Friday, July 29, 2016

Still Play D&D and Still Worship Satan

So y'know we're in LA, but we need shirts anyway and this place on our street makes custom shirts. And the first thing you think when you send them the design is "What even are they gonna make of this nerd shit we're having them do?"

So then The Lovely Anne (modeling below) comes back with the shirts.
She's like "The kid who worked there asked if he could have one."
Turns out he's a fan.

Anyway: Get one

Also stuff like:

And Maze of the Blue Medusa stuff too:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mental Illness In The RPG Community

Any discussion of this topic period will immediately bring on accusations of "gaslighting!!!!!" if pointed at specific people, so let's stick with statements we can all agree with

Statement we can all agree with #1

Sometimes people in the online RPG community are mentally ill

Statement we can all agree with #2

Mental illness can cause people to experience emotional pain over things that aren't actually harmful to anyone who doesn't have their specific trigger or chain of associations. To something not ordinarily harmful.

Statement we can (probably) all agree with #3

It's not practical or desirable to talk to the entire internet as if it's mentally ill all the time and almost nobody does. You can tag specific common triggers, but ritually using indirectness, vagueness and soft probing creates a lot of other practical problems to getting anything done and creates new problems when dealing with any kind of urgent situation. It also can strike people as condescending.

Statement we can all agree with #4

If you write online, once in a while someone mentally ill will experience emotional pain because of what you write online.

Statement we can all agree with #5

Sometimes this won't be your fault, this will be the fault of the illness.

Statement we can all agree with #6

This emotional pain may cause them to fabricate or distort facts while expressing their pain. This can cross the line into libel or things like it that can cause real damage to the mentally ill person's victims.
Easy examples: "The authors of Dungeon World are trying to undermine gaming" "James Raggi hates all women".

Statement we can all agree with #7

People will (and should) rush in to reassure the mentally ill person who is caused emotional pain by the innocent thing you said. They are ill, after all, and need care.

Statement we can all agree with #8

This reassurance is hard to do without also reifying the distorted or fabricated facts they associate with their trigger and their pain.

Statement we can all agree with #9

If this is done in public but not done carefully, reassuring the mentally ill person risks victimizing another innocent person by reifying (plussing, agreeing with, condoning, sharing) the untrue things the mentally ill person said in the midst of their pain.

Statement we can all agree with #10

When a mentally ill person appears in the RPG community what should happen is their friends should take their pain seriously but not immediately accept all their fact claims. They should talk to their friend and try to connect them with help and try to do this in private as much as possible.

Statement we can all agree with #11

The online RPG community sucks at this.

Statement we can all agree with #12

The people who are attacked by the mentally ill have more of a personal motivation to do something about the situation than the people who are not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Play D&D and Worship Satan

New shirt modelled by satisfied customer (and only neckbeard I have ever seen wearing one of my shirts) Nicol√≤ Maioli. I asked about the quality of the print: It's perfect, no squares, not like "pro" quality but not plastic either - basically like any other metal gig t-shirt I own.

Get them here.  And on throw pillows, phone cases, blah blah blah. And they come in white, too:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Big Deal: The Drama Club Finally Comes Clean About Harassment

Long time readers will probably be aware that me and the D&Dw/Porn Stars Girls have been through a lot of harassment at the hands of prominent members of the indie RPG community, including Cam Banks, author of Marvel Heroic RPG, Fred Hicks of FATE and Shannon Appelcline and Christopher Allen, who run RPGnet.

What's been frustrating is how many of their friends, coworkers and business partners gleefully joined in these attacks (and still do). And how the prominent folks in that scene never call each other out for bad behavior.

Well, that's changed. Somebody prominent, who people listen to in the indie/postForge/StoryGamer clique has finally admitted they're fucking up.

You'll notice Mark was forced to anonymize the names for fear of attacks from his own people, but the walkout on Stacy was Cam Banks and Adam Jury (of Eclipse Phase) and Anna Kreider / Wundergeek was the one who fucked with LGBT folk after Orlando.

I was about to compare this to prominent Republicans finally admitting Trump is an ass, but that's not fair--there's nothing inherently fucked-up about the Drama Club's approach to games, it's just their approach to other humans that sucks.

As you might expect he's experiencing a lot of pushback and attacks because of this, which you can see here. (EDIT:: Holy fuck just realized one of the people harassing us works at Paizo. What the hell?)

What Mark doesn't say is where all this bad faith behavior comes from--but it's pretty obviously on display in that thread I just linked--lots of accusations and dogpiling, no links to evidence and  nobody even asking for links or evidence--and no acknowledgment of any of the D&Dw/Porn Stars women as even existing or having experienced harassment. The underlying problem here is the Drama Club's culture, which is, unlike the DIY D&D scene, avoids confronting abusers consistently-- and can be summarized as:
And a serious lack of:

Monday, July 25, 2016

New I Hit It With My Axe + Maze News + Don't Be Like Metallica

New I Hit It With My Axe today--
This one's all about Miss Mandy Morbid and the art of playing a rebel cripple leader cleric. Subscribe to Satine's channel to keep up.


