Summer Gygax 75 Challenge: WEEK 1

Recently several of us in the NSR Discord community started working through the Ray Otus’s very cool zine, The Gygax 75 Challenge. The challenge is based on an old article by Gary Gygax about how to create a setting and get it ready for actual play with your home group in roughly 5 steps.

This thread is for posting notebook photos and links to markdown, etc., documenting Week 1: The Concept phase. Our little informal accountability group started the process on Wednesday, June 1st, 2022, so this thread covers progress from roughly June 1 - June 8.

If you haven’t started yet, no need to worry – some of us started a little earlier, some a little later than others. The important part is to keep a steady pace without burning out or losing your initial spark of creativity!

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This is me, just to help things get started!

JE_Abernathy_Week_1.1

JE_Abernathy_Week_1.2

I’ve already received some feedback on my Week 1, and the main part I agree with is that it looks a little too tidy :-D. Going forward, I’m going to embrace *imperfection a little more and do more handwritten notes and doodles.

Looking forward to seeing everyone’s progress!!

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Into the Yellow Planet

Week 1:

  • [x] Get a Notebook
  • Using Obsidian for this one just to be expedient. But also because I am still learning Obsidian and the practice will do me good.

Pitch Points

  • [x] Create 4-7 Pitch Points
  1. Into the Yellow Planet. A strange yellow star appeared in the sky some months ago and grew in size at an alarming rate. It is a rogue planet hurtling through space; who knows how close it will come or what strange effects it might cause. (Motivations: scientific curiosity, treasure hunting, fleeing the law or debt or …, get famous, save the world, publish a great story, look for ‘God’)
  2. A Marvelous Invention. Professor Nittsworth has unearthed a gravity-repelling barge the size of a factory and plans to launch himself toward the rogue planet. Was the ship a device of the ancients or left behind by Starmen? He has gathered chemical lanterns, nutrition bricks (Rumgren’s Redcakes), oxygen generators, and other wondrous supplies. Will you go with him? (Low, High Tech: No real electricity, absolutely no circuits/chips.)
  3. A Strange New World. Explore the yellow planet and its bizarre flora and fauna. Avoid the ire of Star Cultist saboteurs. Discover precious gems or resources and get rich. Make a name for yourself as the first human to step foot on another planet. Just be sure you make it back or it will all be for naught. Oh, and … don’t touch that! (Alien world sandbox. You know nothing!)
  4. Protect the Ship! The barge is your home away from home, and it is your only link back to Earth. If something should happen to it or the resources you keep within it, it could mean a quick death or being stranded forever. (Spaceship as town.)

Sources of Inspiration

  • [x] Sources of Inspiration
  1. Into the Odd (RPG, 2014?) by Chris McDowell. This is both the rules set I will use and a source of inspiration. It is a pre-electric (?) industrial setting akin to a Victorian England but with more strangeness. Call it a post-apocalyptic 1900 England, as if time has kind of traveled in a circle.
  2. First Men in the Moon (book, 1901) (and others) by HG Wells. First Men was a surprisingly decent if somewhat unfocused story told from two viewpoints and featuring “normal,” flawed humans making a voyage to the Moon. There they continually face logistical problems as they encounter the wonders of the moon’s strange ecology.
  3. Angry Red Planet (movie, 1959). Post-war (WWII) scientists go to Mars. Everything is red and weird and dangerous. Cool visuals including a giant spider-like bat (or bat-like spider?). NTS - make players wear colored lenses when outside the ship!!
  4. The Invincible (book, 1964) (also Eden, Solaris, The Cyberiad) by Stanislaw Lem. Amazing first-hand experiences of totally alien worlds (and also a book about two robots who make other robots). Sometimes not great as “stories” but always really inventive and fascinating.
  5. Last and First Men (book, 1930) by Olaf Stapledon. A work of unprecedented scale that describes the history of humanity from the present onwards across two billion years and eighteen distinct human species, of which our own is the first. See also planetary discovery voyages like Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis and Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation by Edwin Lester Arnold. Also, look at this cool trailer for an upcoming movie version of Last and First Men: Last and First Men - Official Teaser Trailer | IMDb
  6. Dr. Who (TV) the early B&W stuff. Bizarre traps and aliens. A feeling of wonder.
  7. Space 1999 (TV) Totally off-the-mark from a tech standpoint, but damn if this show didn’t have some crazy episodes!

Mood Board

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Regolith

Using a google doc for mine, since I have dysgraphia which prevents me from writing physically for long periods.

