Thursday, December 16, 2010

Because It's Christmas...

...I will be posting WAY MORE than usual, since I am in the Frozen North with the pornstar-in-laws.

But also because its Christmas, I figure we could all help each other figure out what game stuff we want.


Say below the single best roleplaying supplement you have ever seen and why--in enough detail to convince someone to try to hunt down a copy.

"Core" books (dm guides, player's guides, and monster books) are not allowed. Adventures, sourcebooks, setting books, and suchlike stuff are.

For me it'd be the original Games Workshop Realms of Chaos books. Why? The finest RPG art ever produced (particularly in the second one--Adrian Smith). d1000 random mutation table. And the last word in Metal villains. It was all chaotic and it totally worked. Demon with grenade launcher for a hand and it totally didn't break the mood. Breathtaking.


  1. d20 Modern "Critical Locations".

    If you're running anything set in the modern era, it's got solid keyed maps for pretty much any location you'd wanna throw in there on the fly, from police stations to supermarkets to a typical highschool to a convention center.

    Largely system neutral, so you can easily adapt to your game of choice.

    Scuff the settings up and add some rubble and mutant mole people and you've got quick locations for your gritty, post-apocalyptic campaign.

    Heck, repurpose the rooms with a fantasy veneer and you've got an oddly familiar seeming dungeon. Wanna run an orcish Piggly Wiggly? There you go...

    Just thirty bux new on Amazon. Worth ten times as much when your characters blow their bluff checks or whatever and half the party winds up in the drunk tank down at the local police station and you need to run the scenario of their buddies busting them out.

  2. Chaosium's 1981 Thieves' World box set.

    Usable with several systems (...including Traveller!)
    DM and Player guides to sketch out the setting, give backstories on factions within the city, develop hooks, etc. but still quite skinnable.
    Good tables
    Excellent maps, not too detailed or too vague.

    Really good as a starting point for developing skills for a novice DM. Food for thought.

    Zak, as an aside, have you guys found a good games store yet in Montréal?

  3. One of my favourite source books comes from my favourite RPG Deadlands, the book in question is Lost Angels (

    The premise of the game is what would happen if a paranormal event had stopped the North from winning the civil war, the fighting rages on, the race to connect the East and West by rail is hotting up, a strange new material called ghost rock with incredible properties has been found and sparked a rush and in the midst of all of this reports of strange happenings abound with the dead rising and sightings of terryfing creatures.

    Nestled on the Western edge of this madness is the city of Lost Angels and that's what the book concentrates on, basically it gives you an outline of the city and the major players that live there, along with a few campaign suggestions without particularly forcing you down any one path. I always liked the style of the Deadlands books, with the "posse" section at the front for players and the "marshal's handbook" at the back for DMs, the artwork helps sell the feel of the place quite well.

    I will say it's a tough place for new players to start out in but it's definitely worth them paying a visit.

    This next one isn't source material as such but it's a damn good webcomic that's worth checking out, it's called "The order of the stick" and is partly a parody of D&D but with a continuing storyline, as if watching a bunch of players dungeon crawl. Here's the first page

  4. The Vornheim City Kit.


    Okay, stuff that's actually out then. Masks of Nyarlathotep, because even if it's not actually run it as is, it has so much to teach us about campaign structure.

    Good call on Realms of Chaos too. Great books, and the Tome of Corruption, while a fine descendant, ironed out too much of the, er, chaotic element.

  5. If you liked Masks of Nyarlathotep, then you will like the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion even more!

    But to answer your question, it has to be the original Delta Green supplement. An amazing and assured piece of writing that represents the Cthulhu Mythos in 1990s that caught the mood perfectly.

  6. Griffin Island. I read it as kid (one of the few RPG stuff published in Spain those days) and I fell in love. It's a little gem, a sandbox campaign decepfully simple with an infinite potential. A savage, low-magic remote island with prehistoric tribes, barbarian citadels, Chaos (RuneQuest-style), dinosaurs, griffins (off course), ogres, orcs and a big blank hex map begging to be filled with weird vistas, ancient ruins and secrets.
    One of my wettest dreams is to see a new edition, just as Necromancer Games did with The Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

  7. First, a few recommendations of my favorite recent releases from the past year: Dungeon Alphabet (Curtis), Exquisite Corpses (Poag), and Swords & Wizardry Whitebox (Brieg/Finch).

