A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

#kickstarter

Review: Blood in the Chocolate

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on January 24, 2017

Tagged: osr lotfp kickstarter kiel

Broodmother SkyFortress: Buying any other adventure is just throwing your money away

Alongside Broodmother Skyfortress, the brains at Lamentations of the Flame Princess also published Blood in the Chocolate. Kiel Chenier did the writing, layout, and maps. The art is by Jason Thompson, notable for his Family Circus style maps of adventurers exploring infamous dungeons. The premise of the adventure is quite simple: you are a group of adventurers tasked with breaking into a mysterious chocolate factory run by a Spanish countess and absconding with details about her operation and samples of her ingredients. The most obvious inspiration for Blood in the Chocolate is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and there are nods to that story throughout the adventure.

If you have read any of Kiel’s other adventures I would say this one is more or less exactly how I would imagine a Kiel LotFP adventure might look like. There is violence and horror and sex, but it all comes off as fun and a little bit goofy. Also there is a hot fat woman.

I helped Kiel play test the adventure several months ago with his regular D&D group. We met up again shortly after the book was released to play the now completed adventure with the Toronto OSR posse (#torontOSR). Both games I played involved some amount of scheming to break into the factory, followed by sneaking about in search of clues for how this countess was producing her chocolate. In the second game a few of us were poisoned (a likely outcome in the factory) and so we spent part of the adventure trying to find a way to cure our compatriots of their creepy affliction. We managed to win over one of the pygmies, who was so enamoured with us he ended up helping us explore the factory and find a possible cure. (There are rules for how to win over the pygmies presented in the adventure.) Both times playing this adventure were a real blast.

Kiel produces well laid out adventures. This book continues that trend. Kiel’s books are great examples of what people should be doing with the works they produce. Like The Hell House Beckons, this adventure features cheat sheets for the rest of the book. The front end papers are basically the one page dungeon version of the adventure. The back end papers feature important random tables, and stats for the monsters you’ll encounter. There is also a handy pygmy tracker you can use to keep track the 150 pygmies the adventures may kill. The book opens with an overview of the module, advice for how to run it as a one-shot versus as part of an ongoing campaign, and an overview of the main villain and her army of pygmies. This makes up roughly half of the book. The second half is the adventure proper. There are cutaways of the map scattered throughout this section. Room descriptions are bulleted lists, and generally strike the balance between being terse, but not too terse. I do have the same gripe about room descriptions as I made in my previous two reviews: occasionally they spill over to subsequent pages. If you aren’t careful you might assume a room description is complete and not flip the page to see there’s more for you to read. That said, this is a small complaint and the layout is really is well done. This book feels designed to be picked up and run straight out of the book.

I like Jason Thompson’s art. The stuff that is going on in the book could be presented in a very graphic and gross manner. Thompson’s works convey it well but manages to do so in a way I think better suits the book. Many of his pictures are gross, but also not so gross. It’s a tricky line to walk and he does a great job. The PDF of the adventure also comes with one his walk through maps, which is, as always, fantastic.

Buy this already. It’s a good book and Kiel needs to eat. LotFP continues to kill it with their recent releases and this is really no exception. If you are bored or annoyed by some of the more avante garde adventures LotFP puts out, this is a nice solid dungeon crawl to win your heart back. Raggi is curating a solid set of adventures.

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Review: Towers Two

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on January 01, 2017

Tagged: osr lotfp kickstarter

Towers Two is the work of David Brokie, completed posthumously by Jobe Bitman (writing) & Jeremy Duncan (art). Brokie is perhaps most famous for being a member of Gwar, the death metal band from outer space. (That the guitarist from Gwar was also a big D&D fan should come as no surprise.) Like Broodmother Skyfortress, this project was also started back in 2012 as part of James Raggi’s (crazy) crowdfunding project of that summer. As someone who helped fund the few adventures that made the cut, this arrived at my doorstep a few months ago. So, about 4 years late. James isn’t good at getting his Kickstarter projects done on time. He is good at getting them done well, though. This module was slated to be a 32 page softcover booklet. I ended up with a 120 page full colour hardcover book. That’s crazy, but seemingly everyone involved in this project was a little bit crazy too.

The first thing you’ll notice as you flip through the book is all the amazing art. Jeremy Duncan’s work in this module is really quite inspired. (I recommend you grab the physical book because I don’t think the PDF does the art justice.) Jeremy’s art is bright, colourful, messy, detailed, crude, psychedelic, cartoonish, gory and intense. It’s in the same vein as the few pieces of art from Brokie that made it into the book, but ratcheted up. (I do love Brokie’s cover: it’s a shame we didn’t get more of his art in colour as well. Don’t do heroin. That’s probably the bigger tragedy here.)

I didn’t think I’d like Towers Two: it sounded kind of cheesy and juvenile. It is in fact both of those things, but it’s also a very well done sandbox adventure. There is no real overarching plot to push the players through, but instead plenty of factions to interact with and a couple obvious villains to harass. Wandering the region around the eponymous Towers Two will likely provide enough excitement for several gaming sessions.

The adventure is aggressively “R” rated. The super villain is an alien creature who controls people by sticking tentacle probes up their butts. Two magic items described in the module are the Death Phallus and the Cunt Whip. There is a “rape table +4”. It’s pretty easy to drop or tweak all of this stuff from the adventure and still have it be coherent, but you should probably know this stuff is there if it’s the sort of thing that will bother you.