Here's an in-depth interview Patrick and I did about Maze of the Blue Medusa where we talk about medusas, greek gods and that Metallica documentary, among other stuff.

And here's an Enworld thread about the Maze, kicked off when somebody said "Maze of the Blue Medusa isn't an adventure as much as it is a fractal."


There's a cheap charity Bundle of Holding featuring my book, Vornheim and a ton of other LotFP adventures including Seclusium of Orphone, England Upturn'd and the excellent Forgive Us available here. Get your weird historical horror and your warm inner glow all at once.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Case You Haven't Heard...

Maze of the Blue Medusa is stunning.

-Vanessa Veselka

One of the biggest releases, I think, in the history of D&D publishing

-Ben Milton, Questing Beast

This book is a deep, luxurious bed for Dungeon Masters to roll in

-Jay Murphy

Nothing like Maze of the Blue Medusa has come along before….Each element of Maze of the Blue Medusa is near perfect. And I dare hazard to say that the entire thing is greater still than the sum of its parts…Maze of the Blue Medusa is in some higher tier than The Best.

-Bryce Lynch, TenFootPole

It kicks WotC's books' ass in every department, and it's made by 3 people.


After 36+ years of gaming, precious little seems "new" to me.  This feels new. 

-Tim Brannan, The Other Side

If a regular old dungeon were presented with this level of clarity and efficiency, it would be excellent, but Maze of the Blue Medusa combines accessible presentation with a dungeon that's genuinely fantastic and eerie.

-James Holloway

It's gorgeous it's thought-provoking, it contains some of the most interesting and strange dungeon rooms ever published, and above all else, it is by far the most respectfully made TRPG book in years. Bottom Line: Maze of the Blue Medusa is a masterpiece and will likely be held up as the new gold standard of megadungeon book design…

-Kiel Chenier, Dungeons & Donuts

This is news to nobody even remotely interested in interesting roleplaying at this point but it's a masterpiece, rich and strange and brutal and so very sad. 

-Stasis Engine

Maze of the Blue Medusa is fun to read, it looks wonderful, and it's designed to be useful; there are plenty of game books that fit into one of those categories, fewer that fit into two, and not many at all that fit into all three, let alone doing so while describing a setting that can provide months, if not years, of continuous play. 

-Kelvin Green

 Just freaking wow. 

-They Might Be Gazebos

It’s a work of art in the truest sense, 

-Defy Danger

Huge and very well made

-David Browe

To Zak Sabbath & Patrick Stuart:  This thing, Maze of the Blue Medusa, which you have created together is stupefying. Assimilation could change your brain.  I think it changed mine.

-Ro Annis

 Let's put it this way: it's a dungeon you actually want to read the prose in. To grown adults.

-Kenneth Hite

It may be one of the most sublimely weird things I've ever read in gaming


Forgive me for all the "unique"s and "different" and "rich" and all those words that I used but I'm just trying to--it's just difficult to really explain the vastness of these characters...If you can get through this thing and your players can tackle this you're going to have tons of stories


Every page of it is making me go wow.


Probably the single best RPG supplement I have ever read.

-Steve Sims

Clearly jam-packed with awesome ideas.

-Monte Cook

Nerds: This may be the best D&D book of the year.

-Ramanan S


-Nathan Strong

Maze of the Blue Medusa is a damn fine book.


...might actually top Red & Pleasant Land!

-James Gavin

Maze of the Blue Medusa might be the most delightfully weird gaming book I've ever read.

-Jeremy Puckett

It's definitely one of the best looking books ever published for the OSR, or for RPGs in general.

-Andy Markham

This is the most dungeony dungeon. It has everything you'd expect in a big dungeon: different factions, shifting alliances, magic fountains, cursed treasures, teleportation, strange poisons, history, traps, trick doors, secret passages, rooms with no entrances, riddles, pits, everything.

-Nate Lumkin

 fucking amazing

-acep hale

It's just astonishing. Beautiful art, evocative text, great quality, nice weight in your trembling hands and just lots and lots and lots of cool encounters, areas and--just everything.

-Karl Stjernberg

...this work achieves what Tegel Manor attempted and nobody else has gotten very close to since: an intricate, interacting environ where something new and interesting happens around every corner that still attends to the practical issues of trying to DM such a beast.

-Jeff Rients


-China Miéville


Ennie nominated for:

Best Adventure
Best Cartography (won Silver)
Best Electronic Book (physical ones weren't ready in time for judging) (won Gold)
Best Writing (won Silver)
Product of the Year
And if you don't have one, get one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Will Not Find Its Like Elsewhere, Sir!

