Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dynamic Hexcrawl: The Origin Hex

Now that we have our first seven 24-mile hexes blocked in, let's look at the center hex or, as I like to call it, the "origin hex," since much like on a Cartesian plane, this is the "0,0" point for our sandbox. We can worry about actual naming schemes later because, honestly, they're not going to matter until you know a bit more about your sandbox.

Zooming In

In the last step, we decided on the general layout of our first 7 hexes. The "this large area is generally like this" of them. Now, we're going to zoom in on the Origin Hex to detail it more closely. We'll be switching from 24-mile hexes to 6-mile hexes, so we're going to pick up our first super-useful resource. +Richard LeBlanc of New Big Dragon Games has created a series of useful blank hexmaps that are going to make this whole process... possible. First, go to RPGNow and get this:

The map that we're primarily concerned with is the 4:1 Hex Crawl Worksheet on page 2 of the document. Look at that. It's a thing of beauty, no?

In the Scale area, we're working on a scale (still) of 24 miles for the large hex and 6 miles for the small hex. You've got 16 full hexes (when you count partial hexes as their appropriate fraction) of canvas to paint on in one 24-mile hex!

Feel free to fill in as much of this map (and the lines on the worksheet) as you like, but remember that there are a few things you want to make sure you include somewhere in this larger hex:

  • A starting settlement. Think about the guidelines we talked about in the "First 7 Hexes" posts and use them here. Personally, I recommend starting small so that the PCs can "graduate" to a city adventure in a few levels (especially since they'll be flush with loot to be bilked out of and otherwise spend in "the big city").
  • A dungeon. You may even want to include a few. Here are some thoughts:
    • A basic, starter dungeon can be good. Something like Quasqueton or the Caves of Chaos, particularly in that they've got a finite end point, after which the PCs have "graduated" and can move on to other dangers. 
    • A megadungeon can be great, especially if there are other dungeons in the area as well. The good thing about a megadungeon is that, in a hexcrawl -- dynamic or not -- the megadungeon can be walked away from and people can move on and do something else. They may even return to the megadungeon in their own time. It's nice to have an option like this in a sandbox, even outside of a normal megadungeon-centric campaign.
    • You could do multiple short dungeons of the "side trek" variety. For these, it can be great to check out Moleskin Maps or Dyson's Dungeons on RPGNow. I use these things fairly frequently to generate short, on-the-fly dungeons of this nature. They're good, bite-sized nuggets of adventure that can see the party through an evening's adventure. If you use these, be sure to populate your hexes with them fairly liberally. 
  • Ruins! These may be a dungeon -- or tied to one -- but nothing gives your game a sense of history like the players tromping around inside the remnants of the sorts of stuff that used to be there. Remember to apply your aesthetic to these: this is an opportunity to reinforce what it feels like for the characters to be active participants in their environment. 
  • A looming threat. Again, this can be a dungeon. It can also be a lair. It could be stronghold. Whatever shape it takes, it's another opportunity for you, the DM to immerse your players in the aesthetic of the setting. If this is a threat, what is it threatening? How does this threat manifest for the common people? For the folks in charge? For the PCs? Most if not all of those questions should have different answers. The threat should be a present one for the PCs as well as the other folks as well. 
  • A legend. Again, tie this to other stuff as much as you see fit or don't. This is here less to accentuate the stuff we've been talking about so far and more to, again, get across what the area is like by showing the players (and yourself, really) what the people in this area choose to believe in. After all, people could stop retelling a legend, right? 
Once you've got all that stuff in its place, you can finish up filling in that little hex map at the top. Here, things can make as much or little sense as you want. Just apply your aesthetic in broad strokes to sort out what the terrain is like and where the things you've come up with for it are. But by now, you should be detecting a theme: your best choice at all junctures is the one that (a) provides your players something to interact with and (b) reinforces your aesthetic. A key here is to be as varied with your aesthetic as you can be to avoid beating your players over the head with it while at the same time managing to communicate something about what your actual aesthetic is. It's tricky, but I'm sure you can get the hang of it. Soon, I'll have some examples for you of how I do stuff like this. 

My favorite part of these sheets -- other than the hexmap at the top -- are the random encounter charts. Guess what we're going to talk about next time? 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

DCC Donnerstag: The Resplendent Aweswine, Spellburn & Invoking the Patron

Last week, I introduced you to a patron that I kind of made up on the spot as a result of misspelling the word "awesome," inspired by some of the revelations from one of the "Night in Ur-Hadad" games I ran at Marmalade Dog Con this year (thanks again to +Shane Harsch for all the #wizbiz). Rather than give any more of an intro, let's just jump into the shizz, shall we?

