In Development 0 comments on NOT EQUAL to Stuff You Don’t Know

NOT EQUAL to Stuff You Don’t Know

I have been busy doing other things. All Rolled Up has consumed 105% of my existence over the last several weeks. I probably didn’t realise how much time publicity and social media can require if you want to get something “out there”. I’m sure it’s something I can get better at over time. I may add another skill-string to my expertise-bow, so to speak.

In the meantime, Just Crunch has taken a hiatus that I had not intended. I look up at the calendar and see August – and recall that the last time I wrote much of anything must have been March. That’s almost half a year without writing more than a few paragraphs of copy. I may have been creative during that time period, but it isn’t that sort of creative.

However, I have to step slightly outside my comfort zone and attempt to do things I have done before. On the other hand, I also need to jump back into my comfort zone occasionally to do the things I’m good at already. If I want to get back into writing again over the next few days or weeks, I need to settle back into that comfort zone – and write about stuff I know.

In this respect, I’ve set myself the challenge of finding something to write a game about. Or, at minimum, a setting based on stuff that I know about using something Open Source.

Open Source – the grail for my ailing mind to get a grasp on. I love the Old School movement going on in the gaming market, but I feel a little left behind because I have never been a big player of the D&D system, whatever the iteration. I have the same problem with the New School of gaming that has taken the D&D system and streamlined it – the 13th Age thing, for example. I like the look of it and I can feel a whole of enthusiasm radiating off the back of it, but I have a hurdle to leap in not having any real love for the source material. I can sort of grasp the basics of old style D&D, but the new world of Feats and stuff… that has the tendency to leave me cold. I read that 13th Age has done it different or done it better, but if you hate celery then someone offering celery done better doesn’t necessarily give a more palatable prospect.

I understand that using a game system that exists already, with an Open Source agreement that gives certain amounts of freedom to use and re-use, means that I can concentrate on a setting and the good stuff that comes with it. However, if I can find a system that I grok to the point where it becomes second nature to write about it, to shape and flex it, then that doesn’t actually help much at all. Yes, using something Open Source opens up a ready market with people who already use the system and might take the material I write to use with their own campaigns; but if it comes across in the writing that I don’t really grasp the system at all, then I’m quickly going to lose that interest…

I have written generic content – like The Blessing of St Agnes and Stench of the Sea – precisely because I want to appeal to the widest possible audience. However, that very presence of generic content seems to make for a less accessible supplement for those wanting to run something with minimal effort. This seems to me another solid argument for embracing the Open Source. By taking a system that people already love and forming my material around that core, I present something immediately useful.

In the end, I have to make some sort of decision on this before pushing ahead with the writing, because the shape of the system might inform the writing that I need to do. Not point painting a portrait if I haven’t decided the shape of the canvas before I get started.

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Sale 0 comments on Pay What You Want – by the Sea

Pay What You Want – by the Sea

Stench of the Sea coverI enjoy writing stuff. I wouldn’t spend time creating the games and supplements that I do if I didn’t get a kick out of doing it. Therefore – you can now get Stench of the Sea on Pay What You Want. If you want to know why, read on – or go grab a copy and then come back.

At the same time, I buy stuff to play with care and attention to my pocket. I read reviews, consider the options, balance the possibilities, and I only pay what I can afford for the stuff if I have the option. That often means that I will hang around eBay for a few weeks, or months, waiting for a second-hand copy to come up rather than buying something brand new. Equally, I will consider Amazon Marketplace or picking up a PDF instead of a hard copy. I have no qualms about reading of the computer or even a smartphone.

In the end, I have a trimmed down library of games that I have purchased because reckon they fit me or suit my immediate needs. I can understand the principle there that many people hold back from purchases because they’re not sure. When you see a product for even a few pounds (dollars, euros, etc.) you might opt for the Wish List rather than the Shopping Cart because you don’t have any reviews to go on. You need someone else to take the plunge before you, and then you need them to write a review.

I don’t know what stats around review writing are, but I’m guessing you don’t get a 1:1 ratio on sales and reviews. I guess you probably get a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio on sales to reviews at best. I have found that wringing out reviews can take a lot of patience indeed, and much personal plugging to get attention. I have actually taken part in the Iron Reviewer Challenge on RPG Geek this year precisely because I want people to have reviews to read. If a bunch of mad people (myself included) pumping out solid reviews every week can make a difference and offer a greater wealth of review material to reference – all the better. I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the needs of the many.

