The Middle Ages were Horrible. Burgs & Bailiffs: call for submissions

The Middle Ages were horrible.

I’m not talking about lack of wifi and lattes, but about famine, disease, violence, tyranny, disease, heavy taxation, war, lack of sanitation, abysmal civil rights, disease, lack of healthcare, servitude and disease. And the cherry on top is that Feudalism, the main form of government in Europe, existed mainly to field bigger armies so kill more enemies and grab more land.

Fantasy RPGs often are sheltered from this kind of problems. Escapism often tones down grimness and replaces it with orcs. But sometimes you want to grab your setting and give it a spoonful of historical horrible mixed with gravel.

Burgs & Bailiffs turns your setting’s grimness up to 11

Then punches it in the face and steals its beer

the cover is not final

Burgs & Bailiffs is a collaborative effort aiming at bringing more grimness and suffering to your fantasy campaign world and we’re going to release it on a Creative Commons licence. If you want to collaborate with a small article (400 to 4000 words) that allows a fellow GM to “grim up” a campaign, send me a two lines proposal via email. The deadline for proposals is in a week, Wednesday 22/August/2021, while the deadline for the draft is the 24th of September 2012.


New Release: Adventure Fantasy Game

Adventure Fantasy Game is out now. Click here to buy it.

All started fourteen months ago when Sham posted three preview posts of the Bleak Beyond. After getting his permission I started to design, develop and test an SRD-based game based on his rules.

Earlier on I decided that the game was not going to be a retroclone, and to drop the SRD. The entire system is based on 5MORE, the concept that most times to succeed you need to roll a d6 and do 5 or more, applying very few modifiers, if any. The only dice used are six-siders, but tt’s still statistic compatible with most old school fantasy adventure games and retroclones, meaning you can yank gaming material  from the past 38 years of our hobby and run them with no need to change anything.

The class system is very flexible, based on a MUD developed in the nineties; it’s similar to both multiclassing for d20 (without some of its fastidious problems) and disciplines from World of Darkness. The Vancian system has been ditched, replaced with a mana-based system after a bibliographic survey, long pondering and a talk with Roger. About 100 new original spells have been written.  Clerics are gone, replaced by a more meaningful approach to worship. Two combat systems are included: the introductory one is a traditional “roll against armour”, while the advanced system features melee contests and armour reducing damage. Then, as I ran more and more playtest sessions, the game incorporated elements inspired from very bright designs such as ZZarchov’s Neoclassic Geek Revival and Delta’s Book of War.

Included in the manual there is also an 8-page hexcrawl adventure with a colour map: “The Temple Beneath the Harga Volcano”. It features mountains, glaciers, lakes, giants, cannibals, giant argonauts, squid templars and a Golden Idol of Cthulhu.

During testing no experience points were ever tracked. Players came up with really inspiring and story-driving accomplishments to complete to level up. We got rid of grind, beancounting, killing the last kobold to pass a level. Characters plotted to murder nobles, chased murderers and bandits, gathered bands of soldiers, accumulated a fortune and chased fabled tomes and golden idols of Cthulhu.

The change in attitude, from chasing experience points to chasing meaningful action, surprised and pleased us all. And I hope it will please you too.

Adventure Fantasy Game is available as PDF and Softcover+PDF. Both versions will give you free updates and the LaTeX source code to rebuild the PDF in case you want to kitbash it or change the layout. Click here to buy Adventure Fantasy Game.

Quick post: AFG Progress, Orders Open

AFG is going through its last production phases.

Here’s a little status report:

  • The transcription and playtest of the adventure “The Volcano and the Temple Beneath” is almost done.
  • Several awesome things happened during playtest sessions.
  • Volcano + cefalopods + cannibals + terrorbugs + jökulhaups = WIN
  • The book is now longer than my research thesis on both counts of words and pages. It will probably grow enough to justify perfect binding instead of staple.
  • People are reading the last draft and giving feedback. They like what they read. This is good.
  • I stopped tweaking the price lists because enough research on medieval economics and prices and baking is enough. The price list is now DONE, the Game Police will not wake me up and arrest me tonight because of inadequate price lists.

What’s left?

  • Go maniacally through the printed proof and see if there’s something even slightly off.
  • Ask another GM to playtest the adventure for me.
  • Make sure that the distributor and my FLGS will actually carry it.

Things are real now.


By the way if you want the Digital release of AFG, inclusive of the current PDF, the final PDF and LaTeX source code for the book with all the future updates for free, email me at tsojcanth+afg AT  gmail using the email linked to your Paypal account; you’ll son receive a 4.50£ Paypal invoice. The digital version also gives you a 4.50£ discount for the Print+Digital bundle (which is expected to cost you 12£+s/h), making it free if you plan to get the hardcopy version anyway.

