Castle of the Mad Archmage on RFI

This weekend the Roll for Initiative podcast did a very nice and in-depth review of Castle of the Mad Archmage. Very positive; most of the crew gave it four or four and a half swords out of five. Definitely check it out.

They did have a couple of questions, and I thought I’d just cover them here real quick (I’ll also send an email, in case they don’t read this). (Caution: Spoilers! – actually there are spoilers throughout the podcast too, so don’t listen if you think you’re going to play in the adventure.)

  • I’m pretty sure the grey monks are original, and not found in Gygax’s dungeon. I don’t recall hearing about them…
  • The gate to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland is in the mushroom forest in the Greater Caverns.
  • Unfortunately the three books can’t be bundled on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow because of a technical limitation of the site. You can’t do bundles of print books, so you have to add them separately to your cart. The pricing for the books was adjusted so that the total is what it would have been if I had been able to do a print bundle.
  • The maps were printed in their own book based on playtest feedback. It’s *far* easier to have a separate book rather than needing to flip back-and-forth in one larger book. I found that out myself, too, running it for my group at home as well as at conventions. When the decision was made to do an illustration book (because the fans overwhelmingly said that was something they’d like to see), it made sense to treat it the same way. 
  • You’re correct about the designer’s notes that were in the original free version – they were excised because, as a published product under the OGL, I was much more sensitive to copyright issues. I might do some designer’s notes here on the blog, if people think it would be fun and/or helpful. Let me know!

Thank You

I can’t believe it. Two months after it was released, Castle of the Mad Archmage is still in the top ten best-sellers list on RPGNow.com. That kind of support really means a lot, and I would like to thank each and every one of you who has bought my magnum opus megadungeon, either in pdf or hard copy.

Thank you.

Swords of the Damned hard copy now available!

Woo-hoo! “Swords of the Damned,” the first-ever novel based on Adventures Dark and Deep™ novel is now available in hard copy! Here’s the cover blurb:

Morcar, a professional adventurer down on his luck, is shanghaied into attempting his riskiest mission yet – venturing into the labyrinthine tunnels underneath the ancient city of Graybarrow. Accompanied by a band of desperate renegades and rogues, he faces both the dangers of the unknown depths and a force that lies beyond death itself, with cultists and warriors on his trail. Can he conquer the Swords of the Damned, or is he destined to join their ranks…

You can get the softcover book from DriveThruFiction.com here, and don’t forget that the ebook format is of course still available directly from the author via Amazon.com (sorry, there’s no way to buy them both at the same time due to licensing).

It’s really a nice book, and if you’re a fan of Adventures Dark and Deep or fantasy fiction in general, you should definitely check it out.

Swords of the Damned ebook now available

Well that happened a little bit sooner than I was expecting!

I am pleased to announce that the ebook version of the first-ever Adventures Dark and Deep novel, Swords of the Damned, is now available through Amazon.com (what, you’re in Britain? Fine… here you go). Here’s the blurb:

Morcar, a professional adventurer down on his luck, is shanghaied into attempting his riskiest mission yet – venturing into the labyrinthine tunnels underneath the ancient city of Graybarrow. Accompanied by a band of desperate renegades and rogues, he faces both the dangers of the unknown depths and a force that lies beyond death itself, with cultists and warriors on his trail. Can he conquer the Swords of the Damned, or is he destined to join their ranks…

The book will be available in hardcopy in a few weeks, but don’t let that stop you from getting the ebook first (the ebook and hardcopy versions will be sold separately). It’s a nifty adventure novel, and well worth the $3.99 to get it on your Kindle. Personally, I can’t wait to have a dead tree version in my hand, but then again I am an old grognard, and set in my analog ways. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so more fun to look forward to!

Castle of the Mad Archmage Now Available!

At long last, the print version of Castle of the Mad Archmage is now available!

The free serialized version from several years ago has been added to, scrubbed, edited, and generally improved upon. The adventure now is self-contained, from the surface ruins to the dreaded lowest levels, with a separate map book and illustration book (with pictures to show the players what they see at given places in the dungeons). You can get all three of the books that make up this adventure at RPGNow.com:

All three books are available in pdf format as well, and as always you get a free pdf copy when you order the hard copy books. The adventure book was written with the Adventures Dark and Deep rules in mind, which means it can easily be used with most OSR-type rules.

You can get get the whole set for $20 pdf, $35 with a softcover adventure book, and $45 with a hardcover adventure book (the map and illustration books are only available in softcover).

It’s been a long time getting here, but I hope you have as much fun with it as I have over the years.

Adventures Dark and Deep Novels Coming Soon!

BRW Games, LLC is proud to announce that it has licensed the Adventures Dark and Deep™ name to British writer Richard Tongue, author of the Battlecruiser Alamo series of science fiction books, for a new series of fantasy novels. Mr. Tongue recently laid out his intentions for the series on his own blog:

The setting for the novels is a world of my own creation, the northern reaches of a fading empire that for many generations has been beset by wars on all sides, with dark forces massing for a final killer blow. There will be dungeons, and dragons as well – it would seem very strange not to have such things! Halflings, Orcs, Elves and Dwarves will be present, but I intend to write the book in a sword-and-sorcery style.

The first novel in the series, Swords of the Damned, will be available in early February, with three more being released throughout 2014. As part of the arrangement between Mr. Tongue and BRW Games, the novels will be available in eBook format directly from Mr. Tongue via Amazon.com, and in softcover directly from BRW Games via DriveThruFiction.com. They will also be available at live convention appearances.

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.

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.