Thursday, October 24, 2013


Srok disagrees with Glavrok's approach to dealing with the Fuegonauts, preferring open warfare and repeated, direct attacks filled with bloodshed. These opinions, combined with his fighting prowess have made him a favorite, even a hero, among the younger more ambitious ogres. Knowing not all of the Night Axe wanted to achieve vengeance in a methodical way, and knowing that Srok's growing following could lead to a schism in the tribe if left unchecked, Glavrok ordered Srok to found Boar's Head Encampment [HS-07] to serve as a forward base of attack in the war against the Fuegonauts. Glavrok was not pleased to do this because of the casualties it would undoubtedly cause, but he knew an internal revolt would likely kill them all.

Srok is no fool though and is still highly respected by Glavrok. Knowing the power of Svarku's forces, Srok embraces assistance from anyone even remotely trustworthy and is much more inclined to trade or open relations with adventurers. He knows the potential adventurers possess and is unafraid of their weapons and magic.

What does Srok want?
  • To win. At any cost.
  • To personally dismember Svarku
  • To crush Svarku's head in his hands
  • To bathe in Svarku's fiery blood
  • For Glavrok to be more open to outside help from these adventurers
  • To attract adventurers to Boar's Head Encampment
  • More weapons, magic and supplies
  • To open up trade lines wherever possible

What does Srok NOT want?
  • To lose
  • For Glavrok to drag his feet when planning offensives and miss opportunities
  • For the Fuegonauts to gain one more inch of territory
  • To wait any longer

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Making a List

See the whole thing at 20px
Here's my checklist for The Dark of Hot Springs Island. There are 172 sections (totally a heartbreak rpg because: numbers), and I've got the first draft of 110 of those sections done, putting me at ~60% completion. The Field Guide had 103 sections.

The term section is pretty meaningless. It's a flexible and generic unit of content. It could indicate something that's several pages long, or something that's only a single paragraph. However it does indicate that only one *thing* is covered. Some things may be broken out a little too granularly (New Moon Parties taking 3 sections) and some may not be broken out enough (Dungeons/Bosses/Monsters).

"xx" means that I only have notes and bullet points. "Drafted" means I've got a sensible draft. Huzzah.

