Thursday, March 31, 2016

Erik Tenkar to write an Erotic gaming sourcebook to "show folks how it's done"

Motivated by what he describes as a disappointing trend in sexually-explicit material in the table-top fandom, the prolific writer of one of the most popular OSR blogs decided to try his hand at writing a book with similar themes. Booking an exclusive interview, I managed to coax out some interesting tidbits. Held during a Skype call yesterday, it was the first time the two of us communicated face-to-face, or at least monitor-to-monitor.

"Sex, dungeons, and dragons are often not a good fit together," Erik began, "and there's decades worth of live play to back it up. We had the Book of Erotic Fantasy back in '03 breaking open the doors, but in spite of Wizards of the Coast cracking down on it by forcing them to not use 'Dungeons & Dragons' anywhere in the title, we still got creators churning out product for years to come. But sad to say, most of what we've got is far from good."

Scrolling through the back catalog of OneBookShelf and KickStarter, the recently retired police officer shook his head in dismay at recent controversies and scandals between sips of finely-brewed Irish whiskey. "Tournament of Rapists? Alpha Blue? World of Gor RPG? Is this how low we've sunk?"

He glared, fist tightening around the whiskey glass; at one point I thought he was going to break it. "Amateurs! Where's the finer ideals of a good old-fashioned horizontal naked romp? I even tried looking at  older material, hoping to find wisdom in the past."

Right-clicking open a new taskbar, sending me a link to RPGNow's entry on Shelzar: City of Sins. "Look at the authors tag," Erik said. "Written by none other than the JMal himself! And what did I discover? Well, let's set one thing straight, this left me feeling almost as disappointed as Dwimmermount."

"The extent of eroticism in this fantasy-counterpart Sodom and Gamorah are public orgies and brothels everywhere, repeated across multiple pages as though us gamers have short-term memory loss! And the mechanics, oh boy the mechanics! A prostitute prestige class; ooze-like vagina creatures created for the express purpose of being copulated to death by perverted wizards?! He expects all this to be used in actual games."

An uncomfortable silence hangs in the air, before he mouths three simple words. "Full. Stat. Blocks."

At this point Erik got up from his chair to open the curtains, letting in the mid-day sun. "You know, what the industry really needs is a higher class of erotica. Time and time again I see other writers repeat the same mistakes. Just look at the social media outrage earlier this month, and over what? Over easily avoided mistakes! It won't be hard to make a product which is tasteful, yet without hemorrhaging in the throws of political correctness."

"And how will you avoid these mistakes?" I asked.

"Simple," Erik said with utmost confidence. "I have two major pieces of criteria. One, every NPC in my product's a consenting adult. Two, appeal to broad tastes instead of specific niches. Ask me, what's considered hot among geeks today?"

"Skintight outfits and anime girls?"

I was answered only with a deadpan stare.

"Look at the top-selling romance novels, look at the top-grossing line of Dungeons & Dragons stories, look at their major tabletop competitor going back to the 90s. These troubled souls wrestling with their darker natures is something we can't get enough of, an archetype which appeals to all gamers. Male and female, Old School and New School, these anti-hero hunks and bombshells will make you an instant fanbase..."

"Are you talking about...?"

"Drow vampires!"

"What?" Truly I was taken aback; I could summon up no other words in response.

"My OSR erotica's gonna be about everyone's favorite spider-worshiping elves getting naked and getting dangerous, and not necessarily in that order. We're going beyond the dungeon delve into a realm just as deadly as any trap-filled monster lair. Forbidden romances between rival houses; clerics of the Spider Queen showing off their ample magical tattoos covering every inch of their body; commoners clawing their way out of the slums and into the pleasure palaces of Lolth's favored! All this, and more, can be yours, with Sexy Drow Vampires in Trouble!"

One could call Erik Tenkar's idea many things, but conventional is not one of them.

"I did some side work for publishers like Occult Moon, but this will be my first major stand-alone project. Mark my words, I'm gonna show all those poseurs how a real gamer writes a sexy rulebook!"

