Labyrinth Adventure Game Preview

Here’s a quick preview of the Labyrinth Adventure Game, coming sometime early next year from River Horse Games! I wrote about 85% of the book, and did 100 minimap illustrations. The production quality is going to be off the charts. While it isn’t an OSR game, the River Horse people were definitely inspired by OSR products when it comes to making the book a gorgeous artifact at the table.

What is more central to a game, content or rules?

So here’s a (probably unoriginal) hypotheses. It’s something that’s been floating in my mind for quite a while and I don’t know how certain I am of it. I’d like feedback in the comments if you have any.

In OSR campaigns, if you change the rules pretty drastically mid-campaign, most players would say that they are still playing the same game because to them the “game” means the content of the game that they interact with: items, spells, NPCs, the setting, etc. To this group, the reality and believably of the game world is paramount, rules are just a convenience to make this illusion easier. Altering the rules will certainly alter the feel of the campaign to one extent or another, but nothing essential has been changed.

On the other hand, someone with a storygame mentality (or maybe this is more of a Forge mentality) would would say that those players are now playing a different game, because that tradition sees the “game” as the mechanics by which you interact with the content. To this group, the particular kinds of choices and twists delivered by the rules is paramount, while the content is a servant to that.

I feel like this is the core of the mutual incomprehension I see between the two camps when they talk about each other’s work.

The Maze Knights Aesthetic

Maze Knights continues to evolve as a system, but today we’ll be looking at the look and feel of the game. It doesn’t have any art right now, but it does have a pinterest board if you want to see what it looks like in my head. Building this board has been very important to the game’s development, as I find it hard to work on a projects before I lock down the aesthetics. It gives me a more complete sense of the world, and ends up guiding a lot of my other decisions. As Skerples pointed out, making a good game is not so much making all the right decisions as it is making consistent decisions in the same direction. Aesthetics is the first decision I make. It also helps me narrow down artists I might be contacting in the future to do illustration work.

As I’ve been collecting images for Maze Knights, I’ve started seeing a pattern in the images I like.

Architecture and environments

  • Verticality: Whether it’s a city, a building, a dungeon, or a wilderness scene, adding that extra dimension adds visual interest as well as tactical options and held energy. Balconies, staircases, trees houses, catwalks, elevators, ziplines, whatever. The Y axis is often exaggerated: roofs are too steep, buildings stack up and up impossibly, etc.
  • Worn but Functional: Everything has a makeshift, ramshackle feel without feeling grim or apocalyptic. Architecture has a humanity and warmth to it. This is sometimes represented by things being slightly droopy or rounded, as if slowly succumbing to gravity. Lots of fine detail brings out the personality of the structures and adds interactivity.
  • Isometric: Art where you can see most of the structure at a glance is great, especially when you can see paths and connections that let you visualize how you would move in, on and, around and between structures. Looking at the picture should inspire plans for escapes, break-ins, sieges, and ambushes. An isometric view also conveys way more information per square inch than a 2d map.
  • Color: Maze Knights doesn’t have the survival horror or grimdark palette common in OSR games. It has more in common with Break!! in that regard. It’s going for excitement, engagement, brightness, and clarity.

characters

  • Strong silhouettes: Strong, distinctive silhouettes give it a videogamey feel. I like characters in Maze Knights to feel very tool-like, and clear, vivid design communicates their functions quickly.
  • Variety: In most OSR games I play humans, and I wanted to break away from that here. The world of Maze Knights is a melting pot of thousands of stranded species from across the planes, so the gonzo is turned up to 11. I want to avoid typical demihumans like elves and dwarves, though. Your species should open up concrete gameable abilties; “lives a long time” or “sees in the dark” are too weak.
  • Equipment: In true JRPG fashion, I like my characters laden down with potions, weapons, spellbooks, piecemeal armor, monster parts, and random junk. Not only does it reflect the item slot system, it communicates how important gear is in the game when it comes to problem solving.

The biggest single influence was probably Final Fantasy IX. It’s a game I’ve only started playing recently, but I had a copy of the Art of Final Fantasy IX as a young teen and the look of it stuck with me every since.

If you want to follow along with the development of Maze Knights and get regular rules packets, consider supporting Questing Beast on Patreon.

Invasion, the 5th-Grade draw-it-yourself card game

A bunch of the 5th graders I teach have started creating their own customizable card game. It’s called Invasion, and all I can figure out so far is that it involves an attacking player trying to push through a defender’s defenses and kill his characters. I have no idea how the actually gameplay works. They spend most of their free time laboriously drawing hundreds of these cards, each with their own names, illustrations, stats, and powers. There doesn’t seem to be any mechanism to balancing these cards, everyone just makes cards they think are cool.