I liked the overall structure of the adventure. It opens with a great overview of the whole adventure, describing some background information and detailing all the factions and characters the players may encounter. The information is all presented up front so when you encounter these things later in more detail you already have a sense of what’s up. The adventure is ‘wordier’ than I generally like. Some descriptions of dungeon rooms or wilderness areas are quite long, and at times repetitive. Nothing here is boring, though. It’s all pretty bonkers. I don’t think this module would be quite so easy to run as Broodmother Skyfortress, but it’s far larger in it’s scope. The book concludes with Brokie’s original draft, which is interesting to read as a gaming artifact. Jobe Bitman stayed true to Brokie’s original vision, but a lot of the truly gross or out there ideas came from Jobe not Brokie. I’m not sure if Brokie felt he had to reign his crazy in, while Jobe felt he had to let his out to live up to his idol.

Alex Mayo, who did the layout for Broodmother Skyfortress, also did the layout for Towers Two. This book also does a great job of showcasing the art within. There is art on almost every page, and everything is quite visually interesting. In this book the text is set in a smaller font and split over two columns. In an A5 book I find this sort of layout can feel a bit tight. (It was easy enough to read casually while I wasn’t playing, but perhaps would be trickier to quickly scan in the middle of a game.) I have complaints about room descriptions being split over pages, but on the whole this is a very pretty book. This book is far denser than Broodmother Skyfortress. It feels like there is far more text to read.

Towers Two is a fun book. It’s worth grabbing just for the art. The fact the adventure itself is also really well done is a nice bonus. There is lots of gaming material here, and it’s all really quite unique. It’s interesting how all over the place LotFP can be with their modules. This adventure is nothing like Broodmother Skyfortress, and nothing like Blood in the Chocolate or the Cursed Chateau, which I will write about soon.

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Review: Broodmother Skyfortress

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on December 30, 2016

Tagged: osr lotfp kickstarter jeffrients

Broodmother Skyfortress has been in the making for the last four years. I discussed my plans to back it—indirectly—as part of James Raggi’s crazy “Summer of Adventure” back in 2012. This is the final book that was funded as part of that campaign, the others being Forgive Us, Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions, and Towers Two. This module was perhaps the most hotly anticipated of the lot. Now that it’s here what did we get? Broodmother Skyfortress is a dungeon master’s guide in the form of an adventure.

The actual adventure takes up the first half or so of the book. It’s about giant shark elephants and their giant shark elephant broodmother that live in a floating skyfortress—hence the name. These monsters are riding through your campaign world fucking shit up. The players will presumably want to stop them: because they are invested in that world, because you’ve hidden some McGuffin in the Skyfortress, or for some other nonsense reason. The actual “adventure” portion of this book is a pretty small subset of the whole book. The Skyfortress is 20 rooms (12 above ground, 8 in tunnels underneath). It’s not a particularly complex dungeon, but there are lots of things for the players to interact with and perhaps use to stop the giants. Stopping the giants will be tricky: the giants are giants. Players will need to get creative to defeat these monsters and save the day.1

The book is written in a conversational tone. As you read the adventure Jeff interjects with words of encouragement, advice, and humour:

There are times in the course of a good role-playing campaign when it is important as a Referee to have one’s crap together. Like, if you spring a riddling sphinx on the players then you need to have some riddles and some solutions ready. But sometimes it is important that a Referee propose a problem to the players with no preconceived idea of the solution. Your players want to get to the Skyfortress. How the heck are they going to do that? Hell if I know. Don’t worry, the players will figure something out.

There’s lots of great advice about running games throughout the whole book. The second half of Broodmother Skyfortress is full of some of the best posts from Jeff’s Game Blog. Taken together the book is probably one of the best getting started guides to running games. (Certainly for running games in an “old-school” style.) Jeff said he took inspiration here from the old basic modules In Search of the Unknown (B1) and Keep on the Borderlands (B2). This module does a far better job than both at teaching a DM how to run a game. It’s advice is far more clear and direct. (We have chapters like, “Yo Jeff! What if I don’t have a campaign?” and a whole section about what you as the DM need to work out before you play, because this adventure should be tailored to your campaign.)

This is one of the bigger LotFP books, clocking in at 160 pages. James published this softcover adventure as a big colour hardcover book—as he is known to do. The layout was done by Alex Mayo. This book feels like a high point for his work.2 Outside of the room descriptions, most of the sections of the book occur in one or two page spreads with matching art. The layout does a great job of showcasing all the excellent Ian Maclean art. There is so much art in this book. In addition to being great to look at, it also helps you orient yourself in the book and find particular sections of the text. The borders are done in this Kirby-esque style that looks great. They are coloured differently between the two portions of the book, making it easy to jump to the advice section. There is lots of love here.

Broodmother Skyfortress is fantastic. It’d make a great gift for any dungeon master, certainly someone just getting started. Everyone involved has done a really great job. This book can hold you over till we get a real LotFP Dungeon Master’s Guide.

