Lesser Blog

Hydra? Fountain?

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in blog, Death & Taxes, Highlight, Kickstarter, Lesser Blog, Miniatures | 0 comments



Both? I would recommend the most sinister option as being the most likely of the possibilities. The image is the prototype of the resin hydra fountain kit from Death & Taxes. The sculpt was done by Nic Genovese and he worked with Valiant to make sure it worked as a kit. The water streams are translucent blue resin.

I honestly could not be happier.

Here is the Hydra non-fountain kit (also resin)…


Self-limiting myself with settings

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Lesser Blog | 0 comments

I am a real proponent of organic sounding names applied to places, especially small ones, in adventures and settings. I was reading through an obscure Con module tonight for Tekumal (or whatever the spelling is). The place names tripped my reading of it up to the point of distraction.

It is possible I should try EofPT before I pass judgement. I have the same issue getting excited about Asian settings, the mythology and eastern tropes are so unfamiliar that it detracts from simple things like character creation. I am going to make an effort to change this as I am probably missing out.

I guess I will add these to my already too long list.


Feral as related to alignment

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in blog, Death & Taxes, Game Design, Highlight, Lesser Blog | 0 comments


A post on the Acaeum got me thinking this morning about how I, as a pretend writer, attempt to write depth into our adventures. The relevant post is here. The quote that fired up the neurons is from the post Steve Marsh regarding the cosmology of his world’s Plane of Shadow.

It functions as an entry-way to the negative material plane for the material plane it is connected to (a subset of Shadow) and it works as a layer from the shadow to the negative energy planes, one of the (perhaps many) ante-rooms to the abyssal levels and realms….


[as prisons they] may be permeable so that more life can enter as new fuel for it.  Those imprisoned are already in a lesser hell.

The ante-rooms of the abyss, or lesser hells, are fascinating when considered in game cosmology. Not the least of which is their role in avoiding the narrative trap of faceless ultimate evil versus shining virtue. Those light against dark struggles often miss the most interesting type stories to read, or in our case, play. The gray areas are where the stories exist. Sagas and epics are for Ulysses and Beowulf, game scenarios are, in my mind, for the motivated everyman. The ‘lesser hells’ as entries allow for varying levels of evil to be encountered for many purposes.

The above caught my eye as I was recently reading the manuscript in question (gifted to me by Steve Marsh at the North Texas RPG Con). Apart from being about the coolest thing I have ever received the manuscript had a paragraph in it about alignment which, interestingly enough, dovetailed with another bit of writing by Mr. Marsh almost 40 years ago. The 1980 article, about Nymphs oddly, was in my ‘new’ copy of The Dungeoneer #18 (thank you BadMike and Mythoard).

Steve’s description of magic types expressed in the 1980 article and the more detailed erudition in the manuscript both used the word feral. The direct connection of chaos to feral nature was very interesting to me. Although I used read long treatise about alignment- having long since stopped out of frustration, it is surprising I would write about it- this was the most precise and valuable description relevant to alignment I had ever seen done in a short paragraph. Steve attributes this origin to Pol Anderson’s Three Hearts, Three Lions, but this was the first I had heard of it described thus.

Feral might be the best word to use when describing the dangers inherent to chaos as it ascribes little forethought to mindless evil. Evil, in the game sense (to limit the scope here), in my writing is seldom born that way. The opportunity to subvert it, or at least recognize its origins, before it takes hold in an entity is a fascinating opportunity for believable complexity. It is true that some sociopaths are just born but I believe many more are created. Compassion for an enemy who wishes you great harm is a sign of a strong sense of one’s own morality. To confront it knowing its defeat may mean death in the face of such compassion is one of the great questions and, as such, foundational to good storytelling.

One of the problems I personally have with many releases is I find the mortal adversaries to have uncivilized motivations for simple, or worse, unarticulated, reasons. A motivation that is offered to a GM, as an option obviously, that is no more complex than an unstated penchant greed or power falls short in its storytelling potential. Greed IS a powerful motivator but its control over villains is too often just assumed, which makes one-dimensional adversaries. Leaving aside threats that are otherworldly (which are very present in Steve’s Shadowfell Manuscript) depth of motivation and the origin of an evil, even if only hinted at with simple clues, make for the most interesting narratives. Nothing makes a villain scarier than “There but the grace of God go I”. The concept of feral as foundational to chaos lends itself to such depth.

I am quite jealous actually, would that I would have a consistent view of anything game related, let alone the one aspect I find the most philosophically esocteric and satisfying, almost 40 years after the fact.

