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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Classic Traveller: Returning to the ETU-A1215 Subsector

Wow, I cannot believe two years have passed since I took my first crack at running a game of Classic Traveller (link to private community but I'll let you in if your curious).

It would have continued to languish I'm sure, but Calvin & Hobbs, I mean Gobs & Hoblins, no that's not right; +Jason Hobbs of Hobbs & Friends of the OSR started whining like a teen about wanting to try more OSR games he never played before, including Traveller. Perfect, he would never know if I'm running it wrong. Seriously though, I once knew how he feels. I had my experience. Here was an opportunity to pass it on.

The initial adventure arc finished with a single survivor from a party of four experienced Traveller grognards. I asked this lone survivor if he was down for continuing and like all CT junkies  he was in. Hobbs is dragging some other OSR devotees along and it is now time to pick up where The Monolith from Beyond Space & Time last left us. 

So I start to hyperventilate a bit. The setting felt nice and containable two years ago because I knew what I was going to do; sci-fi horror. Players encounter a dangerous anomaly and let the carnage flow. No need to think about greater campaign implications cause most likely everyone will die. See that label "Ahenti" in the upper left of the subsector map? I have know idea what that means. I just wrote it cause I liked it when it popped into my mind two years ago. 

But now the chickens are coming home to roost. Now I have to maintain the weird horror science fiction role play with the same level of coolness that tMfBS&T infused. Can I still rely on the LBB's of CT to fuel another satisfying adventure arc filled with close, personal action against the backdrop of a galactic setting?

The Traveller Out of the Box series over at the Tales to Astound blog got me straight on Classic Traveller is not the Third Imperium. Classic Traveller is not an implied setting. Classic Traveller is about making the action where the PC's are and be about what they are doing. Those attractive thin black books sit mutely promising... what? The LBB's deliver on a core OSR concepts which TSR summed up nicely; "Tools for the Imagination!" Don't let us do your imagining for you I think they also said. This is your deal. This is your show. You have to bring it. I have a couple of days now to marinade my mind with all my favorite messed up sci-fi stuff. Then I have to laser focus all the star-spanning ideas into a tightly packaged shit show. 

The suggestion box is now open.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

$200 Adventure Writing Contest!

I am offering a $200.00 prize for a 1,000 word adventure which will be included in Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery.

Here is the pitch; Race of Sorrows, a "Faction Kit" adventure culminating in a championship horse race. The text should focus on the various NPC's scheming to win. The "best" rider is a poor peasant underdog now kidnapped by an alchemist. The alchemist has a process to steal the rider's skill and transfer their abilities into the alchemist's own jockey.


The adventure should facilitate the Crypt Keeper in allowing the PC's to involve themselves in the adventure in any way they see fit. I'm looking at +Zzarchov Kowolski 's Scenic Dunnsmouth as an example of what I have in mind. This would allow the PC's to champion the underdog, scheme with any of the cheating factions or just straight up try to uncover who the fix is on and bet accordingly. 

There is one site location which needs to be considered; the alchemist's abode, but how this is presented is up to your interpretation. 

Don't worry about game stats or anything about pari-mutuel wagering. I've spent way too much time at the track so I have payout resolution covered. 

The race should be a procedural "saving throw" to achieve a winner.

Submission deadline is March 16, 2018 so four weeks. Winning criteria is completely subjective; it will be what I like best. At a thousand words this works out to twenty cents a word. Going over the word count is okay, but does not increase my stake. But a thousand is minimum for consideration. Unless you are absolutely genius and your submission stands head and shoulders above the rest!

Who wants the bloody crown of victory and skin me out of my jaw teeth!


Submissions can be sent to me here on G+ or jay@vanishingtowerpress.com.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

USR Sword & Sorcery spotted in the wild!

+Brian Isikoff flashed on Google+ he was considering USR Sword & Sorcery for running +Mike Evans Ennie Award Winning setting Hubris!



That. Is. So. Cool!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Norton & Goodman together again…

One of my regular players could not make last weeks regularly scheduled game. Going on over two years of online play he has never missed a session so he is involved in like everything which has happened to date. During the previous session when the good Dr. Thomas Norton last played he ended up getting separated from the party so being absent didn't force any hand-waving to explain his absence. Still, with vacation coming up here at the end of the week another regularly scheduled session was going to be scratched leaving the next live session not until February 18. Damn, just too darn long for my tastes. What to do, what to do…


I decided on an off week bonus game session. It would focus on the activities of the Dr. until he was able to rejoin the party proper. This would also give me a chance to let a previous regular player jump in for a session since, no fault of his own, he had to change his schedule like last year and could no longer make the live sessions.

