A lot of modern traditionally-published fantasy and sci-fi is dreadful. Heck, a lot of independently-published fantasy and sci-fi is dreadful. Many big fantasy and sci-fi media properties are worse than my singing.
However, there are some exciting things coming out of independent creators. Therefore, supporting independent creators (and small companies) who are doing good work should come naturally, right? Right.
I try to support as best I can with limited funds. (Haven’t become a billionaire yet, so the plan to create a giant community for all my favorite creators / internet friends to come live at won’t be happening anytime soon)
As I understand it, reviews are the best way to help small, independent creators. And here’s the thing: I want to help these people, but I am awful at writing reviews.
So, here is a list of small authors / RPG designers whose stuff you should support (presented in alphabetical order and will be updated / edited over time):
The company that publishes ACKS, best old-school game on the market. In addition to rules expansions, they also publish their own adventures. I promise they are MUCH better than what I’ve made! Drive-Thru RPGOfficial Website
One of the most wildly imaginative writers out there today and a darn fine ACKS player, too! His name on something pretty much makes it an instant buy. AmazonBlog
Best short fiction magazine on the market. Period. AmazonBlog
Jon Del Arroz
Comic / book writer who produces so much quality content, I wonder if he sleeps. AmazonBlog
He likes flaming swords and coffee… and exciting adventure stories. AmazonBlog
Intellectually stimulating author who loves giant robots more than I love mozzarella cheese sticks. Also an excellent witch finder. AmazonBlog
Someone once gave me a strawberry that was dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with brown sugar. Those flavors should not work together, but they do. That’s Rawle. Puritans and pop idols? Giant robots, ninja villages, and schoolgirls? He does it and does it well! AmazonBlog
Gonzo gaming greatness! So much fun to see my players get into trouble with his adventures. Drive-Thru RPGBlog
You’ll notice that there are no classics on here. No one needs me to say that ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ or ‘B2: The Keep on the Borderlands’ is good. Also, these are NOT affiliate links. I ain’t making any money if you buy anything from the links in this post.
One of the players in my Sunday night game is a fantastic author who also writes about the craft of creating fiction. He wrote a wonderful review of the story I submitted for the Corona-Chan anthology. (free ebook!)
Check out his review and check out the anthology!
Recently I picked up that anthology because I know a number of the people who wrote stories in it and the price was right. One of the stories happens to be written by the guy who runs my Sunday night game–he’s got, like, more names than Aragorn, but the name the story is published under […]
With all the free time I currently have (due to being furloughed from work), I was able to get into an AD&D 1E game with none other than Jeffro Johnson!
I played a cleric named ‘James King’. Since the assumption of AD&D is that of a post-apocalyptic society, I decided that my cleric found an old King James Bible and thought that it was a holy book owned by a “King, James”.
This Twitter thread from Jeffro is a good summation of the game.
Whelp, I think I ran AD&D for the first time ever tonight. Two magic-users. One assassin. One thief. One cleric. Not sleep spell among them. Attributes my method III. How did it go? pic.twitter.com/hMtBQcKEc2
Cha’alt continues to be a blast. The Black Pyramid continues to be a wild funhouse of a dungeon, each room is something unique and different. If you want to run your players through an enjoyable funhouse with unique magical items and encounters, I would recommend Cha’alt to you in a heartbeat. The players continue to baffle me and act in surprisingly unexpected ways.
– There are three groups of socialists who live in the Black Pyramid and hate each other. The party met all three. The first group was fed to Zarga’an, the second and third groups were fed frog meat from frogmen and the giant toad demon said frogmen summoned. Apparently, the party felt sorry for the starving socialists? Not sure what it says when I am confused by any kind or nice actions they take. Not to be overly political, but no one has said anything pro-socialist while playing, so I figured all three groups would be demon food.
– During the battle, the demon they were loaned was turned into a fire ant and eaten. One of the moth people was turned into an actual moth, but the magic was undone before he could be eaten. Through the power of reaction rolls, the wizard who summoned the demons out of a black pool was not overly upset and was convinced to loan out a second demon. Got to make sure the demons are great at combat before he tries to take over the Pyramid!
– They met some anti-magic fanatics, who were impressed with the scientific weapons (phasers from Liberation of the Demon Slayer) carried by the party. The party promised to give them any magic items they find, so said magic items can be destroyed. As usual, they have no intention of fulfilling that promise and will only give the occasional magic item they don’t want to keep up appearances. The first item they gave was a Sword of the Deathless Warlord that I took from AX3: Secrets of the Nethercity. This magic sword allows a character to forgo a cleave attack and raise the dead enemy as a deathless minion (per the spell). Considering how often the party misses cleave attacks (90+% of the time), I figured this would be an item they would like. Nah. They gave it away to be destroyed.
– An ancient infernal dragon sits on a pile of treasure. Promises the party wealth (and not to kill them), if they slay his ancient foe, The Lich King. They agree and, as far as I can tell, fully intend on doing so.
