Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Tidings

The winter and early spring months are my primary writing time. December through April, more or less. Sometimes it stretches into May or June. A big chunk of that is due to weather. I more or less grew up out-of-doors. My family is big into hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing, and other outdoorsy things. I don't play computer games, and tv-watching is just about nil (I do watch Netflix, but binge-watching for me is two movies or 4 episodes in a week).

This year, I also started a new job that requires intensive travel in the fall and spring, which means I've been away for much of the past 4 months. I put in 13-14 hour days on the job, which means I get back to the hotel room, read a book for a bit, and fall asleep.

I just finished the last build of the season yesterday. I'm home. It's getting cold out. And my "game-brain" has started waking up. I've got old business to take care of (reprint Secrets 1 & 2), stuff that's been intended but not finished (Secrets 3; something for NOD; revise The Basic Illusionist for print sale; the Complete Illusionist), and new things I want to work on. I make no promises about any of it, but I'm not dead yet.  :)

Stuff For Sale

I'm cleaning house, and have put a few things up for sale on Amazon. Feel free to  email me at nellisir at gmail.com with questions. I'd love to get rid of these ASAP; they are literally sitting in padded envelopes ready to go out right now. (Edit: I might cut you a bit of a deal if you contact me directly, but I'm not going to give them to you.)

The Scarlet Brotherhood
Thunder Rift
Tome of Horrors II
Way of the Thief
Way of the Daimyo
The Hidden Emperor
Complete Exotic Arms Guide

I have a few other books that I'll post about later. I don't put items on Amazon that aren't hopefully going to get me at least $12-$15, so it's mostly lesser-valued books.

Monday, August 31, 2015

NOD (and other news)

John Stater's Land of Nod blog, and specifically his self-published, one-author, vanity fanzine NOD, were what really got me into the OSR fold and self-publishing. I don't know if he doesn't sleep, or has a really boring job, but his output, month after month and year after year, has been amazing and inspiring.

Mini-games, hex crawls, variant OSR-games (Pars Fortuna being the direct inspiration for issue #2 of Secrets and the Feathered Realm), full-on OSR/3e hybrid rulesets (Blood & Treasure), random tables, and more. PLUS 26 issues and counting of NOD.


(There's always a but.)

Sales, apparently, are slumping.

The bad news. If sales don't improve, NOD is done and he'll retool to focus on discrete supplements.  (I still get my fix, but...differently.)

The good news. For the time being, he's accepting submissions for NOD.

Am I interested?

That's a really stupid question.

So. If you like NOD, buy it, contribute, or tell your friends. If you haven't read NOD, issues #1 and #6 are free. If you want something different, I recommend Pars Fortuna and Bloody Basic/Mother Goose Edition. (I'd recommend all of them, but I haven't gotten all of them yet - there's also the basic Bloody Basic; the Sinew & Steel Edition; and the Modern Edition. I think the Weird Fantasy Edition is upcoming - I'm REALLY looking forward to that.)


In other news...

I've got a job. A real job, that pays real money, and consumes a lot of time. Also, it's summer, and I don't write much in the summer. So that's that.

I am going to reprint Secrets 1 & Secrets 2 shortly. I've been paying off bills and buying necessaries (shoes, people), but reprints are on the agenda. I've got material for Secrets 3, but it needs additional work. The date for that is "someday".

I bought 5e. It's very nice. It's gathering dust on my shelf because I couldn't sustain the energy of running a campaign, and WotC's release plan & schedule hasn't excited me. Big adventures aren't my thing. I did write up a number of monsters (possibly for Secrets 3) in a 5e-compatible format, but I'm unsure of how to include it. Eats up page space.

Strange Races sells approximately 1 issue/month on RPG Now. Omens & Artifacts has sold 1 issue in the last 6 months, I think. Basic Illusionist sells 25-30 per month pretty steadily. I'm OK with it, considering I released them all simultaneously last November.

That's it. Go buy NOD.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Village map WIP 3

At this point, the map is basically done. There are parts that I might go back and redo (the glory of scanning, people!), but it has all the elements I wanted to include.

