Pick #87: The Alexandrian Blog

While wondering about railroading, game structure, dungeons vs stories, and bottlenecks (or choke-points), I just discovered some excellent writing by Justin Alexander. Especially when you're just trying to make the transition from dungeoneering to mystery gaming (or more general story gaming), checking out his "three clue rule" essay may save you quite a few headaches. And even if you're not exactly new to more story based gaming, there's some nice theoretical and practical thinking in the Alexandrian. I particularly like the pieces on game structure, of which you can find the first article here.

Have a look, and see if you can help Justin finishing the 3rd edition compatible Legends & Labyrinths rule book, too. To be honest, I'm not too fond of third edition, but the idea of having *better* and easier rules that can handle the same modules and materials sounds nifty to me. And that's what L&L proposes to do, so I'm at least curious.


Random RPG Thoughts #17: Railroading and Capture Scenes

Recently my first OSR-experiment was reviewed, a story-telling dungeon adventure based on the original Haunted Keep dungeon. The reviewer, Bryce, frankly did not know what to make of it, loving some parts and hating others. More specifically he hated “the railroady bits”.

At first I had to have a hard look, because I also “hate railroady bits”. So I was kind of baffled to be accused of inserting railroading in one of my own adventures. I even moved toward story-based gaming because I hated the lack of choice some GM's gave me. But Bryce was right, my first scene did look like railroading – the way he read it, and possibly also the way I wrote it. So what happened? I'm not sure, but it sure got me thinking about the railroad thing.

Being on the Losing End
During the scenario there are at least three occasions where the idea is that the heroes will (have to) be on the losing end of a confrontation. First their relatives are kidnapped before their eyes, secondly they may be locked in and have to consider help by a noble family dwelling underground, and thirdly they might be captured in true comic book style, to be gloated over by the arch-villain.

Now being on the losing end of a confrontation is not being railroaded per se. You might think so with the talk about play balance, and some players may seem to think so when they start to balk about not being able to win. In my view, “bad” railroading only starts to occur when the players feel they have lost control over where they want to go. Or not to go. Not just their characters have lost control, but the players have. Basically the players then feel nothing they do right will help to change the situation.

Notice that I'm not saying much about story, or keeping things on track. Players rarely balk about winning too easily. Although the better ones do. Instead, what I think bothers most of us, is the “losing” bit in losing control.

But Losing – and then getting back on top – can be Very Exciting
Regular movies, tv shows, comics and books are full of heroes losing out. In the starting scenes they may be overwhelmed, later on they may be captured, beaten, knocked down, and so on. In most shows, the upbeat ones, they win again later on.

Yet, in D&D this may prove to be harder to do. Typical heroes will be stacked with spells, armour and weapons, and may burn down any enemy before they can speak. So, capture attempts tend to evolve into all out, life or death fights. This is partly because the average player may expect a GM to punish signs of weakness severely. Shame if that's true (and it surely has been in my own games), because this way you miss out on a range of potential nail-biting moments.

So, what if you knew you could trust your GM?
Yeah right. To an extent I should trust my GM, to be fair. But I should also trust him to make trouble for me. Yet, suppose that you could also trust the GM to never bring you into an unfair situation, even if you were captured (or *&% forbid “railroaded”?)

Suppose you're overwhelmed, but you also know you can run away to live another day, then a no win confrontation is less bad. Most GM's will actually handle this well enough. Or, if you know you'll have the chance to later rescue the ones you saw being kidnapped, it's probably less bad. Or, more extreme, if you know that the villain captures you, but that the game master promises to help create a chance to let you escape, it's probably also less bad. It might even be fun, because you get a new kind of challenge.

No Direct or Indirect Harm shall be done through Forced In-Game Capture
There's no hard rule for this in OSR, maybe it's more of a story gaming thing, but you could make it one: THE GAME MASTER MAY LET NPC's CAPTURE ONE OR MORE PC's (under gunpoint, by knocking them out, lulling them to sleep, etc.), BUT SHOULD THEN LATER PROVIDE AT LEAST ONE (OBVIOUS) SERIOUS ESCAPE OPPORTUNITY BEFORE ANY REAL HARM IS DONE TO THE CAPTURED PC's. Naturally, pc's may still try to escape before capture, against all odds, but if they get hurt during this attempt, that's their own risk. The GM should carefully signal what kind of situation this is, of course.

Now, would this work? What do you think, out there? I'm sure going to give it a try.

Meanwhile, I'll also do a little rewrite of the scenes that looked too much like railroading, and update the module.

UPDATE: Shadow of the Haunted Keep was updated. It now should no longer contain "railroady bits". Or at least fewer of them :-)


Pick #86: Philip Glass as Inspiration

This may be a weird pick for an RPG blog, but music and videos can be very inspiring. This is one - edited by Ulises Tamez in 2007 - is  a video meddley on Underground Storm from the Truman Show soundtrack. Think it's pretty impressive, almost begging for its own setting or story.

