Wednesday, 5 April 2017

In Praise of the Artists

I spent a lot of time at Gary Con talking to people who either enjoyed my writing, or were polite enough to say that they did. Of course, no adventure is just the writing. There is always the art. 

(In Dungeon Crawl Classics, that art might include the cartography, but that would be a different post.)

I have now worked with a number of publishers in this little community of ours. 

Regardless of who I am working with, one of the real joys of writing adventures is seeing how the artist(s) involved interpret my words. 

Sometimes, to be honest, the words are pale in comparison to the artistic vision of the people who bring these thoughts to visual life.

Seriously, there is satisfaction in finishing a project. There is certainly satisfaction in getting paid for it. But it is when I finally have the chance to see the words mesh with the art that everything falls into place for me.

Other authors may be different. I can't say. Nor do I think that there is a "right" way or a "wrong" way to enjoy this process of creation. I just wanted to post a big "Thank you!" to all of the artists who have helped make my work look good over the years.


Thank you!

I hope that it is clear that the art in this post is representational, but the inclusion (or lack thereof) of any given piece isn't meant to call out specific artists.

I am grateful to anyone who has ever tried to make images out of my words!

Now, here's the contest: Can you name the products that these images come from? There are images from 12 products. 

The first person to name them all, in the comments, will receive a POD coupon for Dispatches Vol IV from me as soon as the print version is available. All you need to do is pay postage!

(Well, and make sure I have your email address linked to Drive Thru!)

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Gary Con, Extended

Gary Con IX was the first large convention that I have been to in many long years - over a decade at least. What a fantastic time! Inevitably, I am going to fail to mention some people or some events, partially because I am still recovering and partially because there is a limit to my abilities as a writer. Here we go, though...a more extended version of Gary Con events.

(On second thought, I lie....Nexus Game Fair in Milwaukee last year was pretty damn big, and I got to meet and hang with Brendan LaSalle there! It just goes to show, though, that I am going to make mistakes in this report.)

Thursday: Arrived at the hotel with my son, Mike. Because we were late to book, I had to use the overflow and get a suite at the Timber Lodge. I had imagined pick-up gaming in the room (it included a table seating 6), but that never came to pass. Too bad, in a way. I had packed more than enough material to run another 3-4 games.

Dropping by the Goodman Games/Black Blade Publishing booth, I met with Jon Hershberger and signed a raffle copy of the DCC core rulebook.

At 2 pm I ran a playtest of Escape from Terror Island, which seemed to go pretty well. Included at the table was none other than Thick Skull's Stephen Newton, who had pictures taken.A good thing, too, as I had failed to take any.

That night, after the game, Mike and I met with Joseph Goodman, Harley Stroh, and Jen Brinkman, and went to dinner at the Pub Next Door....which was excellent and crowded with Con-goers and locals alike.

That evening Mike and I hung out at the bar for a bit, and were witness to Doug Kovacs running a game of Dog Storm. The game was in process when we arrived, so we didn't play, but instead drank Spotted Cow and talked to other gamers.

Friday: I ran two games: a Gnome Jambalaya playtest at 10 am and Stars in the Darkness at 2 pm. Among the people at my tables were David Baity and Clint Bohaty, who are certainly known to the DCC community. David Baity kindly brought be a Dark Trails thermos cup, dice, decal, and cup holder.

Please realize that, although I am only mentioning a few of the people at my tables (and largely because I am name-dropping), I got to game with a hell of a lot of great people not specifically mentioned. The tables were few, the gamers were fun and engaging, and I hope most of us enjoyed ourselves!

Between games, I tried to locate Paul Wolfe, both because we have had a cordial online relationship for a number of years, and because I wanted to get him to sign a copy of Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between which will be a raffle prize at Odyssey Con at the end of April.

We were able to get in on Dog Storm for that night, and Mike ended up winning. When we were on the edges the previous night, it had sounded as though people were having a lot of fun. The reality was even more fun. Almost all of my characters (I think all, but I say "almost" in case I forgot something) were taken out by dog storms or cosmic debris.

Saturday: I woke up late, and so only got into the tag end of What's New With Goodman Games....but not too late to see Doug Kovacs stump the Dark Master with Lankhmar lore. The kickstarter went live.