I started doing the roofs on the left, then the upper portion, ending in the upper right last night. This morning I went out and bought a .005 pen, and finished the center/right section. I think the later bit looks a lot better, so I may roll back a stage or two and redo the earlier roofs. Since I have scanned at several points, I can actually print a "clean copy", only do the roofs I want redone, and merge the two versions in photoshop.

I'm not wild about the stippling either. That's something to play with. I tried to use it to denote grassed or (relatively) untrammeled areas, but there aren't that many in the village. Flipping it, and using the stippling to mark the paths and streets, might work better, but I suspect it will make it too busy.

There aren't a lot of woods, so it's fine.

I'm VERY happy with the river; less so with the sides of the gorge it's in.

The hillsides came out pretty well. I'm going to GENTLY darken the bottom a bit; the bottom left corner of the map keeps drawing my eye, so I'll try to extend the effect around.

Overall, though...I'm OK with it. ;)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

WIP 2: Village map

I work on vellum a lot. You can get 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, and you can print on them. They're not as transparent as tracing paper, but pretty close and a lot heavier. It also isn't as absorbent as regular paper, so if you're working with markers it's easier to control shading and tones.

Step one was sketching out the geography. I knew it sat in a narrow spot in the mountains, with the valley opening up below it and two narrow valleys leading out above it. A river gorge partially bisects the town, and a stream provides drinking water & powers a few mills. I sketched out the buildings in pencil - the partially completed version was the first WIP post - and scanned it.

Frequent scanning is important. I can scan a map, clean it up, erase any mistakes I've made, and then print it out on vellum and keep going. If I goof, I reprint it from the last scanned version and try again.

I didn't want a grid on final version, so when the pencilwork was done, I taped a piece of vellum over it and started tracing. The version below shows the buildings and ridgelines, but none of the geography. Later tonight or tomorrow I'll do the geography, and then go through the town and add details.

WIP: Mountain village map

Wanted to do a village map. Here's the work in progress. No ink, just pencil. There's a gorge on the left side, and a stream through the village that empties into it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Monster/Adventure: Apisastes [S&W] [5e]

I'm experimenting with dual-stat blocks for monsters. This is a first draft, so expect changes and feedback is strongly desired.
Update: Revised stat block appearance slightly.
Update #2: They should be neutral evil instead of unaligned. This is the first 5e monster I've done, so I'm simultaneously learning how the process works and figuring out a stat block format. Honestly, from here on out I'll probably start with an existing stat block and make changes to it rather than build one up. Working on a map to go with this.

Astes Astes are a class of monsters created with the application of dark magic. Astes creatures combine the body of a serpent with the head of another animal, distorting them to malignant ends. Their length is equal to twice their hit dice. They are of low intelligence, enough to be cunning and vicious, but not enough to disobey. They are used as guardians and assassins. 

Apisastes (Bee-headed)

Apisastes are yellow and black striped snakes with the head of a giant honeybee. They have a vicious bite and thrice per day can spit a honey-like substance up to 10’ that rapidly hardens. If the victim fails their save they are encased, cannot move, and begin to suffocate. On a successful save the target avoids most of the substance but can only move at half speed until they spend a turn cleaning themselves. The apisastes can also spew honey on a target it has bitten, in which case the victim has a -2 penalty to their saving throw.

The Honey Hole
Every surface of this natural chamber is covered with layers of a thick, rigid, golden substance. Long pendants hang from the ceiling, yellow sheets appear frozen in the act of flowing down the walls, and luminous golden layers cover the floor. The original stone surroundings are only dimly visible through accreted layers of the crystalline substance. An opening to further chamber can be faintly perceived underneath the accumulation, and a faint buzzing vibration fills the room. Closer to hand, however, a withered arm protrudes from a bulge on the floor, and a shadowy figure can be seen against the wall, preserved beneath the hardened layers.

