Wednesday, 14 March 2018

New year, new campaign: a scenario

By the time you read this, the second session of my Other Dust campaign will already have happened and the players will probably know all of this. However, there might be one or two things they haven't spotted, so if you're a player in the campaign, you might not want to read this.

OK, everyone gone? Let's take a look at how I created this short Other Dust scenario. There isn't a lot that's system-specific; it's really just an example of how I develop an idea and the value of random generation!

To begin with: I started out with the parameters of a randomly-generated ruin from the Other Dust rulebook. I knew that this place was a former research establishment that people had attempted, but failed, to reactivate. I also knew that it was inhabited by "beasts." I initially planned for it to be inhabited by a pack of wild Gorehounds who would attack the caravan that was holding the PCs prisoner, giving them an opportunity to escape. But they up and escaped anyway without my intervention, so that was OK.

I had decided that the party trying to restore the Transfer Station were a group of monks from a settlement named CREDO. The random rolls for CREDO produced some weird effects: it was a theocracy that had access to a very powerful piece of pretech but was otherwise medieval-level in its technology. I decided that the ruling caste of priests had some knowledge of pretech but everyone else was at a swords-and-horses level. I then decided there would be a heresy within the faith that was interested in going out and getting more pretech, while the conservative rulers would object to anything that diminished the uniqueness of their big pretech doodad.

As a result, among the prisoners I put another CREDO monk, who had gone looking for his missing colleagues after they never returned from their attempt to reactivate the site, which I named Transfer Station 70. I still hadn't decided what the station actually did, and after the gorehound attack became unnecessary I started to get the sense that simple predators weren't interesting enough to be a main antagonist -- they had been intended to be a complication in a battle with the bandits.

So the last session ended with the PCs about to descend into the access tunnels under Transfer Station 70. I improvised during the session, saying that the Station was a nanofabricator facility -- a neutral nanobot slurry was pumped in here, then encoded with the requisite programming and pumped out as everything from construction material to shower gel. Lot of nanites in the Other Dust setting, where "nanite" = "magic" throughout.

So, over the next week I had to figure out what was down there, based on the following information:
  • missing monks
  • nanotech factory with lots of tanks and pipes
  • something more interesting than wild animals
So I sat down to think about a background. Now, I have mentioned here before that this game uses miniatures. They're not vital, and I'm not picky about positioning, but I do feel that a game with a strong visual inspiration component benefits from having something like them -- and anyway, I just enjoy painting. I decided that for my antagonists in this scenario, I wanted to use the Melty Men, some cool models from ThunderChild Miniatures

However, I only have two Melty Man models, so that wasn't going to be enough. I decided that there would be an intermediary stage, someone who was not yet completely transformed into a Melty Man by being immersed in wildly malfunctioning nanovector slurry. I later decided that these were what you got when you put a corpse, rather than a living person, into the slurry. I used some army men and hot glue to quickly knock up three of these zombie-like creatures. 

They're a little bit rough, but they were essentially free. Working with cheap materials and not paying attention to the fine details is part and parcel of creating single-use miniatures. If they cost a lot or took a long time to paint, you'd never make them, or at least I wouldn't. 

Initially the fact that they're wearing some kind of uniforms was just "eh, they're army men," but it would later come to be significant. 

So here's the outline I roughed out: 

It doesn't look very good, but that's because the cat walked on it with muddy paws. 

You may notice that Zora lacks a goal; what she winds up doing sort of depends on how the PCs interact with her. She basically comes from a religious context that tells her that pretech machines are divine. This one seems to want to turn people into glowing sludge monsters, which is definitely weird, but who is she to question the divine will? She's not completely out of touch with reality, though -- she's just got really bad tunnel vision on this issue. She could be persuaded to help shut down the machine, as long as the PCs are willing to overlook the fact that she turned her own colleagues into monsters. (Update: they killed her with a grenade and didn't give a heck.)

Anyway, I then pulled out my dungeon-mapping pad from Squarehex and roughed out a map. 

In retrospect, it could have been twice as large, but I left myself some room in case the session runs over and I want to link the complex to some other underground feature. (Update: it ran bang on the dot, reaching a satisfying conclusion just when it was time for everyone to go home.)

I ginned up some stats for the Melty Men and then went to do generate some loot from the random loot tables. I got a good amount of military equipment, as you can see, including an Insurgent Combat Shell and a laser rifle. It seemed that the backstory of Transfer Station 70 was developing. 

