Friday 30 June 2023

[ZINE] Echoes From Fomalhaut #11 and The Well of Frogs (NOW AVAILABLE!)

Echoes From Fomalhaut #11

On Windswept Shores
I am pleased to announce the publication of the eleventh issue of my fanzine, Echoes From Fomalhaut. This is a 64-page zine dedicated to adventures and GM-friendly campaign materials for Advanced old-school rules, with cover art by Vincentas Saladis, and illustrations by Cameron Hawkey, and Graphite Prime.

This particular issue took a year to materialise, and it is therefore on the thicker side. It is also an issue dedicated to the harsh northern lands of the Twelve Kingdoms, following from the setting primer published in issue #09. This time, the zine presents hex-level descriptions from the areas where our campaign has taken place, From Brahalt to Hlute. This area encompasses a larger and a smaller island, ranging from densely populated domains to hinterlands where only gloomy remnants of once-prosperous kingdoms remain standing. As always, this is a setting for your own purposes, and a place where a band of determined aventures can accomplish much.

In addition to the hex-level writeup, the zine provides a description of the Monsters of the Isles, eight creatures commonly encountered in the Twelve Kingdoms, and in any other mist-shrouded land of your choice. Avoid the allure of the comely frost-maidens, contend with the strange thorn warriors, and strike bargains with the cunning tromes, master smiths of evil disposition (or loot their stores of enchanted weapons and armour). Even more generally, tables are provided to generate Curious Local Customs to provide basic ideas for eccentric communities living by strange codes of behaviour, and ruled by eccentric sovereigns. This is something that has seen use in multiple very different campaigns, from exotic sword & sorcery to more standard adventure fantasy.

The issue comes with two scenarios. Elven Grave (levels 5–7, 19 keyed areas) is a small tomb-robbing adventure in a ruined place of beauty, where an elven lord and his hosts were laid to rest. This is an adventure you could put on a treasure map, or just drop anywhere in an ongoing campaign.

Eimir: The Abbey’s Secret (levels 3–6, 18+31 locations) takes us to a coastal abbey where diligent but fanatical monks have built an outpost of Law, dedicated to spreading the light of civilisation to the surrounding lands. The scenario describes the abbey and the unruly community that has grown up around it, as well as a set of underground tunnels where the monks keep treasure and jealously guarded secrets. Whether the characters’ aim is infiltration, theft, rescue or just causing trouble, this is the place. Will they burn the abbey’s great library? One out of three test parties did not, so the odds are present!

The Vigil Guards Eimir's Peace

The Well of Frogs

Go down the Well.
You know you want to.
I am also pleased to announce the publication of The Well of Frogs, a 32-page city and dungeon adventure for 1st to 2nd level characters by Istvan Boldog-Bernad, with cover art by Dorottya Fulop, and illustrations by Ferenc Fabian, Vincentas Saladis, Graphite Prime, the Original Masters, and the Robot Overlords. The module describes a neighbourhood of the crumbling city of Cassidum, its teeming alleyways the haunts of thieves and lowlives. But below the surface lie worse things still, left over from the days of the old empire or repurposed by dangerous eccentrics. Visiting the underground could not be easier: the Well of Frogs, in the middle of the infamous Piazza Dei Rospi, lies in plain sight, and nobody will prevent the brave and very foolish from descending into its maw. This is a module which has killed a respectable amount of player characters in playtest, more at its debut at North Texas RPG Con, and is ready to kill again. It can be used as a one-off, or as a nexus point for an extended campaign.

“Down below, beneath Cassidum’s stinking alleys and crumbling palaces, lie twisting passages and musty chambers with the secrets of the old days, and the subterranean dens of lowlife scum. But now, sordid disappearances haunt the Piazza dei Rospi, while the Literators’ Guild and Barbers’ Guild wage a bloody turf war for the surrounding streets. The key to these mysteries is a richly carved marble well decorated with the carvings of four ugly bullfrogs, whose depths hide things worse still. Some who descend shall win riches and battle-glory, while others will only find horrid death… down in The Well of Frogs!”

