Saturday, June 28, 2014

13th Age review: Spectacle over Tedium

I've only had the book in my possession for a few days.  Be warned, this is not a playtest but first impression review!  If you want to know how it actually plays, read elsewhere.

If I've done my job, by the end of this review you'll see that 13th Age is filled with too many good ideas well implemented not to buy, even though you may have zero interest in actually running a 13th Age campaign.

Those who try to stay plugged-in to tabletop gamer culture via message boards, google communities, and blogs have probably seen "13th Age" bandied about for the last twelve months, just like you saw Dungeon World heralded around the echo-sphere twelve months before that.  Is so much buzz warranted or has the hype-parade found a new flavor of the month?  When it comes to streamlined, innovative fantasy roleplaying, I can tell you Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet have struck gold.  13th Age is legitimately awesome.  Now let me tell you why...

If you've read other reviews, chances are you encountered the shuddersome combination of number and letter known as 4e.  Yes, I'm an old school gamer with old school tastes.  If there's any sure way of making me not want to play a certain RPG, all one has to do is describe it as being similar to 4th edition D&D.  Yes, 13th Age has similarities to that, 3rd edition, and probably various RPGs from the last decade's d20 avalanche.  Nevertheless, 13th Age is worth the OSR's time.

Let me explain the chief difference between 4e and 13th Age before we get any farther.  4e simplifies granular details of verisimilitude in order to make D&D mechanically efficient, which, as a side-effect, gives it the functionality of a video game.  With 13th Age, mechanical efficiency feels like the hand waving of AD&D or 2nd edition (not rules as written but how many of us ended up playing) because of its constant emphasis on story, fun, and larger than life adventuring.  While this may be more of an aesthetic difference than anything else, it matters.  A lot.  Like the Terminator with and without its coating of flesh.

The system of 13th Age hacks and slashes an important reminder into the forefront of our mind as we read every page: use whatever methods feel right so the game is enjoyable for everyone, rules be damned.  Often, similar words are written in an RPG's introduction and never repeated, let alone infused into the core of its being.  13th Age is different.  It wears customization and Do As Thou Wilt on its sleeve - to the point where it seems like all your wearing is one gigantic sleeve!

Ok, enough preamble.  Here's a quote...

"The Elf Queen wears a crown of three parts: black amethyst and obsidian for the dark elves, green emerald and flowering plants for the wood elves, and diamond and force magic for the high elves.  When the elves were truly unified, they referred to themselves as the three branches of the elves, but since the war with the dwarves it became customary to refer to themselves as the three Shards of the Crown."  pg. 66

On pg. 56, there's an amazing description of coins.  The Seven Cities mint their own coins with the symbol of the Emperor appearing on one side.  There are platinum, gold, silver, and copper coins.  The Blue Dragon (one of the major NPCs of the world) likes to mint his own coins from Drakkenhall... without any imperial artistry.  Dwarven gold pieces are square with grooved edges, stacking like towers.  "To start a fight with a dwarf in a tavern, knock over the tower one of them has stacked beside their ale.  Sometimes that takes some doing; dwarven coins seem to want to stay stacked instead of falling over.  It's not unheard of to find ancient dwarven treasure troves where the coins are still stacked into perfect towers.  Elves joke that it's not the fact that dragons steal dwarven gold that bothers the dwarves so much, but the fact that the dwarves' towers get knocked down and scattered throughout the hoard."  There's a whole lot going on in just the currency.  Little details that paint a picture in the reader's mind.

Speaking of NPCs, 13th Age has something called Icons built into the rules and narrative framework.  Icons are the movers and shakers of the Dragon Empire, they are what's happening in the world.  Want to know why an event, scheme, or conflict is taking place?  Look to Icons' strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, servants, alliances, betrayals, alignments, etc.  It's about relationships.  So, not only does the realm seem inhabited and interesting, the PCs get Icon points to distribute as they like during character creation.  This allows each player to influence the game world and his role within it.

Which leads me to another great innovation: One Unique Thing.  Unknowingly, I came up with pretty much the exact same idea during the last Purple playtest at Gary Con.  I had each player invent something special that made his or her character different than all the other fighters and elves and former slaves, essentially combining the One Unique Thing with character background.  13th Age takes the idea one step further.  It's not what makes your character stand out but what makes him a one of a kind piece of the campaign world.   Instead of a neat idea for a one-off session, the One Unique Thing is a large part of character creation, as well as, defining the realm.  Several pages are devoted to talking about the ins and outs, what worked and what didn't in the authors' home campaigns and convention playtests.