"I wish you luck in this endeavor, Erik," I said.

"Oh I don't need luck," he said. "I'm just that good."

And so our interview concluded. What are your thoughts on this idea? Can tabletop erotica be saved, or is it a lost cause? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rogue Comet deploys on OneBookShelf!

Around early February I expressed an interest in Dungeonesque, a boxed set containing material on how to run 5th Edition games in the style of Red Box Basic Dungeons & Dragons. Although their IndieGoGo predicts a release sometime in May, a pair of compatible adventures are now for sale on OneBookShelf.

As of now Redmark Adventures Volume 1 is available for both 1st and 5th Edition, yet only as printed softcovers and not PDFs which I prefer. I find it interesting that the adventures take place on a higher level range than most OSR modules, which tend to be friendlier to beginning adventurers.

I do hope to see more Redmark volumes, and Dungeonesque proper, on OneBookShelf, all hopefully accessible via PDF. I only got into crowdfunding very very recently, so I didn't have the opportunity to pledge money on IndieGoGo.

If any of my readers own a copy of this adventure, I'd be interested in hearing about it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Comprehensive List of Megadungeons

Entrance to Rappan Athuk, the Dungeon of Graves

Back around mid-2012 I decided to create a Master List of D&D Retroclones and Simulators. For a time it became a very popular resource before it was eventually eclipsed by Taxidermic Owlbear's own list (which was inspired in part by my previous efforts).

In regards to last few years we saw the release of several mega-dungeons. The long-awaited Dwimmermount, Castle of the Mad Archmage (a sort of inspiration of the old Castle Greyhawk legacy), and even a consolidated Barrowmaze Complete!

I figured that a compilation of megadungeons would be a worthy project. But first we should define what a megadungeon is. My terms are broad: a megadungeon should be a large enough dungeon which could encompass the better part of a campaign for players to explore session after session. 

So here's my list so far, arranged in alphabetical order. Tell me if you have any others to add, or if I missed any relevant products:

Anomalous Subsurface Environment (ASE1 and ASE2-3, available for Labyrinth Lord)

Barrowmaze Complete
 (available for Labyrinth Lord)

Castle Gargantua (available for Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Castle Greyhawk (WG7 Castle Greyhawk for 1st Edition AD&D, Greyhawk Ruins for 2nd Edition AD&D, Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk for 3rd Edition D&D, Castle Zagyg series for Castles & Crusades)

Castle of the Mad Archmage (available for Adventures Dark & Deep and Pathfinder)

Castle Triskelion (available for AD&D 1st Edition)

Caverns of Thracia (available for 3.5)

The Darkness Beneath (for 1E/OSRIC/etc, collection of adventures in Fight On! magazine)

Depths of Felk Mor (for 5th Edition)

Dungeon Crawl Classics #51: Castle Whiterock (available for 3rd Edition D&D)

The Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor (available for 3.5)

Dwimmermount (available for ACKS and Labyrinth Lord)

Emerald Spire Superdungeon (available for Pathfinder RPG)

Eyes of the Stone Thief (available for 13th Age)

The Grande Temple of Jing (available for Pathfinder RPG)

Maure Castle (available for 1st and 3rd Edition D&D, in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure and Dungeon Magazine #112, with bonus levels in #124 and #139)

Rappan Athuk (available for Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder)

Ruins Perilous (available for Pathfinder in Adventure Quarterly magazine)

The Slumbering Tsar Saga (available for Pathfinder; Swords & Wizardry version upcoming and a 5th Edition conversion wiki)

Stonehell Dungeon (available for Labyrinth Lord, Down Night-Haunted Halls with 2 bonus Supplements)

Temple of Elemental Evil (available for 1st Edition AD&D, has sequel adventure Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil for 3rd Edition D&D)

Undermountain (Undermountain I and II for 2nd Edition D&D, Ruins of Undermountain boxed set, Expedition to Undermountain for 3rd Edition D&D)

World's Largest Dungeon (available for 3rd Edition D&D)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It feels really good to get back into self-publishing

For the past several months, I've been hard at work on several ideas for future gaming sourcebooks. In addition to my bigger ideas and ones I've worked on for a while, I had a few smaller side projects here and there. Two of them were for systems I liked and read a lot but have yet to publish anything for...until today.

