Sunday, June 18, 2017

And Mauvolg Makes Three...

Another six months have passed and the third volume of the five-book Avremier 0e set is due to go to press very soon. I will confess, this was a tough one. Still need to finish the cover art.

Mauvolg has never officially existed in the setting, until very recently. For many years, it was quite a different place on the developing map. It even went through a phase as the cliched "evil empire." Wacky times.

Now, Mauvolg is the "second human domain." The land that suffered a great disaster and fell into the ground. Now, the place is mostly at the bottom of a really big hole. Mauvolg is a kind of eastern-flavored place - inspired by many different cultures and legends...adjusted and re-skinned to suit the Avremier vision. A place of floating halfling villages and huge riding birds.

Following the original homage-driven design aesthetic of the project, this volume showcases the druid and monk classes. Mauvolg is much less of a "western civilization" than Dhavon (the previous volume of the series).

Mauvolg was tough because so much of it needed to be written out. Very little of the content for this supplement existed in a format intended for the use of others. It is not a region I've been using much in my own games. To even my own players, most of this stuff is going to be new. That means it hasn't really been playtested. THE HORROR!

So, I shall let others judge the merits and flaws of the supplement at the end of the month. When it finally goes to press. When people other than myself get to see it all for the first time. Mauvolg is going to be different. Probably not as different as the non-human lands to come...but, definitely a contrast to Dhavon. Here's hoping I can pull it off.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

One down - two to go.

About five years ago, I started on a personal project to compile and edit (for clarity and conciseness only) all the rules and options (as I felt necessary) for the original edition of the First Fantasy RPG. The goal was three volumes for my personal use, and to share with all those who might be interested. Along the way, I got distracted by a similar project to compile and edit my own Avremier campaign setting for similar publication – except that one became a business venture. Today, I have pushed to complete the first of the three original volumes, started in 2013. While the other two volumes are forthcoming – it may be some time, as work on Avremier takes precedence.

What the OD&D Compilation is:

·         A personal project made for purposes of historic research and personal utility. As there is no original material, no claim of ownership is made by the author and every volume will be offered without cost in PDF format. For the purpose of this project, “0E” refers to any rules or options intended for use with the first published edition of the game, offered through what the author considers official TSR sources.
·         All 0E material deemed relevant from the original three books of Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures + Supplements I-III + The Strategic Review + The Dragon magazine.
·         All included material organized as coherently and as sensibly as possible. Rules and information sorted into full sections and in a sort of Players Handbook style of organization.
·         Information organized, edited, and worded to the author’s preferences. Made as clear, consistent, and concise as possible, without altering or adjusting any rule or detail. Ideally, the game can be played with only these three volumes, with every available rule and supplemental option deemed suitable by the author.
·         A simple PDF file, suited to the needs and preferences of the author.

What the OD&D Compilation is not:

·         A retroclone of any kind. This is a compilation of the original rules and options, presented in a fashion that the author considers easier to use and consult. Nothing has been changed — only worded and organized with an effort toward better coherence and clarity.
·         An illustrated compilation. These volumes contain only text and tables. No frills. No art.
·         An original work. Everything is derivative of earlier works and sources — just presented as the author prefers.
·         For sale or publication. This is a personal project offered as-is, at no cost, in PDF format, to anyone that wants it.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


A lot of folks disliked the alternate covers for the WotC reprints of the 0E books. I was fine with them, but there are always other options. My own covers for the Avremier books take inspiration from the originals. Still, it amuses me to consider what could have been.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


I like the cloaker. Always have. I get that some people don't like those monsters created just to occupy an artificial niche in dungeon ecology designed solely to mess with adventurers. I don't care, but I get it.

A monster that looks like a cloak, just to fool adventurers, can seem a bit silly. And silly certainly has no place in some folks' epic fantasy adventure gaming.