Might try it this weekend.


Random RPG Thoughts #16: Gaming Shelves

James M. form Grognardia just started a meme I actually like. What's on your gaming shelves? It probably tells a lot about your gaming likes, dislikes, who and what you admire, and probably also what you'd like to play. And yet, you may have forgotten that this is so for your own shelves, just having left those books and games up there for so long. James has a lot of first edition D&D and AD&D - much what you'd expect, from him, or from Eric Holmes when he wrote Fantasy Role Playing Games in the early 1980s.

So what have I got? This is the top shelf:

And below it are some other shelves with Spirit of the Century, Arduin Grimoire, Maelstrom, Cyberpunk, and a host of other stuff. On the lowest shelf there's the bookcase boxes of Traveller, Runequest, and some very old ragged copies of oriental adventures, fiend folio and the like. And on top there's this :-)

So what does that say about me? ;-)


Random RPG Thoughts #15: World War I RPG

It's November 11th. At the 11th hour, this day 94 years ago, WWI ended for many countries. For some it did not. For some historians it was no more than the start of a twenty-one year armistice in a prolonged war between Germany and much of the rest of the world.

In my country we don't remember this day. My country (the Netherlands) was what is called neutral. All our direct neighbours, UK, Germany, and Belgium, all were in the Great War. They do remember.
And it always gets me thinking... could you capture the feel of this war in an enjoyable RPG?

Are you Serious? A WWI RPG??
Yep, I am. As far as I know, there is no successfull attempt at an WWI RPG as of yet. Unless you count Call of Cthulhu variants, where the battlefields are infested with ghouls and unspeakable horrors of another kind. And you might argue that the Great War was highly un-enjoyable, and so not fit for a Role Playing Game.

Yet, we do have games about horror, we even have spying and post-apocalyptic military role playing games... why not a WWI RPG? It does not need to be pro-militarist at all. It could be pacifist in spirit.
Death rates might not have to be a problem either. They aren't in DCC, nor were they in old old school games, nor in CoC. A highly random death rate might even add to the fatalistic feel, combined with an "every day that we live counts" mentality. Your epitaph, or farewell letter might also work out as a special part of the character.

Experimental Storytelling in WWI?
You could even do the story backward. Start with the epitaph, then do the dying scene, then do what went on before, in scenes back to where the war started. It would demand a special sort of role playing, but if Pinter can do it in Betrayal, or Nolen can do something likewise in Memento, why couldn't we? Reverse story telling. And we as a player know how it will end.

Or another way to give it more connection is by introducing something like "the Angel of the Battlefield", where you as a player are an angel, following all sorts of souls during the war, each time up to their point of death. And when the die, you pass to another, perhaps even on another front, or at another point in the war. Or hey, maybe the hero you follow stays alive? That would be cool too.

I'm sure I'll get myself to writing it in due time. My question is, would any of you like it? Are you at least intrigued by the idea? Don't be shy. Let me know.


Random RPG Thoughts #14: Planning Shining Moments

Do you remember that one time that something worked real well for your character in a session, when everything went like a flow,  and you felt like everybody cheered? Remember when you finally defeated that nasty rival, or humiliated him back? Remember when you solved that puzzle unexpectedly? Or that time your sneaking action saved the day?

Those are examples of shining moments for players. As a GM you can have these as well, when you really surprise the players, have a scene that really has the players glued to their seats, or whenever you feel you're really making the game flow great.

Here's a thought I had today about shining moments. Usually we wait for them to happen.

Then, if you're good at spotting them, you'll expand on them, by using more description, and making these moments last longer. One Game Master friend I know is really good at this. He can really make his players shine. But I suspect he also just waits for them to happen.

I figured: we don't have to wait. We can plan them. Maybe we cannot force them to happen, but we can make sure, that there are specific opportunities, for each single player, to make them happen.

Three Possible Ways to make Shining Moments Happen
1. You can plan them. Especially if you play old school, you'll know that there are some things that only one character class can do. A thief is better at traps or stealing, a fighter at killing something, a mage at solving a puzzle with spells. Make sure ahead, that there is at least one occasion in your session, where each one character class can shine. Do that for every player character you have in your party.

If you're playing newer style, or if there is less differentiation in your party, find the areas where each player character is special and different from the others. Focus on that skill, or asset, and make sure it needs to be used somewhere in the adventure. And once such a moment happens, and the player picks up on this, build on it. If a hero does well, give it some extra power. If not, extend the moment and give extra rolls, make it a tense moment. Fudge the dice if necessary, embellish, make the moment longer.

2. You can make shining moments more probable, by making sure the player characters need each other. When players are dependent on each others actions for success, it's also more likely that a rescue action, or team action, becomes a shining moment.