I decided that there were dead insurgents scattered throughout the complex. This seemingly innocuous civilian nanofabricator had been making, I dunno, something to keep the population docile. An insurgent squad had attacked it during the panic of the immediate apocalypse and managed to shut it down, but most of them had died in the process. Now that Zora has reactivated the corrupted fabricator (you kind of have to know about Other Dust's apocalypse for this to make sense, but basically all the magic nanites got turned evil, which is much more sciencey sounding than radiation in 2018), it's turning their bodies into melty zombies. The navcomp contains the coordinates for the insurgent base, which might make a fun adventure location.

So we have a main antagonist, two different kinds of minion monsters, a subplot and some fun environments (it's not very clear in the photos, but there's a pipe level below and around the complex that the Melty Men can flow through). That should be good for a session, and it's all on two pieces of paper, only one of which I'll really need at the table.

Update: the players used sample nanites from the decontamination units to reprogram the system to stop making evil goo and remove the infestations from people. They managed to save Gavin, one of the monks, although they killed the other one before they realised this was possible. The session ended with two PCs on zero HP and the remaining two with three HP between them, which makes me think I balanced it pretty well.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

New year, new campaign: progress!

Earlier this month, I posted that I was going to start a new tabletop campaign. How's it going? It's going well.

Character creation went smoothly. The random mutation tables in Other Dust van produce some pretty bizarre characters, and I was worried that players who started with strong concepts wouldn't enjoy seeing them get derailed by random rolls (although you can get out of this using the rules as written), but people got into it and there was much laughter.

I use miniatures in a lot of my games, and most of my players are also fans, so they have created or are creating minis for their characters, adding mutations and so on. It's pretty cool. I don't have photos, because the light isn't quite right in the evening, but here's one of the model for my wife's character, which I hurriedly painted just before the first session. I'm going to go back and touch up some details.

The original model is "Talia Torino" from Crooked Dice, who I take to be Penelope Pitstop.

Anyway, we have a good mix of characters: a tough survivor thrown out of her enclave for being a mutant, who's lived in the wilderness as a hunter ever since; a scientist exiled from his enclave for violating their law against advanced tech; a gunfighter betrayed by his own gang and a corrupt judge; and a diplomat from the pre-apocalypse world who only just emerged from suspended animation.

Session one saw all four PCs escape from having been captured by baddies, who were going to sell them into slavery in a remote northern location called Emerald Lake. Reesix (the wild woman) thought this was a bit odd, since she had heard of Emerald Lake only as a quiet enclave in a remote spot. They staged an escape, which involved Jaime (the diplomat) distracting a guard, Twiggs (the gunfighter) bashing a guy with a big rock, and Jeb (the scientist) shooting four people with his cactus spines ... including a member of his own team, who went down and had to be revived with patch stims (which fortunately, having been stolen from Jaime, were in the bandits' cart).

They also befriended another prisoner, Femi, a monk originally from the enclave of Credo, who told him that a party of his fellow monks had gone missing in this area looking for something called "Transfer Station 70." He had come to find them but been abducted by the bandits. They headed to the nearby transfer station, hoping to find shelter to rest and heal their injuries. They found traces of the missing monks, but no one was to be seen.

The next day, with the injured feeling a little better, they decided, at Femi's urging, to continue the search. A hatch in one of the transfer station outbuildings led down into some kind of tunnel complex, and the stub of a candle spotted on the concrete floor below suggested that the monks had been down there. Holding their breath against the chemical stink, they descended ...

Of course, this bare-bones summary doesn't give a sense of the overall feeling of desperation and the laugher around the table. They were very pleased when they found a device to recharge batteries with, for instance, and they felt very fragile in the combats. Jaime went down in one shot (from her own side, no less) and the other characters who were hit were very aware that they couldn't get hit again. I started them off with some points of Hunger to give them a sense of urgency and that seems to have worked as well.

Overall I'm very pleased with how it's going so far!

Friday, 2 February 2018

New year, new campaign

I finished up my long-running D&D campaign in 2017, creating a gap of several months where I haven't been running a tabletop game. Gradually the urge built up and up, until finally I broke down. This is the start of an intermittent ongoing project log for the game I intend to run.

In this post, I'm going to lay out the basics of the plan:

1. Not my usual gaming group

My wife's going to be in this one, because she is the love of my life and we live in the same house and all that. But other than that, my goal is to include only players I haven't played with before. I've been playing with the same people all the time, and they're good people to play with, but I want to push myself a little bit and adapt more. Plus, you know, gaming with new people is fun in its own right.

