OSR: DIY D&D, the Veinscrawl, and You

The core of DIY D&D is simple. If you want something to exist, and it doesn't exist, go make it.

If you want to explore a moon-castle full of chalk elves and cheese oozes, write it.
If you want to use a class that uses weaponized toads, write it.
If you want to fix a currency system, improve gameplay, adjust a creature, or anything else, write it.

Look around first and ask questions - there's lots of content out there - but if you can't find what you want, don't wait for some "official" supplement to cater to your needs. There is no universal stamp of approval in the community. All content is homebrewed content. 

My Process

I like solving problems.

I saw people asking, "Is there a good starter dungeon for OSR games?" or "What should I use for this new group to introduce these ideas?" or "What's a good level 1 OSR adventure for new players?" I had these questions too. I also couldn't find a satisfactory answer, so I wrote Tomb of the Serpent Kings.

I saw people asking, "Are there any good heist modules?" or "is there a dungeon that relies on politics and stealth instead of combat?" or "What are the elements of a good heist?" or "How do I avoid a boring heist-planning session?". I had these questions too. I also couldn't find a satisfactory answer, so I wrote Kidnap the Archpriest.

I loved Veins of the Earth. I saw people saying "Is Veins of the Earth a campaign?" or "How do I put these parts together?" or "Veins doesn't contain very much information on races or settlements".

I had these questions too. I wanted to use Veins of the Earth, but on its own I didn't have enough information. Additional official content wasn't likely. The entire thing lacked context and connection. It felt like a pile of loose pieces.

Sure, I could improvise, but I could also write things down and save myself the trouble. The heap of campaign notes, ideas, tables, and blogposts eventually became the Veinscrawl. The Veinscrawl isn't a module. It's a mod. VotE is the core engine, like Doom, KSP, Minecraft, Skyrim, ARMA.

Yes, I asked for permission before posting this publicly.

Apparently I should not have done that.

I don't take myself terribly seriously, but I feel like this is serious.

Veins of the Earth pg. 356

How To Use This Book
Think of it as a rugged machine. The book contains many parts. Not one part of it is essential for its use. No-one could read, memorise and use all of the rules and ideas inside in one go.

Instead, take whatever you find most interesting and use that.

If you wish to use more then bring it in whenever.

Well I did. I spent ~5 months writing content, playtesting it, borrowing ideas from Peter Webb and others, working with David Shugars to edit it into a beautiful PDF, working with Lungfungus to get some art, and then I put it up for free because other people seemed to have the same questions I had.

I wasn't the first person to try. wrest8 (profile is not safe for work) over on Reddit put together "EARTHEN VEINS OF THE VELVET FIRE" , a 216-hex map / encounter table. It's great, but it wasn't what I wanted, so I kept working.

If you're going to release a setting construction kit and then get annoyed when someone uses it to construct a setting... I think people should be informed. I think that's worrying. It's one thing to be annoyed that they used it to create a bad setting. It's another to be annoyed that they did it at all.

Anyone should be free to block or promote any content they'd like, but I don't think the reason given feels right. It feels unfair. There are plenty of other reasons to block me - I'd be happy provide a numbered list - but using a tool as intended feels deeply discouraging. There might not be gatekeepers in the DIY D&D scene, but there are certainly content promoters. As a small blog, it stings when your average daily views fall off a cliff. It can make people less willing to speak out or try new and potentially controversial stuff - what if they annoy a major a content booster and get de-listed?

Content made by fans is always going to feel weird. Either they don't "get it" and mangle your ideas, or they do get it and they occupy design space you'd like to use one day, or they write really weird porn, or they're just... bad. If you're deeply critical of your own work, people who praise it sound like idiots.

And all of these are valid reasons not to engage with fan content. I didn't ask anyone to promote my stuff. I didn't ask for permission either - people would feel somehow obligated to care about it or notice it. I didn't write it for fame or sales or additional social media followers (and I've got the stats to prove it). I wrote it because I wanted it to exist, and it didn't exist.

I don't think it's fair, or right, to be annoyed at content for existing.I'm going to take a break for a bit.
Not sure what I'm going to work on when I get back. Possibly the medieval itinerary/pointcrawl thing. 


