D&D Weather

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Angband, by Angus Mcbride, or, A Million Gazillion Orcs

Sunny days and crisp weather have arrived here, and that always puts Dungeons and Dragons on my brain– because way back in 1983 a bunch of us would hang out behind our high school on days like this and play through a very freeform megadungeon game of my own creation. I particularly remember a moment I’ve written about before, where one of my players (who always wanted to run ahead on his own) opened a door, only to be informed that behind it was a massive chamber with 200 orcs… to which his response is “I slam the door and run away!” Fun times. XD

At the time, I didn’t use the D&D rules, partially because I had all of a Holmes Basic Set and an AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide to work from (making for an incomplete and often contradictory ruleset to begin with), but mostly because I didn’t have the patience to sit down and puzzle it all out.

What I did have the patience for, for whatever reason, was to create my own ridiculously kloodgey homebrew system that took bits of D&D and blended it with bits of Heritage’s Dungeon Dwellers series and then, at the table, was mostly ignored. This game system was called “Mid-Evil,” which I was very proud of at the time. >.>

Did I mention I was 13?

A year later, I tried to leverage this same mostly-nonsensical system into an espionage/modern action game called “I Spy,” which was just as nonsensical and took the inspiration for its one usable scenario from a segment of “The Bloodhound Gang” from 3-2-1 Contact.

So, yeah, “ambitious, but not sophisticated,” about sums me up in those days.

But as dorky and sophomoric as all these things were, they had fire and a pure love of the game that still makes me grin to remember. As I began to develop more sophistication I moved on to MERP and from there to the HERO System, becoming ever more enamored of “realism” and “maturity”– mostly because I was still young and insecure about such things.

A lot of my games from this second period were very sophisticated by comparison– I had a “street-level superheroes” campaign that delved into dark topics and psychology and presaged things like The Killing Joke by a matter of years. But at the same time, a lot of my gaming sessions felt like work– we were trying so hard to Make Art out of the game, that we would lose sight of the fact that we were a bunch of nerds sitting around a table rolling dice to control the fate of fictional characters.

These days, I’d like to think I can have the best of both worlds. I have primarily returned to D&D (using the actual rules, even), but I work with the players to integrate their characters’ personalities and background into the campaign. There are random encounter tables, but they are built with an eye toward reinforcing the theme or environment of the adventure instead of being a giant kitchen sink of weirdness. There are serious NPC allies, enemies, or wildcards, but there are also moments of pure goofiness.

But most importantly, I remember these days why I fell in love with the game in the first place– those crazy moments of shared story that we were all creating together, where the stuff on the paper was there if we wanted it, but also didn’t matter if it didn’t actually make things more fun. And I’m always grateful for D&D weather, because that’s what it reminds me of.

-The Gneech

Uncanny Midnight Tales

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Uncanny Midnight Tales, by John

Madison Beacon-Examiner handout for UMT Back in 2008, I was a huge fan of Star Wars Saga Edition, and in some ways it’s still my favorite iteration of the d20 engine. For this game, I created a Call of Cthulhu tribute game, Uncanny Midnight Tales. With Halloween a mere two weeks away, I thought now might be a good time to once again share it with the world!

Watch out, Not Howard Carter!What’s presented is not a complete game– it requires the Star Wars Saga Edition rulebook to play (and of course, SWSE was not OGL, so there isn’t any SRD for it), but for the most part it could be played in 5E with little alteration. But it does include character creation, equipment, and a Gamemaster Guide with a ready-to-go adventure and a collection of creature and monster stats.

Really, the entire project was more an excuse for me to create “my vision” of what a d20-based CoC might look like, but I had a lot of fun with it and creating all the handouts, and I don’t want it to be lost to the world. So go forth! Click on any of the images and have some spoopy fun this Halloween, on me!

-The Gneech

Fictionlet

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“Due to the peculiar placement of a seam,” Greg said, “my waistband reads ‘Fruit of the Lruit.”

“What in the entire realm of all human experience might make you want to think I wanted to know that?” asked Brigid.

“What in the entire realm of all human experience might make you think that whether or not you want to know something is relevant to whether I will say it?” Greg replied.

“Have you considered the fact that if you were to die suddenly, it would take weeks before even your closest friends might notice if I were clever in hiding my tracks?” said Brigid.

“Point,” said Greg.

-The Gneech

<-- previous B&G

Be the Sandbox You Want to See In the World

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…Yeah, okay, that title doesn’t make much sense. >.> But we’ll roll with it!

My Storm King’s Thunder campaign is rolling along nicely, going on something like two years now. SKT was hailed in reviews as being a terrific sandboxey adventure, which it kinda-sorta is, and kinda-sorta isn’t [1], but we are now in the “post Eye-Of-the-All-Father” stage of the campaign, which very much isn’t a sandbox, as written. I want to avoid spoilers, but I will say that if you’re familiar with SKT, you will probably know what I mean when I say that from Chapter Five forward, it’s pretty much a railroady race to the end, with scripted cutscenes for NPCs to have big moments baked in and everything.

