Thursday, 20 September 2018

[Video] Sandy Petersen talks about writing horror scenarios

I don't usually post videos but this one was incredibly interesting and gave me a few things to think about as I work on 'A Dream of Dead Gods', a campaign I'm designing for the new Eldritch Tales game using the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules.

It's Sandy Petersen's fault that I got into Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu and this kind of horror gaming in the first place, so it kind of makes sense that I'm taking some cues from the man himself.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Computer game strategy guides as sourcebooks

I've picked up some very cheap strategy guides for computer games recently, namely 'Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning' and 'Dragon Age II', and even though I've played both games I never bought them for the help they'd give me.

What I got in the books were detailed maps, characters, weapon ideas, adventure and quest ideas, illustrations and a whole slew of new ideas. The books are like system-generic sourcebooks and, even though I won't be using them in the settings they were intended for, there are plenty of bits and bobs in there I can use for my current games.

Once games have been out for a long time and the strategy guides become pretty useless you can find them in all kinds of places - charity shops, second-hand bookshops, discount bookstores and the like. They might not be an accurate fit for your game but there's bound to be something in there that you can cannibalise. I think I'll be seeking out more cheap books like this in the future to help flesh out my home-made roleplaying campaign settings.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

My kind of Fantasy Adventure

Adventurer by jpneokI enjoy the stories of high adventure, huge magic and exotic locations. They're fun, fast and exciting, and I get plenty of entertainment from a plethora of creatures threatening the heroes in alien landscapes as wizards blast a multitude of fireworks from their fingertips while chanting and gesticulating, and warriors wear impossible suits of armour and wield their two-handed swords one-handed.

But this isn't the kind of fantasy world I would like to live in.

In the 1980s I had two fantasy loves; the television show 'Robin of Sherwood' and the books and radio play of JRR Tolkien.

Robin of Sherwood was a low-fantasy take on the classic legend, with Herne the Hunter, and ancient pagan God of the forests, proclaiming that Robin was his son and that he was here to protect the innocent. There was very low-key magic, mysticism and adventure, a heady mix of pseudo history and fantasy, like the 'one God had come to drive out the many' (as Merlin in the movie 'Excalibur' quite correctly put it). It was quite excellent and the adventures that Robin and his companions had were complemented by the excellent characters in the ensemble and the great writing of Richard Carpenter. This was my kind of fantasy, and my kind of gaming setup; a small band of connected friends fighting against the odds.

Then there was my favourite thing in the world; Middle-earth. The stories of Tolkien, in particular The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the tale of the Children of Hurin, was exactly the kind of stuff I liked best about the fantasy genre. The history of Middle-earth is an explosion of high fantasy, with Gods at war in heaven and tragic high adventure on the surface of the world, but I was more interested in the events of the second and third ages, where the action was centered around a smaller selections of heroes and the grand exploits of history were stories and myths. This gave the setting depth and a realism I have never come across in any other fantasy work. I wanted my own creations to adventure in the low-magic world of the Third and Fourth ages as this felt like a place I could explore and learn about, and old ruins existed for much more involved reasons than simply a place for characters to have a bit of an adventure in.

As with Robin of Sherwood, Middle-earth had a reality to it that was tangible and this was primarily thanks to the movies of Peter Jackson, which gave it a look and atmosphere so real that everything had a place. Robin of Sherwood had the reality of history to frame it.

This is my kind of fantasy. Low-magic, character-driven adventure in which the story and the decisions the characters make drives the fun and frolics. High fantasy magical fireworks and improbable armour is window dressing. When you can tell a superb story with a sword, a run-down castle and a few curious friends then you've got real substance.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

'Triskelion Space' - an interview with Jacob Ross

Project image for Triskelion Space Tabletop RPG'Triskelion Space' is a new RPG on it's way using the Exodus System. As of this interview the game is running on Kickstarter so get over there and have a look at what it has to offer.

I had a brief chat with creator Jacob Ross about his gaming and his games.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger! Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got yourself embroiled in the wonderful world of roleplaying games.

My name is Jacob Ross, I write as Jacob DC Ross to differentiate myself from the award-winning writer from Grenada. The first RPG that I ever owned was WEG's The D6 System: The Customizable Roleplaying Game, by George Strayton. I got it in 1997 from a regular big-box bookstore. From there I found LUG's Star Trek RPG and Legend of the Five Rings.

I fell in love with L5R so hard that 2009 I ended up begging Shawn Carman for a shot at writing for the game line, and bless his heart, he gave me a spot on Enemies of the Empire. I got to write about badgers, sharks, apes and such while the veterans were telling tales about ninja and naga. I didn't care. I was a WRITER now! I got a bigger assignment for the next book, The Great Clans, before branching out. I've written for the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures and other game lines.

Your best known for the best-selling Exodus System RPG rules. What was the genesis of the game?

I see what you did there. Side note, the game was originally called "The Genesis System", before someone informed me that FFG had announced their own "Genesys System" a few weeks earlier. The game system came about because I was having issues at the game table. My absolute favorite RPG campaign of all time is Pirates of Drinax for Traveler. My wife and our friend wanted to play, but because of how long character generation took them, they decided not to go forward.

I decided that I needed to come up with my own system, something that checked off all of my boxes:

- Fast character generation that retains mechanical depth and diversity of abilities
- Spotlight balance, or no situations where wizards are always better at everything than warriors
- Easy GM prep, having generators that allow the GM to prep a scenario after getting home from work and before the rest of the party comes home
- Simple NPC stat blocks since I hate nothing more than finding a system that looks fun, going to write up a scenario for publishing and then seeing that I have to list how many ranks that the starfighter pilot has in "Handle Animals".

I got to work, blended some of my favorite elements from different games and tried it out, then refined things. I am a fan of how Numenera lets you make your own character class, so I adapted the principles behind that design into something that would allow you to have these Pathfinder-like ability tracks but without having to plan out your character build from rank 1. All you have to do is pick which stat to upgrade during character creation, choose a Combat Role, a Party Role and two Flavors for your powers.

Long story short, I wanted something that was easier to customize, both for gameplay and publishing.

You have a Kickstarter running as of this interview, 'Triskelion Space'. What can you tell us about this game that helps recreate 'old-school space opera stories'?

The atmosphere of the setting is oriented towards sci-fantasy space opera in many ways. The Southern Arm of the Triskelion Galaxy is embroiled in war, with the main factions diametrically opposed to one another's philosophy. Grand stories of freedom versus order and all that.

I want to avoid a single faction being seen as a monolith of evil, though. In Star Wars I'd say that the Empire fans are probably equal to the Rebellion fans. In Triskelion Space the Supremacy dominates the northern half of the Southern Arm of space,but it's composed of multiple feuding houses. While they're obligated to support the overall military, each Supreme House fields their own navy and army, too, and is at odds with one or more of their peers. This allows PCs to support a faction that they like without having to join an army that might be liberating a world from alien incursion one day and then slaughtering a village of innocents the next.

Planets in Triskelion Space are not concerned about things like which trade goods are available for purchase, or the percentage of helium in the atmosphere, but by what types of adventures that they facilitate. The spotlight planets have their own encounter tables and problem tables that are geared towards getting into trouble or overcoming heroic opposition.

Alien races are iconic, and include broad stereotypes like the Foi "Elder Aliens" or the various beastmen-inspired uplift-type species. A humanoid rabbit piloting a starfighter through a ridiculously packed asteroid field is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there. Enormous capital ships disgorging waves of wasp-like strike craft against hapless freedom fighters is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there, too.

The galaxy is under threat from more than one source, so i's perfectly plausible that members of the Insurgency and Supremacy might even team up for the greater good. Or they might allow their nemeses to face the "Assimilation Bugs from Beyond the Stars" or the tyrannical Flux Mages' secret infiltrators on their own. The one constant, wherever you go, is that every world is in peril, and it is up to idealistic, action-oriented folks to save the day.

The book is also going to be filled with gorgeous artwork, including several interior pictures from Matt Bulahao, who painted the starships fighting on the KS page's banner. Dean Spencer is doing the cover, and his work is unbelievable. Both of these artists and others help to create a visual sense of epic scale.
A Flux-wielding Star Mystic- Daniel Comerci
A Flux-wielding Star Mystic- Daniel Comerci
'Triskelion Space' is using your Exodus System. What changes have you had to make for the science fiction genre?

