Free Adventures: Coming Up Soon!

Okay, it's time.
Starting this saturday, each week, for 35 weeks, I'll post a part of "The Secret of Ammersfurt".

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game, fit for players and game masters.

In every issue you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. Sometimes just a few pages, sometimes more than ten.

And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure. Together these 35 adventures can make up a complete campaign lasting a whole year of play. Or you can use what pleases you instead.

The good thing is, you can easily read this stuff as a player, since what's in here is for players eyes too. Even the adventure seeds are safe to read if you want to play. Because the endings are not set. The seed starts with a situation, and then the game master (or mistress) decides which of the suggested things will happen next.

And what if your not playing Dark Dungeon 2? But D&D 3.5 or Paizo, or OD&D instead? Don't worry, even then you can use this series. It's free form enough, although it's all but dungeon romp. Rather it's a springboard for medieval adventures and heroic stories in a fantasy variant of the Netherlands, where I'm from.

Keep your eyes on this blog, download, play what you like, and enjoy!

Art repro from the public domain, Saint George and the Dragon by Rafael Santi; and a reworked map of the town of Amersfoort from the 15th century.


Pick #31: Who is OSRIC?

You might think that Osric is an orthodox, poetic, and slightly silly paladin. And that's right. Sir Osric, portrayed by Nathan Rice, in Dorkness Rising is exactly that. But he's not the Osric I meant.

Sir Osric is named tongue in cheek after OSRIC. Which means Old School Reference & Index Compilation. None the wiser? Neither was I. Old School refers to first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. And OSRIC is a complete rewrite of these rules. It's a retro-clone.

A rewrite of AD&D, is that legal? Not the first thought that popped up in my head, but you might ask. Well... Since TSR (who owned D&D) was bought up by Wizards of the Coast, it became part of the Open Gaming Licence. The OGL looks like a page of legalese definititions without any meaning for a common person like you and me. But it appears to mean that you can rewrite any rules owned by WotC, as long as you print this OGL in your book. You can't just copy the rules, but you can rephrase them. And you can't call it AD&D. But then it's ok. So that's what the guys at OSRIC did.

Suppose you are yearning to play old school AD&D. Suppose you burned or sold your old books, or suppose you never owned them. Then you can download OSRIC for free. Or let it be printed on demand at Lulu. Cool isn't it? Then you could play an old school, orthodox, poetic and somewhat silly paladin like... Sir Osric!


Movies for Gamers #11: De Vloek van Woestewolf

This is part of a series of reviews of movies particularly interesting or inspiring for role playing. Because of their setting, style, characters, editing or story. Read the introduction here or here if you are new to this series.

Yes, this movie title is Dutch. And it's only available in Dutch. It's a children series for TV, made in the 1970s. And it means “Curse of the Werewolf”. It is based on a book by Paul Biegel, which was translated into english, french and spanish - so if you're not keen on learning our language you might consider finding the book.

A little over a year ago it came out on DVD, and to my surprise the story still works. It is no longer as scary as it was when I first saw it – I was eight at the time – but it's still fun to watch. If you understand Dutch, that is.

The story follows doctor Kroch who is given a huge treasure to cure a patient from gold fever. At first the doctor is not interested in the treasure, but when it is stolen by bungling thieves Oenk and Boenk, his interest is piqued. He sets out to find the rich patient, the Duke of Dire Wolf, and his adventures become stranger and stranger. And if you're young: scarier and scarier.

The special thing of the show is, that it's filmed entirely in front of a blue screen. And the backdrops are children book illustrations. It makes it a strange mix between child fairy tale and real life. The illustrations are very atmospheric – done by Carl Hollander. And the excellent storyline is done by children book writer Paul Biegel.

It's easy to convert the story to a more grown up, grittier version, and use it as a series of adventures. Your players don't have to play a doctor. But they could be invited to lift a curse. And then they'll have to find the Castle of Woestewolf, a ghostly place that exists only when the stars are right. Somewhere between reality and fairy tale. And in the mean time they have to resist the... gold fever.

Another thing you might consider, is using such a  - slightly scary - children series as a storyline for a game for your kids.

