Monday, April 27, 2020

There's Lots of New Stuff

Megadungeon level-switching level 
Graphic dungeon generator along with a dungeon it generated
Fighting a wizard and his pirate fleet in the Eight Demon River
A mountain that comes to life
Insect cult's isometric lair
Cube World #8 and #9 now available in The Store.
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Vote for what you want more of:
As you may know, a lot more adventures and materials are being prepared for The Store out of my own notebooks and cancelled LotFP projects.
Vote on what you want next....
More of the Far East material
Stuff from Bards
Southeast Asia/Drownesia
Broceliande (french/english)
Northern Europe/Germany/Vornheim
Red & Pleasant Land
Africa/Cesaire
Sea voyages
Middle East/Scorpion Lands
Tools and toys
Nephilidia / Amphibious Vampires
Goblins/Gaxen Kane
.....and megadungeon stuff
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

You Are Here

When I was working on Violence In The Nympharium for LotFP the idea ended up being100 linked short adventures, so the first thing I did was go Ok we need lots of different kinds--the murder mystery one, the horror one, straight dungeoncrawl, interdimensional lunacy--everything I could think of.
So I did one about moving through a maze (like a literal maze this time) and trying hard to get a treasure without seeing a basilisk. The size scale is drastically reduced, gaps in the maze are sometimes 1' wide or less, some are just big enough to look through.

The default rules of D&D aren't meant to deal with this--you can move 30-60' in a six-second and I've built this adventure where a player needs to make tactically important left-right decisions every four or five feet.

This is where its nice to be able to draw it all out in the middle of thinking up the adventure rather than write the whole module and then hand it off to some other person to illustrate--the more of the problem I can draw, the less I have to write. By drawing the labyrinth up front I can go "Ok, let's say the basilisk hears you, how long does it take to get to you? Do we need rules for how it moves? Can it climb walls? What if the players climb the walls?" etc.
In another adventure for Nympharium the treasure was in a trap--technically in a trap which was itself in a trap which is itself in a trap, etc.

When you normally draw a dungeon, you put a little square with a "T" and then write "Pit trap" and move on with your life. By drawing the whole trap and the entire mechanism, Grimtooth-style, I managed to make this one into an adventure that'd keep a party busy for forty minutes or more.

Once I'd done a few of these, I realized this kind of stuff is so relaxing when I DM with it--like when you have one of those stress-DMing situations where you've spent weeks trying to set up a day and everyone is finally available and then the day comes and your head is in five different places and you're like oh fuck game in an hour but I haven't done laundry but if I pull out one of these "activity book" -style adventures--oh man everything is right there. No abstraction, no trying to keep track of people, it's has an 8-bit video game clarity that I can just cruise on. It's easy to stretch parts out, go into descriptions, take your time because you have all the problems the players are about to face very clearly laid out.

Obviously this approach doesn't work with everything--Castle Terravante from the first Cube World is a social adventure about a weird love triangle and drawing the castle itself and drawing little weirdoes with rapiers in it with arrows pointing at each other doesn't get you very far, you still are stuck having to invent situations and act NPCs and the majority of the adventure is going to have to be improvised around their personalities. You are less CPU and closer to just being another player (one devoted to making life...challenging..for the other four).

But when you can do it, it's nice. And it's fun to try to figure out new things to draw and what possibilities that opens up. Like I have this one notebook which is printed with a page of angles, they're presented in degrees but also as fractions over pi, so if the halfling economy is based on pi, and halfling houses are always round then...

Anyway, the new one I just put up in the store last night is a pack with three of these: The Labyrinth of the Basilisk, The Deep Trap, and The Old Empire--a like 50-room dungeon all drawn in cutaway view.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What I've been up to for the last year

Thanks to everyone for the enthusiastic response to the new pdfs coming out, if it continues like this I'll post more...

So this is one of my notebooks, it used to be a copy of The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler..
 Inside, pages have been added, removed, primed over.

I made lots of D&Dable pictures, then cut windows into the pages ahead of them....