The first Exodus System book is designed for hacking by GMs or publishers. That's why I present both target number-based skill rolls and opposed skill rolls. The first book is also very abstract on vehicle and equipment systems to be easier to adapt to any genre.

Since I wanted more of a two-fisted, pulpy feel, virtually all rolls in Triskelion Space are opposed. Climbing that cliff face isn't a TN of 12, it's your d10 Agility versus the cliff's d8 AD (Action Die). This increases tension because you never know exactly what you have to beat for each roll.

Writing up the sci-fi book, I had requests from readers for, in their words "guns, guns, lots of GUNS". The new equipment system allows you to customize your equipment in thousands of different ways. I also further detailed the starship and vehicle system, plus space combat, commerce, item crafting and more. You can even create ships and mecha to use as PCs instead of human characters. This process is fast and takes only a minute or two per ship.

Space combat now is more cinematic. There are crew positions for virtually any party member so everybody has something to do during a fight. I refined the concept of Scale for this game, making the captical ships an enormous threat, but leaving fighter craft with options to save the day.

What kind of support will 'Triskelion Space' receive in the future?

We're working on a ships and space encounters book with dozens of premade ships and space monsters (beyond those in the core book) and options for ship creation. Think High Guard for Traveller, but it doesn't take an hour to make a vessel. There's also a series of gazeteers in the works, which expand on the non-spotlight planets from the core books and introduce new ones. I also want to introduce competitive, PVP starship battle rules for players who just want to sling missiles and disruptor beams at one another all day long. James Spahn, who wrote White Star, is contributing material, too. I'm really excited to have him aboard!

Forest Villager Settlement- Windfall
Forest Villager Settlement- Windfall

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Roleplaying Game Magazines

There are many RPG books I regret parting with during the Great Nerd Purge of 2006, but as much as I miss certain games I also miss the magazines I had.

I had all the Valkyrie and Arcane magazines, which were favourites of mine but I also had a lot of Imagine, early White Dwarf when they supported other games, years and years of Dragon magazine (I kept one issue because I loved the cover) even though I'd stopped playing D&D in 1989.

These were my main ones. I had some GM International and two issues of the Fighting Fantasy magazine Warlock which I STUPIDLY gave away. I also had two issues of Proteus, which was a fun mag but couldn't take the place of my beloved FF.

I miss all those magazines. I've picked up Tabletop Gaming magazine a few times and it's a great publication but I'm not into board and war games as much as I am into RPGs, so I miss the focused magazines of old. The material that's in them you can find quite easily on the internet now so a dedicated printed RPG magazine just wouldn't work now, I don't think, unless DeAgoistini created a collectible version with monthly figures and models.

Yeah. I really regret parting with my gaming mags.

Image result for dungeon magazine
Image result for imagine magazine fantasyImage result for warlock magazine fantasyImage result for proteus magazine fantasy
Image result for fantasy roleplaying magazineImage result for fantasy roleplaying magazineImage result for inphobia magazine

Monday, 3 September 2018

'Phaunt's Tower' available now

Available now from DrivethruRPG and RPGNow.

'Welcome to Wherwest!

This is a town full of opportunities at every corner, adventure through every door and danger at every turn. Glory and gold awaits! That is, if you can get past your first night here.

Phaunt’s Tower is an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry White Box, although it can be easily adapted for most classic OSR systems. The adventure is designed for a party of four adventurers of any race and class, and can be inserted into your existing campaign quite easily, no matter what world you’re gaming in.

Wherwest is a small town of around a thousand souls, and from here most adventurers can strike out into the surrounding countryside on their travels. It is famous for its hardy defences against the outside world and the great tower that dominates the top of the hill the town is built around. This is the Tower of Phaunt the Eager, a well-respected wizard who is also the Lord of Wherwest. From here he conducts business, holds council and researches his magic. In fact, the blue light that constantly glows at the very top of the tower that juts from the roof is a beacon of solace to travellers far and wide...'

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing

I knew virtually nothing about 'Eldritch Tales' until recently - you'd think a Lovecraft fan like myself would have realised that this was out there, but my Lovecraft roleplaying was focused on Chaosium's 'Call of Cthulhu', so anything else was kind of eclipsed by that.

Recently I got hooked on Swords & Wizardry White Box and I was so enamoured by it that I decided that this was going to be the RPG system I was going to use to write my own material. I had looked at a lot of OGL products but this one in particular excited me as it appealed to my sense of nostalgia; it reminded me of my original days of D&D roleplaying in the 1980s. In fact, I have my first adventure 'Phaunt's Tower' on release now at DrivethruRPG and RPGNow.

So, as I investigated more about Swords & Wizardry products, such as White Star and WWII: Operation WhiteBox, I came across Eldritch Tales and as soon as I saw that striking image of Cthulhu itself looming over that poor boat my Lovecraftometer went off the scale.

I promised myself that I'd wait for POD as I have White Box and White Star in the printed format but my excitement got the better of me and I purchased the PDF. At 10 bucks for 218 pages it was quite the bargain, and the contents of the book did not disappoint.

I will save a full description of the game for my full review once I've had a chance to play it, but suffice to say that after decades of 'Call of Cthulhu' I think I may have found a new version that I'm not only excited to play but excited to write my own OGL material for. I read the whole book in one sitting - I only finished about an hour before writing this blog entry - and it is such a great game. It's so good! It captures the Mythos really well and the writer, Joseph D. Salvador, obviously has a passion for the genre and the writer. Even though it adds a few extra rules and ideas so that you can get a truly great Lovecraftian nightmare played out it manages to retain the simplicity that attracted me to Swords & Wizardry in the first place. It even manages to make sure that the game suits your playstyle; not interested in going mad and dying? Then play it as pulp adventurers and throw some punches at the nearest Mi-Go.

As I said, I will have a full review out for it in the near future but rest assured that if you're a fan of Lovecraft, horror, and even the original 'Call of Cthulhu' game, then this is something well worth checking out.

'Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing in an OSR rule set with its roots in the Original version of the world's favorite RPG, but instead of exploring musty dungeons, characters in Eldritch Tales investigate Mythos horrors in the 1920s! The setting and background are based on the cosmic horror tales of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other members of his writing circle. 

Within the pages of Eldritch Tales you will find four character classes representing many classic pulp archetypes, occupations, rules for insanity, spells, monsters, esoteric tomes, artifacts, a starting scenario, and setting material, as well as advice on using Eldritch Tales with other White Box games. This game is compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box and other OSR games.

To accomodate all devices, the PDF purchase includes versions in both high resolution and low resolution. PDF has a bookmarked Table of Contents, as well as linked terms throughout the book.

Eldritch Tales offers a Compatibility License to third-party publishers interested in creating material to support the game, find it here on RPGNow or DriveThruRPG!'

Friday, 31 August 2018

Phaunt's Tower - an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry

All being well, my first OST adventure 'Phaunt's Tower' will be available from RPGNow and DrivethruRPG on Monday 3rd September. I just have two or three tweaks to make and it will be live on Monday afternoon (GMT).

It's been hard work to get to this point and there are a lot of people I'd like to thank, but I'd like to extend a special thank you to Kevin Watson of Dark Naga Adventures for his help and advice.

'Welcome to Wherwest!

This is a town full of opportunities at every corner, adventure through every door and danger at every turn. Glory and gold awaits! That is, if you can get past your first night here.

Phaunt’s Tower is an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry White Box, although it can be easily adapted for most classic OSR systems. The adventure is designed for a party of four adventurers of any race and class, and can be inserted into your existing campaign quite easily, no matter what world you’re gaming in.

Wherwest is a small town of around a thousand souls, and from here most adventurers can strike out into the surrounding countryside on their travels. It is famous for its hardy defences against the outside world and the great tower that dominates the top of the hill the town is built around. This is the Tower of Phaunt the Eager, a well-respected wizard who is also the Lord of Wherwest. From here he conducts business, holds council and researches his magic. In fact, the blue light that constantly glows at the very top of the tower that juts from the roof is a beacon of solace to travellers far and wide...'