+++++EDIT - 2018/06/01+++++

I'm back.

Part 1: What’s My Point?

Ok, let’s try to clarify my point a bit. I'm not trying to say:

"[X Thing] caused Patrick to delete the blog link in his sidebar, and that is unfair, because I deserve to be promoted."

My concern could be stated as:

"Creating DIY content - not the content itself, but the act of creating it - caused Patrick to [take a negative action].”

Patrick’s response here is mostly focused on the first case. That wasn’t the intent, but I can see how he got there.

After discussing the matter with Patrick (and Scrap), it seems as though the second case wasn’t Patrick’s intent either. I’m having difficulty reading it into his statement, but I accept that it’s true. Patrick outlines some of his reasons here, and that’s good enough for me. As long as it was something in the content - something I said, something I misinterpreted, the way I phrased an idea, anything at all - and not the mere existence of the content, I have no issue whatsoever with his reaction… or any other more severe reaction.

The sections on sidebars, page views, all of that, was just me trying explain why I think deleting someone from a sidebar could be seen as a negative action. I should have made it more clear - it does come across as whinging.

Part 2: What’s the Point Of All This?

I'm not trying to drum up ill will towards Patrick or start some sort of crusade. I feel a bit awkward about people rushing to my defence; there’s nothing to be defended!

The intent was never to say “Screw Patrick for having a reaction. Isn’t he a jerk?"

My goal was closer to “This is a negative reaction that can occur – and for me it was totally unexpected – so be careful! I don’t want to hurt people, and I did, and you could too!”

That’s why I used words like “worrying” and “concerned” and "apparently I should not have done that."

Like it or not, it’s very difficult not to feel responsible for the emotional reactions of other people, especially when they are so unexpected. Killing someone’s interest in doing work is really high up there on the list of things I’d never want to do.

Part 3: Why Ask Though?

I asked why Patrick removed me because I respect his opinions and his craft. Basically, if someone you respect has a negative reaction to you... wouldn't you want to know? It's very easy to fall into a cycle of depressing thoughts and guesses and assume the worst. I don't like feeling that way, so I ask, and brace for the worst answer I can think of. People are always going on about communicating problems, so I communicated. The answer I got was so completely unexpected that I felt it merited further discussion in the open. That got us here.

Now that it’s been discussed, I feel I’m done with it.

Part 4: What Did We Learn?
I’m not going to stop creating content.

You shouldn’t either.

I’m not “feuding” with Patrick or Scrap. If you feel like picking sides, please remember that there are no sides.

The moral of the story is... try not to get annoyed at people for making stuff. It's fine to get annoyed at people for making bad content, and feel free to talk to them if they are, but it's not very DIY-positive to get annoyed at people just for making content. After discussion, that's not what Patrick intended, so... we're good.


  1. I really like the Veinscrawl! And I really like the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. I’ve run it three times now, each with a different group, and not only did everyone enjoy themselves, but I learned new things every time I ran it. Your tutorial dungeon for players was also a tutorial dungeon for being a GM. Your blog was the first OSR blog I stumbled on (through the neural network spells), and it has remained my favorite. The posts on orcs and the colonial-America cultures have been inspiring. If you had posted the Veinscrawl for money, I would have bought it, and it might be my next campaign.

    So I guess, whenever you return, I’ll be here to read your stuff. It’s really good.

  2. That's kind of a shitty attitude from Patrick. Besides, did he get permission from the Shaver estate to adapt the Dero?

  3. I hope this doesn't discourage you from continuing to write RPG content. I've found your ideas and especially your research into and discussion about things I would never have considered "gameable" very helpful when running my own campaign, and just genuinely fun to read even with the context of using any of it.

    Which I think is why I find Patrick's reaction to it so odd. If you write something RPG-related, you are, in a sense, expecting people to use it. Inevitably people are going to change a bit of it, or slot it into a setting it wasn't designed for, or take some interesting piece of it and put it somewhere else without using the rest of it. That's normal. I'd even go as far to say as that's the entire point of it; if all that content is designed to be used only the way you want it to be used, you should either write a book, or keep it to yourself, or say "I don't want people changing X, Y, and Z about this material" so at least you can feel righteously indignant when they do so anyway.