Patron Spellburn: the Resplendent Aweswine

  1. The Resplendent Aweswine feels the immediate need to experience a particular food of the Judge's choice and will live vicariously through the experiences of the caster. If the caster satisfies this craving before sunrise of the following day, all Spellburn associated with this result is negated. 
  2. The caster is parched with an urgent thirst that only alcohol can slake! For every ability score point Spellburned, he must consume 1 pint of alcohol. If he can consume a number of pints of alcohol equal to the amount Spellburned, the caster loses only half that amount, but entirely from his Personality score. If he cannot consume enough alcohol, he's just a drunk.
  3. A third eye opens on the caster's forehead and divine cosmic knowledge begins to flow outward from it. In addition to any and all Spellburn attempted, the caster must reveal a truth of the universe unknown to any present that satisfies the Judge. If he does not, he incurs the Spellburn as normal, but gains no benefit from it. 
  4. A sublime radiance settles upon the caster as if from above. It joins its power with the caster's, leaving him weaker, suffering the effects of his Spellburn. The caster must make a Will Save (DC 10+level of the spell being cast); if successful, the radiance doubles the effect of the Spellburn. If unsuccessful, the Spellburn affects the spell normally. 

Invoke Patron: the Resplendent Aweswine

  • 12-13: The Aweswine is occupied at a particularly stunning repast. Although he is incapable of directly aiding you, your communion with him channels some of the ambrosia and soma he is consuming into and perhaps through your undeserving mortal essence. The caster or an ally of the caster's choice within 30' regains 1d6+1 hit points and is fortified physically and psychologically as if he had just eaten a gourmet meal. The target of this effect does not need to eat for 24 hours. 
  • 14-17: Your spiritual link with the Resplendent Aweswine finds the patron deep in the middle of a story, witticism or other insightful statement. You may (a) know the answer to the next riddle or puzzle posed to you, (b) receive a +5 bonus on your next skill check or (c) gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage for 1d4 rounds. 
  • 18-19: The Aweswine presents you with a gift of the remnants of a feast he has attended, a "celestial doggie bag" There is enough food to feed CL+1 people; all people thus fed regain 1d6 hit points per CL of the caster. For each person thus fed, the meal also includes a small, baked confection containing a tiny strip of paper. On each slip of paper, written in red ink, is a secret bit of wisdom written by the Aweswine, intended for the person who opens it. This customized message centers the reader's thoughts and being, giving him a +2 bonus on his next d20 roll of any kind. A character may only "hold" one of these "fortunate cookies" at a time and no one can gain the benefit of another person's cookie. 
  • 20-23: The Aweswine sends a Daemon Swine (Type I Demon) to assist the caster for a period of 1d4 hours. The Daemon Swine is large enough to be ridden by the caster, is fastidiously cleanly and may fly at twice its normal movement rate. 
  • 24-27: The caster channels the awe-inspiring majesty of the Resplendent Aweswine. All characters and creatures who can see the caster must make an immediate Will Save or be overcome by the caster's nearly-deific aura, as if affected by a charm person spell. 
  • 28-29: The Resplendent Aweswine sends the caster one of his prized implements to use for a time. The caster will receive either the chakram of eternity (a +4 chakram, melee or ranged weapon, 1d8 damage; if thrown returns to the wielder unerringly; provides a +4 bonus to all spell casting checks) or the inevitable mace (a +5 mace, 1d12 damage; does double damage to Lawful or Chaotic creatures) for 1d5 hours. Either weapon must remain in the possession of the caster or will be immediately returned to the Aweswine. 
  • 30-31: The caster gains the use of both the chakram of eternity and the inevitable mace (see above) for 1d5 hours. Both weapons must remain in the caster's possession or both will immediately disappear. 
  • 32+: The Resplendent Aweswine has found the caster's actions and sacrifices in his name so favorable that he has decided to whisk him and his nearest allies away to one of the constant parties across the multiverse. Effectively, time stops for the caster and a number of allies equal to his level +1 as they slip through the streams of time and space toward whatever amazing repast awaits them. Upon their return, each has regained all of his hit points, healed all Spellburn and temporary Luck (for halflings or thieves) and healed all points of ability score damage. Poison and disease are completely eradicated from the feasters' bodies and their ravages healed. All spell casters returning from such a feast gain a +5 bonus to their next spell casting attempt. Any class with a Deed Die or Luck Die may roll twice as many such dice within their first round of combat after the feast. Any skill checks attempted after the feast are at a +5 bonus for the first hour after returning. Each feaster may also make a Luck check; if successful, he has gleaned a cosmically important piece of information from his time with the Resplendent Aweswine. If unsuccessful, he has earned the enmity of some eldritch being of the cosmos. The details of both the boon and the bane are to be worked out by the Judge and will likely prove germane to the campaign when least expected... 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DCC Donnerstag: The Resplendent Aweswine, A Supernatural Patron

Big thanks to +James MacGeorge for contributing to this idea and +Shane Harsch for having a similar idea at Marmalade Dog Con this year that I'm drawing inspiration from. Here's a semi-ridiculous patron for your wizards and elves to debase themselves to. 