3. You could have a non-player-character, specifically aimed at one of the player characters. It can be a rival, an enemy, a friend, an admirer, a lover, anything. Anything that helps to get the player hero to have special attention, and generate a special moment. The non-player-character could need a rescue for example, or a duel, or a very romantic moment, and so on.

How about you? Did you ever plan your shining moments? Did that work? Or do you only pick up on when they happen?

Pick #85: Lone Wolf Relives!

Did you ever play Grey Star? Does the name Lone Wolf ring a bell? Missing it?

In the eighties, there was a phenomenon called "game books". Books full of numbered paragraphs through which you could follow your own adventure path. Before the time of computers in every teenage room, you could play without your friends, solo, in a full adventure. You just played on your own, with one of these books, and sometimes a pencil to make notes.

The Lone Wolf series was one of the better series. One of my friends even named his favorite character after one in the series: Greystar. For some time these books got lost in history, but now you can get them again. Joe Dever and a group of fellow writers decided to republish their books on the Aon Project, for free!

You can download a complete html or pdf, or even play an "online version" of many books, including the Kai, Magnakai and Lone Wolf series. You can play many of these, again.
Very recently there even are epub and kindle versions.

Actually you can even get some in Spanish, or buy special full color maps of the Lone Wolf World. Check it out.


OSR Experiments #33: Savage Dead-Owl

Inspired by Tim Snider, who proofread my DD2 Starter Set (see last post), and published his own neat compendium last September, here's another monster conversion, styled into DD2:

Decaying Dead-Owl

Once the attack on Vaal went awry, it became apparent that none of the parties would come out alive. The weapons used had infected every living being, drenching them in the Jubre disease. This included the hunter owls employed by the Witch Masters, which went down in the first wave. Their masters had thought them dead, but when the long night came, their rotting corpses still moved. Master Nemesis was the first to be assailed by them, their putrid beaks spewing foul venom, and their infected claws scratching his armour and face. Nemesis was blinded only, but his two henchmen died then and there, only to return as flesh eating horrors from their graves two days later.

Decaying Owls are very rare, and will only be found near Doomstone and Jubre-infected areas.

DD2: beak & claw 6, attack class 2, flight 6, night vision 6, undead, zombifying disease
(avoid infection of wounds caused by the owls with 9+ on CON, or 6+ if well cleaned,
or else disease will rot an L wound daily until death ensues or cured by magick or prayer,
victims must roll 6+ on WIL after death to avoid becoming a zombie)


Two Hardcover Sizes!

The Lulu hardcovers of the Dark Dungeon 2nd edition Starter Set also look excellent - in both incarnations! One is almost the same size as the original Player's Handbook once was - and the other one is a chique 6x9 pocket sized book with dust jacket.

Hardcovers are 25 euros each, with 10% off until Halloween ;-)

How it looks inside:

Here you can see how the paper of the small hardcover is creme colored:

One is casewrapped, the other has a dustjacket:



Pick #84: WTF?!, that's no WOW!

For those of you who play World of Warcraft, or know people who play WOW, or those of you who do not want to confess to either of these but know... well, what the truth is, there's this: WTF?!

WTF?! is not necessarily what you'd think it would spell out to be. It's basically what WOW might have been if it had been coded in Flash, in two dimensions. That's what it is: a spoof of WOW. And it's rather well done. Your first quest, as Stretch-eared Elf Lady Phallicity (I don't even want to think about what that means), is to kill eight poor piglets. It goes downhill from there. Or actually it doesn't. Best of all, it's free, if you don't consider time spent which you could have spent elsewhere, which cannot be said for WOW.

Have a try here.


Dark Dungeon Lulu Prints Look Good

Still waiting for the Lightningsource prints, but the LuLu prints look excellent to me!

This is the A4 softcover, which you can order here. It's only $19.99 in this version (that's about 15 euros).

Also I've taken off 10% from the Hardcover price until Halloween.
For early buyers :-)

Here's how it looks inside:


Product Release: Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed Starter Set

Finally, it's there! We passed the proofreaders!

The fully illustrated Dark Dungeon 2nd Edition Starter set.

Available as pdf through DriveThru, and in print through LuLu.

Soon, print will also be available through DriveThru.

What it is? Well...

Fantasy Role Playing Beyond Your Imagination.
Old School and Storytelling combined.
Realistic, Heroic, yet Elegant and Fast.

The original Dark Dungeon game was first played in the Netherlands, from 1989 onwards, as a "tabletop game".  It was playtested and used in thousands of adventures, in several cooperative game worlds, with hundreds of players.

Dark Dungeon 2nd edition is one of the most elegant, fast, and yet "realistic" sets of rules you'll find. And it's finally here, as an expanded, updated, fully illustrated starter set.

