Monday, December 10, 2018

Another Look At Dead God Excavation


Another review of Dead God Excavation over here inspired this blog post...

Sometimes, I provide tools, raw materials from which GMs can forge their own adventures.  Stuff like The S'rulyan Vault or Totally Random Tables.  I liken this to cookie dough.  Inverting the formula, I've provided roughly 15% and the GM has to provide the additional 85% of the work.

Sometimes, I do pretty much all the heavy lifting, the adventure is more or less turnkey for the GM, allowing him to add the final details, that last 15%.  These are fresh baked cookies.

Every once in awhile, and perhaps Dead God Excavation is the epitome of this style, I write something that's mostly cooked but still kind of gooey in the center.  Perhaps a medium-rare steak is a better analogy.  Rather than providing 85% of what's needed to run the session (taking into account GM improvisation), it's more like 75%.

This can be unsettling for those who're used to 85% - 100% of the work provided for them by the adventure writer.  I can understand that, and sympathize with those who feel cheated by the empty holes waiting to be filled.

While I enjoyed Prince of Nothing's review (I can respect his over-the-top presentation), I'd like to touch on a few key concepts that many gamers, even the OSR, occasionally miss.

Stereotypes, cliches, and all-too-familiar tropes are usually a bad thing in fiction, tv shows, movies, etc.  However, I believe they are sorely needed in RPGs, the ability to embody the themes, characters, motivations, and weird tales of the Lovecraft circle (and other Mythos contributors) makes for a greater roleplaying experience.  It delivers the goods.

Why should this be?  Well, roleplaying is specifically geared towards immersion - simulating a familiar world and breathing life into it so that we can pretend that we are Detective Legrasse, Old Castro, or Randolph Carter... feeling our way through the dark, slimy caves of impenetrable nightmare - awaiting the tentacle's cold embrace.

I wish I could live (for a short while) inside a Cthulhu Mythos story.  That's why I roleplay, so I can immerse myself in that world. And why I identify as za'akier.

Admittedly, some aspects might be too vague and/or subtle.  I could have been more specific about NPC motivations and that first encounter could have tied into the dead god's tomb even more.  However, I did that by design rather than sheer sloth.

My stuff being OSR, I assume most GMs will mix and match a wide variety of gaming books together.  I do that, and I've read thousands of blog posts that corroborate my preference.  Dead God Excavation on its own may seem a little too minimalistic, a degree too hollow... but what if you planned on combining it with The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, Carcosa, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, D30 Sandbox Companion, and Expedition To The Barrier Peaks?

If that's the case, the GM needs a little room to operate.  Detail things too much and it becomes harder to incorporate other books.  The lack of specificity actually helps GMs marry concepts, bounce ideas off a variety of designers, and answer questions they'd never thought of. What are the business interests of that NPC?  Crystal smuggling from the purple islands?  Did he (or one of his ancestors) pilot that old wreck of a starship half-buried in the mountains a half-mile away?  Is this tomb his chance to navigate the stars again?

I also disagree with the reviewer's opinion that the NPC temporarily leaving the Al Azif book in the PCs' hands is a bad or stupid thing.  The PCs are helping him (one assumes).  Can you imagine a benevolent character in a Doctor Who episode trusting the Doctor to take care of a rare and powerful device in his absence?  Yeah, probably.

Sorry, I don't do gold piece value for 90% of the treasure provided.  It varies wildly from system to system and campaign to campaign.  However, if that kind of thing is something GMs are interested in knowing, I could create a random table.  Seriously, let me know in a comment if that would be useful to you.

Generally speaking, non-combatant NPCs don't have stats in my books.  If the PCs want to kill something that can't really defend itself and can't effectively harm any of the PCs, then it can be dispatched with a sword thrust.  Simply roleplay it without rolling dice.

This is the way I GM and I'm sure a lot of GMs do things differently.  But that's why most characters/creatures without combat ability are stat-less.

I again see the reviewer's point that the sorcerer NPC isn't detailed enough for many GMs.  But then I don't know what the GM has planned for the rest of his campaign.  Perhaps the sorcerer plans to lead the PCs to the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer... perhaps he is the bone sorcerer?

In conclusion, Dead God Excavation is your chance to collaborate with the author, Venger As'Nas Satanis.  It's like we're working on your campaign together.  I provide the premise, NPCs, location, complications, and ideas for continuing... you make the thing your own, inspired by my initial designs.

I can't blame those not wanting to pay for such an opportunity, but that's why Dead God Excavation is one of my least expensive titles.  Currently priced on DTRPG at $2.50

In my mind, session zero means things should not be set in stone.  On the contrary, they must be malleable so that possibilities may flow.

Also, I created an entirely new weapon / magic item from scratch!  With pictures!!!  You don't see that every day.

Personally, I prefer to see Gods crawling, makes them strange and fascinating, primordial rather than fashionable... and that's what old school gaming needs more of.  Ah, well. To each their own.

VS

p.s. But if you do prefer lots of detail and specificity, Cha'alt will have your back. It's going to be a huge campaign, and I plan on spending nearly a year writing the damned thing.  Kickstarter launching just before Christmas.  Here's my KS profile (I think you can follow me from there).