Magnum Opus?

Photo by Crisoforo Gaspar Hernandez on Unsplash

If you’ll forgive a bit of introspection about my own work …

Last night, Jennifer asked me if, given its ongoing success, I thought the Bookmark HP RPG was my magnum opus.

My first quip was, “So far!” But honestly, I doubt there’ll be another. Three self-published RPG lines is more than enough to keep an old guy busy, what with people asking for supplements. And a couple of the card games, I’d love to see continue to grow.

Upon reflection, I told her “It’s a hard call. I know a few people who’d argue D6xD6 is a better RPG.” She said, “That’s not the question. What about you?”

Truthfully, being retired, I’m doing these things because I love them. There’s nobody to say, “We can’t sell it” or “You have to follow these guidelines.” I design things I want to play. So it’s difficult to choose between the particular features of one over the other.

Most people who know my work would probably say, “Dragon Dice.” A few might say, “Dark Conspiracy.” And yeah, I loved those labors, too, but they’re out of my hands, each a work for hire.

If I had to choose, if push came to shove, yeah, I think BNHP is the one. Its 1-10 scale is so easy. Its dice odds fell into place with a sense of discovery more than intent. (Much of creative work is simply recognizing when something falls into your lap.) And it’s my one and only polyhedral game, hearkening back all the way to my first years as a gamer with the original D&D. A satisfying sense of full circle.

Kate says I should call my little publishing company “Challenge Accepted! Games,” because nearly everything came from somebody saying “That’ll never work.”

Yeah, it’s a fair cop. But I think there’s plenty of that left in this little RPG line. I feel contented in a sort of “Nuns Fret Not” sense.

In the words of William Wordsworth …

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

Free BNHP PnP PDF

Bundle deal on all 10 titles

Forty-five years ago, I drove to Chicago for an Army entrance test. I scored high on the “fold this box in your head & choose the correct one below” questions. They wanted to enlist me as a mapmaker; I wanted to be a graphic designer, so I drove back home a civilian.

(If I’d known map making was my buddy Larry Elmore‘s Army MOS, I’d’ve been smarter & enlisted.)

Still, those box-folding-in-your-head skills have come in handy lately for print-&-play PDFs of cards & bookmarks. The format I’ve come up with lets you choose between printing one side only & folding down the middle for front & back, or printing on both sides with front & back matched up.

Here’s a link to a free PDF example, if you’re curious: Bookmark HP RPG PnP PDF

(For a bundle deal on all 10 BNHP titles, click the bundle image in this post.)

Horror in Lovecraftian RPGs often isn’t

Photo by Lan Gao on Unsplash

There’s a “Cosmic Horror” sale on at DriveThruRPG. I was curious to see whether Bookmark Cthulhu made it on the list and am happy to see that it did.

As a designer, I fall into the camp that Lovecraft’s protagonists seldom go insane. Instead, their dread grows toward a breaking point. His secondary characters may be insane. His protagonists face terror.

Don’t get me wrong, the groundbreaking sanity rules in the Call of Cthulhu RPG do a great job of portraying the growing fragility of the human mind as it gains more knowledge of the mythos. But it seems to me that most Lovecraftian RPGs since have mimicked CoC sanity rules only as a sort of mental Hit Points, losing the cosmic horror.

I went with a growing dread that increasingly risks your abilities with each new shock.

It also seems to me that a bestiary of Lovecraftian creatures robs some of the horror—and I couldn’t fit a bestiary on a bookmark anyway. 🙂 So there’s a random table of Lovecraft’s most-used adjectives, resulting in creatures like “an accursed, spectral, fungoid nightmare” or “a blasphemous, irridescent, gibbering thing.” What do those conjure up in your mind’s eye?

Given that its a Bookmark HP RPG sourcebookmark, the more Traits, the more powerful the being as a matter of course.

So, though Bookmark Cthulhu is “merely” a bookmark, I’d suggest that it better conveys Lovecraftian horror than many longer works.

#RPGaDAY2023 Day 8: Favorite Character

Some fantasy characters from the early 1980’s

At last! A fairly easy topic!

Back in the early 1980’s, when I worked in a factory, had few children, and the future was far distant, I actually had time to paint miniatures for my characters. (I’m not saying they were very good, but at the time they seemed so.)

Raedel Pinehaven

That guy in blue up front is the earliest I remember playing, a half-elf sorcerer thief, and the gal in purple just behind him, Mistress Goldleaf, was an elvish NPC, a full mage he developed a crush on. (The unpainted figure in black is a recent sculpt of him, a gift from my old friend and GDW colleague Steve Maggi.) Since that time, Raedel has shown up here and there as an example PC sheet in one of my own RPGs. Needless to say, I’m fond of him.

Twill

Originally the Pictish warrior just to the right of new Raedel, Twill went on to become a burglar, a second story man in various campaigns by various GMs, and sometimes in solo play since. He had a code of honor that basically cast himself as Robin Hood, though he was pretty much the only person on his “give to the poor” list. He once burned a merchant’s house down for having sent some bully boys to rough him up after one successful caper.

Petit Louis, Vampire

I no longer paint minis, so he isn’t in this lot, but per Dracula his image couldn’t be captured anyway. Let’s pretend he’s there but we just can’t see him.

Artist’s Conception of Petit Louis, Vampire

Louis is a bastard son of Louis 14, and was a courtly sycophant by necessity. He’s a small guy (hence “Petit” Louis), vampirized at age 17. And despite the new supernatural powers, he’s amused that feigning obsequiousness to the posh provides a convenient source of both blood and high fashion. Having only recently left the “court” of Donald Trump, Louis has been hanging out in Hollywood, grooming a starlet by whispering a word in the ears of a few movers and shakers. 

Currently he’s hiding out somewhere with his own little retinue*, recuperating from getting his ass kicked in a bathroom stall by a paparazzo dogging the starlet’s heels. (I had a series of really poor dice rolls, starting with failure to mesmerize.)

You can probably tell that this is my favorite character, originally statted out in the D6xD6 “Fear the Light” setting, now in the “Dracula’s Get!” setting for the Bookmark HP RPG. He’s shown up in a few TikTok videos a year ago, and will likely do so on YouTube Shorts soon.

* Retinue: Bethan Troise, Starlet, Lover; Aaron Burdex, “Techretary”; Danile Mclachlan, Driver; Dane Mclachlan Bodyguard, Danile’s brother