SETTING IS EVERYWHERE

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Following up on Olivia Hill’s latest post about why we shouldn’t separate Fluff, and Crunch, and about the latest trends in gaming, the time calls for a clarification about what setting means. Deep in the founding principles of what a roleplaying game is lie the idea that “stories” emerge through play rather than being predetermined as in a book. After all, the whole specificity, and selling point of roleplaying games is that you can, through play, weave the story you want.


There’s a thin line here between what many “New School” players consider roleplaying, and what many “Old School”, or “Story Games” players consider roleplaying. If the story’s pre-set in its entirety up to its logical conclusion, boss fight, or cliffhanger leading to the next supplement, if it’s a Dragonlance-like romp, or an adventure path, the story’s emergence is usually confined to those marginal actions which won’t durably impact the planned adventure series. At the end of the day, there are only two options: to fail, or to succeed at the adventure. Missing too many hints? Fail. Total party kill during the final boss fight? Fail. This pattern turns the meaning of roleplaying into something close to acting: you play whatever character you want, talk in voices if you want, discuss with minor Non-Player Characters, but everybody knows how this all will end—success, or failure. The diegesis, the setting and underlying assumptions about the characters support the mimesis of play, the acting part, hence setting supplements being extremely detailed since they’re all there is to foster the willing suspension of disbelief of the players.


In Old School, and Story Games alike, roleplaying means that the players—Game Master included—have no fixed idea about the game session’s outcome, that all bets are off, and odds open. The diegesis here is but partly-written because it’s the players’ job to join the dots in an active creation of belief that the mimesis, the play, will further shape.

Understood in those terms, and trying to further bridge the divide between Fluff, and Crunch, you find setting bits in every movable part of your game: in character classes, in equipment lists, in spells, in monsters, and in magic items, artifacts, and relics. Deciding, for instance, to play AD&D solely with Fiend Folio monsters, or with the Terratic Tome, will give a very different flavour to your game than you deciding, for instance to go with orcs, and goblins. Featuring a spell-casting class means there’s magic, etc. Imagine a D&D game where the only allowed races would be Aquatic Elf, Lizard Man, Flind, and Ghoul instead of Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling.

It doesn’t take much more than that to kickstart a great game: forget about the Fluff, and intentionally build the setting into the rules. If you decide wisely what books, and game supplements to use for all those movable part, you will never need a setting book again, because they all are.

CASTLE GARGANTUA

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The craziest, biggest dungeon ever published by the OSR. A campaign, a massive generator for all character level, and a grotesque setting all-in-one.

It’s not about killing monsters, looting treasure, and gaining experience as you delve deeper into some mad archmage’s architectural folly. It’s about surviving in a loathsome, terrifying environment where nothing is quite as expected. It’s about atmosphere, gloom, and despair. It’s a thriller. The characters’ 10′ poles shall be broken, their ropes cut and their rations spoiled. They will die, many of them, many times and there’s no happy end when it’s over. It’s never over anyway.

Castle Gargantua is about the same height as the Empire State Building and the same size as Ceausescu’s Palatul Poporului in Bucarest, a little bit over three million square feet, the same size as the entire Old City of Venice. Its rooms and corridors are so huge that condensation clouds of mist hover within and that it rains inside sometimes. There are miniature tornadoes in the spiral stairs and strong drafts of wind when the corridors are slightly sloped. If a curtain would fall, its weight alone would smash a dozen men to a pulp.

Even without using the Castle Gargantua book, these maps have me wanting to run encounters in them — massive towers and kitchens that are now run by creatures the size of mice compared to the original owners – Dyson Logos.

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FLOWER LICHES

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A WUXIA GHOST STORY SANDBOX, AN INVESTIGATION ADVENTURE, A SETTING ENCAPSULATED IN TIME COMPATIBLE WITH EVERYTHING OSR

When omens portend ill fortune for the city, the priests call upon a Dragonboat Festival: a racing competition gathering swift boatmen from all over the continent. Their ancient chants call forth the powers of the undying, waking the Flower Liches from their distant graves. For a week, the liches roam the city freely, and oversee the race, taking the losing crews as tributes and sacrifices. Once the Dragonboat Festival is finished and the liches disappear, the city’s prosperity is magically replenished, and all the monetary wealth the citizenry had before the festival — player characters included — is doubled.

An oriental adventure best suitable for use with Mad Monks of Kwantoom (MMoK), Qelong, Yoon-Suin, Red Tide, Valley of the Five Fires, and Narcosa.

SUITABLE FOR ALL CHARACTER GROUPS & LEVEL

KUNG-FU FLOWER LICHES!

DETECTIVE DEE + OSR ROLEPLAYING!

HIGH OCTANE ACTION MOVIE ADVENTURE!

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MAD MONKS PODCAST

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For those of you who’d like to hear more about Mad Monks of Kwantoom or just to listen to a podcast of raving AD&D DMs about it, here’s the link to the latest installment of the Roll for Initiative podcast #158, which is entirely dedicated to Mad Monks of Kwantoom!

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE #158: MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM

As an aside, here’s a selection of what people said about in reviews these last months.

