Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nudity in gaming books - what's too risque?

This is intended to be a dark module.  Indeed, there are going to be some mature themes sprinkled throughout Liberation of the Demon Slayer.

As an artist, I can judge for myself what the module should include or try and stay away from.  I'm a believer in artistic expression, freedom, and all that jazz. However, the artist should keep his audience in mind.

I'm not just creating this fantasy RPG adventure for my benefit.  I expect it to be used and enjoyed by those who like old school, Lovecraftian, science fantasy, gonzo mega-dungeons.  That's why I wanted to open up the floor, to get opinions on what's tastefully adult-oriented... and what's beyond the pale.

LotDS won't include anything hardcore or triple x; you won't see people actually having sex, erect (or even flacid) penises, spread-open vaginas, etc.  Nothing like that.  However, there will be boobs and butts!  As for pubic hair... that's up to you guys.

The image here on the right is, in my humble view, kind of on the border.  Personally, I like it.  The artist goes by iguana on Deviant Art.  He drew it.  I can go back and ask him to put tiny black thongs on those slave girls.  Should I?

I encourage you to voice your opinion.  What do you think - is this too risque?  Am I in danger of offending lots of OSR individuals?  Or does this herald a new retro-age of sword & sorcery exploitation pulp?  Thanks for your feedback!


Liberation of the Demon Slayer ~ update #3

Things are really coming along.  I've gone through and made everything easier to read/find.  Good organization will help make for a good layout.  When a DM is frantically scanning a few paragraphs for someone's name or magic item, he doesn't want a lot of clutter.

There's a balancing act between flavor and minimalistic details.  I don't want to bog down a room or NPC with lots of unnecessary information, but on the other hand I think it helps to have some background, as well as, a few contextual dashes of imagery so everyone at the table can "see" what is going on or who is being described.  I'm trying to find that balance.

A lot of great art is coming in.  The image to the right is from Silvia Gonzalez.  It's only a sketch of a female Dark Elf.  Can't wait to see the finished work.

You've seen two work-in-progress photos of the front cover (see the last two LotDS updates).  I have the final image, but am waiting to show it.  Perhaps I won't unveil it until the book is out...  Some fantastic interior artwork has reached my hands, too.  I'll be showcasing some of that in updates to come.

I found a map guy, although we haven't corresponded much.  Do other publishers find a backup person - an understudy if you will - to fill a role just in case the original person backs out or whatever?  I've been wondering that.  I contacted more artists than I needed because I knew a few would get busy with other projects, decide I wasn't paying enough, flake-out, etc.  Hopefully, I found the right ratio and the book doesn't have too much art or not enough (can it have too much?).

What else?  I'm running 2 LotDS events using the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG as an engine at a local table-top gaming convention in Madison, WI.  It's called GameHole.  I'm excited about that.  Here's the link:

Oh yeah, Tim Snider has been kind enough to do a last light edit of the manuscript before we move too far into the publishing part of the process.  He's looking at the 99% completed version now.

Thanks for your support!  I really hope Liberation of the Demon Slayer is something that shines in the vast field of old school D&D type adventures.  Keep coming back for more updates.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When gaming groups get too comfortable

"My Elf opens up the portal above the village of the Blue-Men, walks over to it, pulls down his pants, and attempts to poop on the head of a Blue-Man."  *

That was more or less an actual quote from the table at last Saturday's game.  If it had been just a funny comment, then I wouldn't have given it much thought.  But no, this was the Player Character's sincere desire.

When first confronted with the plan-of-action, I didn't know what to think.  Creative?  Yes.  Amusing?  Sure.  Consistent with the familiar tropes of sword & sorcery?  Not so much.

Sometimes, our gaming group has a new guy, occasionally there's a female present.  This particular session had neither of those.  It was just four dudes who have been friends for awhile.

Yes, our gaming group has gotten to that point.  Of course, not every session containing just the four of us is going to get silly and immature, but there's a chance... and last Saturday night I wondered if an imaginary line had been crossed.

One of the problems is this: it's infectious.  Later that night, I was not immune to lighthearted shenanigans.  As DM, I was using the whispered voice of a creepy Styx-like gondola driver NPC.  One of the characters persisted with questions.  He was being a little over-cautious, and seemingly slowing down the game.  After wading through a number of his questions, I responded with (using the same vocal tone), "Stop being such a pussy and get in the boat."

Everyone laughed.  It was a funny line delivered in an amusing way.  Upon which, the PCs hopped onto the gondola so the adventure proper could begin.  Did my joke detract from the seriousness of the game or the intensity with which our collaborative imaginations kept the game world alive?  I don't know.  Normally, I restrain myself from such things.  That time, in lieu of the portal pooping incident, I decided not to hold back.