    If nothing else, you could at least not put a passage into your book encouraging people to mutate it and then get upset when people do.

  4. Please do whatever you need to take care of yourself. I understand this must be quite a blow, and I agree that it's quite unfair for you to receive this kind of censure for doing the very thing our community is based around.

    I just want you to know that you've been incredibly inspiring to me personally. I'm a medievalist too, and although I've been reading OSR blogs for years, it was your excellent series of posts on the feudal system that convinced me to start writing down my own thoughts.

    Whenever you're back, I'll be here.

  5. So now "colonisation" its whats called to making a tool to use something, I dont know then why citys let people write tourist guides, they are pretty much invaders.

    Dont let this stop you what you do best, yes, there are grognards in the OSR that have implanted the weird ideas everywhere, but you do something unique, one of the most apreciated ones, actual Useful ones.

    I appreciate the bunch of poems and short stories that most people praise the weirdest parts of OSR, but they are pretty much useless at the table, you make material that Builds good GMs, any mildly creative people can create a place to have adventures at the table, helping anyone Make good adventures for his players can create actually good tables

    You make stuff that stick in my mind for weeks, thank you

  6. FWIW, yours is easily the best of the "new" (which to me is post-2015) DIY-D&D scene-related blogs out there. You produce eminently usable content (even for a dirty new-schooler like me) in SWATHES. I have never seen such a rate of productivity matched to quality like yours. It would be a shame if you walked away from the blog scene, speaking for entirely selfish reasons.

  7. Your blog is, since I discovered it, the most visited website on my computer. Your articles are part of my GM screen, your work motivates me to write and, more importantly, to play. Every DIY "scene" has it share of gatekeepers and assholes, you're not one of them.
    Yes veins of the earth is a great book, one of the best. But it were your articles that made me read the damn thing. Maybe I'm just being a fanboy, but it was your work that made me go deep into OSR, your blog was the one to open my eyes to the community. It was your plague rules (the first post I say here) that helped me destroy my last campaign world (me and my players loved it, thank you).
    Patrick's position is bullshit, you know that, we all do, you have every right to be sad, pissed off and angry, but please don't get bitter, don't stop, don't give up keep on the good work Skerples. (sorry missspelled a couple of words)

    1. This is exactly what I think.

    2. RT!

      Hay que endurecerse, pero sin perder la ternura jamás

  8. I almost never comment, but here I am.

    I found your blog maybe three weeks ago. I've been reading the archives since. Your blog got me into OSR. In a very real way you ARE OSR to me. Most other such blogs I now read have been found through your site.

    I'm new. I don't know much about the way things are in this community. He seems to think of gaming as an avant-garde sort of art in a way I don't really agree with. I doubt I would have looked deeper into it if that sort of thing had been my first impression.

    You do good work. I look forward each day to reading your posts. There's a sort of instant gamability not found in the "RPGs as pure art" crowd. You've taken his art out of the gallery and into the world. Good. He doesn't like it. Too bad. If he didn't want it to be used, he shouldn't have claimed he did.

    It sucks that his actions have reduced the amount of people who can see your work. For your sake and theirs.

    Thank so much you for all you have done. I hope you continue in the future. You, too, have fans. Learn from his mistakes (not, I suspect, that you would have made that particular mistake in the first place).

    Good luck, good gaming.



  9. Sooo there's a difference between "annoyed" and "actively trying to suppress".
    Especially when said "annoyance" is only expressed when Patrick is actively pressed to explain why he had removed your blog from the blogroll.

    Something he doesn't really need to explain btw.

    I'm going to try and represent my and Patrick's position here (he don't have the time or the energy, I don't really either but hey) but first I'm going to best to make sure no-one overlooks this bit :

    Skerples , We Have No Moral Or Actual Authority To Tell You What To Blog About.
    Skerples , We Have No Moral Or Actual Authority To Tell You What To Blog About.
    Skerples , We Have No Moral Or Actual Authority To Tell You What To Blog About.
    Skerples , We Have No Moral Or Actual Authority To Tell You What To Blog About.
    Skerples , We Have No Moral Or Actual Authority To Tell You What To Blog About.

