May 15, 2024

I push back on the utility of art in RPGs pretty frequently. Most RPG adjacent art of it is vestigial to when RPGs were marketed to children who liked comic books, and are still the gold standard for what will be commercially viable. I think the modern Indie RPG scene relies on amazing art to paper over the flaws in mediocre or poor writing more often than not.

Understanding that, I do like visual art, even if its utility in an RPG text is sketchy to me. I’ve had a couple of people ask me in the OSR Discord server Can you give an example of what you view as good TTRPG art?” - from Adamthegm. Rainer asked What do you consider good text?”.

In an attempt to illustrate my preferences (such as they are at this time) Here is a rough list of examples.

Good TTRPG Art:

  • Haunted Almanac - Nate Treme

    This is a good place to start. Nate is both the writer and primary (only?) artist who makes lovely art that are often highly evocative as well as non representational, the exception being maps which are also keyed well.

  • Fire on the Velvet Horizon - Patrick Stuart & Scrap Princess

    This is a double whammy showing the tightly woven bond between good writing and good art being made in conjunction to make a better whole. Art direction for a cohesive vision and style is worth it instead of the OSR trend to take disparate artists and styles and just shove them into the same work.

  • The Tragedy that Begot Ternwillow - Orbital Intelligence

    Chin Fong busts out some sicknasty mecha in a sad world for Troika on behalf of Orbital Intelligence. Each piece has such care and consideration in each piece that they could all be stand alone works in a much higher budget project. Orbital Intelligence works generally are very cohesive in this way with impressive works within them.

  • Black Knights - David Hoskins & Luke Gearing

    I’m sure you’re seeing a trend now… Black Knights is a strong collaboration between a great artist (Hoskins) and a great writer (Gearing) that captures the spirit of those old knights of yore both in text and illustration with a very cool aesthetic that I am too ignorant to pinpoint. (Mid Century?)

  • Hot Springs Island - Jacob Hurst

    Most of the art is provided by Gabriel Hernandez with more contributions from others, the maps provided by Billy Longino in both books (one is an in game companion reference for players) are stunning and effective, the spot illustrations are interesting and evocative for representational art and the whole work has a very cohesive direction behind it. The companion map from Jason Thompson is also wonderful and useful. By far the most mainstream of the lot it does what it sets out to do.

Good Writing:

  • Volume 2 Monsters & - Luke Gearing

    Where some writers marinate in purple prose and others are more ascetic with their words to the point of dryness, Luke never manages to hit either end of the gamut. Somehow conjuring deeply evocative passages about each monster without gushing about them or trying to demonstrate just how clever of a writer he is.

  • Fever-Dreaming Marlinko - Chris Kutalik

    Effective communication, gets you thinking about all of the contents and doesn’t linger for the sake of it. Gives you exactly what you need to get into the city of Marlinko and explore it at the table with grace.

  • The Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos - Evey Lockhart

    Very sad work that just hooks you in making the line between reader and GM fade. Incredibly evocative and unsettling in the best kind of way.

  • Carcosa - Geoff McKinney

    Incredibly dry in a way that totally bypasses a lot of the emotional content and heaviness of the Carcosa setting. The stark presentation makes for a dense world presented for the GM to grok whats going on and to extend that to the players as a deeply unhuman experience.

  • Scenic Dunnsmouth - Zzarchov Kowalski

    Despite an annoying way to generate your Dunnsmouth its really well explained and as painless as can be. Zzarchov’s writing reminds me of Lovecraft capturing that weird and gross place between the pages of this book without being too gross or obtuse about it.

March 10, 2024

This will be the first of hopefully a series of play reports over the various games I play. Expect them to be rough around the edges, they are just as much a reference for me and my tables as they are a play report for others to enjoy.

Finally! After years and years of wanting to, I was lucky enough to be asked to join a new and infrequent delve into a perennial classic: Tegel Manor!

