Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Original Artwork © +Matthew Adams. Modified and Used with Permission.
In the aftermath of a trans-dimensional war of worlds waged by alien psychopathic death cults, survivors from a post-apocalyptic 1970 find themselves on an alien planet alongside survivors from an Earth where World War 2 never ended. Souped-up, weaponized, armored muscle cars clash with diesel-powered suits of battle-armor across a deadly landscape where the only hope for supplies lie buried in strange, subterranean holds...ancient alien missile silos that litter the planet's already dangerous surface.

Do you and your crew have what it takes to survive on...DEATH PLANET?


Full disclosure: I have no idea why I thought this would be a good idea.

In fact the only explanation I could come up with was that I was tripping out of my mind when I started to see all these crazy genres blending together. Thankfully, I discovered +Matthew Adams's incredible artwork around the same time I took this leap into CrazySpace, and it just so happens his art looks like exactly how my brain sees the world, especially when it comes to cobbling together disparate battle genres.

I've recently discovered Matt's work thanks to people sharing his art on Google+, as well as an awesome monster he's drawn for +trey causey (probably one among others but what do I know): specifically the Moon Goon from Trey's Azurthite Bestiary.

No seriously, check out this fucking art (note: NOT a Moon Goon, follow the link to see that):

Because Flailsnails, motherfucker.
So naturally Matthew's art wormed its way into the dark, diesel-and-gasoline intoxicated recesses of my brain where the worst of my ideas hang out and consume too much acid, and I instantly made the connection between his style of art and evertyhing I could possibly imagine.

Including this weird CarWars/BattleTech/Dungeon Crawl mix I had going on. Lucky for me, Matt not only had some inspired art to coincide with these themes, he also had already designed a game for car battles (which also has a kickass revised version included at the end written by +Patrick Stuart, author of "Deep Carbon Observatory" and the False Machine blog).

I also got some advice from +Zak Smith, author of the award-winning Vornheim supplement and the recently released campaign setting A Red and Pleasant Land, because I was having a really hard time figuring out how I was going to blend Mad Max with BattleTech with dungeon crawls in alien mini-dungeons.

He solved it with a simple idea: TRANSDIMENSIONAL BOMB

That was it; that was the key to unlock the fusion of all the ideas and vomit everything else onto paper.

Zak also wrote his own set of ideas on Mad Max rules for D&D and also on Mech/Robot Battles which shouldn't be too much work to combine all together alongside Matt's Rumble City Rules and then slather that on top of a D&D game with its dungeon crawls for treasure supplies.

What's Next?

So there are two things I need to have ready in time for my get together with my players: what the mechanics are to play this mash-up, and what details about the setting are absolutely necessary to know.

So, for example:

In order for this to work, it has to be fun. If it's too confusing or if it tries to do too many things at once, it could cease being fun and become purely about management. Management sucks except in the case where managing resources gives players anxiety because if they fail to manage their resources correctly they DIE and that makes succeeding at surviving a reward and that makes it fun, but not if this plays like Mad Max Tycoon instead because then you're divorced from the threat your character faces and it becomes dull.

But there could be a very good reason why no one has sat down and wrote up (at least to my knowledge or that gets played frequently) a car wars/mecha/dungeon crawl game.

In addition to being fun, it has to be fast. High-octane fast. Combat has to be raid fire and brutal and over the top because dragged out engagements might be fun for strategizing war gamers but are definitely not fun for combat car people or dungeon crawling people (well at least not every type of dungeon crawler; YMMV).

So I'll keep plugging away at fusing the rules, running some models at my table pre-game, and then doing the live playtest to see what worked and what absolutely didn't.

As for setting:

I know its a harsh place with a brutal, killing surface that hates life. The interior of the planet isn't any better but its the only place to find supplies. The alien death cults are insect-like creatures that live underground and go through cycles of dormancy like cicadas. There are a ton of artifacts from all times and dimensions stored away in the underground complexes.

One of the big concerns in Mech games is engines overheating, and in a dieselpunk based setting, it's probably an even greater chance. Thankfully the surface experiences what are called "Sick Storms": long, drawn out rain storms that are poisonous to life but help keep the engines of both the mechs and cars cooled down. Survivors may be forced to raid one of the holds simply to avoid getting caught in the rain. The holds themselves are full of traps and other hazards, including insane robots, the alien death cults, and other dangerous and exotic flora and fauna.

Alright now I need to get some sleep. Then I can dream up other crazy things to tie in to this bloated setting. 

Things like Spelljammer.

My thoughts don't stand a chance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


(Note: I've started drawing stuff. It's pretty unfamiliar territory for me, but I'm actually having fun with it, so why the hell not?)


No. App: 1-4
HP: 96 (16HD)
Maneuverabilty: Slow, Turning Speed: Fair
Attacks: 1 Front Facing Laser
Damage: 3d6 for 3 consecutive rounds, then can't be used for one round
Special: Save vs. Paralysis while within 300' of broadcast, or go insane for 1d4 days.