  1. Patrick wrote a great review of this module so i’ll just point you there and move on. 

  2. There is so little to complain about I will take the time to nitpick. The description for Room 2 requires you to flip a page to read it all, which isn’t the end of the world because it’s clear the description is incomplete: the text on page 67 ends mid-sentence. The description for Room 3 similarly spans multiple pages, but in this case it’s easy to miss the extra information found on the next page: the text on page 68 doesn’t suggest there is anything else to read. Trying to manage stuff like this is one thing that makes laying out a whole book tricky. But, like I was saying, there is very little to complain about here: on the whole this is top shelf work. 

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Kickstarter Report Card V

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 11, 2015

Tagged: kickstarter

Overall I am quite happy with how Kickstarter has been treating me. Most of my recent Kickstarters have delivered without a hitch. Reaper Bones managed to ship a bajillion minis without breaking a sweat. Goodman Games shipped Peril on the Purple Planet and The Chained Coffin more or less when they said they would, with lots of bonus goodies. I’ve got the PDF of The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem without any fuss. Overall, projects seem to be better run and handled now.

It wouldn’t be a Kickstarter update if I didn’t mention i’m still waiting for books from LotFP. That said, James Raggi has sent me so many random adventures and bonus books the wait doesn’t feel particularly onerous. Of the 4 books funded in the LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign, each has grown in scope and awesomeness. As I’ve mentioned before, more project creators should follow Raggi’s lead with respect to how he handles projects that are off the rails.

In contrast to LotFP, we have Brave Halfling Publishing. I don’t have anything to say here that hasn’t already been said elsewhere.

Champions of Zed arrived, finally, about 3 years after it was funded. If there is one Kickstarter I regret backing this would be it. I don’t want to belittle someone’s hard work, but this project feels so thoroughly half-assed.

# Project Funded Expected Delivery Shipped?
1 The Warren August 2015 October 2015 No
2 The Zine Vault June 2015 November 2015 No
3 Perilous Journeys May 2015 September 2015 No
4 The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem March 2015 July 2105 Yes!
5 Sol February 2015 August 2015 No
6 Dungeon Crawl Classics: Peril on the Purple Planet August 2014 November 2014 Yes!
7 The Great Kingdom July 2014 July 2015 Hells No!
8 Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Chained Coffin June 2014 August 2014 Yes!
9 Playsets The future of social storytelling. November 2013 February 2014 Yes!
10 Reaper Miniatures Bones II October 2013 October 2014 Yes!
11 LotFP Hardcover Referee Book October 2013 January 2019 Partially
12 LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure February 2013 July 2013 Partially
13 Appendix N Adventure Toolkits July 2012 July 2012 Partially
14 LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign July 2012 December 2012 Partially
15 Champions of Zed June 2012 August 2012 Yes!
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Another Box from Finland

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on December 28, 2014

Tagged: lotfp books kickstarter

LotFP Box from Finland

People, this box! This is the box I have been waiting for. If you could only see my full-body sobs for joy.1 All the way from Finland comes another box of goodies from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Because I have backed so many LotFP Kickstarters I somehow ended up with 4 extra books beyond the 2 I ordered. I will probably write about each in more detail shortly, but I thought I would say a quick word about the books after flicking through them really quick.

As I have mentioned previously, there is no one I am aware of anywhere else in the RPG scene make books as nice as James Raggi, including all the big name publishers: Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, etc. A Red and Pleasant Land has tiny print run compared to the new 5e books, but is comparable in price and is physically a much nicer book. The paper is nice thick and matte, and the binding of the hardback is actually signature stitched. (It’s disappointing how many hardbacks nowadays are essentially casebound books with hard covers.) A Red and Pleasant Land is actually nicer than the Penguin Classics reissue of Alice’s Advneture in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that I recently purchased—and that book is pretty nice itself! All of the recent LotFP books are produced with a level of care that now seems to be lost in most of the publishing world.

Beyond book fetishism one can also appreciate LotFP books for their art. There is obvious effort put into sourcing good and interesting art. I can’t say I’m always a fan of the choices Raggi makes, but there is never a piece of art in his books that feels phoned in. His books have much nicer covers than most modern fantasy novels, and certainly most RPG books. Of this recent batch of books, I love the cover of No Salvation For Withes the most—the interior art is too gross and terrifying for me sadly.

I love books. It’s refreshing to see there are still people out there who love them as much as me.

Red and Pleasant Land vs. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

  1. Well no, there are no tears, but I am pretty hyped. 

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Kickstarter Report Card IV

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on December 11, 2014

Tagged: kickstarter

It’s been almost a year since I last checked in with all my Kickstarter projects. I continue to be a bit more wary about what I back, but mostly because I’m trying to buy fewer RPG books in general. My sense is that most people starting Kickstarter projects now are more mindful about being better prepared before undertaking them, and buyers are more cautious in general when it comes to parting with there money.

Dwimmermount’s development seemed to really pick up steam this year. Updates were frequent as Alex Macris started working on editing and revising the bulk of the text in the book. So after a lot of ups and downs for all involved, I received my copy of the book in October. It’s a beast of a book. Gus from Dungeon of Signs has written a thorough review of the thing. Domains at War also arrived at the end of the summer, which I think clears Autarch of all their crowd funding obligations.

Champions of Zed and Appendix N Adventure Toolkits are still running behind. I suspect i’ll get them when I get them. So it goes.