Anyway, where was I going with this, you might ask… Or you may simply have drifted away already. I write because I enjoy it, but people often don’t buy because they don’t know what they’re paying for.

The solution – allow the potential customer to pay what they want for your product, or at least some of your product.

I write Stench of the Sea for the joy of it, and I put a fair amount of thought and time into creating something with a lot of extra facility and support for the gamemaster. Not only does the supplement contain an adventure, it also contains a mini-dungeon (with a map by Tony Dowler), notes on a coastal village where the characters can base themselves for a while, details of the key personalities, their relationships and goals, maps of local monster lairs, reference cards for key personalities, creatures, and treasures, and a system for generating mines and caverns that involves paper clips, a Sharpie and a bit of minor creativity. All crammed into 72-pages.

I thought it worth writing, and I also think it’s worth buying and playing. I ran it for my local group and they thoroughly enjoyed it (mainly because they mercilessly made fun of me for my vanity in publishing this adventure, but also because they’re cruel that way). In the end they didn’t feel it had enough Steam Dwarves and Cloud Elves in it (actually it has none of either, but they demanded them so I added them into the adventure when I ran it).

Enjoy – Stench of the Sea Pay What You Want on Drive Thru RPG

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Sale 0 comments on Celebratory Flash Sale

Celebratory Flash Sale

Bonanza

I’m casting a Minor Bonanza of Birthday Celebration for my 41st, and discounting all Just Crunch product by 25% for today (until today finishes in a little over a day, if you know what I mean).

You can get copies of Consult Appendix Z No 1 & 2, Stench of the Sea, Below Market Pryce’s, and The Blessing of St Agnes.

Head over to RPGNow to pick up the discounted PDFs: Just Crunch Games

In more general news, it’s now less than 2 weeks until UK Games Expo 2013, in Birmingham. I’ll be there for all three days, running games on Friday and Saturday, and helping out around the Arion stall (Palace Suite, P51) on the Sunday. I’ll have physical editions of Consult Appendix Z No 1 & 2 and The Blessing of St Agnes. Indeed, the Expo copy of The Blessing of St Agnes features extra hand-outs that it simply isn’t possible to include in the PDF edition (as they’re sticky note-like additions that you obviously can’t adhere to a piece of virtual documentation!).

I’ll also be promoting the brand new All Rolled Up game roll and dice bag, which you can find out more about over on Google+ or at the website – AllRolledUp.co.uk. The All Rolled Up (or ARU) offers a one stop accessory for holding all your dice, pens, pencils, beads, tokens, cards, and more besides. Check out the YouTube videos to see me walk through the details.

Hope to see you there.

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Events 0 comments on Cover Story

Cover Story

Interstellar Travel Events PlusWith thoughts pressing ahead to the end of May and the whole business of UK Games Expo, I have been busy preparing the papery versions of my three main supplements at the moment. Consult Appendix Z, both CAZ No 1 and CAZ No 2, and The Blessing of St Agnes will all be available in physical saddle-stapled format, with glossy covers.

In the case of St Agnes, the book has a weathered green leather cover-look. I admit that this comes as one of the standards for a basic bit of Lulu self-publishing, but to my mind it fits the adventure setting for some reason.

The second Consult Appendix Z volume, Another Bug Hunt, already has a great cover image from Nicholas Cloister’s Monsters By Email. Nicholas does some truly incredible work and you can subscribe to his Monsters scheme that makes some of the images you receive available for personal usage and others available for wider distribution, like this one.

The first Consult Appendix Z volume, Interstellar Travel Events, felt a little bit like a poor cousin. I used a public domain image from a classic science fiction magazine, black and white, but just what I wanted. I can’t claim to have corrected the balance significantly, but I have engaged in some basic colour retouching to make the picture less monochrome.  I have gone for a bit of a nebula thing and add hints of colour to the shadows and drive streams. Like I say, nothing exactly awe-inspiring, but the end result comes across as slightly less intense than the original.

I now have a box of these print goodies ready to roll – and I hope to drum up some custom at the event and retain the rest for customers keen to acquire physical copies later. Indeed, if you want any of these now – get in touch with me and we can sort something out in terms of cost, postage and so forth.