Pitch Points

  1. The world is ending. Not immediately, but it is well known that this will most likely be the last generation of humanity. EVERYONE has a different theory. Some are in denial, others think they can save it. While everyone knows that the world is ending, no one can exactly say how.
  2. We weren’t alone. The Reptilians once walked through Regolith, and enslaved the humans. However, one day, they disappeared. While human society is now largely built upon the Reptilians’ abandoned cities, only scholars and historians know of their former existence.
  3. The world is rotting. Since the Reptilians left, the world has started to form into a husk of its former self, and is now mostly barren wastes. All but the deepest underground jungles are devoid of abundant life.
  4. We are divided. To exercise control over humans, the Reptilians separated humans into castes based on their magical capabilities, and carefully selectively bred humans to only have magic. However, with humans now having free will, the castes have become muddled and magic is rarer. While some noble families still practice a form of selective breeding to maintain their power, most humans believe that it’s up to chance which one you are solely able to use. The types of magic are as follows:
    1. Arcane magic comes from a largely successful experiment in which the Reptilians placed bio-engineered nanobots into the humans’ blood to give them magical powers. While it overtook any other magical capabilities of the human, it allowed them to practice a new form of magic, one which takes energy instead of another form of expenditure.
    2. Psionic magic stems from the ability of Psionics to take apart objects to their base forms in their mind. While Psionics typically make good craftsman or alchemists due to this, those who focus on the more magical side can find themselves combining the base forms of objects with their OWN base forms to create powerful effects.
    3. Divine magic is the least innate of the magics, as it comes from other creatures/figures. However, those gifted in Divine magic can tap into a connection between them and the creature, creating a temporary bond in which the magician can act as its disciple and utilize its powers.
  5. The world is an egg. The Reptilians are galactic shepherds. Their livestock? Abeyants. Abeyants come in myriad forms, but most importantly are planted into a planet while they feed on the planet’s energy to become giant cosmic pseudo-gods.
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Hey y’all. CapKudzu invited some of us from the Beggar’s Gate discord to share our Gygax 75 Challenge stuff.

The Pitch:
• Magic is rare and dangerous with lasting consequences for the caster
• Monsters come out primarily at night and were created by the civilizations that came before
• Players are regular people caught up in something beyond their control
• The world has been through several highly advanced civilizations that fell to ruin
• Technology and magic are intertwined
• Cults seek the return of the old world

Inspirations and Sources:
• Warhammer Fantasy by Games Workshop. Specifically as presented in the RPG. Players are basically regular people and magic will definitely mess you up if it goes awry.
• Numenera by Monte Cook. The idea that several civilisations have risen and fallen. Also the specific blend of science fiction and fantasy.
• Acid Death Fantasy by Luke Gearing. Just the general aesthetic of a desert wasteland with all kinds of weird creatures.
• Wasteland/Fallout by Interplay. Specifically the Brotherhood of Steel and Guardians of the Old Order as presented as xenophobic tech cults inspired my cults of the ancients.
• Leviathan by Scott Westerfield. The weird chimeric monsters in this series inspired some of my ideas for things the prior civilizations might’ve developed.

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Welcome Heretic! I look forward to learning more about the setting. Like why the old civ created monsters and why the cultists want to go back to a monster-infested world (if that’s what they want). It feels to me like there might some key or mystery there surrounding control of the monsters. Anyway, good start!

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Thanks Ray! The basic idea I have right now is that the prior civilizations created these creatures for labor, hunting, and agriculture primarily but over the intervening hundreds or thousands of years some of them have malfunctioned. The tech-cults basically see the ancients as creator gods and want to claim that power for themselves/see the monsters as being “children of the gods” was kind of the direction my mind was going.

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Gygax75 Challenge Week 1

Checklist

  • [x] Get a notebook
  • [ ] Develop your pitch
  • [x] Gather sources of Inspiration
  • [x] Assemble Mood Board https://pin.it/17LlhG8

[[gygax75-screen.pdf]]

Pitch

  1. [ ] - There are awesome horrors in the deepest places of the earth
  2. [ ] - A high-magic society caused a cataclysm that wiped out civilization on a continent for centuries
  3. [ ] - The remnants of the cataclysm are like nuclear radiation; it is a power source and a mutagen
  4. [ ] - The last few decades have seen the first successful expeditions to the destroyed continent as the residual magics decay
  5. [ ] - The driving force behind the expeditions have been Occult “scientific researchers”