Some news before the meat of the post:

It's gorgeous, it's thought-provoking, it contains some of the most interesting and strange dungeon rooms ever published...Maze of the Blue Medusa is a masterpiece and will likely be held up as the new gold standard of megadungeon book design, both for its excellent writing and its hyperfunctional layout

Another review

A question from a perplexed soul that readers might help answer:

Now, on to a D&D widget:

Unusual Animals Available in the Market Today...

(in a big city, d4-1 of these will be available on any given day, in a small town, d4-3)
Roll d20

1, Lucky Chicken--This chicken is lucky. Survives danger like it has 12 hit points. 5gp.

2, Riding Goat--Trained by goblins, dyed with purple spots. Does an extra +1 damage on a gore or a bite (otherwise as wardog) but if you run into any goblins and they make a check they might get it to respond to their commands. 20gp.

3, Escape Goat--If a goat should slay a troll, it inherits the victim's regeneration abilities. This is one such individual--it regenerates at d4hp per round. 200gp.

4, Sexy Hawk--God you look good with that hawk on your shoulder. +2 charisma when attempting seduction. 60gp.

5, One-eyed Hawk--First it's a bargain second it's secretly mega-obedient, like collie obedient. (-2 Wisdom/Perception checks). 20gp.

6, Marbling horse--Or at least that's what the idiots here call it. It's actually half-zebra (thus: a zorse or zebroid)--tawny with thin black stripes. As medium warhorse, just more interesting -400gp.

7, Squealing mule--Shrieks bloody fucking murder whenever anyone comes near it with drawn steel. Probably useful if adventurers park it outside a camp or dungeon--complete pain for anyone else. Cheap-- 10gp

8, Adolescent panther--Not in any sense trained. At all. 4hd. 450gp. 475 with cage.

9, Messenger pigeon--Pretty good at its job. 10gp.

10, Truffle pig--Finds truffles! Never go hungry! Ok, kind of: truffles are low on nutritional value but make rations tastier. Assume a week's rations last 20
5 longer per truffle found. 20gp

11, Riding boar--Trained by dwarves, fur spiked with lard. . Does an extra +1 damage on a bite (otherwise as wardog) but if you run into any dwarves and they make a check they might get it to respond to their commands. 20gp.

12, Paranoid songbird--Sings pretty much only when unfamiliar creatures are nearby. Unlike the squealing mule, the intruder is unlikely to realize the bird is acting as an alarm. 10gp.

13, Canary--great for detecting poison gas. 1gp.

14, Oddspotted newt--this rare, tiny, small, fragile, brightly-colored species survives by immediately crawling into the darkest narrowest place it can find. Good for finding hidden seams in the architecture. 400gp.

15, Eastern leopard-cat--merchant selling it just thinks it's a fancy domestic cat left by sailors from Yoon-Suin. Which it is. However, it also has literally nine lives. Well, eight. It used one getting here. 10gp.

16. Frog prince--Appears to be simply a fascinating, indigo-patterned frog, medium-sized. Unbeknownst to the merchant it is frog royalty--other frogs, toads, bullywugs, blindheims, slaads and batrachians of all kinds will defer to it and pay it homage. 8gp.

17. Thrusting pheasant--Trained to peck and chase anything smaller than itself. Does no damage but irritating enough to grant advantage to anyone else attacking the same target. Allegedly bred for fairy-catching. 10gp.

18. Blue-sided viper--1 hp, save or take 2d20. Not trained or trainable. Handle with care. 300gp.

19. Amusing bunny--overweight and dalmatian-spotted, it loves to gambol, hop and romp. Anyone possessed of such a bunny will be at advantage to charisma checks of the sort where a basically decent person tries to determine if you yourself are a decent person. 5gp.

20. Literal skillmonkey--likely a variety of capuchin, it has either pick locks (1-2) or pick pockets (3-4) as a 3rd level thief focusing on those skills in whatever system, Dex 17 for these purposes. 125gp.

Monday, July 18, 2016

New I Hit It With My Axe + Kenneth Hite, Zeb Cook & a Lizard On Maze of the Blue Medusa

-So first off, here's RPG-royalty Kenneth Hite on why our "Maze of the Blue Medusa" is his "...most dangerously close and worthy competitor" .

-Second, so apparently some Ennies votes may have gotten glitched away, so check to see if you voted for Maze in Best Adventure, Product of the Year, Best E-Book (the physical copies weren't ready by judgin' time), Best Cartography and Best Writing 

-New I Hit it With My Axe is up, with historical gnotes about gnolls and Lord Dunsany (and ball-stomping).

For some reason Laney is inaccurately captioned as Stoya. That needs to get fixed.

-Fourth: if you don't have Vornheim yet, or just want a way to check out other stuff from Lamentations of the Flame Princess on the cheap, there's a Bundle of Lamentations out now offering Vornheim: The Complete City Kit with four other books as a bundle.