We’re playing it a bit fast and loose with the OD&D Retroclone: Full Metal Platemail


P1 - Merle Fucking” Haggard the mage, John Prine the fighter, Clem Snide the cleric

P2 - Risev The IX Dwarven Fighting Man

P3 - Jack the Hobbit, Ginger the Elf, Eric the Cleric

P4 - Erich Söpten (mage), Samuel Ironwood (hobbit/slinger)

After a tawdry night in the tavern and many hands of cards we collectively won the deed to the ancestral family homestead from Reginald Rump (godbotherer).

Heading out to visit our new holding the party of 9 makes their way up the sodden path up the hill and through the dark of night as the rain comes down, cresting the vantage point to finally see illuminated by a crack of lighting and the boom of thunder… a massive manor, a couple stories tall… wood framed building with a few towers rising from a stone foundation with several lights on within it.

We went to knock on the door and as soon as we moved to do so the doors simply swung in and we allowed ourselves entry.

Upon entering, we were accosted by a cloud of some sort which manifested into majordomo Bertolon. To whom we presented the deed won from the beleaguered Rump before. As everything was in order we introduced ourselves to Bertolon and inquired where we might be able to dry off and rest. He directed us to the first bedroom off the great hall.

Approaching the great hall we were met with two roaring fires and a ball of sorts. We approached the merrymakers to find out they were in fact skeletons. Holding the clerics restrained so as to not turn these undead, Risev made merry and offered a toast to the party at hand. We treated with them until a door opened and another cloudlike entity made itself known to us… the forthcoming ghost of Riddern Ranting’ Rump giving us some explanations but getting side tracked all the while.

Some party members ate and drank with the skeletons engaging in some basic communications, some others dried up by the fires and made plans. Inspecting the place and noting its status as a a fixer upper’.

Making our way to the first bedroom as guided by Bertolon, we examined the magic sword over the bed… but it wasn’t magic… just a well kept shiny artifact.

Hunkering down for the night we were accosted on second watch by stirges coming out of a hole in the ceiling, with one swift casting of Erich managed to Sleep the whole lot of stirges who were finished off, chucked out the door to the bedroom. Summoning Bertolon with one of the many bells in the manor, who arrived to sweep away the corpses of the foul beasts.

After a more restful night for the party we emerged and began exploring the room next to the bedroom to see if we could find a source for the stirges but only found a statue of a figure in armor. Making sure it wasn’t a stirge nest we poked it with the 10ft pole and eventually moved the whole thing to see if there was anything under the base. There was not and so we carried on north.

Making our way through the mumbling hall which was in fact mumbling to us… we found another party seated. Upon an introduction by Jack the party disappeared in a wisp leaving the chamber empty and dark. Almost falling into a man sized hole jack and the other hobbit Samuel found an empty closet… and then a mouse filled butlers pantry scattering the mice and finding a huge 100 year old wheel of cheese the two hobbits carried out slowly back to the party trying not to disturb some large sleeping dog in the north of the room. Leaving a sign for them for later should they need to double back beginning the trend of using symbols to show the danger of the sleeping hound in the Grand Dining Room.

Making our way across the hall from the arched entrance to the Grand Dining Room we found a maids quarters whereupon the visage of a maid made itself known and then shrieked and disappeared. We turned the room over to find a stash of treasure and made our way back to the secured bedroom to stash the wheel of cheese and other treasures.

Marching Order: rank 1: John and Samuel
rank 2: Risev and Eric rank 3: Erich and Merle rank 4: Clem rank 5: Jack and Ginger

From the Mice Pantry:

  • Wheel of Cheese

From Maid’s Room:

  • 1080 copper
  • 10 silver
  • 2 gold
  • opal necklace

This is the sort of game that I can really get behind, I’ve been wanting something classic and simple for a while and I’m very grateful for our GM for running it and for the players I got to share the table with tonight.

#playreport #tegelmanor


February 22, 2024

What is gold in an RPG? What is it in your game?

