Thursday, 17 September 2015

What are those d8 Naythun Riders doing?

At the end of July, Chris McDowall wrote a post about his patrons, creating a load of people inspired by them. I've met Chris a couple of times, and I thought we got along, so was expecting that the people inspired by me would be cool ninjas, awesome dudes of noble birth, or at the very least a bunch of amazing bandits. Instead:
17: d8 Naythun Riders - Bearded Men riding Naked Men Twisted into Emu-Shape
3hp, Riding Crop (d6) OR Naythun Kick (d6)

- Offer you a chance to feed or pet their steed. 
- Muzzle their Naythun if it tries to scream out in repressed sapience.
- Defend their steeds to the death and nuzzle it uncomfortably.

Thanks Chris.

What Chris doesn't know is that the Naythun Riders have a strange and complicated society, and there are lots of subgroups and clans that one could meet on the road. In fact, researchers who have observed them - even lived with them for a time - have identified a score of situations in which they are met. When you meet Naythun Riders on the road they are...
  1. Arguing over who has the most magnificent beard.
  2. In the middle of racing their Naythuns.
  3. Mourning the death of a Naythun.
  4. Singing loudly and tunelessly.
  5. Debating the merits of various beard care regimens.
  6. Sitting drinking, halfway to a drunken stupor.
  7. Shaming one of their number by shaving his beard off.
  8. Planning a feast.
  9. Forming a raiding party.
  10. Looking for somewhere to camp for the night.
  11. Trying to find something to drink.
  12. Trying to find treasure that they hid when they were drunk.
  13. Celebrating a young rider's first facial hairs.
  14. Looking for new potential Naythuns to train.
  15. Writing bad haiku / That's exploring life and death / And, like, things. Yeah.
  16. Grooming their Naythuns.
  17. Playing a game of pretend and make believe.
  18. Washing their beards in blood and water.
  19. Plotting murder.
  20. Committing murder.
If they're plotting murder or committing murder you can be sure that their target is one of the Creesmac D'Walls - undead sommeliers from an underverse vineyard, 3hp, Glass Bottle (d6) or Boneblade (d6)...

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

OSRewind: September 16th

Yesterday I shared the idea of a daily digest that looks back at the posts made in the OSR (or maybe games blogs in general?) in previous years. There's lots and lots and lots of ideas out there, with more being shared every day. A look back could highlight ideas that have been forgotten or showcase the origins of concepts that are part of the language of the OSR now.

I'm quite taken with the idea but not sure if it's something I can commit to exploring along with the other projects that I have underway. But for today at least, and because the term "OSRewind" popped into my head as I was thinking about this, here's a quick jaunt through the last few years...
  • 2014: [Tuesday Map] Hubert's Tower/The Butcher's Tower - Dyson's Dodecahedron - I really like the step-by-step approach and the details of how this was done. I'm quite keen on the how-to of maps at the moment so seeing this was serendipitous!
  • 2013: Demogorgon implies.... - Playing D&D With Porn Stars - A really cool method for world building and inspiring interesting ideas for sandboxes. If I get around to running Oddpool on G+ some time soon I think I'll be using this method to set the city up.
  • 2012: The Verbs of Madness - False Machine - My nephew and his friends were players in a campaign that Patrick ran and which I turned up to sometimes. Being teenagers their minds quickly turned to evil, and they ended up allied with a genuine Dark Lord. In this post Patrick describes how the Dark Lord comes up with his orders.
  • 2011: Faking It; or, you'd better be Al Pacino; or, stop rolling the fucking dice - Monsters and Manuals - a short rant about player agency, DM fiat and Quantum Ogres goes on to generate 121 comments! Hoo-ha!
Something visual, a couple of solid tools and a bit of a theory: nice things to find and start thinking about...

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

On This Day

I've grown to love exactly one aspect of Facebook over the last few months. I hate the interface, I hate the notifications I get when I logon, I hate that I see things that people have liked, I hate to see that a friend-of-a-friend has posted something and a friend has liked it. There's a lot to hate.

But one thing I love is the "On This Day" feature, letting me look back and see what happened in years gone by. For post-fatherhood this is quite nice, it lets me see my daughter a year ago (and soon, two years ago) and I can do that whole "Awwww, she's grown so much!" thing that some people find sickening. It also lets me peer back to the early days of married life, and even further to my PhD days - in fact, exactly seven years ago today I said goodbye to that and started my business!

Time flies.

In the last few days I recorded an episode of A Gaming Podcast About Nothing, and Dave and I got on to talking about terminology and blogging and "has everything been said already?" - things of that nature. This conversation is on my mind, as is "On This Day"...

People have said in the past that it might be difficult to do a regular "OSR Digest" as a site or a newsletter, but I wonder if there is some value in a site that looks through the back catalogue of the OSR and does a regular link share about posts from days gone by - with or without commentary.