This room is the lair of 1d4+1 apisastes, who have completely coated the small cavern in their secretions. The substance has hardened and poses no immediate danger, but the apisastes move through a complex network of voids and gaps far too small for the characters to access, allowing them to attack without exposing anything more than their head. The golden substance is brittle and shatters easily, but a character smashing it without taking precautions (such as gloves and a mask) must make a save or take 1 points of damage from razor-sharp shards each round.

The two corpses in the room have a few gems and coins on them, less than 200 gp in total. The real treasure lies in the second room, the hive of 3 giant bees (use giant wasp stats if giant bees aren't available in your chosen system). The bees use a narrow natural chimney in the rock to access the room, which the apisastes have largely sealed off from their own lair (the apisastes can enter the hive through small holes that the bees are too large to enter). The hive is filled with thick combs of valuable honey, literally barrels of honey. A third corpse is encased on the floor between the two rooms; he has a few gems and coins, and an amber bee figurine of wondrous power (the figurine transforms into a monstrous giant bee once per day for one hour with double HD and damage, and can carry one rider.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NOT THE OSR Superstar Map

So the OSR Superstar competition has wrapped up, more or less. I forget what actually happened, but I was unable to submit an entry in the final round. I did complete the map (again, more or less), but not the adventure. Turns out this is a complete and utter fabrication. This is a DIFFERENT map based on a partial that Dyson posted months ago. I worked on it around the same time as the OSR map, and got the two confused in my head. Bugger.

I haven't looked at this for about 9 months, but I really like how the map came out. There are discrete areas, but it's possible to reach all of them from within the dungeon. The multiple levels worked out well, and I like how the grid changes orientation as it crosses the chasm. I think I'll find this and work it up for my current campaign. This part is true. I do like it.

OK, I've had questions about the levels, which are confusing and aggravated by the fact that I didn't finish the hatching or some details. There are 4 levels. The stream flows from center left (the conch cave) and exits the map at lower left.

Level 1, the bottom level, is the chasm floor and the stream. From the chasm you can go upstream to the "conch cave" (upper left) and take the ladders to level 4; up a secret trapdoor or ramp to level 2; climb or fly to the bridge at level 3; and climb or fly to the broken passages at level 4.

Level 2 is the complex in the upper right. It has a secret trapdoor down to the stream passage; an exterior entrance; and a passage into the chasm that descends a ramp to the chasm floor.

Level 3 has a secret exterior entrance at upper left, and another at lower right, which should probably have some kind of ledge outside since it's higher than the level 2 entrance. It crosses the chasm via a built stone bridge. A flight of stairs leads to level 4, or you can jump off the bridge into the chasm, or off the room that crumbled into the statue alcove off the chasm.

Level 4 is at the bottom of the map, and reached via the stairs from level 3, or ladders in the conch chamber, or by climbing/flying up the chasm. The stream and chasm have shifted since the construction, destroying some of the hallways and making the top complex a little less secret. I think there is supposed to be a rope bridge over one section, though.

The chasm initially was supposed to be wholly underground, but I'm leaning towards it being open right now. It lends a different dynamic to the place. If the chasm is open, the large alcove with the statue is covered, as is the section at upper right above the ramp.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Warriors of Arthur's Court

I am working on a new pdf. It's not really a proper issue of Secrets (although I'm hoping for one of those soon too), but rather compiling the tables I came up with from Culhwch & Olwen, including 11 d20 random tables of Warriors from King Arthur's court, 1 d20 table of women, 1 d20 of magical treasures, 1 d20 of animals, 1 d12 of magical beasts (not horses, dogs, or oxen), and 1 of giants & witches (only 4 entries, but hey, work with what you've got). I'm planning on simple stats for the animals, beasts, and treasures, and some kind of simple class/level table for the warriors & women. I'll see if I can work out some kind of dual-stat system for S&W/5e.

5e, incidentally, is occupying most of my brain space. Sorry, but that's what happens. I'm not sure if I'll dual-stat Secrets from here on out, or do two different versions, a S&W and a 5e. I might also see about redoing issues 1 and 2 for 5e.