Maybe its as simple as it sounds, unremarkable gold coins to be spent by PCs. Maybe it’s a bit more abstract… Blades in the Dark references it as Coin’ and I’ve always seen 1 Coin as a sack of gold in a very Victorian or almost Wild West sort of style while still also being a metacurrency . These are acceptable to some but I have an interest in numismatics and currency. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and using Luke Gearing’s &&&&&&&&&Treasure book and it does a lot interesting things with currency. As part of the Wolves Upon the Coast setting it decouples Gold for XP successfully and makes treasure and coinage desirable, actionable and novel.

Gold remains the abstraction OSR games deploy to manage experience and advancement. I’m really not into that idea but I do love the idea of Wealth Is What You See. Being able to progress and advance PCs power by splurging on fancy clothes and goods, taking it a step further investing in community, keep, or whatever the PCs prioritize. Gold for XP is a stick more often than a carrot keeping play focused on plundering and delving when there are so many other things to do.

Decoupling Gold from XP enhances players sense of agency and presents options for diegetic progression and power consolidation which encourages domain play well before most games achieve liftoff. Heists, politicking, expeditions and mercantilism yield more interesting results at the table than endless dungeon delving.

Similarly, this post was brought to my attention and I really enjoyed it’s explanation of applicable venues for spending each kind of currency ramping up in a way I find compatible with the Wealth is What You See approach. Silver is for most people to conduct business with, Gold is the domain of… Domain level Play. This aligns with how silver presented in settings like Wolves Upon the Coast and others where silver is the standard.

All of this is to say there are plenty of other avenues to explore surrounding currency and gold, other places to look for adventure beyond go to the next tomb and plunder it for treasure’.

Here are some examples I have deployed in the past:

Taxes & Tariffs - The local authorities see what PCs are doing and need to be paid off or kept at arms length if possible, remunerating the Powers That Be” through the Proper Channels. Becoming enmeshed in local happenings and hired by the same entities or given letters of marque.

Bribes & Gifts - Enhancing or bypassing the above option through backchannel deals and encouraging the corruption of the polity through Improper Channels. These alternative means of establishing relationships can lead to other less desirable gigs carrying some actionable blackmail material.

Tithes & Tributes - The church (s/cults/spiritual guides/religions) requires patronage after the extensive blessings performed there to revive, restore and otherwise serve PC needs. Sometimes invoking the gods and demiurges themselves and bypassing clergy or wonder workers with tribute yields better effects.

Gambling & Wagers - Pouring the PCs new found liquidity into less stable… investments”, either short term or long can deliver dividends and further complications when they inevitably accrue debts. Find a fun and easily resolvable minigame to deploy.

Carousing & Making Merry - Evergreen as always, carousing and its many complications are well documented, ripe with potential character entanglements. The interesting thing here is the exchange of agency from players who almost always get the final say of what their characters do in exchange for potentially unexpected outcomes.

Borrowing & Investing - Banking & stashing wealth is as conspicuous as consuming it with flashy outfits. This ties in with PC Retirement allowing for PCs to get out of the field and focus on other matters. Potentially becoming a part of the Domain a bit later but to greater effect.

Currency Conversion & Redemption - As mentioned at the beginning of this rant, there is value in limiting how currency and gold are spent by PCs, debasing some of that currency and charging for it to be converted. This changes the inherent power of the treasure being spent. Siloing specific coinages into areas or purposes creates interesting branches for PCs to pursue. Perhaps the players are more content sitting on a hoard than traveling to spend it 1:1. Perhaps it simply makes them ripe for robbery.

Wages & Development - Hirelings, Retainers, Squires, and Heirs all need funding to become more skilled. These allies need time away from the party and the dungeons to Get Better at these endeavors and hone their skills, its up to the PCs to foot the bill and enhance their entourage.

