What’s the plan for 2014?

A lot has changed since the last update on upcoming projects, and I wanted to let everyone know where things stand. Here’s the current plan for 2014, but as Haviland Tuf once sagely observed, “It is in the nature of plans to change.”

The Castle of the Mad Archmage™ is right on schedule to be released by February, using the Adventures Dark and Deep™ rules, but usable with most Old School rules. This will be followed by a Pathfinder edition, probably by June, but exact date TBD. Will we see any expansion levels?

You might, rabbit, you might.

The biggest change is that the World of Erseta™ Fantasy Setting is on indefinite hold. I have determined that the world just doesn’t need yet another European medievalesque fantasy setting. That said…

In the desire to shake things up and move beyond Arthurian/Tolkien/Conan/Lieber/etc. fantasy, the next project will be a rules supplement based on Chinese mythology and folklore combined with wuxia (kung fu) tropes. Usable with most OSR-type rules, it will bring a more focused approach than the original Oriental Adventures did, avoiding the mish-mash of samurai, Shaolin monks, ninjas, and Taoist magicians. Name to be determined, but I will likely stick with something in the “Adventures xxx and xxx” line.

Along with that will be a setting suitable for play with such rules, fabled Cathai™. More details to come, but the setting will not be tied to the rules. You’ll be able to have your kung fu  adventures in whatever setting you prefer, and you’ll absolutely be able to mix and match your regular mages, fighters, and thieves with their more Eastern counterparts.

Finally, I am really hoping to crank out Adventures Great and Glorious™ in 2014, which will be a rules supplement covering political intrigue, large-scale warfare, long-term campaigning (rules for stretching play out with “campaign turns”, children, and the like), and domain-level rulership. That’s been simmering on the back burner for a while now.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, I managed to get all three Adventures Dark and Deep™ books out in 2013. Maybe I can get four big projects out in 2014. If not, AGG can always wait until 2015. After all, “it is in the nature of plans to change.”

Some more Castle of the Mad Archmage News

We’ve made a lot of progress on Castle of the Mad Archmage™, and I wanted to give everyone a quick update. We’re still right on track for a February release (maybe earlier). There are only five pieces of art still outstanding, and the manuscript should be coming back from the editor any time now. The map book is done and MAN does it help having the maps in their own booklet. I ran a session of CotMA yesterday (down in the crypts and lesser caverns) and it made a HUGE difference. I think that’s going to be one of the best features of the published version.

Although the first publication will be made using the Adventures Dark and Deep™ rules (which means, of course, that it will be usable with just about any 1E-compatible OSR rules set), the keen-eyed among you might have noticed that call for Pathfinder conversion experts that was posted not too long ago. That is because Castle of the Mad Archmage™ will also be published in a Pathfinder version later this year.

I don’t have any details in when it’ll be available – I’m still sifting through the responses to find just the right person who can do it justice – but it will happen one way or the other.

Castle of the Mad Archmage Status Update

Hey Ho! Now that the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Bestiary is out the door, my baleful glance carries to the next project in line; the Castle of the Mad Archmage™.

I know a lot of folks have been waiting for this for a long time, and frankly so have I. Now that it’s back in my clutches, here is where things currently stand with the project:

  • No Kickstarter. Turns out that given the scope and particulars that I’m looking at (see below) no Kickstarter will be required to get the books into your eager hands. 
  • Expanded and revised material. The whole thing has been expanded since the free version from a few years ago. It is a complete environment now, and includes the surface ruins and first dungeon level of the castle. Each level of the dungeon has new expanded overviews for the game master, to give pointers on how the various factions and personalities will interact with one another, what might happen as time wears on, etc. All of the Greyhawk references have been removed, and the whole can be placed in any campaign world, or used as a tent pole adventure location in the upcoming World of Erseta Fantasy Setting™. It is designed to be used with the Adventures Dark and Deep™ rules, but can be used with just about any old-school rules set with minimal fuss.
  • Three books. There will be three separate books; the adventure book, a map book, and an art book. The art is designed to be a “this is what the players see” type book, like TSR did in the old days with products like Tomb of Horrors. The adventure book will be available in hardcover and softcover. The other two will only be in softcover (saddle-stitched).
  • Maps are done. I have received all of the maps from my most excellent cartographer, Joe Bardales (he who did such sterling work on the digital cartography of the original version), and the map book is now complete. I will be sending it to the printer to order a proof this week.
  • Art is mostly done. I continue to be blessed by the Gods with a terrific crew of artists. There is a deadline of mid-November for the art, and we seem to be on track to meet it. Once that happens, I’ll send the art book off to the printer for proofs.
  • Adventure book is mostly done. Specifically, the text of the adventure itself and all the introductory material is complete and already sent to Steve Rubin, my excellent editor. The only thing that is still being worked on right now are the appendices (things like new spells, new magic items, etc.). Estimated completion date is mid-November, and hopefully the whole thing will be back from Steve by Thanksgiving. 
  • February 2014 release. Right now we are very much on track for a release no later than February of 2014. Like BRW Games’ other products, it will be offered as a print on demand product via RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, and as a pdf bundle. All print versions will include the pdf versions of course. Depending on how things go, February might even be a pessimistic estimate. 