Without going into a detailed session report, okay, a mildly detailed session report, I have to say I really like splitting the party and having action happen “off-screen” to the rest of the party. Time commitments are the only thing holding me back from doing this ongoing, but getting in another session covering mushrooming campaign action was a blast. First, I get a bigger game world with multiple courses of action occurring. Second, it gives me practice towards accomplishing my ultimate role-playing goal. I'm sure this has been done before, but I would like to have different campaigns with different players meet up in special cross-over sessions much like Elric would run into manifestations of himself in the multiverse. This means I would have tangential relations to the major world changing effects/enemies in each of the different campaign worlds and players who previously didn't know anything about the other game would find themselves face to face with PC's they've never encountered before, even possibly playing a completely different game system then the other party. Something uniquely doable with online play.

But on this night of January 19, 1646 in Great Yarmouth the gasping, spent Dr. is urged on by his old Puritan soldiering grognard companion Saul Goodman coming out of the gloom. Recently returned from a secret mission on Zeal's behalf he immediately searched for Dr. Thomas Norton when finished debriefing. Norton had split from his badly wounded companions in the hopes of keeping the escaping Xaxus/Martyn, the current villainous threat, and his loaded wagon in sight.

Random rolls established how long before the pair located the now abandoned wagon and we got underway. This is where I hoped to channel some of those great city pursuit adventures. A bit of Carlito's Way, The Matrix Reloaded, Collateral, Bourne Identity, etc. was what I had in mind for the session, but this is 1646. What kind of sexy, neo-noir, dangerous urban challenges does a cold night in the golden age of dysentery have to offer our ruthless duo? What would actually be interesting to encounter but not seem like utter rubbish? Going to the historical record has been really useful for my game prep. One, I know “bollocks” about this period of time, and two, +James Raggi has built his successful line of game adventures on this time period so this tells me there are plenty of real horrible tales to be told from such a record. Still the question stands, what is their to do in a town like Great Yarmouth when street lights haven't even been invented yet?

The abandoned wagon provided a rather staid opening for session start. I spiced it up with some hanger-ons drinking and fornicating among the ransacked goods. This gave the PC's their first chance to pick up the trail. Their target left with one of the locals and they got a direction. The next possible encounter was a Puritan mass for some of the destitute locals. While there target was not here I provided another clue from a parishioner. What made it interesting? I poached descriptions from the beginning of Moby Dick. Ishmael's night wanderings in Nantucket can provide great sights, sounds and smells of an active fishing town. Sexy? In the eye of the beholder. But its Melville, the guy can write. You would have to be one of Dr. Norton's patients not to respond somehow to what he is laying down. So this encounter gets the PC's some more concrete location information and they make their move. I couldn't find any “historical” record of my next location, I made it up, but it was time to put out my 1646 disco ball! An illicit “tea” shop serving up the new rage from the New World; coffee and cocaine! Complete with a tuned-up accordion player and upscale clientele. I'm a big fan of random encounters and I rolled a Doctor, a Dr. Howy Brass, as the random NPC the villain would encounter here. I rolled this ahead of time during my session prep. This gives me time to ask myself the usual questions; "Why would Xaxus find this person interesting/useful?", "What would such an encounter lead to?". This would be my plot hook to hang my alien god on so I wanted it to be satisfying, make sense and offer opportunities to kill PC's. Back to historical research. What fucked up things could your average Paracelsan physician get up into? I came away from google with Distillation Furnaces and Boyle's Law. Click, click, click. So we have coked out monied gentleman, one experimenting with purifying the mind of ill-humors and a desperate alien entity looking to convert as many people as possible to his cause as willing slaves, hmm….

I won't bore you with any more details. Suffice to say this provided plenty of activity and action for the PC's to engage with and let the bloody chips fall where they may. And it left me feeling, split the party? Hell yeah!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Assassin's Guild Random Name Generator

Scott Malthouse posted a quick table which will give you one hundred random names for your Assassin's Guild. Here is the text thrown together for your very own one-click generator;





How To Create a Gangbusters Gathox Character

Starting work on my Gathox Vertical Slum campaign world with Gangbusters rules for a hope to be face to face game. Here are my initial character creation rules outlined for use at the first session. 

Players create their PC's by rolling dice to find the characters' four starting ability scores. These are the standard attributes listed in the Gangbusters core rules; Muscle, Agility, Presence and Observation. Feel free to roll these scores in any order you wish. But unlike in the regular Gangbusters rules, do not automatically add the ABILITY MODIFIERS for each ability. Whether or not a particular ability receives the modifier is determined by choice of character class. A player may choose any one of the following classes for their new PC. Read the description for each character class from Gathox Vertical Slum. When you find one you like apply the ability modifiers listed below for that class to the single starting attribute named.