So you've got a players' map and then each "window page" is a completely different scenario using the same image...
 That's a good, small notebook for if you just want to throw something in a bag and run a one-shot across town, the next one is much heftier...

It used to be a cook book--a compilation of La Cuisine Magazine--the contents page isn't quite finished yet..
 It's been turned into massive area-by-area atlas of the entire Cube World, kind of like all the old TSR Gazetteers mashed together. The original book was color-coded, so it used to be "vegetables green, seafood blue, meat pink" etc now its Gaxen Kane green and the islands are blue and the area around Vornheim is pink...
 I've been altering it page by page...

That's Broceliande, the western-europe mishmash where the jousting takes place. Every area has a big map, its own random encounter table, and features like this set of "staging areas" for random encounters.

The actual entries are in different formats--like, the North of Broceliande on the Goblin Empire border is a bunch of short, illustrated hexcrawl-style entries, (that's the Warbox: Broceliande module)

....and then other individual areas are longer, like this one based on populating a xylene-transfer of the port illustrated at the top of the page with a chaos warband for the players to take out (The Siege of Ortheque).

Anyway, thanks! See you soon.
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Monday, April 20, 2020

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Is Going To Go Under

The Letter

A few weeks ago, everyone that LotFP owed money got an email from publisher James Raggi IV that started like this:

This is the worst thing I've ever had to write...

I don't have money to pay out royalties this quarter (nor payments for
bank loans I'd taken out last year). LotFP is in big trouble...


As someone to whom LotFP pays many thousands of dollars, this caught my attention.

The letter went on to explain the following: 

Orders had remained constant even after the harassment campaign started last February and LotFP had their best GenCon ever, but then, toward the end of the year, orders began to drop precipitously.

This is completely consistent with what you'd expect as a result of an online harassment campaign targeting (first) LotFP's best-selling author and (a week later) the company itself for not completely disowning that author: Most people who liked LotFP stuff and didn't care about online drama kept buying things, but gatekeeper's denying LotFP access to outlets where the game could be advertised or spread to new audiences. 

Did LotFP deserve this? I didn't like that James--someone who much of my work relied on--apparently read and enjoyed a Jordan Peterson self-help book; I'm with Jeff. But call me crazy I think lying about rape--which nearly every other indie RPG publisher inside and outside the OSR did and/or encouraged people to do last year--is way worse.

And it was a lie. The online RPG community relied on its instincts and you know what their instincts got them? Adam Koebel. The best you could say is: they're idiots.


The Weird Thing About Gamers Online

Here's a weird thing that's always been true:

People love to buy LotFP stuff, people are even happy to vote for LotFP stuff (thus stuff that should not have been fan award bait like Frostbitten & Mutilated getting 4 Ennies) but when it comes to talking on the internet people like to hate on LotFP much more than they like to argue for LotFP. 

And here's the problem: all indie RPGs exist in an economic world where you either argue for stuff or it goes away. In online RPGs, there is no plausible amount of just quietly buying stuff that makes up for people loudly hating on it.

Loudly hating on stuff works. There are people out there who have no idea that every single successful OSR thing out there copies LotFP's business model, design choices, and willingness to do weird stuff, there are people who literally think its all dickmonsters because you're allowed to say that and will get shouted down on forums if you disagree.


The Hot Springs Island Theory Of RPG Economics

In the discussions that followed this announcement, I pointed this out. Jacob Hurst, author of Hot Springs Island, disagreed: he said that while, yes, LotFP's problems could be said to be based on "personality-based bullshit" the idea that LotFP fans should therefore counter smear campaigns online was a bad idea. His opinion is:

-It doesn't matter that the biggest online PDF company restricts what LotFP can put up

-It doesn't matter that the major conventions, where James makes a large amount of his money, limits LotFP's ability to participate

-It doesn't matter that LotFP's ability to win fan awards--which always boost sales--has been seriously impacted

-It doesn't matter that Allen Varney's Bundle of Holding banned LotFP

-It doesn't matter that on RPGnet and Reddit, where the largest RPG discussions happen and where a large number of new people hear about games for the first time, the moderators pretty much suspend the rules when it comes to attacking James or LotFP

-It doesn't matter that Ben Milton's Questing Beast--who has tens of thousands of followers on YouTube making it the biggest OSR review site by far, got rid of more than one LotFP review

-It doesn't matter that the same goes for the major OSR Discord, where Into the Odd's Chris McDowall, the owner, literally got rid of the rule against lying on the Discord in order to facilitate more harassment

...if you just make quality product, everything will be fine. That's Jacob's theory.

