On the Storefront

I told you more cool stuff was coming.
One of my Patreons bemoaned the fact that there was a dearth of storefront pictures.
So, I'm going to be illustrating a selection of medieval and archaic storefronts.
High definition, vtt ready version on Patreon. Otherwise enjoy this 150 .dpi web jpg!

This is the Inn of the Welcome Wench, but I've left the sign blank so that you can name it what you want. This is the actual layout of the Inn from Homlett—The town from T1, Temple of Elemental Evil. It has the right number of windows and floors and matches the interior layout.

Like, more cool stuff is coming. All week long. I wasn't posting because I was working furiously. Stay tuned!!


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On Henchmen, Continued

Good morning world.
The Internet can be a hostile place.
It's best not to go alone.

The third henchmen, the alienist, is available on my Patreon. It's only because I want to encourage you, to help me not be homeless.
600 dpi versions on the patreon, and easy to use .pdf collections coming of these intermittently. 

Come on, look at Dan the Candle Bearer. 
Who doesn't want to hire that guy?
More cool stuff coming every day this week. (!)


Hack & Slash 

On the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh Stroll

I've played a lot of adventures. I've never been able to easily find out what happens in an adventure without playing it. I've always wished someone talked about the adventures that they've been through, not so much a review, but a commentary. This. . . is that.

The secret really is sinister.

It's the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure I ever played. My father ran it for me, my mother, and my brother. I've run it a dozen times myself, and found myself again among the halls of the alchemists house in my adult life more than a time or two.

It's one of the great reasons for its ubiquity. It's easy to put a 'haunted' house on a map. Let's take a stroll through the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Sinister!

This module is notable for being from "TSRUK", and contains a personal message from Don Turnbull.
So, American readers—if you find the text too flowery and florid or too plain and stilted, the structure of the language slightly unusual, the use of certain words apparently slightly offbeat, these are the reasons. Perhaps you will take solace in knowing that UK readers of all the other TSRª modules have the same reaction in reverse!
Is it an essential British trait that they would take a game about dungeons, and write an adventure about an old house up on a hill? The United States has no ancient buildings looming for a thousand years.

The Dungeon Master is instructed on personalizing the town, making it a base of operations for the players. Name the council, develop them as individuals, draw a map, design an inn, create local gods.

Then, there's the legend. The decrepit house sits up on the hill, once owned by an old alchemist around which nefarious rumors swirled. Now it's haunted—dilapidated and unwholesome. Ghastly shrieks and eerie lights emanate from within the dismal lesion marring the purview.

Spoilers for a thirty year old module, but hey, right? The house is a base of smugglers, led by an illusionist. It has a remarkable clear description of how to present the module and the core mysteries, without giving away too much.
It is paramount that the players are given no obvious clues, which would lead them to believe the house is not haunted; they must deduce the truth for themselves or simply stumble upon it. They might even wander around the house, finding a little treasure but never discovering what actually takes place there.
This module and the other two in the series are designed for thinking players. Those who tackle the adventures imaginatively and thoughtfully will not only obtain good rewards for their characters but will derive the satisfaction of seeing the various layers of the plot peel away as the real meaning of each clue is discovered. On the other hand, those who regard the House as nothing but monsterslaying territory will not only fail to unravel the secrets but will find their adventure dull and unsatisfactory; they may even lose their characters, for the smugglers, in the hands of a competent DM, should be more than a match for an unwary, careless party.
No munchkin hack & slash here! Only real role-playing.

In all seriousness, This is a well designed module. There are multiple layers to this mystery and it relies on player choice and initiative to assess what is actually going on, instead of just killing stuff because it's there. It's the kind of adventure where combat (should) happen(s) because there's an actual conflict, not just because you see something to kill. It clearly supports all the choices, with outcomes noted in the finale.

But that's not what you're here for.

