This is not a review of Gawain & the Green Knight. This is a review of how it is to receive Gawain and the Green Knight after a delay of many months

Back in October 2019, I backed this project, which was the second version of the campaign, the first having failed for reasons.

And today, after a long delay, it arrived home (also consider that I live in Mexico and this book comes from the other side of the ocean. I took a picture immediatly after I removed the package.

So, I haven’t read this adaptation made by Patrick Stuart, and this is not a review of the book, but just some impressions on it.

First thing, the book is hardcover and has dust-jacket. It’s of a nice size, as you can see here compared to the DMG and Troika.

 

When you remove the dust-jacket, you see a solid book in a beautiful green. I love this color and wish more books were made like that, while most are black or red, blue and white even.

Yes, Gawain and the Green Knight is not a gaming book, it’s a poetry book. Some people didn’t understand that even when it was made very clear. Pead carefully when you back a Kickstarter project, guys. So, a poetry book, and an illustrated poetry book, very well done. The artwork is fantastic! By Daniel Puerta. Just take a look.

Does it have relation to Silent Titans? Yes it does. In the campaign, Patrick mentioned there was a missing page in the final version of Silent Titans, he added that page in the campaign page, and I mentioned it would be nothing to add it to the book. I would not add a cost to the final product or anything, just a few lines of plain text. And guess what?

click for full size

That page, the very last in the book, will be a little awkward to anyone who gets this book without knowing anything about Silent Titans or Patrick Stuart. That’s ok. Awakward is ok.

So, Gawain & the Green Knight is a fantastic work, as a product or book-as-an-object.

 

How to read (and understand) Silent Titans

Originally published on Reddit.

Yes, Patrick Stuart writes great books that require an extra effort from the referee, but it’s always worth it in the end, and perhaps making the books more accessible would go against the real value of the work. Silent Titans is no exception.

If you haven’t tried Silent Titans, allow me to help you a little. First, you must know that the book structure makes sense, the dungeon maps make sense and the writing makes sense.

The maps are abstractions

You don’t need more detailed maps to run the dungeons; all the dungeons are short, they all have 7 rooms and each room has one or two doors. The game is not about complicated labyrinths, it’s about weird things happening in these smalls buildings.

Maps here are more like diagrams roughly portraying the layout of the building and the rooms composing it, with arrows that show you how many doors there are and where they lead to.

“The map is really just a quick reference to remind you of the areas described in the prose, but the prose is the «sole source of truth» rather than the map.” [Source]

Information is where it needs to be

The book mentions a lot of stuff you don’t know nothing about, for instance, in the dungeon called R8-B8, T.A.C.s are mentioned but you don’t know what T.A.C.s are. At the end of the dungeon description, that is, after the last room (easy, there are only 7 rooms), there is a list of monsters, one of these is the T.A.C.

Also, if you have the PDF, have you noticed that some words and phrases are underlined? Those are links! It sends you to the relevant page. Click on T.A.C. and you will be directed to the description of this monster.

There’s structure in the chaos

This book is chaotic, it portraits the chaotic nature of the setting; but there’s a structure you can’t notice until you have read the first 14 chapters. Wait, wait, wait! Don’t be scared! Some chapters are a page long or so. In my mind, the first 13 chapters work as three chapters: introductory information, first dungeon and the sandbox & city description. Each of these three parts are different and don’t follow a structure, because they are about different stuff. But then you get to the 14th chapter, which in my mind is the first section of the fourth chapter, that is, the Titan R8-B8‘s description:

  1. Two pages that explain how to explore this area (a Titan is both a land and a dungeon, it’s a big part of a bigger map). It describes its towns (three towns explained in a single page; you don’t need more details). It includes a description of the roads and paths you find there and where they take you; some of them take you out of R8-B8 into another Titan-Land. These are also underlined, so in a game session, you can go to the relevant page in a click.
  2. One and a half pages overview of the dungeon: there’s the abstract map and a brief summary of each room. Additionally, there’s a comment on encounters and general description of the atmosphere, texture, doors and other features.
  3. Several pages that describe each room in depth. The complete description of the room is in the same page.
  4. The Avatars. That is, the monsters you find in this dungeon.
  5. This structure (points 1 to 4) is repeated for all the Titans-Lands-Dungeons. So, when you familiarize with one, you can find what you need in another.
  6. After this, you find a description of Titan Diamonds and Ego-Machines, which are mentioned before several times. Remember, information is where it needs to be.
  7. After that, there’s a brief discussion about how to continue the adventure, an interview, some tables you might need during the sandbox & city part. There’s also the rules of the game (one page, taken from Into the Odd) and an «I search the body» table. And that’s it.

The first dungeon map doesn’t appear in the main map

You can think the purple tower with a head in the spread overland map is the first dungeon (Dementia Bomb), but it’s not. I wasted a lot of time trying to conflate the first dungeon map with that illustration.

The book is color coded

When you navigate a Titan, the roads table include destinations highlighted in different colors; each color refers to a specific Titan. For example, R8-B8 is pink and Birk is purple. This is a sample navigation table.

And I think that’s all you need to know. It took me a while to understand the book, for two reasons: you have to read several chapters before you get the hang of it, and I don’t have a lot of time to read. Patrick says that you need to read the book before you run the game, and he’s right. You need to understand what is going on so you can do you work properly.

Mouse Box

One mini-game that will make you break your head is “Mouse Box”, in the dungeon/Titan Brom. If you haven’t figured it out, don’t fret! I have you covered here.

The Prismatic Demon and the Pentangle Shield

According to Patrick Stuart crowsourcing campaign for Gawain and the Green Knight, this bit was omitted from Silent Titans:

If the PCs defeat the Prismatic Demon and recover the Pentangle Shield, the following takes place;

The Memory of the Shield

Seeing the Image of Mary on its inside will suddenly trigger a complex memory.

  • This is the Shield of Gawain.
  • Together you defeated Doctor Hog and sent the Titans to sleep.
  • You tricked a False and Cruel Knight into attacking the core of the Titan Birk.
  • This is the body floating in Birk’s final chamber.
  • This allowed Doctor Hog to think Gawain was dead.
  • And that caused him to reveal his final plan, to raise Chronos from the Afon-Mor.
  • The last thing you remember of Gawain was that he sought ‘The Green Chapel’.

For your convenience and use on the table, you can download the lost memory on PDF.

The Maze of Uriel

We have the map and we know each of the rooms/eggs correspond to each of the rookeries; there are 12 rooms but only 7 rookeries, but only 7 rooms have a hole in them. Which room corresponds to each rookery? You can decide that, it won’t change the game at all if you assign this room or that other room.

Extraneous Rules

Sometimes, you are asked to roll will saves with disadvantage; but that mechanic is not from Into the Odd. Is it the same as in 5e (roll two dice, use the worst)? Or you add a penalty (-1, -2)? It doesn’t matter, actually. You can use the Impaired rules from ItO.

A Descent Into the Odd

Into the Odd is one of the best rules-light* OSR systems in the market, and with good reason.

Warning: If you need the manual to give you the precise instructions to determine if the Player Characters can or can not do something, you most likely won’t like Into the Odd. Chris McDowall, its creator, designed the game for the referees to determine what’s possible in their campaign worlds, and how to resolve every unforeseen situation. It’s a game of imagination and problem solving.

A second warning? Well why not!? This is not a review but a commentary on what I like most about this game and its rules-light approach. If up to this day you don’t have idea what Into the Odd is, I can only refer you to these two reviews: [1] [2].

Few and simple rules are a feature, not a flaw. This approach to game design allows the referee to design their own adventures with the necessary freedom to include whatever content they want, either their own or taken from another source. Do you like that RuneQuest Classic Edition adventure where you have to protect a pawnshop from an attack by baboons in alliance with a group of non-human outlaws led by a centaur, but don’t have the time or energy (or interest) to learn the mechanics of the game? Very simple. Convert it! Converting it, even converting it on the fly into playable material for your Into the Odd campaign, is, if not trivial, very easy. Of course you need to familiarize with the original source before you try it.