Featured in this 134 page book are:

- a glossary of role playing terms for the uninitiated
(if you want to explain to your sister, or your boyfriend)
- how to play
- extended character creation with eleven starter professions
- innovative spell weaving with ten sample disciplines, build your own spells!
- faith and miracles with four sample saints
- extended advice on game mastering and making your own adventures

- fantastic creatures, magickal treasures, countries of origin
- a sample adventure

- an "appendix N"
- dozens of illustrations

Buy, play, and enjoy.


Some Sample Art: Catacombs

Experimenting for a cover for the Catacombs sourcebook... which will describe the undercity of Samaris, for both players and Game Masters.

Now I wonder, where did that Vampyre go?


Random RPG Thoughts #13: Away From Keyboard...

Just noticed that I haven't posted for a month! That's rather long, especially as past month my blog was "RPG BLOG OF THE MONTH" on Stuffer Shack!

Now that's a strange thing to occur... All right I was busy, doing lots of real life stuff, and waiting for proofreaders who are hopefully vigilantly on a vacation somewhere, and so was I, for part of these weeks. And even Grognardia is slow last month. It's summer!

But, I guess it's also one of these periods that occurs just before or after a storm. A period of contemplation. A period of gestation. A period of something new that need to grow.

So hopefully I'll find some new innovations, new ways of thinking, or new ways of playing after thus period of being AFK - away from keyboard. And that's what I wonder about now. Do you (whomever you are, reading this) also have a need for such silent periods at times? A period to recharge, and change your game into something new?

I know I had periods of more than a few years, in which gaming went on a real low fire. Sometimes I really thought that I'd never game again - and was sorry for that at the same time. But eventually play always  re-emerged with a vengeange, and in a a new form.

How about you? Are such silences good? Are they there? Do we need them? What do they mean - these times of recuperation?


Free Download: Ringworld Zombie

Update: Ringworld Zombie is now available with all new artwork, as a print-on-demand high quality card deck from DriveThruCards. It's most fun with three or four players, but you can play solo too!

According to Rob Lang I now probably deserve a place in the special padded room for those who could not resist doing two 24-hour RPGs for the same competition. Yet, here is my second one:


It's a fast, fully illustrated, game-masterless card game (and a simple role playing game) involving a Ringworld, you playing prisoners, and... Zombies!

You can order the game from DriveThruCards here. Rules are on the cards, and/or a free pdf ruleset can be downloaded from here.



Pick #83: More Hobbit Ponderings

Never guessed that the set of the Hobbit would be blessed by Maori.

But you all knew, didn't you? I just was slower to watch ;-)

I wonder if my family who went to live in Wellington NZ noticed anything of the filming there.

Here's a silly note to the teaser with alternative lyrics. No, it's not official, whatever it says.

Just to make sure, by now I do think it's a good idea to split the Hobbit into two parts, and not just because of increased funding opportunities - as in "two movies pay out more than one". The story is quite extensive for just two hours. Better to give it the length it needs.

On yet another note, if you could not get enough of the short eerie version... here's all 27 verses by ShaDoWCa7.


Free Download: SSN-589 USS SCORPION DOWN

I'm at it again! Instead of doing normal work, I've just finished an entry to the 24-hour RPG competition "Little Spaces". I'll put it here so you can download and play (test) it straight away!

SSN-589 DOWN is a role playing game written for the 24-hour RPG competition of May-June 2012. It's fast paced, game-master-less, cooperative and competitive at the same time, and best with three players or more. All you'll further need is these rules, a deck of playing cards, a different pawn for each player, and a coin.

It is late in May 1968, in the middle of the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict. Far out in the Atlantic, Nuclear Attack Sub Scorpion breaks all radio contact. Then, for reasons unknown, the vessel sinks to critical depth. Its hull cracks. 99 men and women are lost. What happened?

You are captain, crew and VIP guests on board, starting twenty-four hours earlier. Will you learn what went wrong? Can you change history, and save their lives?

You may download the 24-hour version for free here - or go to 1kM1kT to get it there.

Pick #82: The Hobbit on a darker note... through Dungeons Deep

Some time ago, I noted that the Hobbit teaser almost suggested a movie of horror - being much darker than the book. Now, some people who have spoken to people who spoke to the insiders suggest that I may be right.

The Hobbit will be a more grown up, darker movie than the book. As it seems, J.R.R. Tolkien tried to rewrite the Hobbit in the 1960s, to make it lead up more naturally to Lord of the Rings. Apparently, he abandoned the attempt, as the Hobbit would have changed too much.

Peter Jackson picked up this idea, and seems to be extending on it. The movie thus will not only contain elements from the Hobbit, but also from other, more mature Tolkien works. At least, for as far as copyrights allow, that is. To ponder on what this may mean... listen to the chilling Misty Mountains (Cold) and Dungeons Deep from the trailer. For twenty-five minutes.