Yes, you could entice your eight year old or twelve year old into playing exciting fantasy story with werewolves, but with bungling thieves, silly grown ups, and so on. I'd not give them the roles of the doctor and his assistant, but make them children who travel with the doctor and his assistant instead. They would have to help the grown ups and be smarter than same grown ups (which will be fairly easy, actually). You shouldn't make the game deadly, and give experience points for being smart instead of slaying everything on their path maybe. But I think it will work. I already did a few role playing experiments with my seven year old, so...

Go see it, if you dare. And speak Dutch. Or no, wait. I think I'll use it myself in an adventure first.


RPG Pick #30: Elite and Oolite

“So you want to fly your space ship to the next star sytem?” the game master said. “Then go sit at the controls and go do it.” He ushered me to the Amiga computer and switched it on.

It started to load ELITE, a spaceflight trading and shooting game. Fortunately I knew the game well, and it was fun to see it integrated into a gaming session. It gave the student room we were playing in the feel of an actual space ship for a moment. I steered the sleek machine toward its target when we were surprised by pirates.

“You are the gunner” the game master said to a fellow player. “Go help him!” And my fellow pressed the fire button until we killed them all. It was fun then. A good gimmick.

I tried to do the same thing later, but not with the same success. Still, I do wonder sometimes if we could not integrate a computer game and a paper and pen role playing game more like this. The tough thing would be to match the computer universe and the storyline. And then I don't exactly mean like in an MMO. Because that's different. The computer becomes dominant there. What would happen if the face to face game would be dominant instead? Think about it.

Want to have a look at ELITE (again)? The coding by Dave Braben and Ian Bell was so ingenuous, they crammed a full game and complete universe onto a singe density floppy. But sound was pretty crappy in most versions, and a lot of time passed since 1984.

OOLITE is the open source remake you may like better. Its reviews were rave. And you can even build your own expansions. Maybe here's a way to integrate your own adventures after all. You can download it here, and start wishing you could connect a joystick to your webbook.

Or you may have forgotten the controls like I have. You can find these here or here.


Classic RPG Review #13: Dungeon Master's Design Kit (AD&D)

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons supplement
by Harold Johnson and Aaron Allston
1988 TSR Inc., Lake Geneva WI, USA

Three thin booklets in a soft cover. One called Adventure Design, a second is the Forms Book, and the third – also just 32 pages thick – is the Adventure Cookbook. Advanced players of course scoff at it, because hey, it's AD&D and it's commercial and... it's a cookbook. You cannot make gourmet adventures with a cookbook, can you?

But as I hardly dare admit to my regular players, I actually use this one. Not always by long, but more often than you might think. It's not bad at all, especially if you use it just to jog your imagination. Imagination which can run dry, as many a GM may know. Or get stuck in the wordprocessor somewhere.

The cookbook (book III) has a number of quick random tables to decide what your adventure of this evening will be like. You just roll percentage dice, and see what comes up. Before you know it, you have the outline of... some sort of story anyway. Say it's an espionage adventure, featuring the long escape of the heroes. They may start out with the dying delivery of another spy, somewhere in a cosmopolitan city (you'll have a favorite in your campaign). They'll end in a madman's fortress and will visit a magic lake, be helped by a merry minstrel and face a ravager for a master villain. A chief assassin will make their lives harder, and the whole thing will climax in a bloody battle. Good eh? Just ten dice rolls!

Alright, it's fuzzy, and you'll have to fill in a lot of the blanks for yourself, but it often helps me to get ideas. And if it does not, then I'll surf a bit on internet or pick one of my history books to think of something new. Or I plunder from films, series and books. Anyhow, whenever I'm stuck, I often find myself browsing this little booklet. And that's a feat for something twenty years old.

The other two booklets were fun to read once, but these are less my own style. They might be helpful for many a Game Master (or Mistress) though. If you want to structure your ideas, and plan your adventure or campaign well ahead, put it all down in prearranged forms where you can find what you need, then this may be for you. Just be sure to copy your forms before you make the booklet useless for another time.

And if you fill out all the sheets for your session you will probably spend more hours preparing your adventure than you'll end up playing. Unless you use it twice, maybe. Like, hey, you want to play my Bloody Quest of the Dead Minotaur again? Or you could sell your hard work as a module to other game masters.