Where We Address The GM
Hex Movement System
Hex Movement SystemDrafted
Hex Exploration Examplexx
Hex Key
Astral Spinner / The Hostxx
Coralkin Anglerxx
Muttering Serpentxx
Elementals - OverviewDrafted
Elementals - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Earth Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Fire Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Water Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Ooze Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Magma Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Steam Imp - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Elemental Abilities - OverviewDrafted
Elemental Ability List - EarthDrafted
Elemental Ability List - FireDrafted
Elemental Ability List - WaterDrafted
Elemental Ability List - OozeDrafted
Elemental Ability List - MagmaDrafted
Elemental Ability List - SteamDrafted
Map of Elemental Activityxx
Svarku - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The StarfallDrafted
The Starfall - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Princess SeeraDrafted
Princess Seera - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The Ash BaronsDrafted
The Ash Barons - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Obsidian GiantsDrafted
Obsidian Giants - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
New Moon Parties - OverviewDrafted
New Moon Parties - IteneraryDrafted
New Moon Parties - DetailsDrafted
The Shah of Fire SerpentsDrafted
The Shah of Fire Serpents - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Salamanders - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Fatty SalamanderDrafted
Fatty Salamander - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Combustarinos - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Obsidian BladeguardsDrafted
Points of InterestDrafted
The Gem, Heart and Gauntlet of ZumakalisDrafted
The Marids and Nereids
Meltalia and the Fifty VisionsDrafted
Meltalia - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Nereids - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Points of InterestDrafted
Night Axe
The Night Axe - A HistoryDrafted
The Influence of Mog'okDrafted
Mog'ok's GiftsDrafted
Mog'ok - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The Night Axe - NowDrafted
Glavrok - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Bavmorda - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The Night Axe and WomenDrafted
Srok - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Paw'lard EeanDrafted
Paw'lard Eean - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Night Axe Warriorxx
Night Axe Warrior - Want/Not/Elsexx
Edgesworn - Want/Not/Elsexx
Bonebinders - Bone Magicxx
Bonebinders - Want/Not/Elsexx
Points of InterestDrafted
The GoaDrafted
Why do the Goa visit Hot SpringsDrafted
Goa - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The Arva - IntroDrafted
Damadar DeodanDrafted
Damadar Deodan - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Arva - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
Mirrortail and The StuckDrafted
The KiruDrafted
Kiru - Want/Not/ElseDrafted
The AncientsDrafted
The Elves - Pre-SipopaDrafted
Victory and The Black BlightDrafted
Sipopa - Drinkersxx
Sipopa - Smokersxx
Sipopa - Dustersxx
Sipopa - Chasersxx
Sipopa Mechanicsxx
Sipopa Usage - Visual Timelinexx
Interdimensional Tradexx
Hot Springs Cityxx
The Cataclysmxx
Zeb - Want/Not/Elsexx
Lady Hedoniaxx
Lady Hedonia - Want/Not/Elsexx
Singing Golemsxx
Orange Sludgexx
Obsidian Diggersxx
Points of Interest - Ancientsxx
Points of Interest - Elvesxx
HS-01 - Boar's Head Encampmentxx
HS-03 - Dire Boar Denxx
HS-04 - Glavrok Villagexx
HS-06 - Svarku's Volcanoxx
HS-06 - Molotekxx
HS-06 - Crystalflow Minexx
HS-07 - Ashfire Minexx
HS-10 - Slave Quartersxx
HS-10 - Albino Ogrexx
HS-11 - Shattered Aquifer of Pythiariaxx
HS-11 - Sopkatokxx
HS-14 - Colossal Crabxx
HS-15 - Lapis Observatoryxx
HS-15 - Alabaster Guardiansxx
HS-19 - The Bathhousexx
HS-19 - The Plant Thingxx
HS-20 - Temple of Tranquilityxx
HS-20 - Albino Centipedexx
HS-22 - Violet Raspxx
HS-25 - Crystal Sea Cavexx
Tables and Lists
Treasure - FuegonautsDrafted
Treasure - AncientDrafted
Treasure - ElvenDrafted
Treasure - OgreDrafted
Treasure - LizardDrafted
Treasure - NereidsDrafted
Treasure - PiratesDrafted
Pre-Made Magic Itemsxx
Telecanter's Tablexx
Sipopa EffectsDrafted
Pre-Made NPCsDrafted
Pre-Made Dugoutsxx
Ship Name GeneratorDrafted
Shipwreck Generatorxx
Shipwreck Loot - Arnold K.xx
Elven Rumors - Patrick S.Drafted
Elven Ruins Generator - Patrick S.Drafted

Someday it'll all be done, whatever that means, and I probably won't know what to do with myself. I think I'll have a party.

Friday, October 18, 2013


I should probably just post this picture and leave it at that as it does such a good job of conveying what I'm feeling right now in regards to the Swordfish Islands. There's a lot of doubt. A feeling that I should have just made a 10-12 page adventure and shipped it. And then done another. And another. And another. But I didn't, so now, I'm drowning in my own creation, and doubt.

Current Doubts:
I'm making too much. It's going to be completely overwhelming, too dense, and too esoteric. No one is going to ever see it, play it, or give a fuck about it. If it does happen to beat all the odds and become successful, nothing made after it will measure up to this because there's just so fucking much. (///_.) Thanks for taking my confessional. ^_^

Current Project Status:
Map - Done
Field Guide to Hot Springs Island - Done (first draft, first layout, first edit pass)
The Dark of Hot Springs Island - First draft at just over 60% done

But what does any of this mean? I feel like I've done a terrible job of presenting what this whole project and everything is about so I'm going to ramble about and try to fix that.

The Swordfish Islands is a system neutral hex crawl you can drop into any tropical ocean in your campaign world. There are nine islands, two hidden semi-islands, a base town and a number of factions, dungeons and ruins to interact with and explore. Or well, that's what it was supposed to be. The plan was to do it up like an old AD&D setting. Like a Planescape box. Write a few columns of text that give an overview of each of the nine islands, and a few columns of text that talk about notable locations and people and drop adventure hooks all over the place. Easy-peasy right?

