VAARN SUMMER JAM: THE ENTRIES (PART ONE)

The first Vaarn Summer Jam ended on the 7th of September 2022, with 33 submissions from tabletop RPG creators on itch.io! I’ve been delighted by the variety of the submissions and the level of artistry shown by the community. The great pleasure of creating a TTRPG setting is seeing others add to or modify it, and the on that front the Summer Jam delivered.

I wanted to use some blog space to run through all of the submissions, and give a quick overview of what they are and what niche they might fill in a Vaarn Referee’s library. These paragraphs aren’t intended as reviews, more a summary of the contents of each entry, so that anyone interested in third-party Vaarn content can find something that suits their needs. I’m going to go through the jam entries in order of submission, starting with the earliest. Everything is Pay What You Want unless otherwise noted.


Doctor Stench’s Half Priced Surgery Guide

A rules supplement by adambrogdon. 13 Pages.

The Half Priced Surgery Guide is an expansion for the wounds/healing rules in Vaults of Vaarn. It goes into detail about various methods of organ replacement or pain management, all with their own quirks and drawbacks. An example method of healing brain damage:

Pinhead: Through the power of acupuncture, Neurological issues can be healed! The issue is the numerous long neuro-acupuncture needles need to remain buried in the skull, preventing the character from wearing helmets or headgear. The acupuncture needles cause strange side effects when disturbed, whenever the character takes maximum damage from an attack or if the needles are purposefully flicked or disturbed they suffer from a random drug effect for an hour.’

This supplement would be useful for a Referee who wants to inject some risk/reward into healing Wounds.


Unurthed Vaarncana

A rules supplement/expansion by Stickypaws. 22 pages.

Unurthed Vaarncana is an expansion to the basic rules, incorporating rules from The GLOG, Glaive, Relic, Knave and ‘a little Black Hack‘. There are a whole host of advanced or more detailed rules, including popular OSR house rules like ‘All Shields Shall Be Splintered’ and a full Talents system for PCs.

This expansion would be useful for a Referee who feels that the core rules of Vaults of Vaarn are too minimal, or would like more PC advancement options.


The Autarch’s Blade

An adventure/narrative by Jamzilla. 12 pages.

‘You’ll meet a creature known only as The Prophet, who tells the tale of their mystic sword. Go with them through dying caves, marble gates, and into the tombs of long-dead machines. Although it’s set in Vaarn, the adventure is completely system-agnostic.’

This would be useful for Referees who would like to introduce an encounter with a story to tell, or are looking for extra inspirational tables for wasteland encounters.


Vault of the Three Fingered Flame

A one page dungeon by Bear Wizard.

‘A potent combination of sandstorms and tectonic activity have recently unearthed an ancient vault in the desert. Countless years and the crushing weight of the stone and sand have rendered the once impenetrable doors useless. Bandits were the first to breach the vault; the more courageous of the crew entered in search of valuable salvage; they never emerged. Their more reticent companions spoke of it later, deep in their drinks, and about the unwholesome yellow light that emerged, and the sound of laughing.’

This would be of use for Referees who are looking for an introductory dungeon/vault for a one shot, or to start an ongoing campaign. This small dungeon has a cosmic horror flavour, with an imprisoned yellow flame that blinds or possesses those who look upon it. There’s also a unique exotica in the form of a strange yellow cloth, which grants the wearer some benefits but comes with a heavy downside.

The unique creatures within the vault aren’t statted, so the Referee would have to be comfortable doing this before play.


The Sandeater Convoy

A setting zine by inguaz. 9 pages.

‘In times long past, there were built giants of iron and steel that bore into the ground in search of the stuff, and though many are now dead – or perhaps simply dormant – some still pump their quarry to forgotten reservoirs, or otherwise continue to sound long-empty depths. Some have simply spilled their guzzoline into pools and lakes, oases for thirsting machines. There are also those that have traversed the desert to these structures and coaxed them to life once more, and then built their homes under their shelter. However, any denizen of Vaarn will know that the place to find guzzoline is the Sandeater Convoy.’

This zine presents a variety of content relating to Vaarnish vehicles, centered on the titular Sandeater Convoy, a motorised settlement that is constantly in motion. As well as the convoy itself, the zine details the Sandeater monarch, the ‘Convoy King’, and allows Referees to randomly generate vehicles and oil oases. This zine would be of interest to a Referee who wanted to focus on a Mad Max/Mortal Engines-style view of Vaarn.


EX

An exotica generator by Desolate Drifter. 2 pages.

EX presents the Referee with three d66 tables that are used together to generate prompts for new Exotica. This supplement would be useful for Referees who are struggling to think of new Exotica on the fly, or who are stocking a vault and need fresh inspiration.