While Gary Gygax throws a tantrum in his grave every time someone introduces non-AD&D material to his campaign (“[a]dding non-official material puts your game outside the D&D or AD&D game system … [E]xtraneous tinkered material onto the existing D&D or AD&D campaign will quickly bring it to the lower level at best, ruin it at worst.”**), Chris (like most Old-School Renaissance designers) believes that the referee is the only one who can say what is valid in his or her own campaign world. They are right.

This flexibility is what has allowed us to have works like Silent Titans (mini-setting for Into the Odd) and Troika! (a complete game based on Fighting Fantasy), both being works that don’t adhere to the precepts of the well-thinking heads—gamekeepers—who claim authority—albeit false—to say what is valid and what is not valid in the games of others.

This same flexibility is what I have sought to exploit in Goddess of the Crypt, a mini-dungeon that I wrote for Into the Odd which combines Egyptian and Mayan themes (subtle and not so subtle), weird fiction, non-Euclidean geometry and a touch of gonzo oddness.

Using the rules that are included in Into the Odd, it is possible to extrapolate your ideas to create the content you need, or want, and assign ad hoc mechanics to solve the (in-game) conflicts that occur due to the “extraneous material tinkered onto” the game you are playing.

One idea that Into the Odd allowed me to perform better than other systems, was this list of replacement adventurers, useful for those times when you need a new character for a player or want to try a concept different from those included in the book but there’s no time (or energy) to create a new concept.

So, what are you waiting for? If you didn’t abandon this article after the warning, then it would be unfair to not descend into the odd world of this little gem of a game.

*Traditional OSRs, like Labyrinth Lord or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, are not included in my definition of rules-light system even when they’re actually light and easy to learn. In this case, rules-light systems are those that contain their rules in a few pages, have few stats, and minimum bookkeeping.

**Gary could be such an asshole at times.

Magick Is Free

Here you can find and download what I have written.

Adventures

Tools, supplements

  • Here’s some New Weird Magic Spells following the rules in both Vaginas are Magic! and Eldritch Cock.
  • The Magic Laboratory, house rules for creating magic-user labs and research new spells and other magic-related activities.
  • Here’s A Tome of Weird Artifacts, a collection of black metal bands and magick masks and weapons fot your OSR games. It’s free but you can tip me if you want, but please don’t feel you have to. I’m not here for the money, I’m here for blood and souls.
  • ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous Guideline to Character Creation, both a blog entry and a PDF for your convenience.
  • Random Enemies Table. If you need some bandits, city guards, werewolves or squid cultists for your players to kill and rob, this table will help you assigning their main stats and some quirks.
  • Referee Table. This table will allow you to track many elements of the game, specially in a dungeon crawl. Every 3 turns, make a random encounters check; mark a circle each turn; 6 turns make an hour; 8 hours make a watch; lanterns light for 24 turns, candles for 12 and torches for 6. All that is in the table and more.
  • Running (and basically understanding) Silent Titans is not easy task! Here’s how you run the mini-game “Mouse Box”.
  • Another Fool For Your Adventures! A supplement for Into the Odd. This book is a collection of Replacement Adventurers, for those times when a Player Characters dies and you need a quick replacement but don’t have the time to think about a concept.
  • This is how Sneak Attacks works in LotFP.
  • Simple grappling rules. Grappling is a nightmare, but these rules turn the nightmare in a fun tavern brawl. Enjoy throwing peasants against tables and holding a city guard while your friends kick his ass.
  • Bushcraft in the dungeon. Some tables to find food in a dungeon, the effects it has to eat them and the effects food deprivations has on the characters. It includes “The store of the underworlds”, and a spider from Mars.

Fiction

Bestiary

Playlists