VAARN SUMMER JAM: THE ENTRIES (PART TWO)

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. This is a continuation of my overview of the Jam submissions.

The following summaries aren’t intended as reviews, more as an index that allows anyone interested in third-party Vaarn content to find something that suits their needs. I’m continuing through the jam entries in order of submission. Everything is Pay What You Want.


The Wave

An environmental hazard/adventure hook by smuggle. 2 pages.

‘Somewhere in the Blue Ruins there lies an immense force of destruction. On a cyclical yet unpredictable cadence, a wave of crushing psionic force scorches the land it scours and obliterates the minds it envelops.

Perhaps a weapon of the Titans of times long past, a scientific invention gone horribly wrong, or just an act of petty dominance by a particularly cruel Autarch, the Waves are getting stronger by the day, threatening what paltry life still clings to the post-Collapse world.’

This is a short supplement that details a high level, cosmic-horror type threat for a Vaarn campaign. The Wave is a pulse of psionic force that periodically sweeps across the blue desert, causing calamity. Dice tables are provided to give some ideas about the effects and source of this Wave. There are also rules to deal with the consequences of Wave exposure, both to PCs and to the societies around them.

The Wave would useful to a Referee who wanted to introduce a large scale, region-destabilising threat to a new or ongoing campaign. The Wave demands action from the PCs, as it is highly disruptive to their psyches and bodies. The Referee would likely wish to prepare an adventure site as the source of this threat, so that the PCs can travel there and neutralise it.


Vaarnish Cartographer

A map generator tool by bertholet. Runs in your browser.

This in-browser utility creates a topographic map of a Vaarnish region, using varying colours of ASCII style symbols. It also creates a region name, and describes a handful of points of interest within the region. This generator would be useful for Referees who want to create a new region on the fly, as the generation process takes less than a minute. The maps created could also be given to players as an in-universe object, as they fit the retro-future aesthetic implied by the wider setting.


The Purple Rose of Vaarn

A vault by ARCIPELAGO CELESTE. 16 pages.

‘A mystic in the city once told you: “Seek the tomb of the Purple Rose, wife of the ancient Autarch. She has been lying for endless eons in a hypergeometrical sepulcher, eternally preserving her beauty. After sunset you would see her, shimmering in the sky-blue desert”.

A huge billboard eroded by time, witness of an era before the Great Collapse. It stands above an enormous dune, lit by fluorescent neon lights, flashing in the night of Vaarn. It depicts a beautiful woman, covered only by a few sheer veils, laying lasciviously on one side. She resembles a sultan’s wife, or a movie star. Writings desecrate her beauty: “BOW BEFORE THE PURPLE ROSE”. Right below, someone scribbled a desert cross, emblem of the nomads.’

In this dungeon the PCs delve into the ruins of an ancient cinema complex, which was used in latter ages as a hypergeometry research centre. The PCs will encounter two-dimensional cowboys, popcorn blobs, tiger flies, blue baboons, floating Faa nomads, and an AI with the voice of Woody Allen. There is a unique Exotica in the form of a ‘Gravicola’ that can make the drinker briefly levitate. The tone is light-hearted and strange, and this location would be useful for Referees who want to introduce a new group to the Vaarn setting, or who need a ready-made adventure site for a larger sandbox campaign.


Sheets of Vaarn

An interactive character sheet by ng76. One page.

This submission is a fillable PDF character sheet for Vaults of Vaarn, laid out in a jaunty purple. This entry would be of use to Referees or players looking for a fillable PDF character sheet which includes a picture frame.


Rogue Necrotech

An ancestry by Goatman’s Goblet. 2 pages.

‘Death is a luxury few ever truly appreciate. Humanity desires only to reign eternal, foolishly unaware that cessation brings a stillness those caught in perpetual thought lust for. A Rogue Necrotech is one such immortal being, forever shackled to the mortal world and forced to witness and to suffer the indignities of linear time by way of forbidden artifice. Monstrous of visage, shackled to hominid desires dulled only by age.’

This submission is a Player Ancestry for Vaults of Vaarn. The Rogue Necrotech is a science-fantasy twist on a lich or vampire, presenting a ghastly revenant who has been granted eternal life at the cost of drinking blood. The Ancestry follows the format in the original zines, presenting an eight column d20 spark table and two special rules for the PC.

The Ancestry would be of interest to players who wanted to portray a really unnerving PC with a strong horror flavour. Due to the unwholesome nature of the Rogue Necrotech, this Ancestry would also be of use to Referees who wanted to create a villain for their campaign.