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A whole new adventure - having a go at the RPG industry

So, I'm taking a dive into the tabletop RPG industry - I've written for Fighting Fantasy but that was for a publisher, and what I want to do is something completely of my own design.

I'm hitting the OSR circuit and using Swords & Wizardry (primarily Whitebox) as my chosen system as it appeals to me creatively, and right now it covers all three of my favourite genres; fantasy (S&W), science fiction (White Star) and horror (Eldritch Tales).

I'll have my first adventure out soon, 'Phaunt's Tower', and I'll follow that up with another fantasy one called 'The Battle of Halfpass'. I'll have a sci-fi one done soon called 'The White Worlds', and I've started a Cthulhu horror one for Eldritch Tales which is going to be much larger and more epic, called 'The Dream of Dead Gods'. I've been working on these on and off since March but now I'm going to hit them hard.

It'll also be good to stretch my artistic abilities and really challenge myself with drawings. I'm not a professional artist but I really enjoy illustrating my own work and I have a soft spot for the old-school black and white art from the 1980s.

A Balor trying to squeeze through a portal - fun times ahead

One day, perhaps I could make a living out of it!

Friday, 24 August 2018

I'm writing an OSR adventure

I've decided to write, illustrate and release an OSR adventure and to try and stay with that old-school feel I had a play at an old-style print-mag inspired advertisement.

I tried to make the ad look as retro as I could so I used whatever Word tools were to hand, then copied it to Paint. I'm quite pleased with it.

The adventure itself will be released soon.

No automatic alt text available.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

D&D as a team building tool

Every year on Christmas Eve the company department my wife worked would hold a morning of team-building exercises. This can take the form of crafts, boardgames, or anything else that takes their fancy, anything that makes them work together.

One year, my wife convinced them to play D&D.

The original  plan was for me to show her a few pointers and for her to run the game, but as I wasn't working on Christmas Eve it was decided that it would be easier for me to DM. It was going to be a quick two-hour blast through a simple dungeon, and I figured it would keep them entertained for a while.

Now, these guys have virtually no experience with the tabletop hobby, let alone pen n' paper RPGs, so I was shocked when they really got into certain elements of the game even before I arrived on the scene. Characters had been created with detailed backgrounds, their role in the adventuring party had been worked out and they'd even made their own swords and weapons out of cardboard. At first, I had this feeling that it was going to be a bit of a piss-take game, and because they weren't gamers they wouldn't take it seriously.

Well, didn't I feel like the prat when we started.

They got well into it. A few minutes into the game and we were fighting giant rats in a cellar, which lead to a secret entrance to an abandoned dwarven tomb. There were conversations about tactics, shouts of encouragement, and the first victory of the game got a cheer. Then there was caution, questions, exploration, some encounters that created some real tension and fun moments, and a final confrontation that created some excitement and a satisfying climax.

It was the energy from the players more than my abilities as a DM; there was nervous expectation and some trepidation, but once I showed them that they could be as relaxed as I was and that there were no expectations from them they settled in to the game quickly. It was great fun and I think some did it again, outside of work.

I learned some valuable lessons with this session; for starters, don't pre-judge the game and the players. I expected some fun and a dismissive playstyle, a casual game of no real significance, but they seemed to enjoy the game and I had a great time with new players. Secondly, D&D is a great team-building game. They started out a little disparate but soon came together as a group to defeat the (hugely underpowered) dragon at the end. It was a great ending.

Finally, always listen to your wife when she says 'you should do this'. You never know what you might miss out on.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

DUNE RPG on the way!

Wow! I was talking about a Dune RPG today, and about how shocked I was that the license hasn't been picked up and now here's news from Gale Force Nine. Guess I should talk more about what games I'd like to see!

The full press release is here.

Frank Herbert's Dune


Tabletop role-playing game planned for late 2019 release, with additional original tabletop games from Gale Force Nine and their sub-licensees to follow

BURBANK, CA – August 6, 2018 – Legendary Entertainment and Herbert Properties LLC have reached a multi-year licensing agreement with Gale Force Nine (GF9).  The award-winning game publisher is now set to bring the beloved sci-fi franchise DUNE to the world of tabletop gaming.

“Gale Force Nine has consistently demonstrated a skill and passion for building successful tabletop game series alongside category leading partners and we are thrilled to announce this exciting addition to the Dune licensing program ,” said Jamie Kampel, Vice President of Licensing & Partnerships for Legendary. “Legendary looks forward to a fun and meaningful contribution to this revered legacy property.”

The agreement calls for Gale Force Nine to produce original tabletop games drawing from the full scope of the Dune franchise—spanning the many publications from Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson—along with multiple direct tie-ins with Legendary’s highly-anticipated film from director Denis Villeneuve. 

“This is only the beginning of our big plans in tabletop for this captivating franchise,” says John-Paul Brisigotti, CEO of Gale Force Nine. “Dune is a rich and wonderful universe, and we expect to produce an equally expansive and inspired line of games for years to come.”

The full range of tabletop games, including board and miniatures games are slated to hit the market just prior to Legendary’s theatrical release of DUNE in 2020. In addition, GF9 plans to align with other game companies on numerous categories and formats in the future.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter MMO

Image result for neverwinterI've done quite a lot of online gaming over the years. I started out as did many others, with World of Warcraft (just as the Liche King expansion came out) and then played quite a few other games; Warhammer Online, Rifts, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Guild Wars and many others that have been installed/uninstalled/reinstalled over the years.

Many years ago D&D Online came out and, even though I did enjoy it, it didn't feel enough like a proper MMO for my tastes. I like the Eberron setting just fine, but never thought it was a good choice for the official D&D MMO and it never came close to the open-world fun of Warcraft; and, to be honest, I don't think any MMOs really do. I've begun to enjoy the Free-To-Play options in games lately as my time is limited and if I paid a subscription for a game I'd feel obliged to play it and end up sinking a lot of time into it. Even though a lot of the Free-To-Play games are a lot of fun, you hit a point where you can't really progress unless you spend money and you end up running around trying to find things to do.

The D&D Neverwinter game has really changed my perspective on that. I've built a level 70 character decked out in decent gear across the board, and even though I'm sure that a few paid options would have got me to 70 faster and helped me take part in the high-level content really made the character excellent, I've not yet spent a single penny on the game. Although I used to play on PC I'm now playing on the PS4, and while I'd prefer to use a PC it works perfectly well.

It's probably the best free MMO I've played and now I'm looking at spending some money on it. It's not as open world as I'd like, and you travel from the central Neverwinter city to zones scattered about the world - there are still other players around so you're not placed in these zones alone. The campaigns, such as Tyranny of Dragons and the Elemental Evil story, connect to the D&D 5th Edition tabletop roleplaying game so the MMO is keeping up with the new and improved edition. You don't need one to use the other - both mediums are doing their own thing - and there's constant new contetn being added with new campaigns and areas such as the upcoming Ravenloft expansion.

I can recommend Neverwinter for casual gamers like me, and even for paying players who want to get the most out of their game.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Games I missed out on

There were plenty of games I either owned or had access to that I never truly dived into and yet always wished I had. There was so much I would have loved to have done with the settings and worlds they presented. Here are four of them.

Image result for earthdawn#1 - Earthdawn

I managed to pick up a copy of the first edition book as I'd been looking at the recent editions and just wanted to get back into it. I remember looking through it when it first came out back in the early 1990s as we were in the middle of a Shadowrun game and the GM at the time wanted to run a similar game but using Earthdawn. I didn't know at the time that Earthdawn was the world eighteen thousand years before Shadowrun, and that you find out the true history of the awakened races that inhabit the future.

I remember wanting to run a Shadowrun game that alluded to ancient artifacts, and then run an Earthdawn game that explained where the artifacts had come from. It never came to pass, and Earthdawn was put away.

I've been reading up on it recently and so acquired this second hand copy, and all the original memories came flooding back. I wasn't a fan of the system at all, and to be honest if I ran it now I'd probably use the Runequest system. But the Mesoamerican feel, the takes on the different races, the idea of the Horrors and the people emerging from the Kaerns, which in turn gave a decent reason why there were dungeons to explore, instead of them just 'being there'... it was all fantastic, rich stuff and I'd run a game in this world in a heartbeat.

