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.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Into the wilds (of publishing)

Proving, once and for all, that Avremier 0e was not a fluke - the first supplement, Dhavon, is in the can.
Pre-order copies were printed and bound yesterday - now, they just need to be trimmed.

Plans for PDF and PoD editions of all Avremier books are still progressing. Stay tuned.

The next Avremier 0e supplement, Mauvolg, is already in the works. Updates will continue.

It seems this blog is transitioning from stream-of-consciousness D&D randomness to Mothshade Concepts Avremier 0e updates and peeks. For now, this is likely to continue.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fantasy Pair-O-Dice

Avremier is not my idea of a perfect fantasy world.

I open with this because I want to be clear. Avremier was not created to be everything I wanted in fantasy gaming. It also wasn't the result of my being a "frustrated writer." I am, in fact, a "published writer." It may be my writer's soul that shaped the Avremier setting.

Does Avremier include a lot of fantasy elements that I particularly enjoy? Of course it does. I'm not doing all of this as some kind of karmic penance. More importantly, Avremier includes a lot of fictional, historical, mythological, and sociological elements that I find interesting. The years I've spent running campaigns set in Avremier have helped me develop those elements, and to decide what works.

Don't misconstrue that last statement. I've kept some elements that don't seem to work. Either, because I particularly like them, or, because I feel they are essential to the setting. As I hear far too often in response to specific questions, "It's your game - do what you want."  I happen to feel it is a game that belongs to all the participants, but I may be in the minority.

So, I never really set about to create a fantasy setting that was better than the others. I never thought to emulate an existing fantasy world. Bits and pieces of inspiration were borrowed from many sources (some of which I've listed elsewhere), but mostly as reference for my own concepts - as shortcuts. Less work - more fun, right?

I was pretty clear on what I didn't want, but the rest came about organically through stories I wanted to share (not tell), and concepts I wanted to explore. Through the years, as my tastes and interests changed, so did Avremier. Today's setting is practically unrecognizable from the world I was building in 1984. While it may be a "best of" the various flavors and iterations that Avremier has endured, it isn't my ideal world. It was never meant to be. And, it never will be.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

From the Archives - Mara Imperium

The following is a behind-the-scenes look at a bit of Avremier setting development.

When creating some primordial gods for the setting, my mind settled upon serpents for their forms. Snakes are very primitive animals, in structure. They figure in many myths and folklore tales. And so on. The first such god was a gigantic “world serpent” named Erebus — after the earliest darkness of Creation. I had the idea to break my world in half by the actions of a titanic serpent that was imprisoned within, until it won free. Kind of a Midgard Serpent in reverse. I do things like that. Well, this proto-serpent-deity spawned three offspring in the process. The three were named Naga, Coua, and Mara. I decided they would form a small, but influential, pantheon.

Erebus was known as the God-Eater. Erebus hunted and devoured deities of all kinds. Erebus represented the all-encompassing darkness of the void, swallowing everything — even light. Naga would be the serpent of earth and fire. A violent and volcanic force of destruction. Coua would be Naga’s opposite — a deity of air and water, as well as the patron of couatls (coua…couatls…so clever). Mara was the only female of the group. She had more of her father in her, being an entity of darkness and desire. Where Naga was evil, and Coua was good — Mara was neither…like their father.

Erebus quickly abandoned its former prison, and its offspring. Left to fend for themselves, the fledgling deities immediately descended to the broken world below to learn what they could. Upon discovering they were gods, the three set about dominating and developing nations under their influence. Centuries later, these three realms are Matrupaj, Temruzael, and the Mara Imperium.

Matrupaj started out as a typical “evil serpent kingdom” kind of place. Over years of development, that has changed. Temruzael is a rather mythic realm influenced by Mesoamerican culture and religion. The Mara Imperium has always been the largest and most influential of the three. So, of course, it has enjoyed the most detail and development. Once I decided the Imperium would be ruled by some of the classic female monsters of Greek myth, the rest just sort of fell into place.

The Mara Imperium is beloved of Mara, the only female deity of the serpent pantheon. Thus, the Imperium is a matriarchy. Being older than human habitation of Avremier, the Imperium developed entirely without human influence. This allowed me to make the place as alien as I wanted. Government is organized into groups of three — three groups of three, to be exact. Those who rule from the throne are the gorgons. The gorgons come from three distinct bloodlines, modeled after the three gorgon sisters of myth: Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno. As Medusa was known as “the Queen,” her bloodline is “most royal.” Therefore, most Empresses have been of the “Medusan” bloodline. Members of this bloodline are noticeable by their “golden locks.” Those of true descent will have gold-colored snakes for hair. Those of the Euryale line have black locks, while Stheno’s descendants have red snakes for hair. Most of these features are adapted directly from the myths.

Other than gorgons, the other two bloodlines that form the upper castes of the Imperium are those of Empusa and Mormo. While less important, these two lineages have their own distinct traits. Suffice to say, the Imperium is almost always ruled by gorgons. Their capital city is even named Gorgosa. The middle and lower castes are made up of serpentfolk and other mutated humanoids. Those humans that now inhabit the Imperium are prisoners and slaves. Mammalian races are seen as inferior to the other citizens of the Imperium.

After the “core five” booklets for Avremier are finished, there are many more supplements already outlined for future production. Mara Imperium is one. It will focus mostly on the Imperium itself, with some details of Matrupaj and Temruzael as space permits. Hopefully, in 2018.