Pitch Ideas/Brainstorm

  • Old gods still live slumbering in the deep forgotten places
  • There are horrors beyond comprehension in the old places. Lovecraftian vibes bb!!
  • Power seeking individuals seek out this old gods & their relics
  • Magic is very strange & corrupting (dark occult?)
  • [[Reverse Magical Big Bang]] created nuclear radiation style mutation. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.S. vibes
  • [[Reverse Magical Big Bang]] was ~500 years ago, wiped out all civilization on a continent
  • Now there is nuclear radiation style mutations of the local flora/fauna as the wilderness reclaims the corpse of humanities past
  • Surrounding continents civilizations have recovered to the point that the [[Hollowed Lands]] are being repopulated?
  • ~500 years was the half-life of some lethal magical energy, and now the edges of the [[Hollowed Lands]]
  • The [[Romans analogue]] were the last of multiple cycles of Civilization>Cataclysm>Rebuilding
  • There must be something powerful deep & dark that everyone unlocks and eventually implodes
  • Is there a giant Sahara Desert “waste” that encircles the continent?
  • F it there is a Dark Sun circle around this place now
  • Frontier towns build up to fuel expanding “scientific research expeditions”, but lead by the Occult
  • [[Reverse Magical Big Bang]]? Magic was so widely used that it “precipitated out of solution” causing a nuclear particle flash
  • This precipitate is one source of the buried magical power sources, a la Uranium deposits. [[Astel from Crust]]?
  • *“A Bone-witch collects the opalescent milk of Magical precipitate” -idk dude go with it
  • *Is the adventure involving a Mad Scientist/Occult Wizard? Probz

Inspiration

  • Planet Earth “Caves” episode
  • “Earth After People” on History
  • History YouTube channels post-Roman British history documentaries
  • Pans Labyrinth
  • Dark City
  • Alien
  • HR Giger
  • Nuclear disasters

Vibes

f6245808-17a0-49cc-869d-67c07fc09167 - Deep Old Ones in a subterranean ecosystem.png
f70ba49a-8fd5-4bc1-b102-36a9bf7485ef_DuvelmanDice_blind_alien_subterranean_ecology_watercolor
d11cd176-1e34-4a3e-8935-9ae8f78ef51e_DuvelmanDice_httpss.mj.runn6t8VL__subterranean_organism
f0f0f602-86a6-42c2-8d4c-a277aae9edf0_DuvelmanDice_httpss.mj.runBFOU4J__old_gods_still_live_slumbering_Im_the_deep_forgotten_places-1

Output

[[:memo:Gygax75 - Week 1 - The Pitch 6-5-22.pdf]]

Tags

#gygax75 #ttrpg #gamedev

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Excited to hop back on this challenge! I first did Gygax '75 about last month as a five day challenge to get an idea I’ve had for a Cairn adventure out of my head. (For extra encouragement, I scheduled the first in-person session of a TTRPG I’ve had since 2020 for “day 7” of the challenge, before I had even begun). I had the ability to work on it full time, but it was still a lot to get through the dungeon and town portions in a single day. I’m excited to see how the challenge differs when done “properly”.

I’m using this challenge primarily as a way to test out the adventure generation/GM prep tools in my upcoming game The Door Locks Behind You. Like last time, there will be some bits that are just not relevant for what I need, and I’m not really prepping a campaign setting as much as I’m outlining an adventure module.

Step 1: Get/create a notebook
This part was very easy, I already do all of my dev work in a notebook! I use a bullet journal for pretty much everything now, so I just started a new collection titled “NSR server June Gygax '75 Challenge” (real original title, I know). I’ve already picked out a color palette for the pens that I use in this journal, as it only contains dev work for TDLBY.

Step 2: Develop your pitch
Already going off script here - this was more brainstorming for me than it was a player-facing pitch, so I left a lot of information out that I already know about the greater world/campaign setting. I’ll add that back in for this write-up here.

  • 500 years ago The Great Evil was sealed by the Goddesses in the Divine Realm. This broke the link between the people and their Goddesses, and cut off the flow of magic. Removed of their greatest tool and weapon, the people found a relative peace for the next few centuries.
    Recently, an occult sorcerer known as The Tyrant has released the Great Evil, fusing it with his own form, and raised a monstrous army. He overthrew the High King and corrupted the spiritual sites of the various peoples of the land. Now his monsters roam freely, terrorizing any they come in contact with.