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Adventures, Events 2 comments on Morphs and Blessings

Morphs and Blessings

Blessing of St Agnes adventure with extra bitsI have been tinkering with the idea of creating geomorph dungeon cards to a design that would allow you to use them when running a game of The Blessing of St Agnes. Once you’ve finished using them for the game, you can carry on using them as a random method of creating other dungeons and structures, but the core of the set would support laying out a map for the players as a point of reference to the adventure.

I like the whole (mildly therapeutic) process of creating the geomorph cards. I used a blank playing card stock for the geomorphs and draw on them directly with a Rotring Tikki Graphic 0.4 and a medium Staedtler whiteboard marker. The therapy comes from adding all the hashing that surrounds each element of the map. You add several of them in one direction, then turn the angle of the card and apply more, then turn and again. Eventually, you just start to fill in the gaps inbetween.

I have also been working on some additional content for the UK Games Expo edition of the Blessing adventure. You can get the Lulu-printed edition via Amazon at the moment, fulfilled by myself. It might seem odd doing it that way, but it means that I can include the special edition elements in the product that you get sent out to you, while Amazon processes the payments and such. What you get is a one-of-a-kind edition of the adventure, as all the extra bits get cut out and applied by hand. If I can sort out a way of printing the hand-drawn geomorphs on-masse, I will look to offering them as an extra – though I have no clue on the prices of availability. Something for me to consider and work on.

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Events 0 comments on UK Games Expo – T Minus 34 days

UK Games Expo – T Minus 34 days

Games Expo 2009

While I have more than a month to get myself ready for my three day attendance at UK Games Expo in Birmingham, it doesn’t feel like long at all. On top of running 5 games, I also have various bits of Just Crunch Games material to prepare – including physical copies of The Blessing of St Agnes, Interstellar Travel Events, and Another Bug Hunt.

You might have noticed there that I said ‘running 5 games’ like that might be something easy. In some measure, I hope it will be, as I don’t plan to do anything too taxing. Taxing isn’t going to be fun for anyone! I will be running games of Maelstrom and Outlive Outdead on the Friday, Hollowpoint and Advanced Fighting Fantasy on the Saturday, and Maelstrom again on the Sunday morning. Given the need to keep these sorts of games short and punchy, with a lot of fun thrown in for good measure, I plan to have some stripped back adventures and pre-generated characters, so we can all hit the ground running and enjoy the games.

In between all of these various games, I plan to spend some time working behind the stall of Arion Games, pushing a few of the games I’ve been running, offering up the copies of my own stuff, and also assisting my wife in the launch of All Rolled Up, which you will get more information about as time, and development, progresses.

This evening, I have been gathering various extras for inclusion in the Special Edition physical copy of The Blessing of St Agnes. The UK Games Expo event will get the updated edition (with even fewer spelling mistakes) with the addition of pictures and maps not included in the previous electronic edition (although, some of that material will be incorporated into the PDF after the event).

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News 0 comments on What’s Really Going On?

What’s Really Going On?

The Blessing of St Agnes front coverIn a fit of tinkering, I have added additional content to the existing text of ‘The Blessing of St Agnes’. Consigned to the appendix, the extra content covers a couple of additional angles you might take with the adventure. Almost as if I can’t stop myself, I offer up a little extra history about the site and the bloody past of the inner chapel…

You can get a copy of The Blessing of St Agnes from RPG Now or Drive Thru RPG.

The Sisterhood didn’t build the Chapel of St Agnes, nor did the location start out associated with the blessed martyr. While the benefactors of the Sisterhood did construct the outer chapel, the inner sanctum – beyond the Dusky Passage, existed in this place long before.

Hundreds of years ago, a warrior race called the Kem, built a fortress in the woods overlooking the sea to the south and a significant trade route to the north. The fortress extended below ground and included storage rooms, barracks, open sleeping quarters and other necessities, locations that either needed to be kept cool or out of harms way. Unfortunately, the Yloe, sworn enemies of the Kem, defeated the warriors in a great siege that lasted for more than a year. The Yloe razed the upper fortress to the ground and then beat the Kem back into the rooms below. Thirsty for victory the Yloe showed no mercy and slaughtered every last inhabitant, killing the sleeping, the wounded, and the defenceless. The warrior sacked the location for treasures, supplies, and weaponry, then left it open to bandits and travellers. Long afterwards, the Sisterhood discovered the place during a pilgrimage to the Holy Stone of Het Mora, chancing across the location when one of their horses escaped. The place seemed to call to the Sisters, a site of potential filled with a sense of the lost.