There is nothing like free…

Posted by on Jun 20, 2015 in blog, General, Highlight, Lesser Blog, Whisper & Venom | 0 comments


In honor of those much larger companies that make Free Rpg Day a reality I will be at Phoenix area game stores tomorrow with modules, minis and more. I start my morning about 10 am at Games Depot in Tempe, Arizona. For those of you who cannot make it to the withering heat of the Valley of the Sun but still like free I would like to point you to our download section located here. There you will find completely free and self-contained excerpts from Whisper & Venom, maps, player guides and more. Each one costs the same as the price for breath (plus bandwidth fees).


How I use clone systems for Lesser Gnome.

Posted by on Jun 16, 2015 in Lesser Blog | 1 comment

“Which clone systems do you use?”

This was a questions at Tenkar’s about 3 weeks ago. I answered some of it there but wish to expand here to keep background information in one [place. Plus, in case someone is interested, it will be archived here.

I own about 15-18 clone systems and, to be fair, I haven’t been able to give many of them a thorough enough read. The one I have played the most is S&W and I found it to be very fun and reminiscent of the ‘old days’ of playing D&D except the ascending AC rules :/ I missed 3e completely   when I was young enough to learn something new,  I am not going to change now.

I write for LL for Lesser Gnome’s releases since I find it (with the AEC) very useful in making ‘system neutral’ OSR adventures. However, the most fun I had at a Convention was in an old-school type game was AS&SH which played way smoother than my reading of the rules lead me to believe it would.

I bought OSRIC early on and it was a huge service to adventure publishers before I even knew there was still such a thing. I find it useful as a reference, especially the pocket sized softcover.

Others I own, like and hope explore further include, but sadly probably not play: Adventures Dark & Deep, Blueholm, Throwi Games Basic Role-Playing, and Majus based on the Pacesetter Rules.

I own and have barely cracked open far away land, white star, and because I just got then. The ones I am unlikely to explore are well-received but they fall outside my usual interests.

Ah hell, after thinking about it writing this post this post I have even less of an answer than when I started typing it. I am glad they all get made really. Since I reference them all enough to be pleased I own them.

Our releases are carefully designed from concept to shrink wrap for portability and easy inclusion into existing campaigns with few modifications. This would be much harder without, at minimum, available reference copies given the variety of choices in the OSR.

So why, after saying all that, did I choose LL as my stated compatible system? Two reasons

Dan Proctor was kind to an over-enthused fanboy and supportive of Whisper & Venom before anyone saw a word that was written in Whisper & Venom.

More importantly, LL was the first clone I bought.

Playtesting Advice from Michael Curtis

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in blog, Game Design, Lesser Blog | 2 comments

Lately I have noticed quality information about game design in the updates from Goodman Games Kickstarters. At my very first GaryCon I met Michael Curtis. I already respected his work, the Dungeon Alphabet was the second RPG item I had purchased in 20 years, and having met him I know he is a machine at making lots adventures. A one man content army if you will. One thing that never suffers in his work good design. In this update from a few weeks ago he talks about one of the reasons.

A lot of the time, mistakes reveal themselves on a simple rereading of the adventure. You catch an error that slipped past you while you were in the clutches of “DM Enthusiasm,” imagining how cool this adventure/plot/NPC was going to be when the players ran into it. You slap your forehead, make a few corrections, and you’re back on track.


I had one such experience while playtesting Fifth Edition Fantasy #4: War-lock. It wasn’t quite as bad as I make it out above, but only because I caught the problem moments before the players were about to and made some corrections mid-course. Had they discovered the glaring weakness I inadvertently wrote into the adventure, they could have defeated the War-lock’s minions with a simple hold person spell applied liberally. Suffice to say, that strategy no longer works in the adventure. But, had I merely wrote this adventure and submitted it untried to Goodman Games, it could have gone down in history as the easiest 5th level adventure in RPG history.

Always playtest if you can. This applies to any adventure that’s going to be experienced by anyone outside your friends and regular players. Whether it’s a professional submission or something you plan to run at a con, take the time to give it a run through. You’ll be amazed at how a gigantic error can easily hide in plain sight until it’s too late.

Read the rest here.

As I said in the last post I use a Feedly client for posting so they may have posted it elsewhere but I thought it was good enough to share.

What the Gnome reads on the Internet

Posted by on Jun 14, 2015 in blog, Game Design, Lesser Blog, Lesser Gnome, Other RPG's | 1 comment

Tenkar posited a question about reading habits of RPG fans generally and OSR types specifically. I was as surprised as he was that he could meet someone at THE old-school con (NTRPG) and get only blank stares after he introduced himself. But he did and asked for his readers take (link). This is the comment I posted (edited to make me look smarter)-

This is a windows into how deep the rabbit whole goes after discovering the OSR.