I don't find the cloaker to be silly. I also don't have adventurers encounter cloakers that hang motionless on a coat rack. Silly is as silly does. Though I happen to like a little silly from time to time, I take the cloaker very seriously. The thing is built like a ray, and maybe a little like a bat. Whatever the case, there is a framework for a believable creature there. Still, for Avremier, I took it a bit further. From the start, the cloaker sparked my imagination. That's what good monsters do.

What, in Avremier, is a cloaker? Well, that depends on who you ask. If you ask most everyone - they won't know. In fact, the vast majority of them will have never heard of the thing. Cloakers don't get out much. They are found underground - usually, deep underground. If you were able to ask an actual cloaker, it might tell you something like this:

The god of all is the King in Tatters. The Tattered King. Also called Susurrus. We are but bits of his ragged robes, given sentience and purpose - sent out into the Vastness to learn all there is to know, before returning to the source to share our experiences. To become greater - and whole. Myriad - and one.

So, each cloaker has the potential for different or unique traits depending upon how it became independent from the robes of its deity. Did it just fall off? Was it torn free? Was it sent forth? Was it cast away? Did it flee? Whatever the circumstances, it matters. That's what makes the cloaker what it is. In fact, in Avremier, it isn't called a cloaker. The creature is a 'tatter'. No one really sees it as a cloak-like monster.

And all of this came from my contemplation of the cloaker's place in my setting. Not just a living trap for unwary adventurers. Something more fitting within the Avremier multiverse. Is the origin myth mentioned above the actual truth within the setting? It might be. Maybe someone will find out for themselves during the course of a future adventure. That's what Avremier is about.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

...a vasty place...

I started this thing called Avremier when I was about eleven. I am now forty-six. I don't like math - you do it.

"Avermier is a vasty place..."

Truer words, and all that. All those years do add up. I rarely throw out an idea if I can recycle or evolve it instead. The setting encompasses a world---a solar system---a core planar configuration---an expansive outer planar structure...

Add to that the fact I am known for my high level of detail. Probably not on the order of Forgotten Realms detail. After all, I've not been doing this quite as long...and I don't have lots of other writers contributing material...nor do I have publishers waiting to put everything I do into print...also, my setting doesn't have international legions of fans. Well, anyway. Avremier probably does have that order of detail - but I'm not publishing it. Much of that is for me - and my players.

Don't get me wrong, I want to share Avremier with the world. But, I want it to be YOUR Avremier. I'll publish whatever people want to see...but I won't push my vision upon anyone. Besides, I'm not the biggest fan of hyper-detailed campaign settings. World-building can be taken too far. Is Avremier a hyper-detailed setting? Yes. That's just how my mind works. After 35 years, you're gonna have a lot of detail. I never stop writing. Even so, I am extremely conscious of how much detail is really necessary to put into print.

That's one reason I decided to start out with the 0e rule set. Frameworks. Foundations. Outlines. Places for adventure to be presented and fleshed out as the Referee deems necessary. Shared settings where the players can contribute to the outcomes and outliers of the world in which they roam. A sandbox. So, there will be five books - to start. After that...I haven't decided. There is so much to share. I've been keeping most of it to myself all these years. Sharing Avremier out in carefully-plotted bits and hints. I want more. Many of you have asked for more. I have much more to give.

With that in mind, I'm going to get back to work on the Mauvolg supplement.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Avremier - The Evolution of a Cover

When I decided to print and publish my long-running fantasy setting using the OD&D rules, it was a little project for myself - and maybe a few of my players and gamer friends. Five-to-ten copies - max. Because of this intent, graphics and slick production were not even on my radar. It was going to be a booklet designed after the earliest rules of the game - a fun homage to the roots of RPGs.

Many of you know how that went. Along the way, I was learning every aspect of the publishing process - as it pertained to my project. I hadn't become Mothshade Concepts yet. I was a guy spending every free moment writing, editing, compiling, drawing, proofing, designing, and wondering how he'd gotten himself into such a mess.

After it was done, and Avremier was published in a limited print run of about thirty copies, people seemed to get excited about the whole thing. They bought copies. They asked questions about how it all happened. They clamored for more. I like watching the "making of" segments for films. I like knowing what inspired an artist or writer. I like answering questions.