Or take to this eerie enchanting version by ShaDowCa7. It's spine tingling, believe me.

Makes you look forward to the film after all, doesn't it? It does to me.


Real Flashing Blades Revisited

Looking for inspiration I flipped through some old posts about real fighting. And then I mean the flashing, fierce, furious kind, which we try to simulate in our role playing games.

Then I noticed one of my linked through videos about bucklers was gone (copyright reasons)... So I looked up a few other nice SCA and swordfighting ones. As food for thought.

Here they try to hit each other harder, with foam blades.

Guess that Armour Class, Hit Points and THACO don't really simulate this for me!

Or how about Pennsic, with a full scale battle? Notice how both parties don't seem to look forward to full contact for a while. Even if they carry foam blades.

And then there's this view of the 2011 Viking festival in Wolin, Poland... with more realistic weaponry.

How to get that kind of feeling in to your RPG? Would be nice eh?


Random RPG Thoughts #12: Could Players Build their own Contacts?

While revamping the Samaris booklet, I tried to think up a way to make a sourcebook more interesting to players. In general source books, like modules and adventure kits are game master eyes only. Which means that all the effort you put into it only reaches about 15 to 20% of its potential audience - at least in the form you put it. Sure, a Game Master will translate what you think up, and make it into his or her adventure. Probably he or she will show the artwork, once it comes in handy. But otherwise it stays secret.

That's a shame, most of the time, I think.

Lost Processing Power in the Role Play Group

Which brings me to another area where energy is often lost. Most role playing games are structured like an old style single core processor. When multitasking, all programs have to wait for their turn to be processed by that single core. The same happens when players wait for the Game Master to hear what happens with their actions. Players have to wait a lot. Even with fast GMs. And even when they play out partial scenes with eachother while waiting for the GM response.

Also a shame most of the time...

Shifting Power to the Players

And then there was this poll on a recent blog (sorry, forgot who you were - let me know ;-) about who plays the Henchmen in a traditional dungeoneering group. Do the players play the henchmen, or does the GM do so. Or something in between? Now Contacts could also be considered to be sort of Henchmen. Sort of. Players could play their own contacts, at least to a degree.

Now you might say that part of the fun of contacts is that they provide role playing opportunity for the GM. But if you're like me, you'll have ample role playing opportunity anyway - and players could add some colour of their own. You could also co-play a contact with the player and decide what the contact does.

Alternatively, players could play eachothers contacts, based on simple game master instructions. Then you could have small scenes played out between players while the game master busies him or herself with other players. This can add a lot to the game, as is already kind of demonstrated in more theatrical live action role playing games. The NPC will become much more special if played by a player - in general.

Making the Setting Part of the Player's Responsibility

Going a step further, players could build their own contacts - or flesh out contacts suggested by the game master. The game master could give a few ground rules, and the player would actually make the contact as if it were a player character, with skills and background and all. At least where the player is concerned.

Then making a final step... players could flesh out contacts suggested by a sourcebook. When you as a player have to choose, say two or three contacts from a sourcebook, and have to flesh them out, then the sourcebook also becomes more fun to read. And it becomes legitimate to read the sourcebook too. (That's another thing, as sourcebooks may be well kept hidden from the players by jealous game masters).

Players would thus become cocreators of the setting too. Some GM-power would shift to the players. And the single-core processing model of role playing would shift a bit to multi-core processing.

So... the upcoming commercial Samaris sourcebook will have over a hundred potential contacts, to be fleshed out by the players. It's their town of adventure too! 


A new request... proofreader wanted

Dear fellow bloggers. I've just finished the illustrated and revised Dark Dungeon starter set for publication, and I'm looking for a native english speaking proofreader. And possibly playtester, if you like - there's a full adventure included.

In exchange for your effort, you'll naturally get my eternal gratitude, honorable mention and the final pdf for free :-)

Here's the current cover (which I also painted, just like all art inside).

UPDATE: Dear fellow bloggers I'm impressed! Thank you for your fast response - for those who read this late, I'd love your help for future products. I'll post again when the time comes.


Pick #81: Really Ancient Dice...

Okay, so James already pointed at this one in his Grognardia, but it's worth saying it again. You thought the roleplaying dice looked funny? That they must have magickal origins? They might have. The four-sided die for example is really, really ancient. And I don't mean 1973 with that. I don't even mean it looks like a little pyramid. I do mean the Royal game of Ur. It's a 3600 year old racing game remniscent of backgammon.

On the other hand, maybe it was the first role playing game... ;-)

Just in case you're as amazed as I was, here's some more dice history on the awesome dice blog.

Pic is courtesy Wikipedia.


Some Sample Art: Still Alive!