My only game for Saturday was The Revelation of Mulmo, scheduled for 10 pm to 3 am (we ran over), so I had plenty of time to hang around the convention area before that. I was able to have a longer conversation with Doug Kovacs, as well as see and discuss his original art. I met Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Taven. I was finally able to catch up with Paul Wolfe, as well as his family. I spoke with Reid San Filippo, Forrest AguirreScott Swift, Adam Muszkiewicz, Bob Brinkman, and others. It was all a bit of a whirl, and I apologize to those I haven't called out specifically. I had a short interaction with Michael Curtis. Somewhere in there I met Jobe Bittman and Jim Wampler.

My game that night included the illustrious James V. West.

I almost forgot to mention that Mike won a backpack full of beer while I was running this game, easily beating the American competition in Beers of the World....heavy drinking being the Canadian national sport even more than hockey is! It should go without saying that being a giant of a man with biceps like my thighs also improved Mike's chances! Canadian honour was upheld!

Sunday: Up by 10 am to breakfast, check out of the hotel, and then run The Tomb of the Squonk for a full table, which included Jeff Goad. No one was turned away. A lot of "20"s were rolled by the players. Side trips to The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn and The Giggling Deep were made.

After the convention, Mike and I had lunch at the Pub Next Door, where we again met with Doug Kovacs. It was a full convention.

Shout-Outs to the Players Who Signed Up for My Games

If you're not listed, let me know in the comments. If I met with you at the Con, but my overworked brain left you out of the above report, say "Hi" in the comments. Especially for the 0-level funnels, because I would like to make sure that you get the playtest credit you deserve!

Escape From Terror Island: Richard Mundy, Don Porter, Chris Ellis, Ken Austin, Jeff Bernstein, and Joshua O'Conner-Rose.

Gnome Jambalaya: Jon Steelman, Becky Banner, David Baity, Clint Bohaty, Karen Johnson, Charlie Brashear, Todd Brashear, and David Caulkins. (Chris Ellis was on the waiting list, but I can't for the life of me remember if we made room or not....?)

Stars in the Darkness: Richard Mundy, Mike Bolam, Chris Ellis, Joshua O'Connor-Rose, Christopher Turner, Matthew Turner, Justin Bowers, and Dave Crimm.

The Revelation of Mulmo: Dave Bresson, Nathan, Steph, James V. West, Andrew Moss, Jeff Bernstein, Trevor Hartman, and Joshua O'Connor-Rose.

The Tomb of the Squonk: Jon Steelman, Jeff Goad, Becky Banner, Richard Mundy, Tim Deschene, Jeffrey Laluc. The Waiting List included Eric Lopez, Mike Bishop, Chris Ellis, and James Smith. I tried to accommodate all comers.

Recommendation to the Con

On the "Players Wanted/Table Full" stands, include something to indicate what game is being played. Especially if you need players!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Gary Con IX

Gary Con was last weekend, and a great time was had! I am still in Wisconsin, visiting family, but I would like to shout out to all the great people I met and gamed with and say THANK YOU! It was gratifying to have dedicated gamers willing to fill a table for a 10 pm - 3 am slot, and I hope that I did not disappoint!

I will almost certainly return next year (barring some emergency), and try to work my schedule so that I have more time to hang out with people.

To the player in Tomb of the Squonk who lost his dice - I have them. Give me a shout and I'll make sure that they get back to you.

Again, great Con! Thank you!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Here are a few extras from a recent(ish) DCC project that either didn’t fit the space requirements or tone of the product. I present them here so that you may use them in your own games.

Pustule: A yellow pustule on the (1d4): (1) right wall, (2) left wall, (3) floor, or (4) ceiling quivers with mucus-like pus. If interacted with in any way, it bursts, spraying pus in a 30’ radius. A Reflex save (DC 5) avoids the pus. Touched characters get a DC 10 Fort save each round to avoid losing 1d3-1 points of Strength, Agility, or Stamina (PC’s choice) as the pus eats into his flesh. Once a character makes a successful save, the damage ends. Characters who survive long enough can heal the damage normally. A ranged attack against AC 7 can burst a pustule from a safe distance.