2. A post-apocalyptic setting

I seem to have the urge to run something post-apocalyptic, on a level of whimsy somewhere between Mad Max and Gamma World. I guess the term for that is Fallout. I don't mean the Fallout setting specifically, I mean a game where there are serious emotional relationships and political and social questions but also where the specific details of the setting are absurd.

3. A simple system

I'm going to be using Sine Nomine's Other Dust. The core system is very simple and should be accessible for the players, but its membership in the broader family of D&D descendants makes it easy to adapt material from other games. I've got the Stars Without Number second edition Kickstarter as well, so that'll come in handy, I hope.

I'm going to be incorporating some elements of D&D 5th, including the bonds, ideals, flaws, and inspiration mechanics, which I feel will fit pretty neatly with the simplicity of the Other Dust system.

4. Miniatures for looks

I'm going to be trying to make use of my pretty extensive post-apocalyptic and science-fantasy miniatures collections, but the goal isn't to use miniatures as a basis for tactical combat. They'll help with things like ranges and proximity, but they're mainly all about looks and visualisation.

5. Regular updates

I want to write about the process of creating and running the game on this blog, partly to stop the blog from being just photos of miniatures and partly to keep myself thinking further in advance than I sometimes do. I think this will be good for the way I think about the game, although we'll see how it develops.

So that's the idea. Stand by for future updates relating to this game in the new year.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Monster Man contest: winners!

Well, it's been a heck of a ride, but the first Monster Man contest is finally over. Our eight finalists have been submitted to the judges, and the scores are back. Let's see how our finalists have done!

Now remember -- these eight finalists were selected from 28 entrants, and they're all going to receive some finalist goodies from our sponsors, so in this case, "they're all winners" isn't just something people say. It's really true!

Here, in no particular order, are the honourable mentions, with the judges' comments for each:

Puschel Wuschel by Herr Zinnling and Lina (aged 9)
"Would use this in a horror adventure, taking advantage of their ability to turn on those they live with."

"They're cute, they're fluffy, they glow in the dark, and if you annoy them they will EAT YOU! Who doesn't enjoy a bit of tough love?"

"The only encounter that put a big beaming smile on my face. It has also got the best name of the bunch."

Bear-Owl by Richard Scott

"Because after you've made your Owl Bear you've got some very specific spare parts left right? The idea of this thing swooping down on completely unsuspecting travellers is genius. It's a drop-bear owl!"

"High shock value, with its frightening visual of being dive-bombed by bear-headed bird monsters."

"I like the Vancian background to this creature - I can see it emerging from Rialto the Marvellous’ manse. It’s a terrifying one-shot encounter."

Fuggag by Aaron Oliver

"Clever idea to modify a golem, providing means for independent/intelligent piloting of a golem’s stats."

"Yeah, I remember these guys. Definitely classic monster stuff. I'm sure there are many people who have placed these over the heads of dolls and other toys to create monsters, totally unaware they were creating the dreaded Fuggag!"

"When the competition was announced, it was these little finger puppets that came to mind, so this is a monster that really fulfils the brief from my point of view. I like the idea of them controlling Golem like creatures too, like some kind of parasite, using the appendages of other creatures to make up for their puny efforts."

Glowber-tuttle by Kit Chapman

"The adorable little turtle that explodes with excitement. Amazing. Get one of the adventurers to find the cute little thing in a cave somewhere, have them journey together through all kinds of perils and get really attached to the little pet, then have it explode with joy! A suitably heartless prank for a DM to pull."

"Almost more of a trap or hazard than a creature, and can be re-used the same way as green slime or hazardous fungus: As the players encounter successive groups of these creatures, they develop tactics to avoid the danger."

"A very convincing ecology for these innocent looking creatures. I’m sure that adventuring parties would be willing to adopt them for their practical application in dark spaces. If there was a thrilling encounter and the Glowber exploded, it would brighten up the situation!"

Kafka by Kevin Chenevert

I should say as a personal note that this entry came within a razor thin margin of getting into the top three; it literally could not have been closer. Bad luck to Kevin for missing out, but I think it speaks to the excellent quality of all the entries!