I regret missing out on this game when it first appeared. My next campaign is going to be a science fiction Cthulhu game, but if my players asked me to run a fantasy game I'd use this setting in a flash.

#2 - Birthright Campaign Setting

It's easy to see why it was I missed out on this; I'd already fallen out of love with AD&D 2nd Edition long before this campaign setting was published so let it pass me by, but I know if I had sat and read this when it first came out I would have dusted off my multiple polyhedrons from my Basic D&D boxset and set about running a campaign. I'd have even gritted my teeth and put up with THAC0.

Birthright has everything I'd love to run in a fantasy setting, especially these days with the up-and-up of Game of Thrones and even such dramas as Pillars of the Earth. The intrigue, the political wrangling, the looming wars. There were lots of different kingdoms to choose from and plenty of scope with characters, backgrounds and adventures. I have the option of running a straight forward D&D dungeon bash, or a political intrigue game, or a murder mystery, or all three together.

There's plenty to do in the Birthright campaign setting, and I was overjoyed to find the website www.birthright.net that had plenty of versions for download (all fan created). I downloaded them and absorbed the setting, but I'd still love to have the original boxset.

This is probably the only reason I regret abandoning AD&D 2nd Edition. It's a great setting with a fantastic sense of depth and wonder.

#3 - 2300AD

I played a little Traveller in the 1980s - sadly, the majority of the games were Star Wars inspired but lacking in any kind of adventure or excitement, but I enjoyed the game system immensely. When the West End Games Star Wars RPG supplied the pulp science fiction adventure I was looking for I then started to look for much more hard sci-fi games, the kind of games I wanted Traveller to supply me with. I found 2300AD: Man's Battle for the Stars in Virgin Megastore, at a time when Virgin Megastores had huge RPG sections, and the attendant told me 'yeah, it's kind of like an updated version of Traveller'. So I bought it, and found out later that it was nothing like the Traveller I remembered. So thank you, Virgin Megastore shop assistant, for not really knowing what you were talking about, even though you were right about the Traveller connections.

2300AD is a great game, with some very hard science fiction ideas and a great background, pretty much picking up the future 300 years from where GDW's Twilight: 2000 RPG left it. The system was pretty good, even though there was a lot of mathematics involved, but I thought this just added to the hard science fiction feel of the game.

I wish I'd got a game off the ground and done a proper campaign with gamers who would appreciate a hard sci-fi game and were also really good at maths. I still have that hard sci-fi itch to scratch even after all these years. I've just got Traveller once again so maybe that'll help.

#4 - Judge Dredd: The Roleplaying Game

To be fair, I didn't really miss out on this game - I just used it for a different purpose. I'm a huge 2000AD fan and I've got two decades worth of comics, graphic novels, Casebooks, Best Ofs, Megazines and specials. And a signed issue from John Wagner, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley and Colin MacNeil. So, yeah, I'm pretty much into it.

The Judge Dredd RPG was released by Games Workshop in the 1980s and, as far as I can tell, did quite well. The system wasn't anything to write home about. In fact, it wasn't that good, being a basic roll-under-percentile-score system in which starting PCs had stupidly low scores. But, it was functional and could be modified quite easily (changing the Combat Skill score to the two scores Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill a la WFRP solved many issues, and giving the player about fifty extra percentiles to divide up between the scores made them much more competent). I had the hardback book, not the boxset, and I used it quite a lot... for Strontium Dog games. My mates didn't really want to be Judges and with the mutation tables in the back it was perfect for a Stront game, and my mate Andy's Ralph the Goblinoid hunter had several months of fun.

The reason I missed out on this game is because I never used it for it's intended purpose, roleplaying as a Judge. I had great plans for playing Brit-Cit judges, and even had ideas involving the Apocalypse War and Necropolis. But these ideas never came about because we were having too much fun playing S/D agents.

I'd like to get hold of a copy of this game again, just the hardback rulebook. It was wonderfully atmospheric and captured the feel of 2000AD of the time really well. I'd love to have a proper go at it.

Friday, 3 August 2018

First Impressions - White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game

White Box : Fantastic Medieval Adventure GameI bought the printed version of White Box : Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game recently.

I like this a lot. It's really well laid out, quick and easy, and I like the retro style of it. The artwork is simple but a lot of fun and the game itself is easy and malleable with a wonderful 1980s feel to it.

I especially like the fact that they included both Descending and Ascending Armour Class (I'll be using Ascending, myself) and just got to the point of the system and the game, so it's aimed at people with experience in RPGs.

I think I'll write an adventure for DrivethruRPG for this as a way of trying out new approaches to design with the D20 system. At the moment I've written three official Advanced Fighting Fantasy adventures but it will be great to do something with another system and release it for myself under my own steam and editorial control.

I want to write my own material in my own setting! I want to see how I do on my own in the wild! I've raved about having an active imagination for years, so now's the time to prove it!

Self publishing, here I come!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

My roleplaying projects

So, my latest Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition adventure, 'The Crooked King's Cup', has just been released. This is the third adventure I've written for AFF2e and it's part of a larger story I've had in my head for a few years. There is a final adventure I want to write just to bring two of the adventures, this one and Floating Dungeon, together.

I was disappointed that I never did more art for this adventure but I simply did not have the time. I got one headshot drawn and drew the maps which was enough, but I think I'd like to do some more illustrations for the next one and fill it out a bit more.

What was nice about 'The Crooked King's Cup' was the fact that I not only designed an adventure but that I also created a location, 'Marshfeld', for gaming groups to use at their leisure with history, some locations and a few personalities to fill it out. That was fun, and it's nice to feel that there's a tiny part of Allansia that I helped create.

I have no idea when the next adventure will be done as I'm working on other things, but it'd be nice to do it casually over the next few months to allow me time to illustrate it. I have a story in mind that involves a lot more travel than the previous adventures, and I'm hoping it'll feel a lot more involved with a much more elaborate storyline. That remains to be seen, though, as I do enjoy the exploration and adventure aspects of my previous adventures.

It's all great fun and feels really nice to have fun in a world I have a lot of affection for. Fighting Fantasy was my gateway into gaming 35 years ago, so to be here writing and illustrating for it is something else. There's so much more I'd love to do for it, but only time will tell.

In other news, I picked up the White Box game as a book I could grab as I'm working on my current project. It's Swords & Wizardry compatible and the adventures I'm working on for publication will be following the OSR line, and I hope I can make it attractive to D&D players old and new.

It's a great book and the artwork is a lot of fun, the kind of black and white ink art I hope to create for my work. Great stuff.

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Friday, 27 July 2018

The Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition adventure 'The Crooked King's Cup' is now available

My new Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition adventure 'The Crooked King's Cup' is available now from DrivethruRPG!

'Welcome, brave adventurers!  You are no doubt walking your way across Titan in search of fame, fortune and more than a little glory, so lend me your ears and I will tell you of a place so foul with the corruption of evil and chaos, and yet so full of the gold and renown you seek, you'll wonder if the risk is worth the rewards.

Do you dare seek out the Cup of the Crooked King, and risk eternal damnation for the chance of more riches than the King of Salamonis himself has ever seen?

Of course, I know what your answer will be.

This is The Crooked King's Cup, an Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition adventure for an experienced adventuring party, although it will be easy enough to adjust the statistics of the foes and dangers to suit any level of skill.

Requires the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Ed RPG'

Happy Birthday Gary Gygax

Image result for gary gygax futuramaToday is Gary Gygax's birthday, and I usually think about how far I've come in my tabletop roleplaying since I first got involved in the hobby in 1983 when I cracked open a copy of the Fighting Fantasy book 'The Citadel of Chaos' before moving on to the red box Basic D&D.

I like to think I've come quite far, from muddling through the game with little instruction to where I am today. These days my hobby is an amalgamation of all the gaming I've done over the decades, from my initial wonder and confusion to the constant battling to my first ever proper emotional involvement in a character.

So Happy Birthday, Gary.