GMs have to weigh those decisions carefully.  How far is too far?  Is a jokey atmosphere a good thing to be encouraged?  Actively discourage with a sobering word?  Should the GM join in with the players' hooting and hollering, or is unspoken suppression of juvenile levity a necessary evil?  Do the best GMs strike some kind of balance?

If your gaming group has ever experienced a disturbing level of comfort where anything can and usually will be said during a session, then comment.  I want to read about what happened, and if it became an issue at some point.


*  "Oh, shit!  Venger's fantasy game.  There goes Carcosa."  ~  Not an actual line from Space Balls.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Liberation of the Demon Slayer - update #2

Not much has happened since I just got back from vacation last night, but there has been progress.  The editing continues... should have a completed manuscript around June 1st, then layout, adding interior artwork (which is starting to filter in - some of it is really great!), a bit more tweaking, and hopefully it will be finished sometime in August.

Faustie has been working on the front cover.  This is his latest version on the right.  I've given him a few notes for changes, but the finished product will look similar to this.  He's going to take a couple days off and then get working on the back cover.

Incidentally, Shane Ward came up with his own layout for Liberation of the Demon Slayer - two different versions.  Email me if you want to check that out, I'll send you the PDF.  Keep in mind that it's not the latest edit of the manuscript, nor will it necessarily resemble the format of the final product.  Enough of the update.  Now, I'm going to write a little about my trip from an old school gamer's perspective.

Disney World is just as fun, fantastical, and occasionally frustrating as it was 30 years ago.  If there was an RPG based on Disney, then there would be three main classes:  princess, pirate, and wizard.  And together these characters would explore the jungles of Africa, the Devil-monkey worshiping mountains of Asia, futuristic mountains of nebula-warping, Carribean coves, and the storybook lands of fairy tales.

Seeing all that stuff again decades later was amazing.  I got to go on most of the rides I remembered from my childhood.  Sure, a few things changed.  Johnny Depp is prominently featured in Pirates of the Carribean.  Mr. Toad's wild ride is simply gone.  And there's a bright and flashy new Little Mermaid ride.  And, of course, many things stayed exactly the same, like it's a small world after all.

This isn't unlike the old school passion, nostalgia, and gaming principles of Dungeons & Dragons and similar roleplaying games.  There are pieces of rules or rulings we fondly remember from years and years ago.  Things we wish wouldn't change.  Maybe it's saving throws or d6 weapon damage despite what is being wielded.  Improvements have been made, fancy expensive improvements.  Some of which actually make the game better... other "improvements" seem to detract from it - based on our own subjective views.  Additionally, there are the elements we remember as cool decades ago, but have since lost their luster.

Anyways, going back to Disney World was a blast from the past.  I got to go on Space Mountain - something I always wanted to do when my parents and I went to the Magic Kingdom, but never did.  On the one hand, it probably didn't have the same effect on me as an adult that it would have had on me as a kid.  On the other, I was totally in touch with the aeons-old vibe.  Like seeing an Erol Otus illustration I've never seen before but still have an old school nostalgic love for because his aesthetic came from a certain place and time.  Indeed, I had a similar timeless enthusiasm for all the neato scifi imagery of the mid 1970's.

Space Mountain is actually the oldest rollercoaster in Florida (I just looked it up).  It was refurbished (including complete replacement of the ride trains in 1989 and 2009). So, even when something looks like age hasn't touched it or retains a retro style, it might still have modernized parts or a contemporary philosophy or paradigm attached to it.  And vice-versa.  Some visions are incredibly old, yet done in a totally contemporary way.

Besides that, I got a lot of ideas brewing inside my head for current adventures and future campaigns, everything from meteor storms that make dinosaurs frenzy to primitive wood-carved leopard stools to king-making swords lodged in stone.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Liberation of the Demon Slayer - update #1

Hey guys, what's up?  I'm writing this the night before my vacation, so it's going to be short and sweet.

For those who don't know, I wrote an old school fantasy adventure.  It's weird, gonzo, Lovecraftian, and kind of a Mega-Dungeon.  Since embarking on this journey about 5 months ago, I've learned a lot about gaming, DMing, writing, the OSR scene, and myself.

Whether it's heralded as something cool or complete bullshit, I need to put Liberation of the Demon Slayer out there.  Hopefully people like it.  Thought about doing the kickstarter thing to fund it, but luckily a lot of experienced people gave me enough advice for me to make up my own mind.  I opted out of that.  Instead, I'm funding it myself.  I'm sure that, too, will have its share of trials.

The image above and to the right is a rough work-in-progress of the front cover by faustie.  Besides that, I'm going through the thing, trying to improve the layout, adding little touches, taking out the unnecessary stuff, and editing along the way.

