Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion

Tempus Geldium
Recently Bryce, over at the blog Ten Foot Pole reviewed a couple of by free PDFs.  I'm happy and honored that this well known reviewer generally enjoyed and recommends my adventure locales, so I figured I'd post a link here to both of them and some thoughts on the importance of community response to a blog publishing hobby writer like myself.

First, Here is Tempus Gelidum (a name that undoubtedly butchers the Latin).
Second, Red Demon (The giant tank one).
Third, Prison of the Hated Pretender (Mentions scabrous yokels)

Now Ten Foot Pole, whose incisive reviews I respect as he generally likes the same things I do in a module: creativity, avoiding or subverting cliches and ease of use, had the following criticisms of these adventures in a pair of surprisingly (at least to me) positive reviews for my amateur maundering.  First - Length, Second - Brevity and Clarity of Writing, Third - Minor Corrections

Red Demon
Now I think these are very fair criticisms as I am a disorganized thinker, sloppy writer and prone to overlooking details.  All are even more evident in the longer piece I produced (Obelisk of Forgotten Memories), especially the verbosity.  How to remedy and how to acknowledge these issues in future products?

1) Size - Size is tricky.  I've discovered that the average G+ game gets through only 3-10 locations in a two hour session.  One must be focused and gloss over a lot of fun detail, or worse railroad the players to get more in.  I have been running HMS Apollyon one-shot mid level adventures lately and discovered that even with 3 - 4 hours finishing even a modest 25 room dungeon is difficult. Open world stuff (including megadungeons) is thus great, as it provides a way for player directed adventure - but only if there are a variety of options to pursue.  Players distraction and exploration is best encouraged, and modules don't really do this - they most often have a path to follow.  Hitting a good spot between the pathed out railroad and PCs randomly stumbling into completely random content is hard, and harder with a published item.  This is where adventure locales can help I think.  A landmark or spot of interest that beckons the players with a promise of treasure and is good for one or two sessions of exploration.  Walking by it does nothing and doesn't make the GM do to much work. These are easier to write for me as well, because creating an organic space with reasonable encounters is easier with less space and fewer encounters.  Exponentially easier.  I may try a larger dungeon, but I suspect that even a HMS Apollyon setting book is going to be linked lairs with mapped but random keyed space between them.  I've actually filled out the majority of the Megadungeon's stern on the same level as the starting town, but 100' tall by 2,500' wide and 5,250' long is a lot of 10' squares (1,312,5000 I think) to fill with content.  Obviously a megadugeon on this scale requires work arounds.  Many self generated content ideas have been proposed and I believe there's a lot of good work to be done with nodal dungeons and table based generation (or die drop tables, alphabetic streets and such as suggested in Vornheim) that can be done while playing.  For the traditional keyed dungeon though I think small or small and linked (like B-9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond) scenarios or locations are a great way to go, even if linked withing the same dungeon.

Currently I am working on a pile of possible PDFs that play with this idea, and have recently received a boon in the form of a recovered set of 1/2 finished scenarios from a crashed laptop.

In Order of nearness to completion:

1. Madam Bibi Laughs Last - A trek into an abandoned mansion aboard the Apollyon.  Ran this and converting extensive the notes into a scenario.  Needs some art, explanatory stuff, hook and better maps. 30 Keyed locations, 2 new monsters, NPCs (learn Madam Bibi's stats!). 50 pages?
2. Old Brewery - An old item, recently recovered.  Urban ASE dungeon crawl, about 45 keyed locations and inspired by 19th century New York low-life.  Cannibal Halflings. 50+ pages.
3. Ravens of Victory - A Wampus item that I owe on account of a superbowl bet. Mostly written, needs art and some tables. 10 - 25 page keyed dungeon crawl and setting notes.
4. Fetid Pit - Note form, nodal dungeon, needs refinement and working table system for dungeon dressing, encounters and treasures. 50 pages or so in keyed locations, and 10-20 pages of tables and nodal design rules.
5. Certopsian Situation - Draft rules for gonzo vehicular combat and military heist hexcrawl.  Needs a ton of work.  Maps are done. A 120 page book worth of content including Tempus Gelidum.
6. Tomb of the Rocketmen - ASE style location 10 - 20 keyed locations based on map contest! First priority starting April 2nd (get your entries in!).

2) Organization - It's actually key to a good adventure, and makes them smaller.  The reason Tempus is more coherent than red Demon is the systematization of the keyed descriptions.  It cuts down filler sentences and does some GM prep work to have boxed information (not text - just basic details).  Editing is also key.

3) Editing and Details - With the recovery of the original word docs containing Tempus, Obelisk and Red Demon I can do work on this if I get around to it.  Gun info in Red Demon would be nice, as I have my own zany house rules I've grown fond of.

Now, I again wanted to thank Bryce, because reviews like his, critical sometimes though they may be provide the authors of diy hobby products with feed back.  It's hard to get feedback.  I've had to twist players arms for ideas of what they think is good, and harder still what's bad with a scenario I run.  With something I publish I get even less.  An excellent blogger has given a full play report for Demon and was kind enough to discuss it with me, but other than Ten Foot Poles review and Apis' play reports I know nothing about how people find it useful, what they like of dislike.  Seriously, I'm not asking for money for my stuff, but feedback, even critical feedback is really appreciated!  Additionally if I an other creators don't know that our stuff is being used and liked (even mined for ideas) we're less likely to make more, or polish it to completion.  Sure one doesn't write OSR modules for money and fame, but thoughts and the knowledge that other hobbyists are using it makes an author feel good and work harder on the next mess of stuff.

So tell your favorite blogger when you use their stuff - what worked and what was confusing.  I'm sure in most cases it'll be more appreciated than if you gave them a few bucks.


  1. I love all of your work. I intend on using the Red Demon and Hated Pretender scenarios; in fact I'm using a version of 'Demon as the intro to my ASE game.

  2. [sorry, I hit "Publish" too soon]

    I've recently discovered your site and have devoured all your work. I do think that Obelisk is super-wordy; it's dense and requires the DM to carefully read prior to playing, but it's not too unmanageable.

    I've published several modules through DF and have found that the only way to avoid my own tendency towards verbosity is to have friends read drafts through.

    As an avid reader, of course I want IT ALL: the site-specific scenarios and the Certopsian campaign. And, of course, the Apollyon Boxed Set. ;)

    However, please do not overextend yourself and burn out. You've got a lot of irons in the fire and I HAVE to know more about the Bruised Enormity. ;)

    1. One of the great things about not working for pay is that I can do things at whatever pace I like, and let projects rest fallow for as long as I need to.

      Writing adventures is tricky, too much info is a Greenwood nightmare and too little a vanilla snoozefest. The key I think is making longer descriptions interesting - a 10' x 10' stone room needs little description, but a cathedral made of living bones that sing the stories of their prior lives might require a page and a random table or two...

      As to the Bruised enormity - there's a map of it's pleasure garden's somewhere - I could run it with a few hours prep, but it's a long way from being made into a PDF. I like dropping odd hooks here and there though, precisely because other folks run with them.