This year I've been thinking about how much I rely on the dice during a game and it reminded me of some amazing virtually diceless sessions over the years. For example, A while ago my gaming group settled back into a Basic D&D Greyhawk game, the first session of a new year, with a mind to play it for the next few months. The sessions we'd been playing since the previous year have been primarily dice-based, and we've had some fun with a couple of dungeons and a whack of wilderness encounters.

All that changed with the last session. Throughout the entire two hour game there were only two rolls made, one to see what the weather was like and one Charisma check. The rest of the game was rest and recuperation from the adventuring, meeting new NPCs and catching up with NPCs we already new to see what other missions could be done, and impressing the Lord of the estate. It was an evening of roleplaying.

I stepped up and did my part. I love roleplaying, actually playing a character and acting out a role, carefully weighing what to say and do and then acting how I see fit or how best suits the plot of the adventure. That's what roleplaying games are all about to me; if I just spent the evening rolling combat then as far as I'm concerned it's just a boardgame.

Most of my best gaming evenings have been about the roleplaying. Yes, I've had plenty of exciting combats and I remember the cool times but the dramatic, character driven moments are what stick in my mind. I don't ever remember doing much of that with basic D&D - although, to be fair, I was in my early teens when I started playing so smacking stuff in the face with a sword was as cool as it got - and it was a great feeling to know that I could get that level of character involvement out of the game. It's like my 1980s teenage 'kill 'em all!' self has joined with my 1990s 'what is my motivation?' personality. I like it.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The AD&D 2nd Edition Birthright Campaign Setting

It's easy to see why it was I missed out on this; I'd already fallen out of love with AD&D 2nd Edition long before this campaign setting was published so I let it pass me by, but I know if I had sat and read this when it first came out I would have dusted off my multiple polyhedrons from my Basic D&D boxset and set about running a campaign. I'd have even gritted my teeth and put up with THAC0.

Birthright has everything I'd love to run in a fantasy setting, especially these days with Game of Thrones dominating the widespread fantasy genre, and my own love of gritty fantasy settings. The intrigue, the political wrangling, the looming wars. There were lots of different kingdoms to choose from and plenty of scope with characters, backgrounds and adventures. I have the option of running a straight forward D&D dungeon bash, or a political intrigue game, or a murder mystery, or all three together.

There's plenty to do in the Birthright campaign setting, and I was overjoyed to find the website www.birthright.net that had plenty of versions for download (all fan created). I downloaded them and absorbed the setting, but I'd still love to have the original boxset.

This is probably the only reason I regret abandoning AD&D 2nd Edition. It's a great setting with a fantastic sense of depth and wonder and would make for an amazing 5th Edition setting.

Hey, WotC! Birthright, baby! Birthright!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Fantasy campaign setting histories - how much detail do you need?

Here's something I thought I'd share with you. A very long time ago I designed a grim fantasy campaign setting called 'The Last Island' and I'd designed the entire place including it's history. The only thing I have left of all that design work is this back story below, which I wrote so that potential players could read it and get a sense of depth and history.

As it happened, all of this was completely superfluous. The campaign started with the PCs being hired by the King to find the Book of Making, which is why the back story stops so abruptly as that was where the story continued with the PCs, but it turned out they had no interest in the history, they just wanted to get on with the adventure.

So how much detail would you go into? The story below is quite long and detailed but, ultimately, it never really got any use. I think, perhaps, I wrote it for my own edification as I wanted to fill out the history and give the setting a sense of depth, for me if for nothing else. I do know that I've never written anything as detailed as this since. I now concentrate on where the players are going, and not what's come before. After all, all they're interested in is the adventure to come.

Do you think what I wrote below was worth it? This is a long post so I apologise in advance.


First, there was Evil Deceit, with eyes of bright silver, who came across the Veil that is the cloak of stars and decided upon a game.
This game was the First Land, the Land We Do Not Remember, and Evil Deceit dragged the First Land from the Waters of Eternity, pulling it from the depths of the ocean with such force that the waves crashed and the sea boiled with fire. The First Land was borne from evil thoughts and harsh dreams, so the mountains gushed forth fire and smoke and fed the red rivers of stone that ran as water. The black and grey earth of the First Land was covered with fields of ash and plains of barren rock. And Evil Deceit gazed upon the sculpture that was created and smiled with glee as the shape of the First Land was torn and remade with every belching mountain and every shake of the foundations.
But soon Evil Deceit became bored of the First Land and decided to create creatures that would roam the surface. And so Evil Deceit created the creatures of no purpose, formless and shapeless denizens of the First Land. And the creatures of no purpose stumbled blindly across the ash-covered surface and wailed in their torment.
Evil Deceit soon became bored with this game and, after much cajoling, managed to cause war between the creatures of no purpose. Evil Deceit discovered that by whispering in the minds of the creatures of no purpose and turning them against one another there was sport to be had. The creatures fought savagely for the amusement of Evil Deceit who found their machinations an entertainment, bored as he was with life in the firmament above the Land We Do Not Remember.
For time immeasurable the creatures of no purpose fought with one another over the First Land, the Forever War, a desire to conquer and spread injected into them by Evil Deceit who watched with his eyes of bright silver. And for time immeasurable they knew no different.
But the war was not to last. With war came growth and change and the creatures began to question their existence and their meaning, and Evil Deceit was concerned at their thoughts. So Evil Deceit created Forms of Shadow and Smoke, the Betheresti, and these deamonic creatures smote those creatures of no purpose who had such thoughts. This way, Evil Deceit could continue the Forever War.
But the voices of the creatures of no purpose grew louder until they reached a deafening crescendo in the mind of Evil Deceit, and no matter how many Forms of Shadow and Smoke that swept through the First Land in their endless slaughter, the pain was too great. And Evil Deceit cried out in agony and sent a wave of fire across the First Land that destroyed all. The Forms of Shadow and Smoke, terrified of their master’s great power, hid themselves in the deep cracks of the earth. Evil Deceit, drained by the act of cleansing the First Land, fell to the fields of ash, utterly spent.
Only two creatures of no purpose escaped the wrath of the Cruel God and these formless, nameless beings held each other in the dark and disregarded the Forever War in their terror.