What else do I love?

  • Initiative is a d20 + dex modifier + level. 
  • Damage is scaled progressively by level.
  • Distance is a matter of engaged, nearby, and far away.  No need to remember if the giant spider demon is 20' or 25' away.
  • The escalation die heats up the battle after a few rounds while shortening lengthy combat.
  • Want to rally (retrieve some lost hit points) in the middle of a fight?  Come up with a reason.  Dig deep... what makes you a hero?
  • Flexible attacks allow some maneuvers to be decided after rolling.
  • Plenty of sidebars with GM, player, and campaign advice ranging from the interesting anecdote to game-saving advice.
  • Background points replace skill points which gives PCs more of a history and identity rather than a character sheet full of numbers.

What else is there to talk about?  As rich as the setting is, there are plenty of holes.  Perhaps too many if you like your realm's details filled in before you arrive to the Dragon Empire.  

The layout is good.  Overall, the book has a gorgeous feel and touch, while the art is... interesting.  To me, it's no where near Dungeon Crawl Classics - the epitome of b/w fantasy RPG artwork.  It's like DCC rolled a natural 20 and 13th Age rolled a 1.  The Icons are well depicted.  Some of the monochromatic illustrations are good, if few and far between.  The little silhouette/symbol things in place of actual monsters?  Really bad.  Damn near unforgivable considering the high production values.  

The introductory adventure at the book's end?  It's fine for a beginner.  It acclimates the GM to how Icons could work and showcases a few aspects of the setting.  It's short and nothing stuck out as super-awesome.

Those aforementioned opponents of 4e might be dismayed at all the feats, special abilities, talents, powers, quick actions, swapping one thing for another as characters level, damage on a miss, effects triggered on a 16+ or natural 1 - 5, etc. Like I said, you might not want to run or play 13th Age but there are some great things to borrow from it.  Is that reason enough for old school gamers to take a chance on 13th Age?  Yes, I think so.  The many upsides more than make up for the down.

I don't think I'll ever run a Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle without using the Icons system.  I'll probably be adding character level and monster hit dice (not sure if monster HD in the book or not but that's the way I'm using it) to initiative until I die.  Plus, I'm happy to see my own narrative, player agency, and hand-wavy spectacle over tedium tastes championed instead of the game simply being a combination of cool things from 3rd and 4th edition D&D.

I could just end the review here, but then I wouldn't have the opportunity to mention D&D 5e, would I?  Did 13th Age inspire the upcoming 5th edition?  How close will the two be?  Did 13th Age take a slice or two out of the tabletop fantasy RPG market share before 5e was even released?  Once it comes out, will 13th Age be superior to 5e?  Will 5e's scenario tsunami put 13th Age rue the day it tangled with D&D?  Will the majority of gamers try to use both to create their own ultimate tabletop fantasy RPG?  Ah, so many questions.  Oh, I'm not going to answer any of them.  Asking them was enough. ;)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bonus Content for Purple

This art is not in The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  The artist, Chad Robb, was inspired by reading it.  I'm glad he decided to share them with us.

Even though Scott Charlton of Octopus Games inspired more than a few entries for While They Were Sleeping (a random table for crazy stuff that could happen when the party beds down for the night), he wasn't done there.  No, Scott wanted to contribute an encounter that could be the seed for one or more Purple sessions.

I tweaked a couple details (blame me if you hate the NPC names) but it's Scott's baby.  Enjoy...

A dangerous alien outlaw, Jivatan, is being tracked down by a sorceress, Kaelix Versoom.  Both are of the same, horned, purple-hued race.  A feature of their race is the ability to make their flesh translucent like glass, allowing them to blend into most any type of background.

Weeks ago, the insurrectionist Jivatan escaped to the purple islands via his starship and joined the Purple Putrescence worshipers.  Because of his skin color, the outlaw was able to create a cult around himself in short order.  The Sect of Strangulation is only seven members strong, but their use of oxygen-depriving poison derived from the Purple Island Lotus makes them especially powerful. 