* * *

The print versions of the fanzine and the module are available from my Bigcartel store; the PDF edition will be published through DriveThruRPG with a few months’ delay. As always, customers who buy the print edition will receive the PDF version free of charge.

The forgs are waiting


  1. Sounds like a great issue. What realm is Cassidum in?

    1. Cassidum is one of the great port cities of the disintgrating Kassadian empire, now a fraction of its former size and glory. Basically a post-Roman collapse metropolis.

  2. When running hexcrawl sessions, do you find that a short, general description of about one paragraph enough for you to base encounters around? Do you usually write down freshly-improvised details for later use? I can imagine combining shot vague hex descriptions with a more structured exploration procedure to come up with action on-the-spot, although my mind would inevitably race to weave everything into a more satisfying narrative (i.e. NPC's should reappear later, factions should tie into some previously established meta-plot, etc.).
    Also, do you ever find yourself improvising dungeons and then expand upon them between sessions?

    1. I find it fairly easy to expand on short entries that have a good "catch", and spin them into an extended encounter or even a full adventure. This is one of the reasons I was drawn to the Wilderlands and hex-crawlingin the first place. It complements my GMing style. If I have a good idea about where the players are going and what they are trying to accomplish, I prepare something. But if something entirely new comes up or they go off course, it fun to improvise and see where it takes us. As long as you are two steps ahead of your players, it should work. Not everything has to make perfect coherent sense at once, but it is not that hard to tie things back to the campaign's baseline, and resolve oddities to establish a decent level of internal consistency. You got that exactly right.

      Improvisation can also connect well with more deliberate design. For example, Terror on Tridentfish Island and even the top level of The Tomb of Ali Shulwar were the products of improvisation. For Tridentfish Island, I had a hook and a one-paragraph hex entry but very little detail, and none of the dungeon on the island. In the latter case, the dungeon came into being when the characters, fleeing pursuing guards, sought refuge in a locked-up store, and I decided it woud be cool if there was a mysterious stairway leading downwards. The lower levels were added afterwards, once the characters plundered Ali Shulwar's tomb and decided they would be returning later. The Garden of Sanghé was only added as an alternate entrance in a subsequent campaign. In the case of The Gallery of Rising Tombs, the Caravanserai of Hisam Singh was improvised, but the characters didn't pursue underworld exploration there (I think they didn't even look for a secret entrance), so all the rest came up in the second campaign. I had a really vague idea about what would be there if the characters did look, and if it came into play, it would have been enough to riff off on.

      I find that for the trick to work, what I really need is one or two strong ideas, or a mental image that can be worked with. For Tridentfish Island, I tried to think of the worst tourist experiences I have had, and turn those into an adventure. The Wilderlands hex entries are a great source of these strong ideas. Not all of them; for example, the OG Wilderlands only lists citadels as a row of stats, and that's not really helpful on its own. But there is a lot of poetic detail in the entries for islands and ruins, and even some interesting juxtapositions in the barebones village writeups - "they are a bunch of orcs with a low technology level, ruled by a 6th-level Magic-User, and their main resource is tin". You can work with that.

      In the hex-crawl stuff I publish, I try to focus on the specific; for example (from this issue):
      "0712 TIRBULEN: Village of farmers and fishermen next to the ferry. Multiple family crypts stand here, built by those residents of Poicette who did not follow the Unknown Way, and, as the ballads say, have thus been struck by an eternal curse. The people of the village regularly make pilgrimage to the mausoleums while wailing and carrying gifts, beseeching the inhabitants to please depart their land."

  3. I just re-read Echoes #09, and am now sitting with the zine maps open while going over the hex descriptions Echoes #11. Inspiring stuff! Anyone reading this - go read Jack Vance's Lyonesse, the audiobooks are excellent.