I don't think that literally anything that has ever happened in the history of entertainment economics or selling indie RPGs after 2005 backs this up, but if you do: Ok, buy something.  Much of what LotFP had to cancel is coming out right here. Prove me wrong.


This Was A Hit Job

Hundreds or thousands of people are going to take the news that LotFP is going under and be like "Yay! Fuck LotFP"

This is far less than the number of people who buy LotFP stuff, but it is enough to scare those folks away from public places online where they might kick back. In several major forums, mods who know they don't know what happened have made official policies against even discussing LotFP products because they "start fights". i.e. By rampantly attacking anything about the company, harassers have managed to make mods realize the path of least resistance is to bow to an intimidation campaign.

This was on purpose and the people who did it knew what they were doing, Stacy Dellorfano, who used to be LotFP's PR person, knew ahead of time that the smear campaign was coming, decided to join in. Stacy said there going to leave the company at the end of the year and that James should prepare for an attack on me from my ex after that.

Lots of other people joined in. It was all premeditated:
Emmy Allen/ Cavegirl has never been able to explain why she thought I "hurt" anyone (I guess saying "don't lie on the internet it's bad" is hurting by her metric? I don't know. She has never explained because she can't. Here she is in a less philosophic mood:


...but I guess "making sure you don't hurt innocent people" is not a major concern if you're a sociopathic 4chan hatemonger.) but the screencap is clear: this was all an intentional manipulation.

Emmy's blogpost about how I was clearly a monster for (-gasp-) telling her I liked some of her writing back when we were friendly and asking her to warn me if she saw people harassing me on 4chan was dutifully passed around gamer circles and even stickyposted on the OSR reddit as if somehow proved I'd done something wrong.

People fell for it, just like they fell for all the other blogposts put up that week.

The shitty people online, who want bad things to happen, are way more motivated, organized, and careful than the good people who believe in truth and facts and fairness, who somehow seem to just trust that it'll all come out in a wash that nobody is ever doing. There's no wash, the washing machine never worked, detergent was banned years ago, and the mods turned the water off anyway.

That is why the thing that you like is going away. 


So...Is LotFP Over?

Whether you agree with Emmy Allen that the hatemob she helped stir up was "violence" it certainly had an effect on James. Again from his letter:

I'll admit I mentally and physically collapsed during last spring,
between 1: now being in incredible debt with all the assumptions
supporting that debt now destroyed. 2: Coming under fire from the public
after doing exactly what I thought that same public demanded I do after
the Zak situation (cancel all upcoming projects) to the point where
valid criticism and argument and just plain shit-talking abuse became an
indistinguishable, numbing blur, and as the months went on, there was 3:
Sales of Zak's existing books still holding up, leading me to realize
that on a pure numbers basis, canceling Zak's upcoming projects (and
canceling the RPL reprint; people up and down the distribution chain
have been asking about it) was a bad business move. The dissonance
caused by 2 + 3 happening simultaneously... fuck. It still makes no
sense to me.

The dude is a mess. I've talked to him and he is a mess. He pissed off the smear campaign for not disowning me, and he's disappointed everyone else by not publishing me. He can't catch a break.

LotFP has been cut to a minimal crew, and James is gambling what's left on three new projects, all very nicely illustrated and produced. They're supposed to come out this summer.

I don't know if they will. I do know that when they do there are lots of people who will see it as a moral duty and their only source of entertainment to crap on any public discussion of them as "more edgelord bullshit from a nazi" and I know that James does not have the energy or reach he once did to push back or inspire people to do it or ask them to.