For example, on this day:
It's interesting to see people riffing on ideas as they come up, but I wonder what ideas might be re-discovered or re-examined - even appreciated more - by looking back?

Friday, 11 September 2015

Not appearing in Oddpool

Honestly, this is the last post about it for a while, I swear...

In making a Pocketmod-sized supplement you have to make really hard choices. What stays, what goes; how much detail can you afford; what sized font can someone read or not - I was tweaking and tweaking for a while. A very hard choice I had to make was whether or not to include the Superlambanana in the booklet. In the end, I decided not to include it, more because an idea like it would need artwork and I wasn't quite sure about what I could or couldn't do with a work of art, and I was struggling to come up with a name that was as expressive as Superlambanana.

So in the end, it was cut out, but it left a nice giant-sized hole for the Pool-Auks, which are actually much more symbolic of the city. The Superlambanana would have been nice though...

Twenty-feet high, apex wandering creature
STR15, DEX15, WIL20, 25HP
Driven to protect babylambananas. d8 stomp, Armour 2. Can always hear any distressed offspring and will come to their aide. Spawns a new child every four days, extruding from the back surface over a period of an hour. Often accompanied by 2-8 babylambananas.

Horse-sized smooth sheep/fruit hybrids
STR10, DEX10, WIL7, 2HP
Driven by curiosity. No attack, Armour 1. Harmless, mouthless, bleats. Will approach strangers and shiny things. Will have a nest of shiny objects, which may contain treasure.

(Oddpool - now down to the last six of the signed and numbered print copies!)

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


I mentioned yesterday that I have a sheet of paper stuck on the wall next to my desk. It lists the various projects that have floated through my mind and made it as far as "huh, that might work..." Some of these are things that readers of the blog (before the longish hiatuses) might recognise, and some people from G+ might recognise one or two others. Some, I think, you will not recognise or guess at all. Here are my project codenames with some brief teasers:
  • Project PARRISH: a really random encounter, a game within a game.
  • Project ALMANAC: mentioned this on the blog... Now thinking this might be best as a crowdsourced thing.
  • Project SOLO: started thinking about this after Dave and I played some choose-your-own-adventure books on A Gaming Podcast About Nothing.
  • Project VINGT: a regular zine idea that just never quite came together in my head. But maybe it's time to look at it again...
  • Project SANTA: putting together the very first D&Dish thing I created and ran, a Christmas themed adventure. My wife thinks I should focus on getting this finished by the middle of November and released.
  • Project SHADES: half an idea for a system-and-setting wide hack of LotFP. Good old fashioned OSR-y mechanics, in a not-too-distant-future...
  • Project OORT: if you've read this blog before you'll know what this is!
  • Project STUDIO1: something I'm working on now, which has a real working title but I'm not quite settled yet. Expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.
  • Project POOL: Oddpool. So that's one done!
  • Project BANK: a microgame, just trying to get the mechanics right, but the core idea has been unchanged for about two years...
  • Project HOBOES: a hack of a two player game that I like, but a radically different setting. Needs work, but I have a general map that is about 80% solid.
And that's everything on the wall at the moment. Am hopeful that Project STUDIO1 will be finished by Christmas, and am very tempted to check my notes and materials for Project SANTA, see how far I got. I need to settle on something for Project BANK and just try the damn thing, see if I like it at least. And Project OORT... I'll try to start blogging more of that soon!

More importantly: time to pick one or two small projects, do them, learn something and carry on.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Thanks! and Small Projects

It's not about Oddpool at all.

Oh wait, it is a little bit...

At the time of writing, there are only ten print copies of Oddpool left. Given that it went on sale on Friday, is a teeny-tiny tome, and is a home-made DIY thingy, I'm quite pleased!

I was really inspired by a post I read some time ago on small projects. The TL;DR version: "doing lots of small things could help to develop ideas and to share them - and maybe feel more personally satisfied." Still, it took me a long time from reading that article, and re-reading it, to make the connection with even more tangible things like Oddpool - a small project if ever there was.

A year or so ago, in my day job, I ran a workshop where I was the subject of a business case study exercise: I ran some numbers by them about running my own micro-business of RPG things. A dozen very well-educated people told me: "The numbers say no. Good sense says no. Invest your time, skills and effort elsewhere and you'll do better." Which didn't sit right. Because I wanted - and want! - to do something in RPGs but I didn't know what or how.

I have a piece of paper with projects on it stuck to the wall next to my desk, looming over me, all daring me to do something. But until I got some feedback from friends - "this is fun" - I had stopped thinking that I could do anything. Small projects are the way forward for me, I think, with writing and doing things for RPGs.

Selling fifteen print copies of a Pocketmod is a beginning. Like Patreon campaigns, this is not a get rich scheme: it's a "help me" proposal. Picking up a Pocketmod or making a donation via pay-what-you-want for Oddpool means that my options open up. I can think seriously about other projects because:
  • some people bought this first thing, maybe they'll buy something else.
  • I have this money from the first thing as seed funding for the next thing.
  • I have a little bit more confidence that I can work towards the next thing.
In many respects that last one is the most important.