At night, a visitor might hear a forlorn cry for help or a moan. The truly unlucky may chance upon an actual Spectre in the sleeping quarters of the Sisters, a spirit that manifests impaled by three swords and with eyes gouged out. The tortured entity attacks blindly, seeking revenge on those who tortured and killed it, unaware of the passage of time and the passing of the Yloe. If the characters head into the southerly passage alongside the Sister’s dorm in the lower left of the map, they can hear a sound like bubbling water, perhaps from a stream beyond the wall. The gurgling sound grows stronger until the Spectre emerges from the dead end, taking anyone present by surprise on a d6 roll of 3 or higher.

The tortured spirit attacks with clawed fingers, swiping wildly. The Kem warrior wears a padded jerkin, breeches and long boots. He wears shoulder length hair scraped back into a ponytail. Three swords skewered his torso and he shows signs of other wounds, with tears and rips in the fabric of his armour and clothes. Glittering streams of ethereal gore ooze from open wounds, including the empty sockets of his eyes. Characters may need to make a check to avoid sickening at the sight.

A character investigating the wall at the end of the southern passage might, with a suitably difficult check or a slightly easier one if spending a great deal of time, find an area, about a foot above the ground, that sounds hollow. Hacking away the plaster and earth, the character will find, not too deeply buried, the skull of one of the Kem warriors. Close scrutiny reveals scouring around the edge of the eye holes, small groves and notches in the bone that suggest this could be the remains of the Spectre. Burial or a blessing on the bones will release the tortured spirit – and might bestow some good luck to the character who suggested it or completed the blessing.

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News 0 comments on Ahead and Below

Ahead and Below

Front of Pope's Palace in Avignon. Deutsch: Vo...

Current projects in progress:

An almost modern day investigative/mystery adventure called ‘The Mobius Clause‘ sees the players taking on the roles of characters attending a key political event and attempting to avert the premature and sudden collapse of the world state into the Cold War.

A setting and adventure for historical (or fantasy) games set during the time of the Avignon Papacy – or, in a fantasy setting, an enclave of a fragmentary sect of a major religion. Paranoia and fear stalk the rich and splendid halls of the great castle of the pope, and the players assume the roles of lowly monks and laity embroiled in events that find their world under siege on all sides.

And, in the Arion Games line, I continue to poke away at the Maelstrom Sci-Fi Toolkit, a set of modifications, customisations and alterations to allow any Maelstrom referee to take the classic 80s ruleset of Tudor adventure out into the interstellar realms of the future.

And yesterday, as planned, I released the One-Page ‘dungeon’ adventure Below Market Pryce’s, where a local realtor seeks the characters assistance in ridding an empty property of a troublesome nuisance.

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News 0 comments on What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

English: American family watching TV (cropped)

While the weekend proved to be packed to the brim with anything but gaming, I did get a chance last thing on Sunday (while watching an episode of ‘Selfridge’) to get to work on a One-Page Adventure. I’m not 100% certain whether watching the TV at the same time as writing necessarily assisted in my progress, but I don’t think it did any major harm!

I hope to have ‘Below Market Pryce‘, a system-free adventure in realtor support ready for this evening to go up on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

A local estate major has experienced problems clearing the property of a deceased merchant and investor. A property with great potential, the problem lies in the basement where more than firewood and dry goods seem to lurk in wait for the unwary…

Fingers crossed I have time to get the job finished this evening.

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Releases, RPG Design 1 comment on Twenty Years On

Twenty Years On

image

I ran a lot of play-by-mail games in the 1980s and 90s. I also wrote a fair amount about them in a column for Role Player Independent, one of the UKs many transistory role playing magazines.

My first PBM, Darklands, ran for more than ten years. It probably doesn’t warrant the term epic to describe it, but the fantasy story telling game must have resulted in 100,000+ words of stuff. One player managed to clock in almost 60 turns in that period – if nothing else, that seems indicative of the games often glacial pace. I hand-wrote most of the original stuff, something with carbon paper to maintain my own copies. Later, I employed the services of an Amstrad computer and a dot matrix printer.

