • You're given permission to use trademark logos
  • You're given permission to use trade dress, fonts, or stylings
The D&D 5e SRD, for example, is licensed under the OGL (which grants permission to use copyrighted text) because they expect people to take chunks of that text and use it their publications. It gives the new right to republish copyrighted material.

3. Creating a licensing program doesn't remove any rights that you already had

This seems like a straight forward idea, but it's worth dwelling on.

Let's say WOTC created a new program called the Reviewing Wizards program. By agreeing to their license, you're allowed to call yourself a Review Wizard™ and use a special little -(RW)- logo when you do so, and in return you agree never to publish a negative review of a WOTC product. Fine.

Is this the only circumstances that you're allowed to publish reviews of WOTC products? No, of course not! WOTC creating this program doesn't suddenly give them control over all negative reviews. It only applies to participants in the Reviewing Wizards program.

If I'm publishing negative reviews of WOTC products, I can't use the Review Wizard™ trademark, because I didn't license it, but if I don't join that program and take the new rights it grants me, I don't have to abide by its restrictions. I can still do what I could do before.

So.. what can I do without permission?

4. Fair use of trademarks

Before I get into that, there's a difference between compatibility and statements about compatibility:

  • A book with 5e stats in it is (in a lay sense) compatible (usable) with 5e.
  • A book that says it's "compatible with Dungeons & Dragons™" on the cover is using a WOTC trademark to describe itself.

These are independent things. Okay, back to trademarks.

The International Trademark Association's page on the fair use of trademarks is fascinating, because you can actually do quite a lot more than you might expect. The examples are useful, because there's a whole bunch of, "Oh yeah.." recognition moments. Think of:

  • Third-party replacement blades for Gillette™ razors
  • Repair shops that advertise being able to fix BMW™ cars
  • Third-party sellers of iPhone™ 6 phone cases or chargers
  • Unofficial guides to AAA video games
All of these are services or products that are compatible, but which also use another company's trademarked terms to describe themselves.


* * *

Why does all this matter? Frankly, because some of the popular licensing programs out there are batshit insane. So now, let me put on my Review Wizard™ hat and review some licensing programs.


Legal Lunacy: OBS Community Programs

The DMs Guild (why is there no apostrophe?) was the template for a number of OBS (DriveThruRPG) community content programs, and to use them, you give up some remarkable things:
  • You can never publish the work anywhere else—not in print, not via Kickstarter, not on itch.io, not on your blog, not anywhere. If they delist your product or the whole community content program shuts down, your content is then simply unpublishable.
  • You can't publish works derived from it anywhere else, either.
  • The publisher gets a permanent, irrevocable right to republish your work, including creating and selling derivative works. They can translate it, slice and dice it and put it in compilations, without paying you a dime or even telling you.
  • OBS can sign legal documents on your behalf, operating as your 'attorney-in-fact' if they need new contracts to clarify or affirm their rights, as they see them.
That last one is so mind-bendingly overreaching that it's comical. You're giving them permission to negotiate for you, with themselves. It's like the devil wrote it.

As far as I can tell, the only reason to use this is if you're so smitten by the D&D brand that you want to rub that cachet on yourself, and/or blow hundreds of hours of hard work on a desperate notice me sempai play.

If you're going to market the hell out of your product (or cash in on your good name), then it makes a kind of sense: the median DMs Guild product makes 10% more revenue than the median DriveThruRPG product (sales are higher, but the WOTC clawback is almost aggressive enough to make up for it), but at the cost of giving away all rights that matter.

Alternately, if you have no marketing impulse whatsoever all and 50 sales sounds good to you, then these programs makes a kind of sense because at least you can play with WOTC IP while you're doing it.

For non-WOTC publishers who are too small to boost your sales or give you much IP to play with, I can't fathom why you'd touch an OBS community content program. This is the infectious green slime of licensing programs.

OGL

This is a funny one. As far as I can tell, the only reason you need to use the OGL is to republish OGC content. If your content is all new, there's no need to use the OGL whatsoever—in fact, you're explicitly giving up some fair use rights unnecessarily, since the OGL prohibits you from using Product Identity trademarks to declare compatibility.

In other words, if you reuse 5e SRD to make a 5E-compatible product, you're explicitly giving up the right to say it's D&D compatible.

If you're not actually republishing someone's OGC material, using the OGL looks like you've given up some rights for nothing.

Pathfinder Compatibility

In contrast, this actually looks pretty reasonable. You're forced to use the Paizo OGL, but the compatibility license gets rid of OGL's major restriction on the fair use of trademarks for compatibility statements, by letting you use their Paizo Compatible™ logo.

Also, it should be worth mentioning that Paizo doesn't take a cut. They haven't created a garden prison like WOTC, they just want to make sure that people are writing for the latest edition of Pathfinder.

* * *
D&D™ Compatible
In conclusion, contrary to popular wisdom, D&D™-compatible products which say, Compatible with D&D™ on the cover seem to be completely legal. As long as:
  • You're not using any WOTC-copyrighted content that would require you to use the OGL
  • You use the trade marks in a minimal way (e.g. no giant logo reuse, just naming them)
  • No brand confusion is created, and no business relationship or endorsement is implied

Pay To Win

The sad fact is that, despite all this, having a heavyweight legal team lets you send scary-sounding cease-and-desist letters, and fighting them is too stressful and expensive for little publishers. Most (all?) of the fair use of trademarks examples I cited above were established by litigation, which is horrendously expensive.

One depressing but useful benefit of participating in an official license scheme is as a declaration of what the publisher won't try to bully you for doing.

      Sunday, 6 October 2019

      13 Items of Equipment

      A week ago, I asked folks on Twitter to evoke a setting using only a 13-item equipment lists. They have done so!


      Now I need your help. Which one do you like best? Here's what I was hoping for:


      1. Vivid: Looking over the list transports me to another time and place. It's so vivid I can almost smell it.
      2. Charged: I can feel the hopes, dreams and fears of whoever's gear this is. This is a gear list for doing things.
      3. Flexible: I could equip several different characters from this list, each of whom would be strongly drawn and distinct from one another.
      4. Distinct: The setting is an interesting take, distinct from clear genre buckets like 'fantasy' or 'sci-fi'.
      5. Subtle: The list evokes the setting through through the cumulative effect of the entries, rather than using exposition in item descriptions.

      Read the entries, then vote on your favorites by liking the tweets!

      Wednesday, 25 September 2019

      Compendium PDF Available

      Did you miss the Kickstarter? It's not too late! The Trilemma Adventures Compendium Vol I is now available in PDF on DriveThruRPG.