"Clearest writing and organization of all the entries, and matches pretty well with the other giant insect power levels. Extremely useful monster across a range of levels. Great implications for different sorts of tactics and encounter types. Has plenty of “replay value,” especially once the players find out how to use the psychic gel."

"Giant insects are gross. The imagery that can be conjured up by an eloquent DM around a lair of flies and bugs is far worse than the grottiest goblin den. Add to that pack-hunting cockroaches that will swarm in the darkness overhead and suddenly drop silently upon their victims and you truly have the stuff of nightmares. Reminds me of that hideous BBC footage of snakes hunting as a pack, it's terrifying when it comes from animals you don't expect it of."

"Extra points for the clever name. A horde of giant cockroaches makes me shudder just thinking about it."

So congratulations and many thanks to our honourable mention finalists. And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: your Monster Man 2017 Contest winners!

Third Place Winner: Thurible Cat by Eric Nieudan

"This creature would make a perfect encounter for a temple. The ash-like breath is my favourite feature and an imaginative interpretation of an ‘infusion’."

"Nicely fills the design role of a non-living, non-undead guardian monster. Strong theming, great sketch, and good implication of baiting adventurers into waking it from its dormancy."

"I love tea, and I actually have this infuser (along with a sloth, elephant, pug, manatee, pig...) so I'm good to feature this beast in an adventure right now! What attracts me to the Thurrible Cat is the great black and white illustration- exactly the kind of re-imagining that would have graced the pages of an ancient monster manual. The feeding of the temple cat gives strong suggestion for it featuring in a quest. The party stumbles upon an ancient and derelict temple. As they breach the main sanctuary they become aware of a low purring from the darkness... the Thurrible Cat lurches forward, its innards cold, and demands fire...."

Second-Place Winner: Great Wight Shark by Chris Webb

"Shudder. I’ll not look at the CBBC magazine in quite the same way again. The glow in the dark appearance with the blood is really unsettling. I like the idea of the undead shark haunting dried up water ways. The iridescence would strike fear in an adventure party prior to it appearing."

"At the other end of the spectrum this is something out of a B Movie so terrible it's great. Sharknado anyone? Even better, this horror came from a kids' magazine! The lore that these spectres haunt the paths of long-dried-up waterways is wonderfully atmospheric. I can imagine a group of adventurers who stop for the night at the "Millwheel Tavern" and admire the great stone wheel which now resides as a table in the bar. The barkeep tells them the tale of how this used to be a thriving watermill but the local lord had the river dammed to make a private boating lake. At night they spy an eerie glow out on the moor... of course, the tale has to end with the local lord getting a just demise in the jaws of the beast!"

"Evocative visuals of semi-ghostly flying sharks! Easy to imagine, and sure to trigger a visceral reaction in the players. Great modeling too! I like how the entry forces the referee to think about environments/terrain where they creatures might dwell. The entry even has evocative suggestions for yet more creatures; I’m a sucker for creature name wordplay."

And our grand prize winner ... Afelyn by James Baillie!

As another note from me as contest organiser, this was a bit of an odd one. It wasn't a toy per se, and James asked me if it was OK to include given that fact, but I figured that the ethos of the contest was, in so many words, "eh, what the hell," and I signed off on it. And I'm glad I did -- the judges loved it! 

"Tremendously-useful background material. The entry has enough content for three separate “backstory reveal” items in a module that revolves around the creature. I really like the ties to nature, and the fantastical shifting of seasons."

"Normally, when monster designers create encounters, they focus on the ecology and not on the narrative possibilities. This entry stands out because it is so evocative: lots of ideas spring off the page. There was something about it that reminded me of the Fiend Factory about creatures from the Land of Faerie. A very magical and mystical creature that I can imagine shambling from the undergrowth. Extra kudos for the accompanying tale and plot hooks (I’m going to steal a couple of those)."

"With my love of Celtic/folkloric creatures and fairy tales the Afelyn really floats my boat. I love that it's not a plastic thing but a (totally free) natural form which has been added to and given a background appropriate to its origins. It conjures up in my mind something between the Mystics from Dark Crystal and Arthur Rackham pixie illustrations. As a herald of autumn I like that the rules have given it a withering ability and made it especially powerful against the undead - the enemies of natural order. I'm not sure what size the Afelyn is imagined at but I see it as either a very small creature able to hide in piles of leaves and tree stumps or as a very large creature which could be mistaken for such things. Of course, being a nature spirit it could be BOTH these things. I can see a great campaign where some adventurers have to find where the Afelyn is dwelling and convince it to move on so that Spring will come around again."