The Resplendent Aweswine, fabled and much-storied hog of the gods, is not an animal spirit of the normal, "progenitor of its species" sort so often seen in literary, folkloric and symbolically logical thought. Rather the Aweswine is a specimen of a porcine derivation so perfect, so enlightened and so sublime that even the gods cannot bring themselves to eat him. At home among the eternal rewards and punishments that the gods preside over, the Resplendent Aweswine travels as he wills throughout the universe, fulfilling the inscrutable agenda he keeps to himself, laying down heavy cosmic knowledge on those wise enough to listen and enthusiastically devouring any food set before him.

While the Aweswine has earned himself a transdimensional reputation as a sort of pan-cosmic gatecrasher, so awe-inspiring and sublime is he that, wherever he wanders across the face of reality (and sometimes into unreality and semi-reality, as well), a place at the table is found for him and he is welcomed with whatever hospitality the attendant gods, demons, wizards, sorcerers, angels, abstract conceptual beings and even mere mortals can bathe him in. In return, while he dines upon whatever delicacies and rarities the hosts provide, the very clever an the very wise contend with every other feast-guest, clambering for a close position to the Aweswine, that he may be the first to catch whatever golden nugget of enlightenment might fall from the Aweswine's lips. Being perhaps the universe's most perfect storyteller who does not regard himself as such, the Aweswine regales all attendants with tales of his travels, observations upon places few but he dare to tread, nuances of courts infernal and divine, all interspersed with his legendary wit and precise, cutting insights into the nature of all things. "Were one to have an eternity in which to dine and drink with the Resplendent Aweswine," observed Master Guang-Yuan Jo during his tenure as personal physician to the penultimate Pascha of Ur-Hadad, "one might not merely learn all things but have the an impossibly good time while doing so. I am certain that the highest of heavens and most supreme of afterlives await those mortals who die of over-eating and alcohol poisoning in the pursuit of such perfect knowledge; this would be the third-best of all possible deaths, I believe."

Several mortal sorcerers -- including the court sorcerer in the employ of the Gourmand of Shugab -- have sought to enter into the Resplendent Aweswine's confidence and have supplicated themselves before him in hopes of attracting his attention and supernatural patronage. This he can provide, assuming the supplicant meets his criteria. The invoke patron ritual must include an extravagant feast, from which no one may be barred (the supplicant need not invite everyone, but he may not turn away any who deign to attend), be they mortal or immortal, man or beast, monster or saint. Second, the supplicant must entertain the Aweswine (even in proxy, which is most likely) with a story, tale, poem, information, scientific data or the like which the Aweswine does not already know. Finally, the Aweswine requires that the supplicant undergoes an ordeal wherein the supplicant listens to -- and stays awake during the entirety of -- one complete story, history, recounting of scientific or arcane theory, religious revelation or some other sort of wisdom such as the Aweswine is known for throughout the universe; only then can the supplicant truly be considered a follower of the Resplendent Aweswine.

No being of such universal import as the Resplendent Aweswine is without his detractors, however, and such is it that a cabal of "Aweswine deniers" have sprung up within the wizardly community. These deniers claim that the Aweswine is not actually sublime or enlightened or excellent in any way but is rather a ruse carried out by Atraz A'Zul, the mother of spiders, in some mad attempt to control the flow of knowledge. The Aweswine's public statements, the deniers purport, contain just enough truth to be accepted, but are deeply flawed on a number of levels and accounts, thus assuring Atraz A'Zul's dominance in the field of purveyor of secrets and knower of all things. So far, A'Zulites and Aweswine devotees scoff at these claims, which deniers and their supporters point out the omnipresence of spiderwebs in shrines to the Aweswine scattered throughout the cosmos, some even seeming to contain words.