What you are here for


You show up in town, ready for adventure. After taking lodging and shopping for a bit, you hear a legend about a haunted house up on the hill. If you decide to investigate, then you get introduced to a member of the town council, who has an interest in your decision to 'stamp out a local menace'. The council member makes no specific promises, but mentioned rewards—perhaps, say, something for doing a public service.

When the party sets out, they are accompanied by a slew of townsfolk, urchins, and hangers on. Amusingly, they retire shortly after the house pulls into view.

It sits atop a cliff, behind a 6' high stone wall, with a heavy ornate great. To the east is a well.with a softball pitch of a snake that has sleeping venom.

The house is obviously two stories, although there is a secret third underground "level", leading down to the coast at the bottom of the cliff. The house is laid out in a chunky upside down T. The front door opens into a big central room, with a staircase going up to a balcony you can see, with hallways leading to the west, east, and north wings.  It's a great vertical and non-linear space!

While exploring, you'll find rats, goblins, and other vermin as you would expect in any kind of standing structure. Tracks for observant players show some frequent foot traffic. Let's explore!

The stairs to the second floor hang over a passage to the east. These leads to empty and dilapidated rooms.  To the west lies the library of the alchemist, a study, and a trapdoor leading to the basement trapped with a magic mouth that says:
"Welcome, fools -- welcome to your deaths!" followed by a prolonged burst of insane and fiendish laughter.
The passageway to the north contains two events of note, there's a beat up "withdrawing room" which I assume is british for lounge. In addition to detritus there is a chimney. If examined, you find a loose brick, concealing a small chest, along with a spider that sets down beside you. The default poison causing 'enfeebling' for 1-4 days, rather than any authentic risk.

The other event of note is that when you take the first step to descend into the basement, there's a wicked howl of shrieking pain, triggered by a magic mouth.

The upper floor is unstable, and more than one player character has died by falling to his death through unstable flooring. Another deadly chamber lies to the west, with an unassuming closet, filled with a cloak covered in deadly yellow mold.

Upstairs to the east, lies unstable flooring and a very subtle clue, that I think frequently goes missed until later in the module. This is the room where the smugglers can see the approach of the ship and signal it. More interesting is Ned Shakeshaft, a prisoner who is actually an assassin. He's supposed to mislead them, in the interest of a merchant who profits from the smuggling operation.

You can reach the attic, and get attacked by stirges as your reward.

The Main Event




Eventually the characters man up and brave the depths beyond the magic mouth spells, and head down into the basement.

This leads to a very memorable encounter. There's a corpse on the floor in a suit of FULL PLATE MAIL! This is a great moment for your fighters, immediately before they die from the rot grubs infesting the body.

There's a secret door in the wine cellar, and sooner or later the party will encounter the smugglers, which include their illusionist leader, along with several gnolls. There's a great illustration of the illusionist, hitting a party with the color spray spell.

Having discovered the smuggling operation, the town council conceives of a plan, where you assault the Sea Ghost and end the smuggling operation once and for all.

The party has a number of options for assault, giving them the opportunity to strike in the dark, or engage in open combat aboard the floating vessel. A terse, exciting, and possibly deadly battle occurs on the deck of the sea ghost. Looting the vessel lets them discover a slew of prizes, not the least of which is a pseudo-dragon looking for a Wizard to bond with, and the fighter thief aquatic elf "Oceanus".

Once complete, a few days pass, until the council becomes curious why such primitive creatures as lizard men would seek the arms and armor from the forges of men? Is the town of Saltmarsh at risk of attack?

I guess if you want to find out, you'd have to play Danger at Dunwater, but that is a different tale.

You enjoying these posts? I'm depending on you to keep writing them. Come make some requests and get a ton of free stuff over on my Patreon!

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On the Hateful Campaign

Bryce Lynch wrote a review of my module, Eyrie of the Dread Eye. He tagged it as "The Best" which I am honored and humbled by.