Seriously, the Adventure Design booklet contains a lot of good advice and things to think about. Choosing a villain, choosing scenes, fleshing out the story and the non-player characters... all very organised. If you are just making the step from a hack and slay dungeon delving mission to an actual storyline, then this is pretty good. And if you are an accomplished storyteller, even then you may find some ideas you had not thought of. You'll smile a lot too.

(for three thin booklets there is a lot of ideas here)
(the cookbook is pretty good, the adventure design book contains a good framework for stories being more than a hack and destroy mission)
(random tables, forms and organised guidelines to set up fantasy adventures somewhere between dungeon delving and storytelling, although made for AD&D the kit can be used for most fantasy games)



Pick #29: Diabolic Webbook

If there is any computer game which approximates the feeling I had when I first played D&D, it's this one. Descending into the depths of a spawned dungeon, which seems to be there for no other reason than the adventure of exploring it - and kill or be killed. The threatened village is there too, with all the supplies an adventurer could need, and vague non player characters who drop clues on what to do.

Diablo is one of the all time classics. The first issue that is, the rest is mostly rehashes. Actually, it's a very neat graphic version of the Unix classic "Hack!" (or Rogue). Top down 3d view, accompanied by the cries of the dead and spooky music. Completely nostalgic.

Okay, so I'm a sucker for old games.
Okay, so my webbook isn't the fastest computer around.
But who cares? I can run old games on my slow webbook!

If you do have the CD somewhere, you may run it on a CD-driver-less computer with MagicIso. If you don't have the original CD, you can always download a shareware version of Diablo here.

The game might even inspire you to master a cheap adventure. Real cheap maybe, but hey.
Now where did I leave my Longbow of Endless Arrows? Ah, here... Let's go then.


Movies for Gamers #10: Brotherhood of the Wolf

This is part of a series of reviews of movies particularly interesting or inspiring for role playing. Because of their setting, style, characters, editing or story. Read the introduction here or here if you are new to this series.

A fantasy movie set in historic France, in 1766? Yes. And it's based on historic fact too. Just based on, because it takes a few leaps from there. Horrific leaps. Martial arts leaps. Special effects leaps. Conspiracy leaps. Brotherhood of the Wolf combines many genres.

Director Christophe Gans, who also did Crying Freeman made it an impressive, atmospheric, and somehwat episodic movie. A movie about the legendary beasts of Gevaudan.

The beasts of Gevaudan in real life terrorized part of France during the reign of Louis XV, and assaulted and killed maybe as many as twohundred people. They may have been wolves. Or some sort of crossbreeds. It's still a mysterry and legend. Alive legend, I found out on my latest holiday in France. At several places where we stayed and ate, there were pictures of the beast. It was kind of scary. Like a werewolf that was never caught for sure. It made sleeping in a tent... different.

The film follows Fronsac, the royal taxidermist of king Louis XV. He is supposed to find the monster, and capture or kill it. Martial arts dancer Mark Dacascos, who was the lead in Crying Freeman now is his Native American Iroquis aide: Mani. Together they proceed on a path that becomes more and more twisted and misty. And they find out about a curse and a conspiracy...

Monica Belluci is in the movie too, as a mysterious character fit for player character status. She is much more than a courtesan. See for yourself and think about the wonderful implications. Belluci's real life husband Vincent Cassel also plays a role, with one arm bitten off by a lion in Africa.

The strong thing of this movie is, that you get an impression how to combine history and fantasy into an exciting mix. Eighteenth century history, at that. With flintlock guns, new found science, printing press, colonies in the west, martial arts of the east, American Natives. And a monstrous beast in an otherwise normal country. It shows that mystery can be stronger than loads of new zany creatures and treasure. You can use that knowledge in your games too.

The film was so inspiring to a few friends that they decided to do the story as an adventure. The idea was perfect. Except that they should have left the storyline and let us be the heroes. What they did instead was trying to make us fit the movie script, and take away our choices as players. I wish they'd try again and just use the backdrop. The feeling is so strong and rich. It would still work.

But then again, now I've seen the movie. Oh well. They can change the story a bit. I won't mind. I just want to feel the rush of this setting again!


News #8a: Aha...

I just stumbled on a post which gives some insight into why applications to the RPG Bloggers Network take a tad long.  And maybe why their board (of dedicated hobbyists, I well suppose) seems a bit frightened of allowing "off topic" content. And why they sort of hide in anonymity.