Dues & Tolls - Due to any Guilds, Brotherhoods or Associations that might be allied with the PCs, gaining them access to facilities, tools and the right people who might have further connections to leverage.

Fees & Fines - Sometimes PCs end up through no fault of their own on the other side of the law or a faction. It can be beneficial to resolve these issues with coinage instead of other less than savory means. Keeping the peace and preserving a status quo.

Insurance & Indemnity - Expeditions and dungeon delves are a matter of course expensive investments. When the PCs can’t be there as part of the company perhaps it makes more sense to invest in some protection.

Ransoms & Weregilds - Paying off a foe who has the PCs favored NPC, hireling or heir would definitely make some sense after investing in their development. Inversely PCs might need to pay to make things right when their own machinations or kidnapping goes awry.

Alms & Charity - Investing in the community, repairing a ravaged village, restoring a disgraced but beloved NPC have all brought PCs dividends when it comes to social capital, acting as a moral outlet as well for people so inclined.

Patronage & Commissions - Hiring artists to make grand works for the PCs. Commissioning skilled tradespeople to work on projects, weapons, armor, etc. Bespoke spells from sages and the like each of these flexes for the PCs further invest them into the community their domain is in.

Funerals & Memorials - Similar to Patronage & Commissions, friends and foes alike are worth memorializing and lamenting publicly. Its just the inverse position from carousing and making merry, a bit more somber but deeply satisfying.

November 27, 2023

This is the kind of shit I live for. Some background: This is basically the first published stand alone adventure’ as we know them. Notably written by authors from Wee Warriors and published by TSR. I believe there was some controversy in how these things were written / published back in the day and rights and whatnot but I may be misremembering.

This sort of module is all anyone ever needs. Truly. It is incredibly generous to call this a megadungeon’ in any sense it is 170ish rooms across 5 levels and was probably mega for its time. It is small and sparse at 13 pages front and back. You get some background, some tables, some hand drawn maps and all of it is super terse. For the people who hem and haw about minimalism. Do you really need more? This tells you who’s in the room, what they are doing and how good they are doing it. It’s even kind enough to tell you up front to make it your own and how it is merely an outline. Notably there are no wandering monster tables (but it is noted and up to the discretion of the GM). I genuinely think more modern GMs should give this kind of module a read and trust themselves more to figure the rest of it’ out.

November 27, 2023

5 Things

morgan_x_4 on Discord asked everyone this: Name 5 non-OSR derived things you have reused for your own OSR setting and 5 OSR things you have reused, you do have your own OSR setting right?”


  • Wolves Upon the Coast - Luke Gearing
  • Anomalous Subsurface Environment - Patrick Whetmore
  • The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia - Ahimsa Kerp and Wind Lothamer
  • Fuck For Satan - James Raggi IV
  • Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter - Cecil Howe

Non OSR:

  • TSRs Minaria (From Dragon Magazine’s Legends of Minaria series of articles)
  • Morrowind, just all of it…
  • The Mars Volta’s Deloused in the Comatorium
  • Thundarr the Barbarian
  • Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

As a note: I am separating The OSR from old school works, games and media.

November 27, 2023

Appendix N

This is a work in progress to be added to and expanded upon.

Film & Television

  • Mirrormask -
  • Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas -
  • The Beatles Yellow Submarine -
  • Event Horizon -
  • Thundarr the Barbarian -
  • EXO Squad -
  • The Centurions -
  • Skeleton Warriors -
  • The Pirates of Dark Water -

Books & Prose

  • The Incal - Alejandro Jodorowski and Moebius
  • The Sandman - Neil Gaiman
  • Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny
  • The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  • Barsoom series Edgar Rice Burroughs

Music & Sounds

  • Queen - Seven Seas of Rhye
  • The Mars Volta - Deloused in the Comatorium
  • Opeth - Still Life
  • Naked City - Naked City

Video Games

  • Morrowind - Bethesda
  • Caves of Qud - Freehold Games
  • The Long Dark - Hinterland Studios