Congratulations to James and to all our entrants, and many thanks to everyone who participated: our sponsors for their generosity, our judges for their expertise, our contestants for their creativity, and everyone who voted for supporting the contest. The monster contest has been a great success, and I'm already cooking up our next contest, which will have a slightly different theme, for later in 2018. 

If you want to learn more about our sponsors, check out the Sponsor Hype Page!

And of course, don't forget to listen to Monster Man for that good monster content and for announcements of upcoming contests and so on. 

If you enjoy Monster Man, check out the Monster Man Patreonwhere you can support the show and get access to my all-new Deities & Demigods podcast, Patron Deities. Thanks!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago: Scenery

OK, so it's been a while since I updated my Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago project, but I have not been neglecting it! I have painted some new models, bringing my crew up to the maximum 10. I'm still going to add a few more in case I want to change the composition at any point, but in terms of required figures I'm done. I don't know if I've posted this archer and pearl diver before, but anyway these are two of them. I don't have a photo I like of the Heritor, but oh well.

I ordered some cheap plastic palm trees off Aliexpress, and they finally arrived. They're a bit rough, but at something like a dozen for £2 I am happy with them. I drybrushed the trunks and fronds right on to the plastic and they look not too bad. I am mounting on them bases for stability; here's the completed first one.

As you can see, I've added some beachfront real estate to my islands/hills by buying some sandy-coloured felt from Hobbycraft. It's 55p a sheet, and I just cut it to make irregular shapes that I can use as sand bars, beaches and so on for the islands. It adds some verticality to the terrain, which is nice, and I'm going to make more.

The water is just turquoise crushed velvet. I got enough to cover my table on eBay for about £4. It'll form a shallow-water base, while the islands and beaches are connected by a network of docks, stepping stones, reefs, bridges, and so on. The fallen tree in this shot comes from a kids' playset I got at a car boot sale and actually holds up a figure pretty well.

The coffee-stirrer walkways need a little weathering, but they didn't take long and I can make more of them easily, so I'm happy with them.

And of course, I've been collecting relevant bits since forever, so lots of things get reused. I do like these Lord of the Rings ladders, which actually hold up a plastic miniature pretty well.

So yeah: warband finished, terrain coming along nicely. I think I'm about ready to start playing!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Crypts of Indormancy by Ezra Claverie

I went to Dragonmeet a few weeks ago, and while I was there, as one does, I bought things. One of these things was Crypts of Indormancy, a dungeon for D&D in its various guises and reflections written by Ezra Claverie. You can buy it in print and PDF directly from the Melsonian Arts Council, or you can buy it in PDF on DriveThru, where I observe it is currently on sale. I have the hardback edition.

Quick disclaimer: the Melsonian Arts Council published a piece I wrote in an issue of their zine The Undercroft, specifically this one. So I guess I'm a little biased? I don't think so, but then I wouldn't. 

Warning, I guess? This review contains spoilers, so if you're going to play the scenario, don't read it.

OK, so what is Crypts of Indormancy? It's a relatively small dungeon: really only about 6 or 7 "rooms" depending on how you count. I would expect it would run for a few sessions, though, as there's a lot to take in and a lot to figure out. It comes in a slim, attractive hardback with illustrations by Andrew Walter. Apparently it came out in 2016, but I didn't get it at last year's Dragonmeet, once again reinforcing my view that I must have literally just walked right past the Melsonian booth. Oh well.

The premise of the scenario is pretty simple: ages ago, an elven general, who was, like the elves seem to be in this setting, a real swine, died. His tomb, presumably full of treasures and grave goods and whatnot, is just sitting up there in the mountains waiting for some enterprising scoundrels to come and loot it.

Now, normally, you would expect that the tomb would be full of traps and defenses, but the twist here is that the tomb itself is the trap, a complex magical device rigged up by the general's heirs and followers to resurrect their leader in a way that wouldn't be obvious to suspicious elven authorities.

OK, so far this is all pretty much straight D&D -- a tomb-robbing scenario with a bit of a twist. But what makes Crypts of Indormancy so interesting is the execution.