Polyp: A bulging reddish polyp emerges from wall, ceiling, or floor. The polyp quivers slightly, straining towards any character approaching it. Should a PC touch the thing, it attempts to envelope him. The PC may attempt three Strength checks to break free: DC 5, DC 10, and DC 15. Thereafter, he is completely encased within the polyp. 1d5 minutes later, the polyp spits the character back into the corridor, healed of all wounds, diseases, and poisons. Any given polyp can only heal 1d3 PCs before it goes black, shrivels, and falls off the surface of the hallway.

Antibody: Init +3; Atk touch +0 melee (0); AC 6; HD 1 hp; MV fly 40’; Act 1d16; SP attach, reduce Agility and speed; SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +0; AL N.

The dungeon is alive, and is patrolled by its own antibodies, which seek to deal with foreign substances. These are small blue fleshy spheres, covered with bumps and prongs, which fly in groups. Antibodies cause no damage, instead attaching to whatever they hit.

Attached antibodies are no longer active. They can be removed with alcohol or acid (including the pus from pustules), and do not “reactivate” if removed. Every three antibodies attached to a character reduces that character’s Agility by 1. Every five antibodies attached to a character reduces that character’s movement speed by 5’. If speed is reduced to 0’, a character can no longer move on his own.

Blue shade: Init +0; Atk none; AC 10; HD 1d4; hp 3; MV fly 50’; Act 1d20; SP non-corporeal, telepathic; SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +7; AL N.

This alien creature is a non-corporeal sphere, 30’ in diameter, in which everything appears to be a shade of cornflower blue (including any PCs within the sphere). It is nothing more than a color in this plane, and can neither harm another nor be harmed. It is telepathic, interested in everything, understands next to nothing about life in this plane, and is as annoying as all hell. It always answers a question with a question. Its voice is always calm, and it insists that it is smarter than everyone it has yet encountered in the material realm. If PCs become upset, or if a violent encounter occurs, the blue shade calmly suggests that everyone stop and consider things rationally. You are aware that the creature you are interacting with will die if you pierce it with the pointy thing you are holding, aren’t you?

The blue shade remains for 10 minutes of actual game time, or as long as the judge desires.

Giant tapeworm: Init -2; Atk bite +1 melee (1); AC 9; HD 1d6; hp 4 each; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP attach, blood drain; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +0; AL N.

These are 5-foot-long parasites. A giant tapeworm that successfully attacks its foe latches on, and will not release its hold until dead. Thereafter, the tapeworm drains 1 hp of blood each round. The corpse of a creature killed by a giant tapeworm cannot be used to open a sphincter (although the giant tapeworm corpse can do so).

Graffle: Init +2; Atk stick +0 melee (1); AC 15; HD 1 hp; MV 20’; Act 1d14; SV Fort -2, Ref +2, Will +0; AL L.

Graffles are tiny humanoids, no more than a foot high. They wear clothing, but seldom wear pants, and their torsos are covered with shaggy fur. There is another tuft of fur at the end of their tails, and they have a tuft of fur at the top of their heads. They are generally inoffensive, and prefer fleeing to fighting. The Graffles claim to hail from a place called “Graffle Boulder” and refer to the dungeon as “this weird place in outer space”.

Draugmere, the Demonglass Blade: This Chaotic +1 longsword communicates with its wielder by simple urges. It appears to be made of black glass, but is as hard as steel, and its golden crossguards are twining dragons. The name of the blade is imprinted in the mind of any who grasps its hilt, as is the simple nature of the bargain Draugmere offers – you gain +1 bonus hp for every comrade you slay with the blade. These hit points cannot be healed, and are always used first. But it is easy to gain new bonus hit points, if you have any friends nearby…

Orb of Temptation: A glass orb, 6 inches in diameter, which seems to contain a naked human woman. A PC gains 1 point of Strength as soon as he picks it up. The woman within the orb will answer one question for any given character, but only one question ever. The orb must be passed to another character to get another answer. As soon as the new character takes the orb, he gains 1 point of Strength, and the previous character loses 1d3 points of Strength. The woman in the orb always answers questions truthfully, as succinctly as possible, and she knows everything that the judge knows. She asks the question asked, rather than the question intended. The players may choose to pass this object to new characters as often as they like, so long as they are willing to pay the price.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Writing for the Ducks

As some of you may know, my first published product for Dungeon Crawl Classics was also Purple Duck Game's first DCC product - AL 1: Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror. It's nearly five years later, and I have 24 products with Purple Duck Games, either already out or nearly there. I've written for other publishers as well - they're like Pokemon; I gotta catch 'em all - but it is Purple Duck that I keep coming back to.