I won't be blogging or doing much in the way of gaming while on vacation, so check back in a week or so for update #2.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kickstart My Heart

Or, rather, kickstart my old school fantasy heartbreaker adventure and campaign guide.  That would have been an awfully long title.

Anyways, this blog post is here to serve multiple purposes...

Gathering intelligence - I want to know what you guys know about the whole Kickstarter thing.  Is there a standard baseline for funding?  What do you guys love and hate about these kinds of projects?

Notification - By the way, I'm seriously thinking about doing this.  Surprise!  You can't accomplish anything this big without support, so thanks to all those who support me and my vision.

Discussion - Starting a creative dialog with everyone out there who might be interested in running, playing, backing, or helping make this adventure and campaign guide presentable.

For those wondering, here's the gist.  It's an OSR dungeon crawl compatible with the original fantasy game and all those variations which came after.  Not sure if it qualifies as a Mega-Dungeon (there are currently 6 "levels").  There's a fair amount of rule options, DM suggestions, and setting material that goes along with the adventure.  Oh yeah, it's for kicking off a new campaign, an introductory adventure for 0 - 1st level characters... how far they progress by the end probably depends on the Dungeon Master and system used as much as trials faced within.

I want it to be as weird and interesting as possible while still retaining a passing resemblance to the fantasy worlds we all know and love.  Lovecraftian, science fantasy, and a bit gonzo!  It's called Liberation of the Demon Slayer.  The thing is about 95% written.  I'm adding the finishing touches now.  Already hired the front and back full color artwork.  Everything else will depend on how much funding can be raised using kickstarter.

Anything I'm forgetting?  Probably.  That's why I'm doing this blog post before I actually jump into this.  I appreciate all comments, suggestions, advice, support, etc.  Thank you!


p.s.  I appreciate all the feedback I've received so far.  Thank you!  Will gather more information, advice, and who knows... perhaps kickstarter is not the way to go, after all?  Expect a Liberation of the Demon Slayer update in a few days.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Essential elements of Sword & Sorcery

The topic for this blog post was a special request from my friend, James Paese.  He is interested in creating a world for his roleplaying game of choice and wanted me to recommend a few essential elements of the sword-and-sorcery story, as it was designated back in 1961.  So, let's do it!

What are the essential elements of the sword & sorcery genre?  I'm listing them below; highly influenced by fantasy films from my youth, as well as, some classic S&S literature from the likes of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Roger Zelazny.  I've been meaning to bone up on more Appendix N material, but having two small kids leaves precious little time for reading.  Anyways, without further ado...

  • Some are born for better things!  I'm talking about destiny.  There should be a few individuals who are fated to make a difference, to shake things up.  Those predestined for greatness!  Conversely, there have to be those tragically predestined for horror.
  • Even if magic seems to be commonplace, it must remain esoteric!  Sorcery is not for everyone, and even if the DM wants a magic-rich world, those who explore the full extent of its power should be few and far between.
  • Magic is dangerous and weird!  There's a price for having that kind of power.  Sorcery is an unnatural pursuit.  Let the entire world reflect that.  Yet, it must also have a source... or many sources.  The DM needs to consider where magic-users get their spells, as well as, the energy to cast them.  Old Ones, Elder Things, Outer Gods, and Demon Lords are always useful in that regard.
  • Ambitious men are infinitely corruptible!  Most humans (or humanoids) can be good, decent, law abiding citizens of the realm; however, those at the top are almost always greedy, salacious, egotistical pricks.  If they haven't already made a Devil's bargain, they're on their way.  A great story requires a great villain!
  • It's not all bad!  All the darkness (and there should be A LOT of it) needs to be counter-balanced with extraordinary beauty and virtue and courage.  Just as the demonic forces are closing in on the realm, so should the DM populate his world with unicorns, crystal caverns, virginal princesses, honorable knights, and a few willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
  • Epic and bloody battles!  It's not all about the sorcery.  Many disputes are settled by sword.  Hacking through encounters, killing monsters, dueling human (or humanoid) antagonists, etc.  Not only are the stakes high - this is life and death we're talking about, after all - but our depraved voyeurism demands crimson spurts, the warm splash of dark red upon our face, and glistening gore decorating the marble corridors of Zenn.  
  • The unknown!  What's life without a little mystery?  The majority of players don't know it, but they crave a certain amount of strangeness.  What lurks within those shadowy ruins?  Why is there a tree growing up to the heavens?  Where is the mountain beyond the mountain?  How did that dilapidated Statue of Liberty get here?!? 

If you want to suggest a topic for a future blog post, dear reader, please go right ahead.