      The book contains 48 Trilemma Adventures, from Stellarium of the Vinteralf to The Mouth of Spring. Each one has been reformatted, re-edited, and in some cases extensively rewritten, re-illustrated or expanded.

      Also inside are 70 pages of new material:
      • an illustrated bestiary with 97 denizens of the adventures
      • an appendix of 86 rarities & magical items
      • ten solid pages of hooks, rumors and secrets
      • 6 regional gazetteers tying the adventure locations into a ready-to-use campaign setting
      • a full-color regional map, in GM and player versions
      • a complete index of places, people, cults, sorcerers, demigods, and more
      • 6 pages of lore revealing the origins of the Martoi, the Seree, and more
      • a bonus adventure, Into the Silent Temple, set in the aftermath of the Kickstarter invasion scenario

      Tuesday, 28 May 2019

      Compendium: 48 Hours Left

      We're now in the final 48 hours of the compendium Kickstarter campaign. This is your last chance to sign up for the limited edition hardcover book.

      Generous backers ripped through all of the stretch goals I put down, over and over again. We now have only one left: the map pack PDF.



      This means the book now contains 48 remastered adventures, settlements and wilderness regions, an illustrated bestiary, a history appendix, a detailed index, a full-color campaign map, a bonus adventure, and (as of now) 5 additional wilderness regions. Phew!

      On top of that, three supplementary bestiary PDFs each add stats for Dungeon World, B/X, and 5e!

      Time is running out..

      So if you want in before time runs out, hop over to the Kickstarter!

      Wednesday, 22 May 2019

      Compendium Offset Print Run

      The Trilemma Adventures Compendium will now be manufactured by an offset print run.



      Ever since I conceived of this book, I've been on a knife's edge about how to get it printed. I explored both options carefully. Ultimately, I decided to follow Kevin Crawford's advice: if you're a one-person RPG writer, you win by writing, not by trying to be a publisher, wrestling with distribution and inventory management with no economy of scale.

      For that reason I chose DriveThruRPG as my fulfilment option. As a Canadian with most buyers of my buyers in the US, trying to figure out cross-border (and international!) distribution for 200 copies of my book made no sense.

      DTRPG makes a solid book (especially in the premium colour version that I've selected), and distribution is one-step easy. Obvious.

      What's Changed?

      With the incredible amount of support I've received from backers, however, things look very different now. We hit 200 hardcover copies on the first day! If things stay on track, it could easily be 800 by the time we're done. This completely changes the situation.

      It means that an offset print run is now a completely practical approach for delivering this book, and it will be a better book for it.

      Eight days remain!

      Monday, 20 May 2019

      5e Stats for Trilemma Adventures



      Over on the Kickstarter, first we unlocked B/X stats, then we unlocked Dungeon World stats. Now it's time for the big one:

      Fifth edition.

      Do you love 5e? Do you know Dungeon Masters who do?  If so, please help spread the word, so we can rip the lid right off this thing and unlock everything.

      * * *

      If you're joining the battle late and you've missed the play-by-post action, you can catch up here!

      Here are all five of the comic updates:

      #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      ..and here is the complete map of the fortress—at least, the bits that the axewives are aware of so far.


      Wednesday, 15 May 2019

      Compendium Kickstarter News

      We've now reached the mid-way point of the Kickstarter campaign for the compendium. The fifth battle update went out this morning, showing the beginning of the Dradkin counter-attack plan.



      It's very bad news for the axewives of Grinvolt.

      On the 'book' front, layout is progressing very well, and I'm starting to fill in the spots I'd marked off for extra illustrations. You can see one here, down at the bottom of The Mermaids' Knot.



      Here's a detail WIP image of a Priestess of Suvuvena, greeting the adventurers. This one is by Juan Ochoa, who contributed the awesome Heelan warrior for Lair of the Lantern Worm! I saw the sketch of the whole image and I can't wait to see the whole thing.



      On May 30, the gate closes for good, and anyone not inside gets turned into chirpers. Any help you can offer, spreading the word to people you think would enjoy this compilation is much appreciated!

      Thursday, 9 May 2019

      $45k Kickstarter Unlock

      Things have been busy over on the Kickstarter. A surge of people pushed it up to $45,000 by today (day 8), and as I write there are 997 backers.. three short of a thousand people. (?!)

      The stretch goal that was unlocked today was a second gazetteer entry, this time for the south coast. Here, along a strip of rocky coastline are the ancestral lands of Grinvolt, stretching from the labyrinthine High Uttvelt all the way to slumbering Tealwood. In this entry: the hallowed stacks of Millvale, the speakers of the Talking Wood, and the crawling ghosts of Halet Girm!

      This means the book is now:
      • 48 adventures
      • A bestiary of 90+ monsters, with OSR stats in a companion PDF
      • A regional hex map
      • Four pages of regional gazetteer entries
      • A history appendix on the cultures, Seree magic, and the nature of the underworld
      The play-by-post mass battle against the Dradkin also took a surprising turn! The axewives picked a startling strategy to deal with a hideous monster:


      If you'd like to join in, please do!

      Thursday, 2 May 2019

      Smashing Stretch Goals

      The last 24 hours have been remarkable, smashing through six stretch goals. A bunch of people weighed in with their tactics for preparing for the battle.. and now it unfolds.


      If you feel like joining the battle, please do!

      Wednesday, 1 May 2019

      Trilemma Kickstarter is LIVE


      The wait is over, the horn has sounded! Grinvolt axewives are now pouring down the stairs to the Dradkin fortress. Who knows how far they will get, or what awaits them in the darkness?

      The Trilemma Adventures Compendium is now live on Kickstarter!

      What's in the Book?


      • 48 two-page adventures lovingly illustrated with isometric maps
      • Remastered for glorious landscape, revised and re-edited
      • Ten of the adventures get full-page expansions!
      • A detailed index of people, places, gods, and monsters
      • Adventure summaries for speedy selection on game night
      • Up to 45 pages of stretch goal content! (If we get there..)

      For all the details, click through to the Kickstarter page! Grinvolt needs you!

      Sunday, 28 April 2019

      Kickstarter Videos & Marketing

      A long time ago, I decided to make my adventure PDFs free. I believed that my content would do a better job at marketing itself than I could trying to sell people on something they couldn't see.

      (If you just wanna see the videos, scroll down to the bottom!)

      Running a Kickstarter challenges this approach. There's a defined funding period, and I need to get interested parties to the Kickstarter page within that period. Not before, and not after! This means actual marketing. Uh oh!

