Pergamino Barocco – Alternative Binding

The Pergamini Barocchi have been printed. If all goes well I should be able to ship the first batch next week.

Tonight I found some binding leatherette and, well, I wanted to know if the Pergamino would do well with an alternative binding. So instead of the two split hardcovers I’d make a normal book case and attach one of the end of the concertina to it, leaving the other free.

Thing is, leatherette hates me. With a passion. It’s a stubborn hateful piece of scorn and I can’t seem to glue it even with a plasma torch.

But tonight, kind reader, tonight the leatherette was conquered.

Here are some pictures.

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Pressing the cover.

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100% vegan-compatible, non renewable leatherette. Might add some kind of clasp or tie like this braided one.2013-05-16 23.28.58

Contents seem to be accessible.
2013-05-16 23.29.11MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. By the way, this copy is not really for sale as it has some minor imperfections I’m not really happy with. Small imperfections. On the other hand I ran out of dark brown leatherette and have only some reddish left, and I REALLY LIKE THE BROWN ONE. But if you do really like it too we can have a chat.

Mind you, none of them will be 100% straight and without kinks because I’m just an hobbyist.

If you have bought a Pergamino already: if you prefer this binding, let me know and I’ll happily oblige.

If you have inquired about a Pergamino: you’re part of the waiting list. Email me because IT’S BOOKBINDING TIME. This means some kind of transfer of money or food or something so that me and Roger can feel motivated to do more and better.

If you have not bought a Pergamino and want one: at the moment I have what can be termed a surplus of scrolls. But it’s not really a surplus because there’s a waiting list. I’m not sure I’m going to print many more because, well, It’s really expensive to make.

So, yeah. My email is as per use tsojcanth at gmail. The webstore is here.

Adventure Fantasy Game Spellcasting: how I (re)learnt to love undeads, but not that way, and considerations

Spellcasting in Adventure Fantasy Game differs quite a bit from your run-of-the-mill OSR game, and from other systems too. The closest is Roger’s, and that’s because we had a long chat about them back in the day. How is it different from traditional D&D spellcasting?

First, there’s no split between divine and arcane magic. I’m not sure of the reasons that led Gygax to split spell lists, but i suspect none of them are good. Moreover, the concept of clerics getting more spells with levels instead of by increasing the standing in front of their gods is a bit fishy. It seems as if there were no gods but instead the spells came from the cleric inner powers… exactly like magic-users. This change did not break the game.

Second, it’s mana based, but each spell can be cast only once a day. This allows each spell to costs one mana point, simplifying the system a lot, while making actually harder to play casters. Difficulty is moved from “what should I memorize today?” and “is this the right moment to cast Sleep?” to a broader “I have no idea if I should cast now and what”, simply because every spell is a unique life-saving snowflake. It’s possible to cast a given spell a second time using items called fetishes: grab a fetish, spend one mana, a specific spell goes off. A fetish can be used once a day. There are also Mana Vessels which store a mana point; full vessels can power spells up to a given level and need to be recharged by a caster. Also, very importantly, each caster has access to all his spells all the time, so even very narrow-use spells see play instead of laying forgotten and unmemorized in musty tomes. This means that even bad spells are used a lot: Giving the Gift of Life, a level 0 spell that heals 1d6 hits at the cost the same amount of temporal hits to the caster, is seen by casters’s players as a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic kick in the groin.

Third, everybody can cast level 0 spells, provided they can somehow get one measly mana.Rolling a high Spirit is an option, grabbing a full mana vessel is another. The concept is that your level-zero auntie did really cast spells and sung those zombies back to the grave and could read any language. Your non-caster PC might not know spells yet, but fetishes are moderately common and teaching rules are kindly provided. Now, finding an equally kind teacher is a completely different topic. 🙂