Forbidden Castle – Stephan Poag Cover Art for Adventure Fantasy Game

Stephan Poag is my favourite OSR illustrator. I contacted him, asked if he’d like to draw a cover for AFG, details were supplied, then he quickly produced an early sketch, feedback was exchanged and acted on.

Then, delivery of what can be only described as “100% faithful to actual game content”:

There’s something about purchasing original art for your game that makes it more real: probably the fact that your pet-project starts to have a material cost, I’m not sure. Working with Stephan has been a pleasure and I hope to do more of the same in the future.

Oh, I almost forgot: AFG will be available soon in two formats: digital and print+digital bundle.

The Digital format will be 4.50£ and will give you early access not only to the PDF of the final version and the early versions, but also to the LaTeX source files in case you want to annotate or modify it. Yes, you get the source files. And on top a 4.50£ discount on the Print+Digital version, so when you decide to upgrade you will pay only the difference.

The Print+Digital bundle details are yet to be perfectly finalized, but will set you off 12£ + s/h for a softcover version of the final release of AFG, an A4 64-pages staple-bound book with colour cover and b/w interiors.

In both cases you get to have an early view of the game, test it and give feedback. I’ve been at the same time writing and playtesting AFG for more than a year now, but I can always use more feedback. You deserve not less than the best. 🙂

OSR Conservation Process goes live!

Some of you might have noticed that the OSR Conservation Process went finally live a few days ago.

UPDATE: the server hosting the site is running from my desk, using my home connection. The unexpected surge of usage makes it really, really slow when many users download files.

I started rambling about OSR conservation a while ago and, after pondering and trying and procrastinating and writing a dissertation, I finally built a prototype and asked people to try it. The site looks a bit janky, not only because you’re probably reading it on a Windows computer that uses Arial instead of high-browsed Helvetica (yes, I’m a typo freak), but also because I’m a lazy web designer.

The tests went fine, the code has been cleaned and secured and now it’s live, accepting submissions and serving files. In the past 6 days 17 files have been submitted and they’ve been downloaded more than 700 times. Leading the download counts is the never enough praised Miscellaneum of Cinder by Jeff Rients, while the latest addiction is the first issue of Fight On!, the other issues available through the official channel, as always.

There’s plenty of work to be done on the side. I’m working on inappropriate content notifications, user comments and “bookshelves”, and tinkering with crowdsourced tagging. I also badly need to talk with a IP lawyer to better define the poor excuse of a licence agreement that OCP uses at the moment. Feedback is, of course, always welcome.

In the future I’d really like to be able to offer deadtree versions of the files using print-on-demand, without of course turning a profit. To be honest I’d like copyright holders to release their free works with a licence that enabled everybody to print them and sell them, like it happens with software, public domain books and most Creative Commons content: there’s work involved in both writing and manufacturing and delivering books, but I really hope to be able to set up an automatic, markup-free POD integration at some point in the future.

Well, I hope this works. We can afford to lose retroclones and  as much as we could afford to lose the original games.

One Page Monster Manual

Apparently my effort toward participating in the Fight ON! Fantasy Table Competition paid off big time and I managed to get the third place (which oddly got published under my real name and not my nom-de-plume). Which is WAAAY better than I expected. One Page Monster Manual is the result of compiling previous work on what monster entries are really about in a more organic form, adding some tidbits to it to make it more self-standing and less sucky. And, most importantly, not using on the viral SRD licence.

I’m really, really inspired by the other entries: it looks like a lot of people did a very very nice job. Al got the second place with a very nifty entry that I’m going to use for sure in my games, for example.

I’d like to keep the “FO! version” under cover until the mighty fine Fight On! peeps put it out, but if you’re wanting to use a previous version it you can find it (together with many other crunchy bits) almost at the end of the free download Transcription of the Lost Pages: Volume 1 (in a multipage A5 version with a lot of whitespace).

And yes, I have more improvements. But without feedback (which is obviously very welcome and always appreciated) I’d rather concentrate on working on other things.

One Page Dungeon on A5

Actually, Two Pages Dungeons on American-Format-Smaller-Than-A6 (3×5″ maybe?).

A while ago I succumbed to my instinct to stockpile stationery and I got myself a moleskine-lookalike…

A7 notepad…left page blank and right page ruled…

Awesome for small content… like small dungeons? 🙂

I meant to write one a day, each based on a single card from Everway decks, as exercise in dungeon design, but then I got busy with moving a thousand miles away and other stuff… 🙂