The Blue Room (Almost Creepy) Secret Library

Tracts & Tomes | Doors & Windows | Games & Diversions

The (almost creepy) Secret Library is a collection of misfit articles (both on-site and remote), curious scraps of arcana, and sometimes genuinely personal glimpses into my outlook. It's the shelving-space for any items that don't really fit anywhere else - the dusty attic where old ideas are thrown. There are a lot of things hiding here in the stacks; here's what you can find so far:

Tracts & Tomes

Blind Geoffrey's Barberie & Cauterie takes us to the ancient and cobbled streets of the City, the quintessential swords-and-sorcery metropolis explored in the seven volumes of Flying Buffalo's excellent CityBook series of game supplements. Full of odd bits of dry humor and pokes at medical history (both medieval and renaissance), Blind Geoff and company are one of the creations I'm proudest of.

Medieval Demographics Made Easy is an article designed to help fantasy GMs flesh out the population of their game-world by examining the demographics of medieval Europe. How many inns in that village? How many castles in that kingdom? How far to the nearest village? This should help you find out.

Novus Ordo Discordia (or "The Gospel of St. Pesher the Gardener") is my contribution to the body of Discordian religious lore. It's an unfinished manuscript, unearthed from the depths of my 5.25" floppy disks, and placed here for your amusement. If you want to know me really well, there's no page on this site that will give you a better start than this one.

Flickering Lights ("a brief history of silver-screen licensing in RPGs") looks at the spotty but occasionally-glorious history of roleplaying games based on feature films, from Ghostbusters to Ghost Dog.

The Blue Room Guide to Last-Minute Christmas Shopping is one of those pages I was too happy with to delete after the holidays. The basic ideas there hold true for birthdays, too, though, so you might find it useful all year round.

The Major Arcana: Old Meets New is a brief article written to accompany Thomas Scoville's satire, the Silicon Valley Tarot. I edited, developed, and did lots of production work on the Steve Jackson Games edition of the SVT (designed the log and card-backs, wrote the instructional parts of the booklet, etc) and this explanatory piece was placed on the SVT website as a freebie. It was a joy working with Thomas; give the SVT a try! And just remember that as long as the reading helps you sort your thoughts out, you're doing it right.

The Big List of RPG Plots is a very useful tool for Game Masters who are stuck for a campaign story. If you find that your games have been stuck in a rut, or (alternately) if you have players knocking on the door with doritos and drinks and demanding to be entertained, you might find that it jogs a story loose from your noggin. It's also been translated to French, which is groovy.

The Fun:Work Ratio is a brief article than answers the burning question: Should I inflict this new variant on my roleplaying game? Really, it's just a grubby old Usenet post, but the response was positive enough that I put it here for others to enjoy.

Apocryphal Scenes From St. Nobians is a short story by Yours Truly, set in the fantasy world Where Yamara Has To Live . . . Yamara, as long-time gamers will recall, was one of the brightest and funniest things ever to run monthly in Dragon magazine, a cartoon strip about a band of adventurers and their unique experiences with such things as alien costume jewelry, godhood, and the lost innocence in dungeon crawling. The Yamara creators, Barbara Manui and Chris Adams, are pals o' mine Back East, and I wrote this story for their newsletter back in '96. Students of medieval passion-plays might find the style of the one in the story familiar . . .

Five Elements (of Commercial Appeal in RPG Design) is not a theory, not a design guide, not about good games and not (specifically) an expression of my tastes. So what is it, then? You know. Stuff.

RPGs As Beverages is a post I made to a mailing list a while back. It's already gained the patina of the passage of time (especially since I've undergone a renewal of my enjoyment for TSR's AD&D game), but it's still a fun read, in a quick-and-quirky kind of way. The webmaster of The Ebon Tower got a kick out of it, and asked if he could post it, so there it is. You can also read it in Russian at the excellent Rolemancer site!

Doors & Windows

The Blue Room Gamer Registry Form is a ZIP file (13k) containing a PDF "sign up sheet" for building a gamer registery at your local game shop. It's snazzy, tiny, free and very useful. Print out a copy and take it to a shop you like.