Patron Taint: The Resplendent Aweswine

  1. The pleasing aroma of bacon emanates from the caster whenever he casts a spell. If this result is rolled a second time, the scent intensifies and attracts carnivorous animals nearby, increasing the likelihood of a random encounter with a savage carnivore by 15%. Further, carnivores in the presence of the caster gain +1 on all attacks made against the caster. If this result is rolled a third time, the scent intensifies yet again and effects sentient beings as well, who must make a Will save DC 13 or become overwhelmed by hunger and likely to do very disgusting things to sate it. 
  2. The Resplendent Aweswine that the caster assume a personal ban or austerity to be chosen by the Judge. Some examples include: may not eat bacon, may not eat ham, may not eat any meat, may not bathe, may not wash clothes, may never harm a spider and so on. Should the caster violate his ban, he will be unable to call upon the Resplendent Aweswine with the invoke patron spell until he has made adequate restitution.
  3. Whenever the caster casts a spell, he must also eat something, though it may be something small like a nut or a single oat. If this result is rolled a second time, he must consume food of roughly the same size and substance as a piece of bread, and so on, with each roll of this spell increasing the amount of food necessary. Failure to eat something prevents the spell from taking effect. 
  4. The caster must, whenever he casts a spell, say aloud something that is true, though it may be whispered. If this result is rolled a second time, the true thing must be proclaimed loudly for all around to hear. If this result is rolled a third time, the true thing must also be something that at least someone in the area did not already know. 
  5. The caster begins to take on a distinctly porcine appearance. His mouth and nose begin to just outward, suggesting a snout, and his eyes shrink and become piggly; he loses 1 point of Personality permanently. A second roll of this result completes the snout transformation, the caster's eyes spread to be roughly on either side of the head from each other, and his ears flop forward atop his head; he loses a further two points of Personality. However, a third roll of this result confers a truly supernaturally sublime aura onto the caster as a third eye opens upon his forehead. Now, his porcine features seem less grotesque and more friendly, setting all who perceive him at ease; he regains all Personality lost from this taint and gains an additional one point of Personality. 
Next time, we'll get some Patron Spellburn results and maybe some invoke patron results. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

AVAILABLE NOW: Black Sun Deathcrawl by James MacGeorge [UPDATED!]

by James MacGeorge
"You are The Cursed - remnants of life in a universe of decay. Cannibalistic parasites, you suck a meager existence from the corpse of a long dead reality. No names, no races, your only goal to dig deeper into the earth to escape the rays of the Black Sun that will eventually extinguish what little remains."
In this setting supplement for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, the apocalypse is not merely nigh, it has passed, the world is over and all that is left are the crumbling ashes of the ages before and the Cursed survivors who have yet to succumb to the soul-obliterating rays of the Black Sun. Make what you can of the little time you have left before the Black Sun renders your efforts meaningless. 

At the time of this writing, there are 20 copies of the first printing of Black Sun Deathcrawl remaining, but they're likely to go fast! When you purchase BSDC in print, you'll also get the DRM-free pdf. You can also purchase the pdf by paying-what-you want. 

[UPDATE] Well, we sold out of print copies of Black Sun Deathcrawl in 56 minutes. Admittedly, we didn't have a lot in stock, but James I and I are already planning a second printing to keep you savages sated! We're still hammering out details and how much the 2nd printing will vary from the first, so stay tuned for info on the second printing of this, the most brutal vision of the DCC RPG I've ever seen.

[ANOTHER UPDATE] You can now pre-order the second printing of Back Sun Deathcrawl below! Get on this!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Weekend Wargaming: Frostgrave Via Reaper

I know it's been a while since I've mentioned any wargaming stuff here on the Dispatches... Wait, do I ever talk about wargames over here? I'm not sure. I'm clearly far more of an RPG gamer than a wargamer, but my gaming youth lavished just as much love and admiration (if not slightly more!) over Space Marines and Blood Bowl teams as it did over fancy campaign settings and cool module covers. That is to say: it's shit I admired from afar and wished I could get into but money and a lack of folks to play with it kept wargames out of my grasp for a long time. I know I talk about this on DSR from time to time, if only because +Donn Stroud is more of a wargamer than I am, but I figure it's about time for me to talk a little bit about it over here since it's far easier for me to actually document things on a blog rather than on a podcast.


A few months back, I discovered Osprey Games. Yeah, I know. If you're a hardcore wargames dude, you've known that Osprey has been kicking out wargames for years now. I did not. Every gamer who's picked up games or minis in a hobby shop (not a games shop) of the "every sort of crazy hobby under one roof" style knows Osprey Publishing: these are the dude who publish all those guides to what every fucking troop type that has ever existed wore, what their colors were, what the historically accurate this-es and that-ses are, yadda yadda. So, those dudes started making wargames. The draw for me works like this:

  1. First, they are slightly cheaper. Seriously, Doug Adams paraphrase aside, you can get a complete wargame for under $20. Check these things out on Amazon. You'll typically pay less than $15, actually. If I can get a complete wargame for $15, even if it's a niche game, I'm a step ahead. 
  2. Second, Osprey doesn't care what minis you use because they don't make any. They have partnerships with North Star minis in the UK to produce stuff (and North Star makes some sexy, sexy models), but Osprey isn't about to tell you that you have to spend $X-thousand on a specific chunk of plastic. This philosophy also opens you up to an implicit approval of interpreting the game: it's not like you need rules for dwarves to have dwarves. Just use them. Shit like that.
So, about Frostgrave. I'm not going to try to sell you on it. You know two of my reasons for digging Osprey games already. Frostgrave is very rules-light and streamlined. I've heard some people think otherwise, but I don't get it. You're rolling at most one die at a time (and it's a d20!), not a fistfull of d6s, the stat line is super short and self-explanatory, etc. So, here's my two-word sales pitch that I said I wasn't going to give; WIZARD FIGHT!