Here's another two samples of the upcoming rulebook.

Guess that in my time zone I should have been sleeping by now.


Some Sample Art: Knights and Orcs

Update: This was some time ago... and I redid the whole book in color by now. You can buy The World Beyond in hardcover (real nice) or pdf if you like, or just enjoy the pics ;-)

Original post:
Over the last few months real life took over a bit, but last saturday I managed to do some lay out work for my upcoming illustrated, commercially available Dark Dungeon core rules.  Here's a few samples of what it's starting to look like. Hope you're as enthousiastic about it as I am!


Pick #80: Old School Hack, or D&D Pretzel Style

Possibly this one needs no introduction to you, as this one won this year's ENnie award. I'll chance that.

Old School Hack is an easy going, beer and pretzel style take on what 1981 D&D might have been. What it might have been if the designers would have hated intricate dungeon mapping, three digit math, and rulebooks heavy enough to knock an Umber Hulk out. Instead they would have loved sweets, easy rules, fast paced combat, a cheery atmosphere, comic style play, and a cooperative group spirit.

One of the nicest touches of the system I think, is the awarding of awesome points. These are a sort of luck points, or fate points, as many systems know them. But in this case players may also award them to eachother, for cool play moments. Also, the game master can deal out more nastiness, while giving more awesome points to compensate. Awardable awesome points are kept in a bowl, possibly as sweets or other edibles. To me it's a refreshing system mechanic to find in a dungeon delving game.

Old School Hack beta 1.0 is available for free, and worth to give a spin in your group. Be sure not to eat your awesome points before you use them though. If you want, you can read some interviews with writer Kirin Robinson here and here - or have a look at the Red Box Hack inspiration for this game by Eric Provost. And despite his busy private life, Kirin intends to expand on the game soon. Which seems an excellent idea to me.


News #X: Another 24-hour RPG Competition!

I was slightly late to notice, but a little over a week ago, the people at 1KM1KT - including Rob Lang of the Free RPG blog - have opened a new 24 hour RPG competition. There's 30 pounds in Amazon vouchers to be won, and the deadline is the 1st of July this year.

If that doesn't make sense to you: the challenge is to write a Free Role Playing Game, with rules, artwork, setting, everything - by yourself, in the space of 24 hours. Once you start, you have to finish 24 hours later. There's no police to  watch you obey this rule, except for your own conscience, but that's it.
Think it's not possible? It is. It's incredible what you'll see yourself do in 24 hours, if you take the challenge - even if it might be heavy on your family or social life. Even if you do decide to sleep and waste 8 precious hours.

These two free games on this site were in fact done in its first form in another 24 hour competition.
And I'm quite proud of them!

Feeling lucky? Feeling brave? Feeling inspired? Just curious? I'm all of these. See if I can manage some free time space and join. You too?


A-Z for World Nirdday: Z is for Zork, a time travelling offworld agent

Z is for Zork, the name of a lonely offworld agent, sent to investigate the moral state of Nirdday. According to legend, the Zork was accompanied by a Gwelm (pronounce gh-Wo-lem), a violent, tightly harnessed undead warrior. The Gwelm was invisible most of the time, and sent both to protect the Zork, and to make sure that the Zork would not stray from his mission. Both the Zork and the Gwelms originate in Nopalgaard, a protected place in the far future on a world mostly destroyed by Chaos. Using a telempathic artefact, the last bastion of the Priestesses of Nopalgaard sent out trained volunteers into the past, hoping to find the true source of the Chaos, hoping to retroactively defeat it before it could grow. Nopalgaard, coincidentally, is also one of the more arcane names of the original garden city of the Northerners, the punishing Elves involved in the Celestial Wars.


A-Z for World Nirdday: Y is for Yaddrin, the Mirror World

Y is for Yaddrin, Nirdday's mirror world. Yaddrin years are counted forward, not backward. On Yaddrin mirror images exist of nearly every person and place one can find on Nirdday, and travellers between the worlds may be confused at first to see the difference. However, people on Yaddrin are typically more mild mannered, opposite in demeanor or ethics, more chaotic, or just less determined than those of Nirdday. Some may call those on Yaddrin “good” and those on Nirdday “evil”, but that would be simplifying the reality too much. The worlds of Nirdday and Yaddrin are much alike, but also different – with different choices of the same people having led to different, if similar histories.

Until the end of the last war active magickal gates accessing Yaddrin have been known to the Ahnenerbe division of the ImperiMor army. Some believe that Godking Castor and his henchmen have fled to Yaddrin through the gate of Lorenzo, to escape either justice or an oncoming apocalypse. After their disappearance the knowledge of traversing the worlds was either lost, or travel has been blocked, as some sages believe. Much as is the case with time travel. It is however possible that individuals from Yaddrin have stranded on Nirdday, and vice versa – now locked out from their own world and at the same time mistaken for their doubles.

