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Black Powder, Black Magic Vol.2

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The wait is over, and Black Powder, Black Magic Vol.2 is born, and only 100 print copies are available through this site, with another 100 copies to be distributed through conventions.

In addition to changes to existing classes from the DCCRPG, we introduce the Gambler and the Prospector. Also, you’ll find a complete writeup for John Henry, the current guise of the powerful wizard Solomon Gui. Gui made bargains with the shadowy powers of pre-history to gain his immortality, but now feeds on the pain and hardship of others.

The night John Henry is born an ax
of lightning splits the sky,
and a hammer of thunder pounds the earth,
and the eagles and panthers cry!
– Melvin B. Tolson

We introduce Folklore, which is something that will accompany all new monsters in the Dark Territories. To get things started, we give you the Minewight.
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Volume 3 is already in the works, and we have the new patron Johnny Appleseed, the Alchemist class, and a contribution from Daniel J. Bishop for the Varmints! section. I’m also working on a side-view map of Brimstone and the many levels of mines, caverns, tombs, and lost civilizations beneath the bustling town. This map will also show where the various types of demon ore is waiting to be mined.

If you have ideas and would like to contribute to Vol.3, use the Submissions form on this site.

These are exciting and dangerous times in the Dark Territories. We hope this little zine prepares you for the journey ahead.

Order your copy now before they’re all gone.

Keep your powder dry,

-Carl Bussler

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What makes a classic adventure?

A few weeks ago I was reviewing my notes on what key elements make a great adventure. There are many, I suppose, that work together to create a whole that someone might define as a classic.

  • Evocative artwork. People judge books (and adventures) by their covers. Your art should reflect the mood without giving too much away.
  • Good organization. Flipping pages is not fun. Flipping tables in taverns is fun.
  • Challenging encounters. Sometimes you have to break a few skulls to make an adventure.
  • Interesting magic items. It’s not just a +1 sword. It’s the heirloom of the Branstanovich noble family, and key to the throne.
  • Locations that fit the theme and story. Does it makes sense that the characters are here? Bait and switch doesn’t work in advertising or adventures.
  • Loathsome villains. Are the players stoked when they take down the bad guy?
  • Choices that matter. Most of the time players are reacting to the dungeon. An adventures in which players make no crucial decisions is a railroad. Players like to feel in control, so give them frequent opportunities to make choices, especially when they know the outcome is life or death, all or nothing. They don’t all have to be good choices. Sometimes choosing between a rock and a hard place is the most memorable moment of the dungeon.

All these things, and more, help create an adventure worth writing, and worth playing.

As I was working on the maps for the adventure The Vault of Pasha Kalthraga (free with a pledge to The Zine Vault), I sketched and re-sketched locations that I hoped weren’t the standard hole in the ground filled with loot. I’ve played dozens of adventures over the years, so I’ve seen just about every sort of dungeon there is. I kept asking, “How do I make this different?”

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A work-in-progress map for The Vault of Pasha Kalthraga

But the locations don’t need to be entirely different. In fact, the familiar dungeons of the past rekindle the delving of our youth. More important, I believe, is that the adventure conveys a sense of “We’re not supposed to be here.” Every step of the journey, every staircase further underground, should remind the players (and their characters) that this place is off-limits, forbidden, and full of the unknown.

Some of this can be accomplished through boxed-text in the adventure, but I think it comes down to the enthusiasm of the person behind the screen. The adventure is just a tool, like a paintbrush, or a piano. The art comes from the person using it.

What are your classic adventures, and why are they on your list?

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The Zine Vault – Our fist Kickstarter

On our first day we reach 42% funding, and we’re excited to offer this useful little item you didn’t know you needed.

The Zine Vault is a custom, high-quality, storage box for roleplaying game and other gaming fan zines. We looked everywhere for an off-the-shelf solution for storing and organizing our zine collections, but found nothing suitable. Our zines were falling off the shelf, scattered about the game room, and were in general disarray. After hearing others face similar problems, we began searching for a company that could produce these to our high standards.

The zine community is thriving and churning out content for a wide variety of games. Zines such as Crawl!, Crawljammer, Crawling Under a Broken Moon, Metals Gods of Ur-Haddad, The Manor, Black Powder / Black Magic, and more. These little works of art deserve a special place on your shelf. They deserve The Zine Vault.

The Zine Vault is made from high-quality, 60 pt chipboard and wrapped in kraft paper. The interior dimensions are 5.75″ x 8.75″ x 1.25″. On average, you’ll fit at least 6 zines in this box, depending on the page count of the zines.

Not only will they store and organize your zine collection, but will serve equally well in transporting your dice, character sheets, small notebooks, pens, and other gaming items to conventions and local game stores. Plus, keep your dice from rolling onto the floor by rolling them into the box lid!

Regardless of what level you pledge, you will have the option of getting your box lids printed with fantasy artwork, or left blank for your own customization. We will release the sketches of the art during the campaign.

This is an example of what the Zine Vault might look like. Artwork not final.
This is an example of what the Zine Vault might look like. Artwork not final.

We are also printing The Zine Vault logo on one spine. This artwork will be universal for all boxes with art.

Example of what the spine may look like.
Example of what the spine may look like.

We’ve tapped the incredible talent of Todd McGowan, an illustrator who’s done the cover and interior artwork for our own successful products; Prayers of the Forgotten, The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad, and Black Powder / Black Magic.

Artwork by Todd McGowan for our previous products
Artwork by Todd McGowan for our previous products

If we exceed our funding goal, any money raised after that can go towards more art choices for the lids. You can mix and match the artwork that will be printed on the lids of the vaults in your pledge. For example, if you pledged for 4 boxes, you could choose 2 fantasy and two blank. Or, you could choose 1 fantasy, 1 sci-fi, 1 six-guns and sorcery, and 1 blank. If you choose blank, the lid AND the spine will not be printed. This applies to all pledge levels that include a box.

This free PDF comes with all pledge levels, and a printed version comes with the highest pledge level at $40. It will be available as an add-on to all other pledge levels.

This adventure is compatible with the world’s oldest role-playing game.

Adventure Summary

An adversary turned ally reveals the secret of unlocking the vault of Pasha Kalthraga, a legendary dragon slayer. The hero is long dead, and his weapons, armor, and fortune wait for a worthy heir to claim them. It seems too good to be true.