Fourth, every single caster seems to be a little necromancer that could. Possibly because players love pets in RPGs. Possibly because necromancer want to be fiddling with corpses. Possibly because the equivalents of “charm undead”, “animate but not control a skeleton” and “animate a skeleton” can be respectively cast by a caster of level 0, 1 and 2. The first two can be of course combined (but the control spell costs 1 mana a day to upkeep), while the last one costs 50 coins in components. This does not stop low level casters from keeping a few skeletons around “just in case”. This, of course, might bother the peasants and burgers. Which is one of the reasons why casters live out in the sticks. It’s also a useful way of recycling discarded armour. This early undead proliferation is interesting because it directly impacts on the setting: low level mages will exhume corpses from graveyards and will have a small group of fanatical undead goons protecting them, if they can find the money. Some of you will cringe at the thought of game balance suffering from this: don’t. The Original Tilean Murderhoboes are masters at breaking everything, but this did not break the game. Instead, ponder the implication of low-level necromancy on your campaign world.

Fifth, it’s not just the system, it’s a whole different spell ecology. All the 80+ spells are new, the first purely offensive spell is cast at level 2, and there are a grand total of 8 damaging spells in the whole manual. There’s no Sleep spell. Hell Gate, the closest thing to Fireball, opens a gate to hell spouting raging flames, possibly gating in uncontrollable demons. Casters in AFG are not there to dish tons of damage but to do what mere mortals cannot: bend reality with words.

Comments and discussions here

Cover Art for Chthonic Codex (or at least probably, I’m confused)

Cover art is required to be awesome but sometimes it’s so awesome it’s annoying as you’d like to use it again and again but since it’s tied to a particular product you really can’t use it more than once or else people get confused. Unless you want to confuse potential buyers, just don’t.

Why opening with such a confusing paragraph?

Because I’m confused.

Because I acquired “Creation of a Better Human” by Claire Maclean, pictured below. And I love it to bits. I worked with Claire already for AFG, where she did a darn good job with idols and characters.


And I want CoaBH to be a cover for a book on wizards that might never be completed. Said book (let’s call it Project G) might or might not end up being merged with the Chthonic Codex as they are really close in spirit and setting, if not in at-the-table-target-user: the Codex  is aimed at GMs, while Project P at people that want spellcasters to be awesome-r.

But the Codex is an in-game book as well, mostly written in-character by the Grand Sorcerer of the Fire Valley Deleterios XIII for the benefit of other Savants of the Fire Valley and he was exactly the kind of person that would write and collate an omnibus version of Fire Valley related arcana.

So, there you go. I decided. Project G will fold in the Chthonic Codex.

Comments on Google Plus here.

Pergamino Barocco: Not your usual spell RPG supplement

In the life of a small-small-small-small-press RPG publisher there are times when substance and content is the only thing that matters. Some other times, instead, it’s mostly about style. Then there are some lucky combinations where both need to be turned up to 11.

RPG supplements about spells and magic are usually awfully plain lists of descriptions of spells, all crammed up in as few pages as possible and seemingly written in the driest way possible.

Enters the Pergamino Barocco

And here is where Roger and I break the mold. Because you always wanted your spells to be in a book that looks like a spellbook, feels like a spellbook and illustrated with arcane imagery. Maybe handbound. Like in the picture below, showing Roger’s copy.

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The Pergamino Barocco contains a panoply of arcane knowledge ready to be used in your old school fantasy game. Each spell (designed and written by Roger) occupies at least a page and is illustrated with a period woodcut.

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And it’s not going to be a stitched book, but a folded scroll. So not only you can page through it as a normal book, but you can also display any number of pages you want at the same time,  potentially all of them at the same time, as shown below [*]. This also makes possible for multiple magic-users to peruse the book at the same time should they agree to share its secrets.

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I will bind all copies (click for some examples of my bound books), individually and carefully, by hand. The cost is not exactly defined but it will be around 15£ + s/h (free shipping to the UK).

You can choose your Pergamino to be bound in your choice of the following materials: maroon buckram (washable and resistant, same quality of Roger’s copy but maroon), purple bookcloth (nice feeling, more delicate book-grade cloth) or black japanese silk (three copies only, price around 25£ due to the sheer cost of book-grade silk). And will come with a gold-yellow ribbon, because all books need at least a bookmark. [**]

The print run is going to be extremely limited. First come, first serve basis. Custom orders are naturally possible. Preorder here.