James Raggi still owes me a few more books, though I have a bunch on the way from Finland as I type this right now. I’m sure he wants to tie up all these loose ends as much as I want him to. As I mentioned last time, the fact everything he produces transforms into something much more fancy by the time it makes its way to me certainly helps stifle any frustration I may feel here.

Several kickstarters I backed since my last report have already shipped. LotFP Free RPG Day 2014 and No Salvation for Witches from LotFP wrapped up on time. (Though NSFW ended up shipping their physical books late to coincide with the release of a Red and Pleasant Land and the other new books from LotFP.) Servants of the Cinder Queen arrived on time and was a lovely little adventure. The physical copies of the two DCC RPG modules I backed are still being put together, but they grew in scope due to stretch goals. I don’t expect them to be particularly late, and I have PDFs of many of the books already. And of course Scarlet Heroes RPG by Kevin Crawford would arrive on time.

The only big miss for myself this year has been backing The Great Kingdom. The project looks amazing, but has been sued by the people making another D&D documentary. God damn it.

# Project Funded Expected Delivery Shipped?
1 No Salvation for Witches: A Pay What You Want Book August 2014 October 2014 YES
2 Dungeon Crawl Classics: Peril on the Purple Planet August 2014 November 2014 Partially
3 The Great Kingdom July 2014 July 2015 Hells No!
4 Servants of the Cinder Queen July 2014 September 2014 YES
5 Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Chained Coffin June 2014 August 2014 Partially
6 Scarlet Heroes RPG March 2014 June 2014 YES
7 LotFP Free RPG Day 2014 February 2014 July 2014 YES
8 Playsets The future of social storytelling. November 2013 February 2014 Partially
9 Reaper Miniatures Bones II October 2013 October 2014 No
10 LotFP Hardcover Referee Book October 2013 January 2019 Partially
11 Domains at War June 2013 August 2013 YES
12 LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure February 2013 July 2013 Partially
13 Appendix N Adventure Toolkits July 2012 July 2012 Partially
14 LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign July 2012 December 2012 Partially
15 Champions of Zed June 2012 August 2012 Partially
16 Dwimmermount April 2012 August 2012 YES!!
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Review: Thulian Echoes

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 08, 2014

Tagged: lotfp osr kickstarter

Zak from D&D with Pornstars suggested another way to use [The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time] that would work quite well: “Like Tomb of Horrors, it could be considered a ‘go in, get killed, make a new PC, act with metagame knowledge, do it right this time’ situation.” To take this idea a little further, you could have characters killed during the course of the adventure simply wake up again somewhere in the valley. This would keep with the spirit of the module and makes a lot of the screw-you traps seem less harsh. — A footnote to my review of The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time

Thulian Echoes is the latest adventure Lamentations of the Flame Princess, written by Canada’s own Zzarchov Kowolski. The adventure takes place on an island, its central feature a crazy death-trap dungeon. In an attempt to make the death-trap dungeon less of a screw job, Thulian Echoes is meant to be played through twice by the same set of players. The second play through will hopefully be more successful than the first, as players will know the lay of the land.

Why would players run through the same adventure twice? The central conceit of the module is that the characters find a journal outlining the travels of a band of adventures who all (probably) died horrible deaths within the island’s dungeon thousands of years ago. Assuming players decide to investigate this mysterious dungeon they are given pre-generated characters and play through the events of the journal. It’s the D&D equivalent of a flashback in a movie, I suppose.

The dungeon itself is a weird small complex created by a wizard—of course. There are lots of moving parts and puzzles for the characters to mess around with. There are plenty of ways for player characters to die. A giant machine is central to the whole dungeon, and will likely be a source of fun, confusion, or death for the players. A passage from the main dungeon leads to an underground wilderness that the players may choose to explore as well. This portion of the dungeon is run completely abstractly: there are no maps. There is a destination the players can reach if they venture ‘downwards’, their route to this place will lead them to have several random encounters. This is a pretty simple way to do an exploration of a vast cave system. It could probably be fleshed out more if your players were into fighting Devolved Elder Things. Another passage leads to the wizard’s laboratory and sanctum, where the players may encounter the wizard himself.

Another layer of twists make the second play through hopefully as fun as the first. The present day setting will change based on what the players do during their flashback adventure. I was reminded of Chrononauts a little bit: if this happens and that happens then in the future the world is run by dinosaurs. (Well not quite, but that’s the general idea.) The adventure presents each named location as it exists in the past. This is then often followed by a section for Consequences, which lists what the things the players might trigger in the past, and Present Era, which lists what the location may look like in the present day. I’m curious how tricky all of this stuff is to keep track of during a game session. I suspect a DM would want to split up the past and present run-throughs with a short break at the very least. This is probably an adventure that works best printed out and marked up as the game progresses.

Art is by Kelvin Green, who has illustrated several LotFP modules (including his own). He has a cartoony style that is often at odds with the images being depicted. This module isn’t particularly “gross” as LotFP modules go. I enjoyed all the artwork. The cartography is by Jason Thompson, notable for doing all those cute map walkthroughs of famous D&D modules. (I actually would have loved if the official map for the module was such a walkthrough, but I suspect that wouldn’t work printed in an A5 book. Those drawings are massive.)