Art: thankfully borrowed screen shot from the excellent old series Star Trek episode Mirror Mirror. Worth seeing to understand the concept of mirror worlds.


A-Z for World Nirdday: X is for the legendary XIV Legion

 X is for XIV Legion, the ImperiMor legion that fought at Cardabajo (pronounce: kar-da-Bagh-o) at the end of the 7th Celestial War. Complemented by hundreds of dragons and riders of the Kalath princes (pronounce ka-La-ghh) they long held at bay the enemy forces of the Jubre Legions that spawned from the windgates at Lago Madrid (pronounce La-gho ma-Dreem). Despite overwhelming opposing force, and despite a loss of over ten thousand, the legion held crucial ground and ultimately secured that the Armistice of Arrival could be effected. After the battle, a small contingent of the Legion returned from the Elder Temples, and they were said to carry a dark but mighty secret that would secure the ImperiMor supremacy from then on. Whether this legend is true or not, the refreshed XIV Legion carried on its reputation in the following centuries, winning many battles, and finally becoming protector of the Isle of Samaris.

Art: wikipedia


A-Z for World Nirdday: W is for the Wall, the Magick Shield between North and South

W is for Wall, the magick Wall of Power, also called Ley. It stretches from the East of Nirdday all to the west, separating the North and South. The wall is a shimmering shade of silver, over ten meters high, and one can vaguely see through. Sometimes, especially at dawn and dusk one can see huge shadows of skeletal giants shining through – possibly creatures captured in the wall force field. It is impossible to fly over the wall, and coming too close to it is known to cause madness or death. As word of speech, people with crazy or dangerous plans are said to “have left their head in the wall”.

The AceceRex of Samaris first built the Wall, together with the Elder Elves, in order to stop the ever returning wars between North and South. However, to make trade and movement of individuals possible, five major gateways (sometimes named Hellgates) were kept open. These gateways lay at Brugghes, Vaal, Samaris, Loz Azlon and PortaMornanore. Vaal was completely destroyed and closed, while at Brugghes the Wall collapsed and an effective gateway of a hundred miles wide was created on sea and land. Smaller gateways sometimes open, but usually at inaccessible places, and only with full moon for example. Apart from the greater Wall separating North and South, other Walls of Power exist shielding eastern ImperiMor, and eastern Ferdan. 

Art: modified image of Great Wall of China - original photo by Bill Price III at wiki.


A-Z for World Nirdday: V is for Vaal, the Lost City

V is for Vaal, the lost capital of the North-western Empire. It must have lain somewhere in Ferdan, not far from where the magick wall now is, but no one seems t o know for sure. Vaals power and riches were unsurpassed, as all gold and doomstone of the Empire were held in its temples. Also, it was the seat of the western Dragon High Priestess, or the Veknaa, the female equivalent of the Pope. With the demise and destruction of Vaal, also the power of the Priestesses dwindled. After its last destruction in 883 with the massacre of the Valley of Vaal, only decades ago, the lands of Vaal were so poisoned that no life was possible, and its location was lost.

Art: changed image of lost city Vardzia, wiki commons


A-Z for World Nirdday: U is for Saint Ursula, Protectress of the Soul

U is for Saint Ursula, and her 11,000 virgins. Saint Ursula – her name meaning Little Bear, as in the constellation - lived before Arrival, and perhaps before the second Celestial War, in a far away Kingdom sometimes believed to be Anglia. She may have been a Princess, or as others believe, a Dragon High Priestess – like these still exist in ImperiMor. When the King asked her hand, she at first refused, and said she first wished to consult the Seat of the High Priests, commonly believed to be Avignon. She took sail in many ships, together with her 11,000 virgins, each with six handmaidens, making for 77,000 travellers in all. When she returned, she met the King of the Huns, who also wanted her hand. She again refused, and the Hun took vengeance and massacred Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. When the graves of thousands of slain women were found at Colonia (Koln), it was assumed that this must have been Ursula and her women. Ursula is a very important Saint, and protectress of women and children, as well as protectress of the soul as it travels between incarnations.

Ursula convents are found in many places - even inhospitable ones guarding doomstone mines.


A-Z for World Nirdday: T is for Time Travellers

T is for Time Travellers. Although travel through time from Nirdday seems impossible, certainly since the last War of Destruction, known time travellers exist. At least four groups may be distinguished. The first are the so called Guardians, or Lords of Time. Whether these truly exist is unknown, but most sovereigns both hold them in high regard and fear them. It is believed that the Queen of Anglia, the Council of Brugghes and the Elves of Goldar are all advised by them. The second group originates from Section VII, the secret service of the ImperiMor army. Possibly to counter the powers of the Lords of Time, possibly just to stay ahead of other enemies, they researched ways of travelling through time. One of the ways they researched brought them in contact with the Aurorians, a group of vampyres and vampyre hunters who travel between worlds and through time. Section VII may have learned many secrets from them, before they were officially disbanded a few decades ago. The fourth group is the most natural of time travellers, the Celestial Dragon. Unfortunately, all celestial dragons have probably been killed in the first Celestial Wars.