Kaelix Versoom can be found wandering the islands searching for mercenaries.  In exchange for slaying the beast that guards a magical statue called the Transplanar Eidolon, she will give the PCs access to her spacecraft (if that’s not enough, her ship also carries interesting magical and high-tech items – see below).

This gigantic, multi-limbed, three-headed demon statue towers over the island Kelis.  Its limbs and heads each represent a different power. A stylized chamber beneath the statue's robes bears a magic pentagram with lines leading to various symbols and designs. An individual may "plug-in" to the statue and sees through its eyes, activating powers through the access points assigned to various ultra-telluric dimensional nodes. 

The sorceress uses the Eidolon to scout the island and find the outlaw's hidden spacecraft (within a sea cave on Kravian).  Kaelix is hunting Jivatan for his revolutionary views and terrorist activities.

She knows the spell Blood Tendrils (see below).

The following are items found within Kaelix Versoom’s starship…

Foam Guns

These sleek matte silver weapons are used to contain and immobilize biological threats.

Each gun holds up to 12 projectiles that explode with a compact concussion on contact, flinging out viscous blue-green fluid in a 12’ radius. This fluid reacts with air as fizzing white foam that expands rapidly and sticks to whatever it touches, dissolving any organic material for 3D6 damage plus 1D6 damage per round until washed off, frozen, or magically healed.

Conversion Gauntlet

This reinforced black glove is decorated with a band of seven clear crystals and a plush interior that shrinks to fit the wearer’s arm comfortably when donned. The wearer makes an Intelligence check to activate the device, giving them telekinetic strength equal to their Int score (in lbs.) at a 50’ range. 

The gauntlet has 3D12 charges, each round of activity expending one charge. Optionally, the GM can allow the user to expend multiple charges to increase range, lift capacity, damage, or to accomplish fine manipulations at distance; wielding a sword or picking keys off a belt.


This sleek pressurized canister is made from a virtually indestructible alloy, containing an internal pneumatic pump and adjustable spray nozzle. It currently holds purified alcohol but will siphon and filter up any liquid through a retracting siphon valve at the bottom, spraying out a fine mist cone to 12’. 

The canister is capable of containing very caustic liquids safely and holds equivalent to a potion vial. Igniting sprayed combustibles shot at a target through the canister causes 2D4 damage and sets targets on fire if they fail to save. The siphon allows the user to purify water one vial at a time, since the microbial filter kills the tiniest organisms.

Psychic Protomorph

This is a thick glass jar of pale yellow slime with a glittering crystal suspended inside. Should any spell caster or psionic-user concentrate on the crystal, they will soon discover that it controls the nutrient-rich primordial goop around it.  The Protomorph can be made to grow into a creature of nearly any shape desired. The crystal remains inside the creature as part of its nervous system. Those hoping to manipulate the slime may do so on a successful wisdom check.  

Every 10 rounds, the check must be made anew.

Blood Tendrils

The magic-user cuts himself for 1D4 damage, thereafter growing 2d4 dark red prehensile tendrils to attack and grasp with strength equal to the caster’s intelligence. 

The tendrils can also be used for locomotion; brachiating, running, swimming, slithering, and pulling are all viable options. Tentacles do 1d6 damage plus strength (intelligence) bonus.  Tentacles are dispelled upon taking 4 or more points of damage.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Badass Tricks, Maneuvers, and Stunts

What might seem like a no-brainer to one GM may be a revelation to another... or idiotic drivel.  Depends on the GM.

This idea was born from a discussion I had with another gamer on EnWorld.  I'm sure you're familiar with this song and dance, it goes a little something like this...

"AD&D is boring, especially if you're playing a fighter because all you can do is attack (swing your sword or whatever).  While in a game like 3.5 you've got a ton of options."

"Balderdash!  In AD&D, you're not restricted to any specific maneuver.  You have the freedom to make it up as you go, roleplaying the action alongside the DM.  If you want to do a flying kick or somersault slash at the Orc's ankle, there's nothing to stop you."

To which the original guy responds, "You might do it that way, but most DMs don't.  With them, it's by the book, etc, etc."

For the last couple years (it's difficult to remember exactly what I allowed or was ok with back in High School or even games 5 years ago), I've tried to encourage players to describe their attack before rolling whilst keeping an open mind about the possible outcome.  Of course, with the right (or wrong) player, this can get out of hand.  If a majority of DMs did this, abuse would rear its ugly head.  Where's the potential downside of attempting a trick move or fancy stunt?