So, I've got fighting wizards, I'm happy. Now I just need some wizards (and henches) to fight each other. While I did participate in Osprey & North Star's "Nickstarter" program (and netted some sweet ass minis!), I've got all these minis from Reaper Bones II (and I bought in to Bones III because I'm a fiend, man!) so I figured I'd start there. Thus, I've started putting together themed warbands, grouping not-so-different stuff together. 

Warband #1 - Ver-Men Scummoner

I bought the Rats! addon for Bones II because I just can't get enough skaven or ver-men or ratlings or whatever the fuck you choose to call them. The cool thing about the Bones II ver-men is that -- and I didn't realize this at first -- she's a she, with a wide-open robe proving that not only is she a she, but that, clearly, ver-ladies have inguinal nipples. Look it up if you don't know what that means. I figured that she'd have to be a summoner since, really, what sort of magic would ver-men use? Clearly, the most corrupt and corrupting. Cleearly, being ver-peeps, she's not merely a "summoner," but a full-fledged "scummoner." 

Warband #2 - Dwarven Enchanter & Crew

I'll come up with cooler names for these warbands as time rolls on; the RPGer in me won't just let them sit without having some sort of story behind them. Dwarves, I'll admit, I have a little trouble with because I can't stand a lot of the dwarves stereotypes. No, my dwarves will never speak with an illogical highlands accents. That shit is stupid. I figured that dwarves were perfect for Enchanting magic since that fits the role they traditionally play in myth and pretty much all of the fantasy tropes involving dwarves. Yeah, it's kind of low-hanging fruit, but I think it would be a solid starting warband. 

Warband #3 - Derro Illusionist & Crew

I got a bunch of derro models in Bones II (I'm not sure if everyone did) and I think they're pretty neat models. While I had initially thought to make the derro wizard a summoner (outer dark, aberrations, madness, all that), I decided that illusionist would be stranger and less obvious, so I'm going that direction. These models look like they'll be a lot of fun to paint. 

Warband #4 - VIKINGS!

Yes, I already have a bunch of Wargames Factory vikings to use with Domains At War. That's all part of my plan. So, why not build a viking warband for Frostgrave? I got a really cool Red Box viking hero that would make an awesome wizard (probably either a Thaumaturge or Soothsayer; I think either could be cool), but sadly I'm getting away from my vision of using my Bones minis. Still worth doing, though.

Warband #5 - Chronomancer

I know that I'll end up playing a Chronomancer in Frostgrave. Time magic is always a conceptual favorite of mine and my strategies tend to lend themselves well to time-magic-y thought. The wizard I picked up from the Nickstarter was the chronomancer, and given how much I love the North Star figures, I might just wait on this warband until I've gotten some games under my belt so I know what I want to pair with the wizard, henchman-wise. 

Of course, I've got a ton of other ideas as well and am starting on getting some of these things based and primed. Pics probably next weekend. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Roll Your Own Ur-Hadad: MGOUH Generators!

I realized that I haven't posted about this yet and it really deserves to be posted about. In the past few months, two folks have stepped up and made some awesome Ur-Hadad-related computer doo-dads that I think can add a lot to your games.

First, +Chris Tandlmayer wrote not one but two random generators over on Abulafia, both taken from Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #1. Both generators are inspired by +Edgar Johnson's fucking awesome "Street Kids of Ur-Hadad" adventure toolkit and the fantastic "ROLL ALL THE FUCKING DICE" generators that Edgar included because, you know, rolling a fist full of dice and trying to sort out everything that they mean can be a little daunting to some. Well, daunting but awesome, right? Anyway, here are Chris's takes on Edgar's tables:

Finally you can truly run Ur-Hadad completely spontaneously! (That's totally already the way I do it, but whatevs. Edgar's tables are fucking awesome and everyone should use them!)

The one thing that Chris couldn't get his Abulafia generators to do was to record when three 6's had been rolled which, if you'll remember your Metal Gods #1, necessitates the rolling of a d30 to figure out what strange shit is about to happen. Enter our next generator.