[*]: my garden-variety gnome Gnaro is in the picture to provide some scale. I honestly can’t remember how it ended up in the picture in general, and there in particular.

[**]: Roger’s copy does not have one, in case you wonder.

[New Spell] Little Star from the Sky – from the Chthonic Codex

Little Star from the Sky

Level 6 [12 in AFG]

Range: 1 mile.

Radius: 100′

The caster will bring down on a target within range a little start from the sky. If the caster owns a tiny star the spell can throw that instead. The star will enter the atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory, hit the target unerringly and explode for 8d6 impact & star-cradle-level-fusion-powered radioactivity damage, no save. The radioactive explosion will damage everything within the radius of the spell, scattering debris and dealing 8d6 damage. Damage can be halved if both a death ray and magic save are successful, reduced to 3/4 if only one is successful.

Making stars fall can anger gods, especially if the caster does not own the star and casts it more than once a year or in the same calendar day in different years.

Fear and Writing Games, plus a spell

My OSR Fantasy Hearthbreaker is near completion. The problem is that as I write the number of topics I think I should cover grows and grows. Where’s the Devotion & Religion chapter? And am I being too lazy providing spells for only the first 6 levels of the game? Maybe I should add an introductory adventure. The shopping list is too short. It needs rules to teach apprentices. What about coming up with new fighting techniques? And are six magic genres enough? Should I coalesce Divination and Mentalism? Should I add more special abilities to the Monster Generator? Is the Setting Development chapter usable and understandable, but even if it is am I doing the right thing not providing an example worked out?

This got really uncomfortable, to the point where I found myself paralyzed and unable to continue. I don’t want to release a 200 page handbook next year, I want a 64 pages handbook this spring.

The feature creep is caused by fear.

Fear of writing the hard bits, those that are not really covered by other games, the unfamiliar territory. Those that might make you ridicule in front of people, the bits you haven’t playtested enough or that you tested too much. Things that might be too brave, or not brave enough.

Enough with the navel-gazing and enjoy the due Joesky tax payment, which speaks more about AFG than many other things I could possibly write.

Mark of the Beast

Level: 1. Range: touch. Casting time: 1 turn. Duration: until next dawn.

The Caster traces on the subject’s forehead the mark of a Demon God (a mystical sigil specific to each Demon God), which will appear glowing in a dark, purplish light. Undead, demons and creatures of evil will recognize the subject as a thrall of the Demon God and must succeed a stubborness save in order to being able to harm or impede the subject at all unless the subject harms them first. If the subject is currently in favour with the specific Demon God no save is allowed. Usually a grimoire covers details of at least one specific mark, so to learn other marks more grimoires must be sourced.

On divination: writing original spells for AFG. Also featuring “a yellowish shade of mauve”

I’m still working on AFG. I want to get a “reasonably complete draft” before the end of next week. AFG has a non-Vancian magical system  that’s still 100% compatible with your retroclone of choice, but I’m not wanting to release anything under the OGL, so I’m writing down a bunch of new spells.

At the moment I’m feeling all happy because I achieved something I feel brings very close narrative, magic tradition, spell effects and weirdness: spells in AFG are not only a tool to change game mechanics, but something that tries a bit harder. Something that stuck me about divination spells in RPGs is that they’re mostly teleological: designers need some result and bend over backwards to motivate it. I think that 3E and Type 4 are, in this respect, much worse than anything that before. As a skeptic with a substantial background in occultism this annoys the heck out of me.

I am not satisfied. I want more.

Moreover, divination is opten seen as some kind of lame, non flashy, ineffective type of magic. My perception of the problem is that most players that would be interested can’t be bothered anymore because GMs do their best of making “spells that break the plot” ineffective. Because, somehow, using a spell to understand whuddonit “breaks the plot/campaign/style/trope/balance” where using a fireball to toast the fuck out of the big baddie doesn’t.

I give my players divination spells because, if they don’t, they’ll die a horrible and surprising death instead of  being able to just about survive.

