Saturday, May 30, 2015

Softcover Crimson Dragon Slayer

The CreateSpace link is here.  That's the print-on-demand division of Amazon.  If you buy Crimson Dragon Slayer from CreateSpace, I get an extra couple bucks.  To compensate, I'll send you a free PDF when you email me proof of your purchase.

The difference between CS and DriveThru?  I have CS set up for a heavier, cream-colored paper.

Also, I'm still waiting on a few more reviews.  I'll add those links below when they're available...



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Formula Fail

There are a lot of recent blog posts about innovation, especially when it comes to the OSR.  Well, I didn't set out to write about innovation.  What really motivated me this morning was my annoyance with the new TV show iZombie.  However, my little tirade seems to dovetail with my thoughts on innovation, so here goes nothing...

I had high hopes, but it disappoints.  It's a great premise: girl becomes zombie and gets job at the morgue in order to eat brains... and helps homicide detective solve crimes.  In this case, being a zombie doesn't reduce you to a shambling, drooling idiot - it just makes you really pale with white hair, less enthused about everyday life, and crave brains.

Despite all the fresh trappings of zombidom, there's 2 episodes left and the first season is awfully predictable.  Which means kind of boring.  At every turn, the show's creator and episode writers had a chance to do the unexpected, but instead they chose the path well traveled, the easy road that wouldn't throw the writers for a loop.

It's a shame, is all.  Anyway, let's get to my other point... the innovation stuff.

You can have new places: cities, dungeons, towers, forests, realms, and even worlds.  You can have new characters: a duke, head of security, affable peasant, irritating computer, etc.  You can have a really interesting story, hook, or cultural facet - like everyone wears some kind of mask.

However, if your adventure or campaign follows every logical plot-point without deviation or derailment, even an innovative setting will feel stale.  Thankfully, roleplaying isn't just about the Game Master's carefully crafted story.  The PCs are there to do their own thing, make their own choices, etc.  Unfortunately, a lot of players will try to adhere to either the story and how it "should" play out or the GM's not-quite-invisible wishes.

GMs, you run the show.  That means even when you're giving the PCs free reign, the game will occasionally go in whatever direction you planned (not talking about the minor details, but the big picture).  Be careful you don't course-correct events like in those stories about time travel.  It can happen without your realizing it.  You actually want the train to get derailed!

Well, now I've veered off again and instead of iZombie and OSR innovation, I'm doling out more Game Mastering advice.  Well, what are you going to do?  How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss is still on my mind.  Devoting yourself to a subject for a long period of time will do that to a person.

Getting back to innovation, altering outward appearances isn't enough to make something innovative.  It also takes something else:  breaking the formula.  Years ago, I talked about how the OSR, to me, equates to non-standardization.  Which is tricky, because a certain amount of standardization is inherent in RPGs, let alone the OSR.  Creators need to find a balance and create with a mind towards breaking whatever mold, whatever preconceived notion is guiding their hand.

Don't be like iZombie and take an exciting new direction and then plot it out in the most formulaic way possible.  I'd rather see a dwarven stronghold in the northern mountains that goes off-script and off the rails, than a strange world full of new creatures that live in a giant bubble yet behave exactly like you'd expect.


Friday, May 22, 2015

35th anniversary of Pac-Man!

Keep in mind that CDS is as much a parody/spoof of the 1980's as it is an OSR roleplaying game - kind of like Encounter Critical, except it was created by only one guy from Wisconsin.

I just found out that today's the 35th anniversary of Pac-Man!  And it just so happens that Crimson Dragon Slayer contains a short introductory adventure... Cavern of Carnage!

In that cave-crawl is a creature not dissimilar to the birthday boy (awesomely illustrated by Glynn of +MonkeyBlood Design.  His little ghost friends and some floating fruit are prominently featured, too.

So, in honor of the hungry, spherical yellow one... I've just dropped the price of Crimson Dragon Slayer to $3.50 (regularly $7).  This sale will continue throughout memorial day weekend!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Game of Thrones - why so popular?

Well, there are many reasons for its popularity... but Game of Thrones is doing something specific to hook us in and keep us dangling without our realizing it.  Yes, we're now trained to watch and wait; trained like a dog.  Here's how they do it (woof woof)...

GoT is rewarding us intermittently (that means continuously but at infrequent and random intervals).  Every once in awhile, we get something we've been craving - a reward - tossed into our bowl.  Because we have no idea when (or even if) it's coming, getting such a treat makes it that much more exciting, special, and addictive!

That's why every blue moon, seemingly anyway, (could be every 2 or 3 episodes or once per season) we get the following...

  • A gloriously gory battle scene with steel and blood and some poor bastard dying horribly up close and personal.
  • Sex!  Yeah, that naked stuff we're not used to seeing in a TV show.  But let's be honest, every time we see boobs it's like the first time.  Am I right?
  • Fantasy:  dragons flying overhead, a spell being cast, or some kind of supernatural event taking place.
  • A major character dies.  What if that one night you decided not to watch, Sansa or Margaery died?!?
  • Victory and defeat - you can't have one without the other, so usually one side gets victory and the other gets the shaft.
  • Tyrion's wit, eviscerating some deserving fuck with just a few words.
  • Revenge/justice bestowed upon the worst of the worst in Westeros.
  • Receiving more than a clue about what's really going on - who's doing what to whom and why!