-Fifth: TSR legend Zeb Cook played a session in the Maze. And liked it.  
Lizards, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Knight of Tittivila

Knight of Tittivila (Paladin variant)

This is for my hacked version of 5e--it's a non spell-casting paladin and is a bit less powerful overall than the 5e default--but also more straightforward and with less mechanical fiddly bits. You can make paladins of any number of gods by switching out the Tittivila-specific bits.

Knights of Tittivila--goddess of flesh and change--are found among many human and nonhuman races, including the Saurians of Nyctopolis.

Hit die: d10
Saves: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Pick 2--Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, Religion, Animal Handling

Level 1
Detect Evil/Good # of times/day=Cha mod. 60 ft
Lay on Hands: Heal 5 pts total per day or cure disease or mundane curses by trading in 5 pts. +1 per level
Prof bonus +2

Mounted combat (+2 to attack from a horse or other mount)
Smite: Once/day. Add damage to a strike against any creature that is explicitly blasphemous to Tittivila or which has grievously harmed your friends. The damage is +d6 plus d6 extra per (true) friend harmed by the creature. Max d6s=Paladin level, up to a max of 10. If the paladin knowingly "games" this ability Tittivila won't grant it.
Prof bonus +2

Add 2 ability score points anywhere
Prof bonus +2

Advantage vs disease. No disease can kill you.
Advantage to hit vs creatures that are not flesh (undead, constructs etc).
Prof bonus +2
Add two ability score points anywhere.
Once per day you can turn undead. Save DC: 8+prof mod+Wis mod.
Prof bonus +3

Extra atk per round.
Once/day as an automatic action deliver a baleful mutation to any enemy willingly touching you..
Prof bonus +3

Any ally within 15' gains same advantages to saves as you.
Half damage from necrotic sources.
Advantage vs paralysis or holding etc.
Prof bonus +3

You can call out a creature with an oath--you may only attack that creature until it is dead after doing so, but you will do an extra d10 of damage on a successful strike. If it escapes, you must pursue it alone until it is dead and may attack no other unless it explicitly bars the way. Breaking the oath makes you a fighter of -2 levels.
Prof bonus +3

Add two ability score points anywhere
Advantage vs fear
Prof bonus +4

Advantage vs Charm or mind control
Advantage vs  Divine magic
Cause save vs Fear ( DC: 8+prof mod+Wis mod.) in creatures of 5hd or less that are antithetical to Tittivila
Prof bonus +4

Immune to baleful transformations of your body.
Your mount is semi-intelligent and cannot be slain off-screen. It gains d4 hp each time you level up.
Prof bonus +4

Smite damage dice raised to d8.
Prof bonus +4

Immune to fear, as are any allies within 15'
Any foe touching your skin must save or take a baleful mutation  Save DC: 8+prof mod+Wis mod.
Prof bonus +5

Add 2 more ability score points anywhere
Prof bonus +5

Once/day you can end any baleful spell effect on anyone.
Prof bonus +5

Creatures antithetical to Tittivila are at disadvantage to hit you and cannot physically touch you (constructs, undead, demons, evil summoned beings, etc)
Prof bonus +5

Add 2 ability score points
Prof bonus +6

Aura protection (granting advantage to saves) extends to 30'
Prof bonus +6

Add 2 ability score points anywhere.
Prof bonus +6

1/day all foes within 30' must save or suffer a baleful mutation. Any foe touching the knight will suffer it with no save.
Prof bonus +6
Here you go. It's nominated in 5 categories.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Roast Sea Lynx in Cheese with Gut Peach Stuffing

(an adventure in a recipe)

One of the jewels of the traditional cuisine of Vornheim, though impossibly rare due to the exotic ingredients. Experts agree the fresher the ingredients the finer the feast--wealthy dukes have been known to pay up to 10,000gp for the timely acquisition of a single ingredient.


1 Roast Sea Lynx
40 old spoons of Dinthic Nett sea salt
30 fists wadded gut peach
7 fists of ivory-white raisins
30 fists threating loaf crumbs
15 fists peeled, diced eijji
2 1/2 fists nephildian eel-syrup
2 1/2 fists Orping butter
2 1/2 fists ash pepper
20 fists Marmotte thincheese
8 lengths south deep pickle coil

Sea Lynx:

The most important and difficult-to-acquire constituent. The sea lynx is a parasite, living in the digestive tracts of the whales and large sharks that haunt the Sea of Ignorance and Pain, only emerging from their gullets to slay sailors as the sun rises. The discovery of a living sea lynx in edible condition is an occasion for great celebration and competition among the gourmet houses of the northern continent.

Dinthic Nett Sea Salt:

Only available from the saltpits of Ashvorkevic beneath a high crag on the coast of the realm of the Negatsar (Hex 1364). Currently administered by a one-eyed slavemaster of unknown origin.

Gut Peach:

The finest quality gut peaches are unquestionably those of Gyorsla--the cursed continent dominated Voivodja, the Red Land. Peaches grow wild on the as-yet-undevastated southern coast.