– Still have not used a magic ring that summons a succubus. I don’t run a sexually explicit game, but I figured at least one character would use it for “relief”. (If sex happens in game, I recommend a fade-to-black approach. If that makes me a neo-Puritan prude, so be it.)
– Encountered two eyeball creatures who were peacefully chilling in a room. They instantly opened fire on the peaceful beings like the murderhobos they are and very nearly succumbed to the save-or-die attacks from the eyeballs.
– Watched a purple-skinned swordsman kill his would-be judges, then pick through their bodies for loot.
– Found a jewel-encrusted sarcophagus. I know, you know, they all know that there is a mummy inside… just waiting to pop out. Using the magic stapler (the one that attaches two things together forever), they stapled lid of the sarcophagus PERMANENTLY to the rest of the sarcophagus. It can never be opened. Now they can pry off the jewels from the outside of the sarcophagus in peace. Don’t listen to the low-T haters, you can #WinAtRPGs, people. Genius play right here. #Elite level thinking.
By the way, for those of you quarantined due to the Kung Flu, a few authors got together and put out a little collection of stories. I contributed under my pen name of John Daker. At this time, the ebook is free and the paperback copy is only $6.24 USD. (This was done on a strictly volunteer basis. I receive no compensation for this in any way.)
So today, let’s take a couple of silly things from the internet and make them into something usable in a TTRPG. Using ACKS stats, so if you need to convert Armor Class to a different system, here is a handy-dandy chart:
First up, is the Megoosa.
MEGOOSA % In Lair: 50% Dungeon Enc: 1 Wilderness Enc: 1 Alignment: Chaotic Movement: 90′ (30′) Armor Class: 2 Hit Dice: 4** Attacks: 1 (goosebite or special) Damage: 1d6 Save: As a 7th level Fighter Morale: 0 Treasure Type: H XP: 190
The megoosa is a vile monster that tends to live in caves near bodies of freshwater. The incessant honking of her goose-hair-tentacle-things means that any attempts to sneak up on her or surprise her get a +1 bonus. Any character that meets a megoosa’s gaze is required to make a saving throw versus Petrification or he turns into bread. Using stone to flesh or other reverse-petrification magic will work on victims of the megoosa’s gaze.
Why does that kind of magic work?
“If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?” – Luke 11:11 NKJV
It doesn’t make sense; just roll with it.
Next is the ‘Ancient Sword of the Meth King’
The Ancient Sword of the Meth King is a +1 sword with several spikes on it. It allows the wielder to use the disarm special maneuver at no penalty, instead of the normal -4 penalty.
Furthermore, if the wielder is under the influence of a drug, whether an illegal drug (like meth) or more than the recommended amount of a legal drug (getting drunk), instead of being a +1 sword, it becomes a +4 sword for as long as the intoxication lasts.
The wielder also gets a +2 to the reaction roll for any Florida Men (or other campaign-appropriate ‘wild’ people) he meets. Regardless of the result of reaction roll, the Florida Men will refer to the wielder as the ‘Meth King’, ‘Your Majesty’, etc even if the wielder is not a male or royalty.
If the wielder is a Florida Man, any Florida Men followers / henchmen / armies never needs to make a morale roll when suffering a calamity.
Whenever I go into the Sunday night Cha’alt session, I have given up on trying to predict what the players will do. 70% of the session is just me saying, “What? WHAT?!?!”
This book, this setting is perfect, absolutely perfect for wild shenanigans. If your players are willing to poke things they ought not poke, mess with people / demons / aliens, and cause havoc, Cha’alt is your module!
So what has the party been up to in the Black Pyramid?
– Almost had a TPK when they decided to upset Thoth-A’amon, the Sorceror Priest. One 9d6 Fireball later, most of the party was dead (if not for the ACKS Mortal Wounds table, everyone but one person would be dead, as it stands some of those who dropped below 0 hp came back with injuries) however, a couple survived with horrible injuries).
– As a result of this Fireball, Bambi Scrumptious had one of her 4 hands burned off, so when she looted an arm of a dead god off Thoth-A’amon’s body, she just tied the divine limb to her handless arm. Because of course, that’s what you do. Oh, and once a day, the arm can make someone save or die.
– Finding a weird crystal wall that requires a roll on a random table. One party member got disintegrated, another got a limited wish. He wished to be more experienced, so I had a couple of landsharks attack. Hey, he got more experience!
– They met 3 wizards summoning demons. Seemingly endless demons are being summoned in that room. The wizards intend to conquer the Black Pyramid. Did the party attack? Get friends to do an all-out assault? Do anything at all to stop this potential threat from destroying the entire Black Pyramid? Nah. This party sweet-talked the wizards into “combat-testing” a demon to make sure the wizards know how good the demons are at fighting. Basically, the party took a demon to help them in battle and have no intention of giving it back.