This mechanism is powered by

A random table by magenta bird. 1 page.

‘This is a table for generating ideas as of what your tech, mechanism or what else is powered by. It is assumed that the setting is science fantasy.’

This is a bite-sized submission that does exactly what it says on the tin: it gives you a dice table of possible power sources for science fantasy contraptions. The table would be useful for a Referee who needs quick inspiration for offbeat power sources.


The Blue Tablature

A random table compilation by Jacob Marks. 4 pages, can be run in browser.

This is a collection of miscellaneous random tables that can be used to generate content for Vaults of Vaarn games. The reader is provided with two d100 tables of spark words, a d66 foraging table, and d20 nanomachine infection, exotica, and mundane object generators. This table collection would be useful for Referees who enjoy the generator tables in the original zines and want more of them. The spark words generator and the foraging table are very detailed and fill a gap that the original material didn’t cover.


Beyond the Glittering Sands

A science fantasy pointcrawl by JimmyShelter. 13 pages, $2.

‘Beyond the Sea of Glittering Sands lie the Chromatic Mountains. It’s no paradise, but compared to the desolate, endless seas of sand, it’s a lively place where at least a semblance of civilization can be found.’

This is a small pointcrawl with six keyed locations, associated factions, five named NPCs, and several monsters. While not specifically written for Vaarn, it fits into the general milieu, and is statted for Knave, making conversion a breeze. It would be useful for a Referee who wants a pre-prepared region map that they can run a game from immediately, or who wanted to take the individual locations and use them to populate a larger science fantasy pointcrawl or hexcrawl map.


Dwellers of the Waste

A setting supplement by bucolian and Eric M. Smith. 16 pages.

Dwellers of the Waste presents readers with six new creatures statted for Vaults of Vaarn, as well as two new ancestries (mercantile Mongers and mystic Leyliners) and a tinkering subsystem. This supplement would be of use to any Referee who wanted to introduce some new monsters into their campaign, or who wanted to add a tinker/merchant PC ancestry to their game. It would also be of use to Referees who wanted to add a leyline/geomantic flavour to mysticism in Vaarn, as both the Leyliner ancestry and one of the monsters relate to this element.

I should also note that Dwellers boasts impressive illustration work from Eric M. Smith, from whom I would love to see more RPG illustrations in future.


The OBBOLOID

An NPC encounter by Garvoy, with music by Out On Our Own. 6 pages.

‘A mysterious friend awaits you deep below the squirming sands of Vaarn; the great stone bulk of the Obboloid sits patiently and counts down the days until your arrival. Rules and tables for generating a floating stone block that longs to be a special pal.’

This is an unusual and creative NPC encounter, in which a strange sentient block of stone (the Obboloid) imprints on the first PC that touches it and begins to follow them around. Unknown to the PCs, the Obboloid has a random secret objective, which once completed will grant them a reward.

This NPC encounter would be useful to Referees who want to introduce an enigmatic twist to an ongoing campaign, or to use in a starter dungeon to pique the players’ interest about the wider world. Due to the long-term nature of the Obbloid’s possible goals, this encounter might not have full potential to blossom during a one-shot.

Some Trivia: The Obbloid and accompanying soundtrack were created by two players from my original Vaarn campaign!


Adrift in the Blue

A place-name generator by Goatman’s Goblet. 19 pages.

‘Names are fluid, changed by colonizers, whispered in rumor; often-times telling lies that are exceptionally true and truths that are venomously bitter. Nothing can be certain until you reach such a place; and even then, such a place may come to be known by other names to those who survive to tell their tale.’

This supplement focuses on names for Vaarnish locations. It provides ’20 d12 tables to coincide with the general landscapes listed in Vaults of Vaarn Deluxe Edition (p.65, 3.2 Region Generator Table) and Vaults of Vaarn #3 (p.18, Creating Regions.)’, as well as ‘d12 tables to provide specific locales related to the ancestries presented in Vaults of Vaarn, as well as the ancestries presented in Vaults of Vaarn #3 (Faa Nomads, Cacklemaws, Lithlings, & Planeyfolk); as well as the New Hegemony.’

This supplement would be useful for any Referee currently in the process of making a Vaarnish pointcrawl map, or who has trouble coming up with science-fantasy place names on the fly. It is strongly thematically linked to the Vaarn setting as written, but many of the entries would work for any number of SF settings.


This concludes the first part of our overview of the submissions. My life got very hectic around September and I didn’t have time to write about the entries when the Jam ended, but I’m glad I’ve got some breathing space to write about them now.

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