Into the OSR: Help! My Group have become Landlords!

Into the OSR is an occasional series in which I write up some of the creative decisions I have made in the preparation of my old school sandbox D&D style fantasy RPG campaign. The rest of the series can be found here

Having stalled on the front-loaded preperation work involved in the Gygax ’75 protocols, I decided to just start running a game in the little bit of setting I had dreamed up just to see how far I would get.

Turns out quite a long way… I will doubtless write a bit more about this campaign in future but I wanted to write a bit about the law of unintended consequences and how one single alteration to the experience rules combined with a bad ruling can result in a campaign that goes to some really weird and unexpected places.

So this post is a combination warning and war story about how I started a campaign based upon Conan the Barbarian and wound up running The Wire.

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REVIEW: Keeper’s Tips – Collected Wisdom on Running Games

Produced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Call of Cthulhu, Keeper Tips was edited by current CoC line editor Mike Mason and is made up of dozens of short paragraph-long pieces of advice for how to run Call of Cthulhu in particular and RPGs more generally.

Individual tips are not attributed to anyone directly but the book credits them collectively as “The collected wisdom of Scott David Aniolowski, Sean Branney, Allan Carey, Keris McDonald, Jason Durall, Paul Fricker, Bob Geis, Lynne Hardy, Bridgett Jeffries, Jo Kreil, Daviud Larkins, Mike Mason, Mark Morrison, Thom Raley, Matthew Sanderson, Becca Smith, and Seth Skorkowsky”.

The book comes in the form of a small, pocket-sized notebook with a fake leather and gold-embossed cover. There’s also a place-holding ribbon that matches the maroon coloration of the inside cover. The book contains 113 pages of content and a load of pages for notes. The 113 pages also include lengthy biographies for all of the contributors and a list of online resources that you can use when running Call of Cthulhu. The remaining 99 or so pages are divided up into a series of chapters with titles like “Ground Rules”, “Designing Scenarios”, “Inclusivity”, “Horror” and “Sanity”.

The introduction makes it clear that there was no real attempt to curate or rationalise the collected tips. The tips come from multiple people who all have different and not-necessarily-consistent ideas about how to run the game and so these tips do not amount to a coherent vision, let alone an ex-cathedra official set of guidelines on how to run the game.

The aim of the game is not so much to be authoritative as to present a load of little ideas, tips, and strategies that you can briefly dip into when riding the bus, sitting on a toilet, or waiting for your turn at the glory-hole. In terms of seriousness and authoritativeness in GMing advice, this is less a Gygax-era AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide than it is the Call of Cthulhu equivalent of a Little Book of Calm or a collection of Buddhist Koans.

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GHR: Cold City

Games Half Remembered is an occasional series about old games. Some of these games I have played, others I have merely admired, but all of them have stuck in my memory for one reason or another.  The rest of the series can be found here.

A game with intriguing mechanics and a fantastic setting that could have re-written the history of RPGs.

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REVIEW: The Dragon of Wantley

Written by SR Sellens with interior art by Lydia Baldwin and cover art by Vitogh, The Dragon of Wantley is a Call of Cthulhu scenario set in 1920s Yorkshire.

I purchased the scenario for $5 through DriveThruRPG and received a 58-page PDF including a good deal of historical background information, full-colour handouts, a suite of pre-generated player characters, an audio recording of a song referred to in the scenario, and a set of files allowing you to 3D print an additional handout. The DTRPG page includes a 5-page preview that is perfectly representative of the product you get.

The Dragon of Wantley is a beautifully-produced PDF: It uses a similar sepia-toned and textured background to the 7th edition Call of Cthulhu rulebooks and the artwork is of a singularly high standard. The handouts are well-designed and copious; the NPCs are all fully fleshed out and even include tips on how to play them. Every town has a map, and every building has a plan. All of the primary NPCs have not only pictures but lengthy character sketches and one of them even has a family tree stretching back about a dozen generations. Having reviewed a number of Call of Cthulhu modules that amounted to little more than a set of writing cues, it was interesting to immerse myself in the text of a scenario that offers you all the information you could possibly want and then some.

The Dragon of Wantley is a scenario produced to a professional level… in fact, it even looks better than some of the scenarios that Chaosium produces. The problem with The Dragon of Wantley is not the amount of material it includes… the problem with The Dragon of Wantley is that the material it includes is an absolute crushing bore.

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