The cries of Evil Deceit echoed beyond the Veil that is the cloak of stars and were heard by Blessed Truth, who recognised the voice of an enemy. So Blessed Truth came from beyond the Veil and gazed upon the First Land with sorrow. The creation of Evil Deceit groaned and heaved as a dying creature, scorched by flame, scarred by fire, wounded by deep cracks, and in all this could be heard the whimpers of the two creatures of no purpose. Blessed Truth, whose heart was full of the joy of existence, felt pity, and pity turned to sorrow, and sorrow turned to weeping.
The tears that fell from the eyes of burning gold of Blessed Truth fell upon the First Land and cleansed it of the dark designs of Evil Deceit. The mountains stopped spewing their fire, the rivers of stone that ran as water hardened, the flames were quenched. The ash was washed into the great seas that were formed around the First Land by the great sorrowful weeping of Blessed Truth. And the First Land was cleansed.
Evil Deceit, made nearly powerless by the great flaming ruin that he had cast against the First Land felt the sting of those tears and retreated hurriedly, disappearing with the Betheresti into the darker places of the earth to regain strength.
After a long time the tears, the Rains of Change, were over. Blessed Truth gazed down upon the First Land with eyes of burning gold, and saw that under the black rock and ash was a place that could have been beautiful. Sadly, Blessed Truth prepared to return beyond the Veil.
But the whimpers of the last two creatures of no purpose could still be heard. After a little searching Blessed Truth found the two formless beings clinging to each other at the foot of the greatest mountain now called Car Toil.
“Why do you cry so, small children of the Land?” asked Blessed Truth.
But the creatures had no ears to hear Blessed Truth with, so Blessed Truth gave them ears. But they had no language to speak with, so Blessed Truth gave them language.
And the first creature of no purpose said, “We cry for our lives are as sport for that which would have us war with each other.”
And Blessed Truth was perplexed, and said, “Beyond the Veil I heard the cries of one who has the breath of Evil, and that cry bought me here to this place.”
The second creature of purpose said, “The cry you heard was that of Evil Deceit, who would have us war for his pleasure.”
And Blessed Truth, whose ways are of peace and love but who can be pushed to anger, spoke menacingly. “Then the cry of the one who has the breath of Evil was the one who has created this Land and caused so much suffering? Tell me, where is this Evil Deceit, for I smell the vileness on you now.”
And the two creatures of no purpose dropped to their knees and begged for their lives, and so pitiful were their pleas that Blessed Truth held up a hand and calmed them. “Your place on this Land is for the amusement of one who would see you fight and kill for sport, so the taint that is upon you is no fault of yours. You are in no danger. Tell me where this Evil Deceit may be found and I will leave this place to you, more beautiful than it is now.”
Eager to please the fearful creatures of no purpose pointed beyond the mountain that is now called Car Toil. “He fell from the sky, spent by his slaughter, on the fields of ash yonder. There you will find the Cruel God that has caused us so much pain.”
And Blessed Truth stepped across the hills and mountains of barren rock and came upon the field of ash, but there was no sign of Evil Deceit, but the place where he had fallen to the earth in exhaustion was covered with the stench of darkness. And so Blessed Truth surrounded the place with water and separated it from the First Land, and proclaimed it forbidden to all that knew of it. For the stricken land crawled with the sickening wailing and the mournful cries of the many dead spirits of creatures of no purpose, who knew only slaughter and destruction, and Blessed Truth called it Adenn Marred, or the Isle of Wraiths.
Upon returning to the creatures of no purpose Blessed Truth found them weeping.
“And what ails you know, small children of the Land?” asked Blessed Truth.
And the creatures held up their hands to the new God and said, “Forgive us, Lord of Honesty, but we are simple creatures of no purpose and we know nought but death and misery. What future do we have in this blighted place?”
The thought of the last two creatures of no purpose falling upon each other in war, the survivor wandering the blighted plains for eternity looking for enemies to conquer, both saddened and angered Blessed Truth. And so, after long thought and deep consideration, Blessed Truth stretched forth a hand and blessed the creatures of no purpose. “From here to the end of all you will be the custodians of this Land, and here you will make a place so beautiful that war and death will be but a memory.” And Blessed Truth created the Book of Making, the book from whence all of the Land we know was birthed and which no Evil may read from, and handed it to the creatures of no purpose. “I cannot stay here, as the Veil calls to me, and so my power will not sustain your lives or create others to share your Land. I will leave one of mine own eyes of burning gold to watch over you and illuminate this land, so that the light it spreads will nourish all things of life you create. To create others of your kind I will name you Man and you Woman, and your union will bring forth others to share this place.”
But the creatures of no purpose were terrified, and cried out, “But with you gone and your power diminished, what will sustain us in this blighted world?”
“The Land will provide whatever you decide to create, but you must not squander the riches the Land will offer as it is not infinite. And you are the first of the small children and I forbid you to create others of your kind, or other creatures of equal ability. For it seems that those that create such beings do so for their own pleasure and the stain of Evil Deceit is still upon you. Blessed are you, small children of the Land, and blessed will this Land be with my eye of burning gold to watch over you, and you and your kind will join me beyond the Veil when you pass and tell me the tales of your life.”
And Blessed Truth retreated beyond the Veil.

So, with the Book of Making, the creatures of no purpose cast their spells and formed the Land into a shape most suited to their needs. Trees they created for shelter from the eye of burning gold, rivers of water for sustenance and refreshment in the heat of the eye of burning gold, rains for cleansing and winds to remember the soft breath of Blessed Truth by. With these trees and rivers and rains and winds came the grasses, the ferns, and all the greenery we know of, and the creatures found a new purpose, to create and make good their Land.
And all the time they created with the Book of Making, they were aware of Blessed Truth’s one requirement not to create other creatures such as themselves. And the Land grew in beauty.
As Man and Woman aged, as they were to without the power of Blessed Truth to sustain them, they had many children. And these children had many children, and the numbers of the creatures of purpose grew and grew until the first great city, Mondadruil, the Wooden City, was built to house the numbers. And Man and Woman, whose true names are lost to the echoing depths of time, watched their land transform as they wished it. And they created animals that walk, fly and swim to share the Land, for Blessed Truth had forbade them to create creatures such as their own kind, but these creatures were not the same. And the descendants of Man and Woman marvelled at these creatures.
Many years passed since the Land had been transformed, and Man and Woman were both of such an age that their skin hung loosely from their bones and their hair was white. And in these winter years of their lives, a black-cowled old man who spoke of things that could be visited them.
“You have created a Land rich in love and splendour,” said the old man to Man and Woman, “but so much more could you do to make this place a wonder even beyond the Veil. You work wood and earth, but what of the stone and rocks that exist in the high mountains? Transform Mondadruil, cast up a great tower in the name of Blessed Truth, and though you die and pass into the Realm of Paradise beyond the Veil, your mark will be made as stone will last until the end of all.”
And, weakened by the years, Man and Woman heard the words of the black-cowled man and rejoiced; for their lives would soon be over and they would not be remembered once they had passed beyond the Veil. “But we have no knowledge of working with stone, and not the strength,” Man and Woman said. “The trees are all we know.”
And the black-cowled man, hearing the words and choosing his own carefully, said, “Why, you have the Book of Making, so can you not simply will those with hardy natures and the skill to work the stone into being?”
Man and Woman were aghast at this thought. “And break the rules that Blessed Truth placed upon us with the Book of Making? Such a thing is not at all possible, and shame on you, a being with purpose, who would suggest such a thing.”
And the black-cowled man threw back his hood, and Man and Woman gazed into the eyes of shining silver, and terror took them, and they passed beyond the Veil.
Evil Deceit cast aside the form of the old man and greedily grabbed the Book of Making, hoping the power stored within its blessed pages would restore his strength, but upon reading the words a great pain took him and his body withered. One of his eyes of burning silver was burnt from its socket, and he fled the Wooden City of Mondadruil, trapped forever in the form of a withered old man, cursing mankind and retreating to the dark places where his agents of Shadow and Smoke awaited him.

Great was the mourning of the many children of Man and Woman, whose true names are lost to the echoing depths of time, and for many days did they sit in the light of the eye of burning gold begging for the return of their forebears. Their bodies were buried in a vast place, and they called it Toildruil, the City of the First, and the location was kept secret so that Man and Woman could rest in peace, and the whereabouts of the city is lost to us today.
And in the darkness of the world Evil Deceit made his plans, for the Book of Making was not for him to read and yet he coveted it, wishing for the power he once had before spending himself in the formation of the First Land and the slaughter he inflicted. And he saw a new way in which he could control the descendents of the First. For Evil Deceit is the master of lies and conspiracy, so he used his skills well. The stench of Evil Deceit was still on mankind, and all of the children of the First had the capability of cruelty and lies inherited from their forebears, and Evil Deceit knew how to manipulate this to his own ends.
The first son of the First took up the Book of Making and continued the work of his forebears, creating new things that pleased his people. But all the while he created, the voice of Evil Deceit whispered in his mind. Although he thought them only dreams, the will of Evil Deceit was being done.
Until, one day, the first son of the First, whose true name is lost to the echoing depths of time, woke to the feeling that he could do more than continue the work of his forebears, and he gathered his people about him.
“Beloved children of the Land,” he cried. “Let us make our mark upon the face of that which we call home and be sure our legacy lasts until the end of all. Let us rebuild Mondadruil with stone and rock so that our descendants will remember the true greatness of their beginnings.”
The people were confused as to why the first son of the First would wish such a thing. They could not know that Evil Deceit had used his guile and insidious whispers to plant the seed of disobedience in the mind of the first son of the First. The first son believed the idea to be his own, whereas in reality it was the machinations of Evil Deceit.
And the people questioned the first son, saying, “We have no knowledge of the stone and rock of the mountains, only the trees and leaves of the forest. How can we build such a feat?”
And the first son of the First held aloft the Book of Making and said, “With this book we can create those strong enough to mould the stone and rock into that which we desire.”
The people were aghast. How could the first son consider such a thing, against the will of Blessed Truth? They recoiled in shock and anger and some even called for the first son to be cast down from his lofty position and the first daughter to take his place.
But the first son of the First would not be dissuaded from his aim. In secret, he spun the power of the Book of Making into a form that would serve him well, and the Ogres were born unto the world.
The great green-skinned Ogres, standing taller than most men and more powerful than an ox, set about their work. Little by little, they bought down the stone and rock from the mountains and moulded it into shapes, and with these shapes they constructed the great Dronandruil, the Stone City, upon the foundations of Mondadruil, the Wooden City. At first, the people fled the great Ogres as they constructed the city, fearing their might and their power, but as the great city of Dronandruil took shape they saw the beauty that such great hands could craft. The streets were paved, the buildings of many colours glittered in the light of the eye of burning gold, and towers rose high into the air. The Ogres taught the children of the Land the skills that they knew, and together the small children and the great Ogres finished the city.
Dronandruil stood glittering at the base of Car Toil, the mountain where Man and Woman had hidden from the revenge of Evil Deceit, and the people were glad. A great tower was built to honour Blessed Truth, the Lord of Honesty who had enlightened the people so, and it reached the cloudy sky, almost, some say, to the Veil itself, and they named it Ceress Dansuin, or Blessed Building.
And they danced and drank and loved, and the Ogres, their purpose clear, built more places for the people to live with no thought for their own comfort, and the Land rang with song and joy.
And then Blessed Truth returned.

