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 the conclusion 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.
Vaarn Herbarium Vol. II
‘In this age of decay, sybaritic delights may yet be wrought by the enterprising botanist.
Summer in heaven nears its end, a winter called eternity will set in soon, but for now, gather round this humble tome to see what grows wild in the blue ruin of a desert called Vaarn.
– Dr. Xurm ul-Rahasil’
The Vaarn Herbarium is a short zine concerning the planlife that grows in the wastes of Vaarn, a subject mostly absent from the core zines. The zine details four species, including accompanying illustrations, with a fifth having been heavily censored by Hegemony officials. This zine would appeal to anyone who enjoys speculative botany, and especially Referees who have players that are particularly interested in the flora of Vaarn.
The zine is formatted to resemble an in-universe object, so could be given to players as a handout.
An adventure site by Zero_Gravitas. 10 pages.
‘Bepis Vault was a hypergeometric research facility constructed in the late Autarchy. The focus of its research was the effect of repeated transfer between dimensionalities on living subjects. It has remained undisturbed beneath the azure dunes for centuries and has only recently been uncovered by the vagaries of the wind. Four former test subjects guard the entrance, the ghost of a former researcher mourns his mistakes, and a deadly fractalisk lies in wait in the armory.’
This is an 11-room vault, suitable for 1st Level PCs. It focuses on hypergeometric creatures, and includes a Fractalisk as a boss monster. The author notes that it will likely be easier for parties that include a Planeyman or woman, but can be cleared without a hypergeometric PC.
Settling the Blue Wastes
‘The most permanent way to leave your mark on the sands of Vaarn is to build something that will last longer than you. Make a place that is more stable, more prosperous, and more truthful than the one you grew up in. Most commonly this will take the form of a settlement or outpost, a place for people to call home. Of course, it is also possible to use thrift, skill, or warcraft to profit at the expense of others.’
This is a supplement which allows the Referee and PCs to create, build, and manage a settlement or organisation in the blue sands of Vaarn. The settlement will not simply be a static point on the map: a dynamic system of production, setbacks, new recruits, and random events is outlined, allowing the location to flourish or wither over multiple sessions. This supplement would be useful for a group interested in a longer-running Vaarn campaign that centered around a single dynamic settlement.
Tower of Eno
‘The Tower of Eno is an inverted tower set inside a rock formation deep within the center of the blue desert. Time and the shifting sands submerged the formation long ago. At one time the rock formation that was selected to house the inverted tower stood imposing over the sands below, casting a day’s long shadow across the interior. The entrance was strategically placed at the peak, meaning visitors were required to make either a week long pilgrimage up the rock face or travel via air direct to the summit. It is only now, as a result of the Zuaar mega storm, that the peak has resurfaced.’
This is an adventure site with 10 keyed areas, set inside the abandoned tower of a vanished sun-cult. The adventure includes a bestiary with 8 new creatures, and also has a full d20 table of new Exotica that the PCs could discover inside the Tower. This adventure would be appropriate for low-level PCs and could easily be run as a one-shot for a new group.
A tiny artpack for VoV
An artpack by TyloPilo. 4 pages.
‘This pack includes four character drawings with/without color, and four small images of Vaarnish environment(also with/without color!). And for plus, there is a pdf file of four NPCs (you are right, the ones who I draw) with simple backstories and stats.’
This is an artpack, containing four character portraits and four environmental images. The characters also come with in-game stats. Although these summaries aren’t reviews, I would be remiss not to say that TyloPilo is a very talented illustrator and has produced some gorgeous work, which you can see examples of above and as the header for this whole post.
An adventure location by rethinkler. 2 pages.
‘Golog’s Chosen is a bandit gang made up primarily of cacklemaw exiles and led by an ibex newbeast named Golog.
One week ago, the gang managed to steal an auto-chariot … named Tismo from the small oasis village of Tora’s Hovel, from widely-feared Tora herself, no less. The auto-chariot was procured in honour of the Crimson Maiden, simply because it is red.’
This is a compact two-page adventure site, which challenges PCs with the rescue of a captive auto-chariot from a group of bandits. The adventure features a new creature: the boto-goat, a nanobot infested mammal that produces ‘metallic-tasting flesh and milk, as well as a coat of steel wool, which is highly combustible.’ This would make a good introductory adventure for a new group of players, presenting a small-scope adventure site with opportunities for violent intervention and social manipulation.
For Greed, All Nature Is Too Little
‘Hegemon Corporations have pushed the drive further and further North into the Blue Sands to plunder and exploit the natural resources in the Interior of the Vaarnish Desert. The biggest sign of this expansion are the large tread tracks crisscrossing the grainy sands, signs of strip mining, deep scars across the landscape or rubbish left behind in its wake that show the presence of the hulking Desert Crawlers. These Dune Crawlers are either looking for seams of spice, rare metals, Tiberium crystals or playing a supporting role in the Hegemon expansion. Every now and then, some of these reactor powered behemoths get lost to the sands, falling prey to dangers known and unknown and are found abandoned, half buried in the shifting blue sand of the Interior.’