– Met a strange man in a grey suit who talks to furniture and has a robot that becomes violently insane when a secret word is spoken. He loves to watch cartoon DVDs. Our Lawful cleric destroyed the DVD with the “special cartoons” on it. Then the party stole all the DVDs containing cartoons and used the mirrored surface of the DVDs to stop some lasers in a different room.
– Killed clowns. So many clowns. The clowns stole some cybernetic limbs and tools from a disgraced cyber-surgeon who promised the party that he would install upgrades for free. Because they used grenades to kill the clowns, the equipment was damaged. 😦
– Feeding humans to the demon Zarga’an, starting with the clowns they killed. Why? Because they can. So far, they haven’t fed too many innocents to the demon. Yet.
– They also found the body of some Lovecraft-inspired Old Ones being cloned by a mad priest in yellow. They fed the flesh to Zarga’an. He did not gain 2 additional HD and grew bigger from the meal, not at all. Zarga’an’s power is not growing in strange and unusual ways with unforeseen consequences due to the consumption of a being outside of space and time, nope nope nope!
Can’t wait for next week’s craziness!
P.S. LA is a failed society. If you go, be prepared for the smell / sight of human waste everywhere. Even the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
P.P.S. There is a little Kickstarter for an RPG zine based on lumberjacks and Sasquatches. As someone who spends too much time watching YouTube videos about Bigfoot, this was an easy buy. Link here.
After a few more sessions of delving into the Black Pyramid of Cha’alt, I have come to report to you all that…
SANITY IS FOR THE WEAK!
Rather than a full blow-by-blow session report, here are some of the the things that the party have done:
– Found a giant cube of orange gelatin worshiped by two men. Kiki, the Cthonic witch who loves to eat everything and everyone, started eating the cube. They convinced one of the men that the cube wants him to eat it. So between the two eaters, they ate it all. At the middle of the cube was a magic stapler that permanently staples things together.
To test this magical item, the party stapled the clothing of the two men together…forever. Random cruelty, why not?
– Meet some fruit people who want to have a crusade against all non-fruit people. Due to a really good reaction roll / roleplaying, the party convinced the fruit people that they were friends and to start the crusade against the temple of Dread K’tulu. One pitched battle / betrayal of the survivors / using poison gas grenades later, the party has removed two powerful threats and uawds the magical stapler to staple the body of the high priest of Dread K’tulu to a statue of the deity.
They hope to sell it as an art piece.
– Went into a museum and Bambi, the four-armed Mothperson Light-Taker, messed with one of the sculptures. She was instantly transported to a court in a distant galaxy where she was being tried for the crime of being a spy. During the trial, she said that she was going to give the judge 4 phasers. I thought she meant she was going to try to bribe the judge (the module specifically states that bribery is an option). No, she meant she was going to shoot the judge. With four phasers.
Have I ever mentioned how incredibly frightened I am of my players?
One dead judge later, I rolled on the “What is the result of the trial” table. Guess what the result was.
“Let off with a warning”
She re-appeared back in the dungeon moments later and to prevent further trials, the party destroyed a priceless work of art.
– The party also rescued a woman from the vile clutches of the mildy amusing Ra’av Snyder. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate his moderately funny humor and terrible seduction technique. No betrayal, no murder, just being nice.
– A bunch of men outside the Black Pyramid have “encouraged” the party to go in and get them. The party found a bomb in a room with some psychics and a space princess. They gave them bomb to the men outside and went back in to find more magic items for the men.
Because they were such good “employees”. 😉
A few minutes later, the bomb went off and all the men outside re-enacted the classic 80’s hit “It’s Raining Men”… well… it’s raining pieces of men.
– Once the party found a room with a giant frozen peach floating in the air, a strange thing happened. Two of my players (a married couple) have a baby. At this time, the baby started to make baby noises.
Now the room contained a bunch of primitive ape-men and a wizard who had given them all an unpaid internship to un-freeze the peach by whacking off hunks of ice with their bone clubs.
Once the primitive ape man rebelled and killed the wizard, I decided that the baby babble would represent the feelings (and language) of the primitive ape men (rather than roll a reaction roll) If the baby sounded happy, they would be happy with the party. If the baby sounded upset, they would be upset.
Not sure if this was a genius GM idea or a dumb one.
Luckily the baby was happy, so the party did not have to fight anyone. They finished thawing the peach, hacked it to bits, and took it to the tiki bar so it could be put into drinks.
– They have met a bunch of cultists to a powerful being called “Zarga’an”. They’re dead now… and they were Zarga’an’s main food source.
But Zarga’an lives. He may not appreciate his food source being interrupted.
– Cha’alt is a wonderful mish-mash of ideas and I am having a blast running it. There is enough danger and oddness for any party of adventurers to get in and/or cause trouble. Party members are dying, players are laughing, sci-fi and pop-culture references are being recognized, it’s an overall good time!
Can another ACKS GMs confirm something for me?
Do your players ALWAYS miss cleave attacks? Or is it just my party?