I've come up with this...

1.  Player states he wants to attack the foe before him.

2.  GM asks (especially if this is the first session or two you're introducing the concept - if you've been this awhile, then it's up to the player to state how he wants to differentiate his attack), "How do you want to attack him?  What, specifically, are you doing?"

3.  "I try slicing off the wizard's hand - the one holding that wand."  (could be thrusting his sword into a Troll's eye, whatever).

4.  GM assesses the difficulty on a range of 1, 2, or 3.  The more difficult the maneuver, the higher the number - to a max of 3.  Whatever the number is, that's both the penalty on the to-hit roll [*] and natural roll critical fail.  

Let's say the stated action is a 2.  "Alright, that's going to be fairly challenging (holds up two fingers).  Roll your standard attack minus 2.  If you hit, you accomplish what you had in mind.  If you miss, then you failed to connect with your target or it just didn't have any appreciable effect.  However, if your attack roll comes up a natural 1 or 2, then it's a disaster, epic fail.  Your foe gets a free attack or the next guy to hit you does max damage or your weapon gets knocked out of your hand... something like that."

5.  "Fair enough."  The player rolls an 18, which is above his target's AC considering all the bonuses and penalties involved.

6.  "Awesome!  The wizard's decrepit hand is lopped off by your flashing blade.  He screams in anguish and won't be able to use his wand until after he picks it back up.  Roll standard damage."

7.  Hi-fives all around.  The GM turns to Larry, "What does your cleric want to do on his turn?"

So, there you have it.  Any character can try anything (within certain limits) but there are two drawbacks: a -1, -2, or -3 to the to-hit roll, as well as, the chance of crit fail on the roll of a natural 1, 2, or 3 (depending on the difficulty set by the GM or negotiated between the GM and player.

If it's a move that would be customary for the particular character (based on class, level, and so forth), then the difficulty and potential downfall will usually be a 1.  If it's really specific (as in targeting a small area) or kind of tricky but definitely not impossible, then it might be a 2.  If it borders on astounding but still within the realm of believability, give it a 3.

+Thaumiel Nerub brought up a couple good points.  Thanks, Thaumiel!

1.  The environment should always be taken into account.  If one is in the desert, there's going to be sand to throw in someone's face versus an ice cavern that might collapse, bringing glacial chunks down on enemy heads.  Those who pay attention to their environment and use it creatively to narrate their actions should be rewarded.

2.  A player can't demand some kind of auto-kill like decapitation or piercing a villain's heart with an arrow... even with a to-hit penalty and 15% chance of critical failure.  GMs should keep in mind that cutting off a giant's head is the intended end-result; however, the action is hacking at the giant's neck.  Big difference.  

GMs, don't be afraid to negotiate with your players.  Maybe both of you can meet in the middle if you're at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Please, feel free to critique this.  Rip it apart, find a better way of doing it, add something on, take something else away, whatever.  This idea came to me while driving in my car this morning.  It hasn't been playtested or anything.  Just thought it was pretty cool.


[*]  Or you could simply determine that attack at a disadvantage instead of a -1, -2, or -3 on the to-hit roll if you're playing 5e.  Totally up to you.

p.s.  You probably can't tell, but this ninja is giving you the finger... ninja style!

p.p.s.  The to-hit penalty was added later (7/1/14 to be exact) after reading a few similar critiques on various RPG message boards.  Much appreciated, guys!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Second Wind, Action Surge, and Being Super-Awesome at 1st Level

I've slept on it, given it time and plenty of thought.  Something just doesn't sit right with me.  Yeah, I'm bothered by a few little things.

Is this what we want out of our tabletop fantasy RPG?  Is this what the Basic version of 5e will be like?  All skills and proficiency bonuses and constant self-healing and action points?

I thought most of the 3rd and 4e D&D stuff was going to be relegated to the PHB and DMG, not the Starter Set and free Basic D&D rules online.  So, why is all this newfangled, character optimization and life-saving extra padding coming at us with the pre-gen excerpt?  Wasn't Basic supposed to be, you know, basic?  The Advanced rules were going to be included n the PHB and DMG for those who wanted them.

How's a DM supposed to cross off a half-dozen things from the pre-gen character sheet before his players even sit down and still expect the game to be 5e D&D?  Wasn't 5e supposedly influenced by the OSR?  Wasn't 5e supposed to return us to that old school style of play from the 70's and 80's?

