The ChaosGrenade

Quick & Dirty Tabletop Role-Playing

Pamphlets, Zines, and Other Fun Things

2019-05-02 Rambling R.E. Davis

Another spotlight post of cool indie/DIY RPG stuff and other fun things from around the geek webs.

The RPG Pamphlet Craze!

Nate Treme (Highland Paranormal Society/ In The Light of a Ghost Star) has made some awesome pamphlet dungeons, and hosted an Pamphlet Dungeon Jam that has resulted in some incredible creations!

I had received hard copies of his Temple of the Bat Serpent and The Mephitic Laboratory of the Pescamancer and was impressed with how much you could put on a standard tri-fold adventure module! His maps used an almost retro/ascii rouge-like game aesthetic that’s easy to parse and overall fast to reference. I’d pair these with zine-booklet OSR games like Vieja Escuela or Knave as a kit for one-shot dungeon crawl goodness!

Diogo Nogueira of Old Skull Publishing (Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells) put out a two-pamphlet set of Lost in the Fantasy World, which I have also acquired hard copies of from the author. The core pamphlet is an awesome fantasy game designed with children in mind. The premise is inspired by the Saturday Morning Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, in which our heroes are kids/teens transported to a fantasy world and trying to get back home. It’s essentially the player and the Mentor (GM) roll d6s, add +1 for every trait or advantage that could help either side, and whoever wins narrates the results. Although aimed at younger audiences, I can see minimalist and rules-lite gamers getting a lot of mileage out of this system. Also makes for a good last minute game night.

The second pamphlet is an adventure for the system, Maze of Many Portals, that has some creative ideas to keep the players engaged. In short: the characters are lead into a huge maze, and they must reach the center to activate runes and then seek out to open the portals found within the Maze. Each portal goes to a different world, one of them being the characters’ home. What makes this maze exciting is that, well, it’s an actual maze. To keep it interesting for the players, they have to draw their path with only a minute of real time to spare. If they hit walls or go back, an encounter happens. I love the idea of this tactile interaction to add a sense of urgency and caution to the players.

Next up, The Mutants of Ixx by Skullfungus (aka Karl Stjernberg, author of The Rad Hack). This is a two-pamphlet RPG that is an awesome gamma-mutant post apoc RPG built with Into the Odd rules. What I dig is how the pamphlets are sorted as Player and GM guides — the player pamphlet both a functioning character sheet, rules reference and a map of the setting. Meanwhile, the GM pamphlet has the same map, but keyed with locations, extra GM rules stuff and a sample adventure. And both contain Skullfungus’ stylish artwork that is just gold.

Last, and sure as hell not least, is ****Micromaiden Spirit Grid by Evlyn Moreau (Spinetooth Oasis). Described as “A randomly generated cyber dungeon that mix cyberpunk and shamanic descriptors”. Players take on the role of spirit avatars navigating the network to seek out the “Central Maiden”. Each node (and even the maiden) are randomly assigned descriptors from tables in the pamphlet.

I’m charmed as hell with this one, because outside of the flavor descriptions you’re not really handed a plot or details. It’s system agnostic, and all characters and loot are just illustrations lacking any definition aside from what the gaming group interprets from them. It’s a wonderful abstract tool kit, that can be played a dozen ways by a dozen groups and not one of them is going to have the same experience.

Getting Meta with the Zines

Metatoy is a new RPG system by Robertson Sondoh Jr (Experimental Playground). Released in a zine format, Issue 0 is a core rulebook that has taken some of the choice cuts of Black Hack, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, and Robertson’s own twists and tied them to a 2d6 roll-over system. It’s a great hodge-podged game with fun illustrations and all the rules, spells, monsters, and character sheet needed to play. I’m looking forward to collecting future issues of this rpg-as-a-zine!

Now we go from a “Metatoy” to a meta-product — RPG Design Zine by Nathan D. Paoletta is exactly what it says on the tin: a cut-and-paste zine distilling design choices for building your own RPG. I think veterans and newcomers to the DIY RPG community wanting to make their own game booklets will benefit from checking this out — even if you don’t learn anything, it’ll make you reflect on your design choices. It’s definitely given me a few things to chew on.

Other RPG Things to Know:

  • The Fellowship has released a newly updated Against the Darkmaster Quick Start. Refined rules, better clarifications, nicer layout, artwork, it’s a pretty damn solid peek at the upcoming game. You can check out my earlier preview.
  • Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is pretty god-damn insane. The quality of what it does — procedural continent building, with kingdoms and even town names — may mean I never actually make my own D&D regions again. Hat-tip to Samwise Seven for finding and sharing this!
  • Definitely not an “indie” or “diy” related thing but …Shadowrun 6th Edition Announced!?!? I haven’t really ran/enjoyed Shadowrun since 2nd & 3rd editions (exception being __Anarchy, which is a flawed gem). But this preview video by Complex Action has a great run down on the changes from 5e, and I’m actually pretty damn excited.