Thulian Echoes is good. I am a fan of the stuff Zzarchov Kowolski puts out. He’s a creative fellow, and this adventure is a good example of that. It’s available as a PDF and is well worth checking out. (If you wanted it in print you missed the boat: it was a bonus during the LotFP referee book kickstarter.) His last module for LotFP, Scenic Dunnsmouth is also excellent.

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Kickstarter Report Card III

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on January 12, 2014

Tagged: kickstarter

It’s been about a half year since my previous post about RPG crowd funding. In that time some projects I backed that were running late mailed me books; others continue to be mired in the minutia of producing their product. I’m still a fan of Kickstarter, but I try to be much more picky about what I back.

I finally received the LotFP hardcover Rules and Magic book. As noted in my review, it’s an incredibly well put together book. One of the modules from the LotFP summer adventures campaign also shipped: Vincent Baker’s Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions. This was originally supposed to be a 32-page softcover adventure that morphed into a 160-page hardcover book. I’m still waiting on three more modules from that summer adventure campaign, but it sounds like there is at least some forward progress on two of them. I’ve been so pleased with the books from LotFP so I don’t mind the delay. People will generally forgive long delays if the final product they receive superlative. That James Raggi has avoided a lot of the drama that surrounds late Kickstarter projects is a probably a combination of the quality of the books he puts out and the forgiving fan base he has cultivated.

I received a PDF copy of Champions of Zed and am still waiting for my copy of the book in print. I’m pretty unimpressed with the project. The author has been missing in action for most of the project. The PDF feels very amateur. (The last update on Kickstarter about sums it all up: it’s from a month ago and was about how there were some glaring errors in some tables in the PDF.) Considering how much time has passed since this project funded and how much money was raised I was expecting more from Champions of Zed. There is some nice art in between lots of so-so art. The layout of the book is terrible. Champions of Zed is the only RPG Kickstarter I regret backing.

The first print module from the Appendix N Adventure Toolkits Kickstarter arrived a couple weeks ago. There was some bonus material included in the package I received, a thank you to people who have been waiting patiently (and not so patiently) for their modules. The wait continues for many other backers. Although John did a good job getting PDF material out to backers quickly, his continued insistence that the print versions of the books would be arriving any day now for the last year and a half has really hurt his reputation as a publisher and probably soured many people on this project. The modules are nice, so it’s a shame the project is probably going to be better known for being tardy than what was actually produced.1

Dwimmermount is still late. There is not much else to say about all of that. The nerd-rage surrounding this project crossed the line to embarrassing stupidness a long time ago. Autarch have slowed down somewhat with updates on the state of things, but it’s clear this is a tough project for them to finish. To compound their problems they are also working on Domains at War, which missed its ship deadline by 4 months now. Most people have a natural tendency to underestimate the work required to complete a task. Domains at War does look very close to completion.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The Brom Kickstarter mailed me a giant art book with little fanfare. I love it. I backed three new projects, one of which looks to be well on its way to completion. I’ll be curious to see where all these projects stand in the summer.

As an aside, for an example of how to run a Kickstarter correctly check out the Cadence and Slang project. The project began in July, with an estimated ship date of October. There were no stupid stretch goals. Nick Disabato printed and shipped his book in three months, just like he said he would. It’s also a very nice book hardbound book, not something from Lulu.

# Project Funded Expected Delivery Shipped?
1 Playsets The future of social storytelling. November 2013 Feb 2014 Partially
2 Reaper Miniatures Bones II October 2013 October 2014 No
3 LotFP Hardcover Referee Book October 2013 January 2019 Partially
4 Domains at War June 2013 August 2013 Partially
5 LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure February 2013 July 2013 Partially
6 The Art of Brom October 2012 June 2013 Yes!
7 Appendix N Adventure Toolkits July 2012 July 2012 Partially
8 LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign July 2012 December 2012 Partially
9 Champions of Zed June 2012 August 2012 Partially
10 LotFP Hardcover and Adventures Project May 2012 October 2012 Yes!
11 Dwimmermount April 2012 August 2012 Hells No!
  1. I have a huge blog post about this Kickstarter and the Delving Deeper box set. I have yet to post it because I haven’t figured out if it’s actually constructive or not to do so. The internet is full of people complaining. 

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Review: Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 08, 2013

Tagged: osr lotfp kickstarter vincentbaker jackvance

I am currently reading Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions by Vincent Baker. It’s the first of the LotFP adventure modules I helped fund last summer to ship. Between then and now the book somehow ballooned from a 32 page adventure to this 100-something page splat book about wizard’s lairs.

The book is full of tables upon tables to help you come up with your own wizard’s seclusium.1 The book opens with some discussion on magic and seclusiums. Baker than details three particular seclusiums, the titular Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions being the most fleshed out of the three. These three example seclusiums show the reader how to go about using the tables presented in the last part of the book to create a seclusium of their own from scratch. The evocative is mixed with the mundane to help you come up with a cool adventuring location. It is all very Jack Vance.