Blessed Truth, through the spirits of Man and Woman who had crossed the Veil into the Realm of Paradise after they had passed from the Land, had learned of Evil Deceits advice to them regarding the Book of Making. Concerned for the welfare of the Land, Blessed Truth passed through the Veil and alighted upon the world.
Great Dronandruil glittered in the light of the eye of burning gold, and the tower of Ceress Dansuin stretched high into the air, and ribbons and pennants swung lazily in the breath of Blessed Truth. And at first Blessed Truth marvelled at the sight, and wondered how the people could have learned the skills of moulding stone and rock, but then spied the Ogres working on new glorious places. And Blessed Truth understood. And Blessed Truth sucked in the air of the Land and bellowed in fury.
The skies boiled and the clouds became as thick as mud. The rain lashed the Land and the sky lit up with flashes of lightning and roared with angry thunder. The children of the Land and the Ogres cast themselves down and wailed in fear as Blessed Truth vented anger upon all of creation. And the great city of Dronandruil trembled, and the foundations cracked and the buildings shook apart, and the tall tower of Ceress Dansuin was cast down into ruin. And when spent, Blessed Truth fell to the ground exhausted.
The children of the Land and the Ogres gathered about the form of Blessed Truth in reverent silence, terrified at the results of their folly. The first son of the First approached, the Book of Making in his hands, and laid down beside Blessed Truth.
“Forgive us, Lord of Honesty, for we have failed you,” he wept.
“You have failed me,” Blessed Truth said. “You have done that which I had forbid, for it is not the right of mortal man to create life which they intend to control. This land is beautiful, but it has been marred by deceit and ignorance. Life with purpose is a wonderful thing, but you create it with the Book of Making as if it is nought but a fancy, a whim of creation. You do not understand how delicate life is, and you cannot know of its fragility. Tell me, what purpose do the Ogres have?”
“To mould stone and rock,” the first son said.
“And that is all the purpose they have. You have turned life into a tool to be used to attain your own desires, much like the designs of Evil Deceit when this Land was first created. Beyond the Veil we have knowledge of such things and we have seen what happens when life is treated as a plaything. We will not allow mortal man to have such power.”
And Blessed Truth stretched out a hand to take the Book of Making from mortal man.

Evil Deceit was aghast. What fortune had come to be? Blessed Truth lay broken and near powerless on the Land, and the eye of burning gold was smothered by the thick boiling clouds. He would never have a better chance to strike!
As Blessed Truth stretched out a hand to take the Book of Making, the skies came alive with the great winged daemons of Shadow and Smoke. Evil Deceit sent them forth and the children of the Land fled in terror. Evil Deceit stepped from the darkness and the smoke, and as Blessed Truth stood to confront the Lord of Lies, the first son recoiled with the Book of Making still in his hands.
“For time immeasurable have I longed for this,” Evil Deceit chuckled, the ground about his feet growing black with his presence, the greenery of the Land wilting and dying wherever he trod. “Long ago you came to this Land, Blessed Truth, and you took from me that which I had created.”
“You created life for your own amusement, Evil Deceit,” Blessed Truth said. “You corrupted that which is sacred to all those whose hearts beat with purpose. I followed the only course that would save the children of the Land.”
“And see how they repay you, oh great Lord of Honesty,” Evil Deceit sneered. “That which you saved has turned against you.”
“Only because the stain of Evil Deceit still marks their spirit,” Blessed Truth countered. “I would see them free of it.”
“And I would see them bow to me,” the Lord of Lies hissed. “See how the sky grows black! The eye of burning gold diminishes. If you will watch them laugh in the light, then I will watch them scream in the dark!”
And Evil Deceit tore his one good eye from his face and cast it into the sky, and the eye of shining silver hung there gazing down on all creation as the sky was dark. And Blessed Truth, aghast, tore out his other eye and cast it into the sky, where they hung in the sky to gaze upon all creation as the sky was light. Then they locked their hands around each others throats and blindly struggled upon the Land. They ascended into the sky where they joined their eyes, and the neverending struggle between light and darkness was begun.
Blessed Truth and Evil Deceit struggle still, with the eye of burning gold travelling the sky through the day and the eye of shining silver marching by night. And as the struggle continues the eye of shining silver, the moon, comes and goes, and the eye of burning gold, the sun, rises and falls. And when the moon waxes and wanes then this means the power of Evil Deceit is victorious and beaten, and when the sun warms the Last Island in summer but grows cold in winter then Blessed Truth is victorious and then beaten.
And they still speak to us, when you listen hard enough, for their cries can be heard in the thunder and the wind and the crashing of the seas.

Mankind retreated into the walls of Dronandruil, terrified of what they had done and witnessed, and the first son, whose true name is lost to the echoing depths of time, hid himself away. In the highest tower of Dronandruil the first son withered and died, and it is said his spirit was drained by the Book of Making, which punished his sins for its creator Blessed Truth.
And the first son of the first son, whose hair was black and whose face was bright, and who was called Gethren, took the book from the withered hands of his father and proclaimed, “These pages would be the doom of mankind.” And he hid the Book of Making away in the deepest vaults of the city of stone.
And mankind rebuilt the city, and rose the tower high once more so that they could be closer to their Lord of Honesty whose two eyes of burning gold glittered in the day, and they wept for many a year for their transgressions. But soon the fault disappeared into history, and mankind looked once again to the future.
Whilst the city was being rebuilt the agents of Evil Deceit, the Betheresti, hid in their dark places and brewed their anger against Blessed Truth who had stolen their master. And they plotted and schemed, knowing they would one day have revenge on that most hated of enemies. At first they planned the downfall of mankind but they had no army. Only twelve of the Betheresti remained and although they were blessed with long life they knew they could not defeat their enemies. They decided on a course of action that would take many an age but would bring about a revenge darker than the blackness of their hearts.
As man and Ogre toiled in Dronandruil in the day under the two eyes of burning gold, the agents of Evil Deceit stalked the night under the eye of shining silver, for the suns caused them great pain. And from the city they stole two of the children of the Land, a man and a woman. They were called Brunen and Hethel, and they would become the father and mother of a race hated by all things.
Using dark magics left to them by Evil Deceit the twelve Betheresti twisted and reformed Brunen and Hethel until there was nothing left of the heart that Blessed Truth had given them. Their bodies became twisted and gnarled, their skin turned grey, their teeth cracked and rotted and their eyes turned black and yellow with no hint of love or compassion. Hairless and without spirit, they began the first race of evil, the orcs, some of which walk the Last Island still. The numbers grew with the aim of a grand army the Betheresti could send against mankind to exact their revenge. But all the while they had their eyes set on something greater.
The Betheresti still sent offerings to their Lord of Lies and, although locked in eternal battle with Blessed Truth, Evil Deceit heard their pleas and helped as he could. Only when the eye of shining silver was full and his power at its greatest could Evil Deceit talk to the Betheresti in their dreams, and he told them what they must do.
“The power of the Lord of Honesty is in his eyes of burning gold,” he whispered. “Take them from the sky and his power will diminish and I will be the victor of this eternal battle. Then together we will rule mankind on this, my creation.”
And the agents of Evil Deceit heard their master’s wishes and they planned and plotted and schemed. There was only one place where they could reach the eyes of burning gold and that was at the top of the highest place in the Land, that of Ceress Dansuin, called Ceress Dansuin Etol now it was raised once again for the honour of Blessed Truth. So the aims of the Betheresti were twofold; war against the children of the Land, and climb to the top of Ceress Dansuin Etol and steal the eyes of burning gold.
The leader of the Betheresti was the favourite of Evil Deceit and he named himself Ynoc, and it would be he who would have the honour of taking the eyes.