    My all time favourite supplement is either Shadows of Yog Sothoth (Peterson, Call of Cthulhu) or Legion of Gold (Gygax, Gamma World).

  8. Torg: The Cyberpapacy. (In Torg's setting, Earth is the universal center of all lay-lines, and the last front in the intergalactic war for ultimate power. Reality, referred to as possibility energy, is the resource they war over. ) The possibility raider who conquers central Europe commands a reality of medieval totalitarian rule, but as his darkness device is converting the regions reality to his own, surviving Cyberpunk freedom fighters from a reality he has already destroyed launch a suicide attack. Their former reality corrupts the device. So: medieval castles, brutal police state, peasants toiling in the fields, Cybernetic Bishops castigating their fearful congregations, and underground rebel cyber-punks smuggling krylon tendons and personal nuralnet adaptors in wooden wagons to safe houses where heretic witches listen to illegal Discharge EPs on salvaged victrolas.

  9. Wilderlands of High Fantasy and City State of the Invincible Overlord -- two terrifically evocative but concise supplements for use with D&D (or any fantasy RPG really). They're very rough around the edges by modern standards -- though the maps remain among the best ever made -- but they have tons of wonderful and wacky ideas.

  10. @TheCramp: Good call on "The Cyberpapacy" mate. It was completely barking, but fun.

    I'd say the original "World of Darkness Companion" (world book for OWOD).

    Selected highlights:
    * London ruled by squabbling children of Mithras.
    * The city of Petra undiscovered into the modern era because the Assamites are using it as a refuge and smuggling base.
    * Russia controlled by weird inscrutable Baba Yagas.
    * Chinese hopping vampire triads.
    * Japanese cat vampires.

    WOD before splat sprawl and fat goth gamers ruined it for everyone.

  11. Ptolus, Monte Cook's Real Ultimate Doorstop. It's just so...detailed, but also extraordinarily modular. I've plugged components of that city, and particularly street maps, into everything from Pathfinder to Prime Directive.
    Of course, a lot of the "chaositech" references are clear rips from WFRP, but if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

  12. Just about any of the supplements for Tekumel have taken my head off for giving me ideas, but Mitlanyal ("The Gods") stands out in particular.

    Imagine Deities & Demigods, reduced to the infamous Cthulhu chapter. Those deities are the only ones in the knowable universe, and publicly following Hastur is actually respectable (for much of the Tekumel meta-history, The Emperor is a follower of Sarku - basically The Worm That Walks). So in the light of such grey-grey morality, what does that mean for your culture as a whole? How does that change why you do the things you do? Did mention that pretty much everyone knows that the gods are petty and selfish and imminently physically real?

    Summary: "Carcosa" is warm and fuzzy in some ways compared to this...

    The book also buries a highly infectious meme in the intro text, one that's easy to skip over. But once seen, it can't be unseen...

    "But behind it all were the lingering questions. 'Why is my character here? Who lives in the castle? Who is
    worshiped in the cathedral?' Behind each question lies another, until one reaches the essential 'Where did this all come from?' Taken to its logical extension, this is a religious question, and one that applies to reality as much any fantasy game."

  13. Mutants Down Under. Man, it has the rules on making mutant platypuses who were raised by aborigines & ride on giant mutant wolf spiders that they keep in their blimp. Also, they can summon tornadoes with their mind. THAT is what I want out of a supplement.

    If you aren't playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though, it maybe isn't as useful, but it stuck with me from my childhood as an eye opener.

  14. I second Delta Green and raise you Delta Green: Countdown, the follow-up that expands on the organizations, settings and schemes presented.

    However, I was never able to successfully run anything with DG. A fun read, though.