Tales of the Labyrinth

A pointcrawl sandbox by ng76. 24 pages.

‘On the edge of the great blue desert of Vaarn, is a little-traveled region, commonly called the Labyrinth. It’s a twisty maze of canyons, difficult to navigate through except by a few well-traveled paths.

The few inhabitants of this harsh land are either hiding from the New Hegemony, fleeing from enemies, or looking for extreme solitude for their own strange purposes.’

This is a pointcrawl map. PCs can visit six keyed locations, such as a lizard ranch, a hanging fungus farm, the vault of a serene science-mystic, and an arcology inhabited by irritable musicians. There are three unique monsters with full stats, as well as several statted NPCs per location, and a Language Virus pill with a table of side-effects. Tales of the Labyrinth would be useful for Referees who want a flavourful readymade pointcrawl for their players to explore.


The Windswept Wastes

A pointcrawl sandbox by Sorrynametaken. 10 pages.

This is a pointcrawl map with eight keyed locations, including one vault: a hypergeometric research facility submerged beneath a toxic lake. Other locations include an archive of paintings tended to by luminous mycomorph nuns, a settlement that breeds and sells huge bio-synthetic Wave Ants, and an indestructible chrome tower that is used as a meeting place by various factions. Each location comes with adventure hooks and associated NPCs, and stats are included for regular Wave Ants and their Queen.

This submission would again be useful for Referees who want a flavourful readymade pointcrawl for their players to explore, or who are looking for a small premade vault focused on hypergeometric creatures.


The Crypt of Bethor II

A vault by bucolian, with cover art by Eric M. Smith. 4 pages.

This is a compact, mycomorph-focused vault intended for Level 2 PCs. The map has 16 keyed locations, and boasts an all-new cast of fungal monsters, including three unique named NPCs. There is a ‘spore’ mechanic, which causes the PCs to accumulate a debuff that empowers the vault’s ‘boss’ encounter against them, and can cause debilitating side-effects to boot. Referees are also provided with some hooks to entice players into visiting the crypt, and a possible lead on further adventures (the location of Bethor II’s missing second wife).

The Crypt of Bethor II would be useful to Referees who need a ready-made adventure site for PCs who have already survived one expedition, and would especially suit groups who are interested in the mycomorphs of Vaarn.


Secrets of the Toxic Citadel

A vault by ghoul_master, with cover art by Jacob Marks. 11 pages.

‘Once hidden beneath the sands, this ancient arcology has emerged recently revealing boon and bane long since forgotten. The algal pools that once supplied the dome with oxygen failed, neurotoxifying the library-city’s atmosphere. That was millennia ago. Stacks upon stacks of archives – the vast library to which the citadel was dedicated, lay beneath the sands, their shelves untouched in an aeon. In the vast years since, new life clambers from the pools. while AI caretakers have unspooled their algorithms into strange tapestry.’

This is a small vault with nine keyed areas, along with a trading post, memory temple, and wind barge wharf that lie outside the dungeon. NPCs are detailed for each location, along with some destinations that the barges at the wind wharf are travelling to. This would be useful to situate a party of new PCs in the wider world, and offers some adventure hooks besides exploring the toxic arcology dome. Within the dungeon are four unique monsters, including a sentient banana tree with intoxicating fruit. This submission would be useful for Referees who need a pre-made adventure site for a one-shot session, or as the starter for a larger campaign.


VAULTBOUND

A combat rules overhaul by Doom3r. 27 pages across two supplements.

I will let Vaultbound explain itself, rather than rephrasing the succinct summary given on the first page of the rulebook:

‘This submission for the Vaarn Summer Jam is a heavily mutated cacogen of a ruleset that merges the original Vaults of Vaarn setting with wild combat mechanics of Spellbound Kingdoms Combat Primer by Frank Brunner.

This hack was made for combat-focused players and referees looking for more depth in their combat scenes. It was playtested to an extent; however, it is by no means perfectly balanced; in fact, some mechanics are unbalanced by intent.

The submission includes a whole set of combat and ability rules, a character sheet and a selection of combat styles appropriately reskinned for player characters and monsters in a Vaarnish game.’

This rules overhaul would be ideal for Referees and groups who like more in-depth combat in their TTRPGs, or who already really like Spellbound Kingdoms (a game I was unfamiliar with) and want to use those combat rules in a different setting.


This concludes part two of our overview series! The third and final part will follow soon.

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