The Game Reviews Page serves double-duty. It's a collection of links to reviews I've written, and to reviews others have written about work I've done. A single stack in the Secret Library, with the earthy aroma of opinion. Dig in!

The Temple of HASTUR is my Car Wars page, dedicated to the long-lost AADA chapter of Fredricksburg, Virginia. I founded HASTUR a couple of years before moving here to Texas, where for a time I was the Car Wars line editor and the president of the AADA itself. Anyway, with all that in the past, this is still a really cool collection of our old HASTUR stock designs. Good cars, good times.

Slush was an editorial I wrote for Pyramid magazine, on how to improve your chances of selling an article. In retrospect, it's a pretty amusing little rant, in its way! More to the point, the advice still holds, and if you're looking to write RPG material, this might help.

Creative Choices is another piece for writers - an article I wrote to help celebrate the re-launch of the Antunes-driven (an era that has since come to a second close, alas). The article is about varying the presentation of ideas.

Games & Diversions

5×5: A Game of Logic for Late-Night Dining is a parlor game played with pencil and paper, suitable for allnighters at your local 24-hour diner, truck stop, or greasy spoon of any kind. A sort of mutant hybrid between Hangman and Mastermind, it's a race to deduce the word of your opponent. Sandra and I enjoy it, and I've been playing it with my gaming buddies since High School.

Mastery is a two-player strategy game, a fantasy alternate for Chess or Shogi or Checkers, that I invented to be played by the fictional inhabitants of my fantasy game-world. This page provides the rules, and includes plenty of diagrams to make it easy to learn.

Make Your Own Temphis Runes was the result of my enthusiasm for my Uresia: Grave of Heaven work for Guardians of Order (and the related rune fonts for Cumberland), but it's really a fun little "crafting" article that might be of interest to any prop-loving fantasy GM/Dungeon Master or even serious runestone junkie. Just use the Futhark runes (or Dethek, etc.) instead of Temphis, and voila, you save a bundle over commercial stone-sets and have fun doing it!

Blue Room Talisman Cards is a ZIP file containing two PDFs of new Adventure and Spell cards. They're for 1st or 2nd edition games of Talisman, the Magical Quest Game, published by Games Workshop in the 80's. Some of these cards were first designed when I was still a teenager! Talisman just isn't the same without the Amulet of Vorlax and the Oriental Cathouse; I promise.

The Gamer Purity Test was written as a joke for a mailing list years ago, and resurrected here for the amusement of the assembled Blue Room citizenry. It's not the only Gamer Purity test on the Web, but I think it's fairly unique, in terms of style. Are you pure?

Blue Room . . . Cartoons? will eventually be an archive of my many doodles, from my 1991 cartoon from Dragon magazine to the Little Cartoon Bastards - my stick-figure dudes from All of the Above. If you ever find yourself wondering "Why isn't S. John a cartoonist instead of a game designer?" this page should make everything clear. It's dangerous to let me near a scanner, folks.

Blue Room DOOM is a ZIP file (about 300k) containing a PWAD file for Id Software's action game, DOOM II. This file will change as it develops; eventually it will be a 32-Level "megawad" replacing the entire DOOM II adventure with one created by myself, my wife Sandra, and possibly others. Right now, though, only the first six levels are finished. If you think my RPG stuff is a bit on the warped side, you should see my DOOM stuff! If you want a copy of the latest version, just click here!

A Blank "Icosahedral" Planet Map is a quick-and-dirty game-aid for space-adventure GMs. I quickly hand-drew this blank map form when doing some work on a Star Trek RPG supplement for Last Unicorn Games, and it occurred to me that others might find a printer-ready version of this classic standby to be useful.

Some Assorted Windows Icons round out the scraps hiding in the library tonight. To download a miniature ZIP file containing a handful of icons suited for fans of Pokethulhu, Uresia: The Grave of Heaven, Points in Space, Sparks, and other things I've been involved with over the past couple of years (and a few random others, like a three-dice icon I made to use for Makechar) click here.

. . . With more to come, of course. Thanks for dropping by!

[Uresia: Caravel by S. John Ross]

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