Is this just a simple misunderstanding, a betrayal, or some kind of unsatisfying compromise?  Am I freaking out for no reason?  Perhaps, but we've only seen the iceberg's tip.  What's next?

Comments, questions, suggestions, complaints, thoughts...?


Thursday, June 19, 2014

D&D 5e Character Sheet

Well, the new character sheet from fifth edition D&D Starter Set is here.

It's supposed to be easy for noobs to read and understand at a glance.  Is it?  What do you think?

I know I'm number challenged some of the time and I've only read a few of the playtest packets, but I'm also trying to look at this through novice eyes.

I'm not sure how the proficiency bonus interacts with the ability scores and/or skills.  Why is the phrase "Saving Throws" at the bottom of the ability score bonuses - because they are the saving throw bonuses?  If that's true, then is there no other purpose to ability score bonuses besides saving throws?  That would be my inference.

I assume there's a +2 to Constitution on the far left and then a +4 Constitution on the bonus because of the proficiency bonus... does that mean it only grants a bonus to some Constitution-based rolls?  Assuming a Fighter starts 1st level with a full 10 hit points, does the extra con bonus not count for hp?  Why is the Hit Dice in a different box than the Current Hit Points?

Skills look fairly straightforward, your ability score bonus (I guess there is another reason for calculating them beyond saving throws) + the proficiency bonus + a d20 versus some arbitrary challenge rating, right?  Or, instead of the proficiency bonus is that a separate +2 skill bonus for the skills the character chose?  Wizards could learn a thing or two from the old Vampire: the Masquerade character sheets which give the actual numbers and choices a player had available.

Regarding Armor Class, the fighter is wearing Chain mail +1 for his Fighting Style (Defense) bonus -1 for his Dexterity (which should cancel each other out).  So, that means Chain mail armor gives you a +7 to Armor Class assuming the base is 10... can that be right?  If so, what's Plate mail?  +11?

+5 for an attack bonus, huh?  That's quite a bit for a starting character.  But only +3 for damage?  Why the discrepancy?  Is this character using his Greataxe two-handed for the extra damage (1d12... I heard from some guy named Venger that the Trident only does 1d6 one handed.  1d6!?!  Can you believe that shit?)?  I assume so, but don't have a clue just from looking over the sheet.

Now that I look at it, the "Death Saves" box looks a little tedious.  Wouldn't a single roll just be easier?  Isn't this 1st level padding simply coddling the PCs - which is directly opposed to old school D&D?

As for the Second Wind feat or whatever it's called, just how limited is this well of stamina?  Bonus action?  When, where, and how do I get bonus actions?

While I see a lot of good things here, I'm worried about the confusion factor.  If this was a grade school math test I'd write on this with red pen:  Show your work, please!   C+



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Elfmaids & Octopi review of Purple!

It's a pretty awesome feeling to see someone praise your work online.  That's why I was overjoyed to read a review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence on Elfmaids & Octopi RPG blog by Konsumterra.

Check it out!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Story Bible Creation

There's a nifty little D&D article in the Legends & Lore column by Mike Mearls.  Within, he talks about a "story bible".  Basically, this is a written guide where the essentials are spelled out.  The story bible can be handed out to writers, developers, or whomever so when they write an episode, chapter, adventure, campaign, or significant part of the story it doesn't break the overall continuity.  For example, if we were talking about the Thundarr the Barbarian story bible, it would probably say that magic works alongside advanced technology, Moks hate water, the moon broken in half when a runaway comet went by, etc.

If you want to make your own story bible for an upcoming campaign, consider what sort of things should be included.  Here's a guide to guide you in creating your guide...