    My pick, then, is "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures!" Not only do I love the Terror Bears (reverse Care Bears for those not in the know), but one adventure is full of deathtraps you can lift for any game.

  15. @ the other Chris

    Having been a skinny goth gamer who played with fat goth gamers, we enjoyed OWOD very much, thank you. The only guy at our table into ridiculous "I'm a weredragon/mage/changling" BS wore ties, slacks and plaid shirts.

  16. Griffin Mountain. A great sandbox-style campaign setting you can drop anywhere. We had great fun with it and I still regularly mine it for ideas.

  17. Honorable mention to Mitlanyal for content and utility, but my prize goes to the Book of Ebon Bindings. I'm pretty sure it's an in actual sanity-reducing text.


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  20. Authentic Thaumaturgy, by PEI Bonewits, first guy ever to get a degree in magic. It's basically a translation of his book Real Magic (about parapsychology and how magic might actually work in the world) into game terms, along with some history and philosophy of magic users through the (real world) ages. Much of the Chivalry and Sorcery supplements were based on this. Because magic *should* be mind-bendingly complicated.

  21. If you liked Masks of Nyarlathotep, then you will like the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion even more!

    Indeed, I eagerly expect to and have my money ready, if it ever comes out.

  22. AC11: The Book of Wondrous Inventions. Boom boxes, vending machines, dishwashers! All for D&D! And with skeletons and gnomes inside to make it all work.

    The ultimate WTF were TSR thinking book. A shining example of splatbooks gone horribly, horribly wrong.

  23. @mordicai

    Mutants Down Under is excellent even if you don;t play Turtles on account of the awesome pictures.


    Remember, write WHY someone should pick up the supplement you're talking about...

  24. @Chris 1 and Chris 2

    I believe Fat Goths fall under the "Furry Rule" wherein how mean you are allowed to be to them is in direct proportion to how seriously you are being taken.

    The Current Seriousness Level On Non-Gaming Topics For This Page Is: Southpark.

    Carry on.

  25. "@Chris 1 and Chris 2"

    Coming soon: The Cat in The Hat: Vornheim Players Edition.

    Anyway, I do have something else.


    Probably not within the rules for the contest but: Telecanter's Receding Rules (, or Bugbears for Breakfast ( would have to be my pick. Here's the arguments for each of them.

    Telecanter's: There's just so many funny, but useful things on there, at least among the player generated ideas. That plus all the non-mad things make it a tough one to beat. But, he seems to have taken a (hopefully short) hiatus. Score: 96/100

    Bugbears for Breakfast: I like reading the adventure logs, of which there are many, plus it has serious observations on gameplay and mechanics, and some completely ridiculous bits (Who else has an adventuring company named "Super Rat!"?). Plus, he's definitely still posting. Score: 97/100.

  26. Oh, by the way, I'm glad you'll be posting more. Should be interesting.

  27. My pick definitely has to be Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor. It takes the wonderful, old-school Victorian "beyond a time, beyond a place" Gothic of A Series of Unfortunate Events, combines it with a sorta grim yet very cathartic humor, and wraps this fantastic piece of grimness around a wonderful little town of secrets and lies and supernatural undertones.

    Into which you trust the players, as unwanted, malformed and sneered at orphans with dim pasts and unknown futures, tinged with dash of supernatural themselves. And then you let them explore the wonderfully creative and demented gallery of npc's, all with their secrets laid out just enough to give you ideas without ever really making absolutes, as they helplessly try to navigate a cruel and vicious social network of corruption, vice and blatant lies.

    Everybody has secrets, everybody has ulterior motives and nothing is ever truly what it seems. And in the shadows lurks supernatural horrors, waiting to be woken, bound or even befriended.

    It's full of hooks, it's got simple yet amazing rules for dynamically discovering your past and tying the characters into the community through that past. Through a bit of choice and a dash of rules, you can discover yourself to be the illegitimate lovechild of the town's corrupted mayor, or it's massive, man-devouring black widow butcheress. Or BOTH!