      Thanks to the workspace I'm sitting in these days, I'm getting some quick 'n' dirty mentoring in marketing. Yay serendipity!

      This has helped me understand that I need very different messages for different groups of people, which is a challenge with my limited manpower! I'd rather be drawing or writing. Surely you'd rather I was drawing or writing too!

      Different Dice for Different Mice

      For people who already know what I do (maybe you've downloaded, maybe played, or even supported me on Patreon), the message is, "It's happening now," and "tell your friends."

      Beyond this, there's a halo of people who kinda know what I'm doing, and may not know whether it's applicable to them. They might have seen my stuff or even played one at a con, but don't remember my name or my blog name. Or maybe they saw one but don't realize how big the collection is. Maybe they saw multiple pieces and didn't realize they were by the same person. (Branding fail.)

      For this group, the message has to start earlier in the awareness process. Yep, this is me, this is where you get them, and by the way.. now.

      Then there's are people who haven't heard of me, but would love my content. Maybe they weren't on G+ (my main stomping ground, may it rest in peace). This group needs awareness building, which is apparently time-consuming and expensive.

      In a way, I suppose you could view the last five years as exactly this sort of awareness building, a crazily slow word-of-mouth campaign for this book. In any case, it's a bit late to be energetically targeting this group at this point in time.

      Even so, I want to make sure that any messages they do see still work for them.

      The Call-to-Action Hydra

      The other complexity is the "call to action." Apparently, unless you're doing long-term brand awareness, marketing messaging needs to urge you to do something. The trick is, that something changes based on who I'm talking to and when I'm talking to them.

      I can put out a video spreading awareness of the Kickstarter before it starts, but unless people have a way of book marking their intention to become backers, it's easy to miss a 30-day window. That mechanism varies from place to place.

      Liking a Facebook page, following on Twitter, subscribe to my notification mailing list, add this to your blog roll, visit the Kickstarter page. All of these are different messages. That's not too bad in text, but it's way more labour intensive for video content.

      Add to all of this that I can't even send people to the Kickstarter page before it launches; there's nothing for them to do. That means on launch day, all my messaging needs to change. Fun times!

      Video Punchline

      Anyways, here's the punchline to all of this: two slightly different videos, one meant for pre-launch sharing, and another that sits on the Kickstarter page itself.

      I'm curious if you think they do the job - communicating what I'm doing, when, while engaging people who already know what I'm all about. Suitable for a possibly wide audience (in case I get a lot of reshares), but not so slick ad advertising-like that they alienate people who've been supporting me for a long time.

      Here's video one, the "pre-launch" video:


      Here's the video that gets embedded in the Kickstarter page itself. It's exactly the same for the first 90 seconds, but then has a different ending. (I obviously don't want to send people who are watching this on Kickstarter over to trilemma.com! Although the video might get shared outside of KS.. so I can't even take that for granted!)


      If any of this works and the Kickstarter is a success, when the dust has cleared I'll have to draw up my "communication map" that shows how it all fits together.

      b.r.b. drawing a communication map

      Wednesday, 24 April 2019

      Kickstarter Assault: The Stairs

      We're now in the one-week countdown for the Trilemma Adventures Compendium Kickstarter! During the campaign, I'll be running a dungeon assault scenario, where backers help direct the forces.

      As we count down the final seven days until launch, I'll be answering questions about the scenario, and using your input to direct Grinvolt's preparations.

      Preparations Begun

      Four preparations have begun so far:

      1. Quarter-Lord Counobel, commander of the Grinvolt garrison occupying the upper level of the Sun Temple, has sent word in three directions for reinforcements to join the attack.

      2. At Eamon's suggestion, , has started spreading false rumors word in Dust Town that he intends to abandon the garrison, in the hopes of misleading Dradkin spies.

      3. Over on MeWe, Thaddeus Moore directed several men-at-arms to gather great quantities of oily leaves and to make great, two-handed fans, in case a huge smoky fire was needed.

      4. Gathana, flametender and the garrison's priestess of Panur has decided to spend all of her time preparing a ritual of blinding light, which the Grinvolt axewives believe hurt Dradkin eyes.

      What Is Known

      Yesterday I got a question about Dradkin tactics, based on what Quarter-Lord Counobel observed during the battle.


      Today's question is about the staircase down to the Dradkin fortress. Here's what is known about those:

      1. The spiral stair down to the fortress is long, at least 200 steps.

      2. They are large, wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. It's definitely wide enough for a boulder. (There are plenty outside that could be fetched, and hewn into a round-enough shape to be rolled down.)

      3. In the chaos of victory six years ago, three axewives descended on their own; they found a cavernous gallery, spanned by some sort of bridge. Only one returned, the other two were cut down by arrows, but their small lamp wasn't bright enough to illuminate the large chamber.

      4. Some axewives wanted to attack downwards, but Counobel ordered a halt. He argued that their task was to stop the raids, and the stairs were easy to defend. The Dradkin would soon be starved down in their claustrophobic mine!

      5. This was soon revealed as a false hope. The Dradkin showed no sign of surrender; the occasional breeze on the stairs suggested there are other ways out. (Though none have been found in the surrounding area.)

      6. Counobel maintains a guard post at the top. They keep a cauldron of hot oil on a bed of coals, with orders to pour it down if the Dradkin attack in force. At first the guards were in pairs, but as the Grinvolt numbers have dwindled, the duty is now a lonely one.

      7. It is common for the guards to report the sounds of Dradkin far below; occasional shouts, metal-on-stone clanking.

      8. The rumor among the camp followers in Dust Town is that some of the axewives have been bribed by the Dradkin for information, and may even have allowed spies. Counobel has dismissed this as unthinkable, but weird gems continue to show up in circulation. The story is always that yet another cache has been found behind the limestone wall panels.

      Monday, 22 April 2019

      Taking the Sun Temple

      Spwack asked a great question in the comments.

      "Has Counobel learnt anything about dradkin tactics from the first assault? Perhaps that might influence the final push to the last fortress."


      That's an excellent question! Here's what Counobel knows about Dradkin tactics:

      1. Dradkin don't seem to like daylight; raids on Grinvolt farms were always at night, and no scouts have been encountered in the day (though they may have been hiding).

      2. The approach to the Sun Temple itself was unimpeded. The entrance faces west, and the entry chamber lights up spectacularly at sunset. Gathana believes the Dradkin both revere and fear the blinding sun and the surface world in general.