  • The PCs are each Champions of their people, brought forth to fight the Tyrant as told in the old myths. They must free the ancestor spirits of each of the great tribes from their corrupted temples in order to seal away the Tyrant for good.

  • To the southeast lies the Five Brothers, an ancient somma volcano with five new cones growing out of it. Native to this region are the Rock Folk, a proud tribe of stout rock creatures who live in and around the active volcanoes. Living on and around the rim of the caldera are the Mountain Folk (kin to the High Kingdom’s people) who are the distant descendants of an ancient warrior tribe. This warrior tribe was once rival of the High Kingdom, but eventually destroyed itself in bloody civil war; now it’s ruins lay abandoned, thought to be cursed or haunted. The Rock Folk consider the Mountain Folk to be clan brothers, but are distrusting of outsiders. PCs are outsiders to this region, with the exception of one PC who is either Rock Folk or Mountain Folk.

  • The Tyrant’s corruption is causing terrible storms and lighting, as well as worrying earthquakes. Many fear that it will awaken one of the Five Brothers, but they don’t know which one. Overland travel in this region is difficult in good conditions, and the time of year the PCs choose to tackle this temple will have great impact on their obstacles.

Inspirational Sources

  • The Legend of Zelda video game series by Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, et al. Particularly Snowhead and Ikana Valley regions in Majora’s Mask, Eldin and Akkala regions in Breath of the Wild, and Death Mountain region in Ocarina of Time. Rock Folk are obviously a stand-in for Gorons. Referencing the various fire and snow dungeons throughout the series as well, but paying particular attention to the three games listed.

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time manga by Akira Himekawa. The first series that Himekawa drew is the most “stock Zelda” of all their manga. The story is good reference, but the art in particular is what I’m here for. Also referencing the art in The Legend of the Hero by Kari Fry, and Hyrule Historia and Breath of the Wild: Creating a Champion from Dark Horse Publishing.

  • The Perilous Wilds by Jason Lutes. I’ll be using the prompts in The Door Locks Behind You primarily, but as that is still a work in progress if I need to fill in the gaps I’ll be reaching for this trusty tome.

  • The geography of Mt. Aso, Japan. The Five Brothers are based on an actual volcano in Japan that has shown up in games before (it’s the inspiration for Mt. Chimney in Hoenn region). I’ll be avoiding any actual cultural references to the Shinto religion, focusing instead on the geography of the area, and trying to source a good topographical map for the overworld. That said I am trying to make a Zelda-inspired adventure, so some semblance to Shinto might show through using the same cultural touchstones.

Extra Credit
I posted about this in the thread on the NSR discord, but I don’t find moodboards particularly useful or worth the effort of assembling. I like to work off of screens, so keeping a social media platform open on the side is distracting, and printing out a bunch of pictures seems wasteful. Part of my inspirational sources includes a number of artbooks that already fill this role. So for the rest of week 1 I’ll be working on a Spark Table to use in the rest of the challenge.

Bonus
Here’s an actual candid photo of my messy battlestation setup while I work. I usually listen to GameChops on YouTube when I work and they just published a lo-fi Ocarina of Time album.
battlestation

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pitch
Sources

Mood Board

Playlist Spotify

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My sources

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Awesome to see some love for Last and First Men! What an insane book. I need to re-read it…Starmaker is possibly even more mindbending.

I’ve actually quietly did Gygax75 last month in a non-public capacity without telling anyone! So I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to contribute to this one, but I’m excited to see what everyone comes up with.

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Maybe share your work from last month as if you are doing it now? Like, show week 1 now. Week 2 next Wednesday, and so on. I LOVE to see process.

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This is straight up wild. Love it.

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I think sharing last month is totally cool!

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Haven’t gotten around to giving the Cauldron a try before, but I’ll gladly use this little challenge to give it a go.

Here’s my spread for influences and the original pitch:

IMG_20220603_160032819

The nice thing about this excerise is that it makes you think a lot about the other stuff I might want in there.

For example, the solar punk angle makes me think of self sufficiency, so I am wondering how the town can get certain resources, like iron, in sustainable ways with a fantasy/weird world angle (for example, trees that shed iron ore bark flakes as long as the soil is iron rich, requiring folks to regularly find a way to put iron back in the ground)

The moodboard ended up being very inspirational as well, as I found this cool artist who’s vibe I think matches what I had in mind for the crypts beneath the surface. So now the content of that art is informing my ideas about what to put in the world.

I’ll try and take a stab at week 2 today :smiley:

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Looks awesome. Very cool to have you along for the journey!