TSR The Cult of Abaddon - Release from NuTSR/TheEvilDM

Voadam

Legend
Also, the back cover contains the text "The cult is attempting to harness the souls of these deaths to summon Abaddon the Demon from his dark prison deep in the depths of the Underdark." I am pretty sure Underdark is one of names that is not free for use under the OGL. The back cover is the only place it shows up in the adventure, so I'm guessing this was supposed to be scrubbed but got missed. Could be a costly mistake.

Yeah, that's a disallowed word.
Is this an OSR or a 5e product?

The 5e SRD declares underdark to be PI, so if you use the 5e SRD as OGL in a product you cannot use that PI term in that product without permission.

If you use a different SRD, such as the 3.0 or 3.5 ones which do not include Underdark as a PI term, and do not use the 5e SRD, you would not be prohibited from using such a term.

Most OSR products do not use the 5e SRD.
 

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Yeah, that's a disallowed word. Does the module even have a copy of the OGL at the back? Cuz it's supposed to.
Is this an OSR or a 5e product?

No reference to any OGL, but I get the impression that's on purpose. They make a big deal about it being "for use with any OSR game", basically trying to claim it's not specific to D&D or any particular system. I am under the impression they think they're being sneaky/generic enough to not need it. This also plays into their anti-WotC stance; they don't want to acknowledge WotC's claim to D&D, so they won't honor WotC by playing within the OGL.

This kind of "made to be compatible with a game system without actually being that game system" is a silly meta-game I haven't seen played in a long time. Ironically, I associate it with people trying to avoid getting a C&D from the original TSR. IMNSHO its easier for most publishers to use the OGL than to intentionally walk around it.
 


adamantyr

Adventurer
No reference to any OGL, but I get the impression that's on purpose. They make a big deal about it being "for use with any OSR game", basically trying to claim it's not specific to D&D or any particular system. I am under the impression they think they're being sneaky/generic enough to not need it. This also plays into their anti-WotC stance; they don't want to acknowledge WotC's claim to D&D, so they won't honor WotC by playing within the OGL.

This kind of "made to be compatible with a game system without actually being that game system" is a silly meta-game I haven't seen played in a long time. Ironically, I associate it with people trying to avoid getting a C&D from the original TSR. IMNSHO its easier for most publishers to use the OGL than to intentionally walk around it.

Would that not be grand in court... "Declaratory denied. Rule in favor of defendant. But if you sign this public document acknowledging that Dungeons & Dragons, the TSR trademarks and copyrights, Star Frontiers, and any other materials are the property of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast and may only be used with their permission, they will defer on you compensating their legal fees."

Justin's head would explode. :D
 

My experience in those extreme cases, where the editor actually goes though and effectively rewrites everything because it's terrible, is that the original author does not take it particularly well and actually gets enraged at the editor.
Reminds me of the cloud over Graeme Barber's 'Candlekeep Mysteries' adventure.
 

Is the adventure even runnable in its current state?
I'm disinclined to pay even $9 for this train wreck to see for myself, but I am curious about the actual adventure itself.
...
I'm curious if it's sandbox, narrative, if it tries to introduce any unique monsters, if the dungeons look original or did they rip off Dyson's Delves...

I'm doing my part to make sure you don't have to spend the $9. :) While I think that it's odd Vince Florio would publish something like this knowing how bad it is (he is a former Ennie winner), I think he realizes that there's going to be at least a few people like me who will buy it out of sheer curiosity/masochism. By getting his PDF out before NuTSR, he's going to snag most of those sales for himself.

As for the adventure itself, it's very, very basic. Keep in mind that it's for level 1-2, and not game specific. It's 24 pages, but only about 15 of that is real content (including maps and art). It's got custom maps of two towns and a three-room dungeon. About 10 named locations in each town with a paragraph of expansion on each, a few NPCs, and a couple of side-adventure hooks. Neither a railroad nor a sandbox, but closer to the former. Overall, the module is written to assume the GM knows a lot of standard TTRPG mechanics (like HP and AC) without explanation, but also goes into super basic explanations of what a GM does. "As the GM you control the game, you steer the pathway the players will venture on, and you are the monsters and townsfolk. You have a lot of power in the game, and it is suggested you use this power fairly." You don't say? It's a bizarre dichotomy.