Like ... let's say you're approaching the tomb. It has a great big door, which you cannot get into because you don't have the various passwords. Should you try to cast a spell on the door, something called the Temporizing Duplicator swings into action. What this does is nullify the spell and then use the energy to reach back into your past and create a duplicate of you as you were a few moments before you cast the spell. The duplicate shows up and is bewildered and possibly hostile, as one might be, but only for a short time. Gradually, the weird temporal paradox sucks all the realness out of you and pours it into the duplicate and you literally die and now you're the duplicate, who was really you all along, I guess, or not, in some weird abstract philosophical sense.

And I love this. Because, here's the thing, the mechanical effect of this is "the spell doesn't work." But the dramatic effect is "the spell doesn't work and we are into some seriously weird shit here," which you probably ought to have concluded earlier when you were fighting the giant imaginary baby skeleton, but let that pass.

Or take probably the most obvious monster in the dungeon: the Stertorous Recapitator. These guys are basically guardian zombie types created by a bunch of cruel blasphemy, and they will emerge to attack intruders after a certain point. What they are is headless corpses, and what they do is gang-pile on you with knives and saw your head off, after which they stick your dead blood-gushing melon on their own empty stump, where it magically fuses and now they're chasing your friends around the tomb with knives while your severed head sits there on top of them just, I don't know, shrieking with helpless existential horror, I guess. And then your friends kill them and the last light of unnatural vitality fades from your eyes and you get to go on to the next life with the hideous knowledge that it was your friends that did it and/or that you were a helpless passenger while corpse guys sawed your friends' heads off with knives.

Like, mechanically, they're pretty much just sort of zombies, but they have this bizarre and horrible twist that makes them really fun and memorable.

And there's just a lot of that kind of thing, which I really like. Strange extradimensional monsters and arcane science and a certain amount of Gygaxian-but-for-the-21st-century intentional overwriting.

But all this idiosyncratic verbosity has its downsides, as well. Claverie sometimes takes time out to give a regular old D&D monster a vein of cosmic science-fantasy horror, but sometimes he takes time out to complain about DMs rolling dice behind the screen, a subject on which I assure you any person who is spending £16 on weird hardback art-dungeons already has a firmly settled opinion. And sometimes he spends two pages in a 64-page book on an extended gag about how the ancient game the elven general plays to train himself and his officers in the art of command is, y'know, Warhammer.

While that stuff doesn't thrill me, I feel like this module is as much fun as it is because it's the Ezra Claveriest module there is, and if I have to indulge some gamer grumbling in order to get all this good, chewy psychedelic horror that feels like a small price to pay.

Prep-wise, I don't think this is a scenario that drops easily into most campaigns, although weirdly it would drop just fine into my game world, where elves are a bunch of SOBs and did in fact conquer a load of Polynesian-influenced island cultures. A lot of this is going to make more sense if the characters are grounded in the fictitious culture of the islands, which will help them interpret the tomb in context and give them a motive to mess with it other than just to stuff their cheek pouches with valuables (although that works fine as well).

In fact, with all the focus on the various artefacts in the tomb and their cultural significance (there's even fake citations), I feel like the ideal premise for this dungeon would be to have it be an archaeological expedition. Not that that couldn't also be a treasure hunt, but I do feel like you're going to lose some of the "something's not right" sense if you're describing these weird, blasphemous wall paintings and the characters are just going "yeah, yeah, whatever." You're definitely going to get the most out of this scenario if you give the characters a reason to be invested in its history, maybe by running a few preliminary games set in the area.

Naturally, I got way into that stuff to begin with, but if I didn't like that kind of thing I probably wouldn't have lasted through a couple of history and archaeology degrees.

Ultimately this raises the question of what you're buying modules for, which is not a thing I thought I'd find myself saying when I opened this book. Is the idea to buy a labour-saving tool? That is, are you looking for something that makes it easy for you to run the kind of dungeon you would probably run yourself but don't have the time to write up, a sort of worked example? Or are you looking for something that is a bit different and weird but might take quite a lot more work to integrate? I don't have a clear answer to that: both, maybe? But this is definitely the latter.

Now, as it happens, I think there are probably enough regular old D&D dungeons sitting on my hard drive that I could run them from now until whenever, and honestly I'm more likely to read something and carve it up than run it straight, so this is right up my alley. It's flawed in a few ways: the organisation sometimes makes the exact role of the creatures in the dungeon unclear, and I had to read it twice and kind of keep a little mental sketch map the second time to make it all make sense. I did try to read it the first time on the train back from Dragonmeet, though, so maybe that wasn't ideal. But even with those points, I'm definitely in the more of this kind of thing please camp. I like the way the weird-art-OSR wing are producing things that are clearly D&D and yet clearly also their own thing, and I like the way they don't resemble one another.