    The writing is funny and witty while dripping with mood, the information is inspirational without every really tying you to any one truth and it's got more hooks than a fishing tournament!

    And, in my experience, it even works as the setting for a one-shot or short scenarios, though nothing quite measures up to it's longer campaign potential.

  28. Call of Cthulhu had the supplement Secrets of Japan, which had awesomely Lovecraftian takes on various Asian concepts (Karma, Taoism, Shinto, Buddha, Corparate Culture...) and some memorable ancient conspiracies.

    Tome of the Mysteries and Intruders: Encounters With The Abyss are two well-liked supplements for Mage: The Awakening.

    Unknown Armies had Post-Modern Magick and Statosphere.

    All Flesh Must Be Eaten had Dungeons and Zombies.

  29. I have extensively used the 1E Book of Lairs I and II. The JG one wasn't that great.

    From what I understand, it became common in the later editions to assign a difficulty level to encounters. This is an extremely helpful thing, as I want my Wednesday nights to be fun instead of horribly painful or horribly boring. These books do that.

    Paul Jaquays has a wonderful Frost Giant scenario in there. I asked him in June about it and he didn't remember it at all. I think it's great that he didn't remember submitting an awesome encounter 25 years ago, and that I actually got to ask him about it.

    I recommend also the Hydra encounter.

    However my favorite was the Ogre Mage. It was well set up, but when the party got to his layer it was specific about the flags flying outside that proclaimed the inhabitant the 'most powerful fighter in the universe'. Their exact words... awesome. My players' characters still have the flags.

  30. I would have to say right now, my favorite is the Slipstream setting book for Savage Worlds.

    It's basically a setting that includes all the old Buck Rodgers/Flash Gordon ideas, creatures, and technology from the movies and serials, leting you buckle your swash in an outerspace-ish environment. Pretty much every alien race is -man. Bird man, robot man, lion man, etc.

    The technology is advanced for the 50's. The machines use punch cards, the robots are clunky, and a bubble helmet is basically all you need to survive outside your rocket ship.

    It captures the kind of vibe of the 80's Flash Gordon movie quite well. For extra points, get a copy of the movie's soundtrack to play for big battle sequences.

  31. While "Mutants Down Under" was probably the best of the AtB line of world-books I keep the fondest place in my heart for "Road Hogs". Because it had the octopus as a player-race and that let me create Doc Hentai and his 8 pumping tentacles of justice for TMNT game that never got off the ground...

    If you can find it (and I'd love to get a hold of a copy for myself) the out of print "Central Casting: Heroes of Legend was a 3rd party generic book for crafting backgrounds for fantasy characters. Heroes of Legend worked wonderfully for rolling up randomized but deep backgrounds. Full of potential adventure hooks and character concepts...

  32. @lurkerwithout
    central casting is very very very very very very very very likely available thru yr more popular free book file sharing services. ask around

  33. "The Eldritch Connection" by Larry DiTillio, in Sorceror's Apprentice #12. It had a checklist and a process to go through for creating magic items that gave them lots of flavor and kept them from being just another bonus to your hits or saving throws.

  34. I'd love to pick every Shadowrun sourcebook for the first 10 years or so of the game's life. It was like an amazing story told slowly with great foreshadowing and hints you had to put together before they were completely revealed (if they ever were). Especially the stuff written by Findley, Dowd, and Hume. But since you specified a single one, I'll have to go with Universal Brotherhood. Hell, I've probably spent more time my entire life reading Shadowrun books for the stories than I have actually playing the game.

  35. RuneQuest Cities - for it's tables upon tables of infinitely useful city encounters and filler. Used recently in a game using the new RQ rules set in ancient Carthage and it's been awesome.

    Empathic sourcebook for Dark Conpsiracy. For some reason we missed CoC early on and Dark Conspiracy was our goto horror game. Empathic really added an amazing aspect to the game, and was the first rpg material i'd ever read that used the price of power as an aspect in game. Fantasically open ended ways of handling sorcery and the like, all at increasing costs really played up the grim setting.