Over on Twitter, Ian Credible (@yngar) came up with a "Roll All The Fucking Dice" generator that does just that: it rolls all the fucking dice. It doesn't tell you what those dice rolls mean, so you have to look that part up/sort it out/make it up, but it DOES keep track of whether you've rolled 666 or not. The good thing about Ian's generator is that I now have more reasons to come up with more Roll All The Fucking Dice tables (or make Edgar and +Wayne Snyder do it) and I can just keep using Ian's generator for all of them. You can find Ian's generator here: 

Within the city of Ur-Hadad, it's really important that each neighborhood have its own atmosphere, ambiance, feeling. I love the direction that Edgar took with his generator, but when I was trying to push myself to improve my improvisational gaming style, I came up with the following method which is necessarily derivative (you'll see why) and practically plagiaristic of other authors' work. 


Grab your copy of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. This book is a necessity to anyone running any sort of city campaign, so I'm presuming you have it and ignoring any deficiency in your esteemed collection of books, both RPG-related and not. Flip to a random page in the book: if it's a page that describes a city, use that city's description as the basis of the description for your neighborhood. If it's not a city description, flip to another page and another page until you've found one.


Grab another book by an author you like, the more transgressive the better. I like to haul out William S. Burroughs or Hunter S. Thompson. I'm pretty sure that a middle name that starts with "S." isn't a necessity, but I haven't tested that theory. Now, flip to a random page in that book and find the central conflict on that page; that's now happening in your neighborhood. Look for the central characters on that page; they're now your NPCs. Just mine this shit for important details and make it work.


Make it work. Unless they're exceptionally well-read geniuses like you, they probably won't know where you took that shit from because you'd never grab an author's popular works, right? There you have it. That's it. 

It's also worth mentioning that +Claytonian JP just made his own trait generator for towns, villages, hamlets, etc. over here:  Very cool stuff, Clay!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Paternity Leave Brain Space & #JoeskyTax

In my last post, I mentioned that during my paternity leave, I didn't do as much writing as I'd liked to have, if only because typing with one hand isn't exactly a forte of mine. Instead, I got a lot of thinking done and some planning and other shizz. Here's a short list of some of the stuff I actually worked out.

Black Sun Deathcrawl

Get used to this image
At GenCon, the excellent Mr. +James MacGeorge released his nightmare-inducing setting for DCC, Black Sun Deathcrawl. I'd like to gush about how awesome James is and how he's one of the Metal Gods players and one of the coolest people I've ever met on teh interwebz, but then you might think that I'm only interested in pimping Black Sun Deathcrawl because I like the dude who wrote it. Well, I do like the dude who wrote it, but BSDC is goddamn amazing. It's based on a post James wrote on his blog like a year ago, and back then I was super excited about it, wanting him to develop it further; thankfully, he did. And published it. And now he needs someone to handle online sales of the book, something that I readily volunteered for. If you're looking for a gaming experience that will make you question your own existence (and really, if you're not, we're in this hobby for vastly different reasons), stay tuned to Dispatches From Kickassistan for details.

"The Gahsman Project"

Some readers of the blog may be familiar with +Cory Gahsman, aka "DM Cojo," if only from all the damn letters the dude writes to pretty much every gaming podcast out there. I knew him by name from Spellburn, and when +Kathryn Muszkiewicz and I met him at GaryCon 2014, it was kind of like meeting a family member, especially for Katie. No, seriously, Cojo really looks like he could be a member of Katie's family; it's kind of eerie. All of that aside, Cojo and his son, Chase, have been cooking up a monster book based on Chase's illustrations, which Cojo then gives descriptive text and stats. The gents were thinking about publishing this one themselves and even talked to the Dark Master himself about it, but weren't exactly sure how to get the project off the ground. This is where I came it. So, I'll be managing this project, handling layout, production and fulfillment while Chase & Cojo get to do the fun part. There should be more details about this sooner rather than later, but I have to meet with Cojo to hammer out a production schedule.

Why Aren't We Licensing More Work?

This revelation hit me the other day as I was thinking about the Gahsman Project (no, that's not going to be its final name, just a placeholder for now). I had initially planned to pay Cojo and Chase for their work on the Project, but I also want them to retain their rights to their own work. If I simply paid them for work done, it could be said that I had purchased their work from them and thus I myself own the copyright to the work. This is something I want to avoid. Creator-owned content was a strong part of what made Image Comics such a huge deal from its inception and, to me, it seems like RPGs are just as viable a field for creator-owned content. Sure, your "campaign supplement splatbook expansions" for major games, but I'm never going to have to worry about paying freelancers for their work on a megasetting or whatever. That's not who I am, that's not what I'm interested in publishing, that's not what I do.

The plan is, for things that I publish that are created by people who aren't me, like the Gahsman Project, I'm going to pay them a licensing fee for the license to publish their material for a period of time. After that licensing agreement ends, we can renew it (and renegotiate terms; something that makes more sense if it's been particularly successful) or we can terminate the license and go our separate ways, whatever. The rights are retained by the person who made the stuff, not by the guy who just published it. Things are as they should be.

