Night Musings

Originally published in Protodimensions #3, (page 5)

Night Musings

A million nights from now, when mankind’s fear
of death is nearly dead, and the last priest
lies dying, the last ghoulie, ghost, and vampire
will gather at his campfire,
to gasp their fading poisons in his ear.

And when the sun illuminates the ash,
and vermin come attend to the deceased
with hungry jaws, their work will demonstrate
no hint of demon’s trait–
they are but reprocessing the trash.

What then, I wonder, will the writers write,
what tales to keep the populace policed,
contented? Can men defer to science
without a touch of séance?
The apprehension keeps me up at night.

— Lester W Smith, 2009

Who-Sunnit?

Originally published on the Big Pulp magazine website, now defunct.

Who-Sunnit?

Those genteel Brits: So frightfully polite
in murder! Faking a rich uncle’s suicide,
they manifest a quite well-mannered sweet side,
when opening the door to the police.

Per’aps they fed the poor old duffer poison,
his stinginess sufficient to incite
a sudden cold resolve, a bloody insight:
“One must do what one must for one’s position.”

And so, repressing passion like a robot,
they ground up pills (for all Brit homes have pestles).
Not like us Yanks, who run around with pistols,
whenever we decide to do a “rub out.”

But once all suspects Scotland Yard eliminate,
the killer makes confession over a lemonade.

—Lester Smith, 2010

Visit the Bauner Coast

This is book two of the D6xD6 Dungeons Kickstarter, a setting that proved the D6xD6 experience system is campaign-able. (You can purchase the Bauner Coast setting on DriveThruRPG.)

I had sort of assumed the D6xD6 RPG was best for one-shots or mini-campaigns of a few sessions. But 6 months of play with a group of fans on Facebook demonstrated that the game holds up well for longer term with recurring characters. In terms of character growth, playing long-term felt a lot like the one- and two-year TFT campaigns we played back in the early ‘80s.

With this FB Bauner Coast campaign, we spent most of the time in Mautram, “City of Wonder!” a Machiavellian trading capital that’s home to the Scholarly Institute of Conjuring and Sorcery, the School of Mystic Illusions, and the secretive Black House of necromancers. It’s a truly beautiful city, with wide, clean streets, ornately decorated buildings, and well-dressed citizens—the very embodiment of the truism that appearances can be deceiving. It’s no accident that Mautram hosts the School of Mystic Illusions.

But Mautram is only one locale on the Coast. One player’s character was a second son of a minor noble house in knightly Byasse, to the south, and had trained as an elementalist in rough-and-tumble Hov’s Bend, far to the north. Another player invented a tribal hunter from jungle south of the map’s edge. The mission was to investigate abduction of a pair of half elves from the wilds of ‘Tweenland; half elves being a rare sight, wandering loners.

A third book in the series, a random dungeon crawl system, may well see the light of day this year. Everything’s written except for fleshing out what wealth gains you. It’s a tricky issue in a game with no shopping list. You know the type: Don’t go into a dungeon without a hooded lantern (7 s.p.), a 10’ pole (3 c.p.), a 50’ rope (4 s.p.), a week’s worth of standard rations (3 g.p.), and on and on.

Conan spent his earnings on binges in taverns. I have the bones of a system for renown, social climbing, or charity, but it needs some work.

Originally all three zine editions were intended as one 8 ½” x 11” volume, something that I’d been writing for a couple of years, but you know the story about clawing my way out of a three-month depression via a January “PC a day” challenge, and the happy February discovery of a Kickstarter “Zinequest” promotion. Splitting the big project into three sections untangled the pieces, making them manageable. And honestly, I’m happier with the more convenient zine format.

P.S. I’d also assumed the Bookmark HP RPG was uncampaignable, but having discovered my D6xD6 assumption was wrong, I decided to give its bookmark sibling a chance, and our two-player cyberpunk campaign is now 8 months old, with no sign of stopping.

New: Game Host’s Guidebookmark!

New for the Bookmark HP RPG, the Game Host’s Guidebookmark! print-and-play PDF on DriveThruRPG!

Let’s talk titles for a moment, because you may have noticed a pattern.

If I had a Marketing Department, they’d be yelling at me about the name, Bookmark HP RPG. (I’m sure of that, because when I worked places that did have a Marketing Department, they yelled at me about other things.)

“How are you supposed to pronounce it? Why’s it have an HP in the title at all if you’re going to cross it out? Shouldn’t we name it something more exciting, like maybe Infinite Adventures, or Porta-Play, or Dragon’s Egg, or anything but Bookmark ‘No HP’ RPG?”

Why? Because it makes me laugh!

Which is why Dracula’s Get and Supers! are called “Sourcebookmarks.” And when people started asking for more player guidelines, I published a Player’s “Handbookmark,” and now a Game Host’s “Guidebookmark.” The words are so ridiculous that they make me laugh! And they’re an affectionate poke at the game that originated this hobby.

I only wish there were a word for “manual” that ends in “book,” so I could poke fun at Monster Manual. Looks like I’ll have to settle for Bookmark Bestiary. Fortunately concept itself is ridiculous enough to laugh at! Expect a slew of those, for different settings.

Oh, and about this Game Host’s Guidebookmark. It provides a rules twist for “mooks,” so your protagonists can handle attacks by mobs of your villain’s minions, plus guidelines for running scenes and awarding Boons, and the most concise “how to” I’ve ever seen for crafting adventures. This bookmark went through the same play-test and critique as the previous ones, so I think it’s safe to call it meaty.

By the way, my hypothetical Marketing Department would also have yelled at me about launching the line with Dracula’s Get, instead of fantasy, or sci-fi, or the Supers! Sourcebookmark. But I wanted to solo play Petit Louis, bastard son of Louis XIV, hanger-on at courts, part of Donald Trump’s retinue during the Presidency. And with the “mook” rule, he managed to survive an attack by ten human hunters, though just barely. He stumbled away, almost destroyed, and had to spend two weeks recovering in the tender care of the rock band he manages.