(*Note: Only roll once per turn to determine insanity)

XP: 475 each
Treausre: Salvageable parts, Copper wire, some Electrum and Platinum parts

(*Note: Total value of each Transmitranid is 120gp or equivalenet depending on campaign, + and additional 5d4x10 gp in sellable scrap)

Transmitranids are unmanned, multi-legged walkers built by the Church of Unseen Voices for a singular purpose: to spread the message of the church far and wide across what remains of this devastated world (or wherever in your own campaign you're putting these things).

Unfortunately, the church died out a couple of thousand years ago, but these servitor spiders haven't given up with their mission to spread the word of the church. So they have roamed for thousands of years, screeching out a baleful noise that interferes with any other transmission they get near to (within 300'). Anyone hearing the broadcast, which now sounds like a garbled, alien message of shrill squawks and high-pitched beeps, must save vs. Paralysis (or Confusion or Insanity or whatever fits your game the right way) or go insane for 1d4 days, running around the open desert like a maniac spewing bizarre prophecy made up almost entirely of intelligible words.

Transmitranids are approximately the size of tanks, and their long, durable legs keep them approximately 10' above the ground.


When threatened, the front surface of the machine blasts out a solid, mega-sized laser, melting anything directly in front of the walker. (3d6 damage, save vs Dragon's Breath or Dexterity to half damage) The laser keeps a steady stream for 3 rounds, before shutting down the laser. Once it is turned off, the machine has to wait a full round before it can fire off the laser again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In Search of the Unknown

Well, I suppose this is as good a place as any to start my blog over.

I'd thought I'd be starting it with something weird, like glass spheres or wretch goblins or something about my Waste setting, but nope; it starts here instead.

My Daughter's First Adventure

Quick Story: I have never once thought about gaming with either one of my children. As it stands, being a "Secret DM" had me very afraid of openly discussing gaming with anyone, especially my children. Even after I came out of my shell and started openly discussing gaming as me, I still thought I would never introduce this to my kids. Not because I didn't want them to play but, to be perfectly honest, because I wanted them to discover this game on their own, the same way I had when I was eight years old.

But fuck that, I needed players.

And after seeing all of the incredible, amazing shit I had missed out on during my nearly year-long hiatus from Google+ and gaming (I'll get to that story in a future post. Sorry. As for the shit I missed? +James Spahn's White Star+Tim Callahan's CrawlJammer, +David McGrogan's Yoon-Suin, +Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land, and so many more things...literally quite possibly the best nine months of published DIY-type gaming material) my head was bursting with a mindgasmic overload and I needed to get it out; get active and just run a goddamn game.

Unfortunately I only had my seven year old nearby, and I'm not sure how she would feel about plundering planets in a lobster-ship or tripping her ass off through Narcosa (maybe next time, +Rafael Chandler).

So I decided to run her on a simple, vanilla adventure. And of course, I let her make most of the decisions and use some randomization to get the dice rolling. Because dice rolling is fun and she's seven and seriously that's probably all she wanted to do at the beginning anyway.

Get ready to save or die, little one.
1) I had her pick a set of dice from my dice box. She chose blue, and she chose red for me. Even though she knows blue is my favorite color. Already she's trying to invoke my wrath.

I'll let this one slide.

2) I set the scene

ME: "It's long ago...a time before television, and phones, and the internet. A time before Girl Meets World. A time of castles, and kings, and valiant knights, and dragons."

HER: "Like the Romans?"

ME: "No not like the Ro--yes, like the romans."

(Seriously, why the hell was I arguing? I'd gotten her to sit still this long without a plate of brownies in front of her.)

3) I asked her to decide on one of the following: You are an apprentice to a powerful wizard, You are an apprentice to the blacksmith making swords and armor in town, or You are friends with magical creatures in the forest.

She chose to be friends with magical creatures in the forest. Okay so she's a druid. I figured at this time it's probably too early to explain the druid circles and how in order to advance at the highest levels she'll need to defeat each druid above her in combat and also to really play her character correctly she needs to remain True Neutral but aww hell, screw it, the kid likes unicorns and rainbows and shit.

4), I had her name her character and record it on her sheet. She came up with Samantha Ranina.

5) I had her roll her character's age: 1d6 and add 6 to the roll.

She rolled a 6! She was so excited.

Because she rolled the highest, I told her that she would start the game with a special ability: Speak with Animals. She would also be able to cast one spell, and I gave her these options:

Freeze someone in their tracks, Protection from Harm, Invisibility

She chose Invisibility. I explained she'd be able to use this ability once and it would last a little while.

6) I asked her to name the town where her character lived. She named it Orange Grove.

7) I offered her a pet; she chose a parrot, and she named him Rautiy.

8) And then, the adventure began.

I told her she returned home from a walk into town with her parents, and when she went to her room, she found that Rautiy was missing. And then I asked that fateful question that has started many young people on the path to adventure:

What do you do?