The first project was for White Star, a science fiction role-playing game heavily derived off of Swords & Wizardry. The classes within the core rulebook could emulate a number of space opera heroes, but felt sparse in the technical wizardry department. The gunslinger, the pilot, the robot, all mainstays of science fiction. But one other popular archetype was missing.

When setting out to make the class for White Star, I thought of the most common attributes from shows and film, and there was quite a lot to go around. Causing explosions, jacking into vehicles and robots to control them, uploading their consciousness into cyberspace, tracking down seemingly unreachable data and people...the versatility reminded me of spells, and at that point that's what I decided to go with.

A tech-based "spellcaster" who gains limited-use programs known as Exploits to pull off neat tricks useful in and out of combat. Everything else came simply after that.

My other project's been one I've been working on for a longer time. It dated back to my early experiences with 13th Age, a role-playing game made by two of the lead designers of 3rd and 4th Edition D&D. The game incorporated the best of both worlds in many cases, but there were still shortcomings here and there.

The Fighter class in particular felt limited in the options it had, but the concept of special abilities known as maneuvers learned as you leveled was a neat concept. So the idea of expanding upon that for new talents and abilities broadening the available fighting styles and some out of combat utility manifested in my next project. I used Path of War and Tome of Battle for inspiration, in that both present diverse martial styles for warriors, some of a near-supernatural nature.

Although I released both on the same day, the 13th Age one took longer due to less familiarity with the core system, resulting in more proofreading and stress-testing than usual to make sure things work. Right now I'm happy about finishing two projects after a year-long gap between them and my last. As for what the future may hold, I'm thinking of tackling adventures for old-school D&D.

Monday, March 14, 2016

An Official Lord of the Rings setting for D&D, and why I'm not exactly confident about it

Original panel from DM of the Rings webcomic

Geek Native Link

In recent news, Sophisticated Games and Cubicle 7 are teaming up to create a D&D-compatible game set in Middle-Earth. The latter company is known for creating the One Ring RPG, one of the more well-regarded interpretations of Tolkien's work into table-top format. One of its praises was that it intentionally departed from its earlier predecessors by shedding the "D&D in Middle Earth" mechanics MERP and Decipher were said to have, instead focusing on a band of heroes journeying together and making resisting corruption and despair by Sauron's influence an important mechanic.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but this latest news doesn't exactly strike me as a good move. The fact that I own and love The One Ring makes it all the more puzzling.

I get that deriving inspiration from Lord of the Rings was a big thing D&D did, even if Gary Gygax was not fond of the series itself. I get how aspects of its lore are borrowed. But truthfully I feel that the subculture's too wedded to Tolkien's work, trying too hard to ape their adventures, settings, and sessions on it.

The thing is, the Lord of the Rings has a specific design which doesn't translate very well into most campaigns. There's only 6 actual magic-users in all of Middle-Earth, and even the marveled elven artifacts aren't viewed as magic by their people. The Hobbit and the trilogy have been rather down to earth in their scale of power, and I notice from 5E's spell list that a lot of the world-shaking magic is still present. You still have goblins, intelligent spiders, and a few top-tier creatures like Smaug and the balrog, but the latter ones tend to be unique creatures.

Also, the One Ring's massive power is easily replicated by a level 2 spell with no hint of corruption in standard D&D.

There's not much information on the mechanics, and I may be proven wrong, but after seeing many people in the hobby trying to adopt the D&D engine to emulate a series of genre unsuitable for its mechanics, I can't help but be skeptical.