Sadly, wherever I stand to gain some ground so I can continue to produce works, all of which I hope are high quality, there are people who are engaged in a campaign of harassment against me. They show up wherever I am mentioned and spread lies about me, calling me alt-right, implying I'm a racist, and other hateful extremest rhetoric.

I have a million+ words on this blog that anyone who takes the time to check, would find it's not the case. You could check out my inclusive art broadcasts on twitch where I share about my mental illness and decades of service to my country and community.

Below is my reply to the harassment from the review. I'm doing this because there are people engaged in an active campaign of harassment and slander anywhere I attempt to create and share to the community. I would ask that they please stop. This is me publicly asking people to stop harassing and libeling me. It is very important that we do not respond to extremism, hate, and harassment in kind. Please do not—I don't share too much of my personal beliefs and politics on my blog, because that's private. If I believe differently then you, well, I served my country so you could. We don't have to share political views for me to produce great gaming content. I am only sharing here to refute the lies.

The important thing here, is that the toughest reviewer on the internet thinks what I wrote stands among the best work produced. . . and it's only my first. Wait for the next couple of things I have coming out and I'll try and top what I've already done.

Here was my response.

"Hi! I’m the author!

My name is Courtney Campbell. I vote democrat, have donated to both Yang and Warren so far in the coming election. I’m a veteran of the USMC. I’ve spent 20 years doing social work with disadvantaged youth, including 5 years in alaska working with native youth.

I’m an independent creator. I’m sad that people feel the need to harass me and punch down at people who struggle with mental illness (I have a class A personality disorder that causes me significant issues with, well, life). I’ve spent my whole life working at near minimum wage to help disadvantaged youth, mostly of color. When I worked downstates it was mostly adolescents who were victims of family abuse.

I’m horrified there’s people who show up wherever I am being discussed to spread lies about me. I honestly don’t have any idea what to do about it.

I’m shocked and honored brice took the time to review my module and considered it one of the best. I worked very hard on it, and as noted, it isn’t designed to be read, it’s designed to be played.

I am certain if you read my blog or check out my twitch channel or come on to my discord, you’ll find a welcoming inclusive place where we talk about gaming, support other low income people who suffer from mental illness, and share support for each other.

I’m incredibly thankful I can eek out an existence publishing game materials. The fact that someone I respect as much as Bryce likes my work makes me feel like perhaps I can continue to be of service to society.

I don’t have any hate in my heart, and I’m sad people choose to engage in this campaign of hateful attacks.

Bryce, Thank you. To answer your question, I rewrote the 5th edition version of the adventure extensively to fit the style of superheroic play that 5th edition expects. It should work for 5th edition the same way it works for the best version of Basic/Expert in print, Adventure, Conqueror, King."

Stop the hate. Let's do better.


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On Eyrie Delivered!

Why would you wanna fight this guy?
Did you hear about that blogger that talks hot shit about how things should be done?

Well, if he wrote something, you sure could  find out if he's full of crap or not.

But who wants to read a .pdf? No one!

Thankfully this Eyrie of the Dread Eye module is now out, right this second, for ACKS, for 5th edition, and even in Print!

This doesn't look super fun at all!
There's only nine reviews and the are all five star reviews! That can't be right! It can't really be five stars?!

But why would you want to pick up an adventure for mid to high level characters that provides a challenge for them without nullifying their abilities? Why would your group want to fight ancient, minimally verbal, yet terrifying monster bears? Who wants to fight a hill giant clan wearing human leathers?

Who wants to explore an ancient city or deal with ancient giant statues? You see the maps for these things? Would would want to explore these places?

Who's idea was it to make this thing only five dollars! And if you buy print, you get the .pdf free? What kinda cheap outfit does that?