There are no unique monsters or encounters. Almost everyone is human or dwarf with passing references to elves, orcs, goblins, and kobolds. The only real unique thing at all is the Curse, which is spelled out in detail. Very sparse details to other things. For example, one side quest is "Pc’s investigate to nd out what happened to [murdered NPC]. If they can, they will report back to [other NPC] for a reward." [Sic] That's it. No details about how to investigate, no details on what really happened, no details on the reward.

Personally, I don't think it's worth running. But I'm not a fair judge. First, I'm not the biggest OSR fan, and I suspect a couple of my complaints might be with that style. For example, the curse explicitly affects the PCs differently than NPCs; I don't like it, but it's in line with genuine early D&D adventures I've seen. Second, I can't imaging actually using a non-specific adventure at 1st level. IMX, those levels are used to have players get used to their abilities and game mechanics, so there's no point in using such a generic adventure. YMMV.

There are multiple references to this being the starting point of a bigger adventure path planned by Vincent (inside and outside the module). The adventure goes as far as outright stating that the Curse powers a crystal that the PCs cannot find; it's left to future modules. I could see it potentially getting interesting as part of a larger story, but it has a long way to go.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
This kind of "made to be compatible with a game system without actually being that game system" is a silly meta-game I haven't seen played in a long time. Ironically, I associate it with people trying to avoid getting a C&D from the original TSR. IMNSHO its easier for most publishers to use the OGL than to intentionally walk around it.
yes. This exact dance of trying to declare compatibility with D&D without mentioning D&D to avoid a TSR legal team coming to beat down your door is exactly the kind of dancing that the OGL and the d20 license ended back in the day.

Amusingly If they aren't actually using the OGL then the I don't think the word is forbidden. The OGL is a license that works both ways - Wizards agrees to let you use the D&D rules, and in exchange you agree to not use selected terms that they consider unique identity that they want to preserve for themselves. If you go off and try to do the old fashioned lawyer avoidance dance, then you haven't agreed to anything and are setting up some kind of claim that game rules can't be copyrighted, only expressions of game rules, so your usage is perfectly cromulent.

(I also don't think it's necessary ironic - it may be that they're trying to bait Wizards into suing them over this because it is a move that would actually generate some sympathy from various quarters. I'm not saying they are, but it wouldn't surprise me.)
 

adamantyr

Adventurer
Thanks for more details!

At first I was like "Three room dungeon? WTF?!" but I remembered the level range... Although to my mind, any OSR game should have at least a modest-sized dungeon with the understanding that multiple trips may be needed.

Two separate towns? That seems very strange, since the whole plot is supposed to focus on one. The extensive over-detailing of the town, it's inhabitants, and whatnot is a sign of some older OSR modules, the golden idol of those being "L1: The Secret of Bone Hill".

A nice comparison could be made to an old Dungeon magazine adventure, in issue #23: "The Pyramid of Jenkel". It has a town, a secret demonic cult, and a nice dungeon. Granted for levels 8-10, but I would readily say it's far better written and designed.

@DLIMedia mentioned the bizarre attempt to re-write falling damage (I mean... why? Seriously?). And then those weird "I have to instruct you how to run an RPG" bits, while the rest of the module is "We trust you know what you're doing". I wonder if Ernie is responsible for the former?
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
yes. This exact dance of trying to declare compatibility with D&D without mentioning D&D to avoid a TSR legal team coming to beat down your door is exactly the kind of dancing that the OGL and the d20 license ended back in the day.

Amusingly If they aren't actually using the OGL then the I don't think the word is forbidden. The OGL is a license that works both ways - Wizards agrees to let you use the D&D rules, and in exchange you agree to not use selected terms that they consider unique identity that they want to preserve for themselves. If you go off and try to do the old fashioned lawyer avoidance dance, then you haven't agreed to anything and are setting up some kind of claim that game rules can't be copyrighted, only expressions of game rules, so your usage is perfectly cromulent.