So yeah; I liked it.

The Monster Man sponsor hype page!

As I write this, I'm tensely expecting that I'll be able to name the winners in the Monster Man contest either just before or just after Christmas. There'll be fun extra holiday gifts for all our finalists, which is nice. 

Overall, the Monster Man contest has been tremendously satisfying. I got to promote creativity, provide people with some fun monsters, and advance my personal gaming agenda. But really, I didn't do any of those things! All I did was act as hype man, a role for which I am almost perfectly unsuited. The people who really made the contest happen are the contestants and, of course, our sponsors. So let's take a moment to thank everyone who either donated prizes or volunteered to act as judges. So let's thank them!

In no particular order, our sponsors and judges are: 

Oakbound Studio: As you may know, I'm a big fan of Oakbound. Geoff runs a company that makes the stuff he wants to make in the way he wants to make it, and that means weird fairy-tale creatures, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk satire, steampunk characters, and a real abiding love for creepy folklore. He also imports some great old-school models from Rafm. Here is a goblin riding a giant flightless bird I bought from him: 

Geoff is a good dude and his enterprise is worthy of your support. 

Guy Fullerton: When I'm recording Monster Man, I have a couple of ideal listeners in mind, and Guy is one of them. I often think "what am I adding to this show that a listener who knows the book well would find new and interesting," and when I imagine that person, I think of Guy. Guy is not only the, er, guy behind Chaotic Henchmen Productions, he's also one of the unrelated but also very cool Hyqueous Vaults Creative Team, creators of a new OSRIC scenario, The Hyqueous Vaults, which you can check out here. The PDF is free and everything. 

Guy has been generous both with his time as a judge and with rewards as a sponsor, and if you like old-school gaming products made by cool folks, you should check his stuff out. 

Otherworld Miniatures: It was only after Richard and I had been chatting about Monster Man for a while that I realised we'd actually met, albeit briefly: he used to run my FLGS back when I was an undergraduate! I bought my copy of Delta Green from him, and loads of back issues of Arcane, and all sorts. But central Cambridge's loss is miniature lovers' gain, because these days he runs a miniatures company devoted to the old-school aesthetic, and they make some good-ass models. You should definitely give them a look. 

Let me entice you further: we talked for a bit and established some very generous prizes for the top three contestants in the Monster Man contest, and then out of the blue as the contest winds up he sends me a message saying that he wants to also offer some gifts to all the finalists because, get this, it's Christmas. How are you not gonna buy bugbears from this man? 

Robert "Thorkhammer" Pinnell: I do not know Robert Pinnell from Adam, but through the kind intervention of Guy (q.v.), he very generously agreed to offer some copies of his scenario Sanctum of the Stone Giant Lord as prizes. Maybe it's Christmas, maybe it's the old school community spirit, but that's quite touching. Anyway, if you're into that real deal old school stuff, you should check out the various inexpensive and even free offerings on his Lulu page

Grant Howitt: Grant Howitt wrote a one-page RPG (two with magic supplement) in which you play bears stealing honey, which I played at Dragonmeet and had a fine old time. Grant also offered, again unprompted, a copy of his thoroughly hilarious game Goblin Quest as a prize. Now, if you're not lucky enough to be our first-place winner, you can still get your own PDF copy, and what a coincidence! It's 50% off right now. If you would rather support Grant's weird obsession with releasing tiny niche one-pagers, you can back him on Patreon. 

Dirk the Dice: the enigmatic host of ... can I say Britain's foremost old-school gaming podcast? I might as well. The enigmatic host of Britain's foremost old-school gaming podcast, The Grognard Files, generously agreed to give up some time to judge the finalists. You can have a listen here. He has been tremendously tolerant about me trying to climb up his social media presence like a creeping vine. 

So yeah! Those are our sponsors and judges, the generous people who gave their time and their wares to help reward the creativity of randos on the internet. And in all sincerity, that's a noble goal. I'm very grateful to all of them and hope everyone who has enjoyed the contest appreciates how this could never have been possible without them. 

Of course, the other people without whom this would never have been possible are our entrants, so stay tuned for the announcement of the winners and some links to other things our contestants have created. 

If you enjoy Monster Man, check out the Monster Man Patreon, where you can support the show and get access to my all-new Deities & Demigods podcast, Patron Deities. Thanks!