I wasn't actively around then, so I missed the episode where the whole board considered to resign over the issue of banning a blog. Actually I can relate to this sort of turmoil, and how bad that feels. With a few dedicated friends I also ran a gamer group of around a hundred members, and we had a similar problem: a few players who made life hard for the rest. We also were not transparent enough. Or not transparent enough about not intending to be transparent. Our group kind of fell apart because of it. Or more maybe of making a big thing out of things.

Worst though was that we stayed scared for this sort of issue for the next decade. Even if we did not admit it. And that's a shame. I think 99.9% of the hobbyists is bona fide. And just playing. No more. No less. Not worth staying in trauma for.

So, RPG Blogger Network board, keep your heads up, and keep up your good work. Don't hide.


News #8: Dark Dungeon Vaults launched

Still waiting for this very role playing blog to be approved by the RPG bloggers network, and becoming a teenie weenie bit frustrated, I decided to launch my own version.


With less red tape, and just for the heck of it all. So I managed in a single day, while avoiding the work I should have done, to find some 275+ role playing blogs that seem to be at least mildly active. True, a few are in spanish or italian, but they are about gaming. Or at least most of the time. Wow, is our community prolific! That's a post every ten minutes or so.

You can now admire a stream of the most recent 25 posts (or their RSS feeds) in rpg gaming - or click view all and see almost threehundred. Enjoy the Dark Dungeon Vaults.

And quickly come back to this blog screaming.


Soest Campaign #72a: DD-leaks

This blog post is part of the Soest Campaign series, a description of an ongoing role playing campaign on the world of Nirdday. If you are a player on this world, you may enjoy these posts. If you have no idea, you may enjoy them too, as a peek into our way of playing. This particular episode was rather special, as we made it a long "live role play session" in our pen & paper campaign.

The following episode from Princess Christina of Sweden was leaked by a protected undisclosed party to be known as Ms Anonymous. She attended the recent Altdorf gathering of high nobles and bankers in the face of great changes on the Ferdan political theatre. The oil paintings were based on scetches made by Ravael, a talented body guard of Eline de Boullion.

Dear Diary,

What a wonderful night I had last night! My first international state-banquet was quite impressive.
First of all the food. It was nothing like Swedish food: no fish, no crackers. Instead they served all this delicate food, lovely, but a complete disaster to eat. Carrot cakes so spongy that a mere touch made them fall apart. They were absolutely impossible to eat with your hands. The same for one kind of vegetables that had jelly (!) on top of it. So everybody ate with forks. But instead of pricking the food, as normal people do, they would hold their fork like a pen, but way higher and use it as a spoon. I felt like being five again. I could hear auntie Christina's voice in my head warning me that 'refined girls use their fork to prick, and their spoon to scoop, never the other way around'. I tried to adapt, but found it rather unsophisticated. But well, when in Ferdan, do as the Ferdanians do. I must really ask Oxenstierna to teach me some of this foreign eating etiquette, though.

Not just the food is different, so are the women. These state women are nothing like those our Swedish women. They don’t sit around embroidering and gossiping and whatever else Swedish women do. These state women are so much more like me, it was enormously refreshing. They are all skilled fighters, one of them is even a army colonel. And two of them, colonel Eline and Lady Louise, have a male title, just as I will have when I become King of Sweden; they are part of an elite group called the Five Gentlemen. 
It is not entirely clear to me what this group is all about, but from the economic talk around me (awfully boring by the way) I gathered that these two women control the flow of money in and around Ferdan. How that works I have no idea, as the one subject I have never been taught by Von Oxenstierna is economics “as it is unsuited for a king to have to think about money”. I did find it quite disturbing that I was not able to talk about economics, as over half the conversations were on this topic. With all my studying, I had secretly expected to be able to be conversant on any topic that would be raised during these state banquets, so I was a little disappointed. And, I hardly even dare uttering it to you dear diary, I am wondering whether there is a reason why Oxenstierna never taught me economics. Could he be hiding something for me? I shudder to even think about it.