Another series, the NXS games, focussed on science fiction. I think NXS 3 or 4 turned out to be a wargame with a modular rule set, which allowed me to port it across to different skins or themes. I ran games based on Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Star Wars (the Empire! game in the picture). Players submitted a range of movement commands for their armed forces, investigation angles for research and development, and some role playing to cover diplomacy. I charted the whole deal out in simplistic spreadsheets, copious notes, and push pins stabbed into a piece of cardboard overlayered with a map.

In the last few months I have sorted through a lot of the material I still have stored in boxes, folders, box files and bags. Many of those original game turns remain, both the incoming and the outgoing stuff. I also have tons of maps, notes, rulebooks and various supporting materials. I have found, in the latter, the potential for recycling, as much of the support material amounts to carefully crafted random tables or notes on possible encounters. I have taken a Travel Effects table from one of the NXS games and given it a thorough update with generic role playing encounters in mind. In many ways, I find a lot of this early material free from baggage – I had watched a lot less telly and read far fewer books back in the 80s and 90s. I can update the material now with an eye to expanding what I have in front of me, but not stuffing it with too many derivative ideas. I can polish what I have and come out with something very usable and handy for the rushed and struggling GM. As just such a GM, always preparing games up to the last moment, I can appreciate the occasional helping hand.

Yesterday, I released Consult Appendix Z – No 1: Interstellar Travel Events based on my Travel Events table. I look at the table now and I remember laboriously typing this thing out on a big old electric typewriter, which always seemed to use up tremendous amounts of ink. I recall that I borrowed it from a friend, but ended up inheriting it when he got something new. I do remember it filling a space the size of a small suitcase. I have taken four pages of close-typed tabular randomness and produced this 18-page PDF – available right now on RPG Now and DriveThruRPG for $2.50. I hope you find it as useful as I did the original Travel Event table!

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Adventures, Releases 1 comment on The Blessing of St Agnes

The Blessing of St Agnes

Saint Agnes of Rome

Martyred somewhere around the end of the 3rd century, St. Agnes of Rome was only a young girl – around 12 or 13 years old – when she died for her belief that her heart belonged to just one suitor, and he was not a common mortal. Alas, Procop, the Governor’s son, did not take kindly to her stance and the Governor attempted to coax, sully and torture her, before finally putting her to death.

Today is St. Agnes’ Day.

Her story, in some measure, inspired the poet Keats to write The Eve of St. Agnes, a beautiful and romantic poem published in 1820. A brilliant narrative poem, completed in 42 stanzas in the Spenserian style, it tells of  a young man seeking to revive his love from an enchanted sleep, only for her waking expectations not to meet her dreaming desires… but it all works out in the end in a raging storm and a couple of incidental deaths.

Keats has gone on to inspire me to write a short system-free fantasy/historical role playing adventure, The Blessing of St. Agnes, available now on RPGNow. The young daughter of a wealthy merchant has vanished, leaving him distraught and pleading for assistance. In the depths of the dark woods beyond the bounds of the town, the ruinous remains of a chapel to St Agnes hide more than a few secrets of a forgotten sisterhood and hope for the helpless.

An inspiring life inspires…

The Blessing of St. Agnes on RPGNow:

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/110316/The-Blessing-of-St-Agnes

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RPG Design 0 comments on Project First-Quarter

Project First-Quarter

English: The "Darnley Portrait" of E...

In an attempt to generate some output, I’m trying to define a plan. I work better with deadlines. If I say that I’ll do something, but lack a drop dead date, I have a tendency to keep at it endlessly. Given a chance, I will edit and re-edit my work until it falls apart, like picking at the loose strings on a well worn jumper.

I have two immediate projects for the first quarter, both for Arion Games. We have the Maelstrom Sci-Fi Toolkit, that provides additional generic rules for Maelstrom to allow a group to run science fiction adventures. Then, I have plans to write a short piece about spying and espionage in Elizabethan England.