In brief, *stifled laughter*, this is how the cover of the Avremier supplement came about.

It had to look like the original volume that I was emulating - Greyhawk. The layout and content of this supplement guided my efforts in the project. For my own cover, I wanted the same fonts and design. I also wanted the illustration to essentially be an armored warrior/adventurer against a round monster that would be featured in the pages of the booklet itself. So, it was decided that there would be an armiger vs. a cauldron golem for the cover.

Now, the hard choices had to be made. I had already decided on gray for my covers. Beige (or whatever the Greyhawk cover was) had already been done. The recent reprints had white covers. I wanted a neutral hue for my covers, and I like gray. So, my "canvas" was set. While I am able to draw, I hadn't been doing a lot of art for nearly a decade. I was out of practice. After a few false freehand starts for an armored warrior, I realized a new approach was needed. I was in a bit of a rush and decided I would "rotoscope" this thing.

Deciding on a pose for my armiger, I gave my wife a Nerf sword and did a quick photo shoot. I took the photo I liked into Photoshop and adjusted the opacity to dim down the details. I just wanted a mannequin to put armor on. I printed out the resulting image and started to draw directly onto the model. If you look closely at the photos, you can see the faded human figure inside.

Even then, I made some changes along the way. I was researching different styles of armor and deciding what I wanted for my own world. I wanted something that looked "real." Functional, at the very least. Also, since this was an armiger, I needed a motif. In the end, after some input from those with an interest in the project, I chose the chimera as a design motif. There would be elements of the lion, goat, and dragon. The Nerf sword was crooked and had to be straightened with my pencil. The visor of the helm underwent an adjustment or two as I stumbled through the design process.

Eventually, I felt pretty good about the results and scanned the drawing for more development. There was another element coming - the cauldron golem.

For the cauldron golem, I wanted to convey at least some of the threat involved. Originally, there was to be at least two golems, but I was running out of time and motivation. I decided the cauldron would be spewing flames to threaten our hero. Great - now I had to draw fire. For reference, I turned to my own photo library. Had I taken pics of fire? Yes, I had.

These were some of my models.

Drawing a cauldron was probably the easiest part of the whole project. But, it was easier for me to draw it separately and merge it with the armiger element in Photoshop. More scanning. Some rotating and adjusting. I wanted the raised foot to be placed against the side of the cauldron, and I wanted the blade of the sword to look as if it had been caught in the ring handle of the cauldron - for a bit more dramatic tension. To make the golem look even more formidable.

In the end, I think it worked out well. I've had a number of kind words said about the cover art and layout. Finding the right fonts and integrating my own logo brought the whole thing together pretty much as I'd wished. My booklet could stand on a shelf next to its forebears with a semblance of pride.

In a future entry, perhaps I will do the same for the newly-printed cover for the Dhavon supplement.

In closing, here is my book next to its inspiration - by way of comparison. For my own purposes - mission accomplished. And, yes, even the color of the titling has a purpose. The green represents the overwhelming presence of nature in a land that can be hostile to the spread of civilization.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Always an Adventure

Avremier 0e Supplement I is finished and printed. The print run would have shipped by now if it weren't for my madness. The madness of always pushing and experimenting. Not content to produce another 80-page booklet, I also decided to include an adventure as an entirely separate booklet.

You see, the first Avremier 0e booklet was a loving homage to the original Greyhawk supplement.
Dhavon, this booklet, is something of an homage to Blackmoor. That means a castle (of sorts) on the cover, and the first-ever published adventure for the setting.

The adventure has taken a bit longer than hoped and has increased a little beyond the initial projected page count. Also, in a rather coincidental callback to The Temple of the Frog, there are some "unusual" aspects to the villain and some parts of the adventure itself. And, as this is the first Avremier adventure I've written for publication, I'm having to offer more than disjointed notes and mental bookmark details for myself. This is not easy for me. Regardless, the project continues to push toward the finish line. Just not soon enough for this bloke.