Street Tough - Presence
Soldier - Muscle
Martial Master - Agility
Spiritualist - Luck
Faith Healer - Presence
Cosmic Doctor - Observation

Hit Points and Punching Score are determined normally. Following are additional changes a particular Character Class will make to the regular Gangbusters character creation process.

Street Tough: While this militant receives an ability modifier only for Presence, their Punching Score is determined as if they had received an ability modifier to Muscle. For example; a Street Tough with a Muscle of 50 would have a Punching score of 4 instead of 3.

Soldier: Starts the game with the skill Public Speaking. Starting skill level is determined per standard Gangbusters rules. Public Speaking in Gangs of Gathox is referred to as Discipline and the skill's general use and effects are detailed in the Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.

Martial Master: Starts the game with the skill Martial Arts. Starting skill level is determined per standard Gangbusters rules. The effects of Martial Arts in combat are detailed in Part 11: Optional Expert Rules of the Gangbusters rules.

Spiritualist: Their roll for starting Luck attribute is done by applying an Ability Modifier to the percentile roll before the score is divided in half. Their power of Psychometry can be used as described.

Faith Healer: Their power of Lay on Hands can be used as described.

Cosmic Doctor: Their power of Echoes of the Future can be used as described.

The three Mentalists classes are still subject to random wild magic effects as described in the Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.


Mutants are created per normal Gangbusters rules. This means unlike the militants and mentalists listed above, mutants do receive Ability Modifiers. After attributes are figured then roll for their mutations per Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.

Write your character's name at the top of the page. This name should give yourself and others a flavor for the Player Character (PC) attitude and image in the world of Gathox.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

LotFP off the Shelf, again!

Today's game session had the PC's leaving the city proper hot on the heels of an adversary. I was prepared for the PC's to get bogged down in more street to street action but the random encounter I rolled gave them a slight advantage and they were able to allude the major confrontation which threatened them at session start. With increased freedom of movement the action quickly outstripped any prep I had done. Going on vacation soon so truth is I really did no prep for today's game.

We are playing Renaissance but I include many LotFP adventure modules in which to build my fantasy English Civil War world on. I'm not too worried about spoilers here because I chop up all the published materials I use to obfuscate what will come next. These are all seasoned gamers and have tons of time in CoC adventures so I know I have to work to keep things interesting. Including making encounters mysterious even if the players have read the material.


Saying I did no prep is not actually correct either. Because I like to purchase quality stuff that meant I had just what I needed on my shelf. Scenic Dunnsmouth was about to see its first game in live fire!

Now this adventure module by +Zzarchov Kowolski  is not one to use unread. But I had read through the module when I initially bought it and even used the built-in prep sequence to see what I had. Therefore I had some idea how I was going to use the content. I just didn't remember it all. What I did know was the module was filled with detailed NPC's and locations and should give me enough hooks and seeds to keep the hunt lively. The trick is what to cut away. Not every NPC can be a psychotic nut-job devil worshiping cannibal. Not every location can be fraught with danger, otherwise “suspension of disbelief” gets eroded and the campaign's uniqueness is diluted. This just makes the module the center of attention, not the PC's. The other trick is to deftly incorporate the ongoing game events the players are concerned with seamlessly with the written material in front of me. So the events don't seem forced or the PC's feel shoehorned into situations and their agency has been stripped away.

Scenic Dunnsmouth performed admirably. I was able to scan locations quickly and decide what would be encountered first. Followed by the laundry list of NPC's I could populate encounters with vivid personalities. This gave the PC's buttons and levers to push, get some environmental feedback as they figure out what to do. This also gives me time to make picks. Who is false, what are the dead ends, and where would the big bad go in this situation. I'm not saying walls of text and endless detail are what is found inside. No, just that Kowolski provides people and places which are interesting. With my random name generator I made earlier I was able to use the tried and true technique of changing names. But not always. Because in the rush of gaming I sometimes forget which name was assigned to which NPC. Peoples & Places and Miscellania were the two sections of Scenic Dunnsmouth I relied on the most. PC's got folks to interact with, their suspicious of everything which moves, I got only forty more minutes of game time to fill…

I don't want to make it sound like my whole game is one random table after another, but random tables are an essential tool to keep me from bogging down. Consistently LotFP adventures have given me these essential ingredients; 1. Interesting stuff for PC's to engage, and 2. Interesting stuff for me, the Game Master, to mull over and what it could mean for the PC's future fortunes.

I also don't want to make it sound that whatever comes off the LotFP press is useful to me. If adventure material does not fit my vision I'm not going to use it in the game. My players deserve more than just filler. But as I run more games not in the dungeon, without those reliable thick walls to contain a session's activities, I find this companies output gives me stuff to use immediately which interests me at the table as well as my players. This is also the easy part. Now things are set in motion. Now I need to drill down into my ideas and my originality to tie what was started by the PC's together into horrible climaxes where all hangs in the balance!