Excuse the Mess...

I am gearing up for a few changes here on The Outer Dark, so please excuse any mess I might create while doing so. I have been getting an online store ready to open (still debating whether to use CafePress or Zazzle) so I can offer a few items of swag to help finance a certain little project I have in the works. I am sure I will be adding a gadget that allows these items to be displayed and browsed once I am ready to pull the trigger. I am also working on a new look for the blog. It has been quite a while since I changed how things look around here, and I believe it is high time I do so. Other than that it is business as usual.

Oh yeah, if anyone has a strong opinion about which is better, CafePress or Zazzle (or any other e-commerce site that allows me to sell t-shirts, mugs, etc.), I would love to hear about it. It might help me make up my mind on which one to use.


[Sword & Sanity RPG] Labyrinth Lord Compatibility License - Final Word

Earlier in the week I made an announcement that Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying was not going to be a standalone book, and would require the Labyrinth Lord core rules, as well as the Advanced Edition Companion. To my surprise I received quite a bit of negative feedback from friends and followers about this announcement. It seems that most everyone who has an opinion on the subject has their heart set on a standalone rulebook.

As it turns out, I have been writing the book as a complete ruleset all along, and only faltered in this decision once I reviewed the Labyrinth Lord compatibility license. To carry the "Labyrinth Lord Compatible Product" logo on the cover I would have to comply with this portion of the license:
No work may constitute a complete game. For the purposes of this license, a "complete game" is defined as any work that a player of a PC and/or the player in the role of the Labyrinth Lord can use for character generation and/or reference in game play exclusive of the Labyrinth Lord core rules book. As a general guideline, if the work is so complete as to make the Labyrinth Lord core book obsolete to one or both of these kinds of players, it fits the definition of a complete game for the purposes of this license.
As it stands, I would have to go back through portions of the book and take away much of what I have written to be in compliance with the license. I have done a lot of thinking about how to proceed from here, and I have come to the conclusion that I am not ready or willing to do this. Instead, I will take advantage of much of Labyrinth Lord's Open Game Content, as well as some of the Open Game Content from Swords & Wizardry, Castles & Crusades, Conan Roleplaying Game, Grim Tales and a few others, to help build the system I am wanting to present with this book. All with my own personal tweaks of course, not to mention the original Open Game Content I will be designing just for the game.

As stated in the introductory chapter of the book:
A Note about the Rules
This gaming tome was written as a complete game system, and does not require any other rules manuals to play. However, the system presented herein is highly compatible with many other classic versions, as well as modern simulacra, of class-and-level-based fantasy roleplaying systems. This allows for the importing and exporting of game rules and adventures with little effort on the player’s part.
So there it is. No more wavering on whether to proceed with writing a complete game or not. The game will be very compatible with Labyrinth Lord, but will not have a "Labyrinth Lord Compatible Product" logo emblazoned on the cover.

Does this mean I will no longer support Labyrinth Lord or Goblinoid Games? Hell no! It just means I do not want to be hindered in any way as I try to write the best roleplaying game that I possibly can.


[Sword & Sanity RPG] Illustrations

I am pleased as hell to announce that Chris Huth has agreed to illustrate Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying. Chris is a very talented artist, and I feel his work captures the tone and feel I am looking for for this project.

This morning I wanted to take a moment to share the first illustration Chris has turned in. I sent him this as a concept for the piece:
The idea I have is to incorporate the "when the stars are right" statement that Lovecraft used for when the Great Old Ones would awake and return to rule the earth again. The idea I had was a scene of a battle between druid-like cultists dressed in dark robes and wielding curvy daggers, and a group of stalwart adventurers. The encounter takes place amongst an ancient set of standing stones, perhaps on a barren hilltop. The scene is at twilight, and an exaggerated star field acts as the backdrop. Maybe within the constellations there is an implied image of Cthulhu or some other Elder Thing looming down from above. I am thinking two large stars gleam where the eyes would be. I prefer an ancient look for the armor and weapons, so more Atlantis or Hyperborea over quasi-medieval.
From this concept Chris sketched a few ideas and sent me this:

When I saw the sketches I knew I had the right guy. I could see the potential behind these rough images, and I could tell the direction he wanted to take the piece. Chris took these concept sketches one step further and refined them into this:

Needless to say, I was hooked when I received this sketch. I couldn't have been happier with what Chris was producing here. He took my idea, and was able to keep it within the frame of the concept, while presenting a scene that is both straight forward and powerful. Another early comment I made to Chris was this:
Overall, I am looking for pieces with atmosphere over gonzo.... I know a lot of people mixing fantasy and cosmic horror tend to take it over the top with tentacles everywhere and "full frontal" Cthulhu kind of thing. I am not saying that sometimes going that route is wrong. I am sure we will have several illustrations with sword on tentacle action. It cannot be avoided with a product like this. But I would like to present a product that is rich in dark texture and has a brooding atmosphere to it.
Chris understood this comment an delivered an illustration that was very faithful to my wishes. A few days later he sent me the final piece, seen here:

In the end the constellation idea morphed into the swirling nuclear chaos of Azathoth. Three cultist stand at the base of a set of standing stones, cauldron in front of them, as they perform a dark ceremony. A strange smoke emits from the cauldron, boiling up to the heavens; rising and mixing into the the swirling chaos in the sky. All the while, Azathoth looms above, gaining in power as the invocation is performed. At the base of this strange outcropping of rocks stands our stalwart warrior ready to risk everything to stop this terrible act he is witnessing.

I believe this will end up being the cover of the book. It will definitely be used for a t-shirt design I am currently working on. The sale of these shirts, and other swag I will be offering, will help finance the illustrating of the rest of the book. I will have more on all of this before this coming weekend.

All in all, I think Mr. Huth has done a great job with this first illustration. I personally can't wait to see what he is able to come up with as the project moves forward.


[Sword & Sanity RPG] Labyrinth Lord Compatibility License

Work progresses on Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying, my supplemental rulebook for use with Advanced Labyrinth Lord. It has been a very long time since I have looked over the compatibility license agreement for Labyrinth Lord, so I decided to do so again tonight. I realized I am going to have to alter my plan just a bit to be in compliance with the agreement. This is not a huge deal, and in the end may help save me a bit of time.

A while back I published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for my project, and this is one of the entries I will need to adjust:
Q: Will the Sword & Sanity RPG book be a stand alone rulebook, or will the Labyrinth Lord rulebooks be required to play.

A: When I first decided to take on this project I thought the book would be designed as a supplement and require the Labyrinth Lord rulebooks to play. When the writing began I quickly changed my mind on this and now I am writing it as a stand alone product. This is not to say that some of the Labyrinth Lord rules I have decided to not use or to change cannot somehow be worked back into the game, so in essence I am not making the Labyrinth Lord rulebooks obsolete with this product. Just not totally necessary.
The new answer:
A: Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying will not be a stand alone rulebook, but a supplement for Advanced Labyrinth Lord. This project will carry a Labyrinth Lord compatibility logo on either the front or back cover, so the Labyrinth Lord core rules and the Advanced Edition Companion will be required to play.
So, my plan to create a complete rulebook has been nixed. I think Dan Proctor has done a hell of a job with Labyrinth Lord, and I see no reason not to show my support for the product and release compatible supplements and materials. Why reinvent the wheel... again?

What this means on my end is that I need to adjust the way I am approaching the classes, by building on existing ones and offering a few new ones, as opposed to ignoring all the old classes and designing the game around a complete package of all new ones. Also, I will offer ways to integrate existing spells from the Labyrinth Lord rules, though the rules for spellcasting will not be the same. Also there will be new spells included with this supplement.

All this also means its back to the drawing board for just a bit, which should not take long to readjust things and get some forward momentum going again. I am just glad I reread the agreement again, and realized the error in my design plans before they had gone too far.

Spoils of Christmas

This was my first Christmas as a married man, and I am glad to report that there was fun to be had all around. My wife, Stephanie, came through in a big way, and proved to all that she is indeed the best wife any Lovecraftophile could ever ask for. I have waited aeons to get my hands on a copy of Arkham Horror, so I was completely taken aback when I found it waiting for me under the Christmas tree! The deluxe dice set rounded of the gift. Needless to say I am one happy bastard! Now the trick is going to be getting Steph to play the game she bought me... :-)