Worlds of Wordplay (D101-024)

I started 2013 off with a bang – with a reissued version of  2010’s Wordplay The Big Five (D101- 009). The new format, 6 inches by 9 inches (US Trade paperback?) which was so much better for indie-style RPGs, of which Wordplay was definitely one of. Improved layout and art within, and Jon Hodgson added a background to his cover, which I love to this day (and it’s down to be reused for a project that reuses the Infinite War setting early in 2023, which is due to be announced soon). Even though the book was ultimately retired a couple of years later, my copy is still something I fondly pull out of my archives and have a flip through.

Worlds of Wordplay, Cover by Jon Hodgson

Hearts in Glorantha #5 (D101-023)

“I want to be a Humakti.”

Is a common cry when I run games set in Glorantha. It’s the nice easy fighter archetype that in a fantasy setting where there’s still a good deal of violence (well, it is set in the Hero Wars, after all) is a powerful one in play. So issue five was dedicated to them, and like all issues of HiG, it came about due to what people submitted. Although I must admit there was a small amount of encouragement from myself, due to my fondness of Tales of the Reaching Moon issue 5 – The Humakti issue in the 90s which was my gateway into Gloranthan Fandom.

Hearts in Glorantha #5, cover by John Hughes

Issue five in September 2012 should have been where I ended Hearts run. Even then, my intuition was quite clear, “Five issues is enough”, it would tell me. Already it was delayed, constantly put aside for other D101 projects, and the early  I had for the magazine had dried up. But I soldiered on and got it done, with my enthusiasm tanked up by the release of RuneQuest 6 (which eventually became Mythras, by the Design Mechanism) and the big Pavis HeroQuest tome by Moon Design. This ability to be bloody-minded and power on despite the joy of no longer being there got me to do another two issues (which come much later on in 2018!). It is also a useful skill sometimes. Developing it was the part of me moving from a rather haphazard hobbyist publisher to the more considered business-driven one I am today. So in that sense, HiG #5 was a turning point for me as a publisher even though I was so caught up in the flow of my work and life that I didn’t realise it at the time 🙂

Blood of the Dragon (D101-022)

This is weird because it’s currently in limbo, yet it is one of my best-received things.

It originally came out in 2013 as a stretch goal for the Crypts and Things 1st Edition Indie Go-Go crowdfunding campaign. Writing it was like pulling teeth because it was the first adventure module for C&T, and I wanted to get it perfect.

It was well received and received a positive review at the infamously hard-to-leasing Ten Foot Pole site.

Then it was pulled from publication since it was going to be reissued as part of the C&T Remastered Kickstarter in 2015. It’s now currently residing as part of the adventure compilation Under Dark Spires, which Kickstarter funded, due out this year.

The Company (D101-019)

The Company

This one was OpenQuest Modern. Around the early 2010s, when OQ had been out for a while,  one of the regulars posted about using OQ mashed up with D20 Modern SRD to create a secret service vs Cthulhu game on our forum. I said nope on that one for many reasons, and I realised that I was enjoying all manner of Modern Day thrillers and had no roleplaying outlet.  So I put out the call for someone to turn the OQ SRD into OQ Modern, and Rik Kershaw Moore answered the call. About 12 months later, The Company was the result. Published on 13/04/2012, as a softcover/hardcover and pdf via Lulu.com

The game is centred firmly around a fictional UK Private Military Contractor, a modern-day mercenary company that recruit primarily from ex-UK Armed Forces and with a Royal Charter to provide military services in response to falling numbers of UK armed forces.

In many ways, the Company is my favourite of the early trio of OQ games, completed by OQ 1-2 (Fantasy) and River of Heaven (Sci-Fi). I ran some fun convention games. Operation Mudbrick, where operatives guard an archaeological team in the ancient city of UR post-Gulf War 2, and Operation Camphor, where the team reclaims a recording device left by a spy working for The Company that had been left in the Lockheed Sea Shadow, which was now floating inside the hull of a converted cargo ship in one of the US Fleet Arm fleets, moored off the coast of California. In many ways, the scenarios I ran for The Company, although based on real-life situations, were more fantastic and eye-opening than the weirdest fantasy adventures I’ve written.

While the Company was a good steady seller over the years, I never got beyond publishing the core rulebook, even though there was an adventure book and companion written because its principal author – Rik – suddenly left the hobby.  The main rulebook finally went out of print at the end of the OQ3 Kickstarter back in October 2020.

One day, I hope to bring back The Company for OQ 3, but it will be a slightly different set-up, with a different name (Modern Operations is the current favourite).

Update: Inspired by the nostalgia this post brought up, and with my interest piqued as a Game Designer, I’ve started working on the spiritual successor to the Company, Modern Operations.

Crypts and Things 1st Edition (D101-018)

This release was a D101 Games game changer…

Crypts and Things 1st Edition Cover by Jon Hodgson

I was already aware of the Old School Renaissance, which was in full swing in the 2010s,  due to its fans in the OSR blog-sphere taking a liking to OpenQuest.