Which, y’know, makes a certain amount of sense. You can’t really write “a campaign in a book” like this and have the ending make any kind of sense, if you don’t collapse all the probability waveforms down into a single cohesive storyline. But running a railroad game is fundamentally opposed to my Gamemastering credo, specifically items #7 and #9. So how to resolve this?

Actually, the answer is also in the Credo, specifically item #11. I’m tossing in a bunch of potential side-quests of my own design, most if not all of which are optional. The most recent sessions involved the characters happening upon a derelict cloud giant skycastle that by the machinations of fate was tied in to one of the PCs’ backstories– none of which is in the adventure-as-written. This particular side-quest kinda floated in the liminal space between sandbox and railroad, in that I was pretty confident that when confronted with an unexpected floating island, the PCs would want to check it out… but they also had the option, and the story would not have been broken, if they just shrugged and said, “Meh, the Oracle told us to go to Ironslag, let’s keep going to Ironslag.”

The scenario ended with them in something of a quandary about what to do next: they’ve still got the task at Ironslag waiting for them, but I can see at least three other directions they might want to go from here, and none of them would be “wrong answers.” One of those is even still on the Storm King’s Thunder script! Another one involves stopping at a town where they’ve never been and– guess what– that town is also a mini-quest-hub that has at least three side-quests going on as well.

I don’t expect the players to do all these side-quests, and honestly I wouldn’t want them to– it would probably feel tediously grindy to go on every monster-hunt they happened across, and you could play an MMO for that. But having the quests there gives the players “breathing space” around the main plot, in order to pursue their own agendas, which is what sandbox play is really all about at the heart of it.

It’s entirely possible that the players will look at the side-quests, say “Screw that noise!” and carry on racing towards the end of Storm King’s Thunder instead. That’s fine, too! It’s entirely consistent with my GM credo to let the players buy their tickets and get on the plot railroad, if that’s what they have chosen to do.

[1] Actually, very few D&D games are actually “sandboxes.” What they may be is “open world,” but that’s another discussion all together. My experience is that most of the time, when people describe a D&D adventure as a sandbox, what they mean is “not a railroad.” ;P

Choose the $200 Patreon Goal Hit Bonus Art!

Blacktigr reference sheet commission

Okay, so it turns out that raffles are officially not allowed as Patreon rewards. Like, at all. Some people may still be doing them, but it is technically a violation of TOS (third bullet under All About Being a Creator), so my idea of a raffle is out.

So instead, I’ve decided to invite my subscribers to come up with and vote on a piece of bonus art by describing something they’d like to see me draw over the next few days. Then later this week (probably Weds or Thurs) I’ll bring them all together into a poll and everyone can vote on what they’d like to see. Think of it as a crowdsourced commission. 😉

(Note: This is in addition to the monthly SJ Boogie and other images.)

Ground Rules

  1. It has to be something I’m willing to draw, so all the usual caveats of no gore, cruelty, disempowerment, that kind of jazz apply. Things I’m not willing to draw, simply won’t go onto the poll.
  2. It can involve the SJ cast, OCs, pop culture characters, whatever. It could be another Ponies vs. Daleks piece if that’s what would float your boat.
  3. Maximum three characters, pls.
  4. It can be a NSFW piece (rule 1 still applies), but that would only be available to $5+ subscribers. If a SFW version is feasible, that will be available to all subscribers.

So! Whattya want to see? 🙂 Here are some potential ideas I’ve had, which will also be on the poll:

  • Finished version of Slippery When Wet.
  • Langley: Bikini-top snatcher! And a very irritated Charity.
  • Ponies vs. Daleks: Princess Luna
  • Ponies vs. Daleks: Princess Cadance

Head on over and post your ideas! (Only ideas from subscribers will go into the poll, thanks! ^.^’)

-The Gneech

So What’s the Deal With My Patreon?

Me and some of my best imaginary friends.
Me and some of my best imaginary friends.

So yeah, my foray into the world of adult art has in fact doubled my Patreon income, which is awesome! Bringing it all the way up to… $176 a month? O.o

Mind you, I’m grateful to all of my supporters, especially those at the top who have gone above and beyond all of the reward tiers and stuck with me for nearly half a decade. You folks are amazing!

But I look at “comparables” doing similar work to mine, and I see…

Clearly, my Patreon is underperforming, and I need to figure out why, and how to change that. Suburban Jungle Boogie was the first step, and it certainly had an impact! The next few months will be building on that success. My Patreon growth goals for 2018 are:

  • June 30: $200
  • July 31: $300
  • August 31: $500
  • October 31: $600
  • November 30: $750
  • December 31: $1,500

How am I gonna do this? I have no idea! So I’d love to hear any input or suggestions from anyone, ranging from creators who have succeeded and how they did it, to supporters who would be willing to tell me why they chose which artists to support and at what level. And once I have it figured out, you can bet I’ll be back here to report how I did it, because I love you. 😉

Meanwhile, please enjoy a word from Leona Lioness…

Leona is not safe for work.