Adventures Dark and Deep Designer’s Notes: Ability Scores


Now that the core rules for Adventures Dark and Deep™ are complete and available, I thought it might be of interest to go through some of the decisions that influenced the design of the game, starting with the rules around the character ability scores.

These, of course, are the core of any D&D-esque RPG, and in keeping with the overall design philosophy of starting with the 1st Edition rules (including Unearthed Arcana) as a jumping-off point, we start with the basic stats: strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, and charisma.

There are the several different methods of rolling character scores, similar to what we saw in the 1st edition DMG, and also a section on how to do ability checks. That’s a cousin of some of the features of Gygax’s mid-1980’s RPG Dangerous Journeys, which informed the direction that I took with ADD in several instances.

Comeliness, which was a seventh attribute that was introduced by Gygax in the pages of Dragon magazine and subsequently in Unearthed Arcana, was included in early drafts of the ADD rules, but was removed as the playtest wore on. This was one of the few times I allowed my own feelings on a rule to override what I thought Gygax would probably have done. The rules for comeliness, as written in UA, were game-breaking in their effect (essentially giving an at-will charm power to characters with high enough comeliness scores), and without those rules, there was no reason to break out comeliness from charisma – it would turn into the dump stat I wanted to avoid (a lot of games don’t use encounter reaction rolls, either at all or to their full effect).

I know there are a lot of people who do use comeliness despite what I see as its shortcomings, and I fully understand why they do; disagreement should not be construed as disparagement. A new, hopefully more playable, version of comeliness, is in the works (it will be added as an optional appendix in future printings of the Players Manual once it’s done and tested).

The stats for attributes go from 3 to 25, but 18 is the normal maximum for most PC races. This is a logical outgrowth of one of the chief goals of the project – to put all of the relevant information on a subject in the same place, without having to flip through ten books to find it all. That is why the information on supernaturally high ability scores was moved from the old Deities and Demigods to the appropriate section of the Players Manual. In keeping with the “1st edition as the foundation” principle, fighters are able to have exceptional strength.

And speaking of dump stats, I came up with what I thought was a pretty neat way to avoid using charisma as a place to dump one’s low roll. When selling treasure, the amount that one can get for various types of items is impacted by charisma. So, someone with a higher charisma will get a better price when selling recovered gems, or pieces of art, or jewelry, than someone with a lower score.

Comeliness aside, the section on ability scores was pretty much limited to combining and synthesizing the rules surrounding ability scores that were scattered through several books in the original 1st edition.

Books Ahoy!

All right!

The stars have aligned, the omens are favorable, and the proofs look good. So today the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary will start going out to the Kickstarter backers! (FIVE MONTHS ahead of the originally planned date, I might add!)

Copies of the books are on their way to the backers (pdf codes were sent out, and orders for the hard copies are being entered even now).

The book is also available for sale for folks who didn’t get in on the Kickstarter. Spread the word, let your friends know, and thanks again for helping make this book look great. We honestly couldn’t have done it without you.

Softcover Bestiary Proof!

The softcover proof for the Adventures Dark and Deep arrived today. Thusfar I don’t see any real showstoppers, but I haven’t gone through it in detail. The cover is a little darker than I was expecting, but I want to see how it looks on the hardcover before I start fiddling with settings. That said, this thing is a monster of a book (450 pages) and it is a joy to actually feel its heft in my hands. The art looks gorgeous, and in every way it exceeds my own expectations. The hardcover should come in a week or so – there was an issue with the cover file that caused it to be delayed.