IMG_20190905_151744950_HDR IMG_20190905_151834683 IMG_20190905_151852349_HDR IMG_20190905_151915472_HDR IMG_20190905_151942014_HDR IMG_20190905_152048452_HDR IMG_20190905_152110412_HDR IMG_20190905_152128134_HDR IMG_20190911_134850909_HDRThis blog (as well as the Questing Beast YouTube Channel) is supported via Patreon. Consider becoming a supporter to get shoutouts in my videos and receive draft documents of the Maze Knights RPG I’m developing.

Skeleton King – A Maze Knights Class

Art by Vance Kelly
Art by Vance Kelly

I’ve been playing with short, flavorful classes for Maze Knights, inspired by Daniel Sell’s work on Troika! Here’s one I just typed up:

skeleton king

You awoke suddenly and clawed your way out from your crypt, life suddenly surging through your brittle bones from the final incantation placed upon you at the moment of your death. You now find yourself in a world you do not understand, surrounded by lowborn fools and barbaric customs. Your monuments lie in ruins, your deeds forgotten, your servants gone to dust. But your time is not over. Among the endless dead there must yet lie those who remember your glory, ready to rise at your summons and bring the world once more under your heel.

STARTING LIFE: 4

STARTING MANA: 6

SKILLS: Roll six times on the following table and add the results to your character sheet. If you roll the same skill more than once, add the bonuses. If a roll would raise a skill above +3, reroll.

  1. Outdated Etiquette +1
  2. Ancient History +1
  3. Dead Languages +1
  4. Obscure Philosophy +1
  5. Willpower +1
  6. Ceremonial weapon of your choice +1

EQUIPMENT

  • Crown
  • Ceremonial weapon of your choice
  • As many gold coins as you can carry (200 coins fill an item slot).

ABILITIES

  • You can speak the language of the undead and the secret language of all royalty.
  • You can spend 1 mana and take 10 minutes to reanimate a skeleton. Upon reanimation, roll on the reaction table to find its disposition. Hostile skeletons were enemies of your empire in life, while helpful skeletons are utterly loyal to you. Those in the middle may have to be incentivized.
  • You are undead and are immune to hunger, thirst, exhaustion, poison, disease, etc.

I’m working on more of these as part of the slow but steady development of Maze Knights, the expansion/revision of Maze Rats. You can join the Patreon if you want to get regular draft documents.

Last Day to Vote in the Ennie Awards!

If you haven’t voted yet, today is the last day! There are more OSR products nominated this year than ever before! Questing Beast is nominated for “Best Online Content” so make sure to head to that category and give me a “1” if you like my stuff. http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/2019/

I also just did a huge hangout/interview with most of the OSR creators who are nominated. Watch it below and give them a vote too!

Vote for Questing Beast at the Ennies!

Questing Beast has been nominated for Best Online Content and Fan Favorite Publisher at the 2019 Ennie Awards! If you’ve been following my work and enjoy the videos and games I produce, click here and give Questing Beast a “1” on those two categories. There’s a ton of excellent OSR products nominated this year as well, so make sure to look through all of the categories.

If you want to get a Questing Beast T-shirt, you can head over to the recently revamped merch store here.

Maze Rats is Deal of the Day!

Maze Rats is Deal of the Day on DrivethruRPG! Get my best-selling OSR intro game for just $1.49! Today only!

From the product description:

The referee advice is gold. I know of few better sources for concisely explaining what to prioritize when running this sort of game.” – Brendan S, Necropraxis, Wonder and Wickedness

“I often quibble with RPG magic systems either being too complex or too restrictive, but this hit a great balance between flexibility and ease-of-use, while adding a special dash of creativity and Lady Luck.” – Ars Magisterii

Maze Rats is a light, brutal roleplaying game of fantasy adventure which is supported by random inspiration aplenty, which lends itself to a lighter, slightly whimsical tone. It is quick to learn, quick to teach, and easy to play,relying on player ingenuity and cleverness rather than a reliance upon the mechanics.” – Reviews from R’lyeh

Maze Rats is an RPG and sandbox toolkit for old-school-style adventuring. It contains a single, compact page of rules, a one-page character creation guide, a hand-drawn character sheet, and eight pages of 36-item random tables, rollable with two six-sided dice. Each page contains 9-12 tables, covering spell generation, monster generation, NPCs, treasures, cities, wildernesses, and dungeons. If you run (or have always wanted to run) open sandbox adventures, Maze Rats offers everything you need in a compact, easily-referenced format. Also included is two pages of advice for preparing and running open-world games in the OSR style.

