LibraryBox Followup

LibraryBox logo.During A Fistful of Carnage, I set up a LibraryBox loaded with free-to-distribute RPG materials. It’s a wireless router loaded with customized firmware that acts a document repository accessible independently of your typical free wifi. Internet access got murky last year at Carnage, so I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone took advantage of another source of information, or found a collection of free RPG stuff interesting. LibraryBox counts the number of times any given file is accessed, so I have a rudimentary idea of what visitors found of interest.

The top hit was a Fiasco playset, Bookhounds, though I think that was because it turned out to be corrupt and people tried repeatedly to access it. After that was the public domain film His Girl Friday, which I think mostly came from neighbors at home when I was testing the set up. Third was the Book of Forbidden Lore, a fan work bringing monsters into Pathfinder, followed by the Open d6 system book, then Sapphire, by Vermont’s own Hunter Green.

Those are the high points, but the numbers indicate that there weren’t many total users. A large number of files were accessed once, which I presume is one user making a clean sweep of everything vaguely interesting. After that, out of 59 possible files, about a third were downloaded two or more times — and of that third, seven were accessed more than twice.

For a real sense of whether this was utilized, I’d have to set the LibraryBox up again next year. That’s no trouble at all, since the only thing that will have changed is adding more free material to the collection. The most labor-intensive part of the set up was putting up flyers around the convention space to alert convention-goers there was a LibraryBox available, and just what that is. I have a year to think about it.


An investigator confronts a Dark Young.

Send more Drama Points.

The Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, or Cthunisystem for short, brings some of the classic elements of Call of Cthulhu role-playing to Cinematic Unisystem. Compiled by Salvatore Cucinotta and Jason Vey, it’s a great resource for adding mythos monsters and a different flavor of spell to your Unisystem games.

By default, it’s written for Cinematic Unisystem games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but it’s super easy to use the monster quicksheets with classic Unisystem rules, or extrapolate backward to a full stat block. Shave off any Drama Points the creature may have and call it good.

Free the Suppressed Transmissions

Suppressed Transmission was a column written by Kenneth Hite for Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games’ role-playing magazine. For more than 300 columns, Hite frolicked through the fields of history — real and alternate — the occult, paranormal and high weirdness. It was time traveling reptoids one week, the six faces of Jack the Ripper the next. It was a little bit historical fact, a little bit delirium and conspiranoia. Plot seeds, characters, campaign frames, you name it, Hite made them out of the oddities of human civilization for your inspiration and role-playing pleasure. It went on like that for years. And it was most enjoyable. Then Pyramid‘s format changed, the column ended and — this is the important bit — the archives became unavailable as subscriptions ended.

You can still get a taste of Suppressed Transmission through the two collections sold through e23, including the previews available for both. The collections comprise about three dozen columns each from early in the run. The material is heavily annotated and cross-referenced, so those two books have a lot of value added in compared to the columns as they were originally published.

I bring this up because a little over a year ago, I and some other ardent fans of Suppressed Transmission — Chris Helton, Jürgen Hubert and Stéphane Gallay, among others — kicked around the prospect of a grassroots effort to convince Steve Jackson Games it would be worth their time and energy to collect and release the unpublished columns in some format or other.

Jürgen in particular began a “Where I Read” thread on in which he read through and commented on theSuppressed Transmissioncorpus. He’s up to number 123 as of this writing. And that’s out of just over 300 columns. Skim that thread. Look at the panoply of madness those columns cover. If those ideas tickle your mind, just remember there are so many more to be uncovered in a full collection.

As is the nature of topics of conversation on the internet, the fate of Suppressed Transmission has come round again. The state of affairs hasn’t changed much. The publisher has to see that releasing the rest of the columns in some form is going to be a money-making proposition. For that to happen, there has to be a rise in sales of the existing collections — both in PDF, only the second still in print.

Rally round the flag and support the movement to show there’s a market for a complete Suppressed Transmission collection. Hop in forum threads, talk it up with your friends and most importantly, buy the books! At the very least, they make for entertaining reading and at the very best, they offer oodles of ideas to cram into your role-playing games.

Universal Head’s Arkham Horror Rules Summaries

A comment last week on the Arkham Horror expansion guide — already in need of updating, a need which will only grow in the coming months — reminded me of the time I first learned to play this byzantine game. My cousin very patiently sat on the living room floor with me, going through the motions of playing as I flipped back and forth through the rule book and a cheat sheet.

Universal Head’s cheat sheet for Arkham Horror reorganizes and condenses information in the official rule book in such a way that you can follow the turn order from start to finish without skipping from one section to a previous one to figure out what happens during the mythos phase.