Mankind rebuilt their city of stone and raised the tower of Ceress Dansuin, now Ceress Dansuin Etol, into the sky, higher than any mountain peak, even higher than Car Toil, the First Mountain and its sister Car Etol, the Second Mountain. To appease their Lord of Honesty the children of the Land carved upon its face shapes denoting the many creatures of the world they had created, so great birds and hounds and wolves and other beasts decorated its shining white stone. Once it was finished the people waited for a sign from Blessed Truth, but none was coming.
Gethren, saddened by the silence of the Lord of Honesty, retreated to the top of the tower and spent ten days and ten nights and took neither food nor water waiting for a word from his Lord. On the night of the eleventh day he fell into a stupor and, as his eyes closed, a voice whispered in his head.
“Have you not learned from the mistakes of your forebears, little Gethren?” the voice whispered. “Great tributes will not please Blessed Truth, and no amount of piety will forgive you for your wrongdoing. The Book of Making is yours, now, and one who is locked in eternal battle cannot decide the future of the Land. Look to your own heart and create that which will please you and your kind.”
And Gethren came awake suddenly, filled with a new resolve and an image in his heart. He would use the Book of Making to create a new race, one that would be suited to the Land beyond anything imagined by Blessed Truth.
But Gethren could not know that it was Evil Deceit who had whispered to him in his dreams, for that which sounds sweet to one is bitter to another.
Gethren opened the pages of the Book of Making and as he felt the power rising in his body he stretched forth his hand and wrote within the pages his heart’s desire, willing it into being. The creation was a great winged beast with a breath of fire and eyes of diamond. The first dragon walked the Land.
The children of the Land were at once terrified and awestruck. Such a beautiful creature and yet, with its towering form and horn-studded head, as horrifying as anything they had ever seen in their nightmares. The dragon looked upon the people and smiled a smile that caused women to swoon and men to hold their hands to their eyes for fear of being bewitched.
“Gethren, Lord of the Book,” the beast rumbled, the voice shaking the very earth. “Blessed art thou who hast made my form. What is thy wish, and I shall grant it for thee.”
Gethren, swelling with pride at his creation, stroked the nose of the dragon affectionately. “Beast, whose kind shall be called dragon, you are to be my steed so that I can gaze upon this Land from the clouds and make judgements upon its future.”
“I shall do this, Lord, and I shall do it willingly,” the dragon said. And the dragon came to be known as Ceress Wyrmyrtoil, the Blessed First Dragon.
Gethren climbed up between the great shoulders of Wyrmyrtoil and, with one great sweep of his wings, the dragon launched himself into the air and Gethren was able to see the domain he ruled. And with passion he held the Book of Making aloft and proclaimed himself and his descendents following to be the Kings of the Land.
Evil Deceit had placed in the heart of the first of the Great Kings the desire for power, and it would be a disease that would never leave the hearts of many of the children of the Land.

Now Gethren had a wife, Gwyniol, and she despaired at her husband’s actions as he rode away on the back of his creation. Already she could hear the whispers in the halls of her house and the streets of the city of Dronandruil as the people wondered what they could do with the Book of Making. Wild ideas, some wonderful and some disturbing, were cast about with abandon, and in the eyes of some Gwyniol saw jealousy of the first of the Great Kings. All she could see was toil and hardship as these stares were filled with pride and wonder, and she felt fear at the prospect.
One hot day she lay resting on her bed wondering at the future of the Land, and in her head she heard a soft pleasant whisper.
“Gwyniol, wife of Gethren, your heart is heavy and your spirit troubled. Your husband has done a terrible thing and ignored the lessons taught to him by his forebears. The Book of Making is not for the vanity of one but for the good of the Land, and Gethren has lost sight of this. The stain of Evil Deceit is strong in his heart. He does not hear me in his dreams for his fervour ignores all warning. You must destroy the Book of Making.”
As Gwyniol awoke she knew her course. The Land must be rid of the Book of Making.
But how could she accomplish such an impossible task? The Book of Making was the cherished possession of her husband and he carried it with him wherever he went. Even in sleep he held the Book to him as he would his own child. She knew that when he was forced to abandon it for even a little while he left it in the care of Ceress Wyrmyrtoil, and the dragon guarded it with a ferocity that thwarted even passing thoughts of theft.
But determination steeled her and she thought long and hard how to be rid of the Book of Making. She could not act against her husband directly whilst he held the Book for she loved him dearly and would not see him harmed or betrayed, for she did not think she could live knowing that he saw her as a traitor. She came to the unhappy conclusion that she would have to move against the dragon whilst the Book was with him. The mere thought of facing the beast almost caused her to abandon the plans immediately.
As more creatures appeared across the Land at the behest of King Gethren, and more whispers spread through the city of Dronandruil like fire through dry hay, Gwyniol decided on her cause of action. Battling the great beast was impossible so she gathered her most trusted servants and aids and, unknown the them, formulated a plan to create a draught powerful enough to send the beast to sleep, enabling her to take the Book of Making without the need for bloodshed.
Through her servants and aids she learned of many potions and tonics that she secretly collected. The dragon dwelled within a deep cavern under the King’s palace, the Druil-Tunree, the City Heart, and she knew he drank from a small stream that ran through it. She would have to hide in the cavern and wait until the dragon drank from the stream, and as he did so she would pour the potion into the water. Once asleep, she could take the Book of Making and destroy it.
One night, whilst her husband met with the Lords of the lands in deep discussion over what next could be created by the Book of Making, Gwyniol crept into the deep cavern where the dragon rested. She hid herself away in the darkness near the opening of the stream and awaited the return of Ceress Wyrmyrtoil, with a huge wineskin filled with the draught she had created. After a long while the dragon crawled into the dark place, lit only by a single shaft of light from the roof of the cavern, and wrapped himself around the Book of Making. As he stretched his neck to drink from the running stream Gwyniol poured the contents of the wineskin into the torrent and watched the dark liquid mix with the clear water. The dragon drank much and, after many great swallows, he returned to his vigil, the Book nestled between his huge claws and his gargantuan mouth. His eyes were alert and blazed at every sound but before long he was soundly asleep. Gwyniol crept from her hiding place and approached the beast, hurrying as fast as she could for she had no idea how long the potion would keep such a gigantic beast in slumber.
She was horrified to see that the dragon had drank so much of the potion that he was as a thing dead, the huge form slumped over the Book. The Book itself had slipped partially inside the huge mouth and she was hard pressed to pull it free. After much struggling she finally managed to take it away from the dragon, but, in her fervour to do so, a page was torn away on one of the dragon’s teeth. Before she could take the lost page out she heard footsteps echoing from the mouth of the cavern. Her husband had returned for the Book.
Quickly, she hid herself away once again in the darkness and watched as King Gethren approached the dragon.
Upon seeing that Ceress Wyrmyrtoil slept and with no sign of the Book Gethren went into a rage. He pounded the nose of the beast fiercely, calling for his attention, and it was a while before one of the glittering eyes finally opened. Slowly, and with a seemingly great effort, the dragon lifted his head.
“What wouldst thou have of me, my King?” Ceress Wyrmyrtoil rumbled.
“Where is the Book, sleeping beast?” King Gethren cried.
The dragon looked about him. “I know not, my King,” he said with much concern.
King Gethren pointed at the dragon’s mouth. “A page is caught in your teeth! And your lips are wet from drinking of the stream? Could you have… could you have swallowed the Book?”
Ceress Wyrmyrtoil’s eyes raged. “I could not!”
“You have!” King Gethren pulled the page from the tooth and and stared at it with fury, his face contorting with rage. “You mean to take the power of the Book from me by making it of you!”