She got into the game very quickly from that point on. She immediately started calling out for her parrot, then listened for him, and followed his squawking to the backyard, where she found him facing off against a wolf coming in from the woods behind her home. She decided to pick up a rock and throw it at the wolf, and then she made her very first attack roll -- a hit! She smacked the wolf square in the nose, and the startled creature whimpered and ran off back into the woods.

But Rautiy chased after the wolf! So young Sam ran off after her parrot, and after awhile of weaving through the trees and darting this way and that, she was lost in the middle of the woods. And my daughter was actually upset. But then she heard a noise: the sound of a woman singing, and she went to see who was singing. She stumbled upon a small lake fed by a waterfall, with a stream that curled away into the woods. Laying on a rock at the center of the lake was a young woman with flowing blond hair, singing a soft melody. She asked the woman if she had seen a parrot, and the woman, slightly startled, smiled and said that "yes, yes I had seen a parrot. And I'll gladly tell you where the parrot went, if you would kindly do me a favor?"

My daughter thought for a minute, then agreed to do the favor. The woman explained that behind the waterfall was a cave, and she had lost something inside there. She needed Samantha to go in and retrieve it, and for doing so, she would tell her where her parrot had gone. So my daughter had her character Samantha swim through the lake to the waterfall, and slipped behind the rushing water.

Inside was dark, but Samantha pressed on, feeling her way forward. Then she tripped on something, but, making her first dexterity check (at this point I had her roll 3d6; she rolled a 9, and that became her character's dexterity. She rolled a 7 on the ability check, just beating her dexterity score), she managed to land on something soft, rather than hurting herself.

Meanwhile, what she tripped on was a rock, which started to glow a bright yellow color, filling the cave with light. This was the object the woman had lost in the cave! But there was a problem: the soft thing that broke Samantha's fall was a hibernating bear! She had to make another dexterity check to try to slip away without disturbing the bear she was laying on...but she failed. Suddenly her allergy to bears triggered and she sneezed loudly, filling the caves with noise. The bear woke up, rising on its legs and towering over the little girl that disturbed its sleep. It bared its teeth and growled with a deep and terrible noise, and swiped down to grab Samantha...but she cast Invisibility, and the confused bear paused for a minute and tried to find her by sniffing at the air.

She picked up the glowing rock and raced out of the cave. Turning the rock over to the woman, she watched as the woman transformed into a mermaid. The mermaid then explained that she needed that magical rock to return to her true form, and had been trapped there for quite awhile. As promised, she told the girl to follow the stream to find her parrot, and then gave her a magical necklace with a clam shell on it, and explained that if she's ever in danger and near water, if she holds the clam shell, help will come. Then the mermaid dived under the water in the lake. Samantha continued on, following the stream through the woods.

Soon she came upon a clearing, where a single grey tower rose up, with a large red door on it. The stream bent around the tower and continued through the woods on the other side, but Samantha stopped and listened to see if she could here her parrot around the tower. She did hear the squawking of a bird, and then suddenly an explosion bellowed from up above, and white smoke poured out of a tiny window at the top of the tower. She decided to investigate, and opened the red door.

Inside she found a staircase winding up to a hatch in the ceiling, and in front of her a door leading someplace under the staircase. She chose to quietly make her way up the stairs. As she drew close to the hatch, she heard a man coughing and yelling about "stuffing you worthless bird!" and so she put her hand on the hatch and slowly pushed it up to get a better view of the room above her and...

...and that's where we stopped. But she's very excited to see what happens next, and I'm so incredibly excited for her. It may have been one of the most generic stories I've ever run, even taking into consideration my DMing duties when I was 10, but it was an absolute blast. It reminded me of the choose-your-own-adventure stories I used to read as a kid; which admittedly were probably a source I drew upon for this impromptu adventure.

Afterwards, I put her to bed, and then I spoke with +David Lewis Johnson online about the experience, and I mentioned that I wanted to do something special for my daughter; I wanted to immortalize her very first adventure experience in a piece of artwork.

And an hour later, this arrived in my inbox:

There and back again. least the "There" part. She still has to go back home.
And that's the point of this whole post. Yeah, it's great that I got to take my daughter at seven years old on a wild adventure through a land of make-believe, but I was able to share that experience with someone else and inspire them to create something memorable to share with my daughter; something both she and I will cherish for a long time to come.

And it reminds me of what I was missing when I gave up Google+. And gaming. And I've missed it more than I realized, and I'm so thrilled to be coming back to it now, and to be able to start this journey all over again, with a revitalized blog to throw up my ideas (literally regurgitate them it feels like sometimes), a whole mess of new product to read and be inspired by, and a brand new player, setting out, in search of the unknown.

And it's so great to be on this joruney together. With her, and with you.

(And besides, there's still plenty of time to get her on board a lobster-ship and start planet-hopping. Who cares if she knows what a phlogiston is? We've gotta hurry up and get to the killing-things-and-taking-their-stuff part of the adventure!)

Thanks for reading.