  1. Setting - Where does this story take place?  In the desert under seven suns?  Within the ice caves     beyond Thrakis?  Beneath the emerald waves where the Frog-Men rule?  
  2. Locations - Where are the adventures taking place specifically?  The dark temple, inside a giant purple worm, the city-state of Koombash?
  3. Races - What's different about the races of your world?  Are the Elves jealous of humanity for some reason?  Do all the Dwarves have tattoos and vibrantly dyed mohawks?  Will Lizardmen play a large role?
  4. Magic - Anything particularly noteworthy about spell-casting?  You might want to create a different mechanical system for how magic works in your story.
  5. History - What happened ages ago?  What happened last week?  Were all the aristocracy beheaded?  Did the Scarlet Magi cripple the assassin's guild until it worked exclusively for them?
  6. Culture - Do the inhabitants of Carcosa wear yellow masks?  Why do the Hill Giants cover themselves in squid ink?  Who prays to the Spider-God?
  7. Theme / Tone - What is this story about?  Big picture.  Is this going to be a campaign about knights in shining armor righting wrongs and saving damsels in distress or will this be a gritty, grimy campaign about the realm slowly sliding under a vampire's thrall?   
  8. Concept art - Come up with a dozen images or so... artwork that speaks volumes about the story, who lives in it, what the mountains look like, is fire blue, and what your particular Halfling barbarians look like.  Either find some images online, create some yourself, cut them out of magazines, scan them from books, or commission them from artists you know.  The concept art can be seen by only you or the rest of your players (when the time is right).

Know these things from the start and they will help you stay consistent, inspired, and motivated to build upon your unique campaign.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Conversational D&D: The Living Game

A new proclamation, a new controversy...

Yesterday, there was a panel with Mike Mearls and Rodney Thompson at the Origins gaming convention.  They were talking about 5e, of course. At one point, they said "D&D will be more of a living game and a conversation rather than Wizards dictating what the game should be."

Does this mean DMs can dictate their own house-rules, be empowered to run the kind of game they want, influence how D&D evolves through surveys, playtests, and advocacy (bitching on forums)?  Will there be D&D lobbies like Thieves and Assassins Guilds to join in the post-edition apocalypse which is surely coming?

At least on the EnWorld message board, this brought up the subject of constant updates as opposed to an entirely new edition of D&D every 5 years or so.  Assuming this is the case, some saw it as a positive, others a negative.  In such a scenario, the rules might be continually tweaked and refined a little bit at a time, as needed, online.  Like a spam or malware program that does its thing in the background, always making sure (well, most of the time) your machine is protected from the latest outbreaks of virus, hackers, or unwanted products latching on.

Those who saw this as a positive like the idea of never having out of date rules or playing an obsolete game.  Similar to those massive multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft.  The guys who have played that from the beginning are essentially playing the same game, possibly with the same characters - it's just that the game continually updates itself around them.

Those not in favor of this would prefer one massive overhaul to a thousand tiny changes implemented over half a decade - or better yet, reassurance that 5e is it, that they got it right this time and the 5th Reich shall reign for a thousand years!

Those invisible adjustments require time and energy to notice and implement because, after all, paper & pencil tabletop roleplaying games are not the same thing as computer RPGs.  Also, if 5e becomes someone's favorite edition, what about 2 or 3 years from now?  The game could look different enough where you have inter-edition wars - a tribe of gamers who love 5e from early 2015 while a competing tribe prefers 5e from the last half of 2016.  Are we supposed to keep track, a la 5.02 vs. 5.33?

And what would this mean for the actual hardcover rulebooks many of us are purchasing this summer and fall?  Should we anticipate buying all new books with 5% changes a year from now?  Do we limp along with the same books even though 7% of the core rules have been fixed (or merely altered)?  And how does this news jive (or jibe, whatever) with the digital tools of Codename: Morningstar?

Or, perhaps, the inferred constant update thing is totally bogus.  Perhaps treating this new D&D like a conversation and living game means something completely different...


p.s.  Seriously, they need to fix the trident.  The excerpt just does not do the trident justice!  As written, it's far too weak.  Very little difference between it and a quarterstaff... WTF?!?

p.p.s.  The above picture was the ONLY image I could find on the internet after hours of googling Community + D&D.  Sorry, guys.  :(

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Purple in Print!

This is your first chance to obtain The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence in softcover.  It should be up on amazon and DriveThru in about 5 days, but it's available right now via CreateSpace (amazon's e-store and affiliate link for self-published authors).

As a special incentive, forward your CreateSpace order confirmation to me and I'll email you the PDF for free!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Purple reviewed

Just noticed this over at the OSR blog They Might be Gazebos!  +Chuck Thorin did me the honor of reviewing The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  Go check it out...