Plus, it comes in multiple flavors: there’s the base game-only version, which is just what it sounds like. Then there’s the longer version that incorporates the many expansions and their new rule components.

I always keep a couple copies of the longer cheet sheat in my game boxes for when the opportunity to play Arkham Horror arises. If you’re new to the game, or find that not everyone you play with is catching on to the admittedly contorted turn structure, this may be just the remedy.

DriveThruRPG Bundle to Benefit Pakistan Flood Relief

Click through to purchase the Pakistan flood relief PDF bundle.

In the wake of the devastating monsoons that left 2,000 dead in Pakistan, is offering another PDF bundle to benefit Doctors Without Borders. They say:

Record monsoon rains caused flooding that left almost 2,000 people dead and 20 million homeless. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani estimates crop losses at $3.3 billion, total damage of about $7 billion. People displaced by the flooding that began at the end of July are still living in temporary shelters, such as schools, or in tents. Doctors Without Borders continues to provide medical care, clean water, and relief materials.

Following the success of our previous fundraisers for DWB during the Haiti Earthquake Reponse we have decided to put together a new charity effort to raise funds for relief efforts in Pakistan. Several publishers have donated some very cool items to help us raise funds for Doctors Without Borders. The bundle will be available until 10:00 AM EST, Monday, October 25th.

According to another page on the DriveThruRPG site, the previous charity bundle raised a staggering $175,000 for Haitian earthquake relief. As of the writing of this post, DriveThruRPG had already passed the $2,600 mark.

The Pakistan Flood Relief bundle is on sale until the morning of October 25th, Eastern standard. Get it while you can!

The Usefulness of a PDF

I have mixed feelings about PDFs. On the one hand, they allow authors to write material that would that otherwise might never be published because its target audience is too small for a traditional print run; they also serve as a proving ground for content that proves popular enough to merit hard copy publishing. PDFs also save older books from Out of Print Hell, a singularly unhappy place.

On the other hand, I just can’t get into reading PDFs as they’re sold. When I first started using a computer at home, I spent hours upon hours in front it, reading whatever that happened to be in my field of interest at the time — confession: there were a lot of Doctor Who episode guides and fan fiction on the family Performa‘s hard drive in those days. Somewhere along the way, probably around the time I started spending a lot of time using a computer to do actual work instead of devouring fan minutiae, in college and later professionally, I lost all ability to read long form documents at a computer, or at least the will. A couple times, I’ve done some PDF consumption at Muddy Waters, but even then, I’ve found it a fiddly, unpleasant process. There’s always scrolling up and down, because the content I want is still laid out portrait style, and fooling with the zoom level to make the text readable at a distance without trimming margins.

In short, I’m predisposed to prefer a printed book. Continue reading

Greg Poehlein’s Adventure Outline Sheet

In the summer of 2009, during her Mags the Axe School of Gamemastering series on All Games Considered, the titular Mags mentioned an adventure outline she found useful in devising adventures that she picked up from a seminar course conducted by Guy McLimore and Poehlein at Gen Con in the early 1990s. It’s an adaptation of the kind of beat sheet television and film writers use to map out the rises and falls of a story.

I found it pretty useful last year writing Lurker in the Lobby and Highway to Niflheim. So I went to find the file tonight to help lay out the structure for my next two, only to fail to find it on my hard drive. Turns out I just wasn’t being clever enough about search terms, but that did send me off to the Nachtmedia community, where the PDF is still available for download. With the demise of many Ning networks, you can still find Greg’s outline available as a PDF at the top of All Games’ Considered‘s links for the original episode.

If you’re new to writing role-playing adventures or having a hard time getting started, a form like Greg’s is a great place to start. Filling in the blanks helps you not only order your thoughts, but see what elements you may not give due consideration.

Thanks again to Mags for doing the legwork to make this available to the general gaming public.

[Link to PDF amended 10/14/2010.]

Gamers Help Haiti

As part of efforts to raise money for disaster relief in Haiti, One Book Shelf, the company behind the digital download storefronts DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, among others, has put together a bundle of PDFs from a number of participating publishers. By donating $20 to Doctors Without Borders, the donor receives access to the PDF bundle, which, at last count, was valued at over $900 in content. One Book Shelf will match each $20 donation, too, so that’s $40 going to Doctors Without Borders per donor.

By the time this post appears, just after midnight, the bundle link should be live, which you can click here.

This opportunity only lasts until the end of today, January 20th, so be sure to act now.