I guess what I'm saying is...why make a 5E Middle-Earth game when there's already a serviceable RPG for it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tabletop Gaming Review: Hyperspace Messenger 03: Aliens (White Star)

Cover Art by Tam├ís Baranya

As I'm sure a lot of you realize by now, I'm rather fond of White Star and the third party content it spawned. I notice a sort of new creativity among the sample books once wouldn't usually see in a fantasy D&D clone, where the genre conventions inspired by JRR Tolkien, Gary Gygax, are more tightly bound. For example, the White Star Companion has Novamachine as a playable alien species, which are Transformers in all but name.  Then you have Star Sailors by Okumarts, which are basically Magical Girls in Space. Galaxy War 1939 has you fighting Nazis on alien worlds, and Star Gods Help Us is a humorous collection of new alien races inspired by sci-fi pop culture of the last 30 years intended for players in the mood for a wacky gimmick PC.

This may be a controversial thing to say, but after so many OSR products which tread similar ground (goblin caves in dungeons, gritty low-magic low-fantasy, etc), White Star's third party feels refreshing in its diversity among both new and recognized publishers. I plan on reviewing quite a bit of them here, and figured I'd start with an alien PC generator by DwD Studios.

Hyperspace Messenger 03: Aliens is a 20 page book, with 16 pages of content, the other 4 being things like cover, credits, OGL, and a product blurb. The introduction opens up by saying it's meant to help emulate settings like Star Wars, where the vast galaxy has a seemingly uncountable number of alien species where a few are featured but the rest are left to the imagination. To that end, the book is meant for both players and Referees to make their own alien class with a step-by-step series of random-roll tables.

The Meat of the System

HM3 generates an alien class by rolling for core traits, along with miscellaneous details such as reproduction, lifespan, size, and unique abilities.  The major details include things such as Hit Dice, Saving Throw progression, Base To-Hit, and Weapon/Armor Proficiencies.

Each table result provides a sample Experience value, which is used to determine how much the alien needs to get from level 1 to 2 and is then doubled from there. Generally speaking, the more powerful results cost more experience: being proficient with only primitive weapons (bows, swords, staffs, etc) adds 100 Experience, while being able to use any kind of weapon is 400. As the basic White Star classes are usually 1,200 at the lower end to 2,000 around the upper end, getting consistently good results for your randomized alien has the trade-off of having you lag behind the rest of the party.

Some traits can result in lowering the Experience value for faster progression, such as an anatomy incompatible with most (human-designed) equipment, lacking an important sense such as being blind or deaf, or a -1 penalty to an ability score rolled at character creation. Overall it seems like a fine, consistent system, but noticed mixed results when trying to build a few of the core White Star classes with similar abilities. The Aristocrat, Mercenary, and Pilot had more or less the same Experience Progression, off by 100-250 points.  The Alien Brute was off by a bit, whose base is 2,000, had 2,400 with its HM3 counterpart.

Special Abilities

The table for Special Abilities is the real highlight of this book, containing ninety features differing widely in form and function (the 91-100 result allows the player/Referee to choose freely). Each Special Ability adds 200 Experience to the initial value, but due to their nature lower the alien's level cap by 1 (10th level is ordinarily the base cap in White Star) for each one taken, to a maximum of 4 Special Abilities.

The Special Abilities vary a lot in scale. One might grant the alien a +2 on rolls involving interaction with others (Sociology Experts), while another might automatically heal 1 hit point per round (Regeneration). Most of them provide an explicit game effect or ability of some sort, like being able to stick to surfaces due to adhesive, increased movement rate, or even a continuous immunity to mind-affecting effects! A rare few are more geared towards Referee fiat, such as the alien species having a universal positive reputation which can result in social opportunities and opened doors.

My favorite included Symbiotic Immortality, where the alien has a symbiotic life form living inside it accumulating knowledge which can be passed on to others of its species upon death. The game effect is a +1 Wisdom, but this really sets up interesting cultural and role-playing opportunities for said species.