    Okay , cool we got past that?

    Let's explain: So say I created something for other people to use, say a Verminous Slaad , and someone draws a picture of it and I fucking hate that picture.
    I don't have the moral or actual authority to demand they take it down , (slaad even being a copy-writed creation of someone else)

    But if they specifically asked me what I thought about it , I would tell them I don't like it.
    If they had a blog which was on my blog roll if they kept doing art I didn't like, I would prob remove it from my blog roll.

    That make sense?

    1. Makes sense to me.

    2. There's a world of difference between, "You made content I didn't like" and "I don't like that you made content."

      My reading of Patrick's response, and the source of all of this, is the second option.

      You are completely correct. Nobody can tell me what to do or what to write about, and I want to make it clear to everyone that I'll continue doing whatever I damn well please, once I've got myself sorted out. And I can't tell other people what to like or demand that they link to my stuff just because I made it or because I used their content. That's not the intent either.

      That being said... do you think I want to be the kind of person destroys people's interest /in their own work?/

      Do you think that feels good? It feels fucking awful! I'm taking time off to deal with this enormous bolt of self-loathing that hit me out of nowhere.

      I could have accepted that my work was disliked, even hated. And even if something I'd written, some aspect, some turn of phrase had killed Patrick's interest in Veins stuff, I'd have learned and lived with it and tried not to do it again.

      But to find out it that the /existence of the content itself/ - not what I said, but that I said it at all - destroyed the desire for other people to work... You couldn't pick a more soul-killing statement, for me at least, if you tried. It completely blindsided me and I think I'm still in a state of shock.

      When I asked Patrick why he removed my blog from his sidebar, I was prepared for a lot of answers. "You mangled my ideas," "You write too much and it's annoying.", "You got something completely and offensively wrong.", "You trivialized something I thought was vital.", "Your blog's signal-to-noise ratio is too low." "I am removing all blogs with blue colour schemes". Or even no answer at all - I certainly wasn't owed one.

      But the answer I got worries me, and I think it should worry anyone else interested in DIY content. Because it was so unexpected, I figured I needed to talk about it in the open.

      I am worried that this will impact future projects. I don't want to destroy people's interest in their own work - work that I love and deeply appreciate. I feel awful that I've done so. It seems my assumptions about how DIY content works are frighteningly incorrect. If I do want to continue in the same way, I am worried that I'll need to accept interactions like this as normal or expected.

    3. there can be a lot of difference between "You made content I didn't like" and "I don't like that you made content." but most of the time there really isn't.

      "That being said... do you think I want to be the kind of person destroys people's interest /in their own work?/ Do you think that feels good? "

      What is this statement Skerples? I didn't say that , no-one has said that.

      "But to find out it that the /existence of the content itself/ - not what I said, but that I said it at all -"

      Can you take a step back and stop thinking that it's about "that you said it at all" ?

      Neither me or Patrick has that position

      Also yeah it's fucking awkward me talking "for" Patrick like this.

    4. that last statement wasn't a condemnation of Patrick or nothing just pointing out I feel dopey writing stuff like "Neither me or Patrick"

    5. "Can you take a step back and stop thinking that it's about "that you said it at all" ?"

      That's what Patrick said though. If it's not his position, it's not Skerples' fault for taking him at his word...

    6. Skerples, I am obviously very biased in this situation but from recent Patrick Stuart's post it is clear to me that the cause of the dropped link was a first of two readings you just presented, namely "You made content I didn't like".

      I am finding certain words you used in the initial post "I think people should be informed. I think that's worrying." to have strong fear-mongering aspect. What people should be informed about? One guy's personal and entirely private (until prompted to clarify and even then, again, private) reaction to the content you created, however harsh this reaction is to you personally? You seem to agree in comments that people are free to dislike or like anything, even the things that consensus accepts as genuine good. What is specifically worrying about this answer? That somehow the creator of the content will go around forbidding them to create the additional DIY content? That the answer says that act of creation of the content was wrong? It wasn't what was said, Veinscrawl wasn't taken down, it isn't happening and it won't happen. The link was dropped quietly, without any attached message that portrayed Veinscrawls in negative light.