      3. The upper level of the Sun Temple seems to be primarily a place of worship. Despite the raids they had launched on the surface from this complex, there were almost no warrior-caste Dradkin present at the time of the attack.

      4. The idea that there is a fortress below came from the few surviving/captured Dradkin. As described, the purpose of the fortress was to prevent attack from below, not from the surface. (The Dradkin view the complex as a sort of mountaintop monastery, a 'high altitude' place from their perspective.)

      5. The first Grinvolt casualties fell in the round chamber. They were ignored in the first moments of the assault, but when they were checked later, they had no visible wounds, but their skin was crusted with salt. Common belief is they were stricken by a curse, but the warriors don't like to talk about it.

      6. The area that is now a barracks was occupied by half-starved Dradkin, who put up little resistance. The area was either a prison, monastic cells for penitents, or some combination of the two. Wall engravings imply that surviving on scarce food is a moral virtue among Dradkin.

      7. "Dust Town" (apparently a mine) was fully equipped with tools for digging through the loose, gravelly coprolith, but it seems to have been inactive at the time of the attack.

      8. The Dradkin put up a good fight in the Night Temple, owing to the twisty entrance. The score of Dradkin there were armed only with knives and long sticks, (and no armor over their leather garments), but they used the choke point effectively, barricading it with a stone pew.

      After a five-minute stalemate of violent shoving and stabbing, the Dradkin allowed a small number of Grinvolt axewives to slip into the chamber, only to topple a second stone pew in front of the entrance. The exhausted axewives were killed before the rest of the attackers could dislodge the barricade.

      Once that happened, the Dradkin line broke and they were cut down both there, and in what are now Gathana's workrooms.

      9. The most difficult fight was in the segmented hallway leading to stairs downward, against a group of eleven Dradkin, apparently heavy infantry trained in close-ranked fighting.

      The Dradkin infantry had what later became known as tomb shields: heavy tower shields with a low step for the user to obtain a small height advantage. The Dradkin blocked the corridor with a fan of tomb shields, trying to buy time for a small number of reinforcements to arrive from below.

      Grinvolt had little experience with close-ranked siege fighting, being more used to intra-clan warfare involving longboat raids: loose-formation fights and ambushes with spear, axe, and sling. They were unprepared for the wall of tomb shields, and retreated when the Dradkin second rank opened up with heavy crossbows.

      In an apparent tactical mistake, the Dradkin pursued, abandoning their shields. Counobel believes the Dradkin did this because they didn't realize there were so many enemies present in the complex, and thought they had routed a small group of raiders.

      The Dradkin infantry made it to the central chamber, but immediately found themselves flanked by axewives coming south from the Night Temple (where the fighting was now done). They made a stand there, and killed 6 axewives before they were themselves killed.

      10. Dradkin infantry wear scale-like armor made from chips of bone and metal, sewn onto a three-layered leather vest. (Dradkin seem to use no woven cloth.) The armor is tied on from the back with leather ties, and several of the Dradkin' vests were not tied in their haste to ascend the long stair and retake the Sun Temple.

      They were armed with short, spear-like weapons, only a pace and a half long: a wide, stabbing blade affixed to long, bone handle.

      11. Tomb shields are as tall as a man, but only a pace in width, and notched to interlock with other shields on either side. They are made of layers of tough fungus, matted together with pitch or resin. Axes cut into them easily, but are likely to get stuck.

      Gathana said that the runes on the exterior of the shields were cursed, and would entomb the souls of any who died in front of them (hence the name). She transcribed the runes, then ordered them all burned outside.

      Sunday, 21 April 2019

      Kickstarter Scenario: Assault

      As I mentioned, I'm Kickstarting a compendium of my adventures on May 1. I thought we'd have a little fun while it's running: an all-out assault on a dradkin fortress. We'll resolve it during the campaign, a crowd-sourced dungeon battle!

      The Scenario

      In a Patron-only adventure, "A Clutch of Shadows," I laid out the scenario of a garrison of Grinvolt axewives and men-at-arms, occupying an underground Dradkin 'sun temple'.

      The temple is a gateway to the underworld, and has been the source of raids on Grinvolt lands for decades. In a rare display of cohesion, the Grinvolt clans came together to assault it. They surprised the Dradkin, and although they lost many brave warriors, they managed to seize the upper level of the complex.

      For the six years since the original attack, Quarter-Lord Counobel has kept a precarious grip on the complex. The morale of the occupiers has faded, and now with the Sun Temple's treasures carted away, so has foreign interest and the money that it brought. Grinvolt songs don't sound so cheery underground, and the echoes of glory won't bring food to the tables. Many have drifted away, returning to their fishing boats and goat pens.



      Unfortunately, the Dradkin threat is not gone. Leading down from the Sun Temple is a long, narrow stair, leading to a Dradkin fortress—still occupied by the Dradkin. They have spent the years preparing for a counter-attack. Dradkin spies move among the camp fires of dust town, learning the weaknesses of the occupiers.

      Meanwhile other, more horrible preparations are being made below.

      Gathana, garrison's flametender seems lost in her research into Dradkin runes and offers no counsel, but Counobel knows in his bones that the garrison's days are numbered. If it falls, all the lives that were spent securing the Sun Temple will have been for nothing, and Dradkin will once more raid the surface with impunity.

      He makes a fateful plan: he will spend the last of his influence on a summons, calling back every warrior willing to return to the darkness. When they have assembled, they attack the fortress below.

      The Fortress Revealed

      When the Kickstarter launches on May 1, I will describe the opening moments of the attack, and reveal a new isometric map, showing the first chambers of the Dradkin fortress!

      Every time a campaign stretch goal milestone goal is hit, I will reveal another section of the Dradkin fortress, and describe the progress of the battle.

      How the Grinvolt warriors carry out their attack is up to you. During the Kickstarter campaign, I'll be running polls and taking feedback in the comments. What orders does Counobel give? Surface warriors need to use their brains to defeat prepared soldiers of the underworld on their home turf. Six years ago, Grinvolt defeated an unprepared enemy. It won't be as easy this time.

      Adventure Location: Aftermath

      Counobel's attack may succeed, but it could also fail tragically. Either way, if the right stretch goal is hit, I will take the revealed map and write it up as a new adventure location to be included in the compendium.

      The adventure will describe the dradkin fortress in the aftermath of the attack. The battle itself will belong only to those of you involved during the Kickstarter campaign, but whatever happens will leave a legacy for others to explore in play.