Five sample alien species and a fillable worksheet provide the final parts of this small book. Overall, I really like Hyperspace Messenger 03. The sample tables cover enough mechanical ground to make all sorts of aliens, even ones from popular franchises such as the Vulcans from Star Trek. The best part is that the book's contents are OGL save for typical product identity stuff of art and logos. The author even encourages folks to use his system to make their own aliens for their own works and share on social media. He also suggests using a non-random "pick your abilities" method for generation, which more or less works due to the restrictions on Experience and maximum number of Special Abilities.

I heartily recommend this product; it may be short, but it's very useful as both a player and GM tool.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

New White Star Homebrew: Redayo Alien Class

Slitheroid Morph from Eclipse Phase Corebook

There's a White Star compatible book called Hyperspace Messenger 03: Aliens. It has an open-ended system designed for quick generation of new alien species, as well as turning them into classes.  The best part of it is that the system in question is Open Game Content, and the author encourages people to make their own creations to share with the community.  This lit my inspiration enough to try my hand at it as well.

The Redayo

Hailing from a forlorn solar system home to a single tiny, barren planet, the Redayo are an isolationist species with a large cultural fear against spending too much time far from home.  Centuries ago they engaged in a devastating war with the Void Knights, giving birth to a new warrior class known as the Urrli.  These starbound soldiers take on the unenviable of going out into the galaxy to safeguard their species from outside threats.  Almost all Redayo encountered away from their homeworld belong to this societal strata, giving the impression to wider galactic society that they're a warrior race.

Physical Traits: Redayo bear a serpentine figure with a pair of arms and opposable thumbs, ranging in total length from 7 to 9 feet and weighing on average 200 to 300 pounds. Their scale coloration tends toward dark, earthy hues such as deep red, brown, leafy green, and black, and their heads bear a pair of antennae which act as their primary olfactory organs.  Their eyes are a featureless yellow, with no irises.

It is not generally known how Redayo reproduce, although it's believed that they undergo parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction where embryos develop without fertilization.  They also have longer lifespans than humans; most Urrli do not die of natural causes, but there's one in the galaxy who's said to have lived to the ripe old age of 135.

Weapon/Armor Restrictions: Redayo Urrli master a specific fighting style incorporating the use of bows, mono-swords, and staffs. They may only wear light armor and may not use shields.

In regards to bows, many Urrli buy specialized arrows incorporating modern weapons systems, such as ones with an explosive head or which generate an energy field capable of disabling most technological devices (see White Star Companion for Explosive, Ion, and Scrambler Arrows).

Movement: Redayo have a ground speed of 12.

Saving Throws: Redayo receive a +2 on saving throws against death or Meditation effects.

Senses: A Redayo's head-antennae allow them a keen sense of smell, and can identify and track people by scent alone.

Adrenaline Control: Redayo Urrli can use the Alter Reflexes Meditation once per day.

Hardy: Due to the harshness of their homeworld, Redayo only need half the normal food and water requirements of a human.

Sense Gifts and Meditations: Redayo Urrli can detect presence of someone able to use Gifts or Meditations within 30 ft. Must declare intent to detect.

Pounce: Redayo can leap up a number of feet equal to their Strength score, and forward a number of yards equal to their Strength score.


Non-Warrior Redayo? I figured that an alien race capable of detecting supernatural powers yet were more physically inclined than the typical "wise alien race" would make for a neat warrior concept of folk trained to fight Void Knights (and to an extension, Star Knights and Mystics as well).  Their power-sensing feature is more the result of training in their order than inborn, as is the specific combat style.

If you wish to play one of those rare Redayo who are out in the galaxy yet not part of their elite order of warriors, drop the Sense Gift and Meditations and bump up their Weapon Proficiency to use any weapons.  Then add a 7th level:

128,000 experience points, 6 hit dice, +4 BHB, and 8 Saving Throw.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My titles are 30% off for GM's Day Sale!

I get the feeling that a lot of folks reading this have quite a bit of my work, but just to boost the signal Quasar Knight Enterprises is participating in Drive-Thru RPG's GM's Day Sale!  All my books are 30% off today through March 17th!

Here's the link.