Of the women, I liked the Kaiser’s daughter, Sophorina, best. She has learned self-defense, doesn’t act stuck-up and she even helped me personally in my dress; that awful red dress that Von Oxenstierna made me wear “as it is time you at least started looking like a crown princess”. The most horrendous part of the dress was the black corset above it. I can’t believe how normal women wear these things all day long. I couldn’t wait for the moment I could get out of it. Not to mention the high heel. How do you stand on them? All I did last night was sit in chairs. Ugh! 
Though I must admit that the dress did have a interesting effect. Either the dress or the fact that I am supposed to be an available soon-to-be-queen/king. Probably both. The men seemed to flock around me. That was quite a strange, but exhilarating phenomenon.

All the rumours about Southern men are true. I met two of them, a banker, Lorenzo, and a Castellan prince, Carlos. They were charming, had a lovely, sexy accent and were very easy going. Especially Carlos. Carlos is not just a prince, he is also family of the Kaiser of Ferdan, and even a pretender to the throne. It is either him or Lothar who will follow up the Kaiser. It would make a lot of sense to be engaged to a guy like this. Not only political, as it would immediately forge a bond between Sweden, Castellan and Ferdan, but also personally. He is laid back, likes hunting just as much as I do, and he doesn’t mind his queen to do the ruling, which is even considered normal in Castellan he tells me. And, dear diary, he is a good kisser…

Yes, I have kissed with a guy for the first time of my life! It was definitely different than with Belle: much wetter, and most of all much shorter, but oh, what a versatile tongue! I must say that it felt a little like I betrayed Belle, but then again, it is only a guy, and it is for a good, political cause. I can hardly wait to speak to Von Oxenstierna again, this was probably not what he meant when he said I needed to “enlarge my network”. 
Speaking about men: my old fencing and shooting teacher, Rosen, was at banquet as well. He now is a baron, and he seemed a little taken aback when I greeted him, which he denied by the way, when I asked him. It was funny to see him all dressed up like that, I think he thought the same of me.
The meeting I had dreaded a little, with Lothar, went rather ok. He has got these staring eyes, that seem to look through you, and this straight posture, that makes him look a lot taller than he actually is. He was impressive and at the same time troubled. I was relieved to hear him say that he hopes that peace will endure between Sweden and Ferdan. I hope so too, and I wish I could convince Oxenstierna of the same. 
The rest of the men were mostly clergy. There was this rather silent brother Hieronimus, who, rumor has it, likes crypt sex, whatever that may be. I had an interesting conversations with a holy man called Von Schwartzburg, who is also a financial genius apparently. But the most interesting theological conversation was with Bishop Von Mulhausen. He leads a number of convents that are open for retreats. That offers a possibility to lead the life of a nun, without having to decide immediately whether a marriage with God is your calling. He offers a place away to study theology, and he even said they were used to dealing with royalty. It did sound very intriguing. I would love to go there for a year. If I weren’t a princess… 
Well, I’m going to sleep now, dear diary. At least, if that will be at all possible, with all the screaming going on in the garden, near the chapel. What a noise these southern-crosstians make when they pray!


Pick #28: Thousand Monkeys...

1km1kt may sound silly. But it stands for 1k monkeys, 1k typewriters. It's based on the notion that if you let a thousand monkeys ram at a thousand typewriters, they might be able to write something like James Joyce's Ulysses. I'm not sure if that's really an argument for evolution, or for this site, but that's the idea.

The monkeys might also come up with a free RPG. And that's what this is. A gathering pool of all sorts of free role playing games. Unlike John Kim's list, or Rob Lang's effort, it's an actual depot of the games. The pdf's, text files, pictures, digital scraps of paper, whatever - are hosted on their server.

That's great. Because you can download over fivehundred games from the site. Or upload your own. Quite a few gems. Gems of inspiration, or truly magnificent little games. If you care to search for them. Less great is that the games on there aren't always the latest installments. But hey. Then you search for the newer version, don't you? Please do. With my games its worth looking here too for example.

But all qualms aside, 1km1kt is a great inspirer for writing and thinking about creative new games. They have a huge forum on game design, and host the 24 hour RPG challenge. A 24 hour roleplaying game is a game written in 24 hours. Everything from concept to artwork, from character creation to back cover. Usually these games are not complete, but it's incredible what one can make in such short time.

Browse the monkeys if you dare. And if you ever thought of writing your own, try the 24 hour challenge.