End of rant. Here comes my last baby (you happy, JOESKY?):

Opening the Third Eye Level 1

Range: self. Casting time: 1 turn. Duration: until next dawn.

An eyelid will form will open on the caster’s forehead, to reveal an eye. The caster will be able, through the third eye, not only to see normally (and have better awareness) but also to perceive auras. The spell does not give any indication of the aura type, but the caster will be able to associate various aura “colours” to different type of auras: for example arcane items emanate something that’s been described in the literature as a “yellowish shade of mauve”.

Also, I got to write “a yellowish shade of mauve”.

You know what’s awesome? A generator of Vancian spell names!

Go to the awesome Chris Pound’s Vancian Spell Generator Name Generator and enjoy (the link was broken for a while, now it’s been fixed). Also Noism covered the name-making Forge recently.

Here’s the first three I got:

Lehia’s immiscible defect MU2 Duration: instantaneous

Physically removes icky stuff from drinks, food and potions and compresses it in a solid, insoluble lump. Works like purify food and water, removes icky bits from badly done potions (making them useless) and mixed potions (if you used the potion miscibility rules, you can just pre-mix potions and make sure the brew is not baaad)

Paskobadi’s entire analysis MU3 Duration: instantaneous

Works like Unveil Arcana but on all the target item’s properties or spells.

Lehermari’s scarce guard MU2 Duration: 1 turn

Target 1d6 individuals at medium range will immediately check morale or leave the area, will also check morale at the beginning of a fight and will make an additional morale check at any time a morale check is needed for other causes.

from the bookshelf: Tumbleclicks

I’m a big fan of choices in games. Possibly rich and meaningful, “real” choices. Choices that can actually force you to change strategy. Going for versatility over reliability for example. As I’m in the process of writing a number of spells to supplement or replace the standard panoplia from B/X, I came up with this to “almost” replace knock, hold portal and the like, as it does almost the same things but, well, takes more time to work, if if works at all. Plus it’s bound to make my cousin really happy, since he’s really really into charme- and compulsion-like spells:

Tumbleclicks – Level 1 MU

Range: self

Casting time: 1 round

Duration: 3 rounds + 1 round/level

The magic user will be able to speak the forgotten metallic language of locks, clockworks and other metallic mechanical contraptions. This will allow the caster to impart to locks and mechanical devices simple orders such as “lock”, “unlock”, “stop” and the like.

The only problem is that the clicks pronounced must be tuned to a specific device, and the caster has a 1 in 6 chance to finding out the specific intonation for a given device every round. Once the specific tone for a device has been found the magic-user will be able to use it again successfully every time if the spell is active, even during a subsequent casting.

Only a single order can be issued per round.

Scrolls, Identification and Magic

Lack of sensible magic creation rules always appalled me in D&D. Possibly because I tend to play magic users and possibly because the difficulty and investment needed to create magic items doesn’t really match up with the relative abundance of it in the standard D&D game.

Same for magic item identification: the only way to identify magic items in BECMI is the slate of identification found in the companion handbook (can’t tell about B/X as i don’t have the cyan box).

Anyway, I decided to mix Holmes Read Magic and normal Identify in a new spell:

Unveil Arcana – level 1 MU, level 1 CL

Range: 1′

Casting time: 1 turn

Duration: instantaneous

The magic user will properly identify and understand one unknown function of a magic item:

For scrolls and spell books: similar to Read Magic, but will identify just a single spell of all the unknown spells present in the scroll or spellbook.

For other magic items: the weakest unknown function of the object will be identified first.

Regarding magic item creation, I’ve made up my mind about spells and potions:

Spell Scribing

A spell-caster can scribe a known spell into a scroll. The process will cost 100 mo and a week per spell level in rare ingredients. No other item production, adventuring or spell research can be done by the caster.

Potion Brewing

A spell-caster can brew a potion that when imbibed will have the effect of a spell that the caster can cast. The process will cost 300 mo and seven days per spell level in rare ingredients. It’s necessary to peruse a laboratory worth at least 5000 mo per spell level. No other item production, adventuring or spell research can be done by the caster.