      The Forces of Grinvolt

      Right now, it's ten days before the Kickstarter—ten days before Counobel orders the attack. Here is the disposition of the surface forces:

      • Counobel, Quarter-Lord of Grinvolt and commander of the garrison
      • Gathana, flametender and priestess of Panur
      • 18 axewives (one disgraced) and their families
      • 11 men-at-arms, half with families
      As well, about a hundred camp followers live within the complex (most of them in 'Dust Town'). The garrison has been faming the lands surrounding the sun temple. The soil is rocky and ill-suited to the clans' traditional crops, but another hundred non-combatants live outside in a slowly growing.

      Counobel sent out three messengers a month ago:
      • His cousin sailed to Halet Girm with the last of the silver, and is returning with two longboats and 15 men-at-arms.
      • Akum went north into Haverlow, but drank from an ill-fated pond and has lost his senses.
      • Counobel's daughter Rolan went northeast to Grinvolt. She secured oaths from 13 axewives that they would join the attack. She then decided press further. She found none in Slumbering Tealwood, but two days ago she reached the pass at Splitpeak. As I write this, she can smell the smoke from High Kellan.

      (The Sun Temple is in hex 0716, on the south edge of the map.)

      Final Preparations

      With ten days left, what preparations should Counobel command? Will the axes of the Grinvolt warriors be enough, or should they concoct some other scheme for fighting in the cramped tunnels? Should he send a scout down below, or will that risk a counter-attack before he's ready?

      Put your thoughts in the comments!

      Thursday, 4 April 2019

      Compendium Kickstarter: May 1



      UPDATE: WE'RE LIVE ON KICKSTARTER

      All right, the date is set! The Trilemma Adventures Compendium will be Kickstarting on May 1. If you want an email notification when it launches, sign up on the right-hand sidebar.

      The book will contain 48 adventures, regions and settlements, along with a table of contents, adventure summaries (so you can choose quickly), and a full index. (Curious how bad the isopod infestation is? Now you can find out.)

      Everyone who backs (at any level) immediately gets the two-page adventure, Clutch of Shadows, in which a garrison of Grinvolt is trying to hold a captured dradkin Sun Temple. On May 1, I will reveal the first section of the still-occupied fortress, deep below the temple.

      When the Kickstarter campaign begins, so does the assault. Trying to pre-empt a dradkin counter-attack, the assembled warriors of Grinvolt will fight their way down into the fortress. Every backer represents a soldier in the assault, and as the campaign hits milestones, more of the map will be revealed.

      As well as more map, each milestone also unlocks a random stretch goal. The Grinvolt force doesn't know what it's going to find down there, old-school style.

      I'm keeping the campaign low risk - I want to get this thing shipped so I can get back to making adventures. Still, I can't resist putting in a few goodies on the treasure table. If the campaign goes well, the book stands to include things like:

      • A big table of leads and adventure hooks, all pointing to the adventures
      • A new scenario, set in the aftermath of the assault on the dradkin fortress
      • A bestiary, consolidating descriptions of the nearly 100 monsters in the adventures
      • An updated version of the big campaign map, turning the separate adventures into a sandbox
      • Two-page regional gazetteers, in the style of Cleft of Five Worlds, or Roots of Ambition
      If the right milestones are hit, there could also be separate bestiary PDFs with stats for B/X, Dungeon World, or both.

      The book itself is a hardcover from DriveThruRPG, printed in premium color on heavyweight paper. It's a wide book, in fabulous landscape letter - flop it open behind your GM's screen and you're ready to go.

      If you'd like an email when the campaign goes live (or when new adventures are published), you can sign up to the mailing list on the right-hand nav bar over there on the right [waves pretend hands].

      On May 1, we descend!

      Saturday, 16 February 2019

      The Mouth of Spring

      In every town, village, and hamlet are women who have seen beyond fear, who are strong enough to push back winter and bring new life to the lands. Their power comes from beneath an old, stone shrine, half-forgotten by the people of today. What secrets are known to those who dare pass through the mouth of spring?

      The Mouth of Spring is flooded cavern system underneath a quiet shrine. I really wanted to have fun with changing water levels—the caverns are navigable both while empty or while draining, but the logistics are quite different in each case.

      Mouth of Spring PDF
      For those keeping track, the Wives of Spring were first mentioned in back in adventure #33 The Mermaids' Knot, where they had infiltrated the village of Magda to keep tabs on the worrisome cult thriving there. It works just as well with secret organizations of your own, of course!

      * * *

      There are lots of ways to use this adventure in your campaign. One, if your players are already connected to a secret order of some kind and are looking to get involved, you can use the Mouth of Spring as written, as an initiatory journey. This could either be an ordeal that must be endured to prove loyalty and hardiness, or (if your game has clerics or shamans) as an initiation into contact with a divine presence itself.

      If you're running a single-player game, this would make a decent in medias res start for a PC selected by the wives as a candidate, a first adventure of many (if they survive).

      Of course, you can also use it more traditionally, as a dangerous place to plunder. It could also serve as the source of power for an enemy cult, something to be rooted out and cleansed, rather than journeyed through. (Consider zombie selkis!)

      Finally, being tossed into the pool shaft is a decent option for an adventurer found guilty of a serious crime, or otherwise being disposed of by creepy cultists. "Feed them to the Malak!"



      The etchings on the gate are a detailed map. For adventurers who copy it or study it carefully, consider actually handing them a copy of the map image. This will give them some foreshadowing about areas of the caverns that aren't yet revealed, and will give them interesting choices. Do they float down with the receding water levels, or do they wait until the hall of the malaks is dry?

      * * *

      As always, thank you to my patrons for supporting Trilemma Adventures. If you'd like to join them, toss a buck in my subscription tip jar.

      Wednesday, 13 February 2019

      Thank You, Mandy

      With a single post, Mandy Morbid has done more to improve my optimism about the gaming community than any single act I can remember.

      As is overwhelmingly the case when someone abused calls out an abuser with status, influence, and the wherewithal to weaponize them, this will no doubt cause Mandy a great deal of energy, pain, and trouble.

      Please do not be even the smallest part of her problems.


      * * *

      For years, I've been too chicken shit to call out Zak publicly for his awful effects on the online TTRPG community. A jealous, self-obsessed black hole, he pulls people into his orbit and then slowly rips them up. Like a lot of people, apparently, I've been scared of his three-day revenge benders and his heavily footnoted takedowns.

      I've been privately grateful when people close to him put words to what I've felt—notably Patrick Stuart's truly spectacular break-up essay, but dozens of others who I deliberately won't call out here.