I was very impressed with Swords and Wizardry’s tight presentation. So I basically took this OGL Systems Resource Document and mixed it with a bevvy of Swords and Sorcery inspirations from my 80s British Gaming History.

Inspirations:

  • Old White Dwarf.  A whole slew of adventures (The Lichway, and The Hall of Tizun Thane for example) and rules ideas (The Barbarian for example, Using CON as physical hit points , while HP become quickly recharged energy) was lifted from the early days of this classic British TTRPG publication. The mid-80s was the cut off date.
  • Early Fighting Fantasy, we are talking about the first six books, where the authors were obviously riffing off their D&D games, not the expectations of what a FF book was.
  • Early Slaine from 2000 AD, when it was black and white and short and punchy. None of the epic Simon Bisley era stuff.
  • Savage Swords of Kull. I got the first of the two graphic novel compilations put out of the Marvel comics from the 70s/80s and was instantly in love with the slightly acid-tinged brooding proto-Conan.
  • Michael Moorcock’s Elric books and the resulting Stormbringer RPG put out by Chaosium, specifically the hardcover licensed version put out by Games Workshop in the 80s, which I’ve raved about on my Sorcerer Under Mountain blog.

Art fell into place nicely with a fantastic cover by Jon Hodgson and the rest of the artists of illodeli.com, which was a small art collective run by Jon, that was selling fantastic stock art.  This was a resource I liberally plundered, with my mate John Ossoway filling in the gaps with a piece here and there.

It was playtested at great speed and enthusiasm, which bemused my regular circle of RPG buddies, who were more into modern RPGs like FATE and HeroQuest at the time.

First time I used crowdfunding, indiegogo.com, which was successful although modest at indiegogo.com

The resulting book that was released in 20??? was 150 pages of old school O&D goodness, with a distinct flavour, in a nice slim hardcover from Lulu.com. For some strange reason, I never got around to putting the POD version on drivethrurpg.com.

And by thunder, it sold well. After seeing OpenQuest’s sales crawl along, and Monkey fails at Drivethrurpg.com (but strangely sell out when I was selling in person at Conventions) it was lovely to see it outsell both titles. Partly because it’s a version of D&D, but also because it struck a chord with older gamers who fondly remembered its British Fantasy 80s roots.

 

Book of Glorious Joy (D101-017)

This was a fun one to do. Jamie “Trotsky” Revell did about three supplements worth of Gloranthan setting books about the West for Issaries INC. When Moon Designs took over Gloranthan publishing, for various reasons the chief of which those books represented a “Medieval West” rather than a “Bronze Age Ancients West”, they declined to publish them. So they offered me the chance to put it out as a fan publication and I lept at it.

I called it the Book of Glorious Joy, like it was an in-game sorcerer’s Grimoire, to dispel the negativity around the book, that had arisen because it was rejected manuscript. And it worked! Peter Town did some fantastic character pieces, much of which now adorns the pages of OpenQuest 3rd edition, and it turned out to be a nice chunky supplement.

The book had decent sales as well which makes my inner-publisher glow, so it wasn’t just fan service.

Eventually, after five or so years of being available and sales dwindling to nought, I called time on it which gave it a nice flurry of end-of-life sales (again inner-publisher happy).

A fun book, that while not being 100% Glorantha was a high point of my publishing up in 2011 when it came out. Also, you might see the cover, modified, as the cover of a big setting/adventure book for OpenQuest 3, that expands and details the Empire of Gatan called “Dark Corners of the Empire” at some point next year. So as a source of inspiration, it will live on 🙂

Adventures in Wordplay issue 1 The Drowned Lands (D101-016)

A very brief post for this one.

The Drowned Lands was a very short sandbox for Wordplay the Big Five (D101-09), written by Paul Mitchener. It was a post-apocalyptic setting based in a near-future where the sea level had raised by fourteen metres, and the weather was constant rain. It was a nice little British Post-Apoc setting, set around Paul’s home city of Southampton, where you discovered the setting and plot through play. Oh, and it had intelligent sentient bipedal Bears 🙂

I pulled it after two months because I wasn’t happy with the art I had thrown together for it. A selection of images from Wikimedia commons which I put through a “Rainy” filter. See the cover below for an example. I got a fuller release when I redid the Big Five as the Worlds of Wordplay.

Currently, it’s passed back to Paul, so it may see the light of day again.

Life and Death (D101-015)

I rounded off 2010, a bumper year of releases with Life and Death, a setting and adventure book for OpenQuest. I started writing about 2006, so it felt like an eternity when it finally came out, to relatively little fanfare. But I was happy and proud of it.

I already told Life and Death’s origin story in OpenQuest 1st Edition’s (D101-06) post since it’s so interwoven with that rule set’s beginnings.