There is D&D the the role-playing game, and then there are all the meta-games that surround that game. For some players trying to min-max the ultimate character is more fun than actually using that character in a game of D&D. For others drawing and stocking a dungeon is all they want to do. In some ways making a seclusium is its own mini-game: you roll some dice and see how it evolves, imagining its backstory. In this way The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions reminds me a little bit of How to Host a Dungeon. Though the later is clearly presented as a game in its own right, I think it’s particularly appealing to those who enjoy imagining what’s going on in the dungeon they are growing. Similarly one could take The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions and add more elements to make it more of a game in and of itself.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly interested in the book when I first heard about it. There were other adventures I had hoped would fund. The reviews for this book have been a little bit mixed2, but I quite like it. I own nothing else like it. I’m really glad it funded after all.


Update 2013-08-21: Alex Schroeder has posted a great follow-up to his earlier review on his blog. His opinions of the book now more closely mirror Zak’s.

Update 2013-08-23: I got the actual book a couple days ago, and it is so damn nice in real life.

  1. A seclusion being, “a place to which a wizard withdraws from the world to pursue mastery,” of course. 

  2. Wayne Rossi really didn’t like it. He felt it could have been put together much better. Zak Smith seems to have enjoyed it for the most part, but finds it lacking in how it presents and uses random tables. Alex Schroeder seems to share my generally positive opinion of the book. Finally we have this review by Patrick Stuart in the style of the book itself. 10’ Pole reviewed the book: they are not a fan. At all. 

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Review: Better Than Any Man

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 23, 2013

Tagged: kickstarter lotfp osr freerpgday

Better Than Any Man

Lamentations of the Flame Princess ran a Kickstarter campaign several months ago in order to get a new adventure printed and included as part of Free RPG Day. Their goal was to get a minimum order of the adventure printed so they could participate in Free RPG Day, with stretch goals letting them make bigger and bigger print runs. They ended up hitting their big goal of being a Platinum Sponsor of the event, alongside Frog God Games and Paizo. This Kickstarter was interesting because getting the actual printed adventure wasn’t one of the rewards. The logistics of printing and shipping the module to Kickstarter backers as well as the people running Free RPG Day was too costly. Instead rewards were PDFs or print copies of four new modules from LotFP.1

My first stop on Free RPG Day was The Silver Snail, a comic book shop here in Toronto. They were running some Pathfinder games for Free RPG Day that had already started when I arrived, and simply giving away random bags of RPG stuff to customers who asked about the event. I ended up getting a copy of Better Than Any Man this way.

Better Than Any Man is a mammoth module. It’s more or less a mini-sandbox campaign. It’s bigger than almost everything else LotFP have put out thus far. There are several adventure sites for the PCs to investigate, several towns to explore, and an invading army to deal with—or not. The over-arching ‘hook’ is that a group of women sorceresses calling themselves the Seven have taken over the town of Karlstadt. Of these women, the one who calls herself the Mother has more sinister goals than the rest. She is hoping to revive the Insect God, and is using the current chaos to mask her true intentions. The module describes the town of Karlstadt in detail, has a pretty fantastic (and inspiring!) countryside encounters table, and several adventuring sites related to the Insect God cult, which all lie beneath a place called Goblin Hill. The two main places to explore are an ancient shrine to the Insect God and the headquarters of the cult. There are three additional locales discussed in the book: an abandoned farmhouse now home to bandits; an ancient mound now home to a creepy magic-user; and a magical tower with an infinite number of levels. There is a ton of stuff to play with in this module.

Better Than Any Man was meant to showcase what LotFP is all about, and here it clearly a success. The book features everything you’d expect to find in an LotFP product: sex and violence, cannibalism, some dudes dong, magic items no one will want to use, monsters you probably shouldn’t fight, etc, etc. It also highlights the more recent changes to the line: the implied setting for the module is a bizarro version of Europe, circa 1631; demi-humans and humanoid monsters aren’t to be found, though their former existence is implied; there are some brief rules on guns. The book is a great example of what your typical LotFP module is all about.

If you missed Free RPG Day Better Than Any Man is now available as a PDF. The PDF version of the module is in many ways nicer than the print version: it’s less dense, with large chunks of the book being set in a bigger font and in a single column; there is a pretty extensive appendix at the back that collects a lot of useful information from the module; and it’s full of hyperlinks that let you jump between sections. There is really no good reason not to get this book.

  1. This isn’t uncommon if you look at Kickstarter projects outside of the Games and Tech sections, where the thing you are funding might not be something that will be mass produced upon completion of the project. This project felt more in line with art or film projects where you are funding a common good. Later on in the project James Raggi decided to do a second print run in Finland that he would ship to backers if they were interested in buying the module. 

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Kickstarter Report Card - Part 2

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 13, 2013

Tagged: kickstarter

It’s been a few months since I last wrote about Kickstarter: I thought I should check back in. A few projects I backed have indeed shipped since that mostly gloomy report. I got my Weird West Miniatures a month or two after posting my original article. The Crawler Companion was released. I am hoping to pick up a copy of the LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure this weekend, and I’ve already received two modules as PDFs as part of that project.

I’m still waiting for quite a few projects. The two other LotFP projects I backed are still outstanding. It sounds like the Rules and Magic book is on the cusp of being shipped. Updates aren’t as frequent as I like, but it sounds like there is good progress being made on most of the projects. Some of the modules I backed sound like they are shaping up to be quite great. The Seclusium of Orphone went from being a 32 page booklet to a 160 page hard cover book! Dwimmermount looks like it might actually be finished before the year is out. The goal is to get the version I backed out by Gencon. The recent updates on the project sound both interesting and promising.