I have plans, and Oddpool is helping make that happen - if you've picked it up, thank you!

Unused Oddpool artwork, maybe for another time...

Friday, 4 September 2015

Oddpool is out!

Want a peek at a weird ruined city for explorers to look around when playing Into The Odd or other role-playing games? Want to get your creative brains thinking about what people might find at places like the Dead Fields, the Copper Tombs or the Red Keep? Want inspiration for thousands of strange gangs that survive there? Want half a dozen creatures that have been sighted in the ruins?
And do you want it all to fit in your pocket?

You want Oddpool.

Inspired by the city of Liverpool, Oddpool is an eight-page Pocketmod mini-booklet which answers yes to all of the questions above. You can find it on Payhip where it's a pay-what-you-want pdf download, or if you want to be part of an exclusive club, you can buy a print edition from me! Details are on the Oddpool page: to start things off I've got a limited run of 25 numbered and signed copies, printed on good 120gsm paper, cut and folded by me: £1.99 if you're in the UK, £2.75 if you're somewhere else in the world.

But wait, there's more! I wanted to compare paper qualities, so got an equal number of 90gsm copies too, before settling on the 120gsm paper stock. I'll be putting a 90gsm paper copy in every order of a print edition from me, so you can pass it on to someone else. Details for ordering are on the Oddpool page.

Oddpool is the first thing I've made and shared like this, so I hope you like it. If you do, let me know - and maybe let other people know too, that's fine by me!

Big thanks to Chris McDowall, creator of Into The Odd for being so supportive of me making this! And thanks to you for reading this page, whoever you are, I hope you enjoy Oddpool as much as I enjoyed making it.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

People in Oddpool

When I ran a game set in Oddpool, I was of course influenced by the people of the city. At the same time, the game city is supposed to be a ruin, filled with weird creatures, strange architecture and general bizarreness. The people who live in Oddpool do so in small groups/gangs, with their own customs, their own wants and needs, and their own ways of interacting with others. When I ran my game, I just slapped Redmen and Bluemen in, as substitutes for football supporters, but for the Pocketmod I wanted something better.

I've been heavily inspired by David McGrogan's inspiration tables over the years (I've shared a few of my own on this blog before), so it seemed like the most natural fit for the Pocketmod would be to provide a little inspiration tool for generating groups and gangs of Skalls: rolling gives a couple of details to then inspire the GM to create the rest of the group. I've used the table to generate the following, Skalls you may find on the streets of Oddpool.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Why of Oddpool

At the start of 2015 I was really interested in playing Into The Odd, and while the print edition hadn't gone to press yet I had the pdf and two interested players in the form of Patrick Stuart and David McGrogan. The system looked so simple to run, I thought that I would take a stab at quickly putting some notes together for a sort of city crawl. Liverpool is just on my doorstep, and it's where all three of us grew up around or lived for a while, so it seemed like it would be fun.

As it happenened, on the day, we were playing in the cafe of the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton, which looks out over the River Mersey and at an old sea defence, Fort Perch Rock. It made sense to me then to start the adventure there, a weird some-when counter-Earth that is fundamentally Odd. Captain Jean wants Henry Winkler (Patrick) and Karl Kennedy (Dave) to go into the ruined city of Oddpool to scout it out, see what they can find and report back.

They cross the river on a converted ferry boat, and then creep around the streets, tangling with strange gangs, mechsuit-corpses, zombies and a bizarre sheep-banana-hybrid giant. They made deals with a gang, ran from danger and survived despite their retainers taking a couple of hits. It was a lot of fun to run, and then after writing a quick AP on G+, the ideas went back on to the back burner as with so many other projects.

Flash forward to the summer, and I'm meeting Patrick and Dave again, along with Into The Odd's Chris McDowall, in order to playtest Dave's new project. I bring along my copies of their books for them to sign, and made a little Pocketmod from some of my Oddpool notes so that I didn't feel left out. I shared the pdf on G+, zero artwork, really rough around the edges, and a fair few people seemed to like it, and so the wheels started turning again...

For the longest time I've wanted to publish something for role-playing games. Why not have the first step be a little Pocketmod? I have lots of pictures of Liverpool, I live nearby and can take more, I have the tools to typeset something simple... Why not do it?

So I am, simple as that. I've been working on this in my spare time (and sometimes not in my spare time!) for the best part of a month, off of notes and ideas that have been percolating for about eight months. It's a little 8-page booklet that gets folded from a single sheet of A4. Directly compatible with Into The Odd, easily hacked ideas for other systems. If I make any profits from making this available I'm going to be reinvesting them into artwork for other projects (and I might go for tea and toast with my wife and daughter).

More soon: tomorrow, three groups that operate within the ruins of Oddpool...