To some of my readers, this may seem like a "so what?" issue, and I get that. It's not like I'm trying to be some bigwig publisher dude living off of other people's work, and that's kind of the point. In this industry, it's not even possible to live off of other people's work, is it? Eh, maybe, but that's not the point. The point is to make sure that everything I publish, I publish in an ethical manner and that everybody knows it from moment one and there's no confusion about who owns what, who can do what with it and how folks are getting paid for it.

Case in point, I have this friend who shall remain nameless and he's a small press publisher like me. He publishes entirely in pdf and contracts writers on a "pay for work" basis. This means that if you work for him, you're getting paid per word. On the surface, we're okay so far. The problem comes when this guy hires folks to do work for pay, but doesn't have a contract of any kind. Everything is a verbal agreement, a wink, a nod and a handshake. Honestly, I'm cool with that until something happens down the line and there's a dispute between my friend and someone he's hired to do work. Maybe that person wants out of the deal, maybe the publisher is using his work in a way he didn't intend, who knows. The point is, there's now a disagreement between my friend and his writers & artists, and to smooth it all over, he asks them all to sign a contract stating that the work they do for pay for him gives him the rights to that work, including the copyright and any applicable trademarks. Hmm. Suddenly, this does not seem like such a good idea anymore.

One of my other friends (to whom I am much closer) is one of guys currently being asked to sign his work away. Friend B (the writer) did work for pay for friend A (the publisher) and received compensation for it. As B understood the arrangement with A, B was paying A for the right to publish the thing, but wasn't making any claim to copyright or trademarks. Then, B receives this contract from A that gives A the right to the copyright of the material as well as trademark over its title. Since B had been looking at the title of the work as his own signature (in fact, it's a product line he's looking at extending in the future, with or without A), he's not too keen on this. For B, this had not been a one-off product like an adventure or something similar, something that -- at least from my perspective on the outside of the situation -- B views as part of his unique gamer thumbprint: this is what his games are like, damnit! B really wants to control his own property and this contract takes that property away from him.

So, don't sign the contract, right? The thing is, if he wanted to, A could probably force the issue. After all, he did pay for work done and, if we view B as a freelancer, common work for pay practices with a freelancer give the rights of the produced material to the person who paid to have it created. By default, is A an employer, paying to have work done, or a patron, paying to support the endeavors of a creator?

Sure, the easy way out of this mess is to have had a contract in the first place, but that's clearly not what happened here. I'm not using this case to illustrate why people should have contracts; that part is pretty clear. Instead, I'm using it to demonstrate why, if I'm the publisher of a thing, I want to have the contract that I want to have and why. Frankly, however much I'd love to hope that A views his relationship with B as a patron to an artist, I'm pretty sure that's not how he sees it. But that's how I'd like to see myself. It's how I'd want to be treated as an author, as a creator.

Joesky Tax: The Tongue of Lies and Conviction

After all that rant, I feel I owe some Joesky Tax. Here goes.

This mummified tongue is similar to other "liar's tongue" talismans, worn under the tongue to make its bearer's lies more believable. Unlike other similar tongues, the Tongue of Lies and Conviction may only be used against one target at a time and it exacts a strange toll upon the bearer: any lie he tells will be unquestionably believed by both the target and the bearer himself. The target's belief in the lie is fairly superficial despite being magically compelled, and he can be convinced of its falsehood if a compelling argument is presented. The bearer, however, cannot be so easily convinced; rather, his conviction in the lie strengthens if it is confronted. If the bearer tries to controvert the lie, even if he merely tells himself that he's only pretending the lie is false, he will find himself unable to speak; his faculty of speech will return when the moment has passed or when the bearer no longer persists in acting contrary to the lie.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Two Weeks' Radio Silence and #JoeskyTax

Dear patient and excellent readers,

Though I didn't exactly go out and make a huge announcement about this fact, on Friday, July 17th, my wife +Kathryn Muszkiewicz and I had our first baby, Stanley Isadore Muszkiewicz. Sure, I let some folks around the internet (G+ & Facebook) know, and there have been some pictures on Instagram, but I've not really made any announcement.

Yes, this is that kind of post.

For the intervening weeks, as I'm sure most of you all can understand, I've been a bit busy. Stan had a pretty gross bout of jaundice early on and had to spend about a week on a biliblanket, this sort of strange mesh of LEDs that kick out just the right frequency of light to break down the excess bilirubin in his blood stream that causes the problem. Despite being on this thing, he still managed to be stinking cute. Here's an example:

Aside from the biliblanket, we had to get little man out into the sunlight as much as possible (yeah, great, pick the nerd parents to take the kid out into sun, great planning, Nature!) and to the med lab EVERY GODDAMN DAY to get his bilirubin level in his blood checked. Just what every new parent wants: for their adorable super baby to get poked every goddamn day and bled a little.