So, the purpose of this blog post is twofold: First, I want to convince you, budding would-be adventure writer, that you should submit to Purple Duck. Second, I want to tell you about a Patreon project Purple Duck Games just started.

As to the first, Mark Gedak, the publisher of Purple Duck Games, is a great guy who has never in any way, shape, or form been anything less than a joy to work with. If you don't know it, publishers in this industry bleed money. After paying for writing, art, cartography, and layout, every project leaves them in a hole waiting for the Gentle Reader to become the Gentle Buyer and dig them out. Despite being the first hand out in the Great Bloodletting that is getting a project from manuscript to print, I have never once had to nudge Mark, or began to wonder if he had forgotten.

In fact, I have approached Purple Duck Games on more than one occasion, with a wild scheme that required him to making payments before a manuscript even existed. Not only did Mark Gedak give me help and advice, on all of those occasions he bought into the project, taking the upfront costs out of his own coffers. Of course, we already had a working relationship at that point, but even so Purple Duck Games has treated me more than fairly.

Purple Duck Games has also supported me when I wanted to help my friend, Raechel Henderson, with her kickstarter (this is why you can get Prince Charming, Reanimator, as a free pdf) and in terms of prize support for Odyssey Con this April. (Other prizes are supplied by Shinobi27 Games, Straycouches Press, and Goodman Games!)

If you're looking for a publisher open to new authors, and that has both the desire and tools to help you succeed, you could do far worse than Purple Duck Games.

Which brings me to my second aim: To announce (and support) the Dungeon Crawl Classics Patreon set up by Purple Duck Games.

This Patreon is designed to help fund the development of further Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game from Purple Duck Games. It will allow Purple Duck to continue to offer releases in the AL, CE, FT, Dispatches and PM lines and provide both their writers and artists with a greater return on their investment.

The initial release schedule would look something like:

1st - AL 8: Fire in the Mountain by Daniel J. Bishop
2nd - Dispatches IV by Daniel J. Bishop
3rd - PM 1 - Temple of the Locust Lord by Daniel J. Bishop and Mark Gedak

Everything in that tentative initial release schedule is already written.

It should be clear to you, Gentle Reader, that my name comes up a bit often on the DCC side of Purple Duck Games' catalog. There is plenty of room for other writers in that stable!

Purple Duck Games can be reached at their Facebook page if you want to pitch an idea. I encourage you to do so. The AL Series needs more writers, and not everything Purple Duck Games does needs to be part of a series - witness the excellent Death Slaves of Eternity by Marzio Muscedere!

In any event, please consider the Patreon, because there is a lot more coming from the Ducks!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Odyssey Con

I will be a Featured Gamer at Odyssey Con 17, April 28th - 30th at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. So, by the way, will the estimable Brendan LaSalle!

Here's what I'll be running there:

Incursion of the Ultradimension
Friday, 2-6 pm
MCC level  2 - no experience necessary - all materials provided

It rises—silent, ancient, and ominous—from the depths of the Monster Ocean. A curious relic of the Ancient Ones, long forgotten beneath the waves. Then, without warning, alien creatures never before seen on Terra A.D. spill forth the ravage the land! This is the Retreat of Delirium, home to strange super-science and creatures not of this world. What fiendish plans do they have in store for the rad-blasted world of Mutant Crawl Classics? Venture through the Retreat’s glowing door and discover what awaits beyond!

This is a Mutant Crawl Classics playtest, written by none other than manly Michael Curtis!

Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror
Friday, 8 - 11 pm
DCC 2nd level - no experience necessary - all materials provided

Terrible horrors lurk in the workshop of Dellspero the Philosopher. Though Dellspero has been missing for ages, does his lair still contain the secret magics he worked with?