I spent ten years telling the RPG community online that they were gullible and stupid and they did not like it one bit. What I never understood was how much more powerful the gullibility and stupidity was than the better impulses to creativity, thoughtfulness and generosity. The internet sold the games, but in the end the internet won.

As I've said many times: I'm not going anywhere. Even if I never wrote another line of RPG text I have to stick around to hold the people who did this responsible, because they are totally evil and I read all the same books as you did so I know what you do when there's total evil.

But you reading this have a lot of choices about what you're going to do. Broken record time: I'd like to remind you that in this little pond your choices have consequences. You can post a thing, you can say a thing, you can tell the truth, you can ask people to care, you can try to make sure the good thing does not go away.
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Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Store

Welcome to The Store

These are the RPG materials I use at home--annotated and statted and presented to be usable to everyone--including modular megadungeon pieces, over a hundred pages of things from projects that got cancelled from LotFP and other publishers, the random tables I use in games, and much more about the world that includes Vornheim, Red & Pleasant Land, and Maze of the Blue Medusa

If response continues to be good, these pdfs will continue to go up. Newest releases are at the top...


Odd Jobs In Small Baronies

(Cube World 14)

A mini-sandbox setting, a little over a hundred miles across, a fine starting place or headquarters for exploring the Forest Sauvage. Legendary beasts, underwater ruins, elves living on cliffs, unicorns and unicorn-thieves, a land of hedge-mazes, the cult of the Ultravore, and more.


10$ / 12$ on OnlyFans





The Philosophers

(Cube World #13)

This module concerns The Philosophers—a handful of related species from another dimension with an eerie power over the minds of terrestrial species. Specifically:

-The Neolarval Genesis Pits,​ a valley deep within the mountains where the Philosophers perform strange experiments and breed new selves.
-The Hyperlarvae of Triplet Velve,​ a set-up suitable for an urban social/investigation scenario where the party encounters some of the most bizarre outcomes of these experiments.
-Fortress of the Brain-Eaters,​ a simple ruin colonized by these creatures, riddled with traps, suitable for a skirmish or infiltration via stealth.
-Negazohedron of the Czarithid​, a dungeon adventure in the four-dimensional inner-sanctum of the Czarithid—the most powerful of Philosophers.

10$ / 12$ on OnlyFans





Four Islands

(Cube World #12)

Four Islands:
-Isle of Massive Crustaceans (and the evil sorcerer who loves them)
-Isle of the Lava Trolls (the floor is lava)
-Isle of Fifty Fingers (an Indian-flavored skirmish battle)
-Isle of the Spawn King (including a mutant-creature tribe generator)

5$, 6$ if you use OnlyFans



Nephilidia
(Cube World #11)

So decadent are the vampire lords of Nephilidia that they fear equally the sun, the sea, dry land, and, indeed any surface not hewn by an intelligent hand. Distinguishable from ordinary vampires by the gills on their necks and their glassy blue eyes, they prefer to travel via subterranean aqueducts, sewers, or other shallow, watertight, artificial constructions.

Most prefer never to leave their half-drowned empire of Nephilidia. Inside its tarnished palaces and rotting halls they sit--forever knee-deep in black and stagnant water, with strange algaes stretched like cobwebs from the surface to the once-ornate walls and crumbling statuary--endlessly elaborating cruel and languid intrigues, attended by naught but eyeless fish.

Nephilidia once had another name, and another before that, but now it is only Nephilidia—the sun’s weakened gleam silhouetting nothing but immense sea spiders and the scaffolds of illegible, unmoving machines rusting in snow and the enormous moon, in its turn, describing only the charcoaled surfaces of black-armored knights and the pale of their ghost-colored steeds.


This 23-page pdf includes a hexmap, random encounter tables for the sea, snow, and ruins, Nephilidian dungeon generator, map of the last palace, stats, items and lots more. 12$, 15$ if you use Onlyfans.

Red and Pleasant Miscellany 
(Cube World #10)



Snarks, bandersnatches, four-dimensional rooms, halfling pie locks, riding teacups through pools of mercury--I've done a lot with the world of Red & Pleasant Land since it was first published in 2014, here's the best of it...