It’s my fantasy love letter to George Romero Zombie movies, where a magical apocalypse was brought on by a proud, vain Lion Emperor trying to ascend to the Houses of the Gods. Instead, he ends up wiping them from existence along with the route to the afterlife, which was my rationale for all the undead folk hanging around. It was inspired by a Glorantha fan saying rather angrily on one of the Glorantha-yahoo-lists 1 that you couldn’t just wipe Glorantha’s Mythology and Gods out like erasing a Hard Drive. Which got me thinking, what if you could. I also knocked the idea that after the erasing of Mythology/Gods, the five city-states of the region the adventures were set in were magically isolated by force fields up to ten miles from their city walls.

It came in two versions. The initial release was in 2010, which had two adventures. A short one-shot introduced the setting called Dead Pot Country, where the characters investigated a missing merchant’s son in a land where a dead river civilisation, think Mesopotamia, buried its dead in large ceramic pots in ordered fields. Which the characters had to go tromping across, breaking the seals and disturbing the zombies. And the longer second adventure, which was Life and Death itself. In part 1, you go to a militaristic, xenophobic city-state in the grips of, you guessed it, a zombie plague and discover the culprit behind the Zombie apocalypse. In part 2, you go up into some nearby hills and find out the secret of why the path to the world’s afterlife is blocked, and make the final choice between Life and Death.

In 2014 an updated version of the book was released that had two new introductory adventures. Joining the Guild, where the characters run for their lives in an ancient city-state and end up joining the Adventurer’s Guild. Real basic stuff to introduce the setting and the system to new players.  Their new Guild’s first job is to teleport them to old ruin in the second adventure – The Dust of Eternity – overrun with guess what? That’s right, Zombies! But zombies that still half-remember their lives moan and groan and have behaviours based on that 2.

I have a soft spot for this, so it’s coming back in an expanded/revised version for OpenQuest at some point. BUT it was a pain to write due to various internal conflicts, which made every step forward hard-won. So I’m not in a great rush. When I do bring it back, I will have a clear head and write with joy. Perhaps I’ll get the other five books3 in the series that this was meant to be the first written too 3 😀

Notes

1. Remember those? Glorantha had at least two official Yahoo groups during the HeroWars/HeroQuest period, from 1999 to the early 2010s.  Faults aside, that’s where I first connected with the Gloranthan Fan Community.

2. I was big into playing the first Bioshock game at the time.

3. The plan was one book per city in the setting, including the ruined city of the Lion Emperor.

Gloranthan Adventures #1 New Beginings (D101-014)

During the 90s, in my formative years of running RuneQuest, one of my favourite fanzines, when I could get it was RuneQuest Adventures.  Every issue took you on a guided tour of Glorantha, in the form of a series of linked adventures. Issue 3 for example The Block, was based around the Block in Prax and the adventure locations around it. As well as notes on the Stormbull cult, it had a fantastic adventure where the dungeon was the hollowed-out skeleton buried under a hill. So this was my primary inspiration for the Gloranthan Adventures fanzine, of which this is the first of two issues 1.

My records show this one too along with Hearts in Glorantha #4 (D101-010) was released in time for the bi-annual gathering of Glorantha fans at Continuum 2010.

First, for the record, of the covers Jon Hodgson has done for me over the years this is one of my favourites ever, depicting an Orlanthi Stormlord flying menacingly as farmsteads in the burn-in valley below. As well as being a cracking illustration it sets the scene for the content within its covers.

The four adventures in the book rise from my early days as a HeroQuest evangelist at my local conventions 2. I took the Sartar setting, that every Gloranthaphile has at least a passing familiarity with and is dead easy to explain to newcomers. Then I threw every chaos foe against a small “peace” clan, called the Silverwinds, who was woefully ill-prepared for such an assault on their way of life. Although there is a bit of clan politics in it, one of my aims was to provide a working example of a clan that the players could be members of, its fairly and squarely leveraging the HeroQuest system to provide an epic crusade against chaos. Think 13th Warrior mixed with Jason and the Argonauts and you’ve got the measure of it. 3

Notes:

1. GA 2 Red Sun Rising appears four years later, and I’ve still got a cover and a good 30-40 pages for a series of Troll adventures, which is the unreleased GA 3.

2. When I was leading the Ring of HeroQuest Narrators which mutated into the semi-official Masters of Luck and Death and then imploded!

3. The set-up for the adventures, divorced from the Sartar Timeline, and general approach do a bit of roleplaying then fight a chaos thing, actually make it more like 13th Age Glorantha mini-campaign well before that book was put out.

Wordplay Basics (D101-013)

This was a blink and you miss it, in the bumper year of releases in 2010. Basically, a promotional book for Wordplay the Big 5 (D101-09), that had a good chunk of the system. These days I would have done a Quickstart set of rules with an adventure. After a couple of months, I realised it wasn’t driving sales to the Big 5 as I had hoped, so it was quietly pulled. Did however form the template for OpenQuest Basics further down the line in 2014.