Ivory White Raisins:

Produced from the ivory-white grapes on the Isle of Vildrik (Hex 895), in the sea near the lands of the negatsar.

Threating Loaf:

A halfling bread made from a flour grown in Hackleth--the easiest place to get it is in the countryside around the halfling port city of Gleazlewratt (Hex 1289).


Eijji is a three-bulbed lavender fruit about the size of a man's fist. It is native to Yoon-Suin, a land past the Black Ocean and over the eastern edge of the world, to which no safe passage is known.

Nephildian Eel-Syrup:

A thick aqua-gray liquid. The eel itself is nearly translucent and native to the chilled salt-water channels of the half-drowned Kingdom of Nephilidia.

Orping Butter:

Butter made from the milk of animals descended from the noble strain of cattle once bred by Count Orping. There are rumored to be some such beasts in Bethan (Hex 1380)--a village in the Hexenbracken.

Ash pepper:

A rare variety of the common dried, ground spice. The secret of the fragile pepper plant's cultivation is jealously guarded behind the walled gardens of the jeweled princes of Drownesia.

Marmotte thincheese:

A semisoft cheese, white-veined yellow, derived from the saltgrass-eating cattle and moist caverns of the village of Marmotte in Hakleth (Hex 1792).

South deep pickle coil:

Pickle coil is a long, limp winding vegetable that grows only in the  heavy brine near the sea floor. The sea elves near Eldiston  (hex 1965) are known to harvest the exquisite South Deep variety.
...and now a word from our sponsor:
Go vote! Me and the girls will see you at the Ennies

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Hit It With My Axe is Back + Other Good News

So some of you may remember we had this webshow which documented the girls playing D&D at home. 36 episodes and then...the Greek economy collapsed and our show, being the most expensive and time-consuming on its network (and a lot of work for yours truly to edit), disappeared off the web.

Well, after many tribulations it is back. New episodes start here (with a helpful recap) this week and the old episodes are being uploaded to the same YouTube channel as we speak. Stoya guest-stars.

The first few new episodes will be kind of re-introductions to the players and how they play, a little more gameological than the originals, and then back to the plot. New ones will be coming out every week for the next few months. The more you share and tell people, the more we can do.


And, yeah, if you haven't already vote for Maze of the Blue Medusa for Best Adventure, Best Electronic Book, Best Cartography, Best Writing and Product of the Year. Because if the books win fabulous prizes, it's easier to make more of them. It isn't on RPGnow or anything, you can only get it here. ("It smells good, too, in case you like smelling books").

If you're still not sure you want one, there are some very thorough and brand new reviews here and here and here and here, including videos and pictures.


In other good news, Contessa--the gaming convention by women for everybody organized by the inevitably awesome Stacy Dellorfano has been put on the list for the Diana Jones Award. Let's all hope she wins because, really, it's what Diana would've wanted.

This is shaping up to be quite a fucking Gen Con. We'll see you there, possibly hanging around the LotFP table Friday and Saturday. I'll be the one who looks like this:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Go Vote--I'll See You At Gen Con!

I will be at Gen Con this year, along with some of the D&D w/ Porn Stars ladies. It's my first ever gaming convention, so be gentle.

Voting for the Ennies opens today and Maze of the Blue Medusa is up in 5 categories:
Best Adventure
Best Cartography
Best Electronic Book
Best Writing
Product of the Year
So vote!--put a little '1' next to it for each of these.
Bonus: Satine says new episodes of I Hit It With My Axe go up today--so, stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stay Unprofessional

We're So Professional

As Noisms recently pointed out, me and Patrick just made a very large and expensive thing that looks very professional (and is nominated for as many or more awards as any single professional product in the RPG industry). Many people have also attested to the publishers' (a guy and an intern) handling of shipping, orders, etc as very professional.

Though it took us four years to make because we're not professionals.

...Sort Of 

A lot of time when folks talk about "professional" they are using it as as a synonym for quality (production quality or content quality or customer service quality). I'd like to think that on this score we've been beyond professional at least as it's defined in this business, I haven't heard anyone disagree.

However "professional" can also refer to the creators' priorities and style of behavior, and in this we are woefully unprofessional. Just like the rest of DIY D&D. This is why we make such good stuff.

What The Difference Is

Professional behavior is characterized by prioritizing money in the long term, or at least prioritizing growing the business. These are not always the same thing: many RPG people could make more money in other fields with their skillset but would like to remain in the RPG business. In this case their priority is not so much money as doing things that keep them happily able to afford to stay full-time in the RPG business.

Either way professionalism often includes:

-Given a choice between what a target audience wants and what you want, choosing what the target audience wants.

-Not putting in more effort than the target audience will appreciate and pay for.

-Making things you may not, yourself, use.

-Making things you may not enjoy making.

-Making things you may not like.