The rest is just a big tease.  It's medieval Machiavellian foreplay!  Sure, we get to look at beautiful countryside, amazing sets, dirty old men, heroes, maidens, etc, but a lot of the time we're also subjected to banking problems, traveling delays, the schemes of petty bureaucrats, cleaning bodies, traipsing through the forest, highborns being dicks, etc.  

Yes, GoT is all about the waiting.  And once we get our particular fix from the above list, we're all that much eager for more.  Unfortunately, that requires more waiting.  But we can't stop watching!  Oh no, what if we miss that thing we've been yearning for?  They just showed it two episodes ago... that means we could get the good stuff tonight!  Or, if not tonight, then next week.  Come on, man.  Just one more... just one more fix!

Yeah, the life of an addict.  Face it, folks.  We're not going anywhere. You see, GoT knows the secret - that an intermittent reward is stronger (hence, more addictive) than a regular and reliable reward.  Don't blame them, blame the human condition.  

Since this is a RPG blog, I'd be remiss for not suggesting this strategy in your own tabletop fantasy campaign.  Incidentally, I talk about this technique and a hundred more subtle secrets of Game Mastery in my book: How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  Also available on and CreateSpace.

What's your favorite thing about Game of Thrones?  Is there something special that you wait for each episode or season?  Some aspect of GoT you love, that they don't do enough of?  Comment below with what that is...

See you at the Westeros methadone clinic,


Friday, May 15, 2015

Softcover like a Fucking Boss

How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss is now a softcover on Amazon (still waiting on the physical proof from DriveThruRPG)!  

If you buy it from CreateSpace and email me evidence (like your emailed receipt or something - not bloodstains or fingerprints... though, that would be awesome), I'll send you the PDF for free ASAP.  

I get a couple more dollars from a CS sale than Amazon is why, but currently they are the exact same price.



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Crimson Dragon Slayer PDF

Yay!  I finally did it.  Here is the PDF for Crimson Dragon Slayer - my humble Old School Renaissance roleplaying game.  The print version should be available on DriveThru and Amazon in early June.

Since there's already a hundred or so retro-clones and retro-compatible RPGs similar, based on, or taking off from the original Dungeons & Dragons, I really didn't think there was anywhere to go.  After all, I had included a few game mechanic tweaks in Liberation of the Demon Slayer and The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  Were there enough new ideas in my head to publish yet another OSR RPG?

It started with a face-palm breakthrough in my VSd6 idea.  Instead of multiple 6's being a critical success, just a lone 6 would suffice, with everything scaling from there.  It seems tiny, obvious, and the furthest thing from a revolutionary idea, but when I eventually tripped over it, the revised concept gave me that initial spark of hope that I might be able to contribute something worthwhile.

Re-watching bad/cheesy 80's fantasy films like The Dungeon Master, Deathstalker, and Tron fueled the narrative.  After all, thousands of RPGs hand you a bunch of rules and drop you in a vague setting conforming to the genre or, conversely, slathered in meta-plot.  I just wanted an interesting framework and then back off to let the Dragon Master and players take it from there.

Lastly, I wanted to showcase my sense of humor.  Why not make it kind of funny... an occasionally silly self-parody of what we consider old school fantasy roleplaying?

Glynn from +MonkeyBlood Design and a bunch of my OSR friends and acquaintances did the rest.  They provided ideas, encouragement, and the support needed to float this project until completion.  I literally couldn't have done it without them, so big thanks to all those righteous dudes!


p.s.  Fantastic interior illustration by +Joshua Burnett.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss on PDF

It's here on DriveThruRPG!  Physical proofs of the printed version have already been ordered, so it shouldn't be too long (Cthulhu willing) before HtGMlaFB is available in softcover at DriveThru and Amazon.

I'm especially amazed by the artwork I was able to commission.  Some of those pieces are my favorite of anything I've ever published.  If you recognize the subject matter, it's no accident.  Where possible, I asked the artists to use scenes and characters from my previous books as a model.  Hopefully, that and my own aesthetic / style of writing and Game Mastering create a through line for readers, connecting Liberation, Purple, and Revelry in new ways that even I can scarcely imagine.

Thanks one more time to all the Kickstarter backers who supported this project several months ago, even the scoffers and naysayers who talked about it and kept word of mouth alive.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Season Finale

For whatever reason, I have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly.  Normally, I leisurely skim through it over a few days, reading about the things that interest me and ignoring the stuff that doesn't.

Anyways, the latest issue has an article on "How to Write a Season Finale".  Just thought I'd briefly summarize the article's main points here because they could very well sync-up with RPG adventure writing.

*     Envision the season's final image and reverse engineer the adventure or campaign from there.

*     Give yourself permission to deviate from the plan.  Some things happen last minute.  Characters will act or react differently than you anticipated.  Occasionally, a better idea comes along towards the end.

*     Meet fan (or in this case, player) expectations.  Entertain and surprise players with twists, turns, and secrets.

*     End on a cliff-hanger, setting impossible stakes that will leave players scratching their heads over where the adventure/campaign could go.  In other words, write yourself into a corner and then see what happens.  The ultimate goal is shock value.

*     If you've built the end of the season right, the story will come together with ease.  No matter how good the adventure/campaign was, if you don't stick the landing all people will remember is that the ending sucked.

There it is.  Let me know if you think EW's take on season finales are on target with crafting scenarios and campaigns.