I have so much stuff outstanding from Brave Halfling Publishing in addition to the Appendix N Adventure Toolkits. The man behind the project has had a very hard year, so I find it hard to get worked up about, but i’m not sure I’d have backed this project or bought anything in hindsight. Champions of Zed continues to be the most lacking of all the projects I’ve backed, though Machinations of the Space Princess has also had some pretty lackluster communication about what’s been going on. (Update 2013-06-19 A few days after posting this I got a PDF in the mail for Machinations of the Space Princess, so that’s that.)

I have backed one new project since my last post, Domains at War, which are rules for running a war game. Learning from their past mistakes with Kickstarter projects, it looks like Autarch went into this Kickstarter with the manuscript for their book almost complete and play tested. They are estimating the book will ship in October, and I almost believe them.

# Project Completion Date Shipped?
0 Domains at War June 2013 Partially
1 LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure February 2013 Partially
2 Spears of Dawn November 2012 Yes!
3 The Art of Brom October 2012 No
4 Machinations of the Space Princess September 2012 Yes!
5 Crawlers Companion for All July 2012 Yes!
6 Appendix N Adventure Toolkits July 2012 Hells No!
7 LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign July 2012 Hells No!
8 This Just In…From Gen Con 2012 June 2012 Yes!
9 Champions of Zed June 2012 Hells No!
10 LotFP Hardcover and Adventures Project May 2012 Hells No!
11 Weird West Miniatures May 2012 Yes!
12 Barrowmaze II April 2012 Yes!
13 Dwimmermount April 2012 Hells No!
14 Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map April 2012 Yes!
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Kickstarter Report Card

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 26, 2013

Tagged: kickstarter

Update 2013-06-13: I took another look at my Kickstarter projects

I’ve backed several RPG Kickstarters. I discovered the whole old-school D&D scene via the Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map Kickstarter project, and that led me to backing Dwimmermount and Barrowmaze. By the end of the summer I think I got a lot more picky about what I was willing to give money to.

Erik Tenkar regularly updates his readers on the state of his Kickstarter projects. I thought I’d do the same.

# Project Completion Date Shipped?
1 LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure February 2013 Partially
2 Spears of Dawn November 2012 Yes!
3 The Art of Brom October 2012 No
4 Machinations of the Space Princess September 2012 No
5 Crawlers Companion for All July 2012 Partially
6 Appendix N Adventure Toolkits July 2012 No
7 LotFP Summer Adventure Campaign July 2012 No
8 This Just In…From Gen Con 2012 June 2012 Yes!
9 Champions of Zed June 2012 Hells No!
10 LotFP Hardcover and Adventures Project May 2012 No
11 Weird West Miniatures May 2012 Hells No!
12 Barrowmaze II April 2012 Yes!
13 Dwimmermount April 2012 Hells No!
14 Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map April 2012 Yes!

Spears of Dawn is notable for shipping ahead of its estimates, and shipping a bonus goal much sooner than I had expected. I think the other projects that shipped were more or less on time. That’s 4 projects that have shipped out of the 14 projects I’ve backed.

The LotFP Hardcover still hasn’t shipped, but there are PDFs of the new layout and it seems to be reasonably far along. Still, it’s pretty damn late. You’ll notice I still backed two more projects from the company. The stuff LotFP put out is particularly good so i’m willing to put up with the snails pace. I don’t get the sense James Raggi is going to run off with my money.

Champions of Zed is probably the worst of the projects I’ve backed when it comes to communicating what’s going on. It was supposed to ship 7 months ago. Weird West Miniatures is apparently done, though I have yet to receive anything from them. Dwimmermount is very late, but more than enough has been said about that.

When I got back into all the RPG stuff I was pretty excited about all these Kickstarter campaigns. Now, not so much.

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The Art of Brom

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 22, 2012

Tagged: darksun 2e art brom kickstarter

The art of Brom

Gerald Brom’s art work shaped the way the Dark Sun game setting evolved. He would paint scenes that the game designers would then use as inspiration when building the world and the game mechanics that went with it. He has a very distinctive and I would say classic fantasy style. His work reminds me a little bit of the work of Frank Frazetta. He’s probably the greatest fantasy artist alive today–yeah I said it. He also has a Kickstarter project on right now to fund a retrospective book of his work. I’m losing my shit over here.

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The Lamentations of the Flame Princess July Grand Adventures Campaign

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 05, 2012

Tagged: kickstarter lotfp osr

James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess is running this crazy crowd funding project during the month of July. He has set up 19 different IndieGoGo campaigns, each requiring $6000 in funds. The ultimate goal would be to raise $114,000. That’s some aggressive crowd funding.

The last campaign he ran raised $16,240 to fund a hardcover book edition of the LotFP rules. Prior to that he raised $6,241 to fund two adventure modules. Clearly there are people out there interested in LotFP. My fear is that there are not enough people to fund such a large body of work in a single month. That would be a real shame, because the more I learn about the people involved in the campaign the more disappointed I’ll be if some of these adventures don’t get funded.

I love the Dungeon Alphabet. I’m also a fan of Michael Curtis’s blog. So, without much thinking whatsoever I supported his adventure.