No. Not easy-peasy. I decided to get hyper-detailed and focused on "density". One thing to see/find/interact with in each 6 mile hex is just so sparse. I want three things in every hex, so that you can wander for days in a tight little area. It's more "realistic". And so many of those other hex maps put set encounters as the single item in their hex. You find a halfling sitting on a stump on the side of the road, playing the pipes who asks you a riddle. That's it? That's it for 6 miles? What happens when I come back through this way? The DM just handwaves the hex 'cause there's nothing there? No. Unacceptable. The Swordfish Islands won't do that. The three things in each hex will be physical locations with something interesting. Something "unchangeable". Three locations that would be awesome places to have a memorable fight. Natural, Constructed, Magical, whatever. They should be a set. A stage where things can happen.So we did that. We came up with three physical, relatively unchangeable locations for every hex of land in the islands.

Then we sprinkled on factions. The factions grew out of the locations. We brainstormed using (what began as) unconnected "truths". There used to be a civilization of elves. There's a tall tower over here that emits light. There's a volcano with an efreet living in it. These parts of the island are "new", meaning they were formed after the cataclysm and were untouched by the elves. And as we brainstormed, factions grew. Groups of intelligent creatures that want stuff, and the stuff they want often comes into conflict with the stuff other groups want and the subsequent conflicts take place amongst all these set pieces we've been plopping on the map. What does that mean? How does that change things? What's broken? Or guarded or flooded or burned? What's underground? Where are the dungeons? Where are the towns? See... it's all world building porn and I'm a big faker trying to hang with all these OSR types. But fuck it! We're doing it.

So it got big. Probably too big, but it all felt so manageable at the time. Just a couple columns of text probably. Then one day I said, no. We have to stop. We're just playing at worldbuilding and having a good time. We're not actually working. And because of the way our employer is with intellectual property and the hoops we have to jump through to make our own, we need to finish something. Just one island. We need to get it into publishable shape. Whatever the fuck that means.

And so the focus shrank to Hot Springs Island. Now, at least 300 pages and 10 months later we're still not done, but I love it. I love everything we've made. I love every fumble fuck we've fallen into. I have learned so much. About myself. About my friends. About my wife and her magnanimity towards this possible fools errand. It's so cool. But still... what's is it? What's Hot Springs Island?

The Map - A visual reference to put on the table and be explored. Either by the wilderness exploration rules of your home system, or the one we include.

The Field Guide - Everyone sells players rules. New "skills" for their characters. I'm not a fan of that. I believe that in order for a sandbox game to be successful, the players (and the GM) have to be invested. They have to bring their own motivations to the table. So I believe the way to do this is with information. The Field Guide aims to be a book of hooks and motivations. It's the monster manual, but written from the perspective of people that have survived encounters with the monsters. It's an introduction to the factions of the island written by survivors. It's a catalogue of useful plants and trade items. And it's got short stories, that recap the experiences that other adventurers have had on the island and lived to tell about. Everything in it fits within the structure of the game, but its goal is to be an enjoyable read and make players say "woah, I want to see X, find Y and do Z!". Will it work? I don't know.

The Dark of Hot Springs Island - This is for the game master. It contains the hex key and our hex movement/exploration system. It's got ~20 tables, 12 dungeons, a handful of "boss monsters" and information on 5 factions and their NPCs. There are no quests. There is no story line. It outlines motivations and potential consequences. There is a lot of information in the Dark, but I truly believe it's only the amount that needs to be there and nothing extraneous.

You see, I want things to be (conceptually) like the first season of Sailor Moon. That show starts off about a girl in middle school and her bullshit middle school problems, but there's a darkness around the edges. As that darkness grows, the things that were a huge deal fade away. Focus shifts, and Usagi's choices have far reaching consequences. It should be really easy to hit Hot Springs, tromp around the jungle, kill some shit, and have a very light, passing, kind of experience. But... it should also be possible to cause more and more problems for one or all of the factions, and cause the darkness to grow.

The word replayability gets thrown around a lot these days. But I believe that because the focus of the Dark is on set piece locations and what factions and NPCs WANT, I think we'll be able to pull it off. Our play tests so far have been very positive in this regard, but I suppose we'll see.

If you made it this far, thanks. There's more to come.