If you don't buy it, how can you give an honest review, instead of reviews like this?
A fantastic adventure, it's full of comfortingly familiar bits and pieces but executed in clever and interesting ways that I love. 
Clearly that dude is some sort of planted agent! What about this nonsense?
I'm definitely in favor of this kind of adventure overall, but it's a little more "gonzo" than some of the previous releases from Autarch, and should be appreciated as a sort of surreal nightmare of Lovecraftian weirdness that stands in contrast to the more mundane orcs and goblins that the default ACKS setting implies
Surreal nightmare of Lovecraftian weirdness? That gets five stars?
It really is the little conveniences that make this adventure a pleasure to read. The author does a masterful job succinctly and conveniently presenting just enough information to get a location right, for immediate presentation to my players without having to translate anything in my head. 
What kind of DM wants to run a game with a resource like that?
 A most excellent tribute to the classic I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City. Deadly environmental hazards, multiple rival factions to ally with or oppose, weird monsters galore, all done in classic . . . style.
Why would you want this adventure cluttering up the place? It's not like you need a great module full of terrific ideas, beautiful maps and swell encounters to steal, borrow, use or have fun with in your game. It's not like it isn't super popular hitting silver just days after its release.

You probably don't want to be in on all the fun anyway.

Eyrie of the Dread Eye, An adventure for 4-6 characters of 6th to 8th level, for the basic style, super well designed Adventure Conqueror King system; or rewritten for 5e, with care to match the style and expectations of that system.

You gotta see for yourself, right?
As might be inferred from the inspiration, this is a product that should appeal to anyone who loves classic-era TSR modules.-Eyrie Review

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Ancestral history, Quantum or Otherwise.

I hardly think I need continue. This perhaps will be the last.

What am I talking about?

Let's start with this.

Reddit is a cesspool. Let me be clear.

I like this one subreddit, it's called legaladvice. You aren't allowed to post ignorant shit. There was a post, 300 comments, 16 approved.

5% of comments contained true information, that's pertinent. This actually means  284 people were engaged enough with the topic to post inaccurate, illegal, and ignorant comments—even though they know that posts are deleted if they aren't factual. . . . or legal. Right? It's in the name!

They have to think their comments are correct or they possess a vested interest in yelling into the void. That's what's in reddit—the popular opinion. It is literally an eidolon, a manifest spectre of mediocrity and blind devotion to the whims of the masses, facts or nuance be damned. 

So, guess what I found on reddit the other day?
What's your hot take on "the Quantum Ogre" technique?
Alright you bungling loudly croaking magpies, let's do this.

Am I doing this? Let's find out!

The post contents:
Do you employ it [Ed:the Quantum Ogre] in your games as a DM? Do you enjoy or dislike it's use as a player?


Already my blood pressure is going up.

What we have here is an ignorant misunderstanding. A quantum ogre is a magician's switch—a tool used to make someone feel they have a choice, when they do not. See here.

Let's be crystal clear. Both are completely fine in a roleplaying game. You can decide things, and/or you can let players decide things.

I cannot find any utility for deciding something, but pretending to give players a choice. It's a game, literally founded upon socratic debate! The whole point is choices matter—it's not a video game, due to tactical infinity, you can have choices actually matter. But—I digress. Let me begin the shit-talking.


The Present


There is no shit talking. (Well, there's gonna be a little shit-talking)

The top comment is this:

The argument against QOs is that it's bad to take away choice from the players. I would argue that it's only bad to take away informed choice. If the players gather information on ogres, look for tracks, etc. and come to the conclusion that the ogre must be down the left path, the ogre has to stay where I planned. However, if they just select the left path at random, I don't feel like changing the ogre's position takes anything away from them

That's what's on reddit. The popular opinion. That's u/ParsleyForJehovah, who I don't know, and who knows. He understands the issue.

Here's a rocking socking shocker. There's no juice left in the onion. There's minuta, history, new content and setting and a ton of games—but the path is set. People know about the style of play. Even Matthew Mercer killed a player character on the hit show Critical Role. If there was ever a time or place where illusionism or narrative priorities were going to attempt to reinfect the game of Dungeons and Dragons, it would have been then. The understanding of the old ways is documented and passed on. We have held the wall and the light has won the day! Victory lies upon the long shadowed ages of pastoral paradise anew! Rise! Rise! Rise!