      My fear comes from a personal flaw of my own, unrelated to Zak. Because of it, I've been riding the coattails of others who were braver, quietly yissing at the screen whenever they said what I was thinking, sharing it in small, private circles. "See? See!"

      It's not a good look and I'm ashamed of it, but whatever.

      * * *

      Part of why I'm saying this is that Mandy's gift out of the blue has made me realize what all this fear cost me. There are all sorts of good an interesting people that I haven't collaborated with or gotten to know better for fear that Zak was part of their circle.

      As people have lined up to repudiate him, each time it felt like a little weight was lifting. "Oh, you're okay?"

      At some point, I had the obvious realization that my silence has probably had the same effect on others. In fact, I know it has. Because I never said anything, people have had to just guess if my tiny corner of the internet was open to abusers and chucklefucks, or if I would have their back if one showed up. For anyone for whom it really mattered, it wouldn't have been safe to even ask, so you just moved on.

      Me, who has had absolutely nothing tangible to fear this whole time.

      If my silence helped make your world smaller, I'm sorry.

      * * *

      Tomorrow, Zak will supposedly post one of his legendary diatribes to tell us how it really 'went down'. I don't know what it will say, but I can take a reasonable guess at its aim.

      Zak is very clever, and one of the things he is great at is driving a wedge between how you think and how you feel.

      There is a part of each of us that is a total sucker for 'toxic rationality'. Legitimate ideas are supposed to look a certain way, and if you feel bad about them, that's because you're an intellectual weakling indulging your emotional side.

      If you read Zak's post, I want you to bear in mind that you are a staggeringly sophisticated gigaprocessor that weighs millions of inputs every second, and filters them through a lifetime of experiences.

      Your feelings and intuition are a holistic summation of this unimaginably vast work. They are every bit as important as the formal calculations we do (which are so simple in comparison that you could peg them out on a Lite Brite).

      If you read Zak's post, squint a little bit, and you might notice it says something like this:

      1. I am smarter than you.
      2. I am so much smarter than you, you should immediately abandon your embarrassingly stupid ideas, and feel bad about having them.
      3. My feelings are your problem (any action I take to protect them is justified)
      4. Your feelings aren't my problem (even bringing them up is intellectually bankrupt tone policing and probably harassment)
      5. If you disagree with me, there is only one responsible way to go about handling it, and it puts me in the position of maximum leverage. If you don't like that, see point #2.
      If you don't get caught up in debating his points, my guess is you'll be able to perceive these emotional threads in the pit of your stomach. Please listen.

      * * *

      Late last year, I served as a juror on a human trafficking case involving a minor. It took forever, and for all of the pain and suffering involved, resulted in a hung jury. This was all kinds of devastating, and I can't legally talk about the details because Canada.

      I bring this up because, afterwards, all this talk of "evidence" in online started to look like farcical bullshit. Over and over I see courtroom analogies applied to online conflicts, and as far as I can tell now they're completely misapplied.

      In a trial, the evidence the jury reviews is vetted for admissibility, cross-examined, and (importantly) the jury (who is a specific bunch of people) has to review all of it. (Often multiple times.) Lastly, the question(s) they are answering are known ahead of time, and so are the consequences of whatever they decide.

      Because the consequences of being found guilty of a serious crime are so destructive, court procedures are strongly biased in favor of a 'no determination' outcome. (On paper, at least.) To come to a finding of fact, twelve people must unanimously agree that the evidence proves the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. Any other scenario at all and it's a "no result" finding.

      This is not remotely how people make every other important decision - who to be friends with, whether to have Gary over again, who to sleep with, where to live, to trust this babysitter, whether to take or quit that job, whether to euthanize a beloved pet, to get this or that treatment for a serious health condition. In these situations there's no waiting for a finding of fact, and there's no default option--we just have to act on a holistic assessment of the partial information we have.

      * * *

      For online conflicts, here's a big lie: the community needs to come to a finding of fact. (Nope!) "We need to probe the dark recesses until we know all the details, and we've sorted out What Really Happened."

      Get real, that's not happening.

      What plays out in online communities instead is very different: a revolving door of self-appointed jurors do drive-by reviews of fragments of evidence, which is usually a bunch of hearsay and partial screen caps.

      This impulse to seek answers is relatable, but so off the mark it's dangerous. It's not what actually helps.

      When your child comes in from outside with a bleeding knee, saying Billy pushed them, if your first order of business is to establish What Really Happened, I can't help you.

      If you do a web search to figure how to support victims of trauma (do it, it's time well spent), no reputable resource will urge you to figure out what happened by digging up evidence. Someone is evidently hurting, so support them as you're able.

      I think we reach for courtroom analogies because of some combination of:
      1. It's a familiar model for deciding whether someone's life should be destroyed by punishment (thanks, TV!)
      2. It gives me an opportunity to indulge my prurient curiosity into the lives of others
      3. It strokes my ego, that I'm now appointed to the role of Judge
      That's a heady mix. More charitably, I might learn about danger that I could face myself, or protect others from it. I'll come back to this one.

      * * *

      When we fall for this disembodied, logical-sounding indulgence, we wind up with community rules that are totally dysfunctional. One well-intentioned but Zak-orbiting community wound up with a reasonable-sounding set of rules that were subtly awful, when I thought about them.

      I forget the exact wording (and I can't dig it up, as they were thankfully changed in the process of banning Zak), but they had two curious properties:
      1. The only activity that was governed was accusing people of bad behavior.
      2. The process mandated for dealing with it made sure the accused had as as much information and leverage as possible.
      When Zak's diatribe lands, please don't buy an implied conflict resolution structure that does these two things.

      * * *

      I believe Mandy, not because I've 'seen the evidence', but because her experiences, though dire, are completely ordinary.

      Repeat after me (or not, I'm not the boss of you):

      "I will never know what really happened between Mandy and Zak, and that's fine."

      I don't need to know in order to decide who I want in my online communities. Believing that I need to know the facts of somebody else's life before I can trust my own intuition is learned helplessness.

      For me, this isn't about a societal decision about "what to do with Zak because of what he did to Mandy", this is about who I want near me in my online communities, and who I don't. I can decide that based on the feelings I have when they're around. This is completely appropriate, and the way we make our best relationship decisions.

      The "conclusive evidence first" approach is a reasonable-sounding bad idea, and it privileges the null hypothesis. This constant, "no finding" result shrinks our lives and only benefits the creeps, sociopaths and abusers.

      Here's an idea, don't take community-building advice from people who act like sociopaths.