The game system itself is 2d6 based. Character are extremely quick to generate, making it great for convention games, one-shots, or introducing new players. The game is highly lethal, and assumes a style of play where caution is essential to long-term survival. It is technically classless, but the leveling options allow players to specialize in fighting, thievery or wizardry or some mixture of the three. Magic is simple and chaotic, with new randomly-generated spells filling the magic-user’s head each night. Everything about the game is designed to be as clean, fast, and intuitive as possible, while driving players towards creative solutions rather than brute force (though brute force is always an option).

Buy it here!

How I plan to keep up with the OSR post G+

23245f5a35bdc2ed34d977cfa0404e27I’m unlikely to be using MeWe much. It’s not terrible, but it’s basically G+ without that platform’s best features. Also, I’m very much enjoying the shift to the blogs.

I’ve started using Inoreader to keep up with the OSR blogosphere. I plugged Ram’s OSR OPML into it and was set to go. I sorted the blogs into best and the rest, check in on the best every day, and skim the rest when I feel like it. It’s been incredibly freeing. The stuff I’m reading is as good as it ever was, it’s longer, more thoughtful, and by commenting on the post itself rather than on a separate platform the conversation stays focused and gets archived more permanently. It’s also motivated me to start writing posts in response to stuff I like, which is something I’ve never done before. To be honest, I’m enjoying this mode of discussion more than G+ in some ways. Also, the regular “OSR News” posts on Dreams of Mythic Fantasy keep you updated on everything you need to know.

If I want to just chat casually about the OSR I use Discord, usually either the OSR server or the DIYRPG one (which features an incredible 24/7 Gygaxian Democracy mill). That one is still semi-private, so I won’t be posting a link. I enjoy having long-form discussion and informal chat on two separate platforms.

The /r/rpg subreddit is good for getting the word out about new products but not so great for discussions. The range of assumptions and play-styles is vast, so you inevitably have to restart from ground zero explaining your approach every time you get into a discussion. The OSR subreddit is more focused but it’s never really felt like home. The brand new artpunk subreddit (not sure if it’s open to the public yet) looks to be the place to talk to the NeOSR/Adventure Game/Hipster DnD crowd, so I check in there periodically, but at the moment it looks like its biggest use will be to post the best new blog posts.

I’ve been posting more on Twitter recently, but that’s mostly to keep my Questing Beast followers updated on what’s going on with me and to reshare other OSR posts. There isn’t a lot of OSR conversion on Twitter and overall I think that’s fine. It’s a really anxious, high-strung platform.

Conclusion: BACK TO THE BLOGS! Get Inoreader or Feedly up and running, find a post you enjoy, write a response, and tell the original poster about it. 

If you want to contact me directly, my email is questingmaps at gmail.

Milton Dice: A transparent dice pool system

Here’s a fun dice pool system. I’ve tested it and it works fine. There was a discussion about it at one point on Michael Prescott’s G+ feed, I think, but now that that’s going away I want to preserve it somewhere. Someone else (maybe Michael) started calling it Milton dice so now that’s what it’s called.

  1. Your attributes and your skills give you a number of d6s to roll.
  2. The GM sets a target number to hit.
  3. Roll those dice.
  4. Add up the results on all the dice, but 4s, 5s, and 6s count as 0s. (So for example, you roll 4 dice and get 1, 1, 3, 4. Your total is 5 because the 4 counts as 0, and you just add up the 1, 1, and 3.)
  5. If your total is equal or greater than the target number, then you succeed.

What’s cool about this system?

  1. By only counting 1s, 2s, and 3s, each die has an average result of 1. This is because 1+2+3=6 and there are six sides on a die. It makes things really easy to calculate. If I’m rolling 5 dice, then my average result is going to be 5. Likewise, setting target numbers is easy. A TN of 5 will probably be hit by a character rolling that many dice. It has a pleasing transparency that a lot of dice pool systems lack, as Luka pointed out. The odds are a little funky in the 1 or 2 dice range, but it evens out nicely after that.
  2. You only have to add up 1s, 2s, and 3s, which makes the addition really fast.
  3. You can distribute 6 points around a d6 in other ways, like make 1 and 2 be worth 0, 3 and 4 be worth 1, and 5 and 6 be worth 2, but that gets confusing without custom dice. This uses the pips the dice already have.