Art: altered image from CERN


A-Z for World Nirdday: S is for Southport on Samaris

S is for Southport, on the Isle of Samaris. It is the central haven of Nirdday, and the last regular port before the Hellgate of Northport, the central hole in the magick Wall that separates North and South Nirdday. In the past, before the last Celestial Wars, Samaris was entirely covered by city sprawl, gardens, fortresses and palaces – for over 10,000 square miles. But after the Northern surprise attack that started the 6th Celestial War, with rains of fire lasting for weeks, only a small fraction of the buildings and populace survived. In the years that followed, much of the old city was buried, either under new buildings, or mostly under ruinous mountains and wild natural growth. Now, huge complexes and hidden pockets underground provide shelter for vermin, outlaws, vile creatures and horrible undead, an Undercity which perhaps spans the entire island. Naturally, the current populace of the isle, concentrated around the four main ports, tries to keep the underearth as locked down as possible – but still the lure of the unknown is great, and many a young man has tried to venture down in search of lost treasure and artefacts. Southport itself is one of the larger cities of the world, with many old buildings and some of the most bizarre markets in Nirdday, including ones for slaves. The city is guarded by a large standing army of ImperiMor soldiers, under command of the White Lord and his council.


A-Z for World Nirdday: R is for Reincarnation Forever

R is for Reincarnation, an important part of most religions on Nirdday, including the Crosstian one (Crosstian resembles the Christian religion of Earth, but is different in several aspects). Most Crosstian prophets remembered their former lives, some of these former lives also of a prophet. It is presumed that all people reincarnate constantly, sometimes splitting their soul into different bodies at the same time. Only those who were imprisoned in soul prisons, or those few who reached the Sky of Joconda are believed to be free of this everlasting cycle. One can reincarnate in any class or human-like race, and only seldomly into the body of animals – if at all. Most people do not remember former lives, but it is not commonly thought as odd if people do. Remembering may be seen as a gift or a curse, but it always seems to strengthen those who experience it. One may feel more one with the rest of humanity, knowing that you always were, and again will be. Knowing that you could have been anyone else, in anyone's position also increases empathy and a sense of responsibility for others.

However, there is also a dark side to the general acceptance of reincarnation as a fact. Those who committed crimes in former lives are sometimes hunted in their current ones, even if they are now repentant people. The Witchmasters of Toledo for example long hunted the Fourhundred souls they held responsible along with the punished Fourty, for the eruption of the last Celestial War. In ImperiMor high nobility tries to cheat the normal reincarnation cycle by letting their bodies be prepared in Heaven (see entry H) beforehand. Or else they aim to be reborn with a temple-virgin or Silver Dragon Priestess of Juno Moneta, thus securing a high born next life. As a side result there are constant feuds, not only between families, but also between soul groups spanning over different lives.

Art: wikicommons


A-Z for World Nirdday: Q is for the Queene Elizabeth of Faerie

Q is for Queen Elysabeth Ysold Galadrien, the Queen Lady of Anglia, Grand Mistress of Londinium, Protectress of the New Overseas Territories, eldest of the Ancient Elves. Her beauty is both wonderful and unsurpassed (although tastes may differ if one looks at her portraits), and all who behold her love her – and despair at the same time. Her dweomer of empathy is so strong, that her entire Faerie Courte rides the waves of her emotions. Although she has many lovers, she is not married, choosing to be second to none. Her throne is at the Tower of Londinium, she commands the greatest fleet of the North (mostly pirates and buccaneers), and protects the powers of the great banks and moneylenders of The City.


A-Z for World Nirdday: Peter von Amiens

P is for Peter von Amiens, inspiring and driven leader of the Kinder des Lichts (Children of the Light), a paramilitary, Crosstian religious organisation. Despite his Keo roots, von Amiens is a strong proponent of a strong Gross Ferdan, and many common folk believe that his leadership would bring new prosperity to the declining nation. According to his own writings, he has been contacted by an Angel after he was wounded on the front in the last War of Destruction. Gathered around him are prestigious old military men and war heroes, but also more shady characters and foreign businessmen. The Kinder des Lichts have become a force to be reckoned with, protecting the countryside, but also dispatching thugs who bully all those who disagree with them, particularly foreigner workers from the east and demi-human races. Von Amiens is a gifted speaker, who knows how to influence crowds. Therefor many established nobles see him either as someone who may save Ferdan or a dangerous man who will cause the next civil war.