I have a strong suspicion aiming to get the second project done in the next three months presents an impossibility – so, my fallback will be to complete the Maelstrom Quarterly volume I have planned for the last year dealing with the Labourer living. Despite writing some two-thirds of the supplement, I have failed to budge beyond that threshold to a point where it might see the light of day. In a way, I have this problem quite a lot. I have this tendency to tinker and expand on something when I should just stop, publish, then move on to the next thing. If I want to expand a Maelstrom character living option – great. I need to get it done and out. I shouldn’t tag on any additional content like maps, adventure hooks or what have you.

So – the Sci-Fi Toolkit and one other supplement for Maelstrom – minimum – by the end of March 2013. I have made the commitment.

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Events 0 comments on Dragonmeet 2012

Dragonmeet 2012

Basic Role-Playing

Spent Saturday at the town hall in Kensington, London, attending Dragonmeet 2012. Under the Arion Games banner, ran a demo game of Maelstrom Classic Fantasy Tool-Kit with three players – which was unfortunately three short of what I’d hoped. With a full squad of adventurers, the game would have been shorter and less traumatic. I didn’t want to mess with the creature-character balance of the encounters at such short notice, but I can assure you that three characters can only just get through the adventure as written, with a little GM fiat in their favour.

After that, I attended a seminar on the upcoming 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu. As I own 2nd, 3rd and 5th Edition already, I really wanted to get a view on whether 7th Edition warranted my consideration and cash. Paul Fricker and Mike Mason’s seminar failed to answer that question for me. Partially it came down to the presentation feeling a little light and unorganised. We got about 15 minutes of broken overview, touching on the key changes, followed by 3/4 hour of questions from the gathered audience. I came away feeling like I could get a better Cthulhu game from either (a) gold book Basic Role Playing options pasted into existing Cthulhu, or (b) using an alternative like Trail or Dark.

For the rest of the afternoon, I hung around the Arion stand or circled the floor working out what to spend some pennies on. I ended up opting for The Laundry and the associated Agent’s Handbook. While on the stand, I met Graham Walmsley on his round of the floor – the first time we’d met in person – and also someone, whose name I didn’t catch, who knew me from my days running and reviewing play-by-mail games (some 20 years ago now). He purchased a hard copy of ‘Stench of the Sea‘ – and I also managed to sell several bookmarks – or Weighted Reading Companions – my wife makes in her spare time (see www.mok.me.uk for more stuff my wife makes).

The day was bookended by uneventful train journeys where I finished reading ‘Catching Fire‘ (down to London) and started reading the Agent’s Handbook (up from London), while chatting with my wife. A good day, less busy than last year and equally satisfying overall.

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Extras 1 comment on The Wheezing Winze

The Wheezing Winze

While the release of Stench of the Sea contains several maps, I’m always up for creating more – and they might find their way into a future update of the supplement – who knows. Here we have a floorplan for the Brinwan’s inn, The Wheezing Winze.

Run by Colm Wain, with his wife and twin sons, it serves as the main meeting place and drinking hole for local farmers and fishermen, as well as travellers.

Colm and family normally sleep in the rooms marked as boxrooms. However, Colm will adapt to demand. The left boxroom holds most of the family possessions, normally sleeping Colm and his wife; the twins can sleep elsewhere if high demands require use of the right boxroom for travellers. When in heavy use, Colm secures the door between the right boxroom and double bedroom. The double can also have additional pallets brought in to provide a communal sleeping arrangement for large groups.

The cellar holds many barrels of various local and imported beers, with a small stock of mead and bottles of wine.

I drew the store slightly too tight to the main building. You can push between the cellar and the store to retrieve food supplies – held in boxes, sacks or hung in the cold store.

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Modventure, Releases 0 comments on Stench of the Sea RELEASED!

Stench of the Sea RELEASED!

The adventurers probably come to Brinwan not expecting a great deal, and a first encounter with a mildly insane goat herder doesn’t change that expectation. However, just as the characters secure rooms and dinner for the night, something monstrous crawls from the sea and the matter of unexpected deaths in the local mine come to light – potentially leading them down the road to adventure (although based on playtesting, you never can trust the players to do anything close to what you expected or hoped for…)

Featuring numerous maps, a quick mine/sewer/cave generation system, numerous pretty pictures (mostly by me), detailed information on key personalities, quick reference cards and much more besides – positively crammed into 72 pages.

Available right now on RPG Now.

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