Once we got the word that Stanley's blood was coming back with acceptable levels of bilirubin, we took off for my parents' house in South Haven, MI (right on the Lake Michigan shore for those unfamiliar with Mittengeography) where we rested from Wednesday of last week until this previous Sunday (7/29-8/3). Yep, for the GenCon period.

It was a bittersweet realization that occurred when we found out that we were pregnant that there was going to be no way we could attend GenCon this year. It would be our third year in a row going, and the little network of awesome folks (the "DCC royalty") that we spend all of every con with were going to be sorely missed. Some folks, we won't see until U Con (+Jim Wampler, possibly +Roy Snyder, etc.) and still more we won't see until GaryCon (+Jen Brinkman+Bob Brinkman+James MacGeorge, the Cincinnati crew and possibly even +Doug Kovacs) or later. Yes, the con is cool, but what I miss more than anything else is the people. Y'all is my tribe. If I didn't mention you here, it's not that I didn't miss you, just that I don't know when I'll see you again. Or meet you in the first place. Damn, that's the shit I miss.

With all this paternity time on my hand, you might think that I'd use some of it to get some shit done around the Ministry of Tourism. Well, you'd be wrong. Mostly. Since at least one of my hands was always in use for the past two weeks, I didn't have much time to write anything (as you've noticed by the lack of posts here), but a few projects are moving along more smoothly now as a result of some conversations I've been able to have with folks and the time during long, jaundice-defeating walks where I've just closed my brain off from the world around me to solve how I want to handle a particular topic or whatevs. So, I've got a little more direction. I suppose it also helps that I got burned out on video games during paternity leave; I can put a video game on pause, but I can't necessarily do that to a train of thought, so it was much more reasonable for me to occupy myself with "brain off" activity than I normally do.

That was a lot of words without any baby pictures. Let's make up for that.

Apparently, his hands are delicious.

I've got a few more thoughts to spill out over the next few days before I resume my regularly-scheduled programming. Some announcements, some work that's simmering. Some stuff I need to confer with my collaborative partners about, some I can just come out and blurt about, but I'll wait on that for tomorrow.

I can say that I'm going to have to change my workload and expect to get more writing done during the day job than when I'm at home. Just need to make sure that no one notices...

Joesky Tax: The Bitterblind Fever

This instance of Joesky Tax is brought to you by my increased understanding of jaundice and how much damage it can do to you if left untreated. There's a reason my little man spent a week on a blanket of LEDs.

Amongst the creatures and beings of the World Below, the Bitterblind Fever is so common a malady that most species native to cavernous dark are immune to it and many serve as carriers. To residents of the World Above, however, the Bitterblind Fever can be disastrous, unless they return home to the sunlit realms in short order. Thus, the malady has cut short many expeditions into the deeps, as infected expeditions must backtrack or find a new way upward or face the ravages of the Fever.

Typically introduced via the claws or fangs of a carrier-creature, a character infected with Bitterblind Fever must make the appropriate save (Poison/Death or Fortitude DC 18) or begin to exhibit symptoms. The first symptom is a slight yellowish tinge to the skin, though this is not commonly noticeable in subterranean lighting conditions (everything looks yellow and orange in torch- and lantern-light) and thus the disease is rarely diagnosed at this early stage (-4/20% to all attempts to do so without the proper spectrum of light); upon his next rest, the character will require 1.5 times as much sleep as normal or suffer the effects of sleep deprivation. The following day, he must succeed at another appropriate saving throw (as above) or the effects begin to worsen: his vision decreases bay halves each day until he is completely blind (he will be considered blind if his vision does not extend beyond 5' from his body). Each day beyond this point, the victim of Bitterblind Fever becomes more irrational, impulsive and violent; for each day he fails his saving throw (as above), reduce his Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma (or Intelligence and Personality) by one until each score reaches a minimum of three, at which point the Fever has reduced him to, effectively, a blathering, violent lunatic.

The most common treatment for Bitterblind Fever is exposure to natural sunlight, but a daylight spell will work as well (a standard light or the light of mundane sources such as fires will not), as will a cure disease. Once the disease advances to the progressive blindness stage, a cure blindness spell may alleviate the blindness, but the disease will progress to the brain damage stage as normal (if you don't want to keep track of where the eyesight degradation is, count it as 1d4+2 days). A cure disease spell cast at any time during the infection will halt the worsening of the disease, but will not undo blindness; cure disease will restore half of the damage (rounded down) done to Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma (or Intelligence and Personality). It will take a restoration spell or its like to repair all of the brain damage. Sunlight will not reverse any damages caused by this disease.