      * * *

      Don't be an asshole in the comments.

      Tuesday, 5 February 2019

      Wednesday

      A decade ago, the Burning Wheel forums asked people to use their real names rather than aliases. I remember feeling mild disappointment, but it was no big deal, really. (Some folks won't use real names for safety reasons, and that's totally fine.)

      Years later (the forum is gone now), the names of the folks I met there are seared in my mind. I think it was a prescient community-building choice.

      I'll come back to this point.

      As G+ is shutting down, I realize that a lot of what we're losing is not just the concentration of creative people, but the finely curated network of connections. I like this person, but not that person, even though they like each other just fine. It takes time (and pain) to sort these things out.

      When we all move to MeWe or reddit or Facebook or Twitter, even if we all arrive safely, the network is still lost. It takes time to connect (or disconnect); all that careful pruning must start over from the beginning. I'll come back to this as well.

      I suck at names. I don't know if it's because I'm an introvert or just lazy with my mental filing system, but I seem to be able to track about 100 people. Beyond that, without the benefit of a face-to-face impression, names start to blur together.

      I probably rely on the circumstances of meeting too much. For instance, the only person I ever meet at the Workaround's front desk is Renee. If I were to forget her name briefly, she's surrounded by a halo of clues that connect this latest encounter with all the previous ones (e.g. the location, her physical appearance).

      Online, I don't have that. In the main feeds of G+, Facebook and Twitter, names (and profile pics) are literally the only continuity from one encounter to the next. I can reasonably trust that if you're in my feed I have no reason to think you're a dick, but other than that, the name is all I've got.

      Not long ago, Rob Donoghue changed his icon, and remarked that he couldn't recognize his own posts.

      What has become clear as I dig into other social networks is that people call themselves different things in different places. Sometimes different things in the same place.

      I'm no better, I suppose I'm variously 'Michael something', 'the Trilemma guy', 'I'll See It When I Believe It", and 'fuseboy'.

      Taken with all the other things I've mentioned, the experience is like a weird, hyperlinked dementia.

      I visit a Discord server, supposedly a refuge from the G+ shutdown. Apart from two names I recognize, everyone is using aliases. I can't tell if I know literally everyone, or literally nobody. This is a really weird feeling.



      Despite conversing with and near him for several years, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I realized that Luka Rejec and wizardthieffighter were the same person. This sounds stupid, but imagine you got over to MeWe and found this guy drawing maps, going by the name Carl Pinkson. How long would it take you to realize that Carl wasn't a Dyson imitator, but actually Dyson Logos? Now ask that question again, but for each of the hundreds of people with less iconic personas, and it becomes a confusing morass.

      All in all, the transition is less of an annoyance over having to go to a different place with a slightly more annoying UI, it's a profound and unexpected alienation.

      The news that G+ will shut off notifications a month before the service goes down is hilariously apt. Of course. It's the perfect flourish to cap off the experience. Now we'll be able to start conversations and not finish them, leaving earnest questions unanswered, counterpoints sent but never received; conversations forgotten and abandoned in the middle.

      * * *

      I don't have any pithy final words to close this off with; I think that's the nature of how this is going down. G+ is going away, and it's more of a loss than I realized.

      If you see me shuffling along in a bath robe, not sure how I got there, please remind me who I am and point me home. That is, if you know either of those things, and you're not lost yourself.


      Sunday, 27 January 2019

      After the Lords of Memory

      Google Plus is shutting down, and so the tiny discussion/playtest community for After the Lords of Memory is going to fall off a cliff like so much eroding shoreline.

      ALM is a fantasy RPG; it's far from finished, and I think it still has an ungainly puberty ahead of it before it actually does what I want it to do.

      This is a much ado about nothing post, because I'm doing my best to avoid putting out a new revision of ALM, even though I want to. I'm focusing on the adventure compilation instead.

      My design goals are written up in the first post about it. If you want to follow along ALM development (when it resumes), I will post revisions here, and tag them so you can find just the ALM posts if you want.

      For now, the latest revision is v0.19. The core works, it's been playtested in a home game over a period of years--you can make characters, take them places, adventure, fight, advance, get injured and so on.

      However, the whole point of writing this game was to enable a particular campaign style, and that hasn't emerged organically from my playtest campaign. If you read the design goals post, essentially what you get is a fairly simple, theatre-of-the-mind game where grubby villagers go forth and either die or become heroes. You don't get geographic advancement.

      I have much more work to do there, in particular I think I need to lay out the way the campaign is supposed to work in a way that's obvious to everyone (GM, players) so that's the default mode of play.

      By way of inspiration, B/X D&D laid out this very mechanistic, almost boardgame-like turn procedure for how you do a dungeon crawl. You don't have to use it - if you meet up with a posse of hirelings you sent in as advance scouts, presumably rolling initiative and then a reaction roll (hostile!) might seem weirdly out of place, but it's a good set of training wheels (a path, to use my own terminology) to get started with.

      Anyways, as I said, no news is no news, but here is where news will eventually appear!

      Friday, 25 January 2019

      PbtA Design - The Purpose of Moves

      This is a 2014 G+ post, liberated before it dies. I would write this slightly differently now, and the consensus at the time was that the questions at the bottom were the best part of it.

      My brain keeps coming around to this question: what are moves for? By which I mean, why should my PbtA game include move 'x'? What am I trying to accomplish?

      Here's what I've got as a tentative list of move 'natures':

      Arbiter moves that resolve something contentious, settling a potential disagreement over an outcome or the fiction.  (Example: hack and slash)

      Montage moves that skip play past something you don't want to focus on (example: Regiment's downtime move)

      Scene-framing moves that plop you into situations with potential (example: Regiment's engagement move). These can flip past time (like montages), but they focus on what's next, rather than quickly resolving a bunch of time.

      Opinion moves that inject ideas for genre-relevant outcomes that the participants might not think of (e.g. Go Aggro)

      Moves that imply the key factors in genre-relevant situations [or trade-offs!] (e.g. Regiment's Assault move) - whether by making them mechanically relevant, or alternately implying that this is what the unstructured conversation should be about (the 'fruitful void').

      Prompt moves that give players ideas for what their characters could do (e.g. Regiment's Petition move), or differentiating characters with things nobody else can do (e.g. Battlebabe's dangerous & sexy)

      Moves that serve up meaningful choices (Seduce or Manipulate being one of many)

      Moves can of course do several of these things (I notice that one of my favorite moves, Regiment's Engagement move, falls into several of these categories).