-Never upsetting a potential customer in the target audience

-Never upsetting a potential business partner where no money is at stake.

-Making vague public statements or not making them, unless talking up your product or something about it specifically.

-Never letting the community do anything that you could do for them and monetize.

-Monetizing any creative impulse and packaging it for sale.

-Designing things primarily so they look expensive.

-Only committing to controversial ideas in public to the degree that they might help sales or have a neutral effect.

The last one is interesting and is the reason for the sort of corporate moderateness that soundly (and rightly) condemns being openly racist at work while at the same time (curiously) condemns wearing a Fuck The Pigs t-shirt to work. What's important to corporate moderation isn't accuracy or sincerity, it's being inside the Overton Window. This isn't easy during controversies--professionals in fields beset by controversy are constantly being forced to choose between being accused of not taking a stand against something horrible or having taken the wrong stand on something horrible.


Unprofessional Behavior is characterized by prioritizing eccentric personal goals even in business relations. For example, my goal with putting out RPG stuff is to make stuff I can use in my games and to inspire other people to make things I can use in my games. An unprofessional is an amateur--that is, from the root word, a lover. They not only do it because they love it (just like a professional sometimes does) but they prioritize loving it. When the love stops, the product does.

Unprofessional behavior often includes:

-Given a choice between what a target audience wants and what you want, choosing what you want.

-Putting in however much effort is required to make the thing that satisfies you.

-Making things you yourself use.

-Making things you enjoy making.

-Making things you like.

-Calling out potential customers in the target audience for being dicks.

-Calling out potential business partners for being dicks whether or not money is at stake.

-Making clear public statements you don't mind being held accountable for.

-Committing to controversial ideas in public because you happen to believe them.

-Getting the community around you to do things so you don't have to.

-Giving away free things even if they could've been packaged for sale.

-Designing things primarily so at least you can use them.

People Forget These Are Different Things

Professional people and customers often assume everyone in a business is professional or aspires to be. Customers will shout, at a nonprofessional or semiprofessional "You just lost a customer" as if they expect the nonprofessional or semiprofessional to care. Professionals, very worried about taking controversial stands, will assume that anyone taking a controversial stand is doing so in order to sell things--especially if it's one they disagree with. It's hard enough for anyone to see why anyone would disagree with you, much less (from inside the cage of a professional mindset) why someone would feel comfortable doing it in public.

Being able to behave unprofessionally is a privilege and a luxury. It means either your rent does not ultimately depend on the business you're dabbling in or that you're getting paid enough that you can afford not to care. It's not an option for everyone, not even for everyone who is good and honest.


Here's a word you hear a lot: "pandering". It literally means pimping (there's a "sly panderer" on the AD&D city night-time encounter chart) but the analogy is: the customer gets pleasure and the businessperson gets (only) money.

A politician or business or creative person is generally accused of "pandering" when they adopt a position or provide something that the person criticizing them doesn't like, but it is only properly used when the provider doesn't like it either. Confusion is common because most people aren't smart:

Trump is "pandering" if he doesn't want to build a wall between us and Mexico but says it to get votes, if he actually wants to build the wall because he personally wants to keep out Mexicans he isn't pandering, he's just an asshole.

In games, creators are often accused of "pandering" when they do something controversial and this is nearly always wrong. I'm fairly sure Blue Rose is full of romantic fantasy tropes because the creatives involved actually like them and likewise Hyun Tae Kim's art is full of tits for the same reason.

(The accusation of pandering regarding sexuality in games is usually based on very strange assumptions: An artist does something gay and is accused of "pandering" to teh tumblrgays or an artist draws boobs, then is said to be "pandering" to 14-year old boys who like boobs, thus suggesting the speaker cannot imagine an adult who is gay or who likes boobs. Or just can't imagine an artist who is gay or likes boobs. Either way it suggests the critic's private life is very dull.)

One very loud indie RPG author is on the record as claiming "all games pander" suggesting that there are people who aren't even aware that you can make a game you enjoy.

The same person said "Common meme is 'Just make games you'd like, stop trying to change others!" No. If I wrote it, I know the story. I don't need to be told it. After spending 1500 hours with a game, you don't necessarily want to sit down and play it for fun."

In short: it's possible for even indie RPG authors to be so professional they aren't making anything they want to (or have to) live with. In a curious quirk of early 21st century post-hobby production, they have alienated themselves from their labor, with almost no help from the larger capitalist system.

Elsewhere I have seen indie gamers grouse that 5th edition is designed with only one person in mind: Mike Mearls (the head designer). As if this would be a bad thing.

Unprofessionalism and Diversity 

It is often imagined that there's a necessary tension between hobbyist, individualist unprofessionalism and diversity. If you're prioritizing your own taste, you're supposedly not inviting in people of other genders, ages, sexual preferences, skin colors. This assumes--irrationally--that an individual's taste can't be shared by diverse other people. It also frequently assumes--again irrationally--that anyone making anything crowds the market, which isn't true (ie the "scarcity fears" that beset the storygames crowd). As the DIY D&D scene proves: on this scale a rising tide lifts all boats.