      You read it as if the reaction was to the fact of creating of the content itself, emphasizing your understanding of the answer with the line "Apparently I should not have done that." which is nowhere implied in the text and presents the answer as something more intentionally malicious than it was. Now when the answer is clarified as to be the first case, namely "You made content I didn't like" and it was a misunderstanding what would you do about this line?

    7. It seems like there's a miscommunication here between "why did you take my blog off your roll" (with an implied wish that it be put back up) vs "I saw that you took my blog off, did I do anything specific to offend you?" (with an implied "is there something I should apologize for?")

      Skerples and Patrick don't appear to be on the same page about what was being asked, so I think they're talking past each other.

    8. I get the ~strong~ impression that Patrick is a pretty fragile guy, it doesn't seem to take much to have him melt down over this kind of stuff. Not trying to dunk on the guy, but it's generally smarter to just stop talking to someone, not trying to dunk on them/make them feel bad by telling them they've ruined something for you. I mean, it's a lesson most people learn in elementary school.

  10. It's kind of bleakly funny that scrap princess came in with the conciliatory post above on behalf of both Veins creators (pointing out, correctly, how uncomfortable it is to try and speak for someone else) and then got totally hung out to dry by patrick's snide-ass vague-blogging post about it.

    1. I still agree with his post though and had read it more or less as I started commenting

    2. Is this about a removal from a blogroll? I don't think so. It's about Patrick saying he'll never write a sequel because Skerples has ruined Veins forever for him. That hurts. This is about pain and not about glory.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. VotE is not my cup of tea. I'd not give it a second glance...were it not for the Enthusiasm it bred in You.

    Your dedication to good gaming swells my heart, revitalizing its willingness to do the work.

    Your efforts to help would-be-medieval gaming be more medieval draw forth my roaring applause, and your work to grow a crop of skillful DMs make me bow my head in honor.

    Always is yours the start of my nightly blog-patrol, and those not on your own sidebar had best hope I bother to recall their names...

    I look forward to your next inspiration.

  12. I don't comment much in the OSR-blogosphere, but I really enjoy your work Skerples. You can't control how people react to what you make, only if you like making it.

    Hope you're not too discouraged, look forward to anything you decide to work on in the future!

  13. Curiously, I was thinking weeks ago "Damn, I would be so proud if a work of mine ever got a hacker/mod community such as the one VotE gave birth to".

    No hate on Patrick -- love his work and his prose (as I think most of us here would agree!) -- but that was an unfortunate position for sure. Keep the great work, Skerples!

  14. I am quickly becoming a voracious consumer and participant in DIY D&D, thanks to you and the encouragement and inspiration I receive from every post of yours I enjoy. Always a shame to hear a creative like yourself is struck with self-loathing, so heal as you need to! I'll be waiting patiently.

  15. There's a lot going on in the OSR lately, but I'm not sad that I have Veins in the Earth AND Veinscrawl. Keep putting out the content that makes YOU happy.

  16. Don't worry my blogroll still lists you (and False Machine) so my five hits a day should be coming right to you 😉

  17. Patrick is right in one thing: You are caring too much about his opinion... It is his fault being unable to handle his jealousy, not yours.

  18. I believe you assume a different use for both blog and blogroll than Mr. Stuart does. Keep doing your thing. I hope both of you will. He wont be reading your stuff and you should not care about that.

  19. Take whatever time you need. Your blog has been a tremendous resource to me, an I will eagerly await your return whenever that might be.

  20. Skerples, I do hope you come back when you are ready. I've loved your work here, as I love Patrick's over there. You're one of my 'compulsively refresh' pages.

  21. I found you from Arnold K's (sadly rather inactive atm) blog and you quickly rose to the top of my list for how regularly you update and how accessible and enjoyable your content is. Take a break- we'll still be here whenever you're ready.

  22. Just wanted to throw in my two cents of support. You and Arnold K are the people who got me into OSR stuff, and I've enthusiastically grabbed anything you post for my personal use. Always a treat when either of you post new stuff.