Mad Monks of Kwantoom has a very nineteen seventies sword and sorcery comic book as well as Marvel martial arts feel to it. It’s as if you had time machine and went back in time to your favorite hobby shop and this book was sitting on the shelf (Eric Fabiaschi).

Lots of Saffron and Jade and rare and magical spices, if you get my drift (Noah Stevens).

Truth to be told, “sourcebook” is a bit of an understatement. This thing is not just an Oriental Adventures sourcebook, but also a solo campaign generator. There is a ton of cool stuff in here to “lovingly borrow” (The Frugal GM).

It’s socially irresponsible cultural ambiguity (Panju Manju).

If you want to go for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon swordplay, then go for it (Roll for Initiative).

MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM

Some say the gods expelled the grotesque and the weak from their ranks at the beginning of time, denying them entrance to the lofty heavens. Demons all of them, they fled to remote places where they had palaces built in which they could dwell and prosper in the glittering shadows, and that among these places, the 1001 Pagodas of Doom of the Yellow Springs Island are supreme, sheltering countless horrors and ghosts.

AN ORIENTAL ADVENTURES COMPANION, A MONSTER MANUAL, A TOME OF WONDROUS MAGIC, AN ASIAN-THEMED CITY, A SOLO CAMPAIGN AND A DM’S AID — ALL IN ONE BOOKLET

Are you looking for an Oriental Adventures Companion? A Chinese-style monster manual with a twist? A tome collecting a hundred brand new mundane magic items? An Asian-themed urban setting? A game aid to help you fill in the gaps when improvising? An endless campaign that you can play solo or with your family and friends without a DM? Good, because you’ll find all this gathered together in one nifty package right here.

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, Mad Monks of Kwantoom features a wondrous Asian setting with new character races and classes, crazy unique creatures inspired by matchbox pictures coming straight from ancient China, alternative petty magic items, tables for random dungeongeneration and simple house rules for all of this to run smoothly. In addition, you’ll find campaign rules to help you flesh your characters out and embed them in the setting, which they can change and mold according to their whims as they proceed to glory, prosperity and — who knows? — immortality.

WHAT ELSE?

Ninjas, tengu player characters, the revised monk character class, the City of Innocent Deaths, the Lucky Charm of Many Ghastly Friends, the Style of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, Pa’kua kobolds, the Monkey King himself, a game that your partner can play and enjoy with you — and you alone, the 1001 pagodas of doom and actual rules for becoming the Noble Jade Empress or the head of the Shrine of the Purple Lady of the Latrines if that’s your thing.

COMPATIBILITY

This book is officially compatible with Labyrinth Lord and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. Since these systems emulate the Basic and Advanced editions of the original Old School rules, you can play it with them or with any Old School Renaissance gaming system instead.

BUY MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM IN PDF

BUY MAD MONKS OF KWANTOOM IN PULP COLOR PRINT

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REVIEWS

Now with an extensive and lengthy review on the Save or Die! Podcast. check it out here: http://saveordie.info

So that was cool. Coupled with the nice game setting, the sensible monster lists, and some out-o-the-box magic items (fairly pulp fantasy stuff with good and bad benefits of the kind usual to folklore and NOT found in modern D&D editions) this is a nice little book to pick up and run a campaign.

B/X Blackrazor

Well worth checking out, I like it – a decent well-priced (I got the PDF) creative catalyst for old school gaming – there’s a lot of cool ideas in it’s 70 pages – even beyond the random DM-less dungeon adventure generator.

Bite the Bulette

This like the Random Dungeon Generator in the original DMG? I remember playing with that way back in Junior High.

Thomas Shuler

This is a great adventure generator! Love it!

David Okum

BUY RUINS OF THE UNDERCITY IN PRINT AT LULU

BUY RUINS OF THE UNDERCITY IN PDF AT DRIVETHRURPG

 

RUINS OF THE UNDERCITY

Deep beneath the streets of the City-State of Cryptopolis, sanctuary of the lich-thieves and abode of the Red Goddess, sewers and ancient ruins mingle together into a labyrinth of horrors and wonders.

Bring your own character and play solo without a DM with this huge random-generated adventure spanning a full campaign and backdrop setting.

Maybe there are no other players around you, or maybe your schedule doesn’t really allow you to engage in a long beer & pretzel session of hack’n’slash. When this is the case, you can play the Ruins of the Undercity solo, bringing your good old characters in or rolling for new ones. You can also use this adventure to play with a few friends and no DM. 

In a nutshell, Ruins of the Undercity features an alternate set of tables for random dungeon and monster generation, traps and magic effects tables, treasures, and simple house rules to run all of this smoothly. In addition, you’ll find a simple setting and basic rules for solo campaign play.

This booklet is officially compatible with Labyrinth Lord and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. Since these systems emulate the Basic and Advanced editions of the original Old School rules, you can play it with them or with any Old School Renaissance gaming system instead.

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ROGUES GALLERY

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We’re fetching info about the characters that roam Cryptopolis at the moment. Please feel free to tell us who are the characters you play with Ruins of the Undercity in comment here, and do tell us what they’ve done, found and achieved in the ruins below, so that this page will eventually feature a Rogues Gallery and a Hall of Fame of all of the adventurers that can be found in the city.