      * * *

      Two slightly problematic move natures pop to mind, where an interesting fictional situation is reduced to a mechanical modifier, or worse, made irrelevant by a resolution move that discounts preceding fiction, thereby discouraging it.

      * * *

      If this is a useful list, then these might be useful questions:

      • What will participants (players, perhaps including the GM) disagree on?
      • What will they get bogged down on?
      • What won't they think of doing?
      • What won't they realize might occur?
      • What are the key factors in the important situations of the game?
      • What should participants be nudged into talking about?
      • What meaningful choices or trade-offs should be highlighted?

      Thursday, 24 January 2019

      The Raindrinkers

      When clear skies suddenly turn stormy, people look for the strange wagons of the Raindrinkers sliding over the mud, collecting the rain as they go. These nomadic peoples know a terrible truth: the earth’s waters are tainted.

      The Raindrinkers is a wandering encounter-style two-pager written by a longtime friend, guest writer Tim Groth. Tim locked in on the strange weapons of the Martoi*—the terrible poisons unleashed on the living by the echoes of ancient conquerors.

      What would a people be like if they had made peace with the danger?

      Raindrinkers PDF
      The Raindrinkers revolves around the five elders of the raindrinker clans. While the clans share a way of life and often travel together in their long, mud-sled caravans, each of the elders has different goals for their people, and a different attitudes towards visitors that would try to ingratiate themselves with the nomads.

      If you're integrating the Raindrinkers into your own setting, you have a few options, mostly answers to the question, "What are they avoiding?"

      In nightmarish or apocalyptic settings, they can fit in more or less directly. If your world is a little lower key, the Raindrinkers' habits might be religious observances, meant to keep them spiritually pure rather than physically safe.

      In the world of Trilemma Adventures, I'm situating them in Haverlow on the big map. I see them travelling a sparsely populated land, visiting a series of towns and villages high enough up in the various watersheds that they're safe from the worst of the weapons—as long as there's rain.

      * * *

      This isn't an adventure, exactly, but a roving community, or a network of communities. They're a potential source of safety, replacement characters (if it comes to that!) and because of their mobility, possible allies against mutual enemies, if they can be made to see the common threat.

      On the other hand, if you cross them (or if there should be an unfortunate misunderstanding), you'll have to go a long way to get out of their sphere of influence.

      (I've never done this, but it's cool to imagine taking a replacement character from some allied raindrinkers, but they've said they'll hunt you down and kill you if so-and-so gets hurt.)

      Hell, under the right circumstances, the elders themselves could be PCs.

      Thanks again to all of my patrons for supporting the project. More in on the way very soon!

      * For more on the Martoi, see The Unmended Way, Task of Zeichus, and Veil of the Once-Queen.







      Tuesday, 22 January 2019

      Sky-Blind Spreadsheet

      This is fun, Goblins Henchman has converted the Sky-Blind Spire into one of his "Spreadsheet Adventure Modules."



      He's done four now, including the Halls Untoward. He's also got a bunch of templates for other adventures that aren't yet filled in (including Keep on the Borderlands), so that's fun.

      This seems like such a useful format, I wonder why we don't see it more, especially in this age of online play (when the GM is going to be sitting in front of a computer anyways).

      Friday, 11 January 2019

      Five Years of Free Adventures

      As I published my most recent adventure, I realized that I've been doing this for five years. Stellarium of the Vinteralf was published in January 2014! There are now 48 illustrated adventures in total.

      This wouldn't have been possible without your help and support—your encouragement, generous donations, and not least spreading the word on social media and forums. These have all made this project grow way past what I imagined when I started.

      Hitting the five year mark means it's time for some reflection!

      Making everything freely available was a leap of faith, but in hindsight it was absolutely the right call. The adventures do a much better job at marketing themselves than I would have done trying to sell them.

      The other thing was that I've kept things pretty lean and mean. Like Kickstarter projects, it's so tempting to load up with stretch goals and produce Patreon tiers that become a burden and collapse under their own weight. This project has been like a Kickstarter without stretch goals.

      Everything is free; there's no forum, no t-shirts, or stickers, no physical perks. That stuff is fun, and I'd love to do it, but I know it would jeopardize what's been working so well: every month I publish the best adventure I can come up with, straight from the core of my inspiration.

      This means I've only really had one tier on Patreon this whole time, other than a couple of experiments. Even so, a bunch of people decided to make up their own amounts. After years of this, I'd like to make my pledge tiers match what people are actually doing, and recognize them properly for it.


      I've been wrestling with this for some time. I don't want to load up with extras that are going to spread me too thin, but there's no way I want to go all paywall on you.

      Anyways, I think I got it sorted out, and the new tiers are now in effect!

      My adventures will continue to be free here, along with the CC-BY-NC art and illustrations—courtesy of all of you pledging on Patreon.

      For people who want earlier sneak peeks, there's a $2/adventure tier.

      If you want to throw $3 or $5 per adventure (as some of you have been!), there are tiers for that too, and you have my extra special thanks.

      Special Thanks

      Several people jumped on the new tiers immediately—here they are:

      "Alex" has been here for almost a year now, and with him is Frank Reding. They are both nuss envoys, so be careful!

      Nick Stamelos joined last summer, and Gill Garcia, 28 months ago! A different "Nick" joined a week ago, but it was actually his email that finally prodded me to do the revisions. You were right!

      To everyone, thanks so much for your support, whether in dollars, kind words, questions, your play reports, tips for improvement, typo-shooting, or spreading the word! It's been fantastic.

      Tuesday, 1 January 2019

      The Wagoner's Table

      The echoes of the feasting songs are fading, but winter still has many cold months in store. In the highlands villages, winter's bite is most cruel. Still, legend has it that even the most desperate can find mercy at the wagoner's table.

      Wagoner's Table PDF
      This wandering encounter-type adventure gave me a chance to show off a little bit more Seree infrastructure, in this case the towering tribute wagons they used to collect delicacies from outlying areas of their dominion.

      You can use it for that, or you can just take this as the holiday-themed fantasy encounter that it is—a benevolent soul in a dangerous landscape provides for the destitute as best he can.

      This adventure also marks a personal milestone: Stellarium of the Vinteralf was published in January 2014, which means that The Wagoner's Table bookends five years of publishing an illustrated adventure nearly every month. It's nice to do that on an up note.

      If you like this adventure or want more like it, consider throwing me a buck on Patreon. Because of my patrons' generosity, all of these adventures are released under CC-BY-NC, so feel free to remix the text and imagery into your own non-commercial projects.