This entry is another compact adventure location, set inside the wreck of a Hegemony Dune Crawler. There are 11 keyed locations, as well as two new monster types, optional Stress rules, and extensive information on running and upgrading the Dune Crawler (something PCs may well want to do after clearing it). The adventure is illustrated with 3D models by Jacob Marks.
This supplement would be useful for Referees who want a small-scale starter adventure for new PCs, or want to give their PCs a Dune Crawler to use as a mobile base.
Clergy of the Radiant Siphoners
A pointcrawl by Perplexing Ruins. 2 pages.
‘A yellow portion of the desert shows conflict between two cults and a group of bandits. Trade, unite two of the groups, raid a Petrified Alligator Ruin, home of the Radiant Siphoner Cult. Find some Exotica, battle cultists, perhaps find a new place to call home!’
This is a small pointcrawl with three locations, one of which is an 8-room dungeon located inside the petrified corpse of a giant alligator. This corpse is inhabited by the titular Radiant Siphoner cult, who have kidnapped a priest from the nearby settlement of Sur’naax. This submission would be useful for Referees who need a starter adventure for a group of new PCs, especially if they are interested in exploring the corpse of a giant reptile.
Cloud Empress: In the Land of Ten Thousand Cicadas
‘Cloud Empress is an ecological science fantasy setting for the science horror tabletop roleplaying game Mothership … Last Voyage of the Bean Barge is a system-neutral starting adventure for the Cloud Empress RPG setting, Mothership, and other science-fantasy games like the Vaults of Vaarn … players will explore a land governed by the patterns of giant psychic cicadas. When deadly soldiers from royal lands high above the clouds threaten the balance, the Breadbasket’s wheat fields will burn without the players’ help.’
This is a unique entry to the jam, as it’s Vaarn-adjacent rather than written for Vaarn. Cloud Empress is a full Mothership conversion that transforms the sci-fi horror RPG into a science-fantasy game. The submission for the Vaarn Jam was ‘Last Voyage of the Bean Barge’, an 8-page adventure that sees the PCs catching a ride on a flying boat which comes under assault by giant psychic cicadas. This seems like an excellent scenario to throw at PCs who want to move between locations in Vaarn. The Bean Barge could easily be docked at Gnomon and looking for a few passengers.
Infolife: A Disembodied Ancestry for Vaults of Vaarn
A player ancestry by Roandil. 2 pages.
‘This Ancestry for the Vaults of Vaarn RPG allows players to take on the role of an incorporeal entity possessing another player character. Though incapable of interacting directly with the physical world and dependent on their host for survival and mobility, Infolife characters are skilled mystics and expert navigators of the virtual Datasea.‘
This entry presents a new Ancestry for players, allowing them to portray a digital lifeform that inhabits a host body, with completely separate ability scores and Mystic Gifts. As written it is assumed that the host body will be another PC, although possibly an NPC or hireling could be used as well. A d20 sprak table gives the Infolife character a name, voice, origin and quirk. This is an unusual and creative ancestry, which would appeal to players who like the idea of portraying two characters sharing a single body in a collaborative (or even antagonistic) way.
NEOM – Cyberpunk City on the Wall
A mini-setting by HishamT. 1 page.
‘Hoi Chummer! Welcome to Neom the City of Neon Bazars where everything and anything can be bought, salvaged and sold! The Noble Houses of Neom, the Corporations, the Ikor Board, the Tech-guilds and the Ship Breaking Unions are all vying for control and influence in the frontier city on the edge of the Blue Desert! Have you got what it takes to make a living and a killing in these dire times?
This is Shadowrun style Vaarn in a Frontier City on the Wall bordering the Badlands!
If you want to join a crew that can earn some Shins/Woolongs/Credits and stick it good to the Hegemon Corporate Suits – then welcome to NEOM – Cyberpunk City on the Wall!’
This is a bite-sized setting supplement, detailing a cyberpunk-ish city that lodges inside the Great Wall of Vaarn. 12 locations are detailed, along with various factions such as the Neon Court, the Chamber of Corporations and Commerce, the Ship-Breaker’s Union, and the Regulators. This would be of interest to Referees who want a new urban location for Vaarn, or who want to include a larger cyberpunk element than is present in the original zines.
This concludes our run-through of the entries to the Vaarn Summer Jam 2022. Huge thanks again to everyone who contributed. It’s been really rewarding reading through all the entries, and I’m planning to run another jam this coming summer.