5$ / 6$ if you use OnlyFans.



Eight Demon River, Lair of the Mantis, Wargenfels
(Cube World #9)

Three self-contained scenarios straight from the notebook.

-Eight Demon River requires the party to wade into the midst of a great naval battle on the titular river, in the Far East, against the fearsome wu-jen Leng Tch'e.

-Temple of the Mantis takes place in a bizarre, mazelike extradimensional space, where the players must evade or defeat strange mantis priests to secure the McGuffin. Lots of teleporting doors and an isometric map. 


-Wargenfels finds the party clinging to life on the back of a giant the size of a mountain

5$. 6 if you use OnlyFans.

The Tracery, Lair of the She-Jackal and Graphic Dungeon Generator
(Cube World #8)

This pdf has three dungeon things...

The Tracery​—a unique area of interlinking walkways that can go inside a larger dungeon, and act as a “switching station” between other levels.


Dungeon Generator​—A tool for quickly putting together a medium-sized dungeon, ideal for lonely places that have been abandoned and then taken over by monsters.


Lair of the She Jackal​—A medium-sized dungeon made using the Dungeon Generator featuring weird magic, lava babies, and lots of scorpions.


It's 5$. 6$ on OnlyFans since there's a service charge.





The Three Dangers of Eeping
(Cube World #7)

This installment contains three scenarios for players who like a challenge:

-The Deep Trap is hard because it requires a very careful search to find the treasure
-The Labyrinth of the Basilisk is hard because it is very deadly
-The Old Empire is hard because both

Characters setting out to deal with these scenarios should be told “it’s very, very, difficult”. If you don’t, they will get mad at you.

Also includes the d1000 Random Treasure Table and all its books and items from Cube World #3


This one has a lot of art to it, so it's 7$. Email me -- zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm -- to use a payment ap or bank transfer.

If you can't just make a custom pledge to my patreon equal to the amount you're paying and don't renew next month.  It's 8$ if you use onlyfans since they have a service charge.

The Siege of Ortheque
(Cube World #6)

This adventure has three different parts:

-In the first part the party discovers that the port town of Ortheque, in the region of Teeming, has been blockaded and taken over by a chaos warband. The party is given the opportunity to plan an assault and liberate the town. Unaltered, it’s suitable for a mid-level party and has a player's handout they can use to scout it out, plus a GM cheat sheet to make it easy to run.

-When and if the party succeeds, the scenario opens up: all kinds of NPCs are excited to ask the heroes for help doing things they were going to do before the blockade both in Ortheque and in the larger town of AuNord on the other side of the region.

-There are a few things to do in and around Teeming, including a small dungeon, and a random dungeon generator. 5$

Warbox: Broceliande
(Cube World #5)

Broceliande is lovely and green, with tall castles, jousts, quests, wild forests, foxes, frogs and fae, elves in the north, halflings in the south, dwarves in mountains, the stylish and pleasure-loving empire of the Hunger Kings along the east coast and the staid and comfort-fond kingdom of Annwn nearby.

Unfortunately, its closest neighbor is Gaxen Kane, the horrible Goblin Empire, with which the various nations of Broceliande have been at war on-and-off since the earth first formed from the stone that the twelve medusa sisters turned the primordial demons into. This installment is just about the wartorn northern reaches of Broceliande, where the gray elves and goblins contend much as they have for many lifetimes of men.

This is a 10-page sandbox module with about 50 locations, a random town generator, random encounters and D20 illustrated places in which to set them. Lots of pictures. 5$.


Iguana Isle, The Megacorpse, Tower of the Octophant and Drownesia
(Cube World #4)

This four-pack of one-page (ish) places and situations is all about sailing and exploration. The first is a pirate fortress where PCs can try to blend in or just take over, the others are set in Drownesia (or Southeast Asia)--investigating the body of a god being picked at by pterodactyls, an elephant-headed ogre, and a Drownesian princess bride in need of foreigners rescuing from her dinosaur-riding groom.

Includes a 7 page pdf plus a simple map for players to use and a lots of pictures, including the fully-illustrated way-too-much-effort two-page spread "cheat sheet" I use at home for Isle of the Octophant (previewed above). 