I use an RSS reader app that updates constantly on my phone. I have about 5 gaming related categories and hundreds of individual feeds. Generally, I start here, read the posts at the Acaeum (I don’t pretend to collect anymore though I buy plenty of material, mostly from small press guys you all know), Then I check the rest of the ‘news’ type blog feeds (OSR Today etc), G+ I try to limit to scanning as it could take hours to just pull myself away. These are my daily reads.

I have a section of feeds dedicated to blogs that post creative content that I read twice a week at minimum. It includes some blogs that only post 5-10 times per year.  The content is top notch and I know they would get lost without the being on my feed.

I have a section that ‘professionally’ related I check infrequently, maybe every other 4-5 days. Cartographers Guild and the RPG net games industry forum fall in this category (which also includes Adobe CC feeds, design tips, Roll20 posts etc).

Finally I have my forum feeds (odd74, DF, RPGNet, ENWorld etc). I am not going to rank preferences but I find some odious and most overwhelming given the volume and frequency of posts. I scan them occasionally but I use the search function weekly. I search for my products in case there is something I can address, Cons I attend, Product names I am interested in buying etc. I rarely post unless I have something to add or the thread was started by Mike Badolato and requires an insult 🙂

My general take from all of these is the very active forums attract and serve a useful purpose for active players and GMs. While blogs have more visibility with creators and potential creators. I have just started keeping my own actually after I realized how much I use them in purchasing decisions and networking type opportunities. I invariably run into you guys with blogs at conventions and it is a cool way to meet interesting people efficiently 🙂

I use FaceBook quite a bit but I rarely look at the feeds the way I do on G+. I do lot of communicating these though and its a good tool. I tweet, but its an auto-tweet so I do not count it.

And know you have a long answer to a question you didn’t ask. You are welcome.




The Great Big Head of Jeff Talanian

Posted by on Jun 12, 2015 in blog, Game Design, General, Highlight, Kickstarter, Lesser Blog, Whisper & Venom | 0 comments

The great big head

That is the great big head of Jeff Talanian on my TV. Designer, author, one time Gary Gygax collaborator and all-around good guy Jeff was also helpful to me. I was able to locate the box company I used for Whisper and Venom on his recommendation. He has a short time left on his new Kicckstarter (here) that I know will be delivered better than promised. You should back it by clicking here now. When you get back I want to tell a story about the great big head and its belated advice.

Ok, the story…

Most box companies are leery of new publishers and/or small print runs. While they never tell you no outright, they will send you a quote that, to be generous, is interestingly priced (my favorite quote was $18 per box). While I was about 4 months out from Whisper & Venom’s Kickstarter I attended TotalCon. Good Con but it was more diversity of interests than I was used to, which was reflected in the vendor hall. My purchases were limited a Frank Mentzer module from Eldritch, a knitted Cthulu ski mask and a my copy of AS&SH. While making the purchase I inquired about who made the boxes and without hesitation he told me it was Marion Paperbox.

This was a huge favor to me. I asked if he regretted the choice and he said no, he loved box sets.

Fast forward to 2014. After having shipped over 120 boxes I was in my living room packing the last 30 Pathfinder sets. At this point I was exhausted and just barely covering my Kickstarter costs thanks to shipping. While packing I listen to podcasts and watch narrowly focused YouTube videos. That day Jeff was a guest on the Mythwits show (link), which on my 50″ HD TV enlarged his head beholder style.

After an interesting first half they discuss the economics of games. I was able to pay attention regardless of the three days on next to no sleep of fulfillment.

When asked if he would do a boxed set again the giant head of Jeff Talanian said, “I love the box set format but the logistic and costs s of assembling and shipping, particularly international shipping, is prohibitive.”

Sitting boxing up sets for expensive international shipping I listened to that great big head contradict himself with those words.

And wept 🙂

Just kidding. He is correct about it all but I would (and am doing) it the same way again. I just felt psychological dissonance at that moment. It was awesome.

His Kickstarter will be great, you really should support it. If you don’t have AS&SH already you should get a copy, since he is obviously not making more of them.



Post Con 40% Off Sale!! PDF, Print, Figurines and Dice

Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in blog, General, Highlight, Lesser Gnome, Sales | 0 comments

Sale 40Home from NTRPG Con and sold the very last boxed set of Whisper & Venom. Success should be celebrated and shared. So buy what you missed or see what we are all about! Coupon Code NTRPG40

Unboxing the boxes

Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in blog, Death & Taxes, General, Highlight, Lesser Gnome | 0 comments

boxes web

The UPS man brought a present to backers. Eleven boxes of boxes. It is difficult to express how happy I am at the moment. They are very nice and I am grateful to Marion Paperbox, Lloyd Metcalf, Edwin Nagy and Scott Swift for their contributions. I should also thank the Gnome Spouse for her help moving them out of the rain.

Overall a very good day at Gnome HQ.