    I can vaguely see where Patrick is coming from with this but his reaction seems very hyperbolic and needlessly antagonistic. Describing someone using content that you created and remixing it (especially content in a scene all about that kind of thing, and that you openly tell people to use in the work itself) as "massive colonization" is, IMHO, kind of a pretentious dick move.

  23. It is tough that you are getting hit temporarily with 'blog hits' but you are out of order creating a drama out of the fact he has removed you from his select list of bloggers, one of the few perquisites of the discerning blogger. Keep in mind that bloggers are a sort of beggar class among writers and are fractious. It is surprising you did not establish a relationship with Patrick Stuart while you were producing your material, this would appear to be something of a protocol among gamers. I, have established a relationship with Paddy to our mutual understanding.

    Vance gave permission to Michael Shea to write a sequel to The Eyes of the Overworld, but when the time came he described his own second description of Cugel's adventures with, 'For the second time Cugel had been ...', emphasising his ownership. There is nothing at all wrong with what you did and if you have a market then have at it, but Paddy does not have to be part of it.

  24. Hi you Skruples. StuPat did you a massive favors if he soured you on Veins of the Earth with his neurotic, insecure, passive-aggressive responding. Use your creativity juice for yours own originality work. All of them are more interestings than the Veins of Earth material you produced. Certainly most interestings compared to the StuPat derived works.

    Keep blogging with your own material.

  25. Hey Skerples. I'm not really anybody, but I'd like you to know that you've been quite inspirational to me, and I'll be starting a campaign soon with The GLOG thanks in large part to your writing. I also ran Tomb of the Serpent Kings with The Black Hack, and it was probably the best adventure my group had. I can totally understand why you're upset; reading Patrick's response made me do a double take it was so harsh. That being said, I don't think you did ANYTHING wrong. If his interest in Veins was so weak that your blogging "killed" it, then I honestly doubt that anything more was coming. I'm not saying this to bash Patrick, it just seems like common sense.

    Anyway, my main reason for commenting was to let you know that I think you're a really positive force in this community, and that your writing brings joy to me and many others, and that I always look forward to reading your thoughts. Take all the time you need and clear your head, but I'll be eagerly awaiting your next post, whether it's tomorrow or next month or next year. And thank you for all of your hard work.

  26. I think this post was written a bit too hastily. Too much is said and it's not clear that the point isn't that Patrick took the blog of the blogroll, but rather that the fan supplement caused him not to produce more Veins content in the foreseeable future (at least the comments make this position clear).

    It's like... if a piece of fan fiction caused the discontinuation of the original series. Or if one produced an RPG fan adaptation of a novel, but upon checking it out, the novel's author decided not to produce anything in that universe again. It's not that the author can't do that (of course they can!), but it makes the fan feel very bad.

    And again, nobody did anything wrong. It's just that this outcome is even possible is what's causing trouble.

    1. Agreed. The other issue that people are grabbing onto is the way he used 'colonised' when describing why his interest in the subject has cooled/soured; now looking at it with fresh eyes, i think he meant it in the strictest sense of 'you made an ecology of the Veins and set it to a hexcrawl', instead of the more barbed 'you invaded my work and changed it in a way i didnt like'.

      Without any elaboration on Patrick's side, its easy for onlookers to overreact and view things in a negative light (not saying it WASNT negative even, its just hard to tell). What a shitty situation *sigh*

    2. I do think it would've been better to have a proper in-depth discussion with Patrick about the issues here before/instead of posting about them publicly. It would definitely have been better for Skerple's to have explained to Patrick personally that what he said upset him and to find out what he disliked about the Veinscrawl. I expect that this might have given Patrick the option and opportunity to mollify his rather harsh stance somewhat and at least explain what his problem was. Perhaps then a more peaceable understanding between the two would've been reached and this wouldn't feel so uncomfortable.

  27. Not knowing you or your work at all, I'd be grateful for any fan-created work based on something I published. Discouraging DIY content is one of the most counter-intuitive things I've encountered in the OSR. And I've seen a lot of idiotic bullshit!