$5.00.


The Curated Destruction

(Cube World #3)

Each room of the library consists of one or more hexagonal galleries lined with shelves, with each gallery possessing a second balcony-level held aloft by wooden columns (reached by an immensely tasteful winding staircase in the southeast corner of each room), all executed in the warm and scholarly middle-fae style of southern Broceliande during the Second War. Unless otherwise noted (or flooded past 10’), each is lit by six torches in sconces set along each column. If extinguished the torches will be re-lit the next time the party returns.

It is the Curated Destruction, a semi-legendary library created by the elves to contain all useful knowledge and literary art. The hexagonal shape of the libraries’ galleries derives from the shaft libraries of the ancient serpentmen, the name derives from the method the elves employed to make these collections their own: since the serpentine libraries reportedly contained all possible literary works (all masterpieces, all possible inaccurate plagiarisms of these masterpieces, all accurate predictions, all false ones, texts containing only the letters xvi over and over, utter gibberish, this module, etc) the elves compiled their vast libraries by looting the shaft libraries and destroying every meaningless work.

The party has just found every book they could ever want…in among a practical infinity of ones they don’t.

This is a mammoth installment: 36 pages plus the map. The library-dungeon and all its sections, plus 100 rare books, over a hundred new items and the entire rest of a d1000 all-purpose dungeon treasure table. Plus a table of useless (?) books the PCs pull off the shelves

$10.00

The Inquisitor's Road, The Gray Fortress, The Echo Chambers (plus d100 potions with ingredients) (Cube World #2)

Every dungeon needs quiet spots, where there are strange things to see and strange choices to make in the dark. A switching-post between the more intense areas--this is what The Echo Chambers are for. They can also just be a fun place to chase an enemy through--like when the spooky music kicks in at Bowser's castle.

I put together an adventure in three parts leading down into them: in the first scenario, the party heads through the wilderness to investigate a heresy at the behest of religious authorities, in the second section the party encounters the cult of the White-Lipped Goddess in a once-abandoned fortress, and the third section is this dungeon.

Each section leads into the next but there are other ways to run them—you could place a treasure at the end of the first or second section and have complete scenario, and you can place enemies from the section section in the Echo Chambers and have a diverting one or two-session dungeon crawl.

Either way, this installment of Cube World should give you at least six hours of play, and likely much more. It also includes a d100 random potion table along with a list of the exotic ingredients necessary to make each potion because I had a monster that was carrying random potions...

It's an 11-page pdf plus a map. $5.00.
Castle Terravante, Vault of Omnilex, and Crypt of the Wretched

(Cube World #1)

It's a couple of linked scenarios (detachable from each other) a social-interaction clusterfuck involve shenanigans in a castle (a duke, a count, a scheming priest, a dark secret etc) and the rest about the dungeon beneath. It runs to 10 pages plus a map and I've run it as part of the beginning of a megadungeon and as a one-shot in its own right--it works either way. So far Kimberly's lost a warpig and all the fingers on one hand. Stats are for any old-school D&Dlike, but it's easy to convert.

$5.00


Tiger King Dungeon

Exotic animals, competing factions, controlled substances, murder-for-hire, mutilation...the DM who asked me to write her a Tiger King-themed adventure didn't know what she was getting into.

It ran to ten or eleven pages including old-school D&D-style stats (she requested Lamentations of the Flame Princess, so they're technically that), a full-color illustrated dungeon map in addition to the island sketch above.

$5.00

Other releases...

Frostbitten & Mutilated
Maze of the Blue Medusa
Red & Pleasant Land
and
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit

If you're having trouble getting these pdfs or have any questions about where the money goes when you buy them, email me.

Art Stuff...

Posters, prints, pillows, shirts, phone cases...here

How to Order:

If you have payment aps, email zakzmith at hawtmayle dawt calm and I'll send you the stuff. If you don't (often a problem outside the US) then you can email me about using transferwise or donate the appropriate amount of money to my patreon using the "custom pledge" button and email me to let me know which things you want.
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