(I also don't think it's necessary ironic - it may be that they're trying to bait Wizards into suing them over this because it is a move that would actually generate some sympathy from various quarters. I'm not saying they are, but it wouldn't surprise me.)
To be honest, I don't think it matters if they use the OGL or not. Underdark is a very specific term protected as IP. To make reference to it in the exact same context that WoTC does in their official products doesn't look good for you. I imagine it would be like creating a game and referencing Middle Earth in the exact same context the Tolkien books do.
 

adamantyr

Adventurer
To be honest, I don't think it matters if they use the OGL or not. Underdark is a very specific term protected as IP. To make reference to it in the exact same context that WoTC does in their official products doesn't look good for you. I imagine it would be like creating a game and referencing Middle Earth in the exact same context the Tolkien books do.
It's pretty pathetic. WotC has never served C&D's like TSR did of old. "You can't use the term Hit Points! We'll sue!"

Honestly, the antics of LaNasa and nuTSR remind me of the film "The Road to Wellville", where one of the characters is trying to replicate Kellogg's corn flakes and eventually just ends up stealing the product and putting in their own boxes. That level of blatant buffoonery at work. (The film, btw, is not that great.)
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
It's pretty pathetic. WotC has never served C&D's like TSR did of old. "You can't use the term Hit Points! We'll sue!"

Honestly, the antics of LaNasa and nuTSR remind me of the film "The Road to Wellville", where one of the characters is trying to replicate Kellogg's corn flakes and eventually just ends up stealing the product and putting in their own boxes. That level of blatant buffoonery at work. (The film, btw, is not that great.)
Definitely the weirdest performance of Anthony Hopkins' career, to be sure
 



Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Would that not be grand in court... "Declaratory denied. Rule in favor of defendant. But if you sign this public document acknowledging that Dungeons & Dragons, the TSR trademarks and copyrights, Star Frontiers, and any other materials are the property of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast and may only be used with their permission, they will defer on you compensating their legal fees."
Addendum: "The defendant has also requested a video clip of you reading aloud and agreeing to said acknowledgment for them to share on social media."
 

adamantyr

Adventurer
Addendum: "The defendant has also requested a video clip of you reading aloud and agreeing to said acknowledgment for them to share on social media."
Hah! I'd love to see that. It won't happen. LaNasa is likely to change his name and flee the country and leave Ernie to take all the fallout.
 

DLIMedia

Hero
Donald Semora of Wizard Tower Games has clarified their involvement...

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So I have to ask the question... Say you're a layout person, and someone asks you to layout their document for publication. The document they hand you is an editorial train smash that makes you question life itself. Do you push back, strongly suggesting "hey, maybe you should get someone who isn't insane proofread this", or do you just say "f$%# it" and do the layout anyway without any regards of what it actually is you're laying out?
 

So I have to ask the question... Say you're a layout person, and someone asks you to layout their document for publication. The document they hand you is an editorial train smash that makes you question life itself. Do you push back, strongly suggesting "hey, maybe you should get someone who isn't insane proofread this", or do you just say "f$%# it" and do the layout anyway without any regards of what it actually is you're laying out?

As a layout guy, I just do the job and push the product out. There are jobs where you're not supposed to pay attention to the content, just make it look pretty.

Of course, Don knows enough that he should be more than just a layout guy. But I can also imagine hitting a point with a business partner like NuTSR where you just stop caring and forge ahead.
 


Dioltach

Legend
As a professional editor for the past 25 years: what the client wants you to do varies. Some only want the very minimum ("spelling and grammar"), and get snippy if you change too much. Others say, "Work your magic" and want you make the text as good as possible - from spelling, grammar, punctuation and style up to and including changing paragraph order, fact-checking and querying anything that's unclear.

Of course, editors usually charge by the hour, and where I live that can be EUR 125/hour or more. So the more work you expect your editor to do, the bigger the bill will be at the end.
 


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