Today I was listening to an episode of the Jennisodes, a podcast about role-playing games, which featured Kevin Crawford, another participant in this campaign. I had never heard of him before, but after listening to him wax-poetic about sandbox gaming for a half hour I now want to fund his campaign as well. It sounds like it will be amazing. (Oh, and the host of the Jennisodes is also hoping to write an adventure for LotFP.)

I read Jeff’s Gameblog, by Jeff Rients, another participant in this campaign. I assume his campaign will do well as he seems to have a bit of a following in the OSR community. His writing on D&D is all quite fantastic. He posted a video today] about what he wants to do in his adventure. Guess what? It sounds pretty fantastic too.

I assume if I learn anything about most of these writers I’m going to want their adventure. As far as I can tell there are no B-team participants. Everyone seems to bring something interesting to the table. Monte Cook is writing an adventure! One of the dudes from mother-fucking members of GWAR is writing an adventure! It’s ridiculous.

I don’t have $114,000 to spend on adventures. Most people probably don’t. I suppose the hope then is that in aggregate fans of LotFP and of these individual writers can get a few things funded. This is certainly feels like the golden age of crowd funding–every other post on this blog seems to be about a kickstarter project–but this project might be a bit too ambitious. Still, I wish Raggi the best of luck. He has $20 of my dollars–so far.


A complete list of all the adventures in this campaign follows:

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Appendix N Adventure Toolkits (DCC RPG Modules)

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 28, 2012

Tagged: kickstarter dccrpg osr

If you’re looking for the next Kickstarter project you should be supporting, look no further than Brave Halfling Publishing’s Appendix N Adventure Toolkits (DCC RPG Modules). For $20 you can get a copy of 5 modules and a slew of other bonus material. From the Kickstarter:

Each Appendix N Adventure provides Game Masters with a challenging adventure that can easily be dropped into an existing campaign, as well as an inspirational module map and a set of illustrated player handouts. Each also contains new monsters, unique enemies, creative traps and bizarre settings to challenge players, and inspirational ideas for expanding the campaign and launch points into further adventures for the Game Master.

The project is already funded. You have nothing to lose. If the project hits $15,000 than they plan to also release a new campaign setting.

Five years ago, I spent many months working on a unique campaign setting (“The Old Isle”) to help try and spark renewed interest in Gary Gygax’s rpg, “Lejendary Adventures.” With Gary and Gail’s blessing, I consulted with Gary frequently about the design of the setting, npc races, magic item creation, divine beings, etc. I bounced ideas off of him and he provided suggestions and critiques. It was a very special time in my hobby gaming that I still treasure. However, while Gary played a supportive but indirect role in my creation of the Old Isle Campaign Setting, he did not create or write one word of the setting - The Old Isle is 100% my creation. Maps were created and art was commissioned. With Gary’s passing and the end of his Lejendary Adventures game, I decided to not release this material. However, from the first time I read some of the early DCC RPG play-test material, I knew this campaign setting had found a new home!

If you haven’t used Kickstarter before, this is a great first project to support. Brave Halfling Publishing has been around for a long time, and has a great reputation. They already have 6 modules ready to go, so you’re really only paying to help them bootstrap their printing costs. This seems like a pretty low risk venture. By the sounds of things, you should expect modules in the mail by July or August. That’s pretty fast turnaround for Kickstarter.

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Support Barrowmaze II on Indiegogo

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 11, 2012

Tagged: megadungeon kickstarter osr

If you enjoyed the original Barrowmaze megadungeon, you will probably want to head over to Indiegogo and support the creation of its sequel, Barrowmaze II.

Barrowmaze II is the second part of a two-part exploration-style megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord and other classic fantasy role-playing games. BMII is a continuation of the initial “dungeon sprawl” concept presented in Barrowmaze I (BMI) and is intended for mid-and-high level characters.

I own the PDF of the original dungeon. It’s a pretty creative take on megadungeons. Instead of having multiple levels, each more challenging then the previous one, Barrowmaze is basically a giant sprawling mess of rooms. The further you get from the entrances into the dungeon, the harder the encounters get. Barrowmaze is a crypt, and the room descriptions really play this side of its origin story up. For example, there are lots of sealed up tombs PCs can excavate in search of treasure at the risk of alert monsters to their presence.

Barrowmaze was created by fellow Canadian Greg Gillespie, who runs the blog Discourse & Dragons.

Today is the last day of the BarrowmazeI II funding campaign. It has already reached its funding goals, so its going to be available for purchase sometime in the future, even if you don’t have the funs to support the project right now. There are some nice perks for backers of the project, so if Barrowmaze II is something you think you’ll buy in the future now is the time to act.

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The Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on May 30, 2012

Tagged: ad&d osr kickstarter art

Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map

The Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map by Paul Hughes was the first D&D product I backed on Kickstarter. It’s really through this project that I ended up discovering the community that surrounds old-school D&D. I have since spent far more than I ever thought I would on other D&D crowd funded projects. There is something so earnest about these projects I just can’t resist.

The poster arrived today and it looks really great. It’s massive, so I’m not sure how well it would actually function as a game aid, but as a piece of art is is definitely cool. I really need to frame it so my wife tell me I can’t hang it up on our walls.

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