Sunday, April 26, 2020

Incredible Sandbox Modules Pt. 1

Having mentioned The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library in a (not-so)recent post. I would like to give a mini-review of each. However, I'll be reviewing them one-at-a-time!

I'm going to start with The Stygian Library since I feel that it is a bit more "mentally compact" and "easier to grok" than The Gardens of Ynn (even though I very slightly prefer the garden to the library).

I've done my best to not spoil anything, but you've been warned!

The Stygian Library - DTRPG (opens in new window).

First quick note/impression:
I love the art and type for this, it fits and helps establish the "mood" of the library. As a GM I find this very helpful. I'm not looking for "expensive" art, but art that fits the tone/mood of the game/setting.

What is it?
The module is a wonderful example of a randomly generated mini-megadungeon. It is self-coherent within the "walls" of the world, and encourages more than just a "smash and grab" approach to problem solving.

I say "randomly generated" because while the "end goal" is defined, and will always be reachable (in theory), the path will most likely be very different every time, as the mechanics provided to accomplish this are both "sound" and "easy to use." In fact, 5 pages are dedicated to how to handle different common adventuring situations such as "Adventurers sitting around with their thumbs up their arses" or "fleeing" and how this effects their path through the Library.

The tables themselves are only 5 pages (we're at a grand total of 15 pages so far, including 5 describing the settings, and common reasons for adventurers to end up there), leaving the rest of the 71 pages to flesh out those tables. This is exactly what I want from a module. Details and nuances for the locations, what makes this room memorable/unique, the author includes a lot of sensory cues besides just visual/tactile, which really help a lot in creating immersion at the table (one of the reasons I like Veins of the Earth so much is because the bestiary includes what each monster smells like (which makes sense in an underdark where darkvision isn't "cheap/free" (a rant for another time...)).

What it is:
The Stygian Library is described as a "pocket realm" connecting libraries that have achieved a certain "critical mass" of books. The pocket realm itself is a labyrinth of constantly-rearranging rooms ("laid-out much like a traditional dungeon"). The vibe is very "OSR"/"Steampunk/Gaslight" (so, awesome) inside the library (and since it is a pocket realm, one isn't beholden to having that same vibe outside the library). I'm going to cut this part short so as not to provide spoilers, but trust me, it really is an awesome place!

Why use it?
The Stygian Library is a masterful module, not only for presenting a unique area, which can be re-used (even with the same players/same campaign) many time, a great value/dollar ratio. It also offers a lot of opportunities for player interaction in more ways than just smash/kill/loot their way through the dungeon. In the same vein, it offers GMs a great way to sprinkle lore knowledge/development on the players (after all, it is a library (in which "any" book can be found with enough time/patience)). Not only this, it makes it incredibly easy to do all of this, and track things GM-side without having to be putting a lot of mental effort into it.

One key thing is that the players are encouraged to make a map, but that they should never see the GM's map, since certain actions can lead to their "official" path being broken.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Coming Soon™

Having been inspired by both The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library (both by the incredible Emmy Allen, whose work I can't recommend enough). I've begun working on a similar (and likely shorter!) concept for a Mothership module.

The current list of inspirations for the feel of the setting are:
Event Horizon.
Cube (the movies).
With maybe a touch of Hitchiker's guide (just because).

I plan on making it a very randomized (yay repeatability!) but concise set of tools for a fucked-up descent into madness/fear with very little chance of a truly happy ending. I am going to pay special attention to make sure that the combination of elements allows for the diverse party composition that Mothership encourages, which is a lot different than my previous (OSR-related) "dungeoncrawl(mostly hacking to be honest)"-type homebrew adventures.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Not Dead Yet...

It definitely was a rough time in meatspace for a while there though.

Upcoming highlights:

1) "The Slayhack" will be going on hiatus. I have been following Diogo's posts over at on the revised edition of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, and I am beyond impressed with the previews, and the direction being taken is a lot like what I was trying to get out of The Slayhack. Diogo's work, and art/taste in art for his books is fantastic as well. No need to reinvent the wheel!

2) This other project is going to be heavily inspired by Mothership by Tuesday Knight Games and Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells (also by Diogo). There will be odds-n-ends from all over the place as well to be quite honest, but I am going for a more sci-fantasy/survival/gonzo/horror mix of a setting, and I don't think I'm going to be focusing quite as hard on being *-compatible, but instead provide generator/conversion tools/suggestions.

3) I'm going to start adding posts with reviews/mini-reviews of things I recommend/find cool. I will mostly be focusing on ttrpg games, with some video-games and other things that I at least relate to my thinking behind ttrpg games. This will also include posts on random/established mechanics that I find neat.

Thanks for hanging around!