My sword and shield lie fallow. And though I will pick them up here, it is only to demonstrate how we fought for the world we live in. An old knight, returning for one last theater, his focus no longer on his enemy, but on the creation of his own realm.

Some hot takes 

It's clear that Shrek had the cultural impact that Avatar lacked. 

They note that schrodinger is a more accurate (but much less catchy) name.

Gus L. from the redacted Dungeon of Signs still posts on Reddit, and here's an example of the hivemind, he's downvoted out of visibility. 
If you need and[sic]  ogre encounter there should be one path - own it, and best to have a way this works in the setting. Spending time tricking players into specific set piece encounters is a bad way to spend play time.
His text is correct, but people read it unwilling to debate a point, who just don't like when their fragile feelings are hurt. Even though Gus and I are a bit like oil and water, his opinions are well reasoned, and he's a great player and gamemaster. 

It's hard to convince a room full of narcissists talking out loud to each other that they have anything to learn. 

Gus's points are excellent, and bring this little gem into the light from Pseudo boss:

At the same time, when I feel that the players are giving up their agency to rely on dice or chance instead, it's no longer my story, nor the player's story, but the dice's story. In my mind, this is a game failure: a game state with a very high potential to result in an unpleasant experience for everyone. Quantum ogres are a way to rectify game failures when they occur.
Do you see the confusion?

"When I feel the players are giving up their agency to rely on dice," That's the agency! They made the choice! Based on their understanding of the odds! The unpleasant experience mentioned is the consequence of choice.

Out of curiosity, if I decided that an important piece of evidence was in the same manor that the rogue was casing, would you consider that railroading or a quantum ogre?
What does this sentence mean? What I'm told is "I don't understand the differences and distinction between the various terminology discussed," but look at how certain! "this game is a failure if consequences come from actions!"

This person isn't evil, malicious, or ignorant. 35,000 times in 5 years people have said, "Yeah, I push up arrow!" That's 7,000 a year, or around 20 times a day, everyday, for half a decade. His other comments indicate a fascination with numbers, symmetry, that he's been committed to a mental institution, and has strong liberal opinions, which he is happy to share, along with his science background.

It's back to bad things happening in the game must be bad because it's not fun to lose—but it's more fun for the game to be meaningful, which is really the whole point of the classic tabletop fantasy gaming. The game as written is fun, meaningful, and chock full of emergent play.

He says as much himself:
There have been instances where an encounter that I place turns out to be way too hard, or maybe just the dice completely screwed the sorcerer over. Once it's clear that the mood of the table is souring, I feel that player satisfaction is more valuable than game integrity.
And there you have it.

I think maybe Gus and I rub each other the wrong way because we are so alike in a lot of ways, at least evidenced by how well he argues the Quantum Ogre.

It's percolated into the modern consensus. Even when disagreeing and calling me a dick (yes, really) they are agreeing. Note this comment from Author X. 

My lukewarm take is that I don't run any games that require me to plan the contents of every room in every building, or keep track of which corridors the players are moving down. Therefore, it doesn't matter which room a particular encounter is in, unless the players are trying to avoid encounters, in which case their success or failure determines whether or not they run into an ogre, not the left-hand-rule.
That is EXACTLY THE—

No. No reason to get worked up. But you see, right?

Aqua intestines says:
The quantum ogre is only acceptable if the game was full of meaningless choices anyway. Meaningless choices are universally boring. Thus one should avoid the QO, because it is a symptom of meaningless choices.
Yeah, brother. You know it.

Who is that guy? I don't know. But he understands a quantum ogre.

I think that means we made it to the future. I can tell because some dude is named AQUAINTESTINES. That's a future name. No historical 14th century Aquaintestines, of the seven seas.