The Imperishable Sorceress
Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm
DCC level 1 - no experience necessary - all materials provided

As the adventurers pass through a mundane door, they are startled to find themselves unexpectedly in a frozen landscape. A distant woman’s voice whispers a welcome, and the characters are thrust into a tale of spirits and ancient secrets.

The Arwich Grinder
Saturday, 8-11 pm
DCC 0-level funnel - no experience necessary - all materials provided
Not for kids!

The Curwen Family have lived up among the pine woods on the outskirts of Arwich Village for as long as the oldest village gaffers can remember. The beautiful Bessie Curwen's bonnet is found in a strange creature's grasp. The village owes much to her family, so someone must go up into the dark pine-clad hills to make sure that the Curwens are all right. After all, the Curwens saved the village from starvation two winters ago. If you do not go, who will?

 Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Caring About Characters and Plot

In his most recent "Roleplaying Tips" email, John Four writes:

How do you get players to care about their characters and your plot?
This is in the top 10 questions I get asked all the time. It's tough to do. Today I'll share one approach to encounter building that's part of the 5 Room Dungeon product I'm working on that helps you solve this tricky problem.
Here's the situation. You slave away crafting an awesome situation using the encounter triangle. You've got location, foes, and plot. You even add green flocking to your minis.
But then the hobos rip right through it. As the first foe starts to parley, the barbarian hurls a handful of dice in his face and cleaves the second guy on the backswing.
You then try to roleplay during the combat. But each word just buys the PCs time to sharpen their weapons, including the cleric (hey, how did the cleric get an edged weapon!).
In frustration, you bargain.
Johnn: "Hey guys, these baddies might have some important information. Maybe you should try talking to them."
Hobo 1: "Nah. We'll cast Speak With Dead after the XP cha-ching."
Hobo 2: "Forget that bro! Don't waste the spell slot."
Hobo 1: "Heh. Could good call, droogie. Hack on!"
The problem that John is describing here is a direct result of the PCs' actions having no consequences.

If the baddies have important information, and the PCs slaughter them, let the PCs find that out the hard way. Now the characters have a problem of their own creation to deal with, and the GM should absolutely not be helping them out. What he should be doing is letting them know that "John the Knife knew, but he was slain by adventurers some time back" or whatever is appropriate. Let them know they made the problem. And then let them solve it.

Here's another potential consequence: The PCs cannot always go through the baddies like a hot knife through butter. What if the GM occasionally includes baddies that can beat the PCs? Or can be so costly to beat, in terms of resources, that the fight is more of a loss even if the PCs win? There is no reason for the players to try diplomacy if the sword always works.

If you want the PCs to talk to your villains, you need to make sure they see, early on, that powerful foes are willing to talk to them, rather than simply wiping the floor with them. You also need to let the players see that this works....rather than stripping the PCs naked and taking all of their stuff, a powerful monster will let them go for information. And, perhaps, that powerful monster offers them some information if the PCs are reasonably polite.

Nor do the PCs always have to meet the baddies in a bleak dungeon with no one else around. Why not during a masked ball, a church service, at a wedding or a funeral, etc.? There are all kinds of circumstances where swords and spells are simply unacceptable.

You get players to care about their characters by making them work for what they get.

You get players to care about your plot by making understanding your plot integral to that work.

When players have to work to make their characters what they want, not only is there an actual history to the character, which the player can take pride in, but the character represents the effort of the player. And you can be certain that players value their own effort!

That said, if your game depends upon the players making a particular choice, you've got a problem, because players will often make some other choice...and they should be able to do so.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Dispatches 3 Now Available in Print

Dispatches Vol 3 is now available in print.

Sorry about the lack of strong content in this blog over the last few months. Product announcements are all find & dandy, but I promise to get back into more meat & potatoes posting as well this year.

Friday, 6 January 2017

GaryCon Event Registration

I will be running the following events at GaryCon. Tickets are now available:

Escape From Terror Island
Event #30, Thursday at 2 pm (4 hours)

Gnome Jambalaya 
Event #36, Friday at 10 am (4 hours)

Stars in the Darkness
Event #38, Saturday at 2 pm (5 hours)

The Revelation of Mulmo
Event #39, Saturday at 10 pm (5 hours)

The Tomb of the Squonk
Event #40, Sunday at 10 am (3 hours)

Hope to see you there!