This Is All To Say

While professional priorities in the sense of suppressing your ideas and desires for the sake of a buck may occasionally benefit the individual doing it, when it comes to both the RPG product and the community it's attached to, there's no benefit at all to professionalism and quite a bit to recommend unprofessionalism.

Ed or Molly or Sam may sometimes benefit by having professional priorities, but Ed's Guide To Zombies, and Molly's Tales Of The Deep Crypt and Sam's Secrets of the Lost Labyrinth benefit from having hobbyist ones, as do Ed, Molly and Sam's friends if they are invested in keeping the community fun and they can trust them to speak out against abuse and identify people who will lie or steal.

One big problem with the larger indie RPG community is how many of the most intelligent and productive people started right off as would-be designers with the explicit goal of building business or business-like activist organizations. Interpersonal honesty and creative integrity go out the window when they fuck with The Brand, or are, more often, simply beside the point. You get people making games they aren't playing for people they don't like for just enough money to keep the whole spiral going down the drain.

This Hasn't Happened in the DIY D&D Community--Yet

And it's that "yet" that makes me write this. The community has been radiantly unprofessional: generous, cooperative, personal, committed and (very) open to disagreement but with influence slowly accreting around people who stand by what they say and actually make things worth playing with.

There are certain projects that make it harder to be unprofessional: introductory games, games for kids, even certain parts of dungeon master's guides all require imagining an audience who isn't at all you and playing to it. Most kinds of outreach and organizing are going to involve a certain amount of battle-picking and going along to get along. This isn't a tragedy. However, as DIY RPG stuff gets bigger it's going to increase, and the same tensions that, for example, make indie scenesters and mainstream full-timers wary of calling out even the most blatant hate speech and willing to pump out games barely anyone actually wants to play will begin to infect the scene.

The dystopia we're currently avoiding is the one across the table--where people moan about the travails of deadlines and freelancing, talk about comic book movies and politics because their RPG ideas are property and their RPG opinions might get them in trouble and we slide back to the same shovelware and platitude-filled conversations that we had to make all these blogs in order to lift ourselves out of.

The dire trolly predictions made on the paleoschool game boards 5-6 years ago about what wurz gun tuh happen once James Raggi started in on printin up thim tharr Boxed Sets an' embossed leather guuds an' capituhlism tuk hold have not occurred--we still make cool free stuff a lot and nobody's been left blind and begging for random tables in the streets or been forced to kiss Kevin Crawford's perfumed boot-heels. The problem isn't selling stuff--it's what happens when and if we internalize an ethic that prioritizes selling stuff over all the reasons this is fun.

So don't do that--and enjoy the privilege of being unprofessional as long as you can hold onto it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Maze of the Vanilla Medusa


Here is an interview with me talking about Jeff Grubb's Marvel Superheroes game--and why I like it better than all other superhero games. In a lot of detail.


Many of you know James Raggi, who usually publishes game books I make, but you don't know Ken Baumann of Satyr Press, who published Maze of the Blue Medusa when it became clear James had too much on his plate this year to put it out (and that's a good thing--James should get behind a variety of stuff). Here's Ken Baumann, child star and literary publisher, explaining to a non-rpg audience why he put this book out. And here's a review that compares the Maze to a city in Croatia.


It's cool that we got nominated for 5 Ennies--if you're worried about the great DIY D&D stuff that got overlooked, you have a wee bit of time left to register to be an Ennie judge next year.


The actual blog entry--

I've noticed that if you have a weird room and a weird monster (not just reskinned weird,  but like what it does is weird) then sometimes it's super fun but sometimes it's just incomprehensible.

Weird rooms plus nothing is sometimes spooky but sometimes just like the players are like whatevs and walk past.

Weird room plus normal monster though--that's almost always a good time. Understandable enough that players can use their heads, novel enough that they have to.

The first draft of The Maze of the Blue Medusa--based on my map/picture--had a lot of weird rooms. (Patrick talks about how we changed it over the drafts here).

My thought was: ok, so we can get away with some normalish monsters especially on the wandering monster table--things that just try to kill and eat you and don't, like, want to buy your legs and turn them into crystal in order to build a monument to their Glassfisted God or whatever. The Chameleon Women, for example, are, mechanically, just stealthy humanoids packing one spellcaster per group. However, even the relatively simple creatures, in the environment of the maze, sometimes just make people go "Ok what the fuck Quay Bros shit is it this time?"

So anyway, point is I think the Maze tastes good with a scoop of vanilla--and the Wandering Monster chart is a good place to put it, since there are a lot of unique monsters on it that will probably get killed and just be replaced with more chameleon women. It would probably make this guy happy, too (though if he wanted to look at the art why'd he get it on pdf?).