There are a lot of responses by people who are just completely ignorant of what a Quantum Ogre is. They are so confident about it, while not understanding it at all, that—well, see for yourself:
The world doesn't revolve around the PCs, and they are not the most important people in the world, just in their story. Quantum ogres are a good way to simulate that kind of agency, and one I prefer over random encounters, because there's still planning in quantum encounters. Certain details are left open to get filled in, but the plan exists, versus random encounters where it's literally just, well, random. The encounter doesn't matter except as a tool for the GM to extract resources from the PCs to weaken them for a future, actually interesting encounter.
There's a lot of people who went, "Yeah, this is good!" Who can tell why? Maybe to confirm they don't understand what these words mean?

Guys. Guys. . . .Guys. Words mean things!

I'm pretty sure (although not certain) that he's simply talking about designing a random encounter table, instead of one filled with random monsters. He's clearly confused "Quantum ogres. . . simulate that agency". Clearly not!

Encounters designed in response to player choice and action do give agency; how he came to the conclusion that designing thematic encounters instead of a less specific and more random table is a quantum ogre? His comments show that he thinks the Super Mario Brothers movie is "A delight to watch" and is a "social justice duskblade" on the GamerGhazi subreddit.

Boy am I glad he posted this confused screed about something he doesn't understand! Isn't the internet wonderful?

There's some real. . . intensity in that thread. There are lots of people who are certain their factually incorrect take is correct, and assert that aggressively and without compunction. To wit:
Confident guy who's wrong: I disagree. The point of Quantum Ogres is that they're unavoidable once planned so that you don't waste time prepping content you don't need; it's a tool for managing limited planning resources. I only plan encounters for the next session, so last session when the decision was made there wasn't an ogre yet, so no need to involve Quantum Ogres.
Rational dude: If your sessions end with a player choice and begin with the repercussions from the last session’s choice, there’s no quantum ogre. 
Confident guy who's wrong: Not what I said. I said that the decision was made last session, not that it was at the end of last session, nor did I say that the ogre encounter happened at the start of the next session.
A lot of people point out that I sound angry about the quantum ogre. Some of that is because I am aggressive and excitable and have terrible emotional regulation skills! Most of that is because people are mouse shit in the pepper. Damn my eyes!
[the Quantum Ogre] can preserve the illusion of agency enough to prevent things from blowing up while still ensuring that the story continues. Which situation would you prefer: that the players don’t have pure agency but the story always plays out in a satisfying manner, or that the players do have pure agency but the story will sometimes collapse? The answer to that will be a bit different for every gaming group (and likely for every gamer).
Look at how pride telegraphs a fall! How confident his wisdom, in preventing any real risk and failure. How knowledgeable he is to know from the holy spirit who rides his soul with the power of god ABOVE, that the STORY will play out in a manner SATISFYING, as he has SEEN the glory and the power, HALLELUJAH.

I mean, what? You want proof? You're reading my blog and not his.

I laughed at Mr. Didz, who's like:

As I understand the definition of 'Quantum Ogre' (and I had to look it up to be honest) then yes I do use it, but mainly because WFRP as a system is based around a number of published adventures that basically require the party to face a series of increasingly challenging, but logically connected encounters.
First, what righteous dude! He looked up what something meant. And yeah, if you're running those, man, CHOO-FK&N-CHOO. Get on board. You are not kidding brother. Good luck with that Albatross.

Cptnfiskedritt says "Quantum Ogre is bad, and I dissagree![sic]" -
"The problem is railroading where an ogre is avoided consciously by the players, but then presented to them anyway. This hurts a game if done a lot."

You think?

I mean, I am taking crazy pills. They are supposed to keep me from going crazy. But I'm PRETTY SURE that guy say he hates a thing, and then immediately argues for exactly the thing he disagrees with.

You think that guy votes?

You like this article, and want to see more, more often? Easy way to do that is to join us on Patreon, before it's too late and come be part of a great community and use your agency to make the world a place that matches your vision!


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