This is the second Crypts and Things module, written by Paul Mitchener.
I love this module, the encounter areas are like scenes from a movie in tone and pacing. It could quite easily be an 80s Conan film, with the finale in the Tomb of the Necromancer’s itself being more like Hellraiser, well this is Crypts and Things after all 😀
The production process was quite pain-free. Paul simply wrote the scenario, art and maps were commissioned and delivered, and it got a release back on 25/10/2013, which was a nice pre-birthday present 🙂
It’s a steady seller and nicely shows off what can be done with Crypts and Things. Quite often there is a certain amount of creative tension between myself and the authors of adventures for my games. OpenQuest is bad for that, authors often want to turn it into a certain game with Runes (which it isn’t). But that was none of that here. Paul got C&T and delivered a cracking adventure.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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
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.
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.
Ok, this is a composite entry that covers three releases.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest 1 Dungeoneering (D101-011), released Sept 2010.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Monsters (D101-012), released Nov 2010.
Both of which were only available in pdf.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Fantasy (D101-023) which appeared years later in 2015 and is the combined pdf/print version of the above.
In 2009 if memory serves me rightly Moon Design offered the HeroQuest Gateway license 2 to potential third-party publishers. I had already done some generic gaming with HeroQuest, so thought let’s give it a go.
The “Ye Little Books of HeroQuest Fantasy” was meant to have been a series of cheap and cheerful short releases, a sort of counterpoint to all the D20 and even Savage Worlds pamphlets that were flooding drivethrurpg.com in those days. Looking at my folder on my hard drive, I also had plans to do “Adventures”, “Heroes”, and “World Building” as part of the series.
So I quickly brought the project together. HQ was easy to write for and I think each release only took a couple of evening writing sessions to write because I had a laser-sharp focus on what I was doing 3.
Dungeoneering was well-received. In its lifetime it was a Silver Medal seller on Drivethrurpg.com. Monsters did less well but still got a Bronze medal over its lifetime. I’m not surprised since it was basically a generic listing of typical fantasy critters, using the descriptions and art from OpenQuest at the time, and we’ve all got far too many books of that sort of nonsense 😀
I decided when I was putting the project together the whole series would then only get a full release as a printed version when all parts had been out. This is why there’s a huge delay between the pdf releases and the combined version. I kept putting it off because I kept thinking that I would do the other parts, which for one reason or another never happened. Truth be told by the time I put out YLBoHQ Fantasy, I was quite jaded with the whole idea because being a HQ Gateway publisher had not been the road to instant fame and fortune that I had expected it to be 4. I’d not had that crucial moment of self-realisation that the pdfs had actually sold quite well and had been well received by fans, who quietly emailed me politely asking when they were going to see the other parts. In short, I should have put my head down and got on with it 😀
1. The game is currently being rebranded as QuestWorlds and is due a new edition from Chaosium (current owners of the game) soon(ish). The actual rules have been released for free.
For the purposes of this article, I’ve kept with the old brand name, which has been sold back to Hasbro so they can bring back the board game of the same name, for historical reasons. Plus referring to it as “the-game-formally-known-as-heroquest” is a bit longwinded 😀
2. The HQ Gateway license was actually quite elegant. It nicely explained what you could do with the HeroQuest ruleset, basically do supplements/adventures without going too risque (or edgelord as we call it now) in a way that would damage the brand and reputation of Moon Design, and no Glorantha (but I had a separate license for that). And that was it. No approval process, apart from Moon Design giving you a license in the first place.
3. One of the successes of this project, was that I really got the whole idea of writing a scope, refining it, and then delivering it without scope creep. Well for the first two releases any way 🙂 This success helped me in other D101 Games releases further down the road. If nothing else it made me the master of putting out short pdf to print fanzine sized books, which are now actually good sellers and quite popular.
4. This was quite a depressing internal battle that I fought with myself over the next five years or so. 2010 was a great push to get as many books out, in the effort to become a “name” publisher. Something I’ve realised further down the road, due to my personality, I’m not all that interested in. For me, it’s the creation of the work. I’ve seen some RPG creators go to great lengths to publicise their works, and it just strikes me as vulgar. It coincided with a slump in my energy levels. Work and having two kids were to blame here 😀