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Enthusiasm War

Something strange is brewing just below the surface of D&D's upcoming 5th edition.  I don't know if it's a backlash or some kind of mutant rebound backlash reverberating through the RPG echo-sphere.  Anyway, the effects are being talked about even though only a few people are addressing the problem itself.  And it is a problem, in my estimation.  Not because I have a particular view and others aren't agreeing with it, but that many gamers are fighting some invisible edition war over a set of rules which doesn't even exist yet.  It's not even a war of editions - it's a war of enthusiasm (or lack thereof).  Why?

Below are the eight camps I've seen.  Chances are, you're in one of the categories below or a hybrid of multiple categories.  Again, I don't care who is where or why... I would just like everything on the table so that maybe some civility can prevail, if not transcendent introspection.

1.  So, we've got people who are loving the promise of 5e and what it represents.  

2.  People who are tentatively optimistic but skeptical.  

3.  Those who just don't care.

4.  Those who think 5e is doing far too little, too late and are unhappy about one thing or another.

5.  A few cranks who absolutely loath 5e and what it represents.

6.  5e lovers who are sick and tired of what they perceive to be 5e hating trolls.

7.  Those disenchanted by what they've seen of 5e who just want the 5e lovers to shut up already.

8.  Cautious, intrigued skeptics who feel harassed or threatened by all the 5e love.

9.  Oops, forgot this one: individuals who are mad that 5e isn't being heralded as the awesome-est version of D&D ever!

Maybe the gaming community just needs to work this stuff out on its own by constantly arguing back and forth.  I don't know.  However, I will say that in certain corners of the internet, the trolling, flaming, petty bickering, and "threadcrapping" looks pretty ugly.

Perhaps we can agree on a few things... our very own Geneva Convention?  If one side refrains from using the phrase "OSR Taliban" and projecting that the other side "hates 5e" even though they're only skeptical or ambivalent, the other side can stop this: "Your 5e super-fandom is threatening my cautious appraisal of what I've seen so far; now I'm going to go off on it - and you!"  Sound fair?

Even though I'm pleased about what I've seen from all the articles, interviews, forum discussion, and playtest documents regarding 5e (yes, I've done the research), that's not why I'm on the + side of the debate.  Just to be clear, I'm not against debate.  In fact, I love it... when it's constructive.  Another reason I'm pro D&D is because our hobby is shrinking and could eventually die off if we're not passionate about its progression.

Now, there are many routes to rejuvenation.  5e isn't the answer to everything and, for you, it might be the wrong answer.  But at least it's something.  A step in the right direction.  Want to go a different route?  Awesome.  Do it.  Grow paper & pencil tabletop roleplaying in your own way. Just know that if you decide to do nothing, then 5e might be the only reason ordinary people know what a roleplaying game is five years from now.  "You know, like Dungeons & Dragons."

As a community, we can be critical while still being supportive; we can like what we like while understanding those who don't.  I propose we approach further discussion consciously.  Hopefully, that's not too much to ask.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Purple PDF is live!

Yes, the PDF of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence is up on DriveThruRPG (and RPGNow probably).  It may take a few hours before a title search will pull it up, so use the aforementioned link.  Or click on the image over on the right-hand side of this blog.  If you're interested in the dead-tree version, that should be available next week sometime.

This book has a little bit of everything - useful tables, optional rules, a monk character class, history, a short piece of fiction, tons of encounters, new magic items and spells, etc.  As with Liberation of the Demon Slayer (again, see right), your Purple campaign is about 85% finished for you.  The remaining 15% is for the GM to flesh out, adding his own signature elements according to personal taste.

As system neutral/agnostic as possible, it clocks in at 108 pages, lots of illustrations from a variety of amazing artists.  Ed Wedig did a great job of laying everything out.  Plus, there were many people who provided worthwhile feedback, including playtesters!  All in all, I think Purple turned out well.

For those curious, the hexes can be whatever you want... one mile, three miles, five miles, etc.  Just depends on how large you'd like the purple islands to be in your campaign world.

Also, if you'd like the giant 50mb sized color map, it's available here.  You won't be able to see it as a preview or simply click on it; however, you can download the file via dropbox and then save it onto your computer.

Sure, this means that you can pretty much have Alyssa Faden's gorgeous full-color map of the islands for frizzle (free).  Consider it a gift, a thank you, or maybe a teaser to whet your gonzo sci-fantasy appetite.  Enjoy!

If you have any questions, concerns, or problems, please let me know.