On the OSR New Wave: Gus L of Dungeon of Signs

It's a giant ship! It's a Megadungeon! It's the HMS Apollyon!

Gus's creativity is spectacular. He runs a gonzo game, but it is not a game where players find a laser gun and think "Oh, now I'm more powerful than everything else!" What they really think is "Now that giant metal monstrosity has FIVE holes in it, and yet I'm still dead."

There is a Rustgate. There are ship spirits. There is boiler plate armor.

Blah, blah, blah, you think. READ THIS NEXT SENTENCE:

The HMS Apollyon is a miles long demon and monster haunted cruise ship that travels between worlds and frequently 'rescues' individuals from the seas it traverses.

Seriously. The full introduction is here! Follow Dungeon of Signs! Follow Gus L. on G+!

Pitch me on you and your blog right now before I get bored and stop reading this article!

It's a blog that I write stuff on.  Mostly about the games I run or the games I play. Lots of ASE stuff and lots of stuff on my own diesel/steam/witchcraft punk settling aboard a giant rotting luxury liner. Occasionally I write about my thoughts on games and how they work - but not often, mostly a put up game content.

Which cartoon not named "Dungeons & Dragons" is  most like Dungeons & Dragons?

Well Adventure Time is pretty obvious - and sort of captures the bizarre sensibility of most games worth playing.  Not really sure - as for written stuff, maybe the new Prophet, or Dungeon Quest by Joe Daly?

If you ran across a group of baby orcs in a game;  what do you do with them?
Try to sell them as pets at the local bazaar, return them to their parents with a note about parental responsibility and an offer for mercenary service? There aren't any orcs in the games I play though.  Orc equivalents, which usually means nasty people - I think it's more a matter of how I encounter said beasts, and what kind of PC I'm playing.  I really hate simplistic play where humanoids are just something to hack up,  and I think orcs have pretty much been rehabilitated in the past few years - noble savage and all that.  Also humanoids should be some of the scariest opponents and one should be forced to scheme to deal with them rather than charge and collect their babies from the ruins of the orc huts.

You all have highly creative blogs. Bryce over at tenfootpole.org has reviews of adventures that are simple and direct, mostly involving killing things in rooms and getting +1 swords. Describe your philosophy behind why those aren't good enough for you?

Well Bryce has some pretty nice stuff to say about my work - which I am pretty proud of.  I think we have a similar sensibility in that running a by the book Tolkien and Gygax generic fantasy doesn't really appeal and has been cliched to death.  The hard part of GMing isn't figuring out that the bandits are stealing from the village and have an ogre with them., it's making that interesting by either pushing aside cliches or slipping in some great detail.  Simplistic fantasy has become the domain of video games, but even there the best ones are well beyond the cliched AD&D style world.  Tabletop games don't really have much to offer that a video game can't outside the open world aspect, and to make an open world interesting it has to actually be varied and interesting.  With history and plot and strange things that a player can engage with if they want.  If not at least the scene dressing should be fun, and an ogre guarding 300GP and a +1 dagger is not fun or compelling anymore.

What is the most important house rule or change you make to the game?
Hmmm? depends - I am fond of my save or die rules with a statistic reducing injury if you survive.
The HMS Apollyon gun rules are rather game changing, but I think I most enjoy my "On a critical hit you can do double damage, or do something cool."  This allows a player to have some nice moments in combat - like the time the moleman got to ride atop that giant face colored fungal worm and wail on it with his axe.  It created a pretty good image.

What's your favorite edition and why?
B/X - because everyone plays it?  Seriously though I don't know any addition beyond AD&D 1e - and that I only vaguely remember the lazy house-ruled 12 year old boy version of.  I am enjoying the 1979 whitebox rules lately (or Little Brown Books) because they are so simple and make combat a terrible idea.

Thieves? Clerics?
Yes?  I like Clerics but I tend to encourage them to be nuts. ASE has the best version of Clerics I've seen, with an infinity of unreasonable AI satellites as gods, and every PC must obey all of them - especially the one the player made up.  Thieves need more variation - assassin, scout, dubber, yegg, duelist, con man, bounder - all should be options within the class.  The D&D classic is just a pile of skills without much sense.  Also I hate thieves guilds.

What are your thoughts on the proliferation of rulesets for sale?
Well honestly I don't buy rulesets... I have a 1979 Whitebox I found in my folks basement, and the Labyrinth Lord book - not likely I'll need much more.  Wish people would write setting books that were cool (like a decent Mesoamerican one) rather than rules.

How long before the inevitable saturation occurs and we go though the classic fox/hare die-off?
I'm pretty optimistic - I think humanity has proven itself remarkably able to avoid a serious die-off and that technological progress will continue until we change ourselves into something else rather than wipe ourselves out.

Do you get to play?
Yes, I run a game almost every week and play one as well - via Google Hangouts

What is your favorite class?
Fighter perhaps, though these days I have a thief, an assassin and a old West wizard that I'm fond of.  It's more how well the PC hangs together, not what they can do.

There is an alternate universe where the tedious 1980's sitcom was bypassed and instead replaced by D&D. What is the worst thing about this alternate reality?
War, famine, pestilence, religious fanaticism?  As far as the worst thing about these D&D themed television shows, I suppose it's that they've become trite and cliched? Sort of like most D&D products seem these days - glossy and terribly boring.

What is the worst player you've ever had?
Not sure - I've been lucky.

What is your favorite base version to use?
B/X or LBB OD&D - it's all I know

Which is best: Adventure, hexcrawl or mega-dungeon? Why?
A megadungeon, adventure hexcrawl! I think there's a false dichotomy there.  The best game is one run by someone who has a style and world you enjoy. I personally think I'm best at running dungeons and social situations and have found my efforts at overland travel to be shoddy.  Of course others are good at them, crafting interesting hex encounters and such.

What is your own personal appendix N?
I've read a lot of books, I think my D&D is currently informed by the New Corbuzon novels by China Mieville.  There's something about the oppressive social fabric of the 19th century laid over a weird fantasy world that works for me.  Also I read a lot of wikipedia.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Nothing really,  I'll keep doing what I do until I get bored.  I'm thinking about self-publishing some stuff.  Either an HMS Apollyon setting book designed for OD&D play (with a few house rules) or a bundled set of small adventures for levels 1-6 focusing on Patrick Wetmore's Land of 1,000 Towers (ASE).  Basically the idea is that when your party gets tired of the megadungeon there's a bit of other weird going on outside.  I'm going to put out a PDF of one of those soon - entitled "Tomb of the Rocketmen", but none of these plans are set in stone.


  1. Thanks for posting - I appreciate this series and was glad to take part.

  2. cudos on answering the die-off question on behalf of all humanity rather than just a segment of the gaming culture. Thats the kind of vision I like to see.

    1. Just covering up my ignorance with snark - I'm a late adopter to the OSR, and the only reason I found it was cause I was looking for a free PDF of the B/X rules (thought they were out of print)and found Labyrinth Lord instead. Accidentally bought the original Starships and Spacemen earlier this week - makes me realize how good B/X really is (again).


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