So, here's a list of vanilla monsters you can toss in as your players trip through those 300 rooms.


d100 bats. The AD&D rule for bats is there's a (# of bats)% chance of putting out torches. I think the Maze is a lot more interesting as a true resource-depleting dungeon, then when you run out of stuff you face the difficult choice of finding a hidden exit, finding a way past Lady Crucem Capelli or Mad Maxing supplies together from scraps and stolen equipment inside the dungeon.

Diseases are an option with bats but I kind of hate them in D&D because either you get rid of them and, yay, just made the cleric do a thing or you don't in which case you just hate your character for a while. Or they're "interesting" (now your piss is lobsters!) which is kind of a gonzo grotty zany Old School cliche.


Not exactly a vanilla monster, but a standard one. Plus something where at least you know just how scary it is on sight, unlike all the other cryptic bosses hiding in the Maze. Or maybe it's just a gas spore. Maybe not wandering, maybe tucked away in one of the hidden rooms.

Arya Fucking Stark

Faceless assassin 13-year old. But who is she trying to kill? Maybe one of the statues? In which case how? And who is she pretending to be?


The frog so fucked looking you go blind is a good cascade-effect monster. Plus like did we do frogs? Don't think there's any frogs in there.

Carrion Crawler

Scavengers go wherever, right? 


The drow are so fucking Maze. They'd be like shit who built this lit Maze we should kick it with them this is so #goals. We should kick it with them and turn them into weird spider hate cult friends underground. Whoever built this place must've read Vault of the Drow like...twice. Definitely that. And then they'd be like whaaat? Party of adventurers? You are asleep with our sleepy dust crossbows and we don't give a FUCK. Let's find something blue to touch until it's blaaaack and then resist 25% of all yr magic.


Goblins are, as established, bad ideas. Going into the Maze is a bad idea. They'll talk backwards and try to steal art. Players will be like "Hah, idiots" and then the goblins will punch them and then what? The players punch them back but..wait, fuck, some of them are


haha. Nilbogs get hit points when you hit them. Fucking read a Fiend Folio illiterates.

Lava children

Speaking of the Folio, just like "You hear a hissing sound down the corridor and smell sulfur". And a representative of WOTC is like "We decided it was inappropriate to have players murdering things that basically look like human children" and you'll be like "Yeah we're the OSR, you're lucky you have us, huh?" and then the players fail their Wis save and hug the babies and then scalding.

NPC party

NPC adventurers are like chickens, they're good with anything and they can replace you if you die. Tom Middenmurk's are the best.


I can very easily see a chubby blanket of custardthick ooze like the unyellow part of a sunnyside egg scouring the lonesome smooth corridors. Color indicates resistance type: red= edged, blue=fire, etc. Standard biomedical approach to oozes: trial and error it until you get the right combo, then remember which is which. unless everyone who fought oozes last time is dead...


Rats start to look pretty tasty after all your food's been eaten by rats.


In search of exotic stuff to put in stuff and do wizard stuff with. Probably the boss of like the goblins. Accompanied by 2 or 3 at all times.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Maze Claims Its First Victims (And Nominations)

Maze of the Blue Medusa has claimed its first local victim--dark elf thief Rosalyn, who laid eyes on the beautiful woman hanging in the vine room and was set upon by flesh-eating orchidmen.

Sendrelle the witch had just passed through the door that charms you and was smitten with Rosalyn, so decided to burn....basically the entire wing of the dungeon down in retaliation. Also broke her foot.

Emergency back-up PC I rolled for the dead Rosalyn was a Chameleon Woman fighter (spy background) which Hannah named Jenevere and decided to hold on to after the session ended. Which means I've got to make a new one...

Other highlights include Hygeia the witch playing her first game of D&D ever and realizing you could blind the snake mosaic by throwing ink in its eyes, players weaponizing a randomly found bag of flour twice (once to blind the inky eyes that hold people, once as firebomb) plus a bunch of had-to-be-there shit which lead to the Cleric of Mariah sounding like Tony Soprano on account of being really bad at remembering who's dead and who's alive and why.

On account of people being available odd days, 3 almost not-overlapping groups of players have gone in to the Maze. "You were supposed to be on guard while your friend stole a painting..." Pictures below show only the bits explored so far.

16 rooms down, 280-some to go! :)

Maze of the Blue Medusa also got nominated for 5 fucking Ennies today--one more than Red & Pleasant Land!

Best Adventure
Best Electronic Book
Best Cartography
Best Writing
Product of the Year

As is the way of such things, the harassment has started immediately, with Alex Norris / Lemon Curdistan / Lemon-Lime from Ettin's Something Awful group piling on first and storygame veterans Robert Bohl and William Nichols joining quickly after. Anna Kreider / Wundergeek has now joined in, maybe to distract from her attacks on lgbt people.

I wonder if people will walk out again if we win--and I wonder if they will do us all a favor and keep walking this time.