Genesis of a Module: The Tuber Dudes
Birth of an Adventure
It all started in late 2016 or early 2017. You probably know the podcast Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff. To be honest, I have a hard time listening to it much because it’s so commercialized but both Ken and Robin are a joy to listen to if you can get past that. In one episode, Ken said something about sending in orcs on hand gliders instead of just marching in.
I was running a campaign in Seoul with a group of 6-12 players. But due to a mis-used Wish spell in Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, the adventure had been reset and I needed to start again.
I liked the suggestion of Ken a lot. I was never going to use orcs, of course. But what to use instead? Like all fun guys, I love Myconids but had just used assassin mushrooms in the campaign. I’m not sure when I hit on the idea of using tubers but once I did there was no turning back. I mean, just look at how cool they are.
Central Oregon became the setting almost reflexively. I spent a few formative years there, and high deserts are one of the most underused settings in RPGs. They have so many cool elements–lava and obsidian and mountains and streams and cinder galore. Not to mention the smell of juniper and the tall yucca plants. In the final pdf, I used a couple of my photos from hiking up by Mt. Bachelor and the city itself is heavily based on the resort town of Sun River. The Three Sisters and Three-Fingered Jack are all mountains in the area as well.
So I wrote up about 10 pages of notes and ran the adventure. It went well I think! Not much fighting, but lots of decision-making all against a kind of he-said, she-said tension. Some of the more unusual elements, like the wordsearch to solve the dungeon, I was ready to see fail but it totally engaged the players. Lots of the characters died but in the end the PCs won.
At first I had a different plan for the kidnapped babies and children; using them in a weird kind of analogue to sweatshops and low-income slavery to make a point about our society. But talking to Gord Sellar about it and he suggested the obvious solution: they were grown quickly and formed Khale’s army. That made so much sense and also explained how the Tuberdudes came to be. In retrospect, it’s the only way it could have been.
Not long after I left Seoul and in the move lost those 10 pages. It’s the worst thing to have to remember all the stuff you’ve already once thought of and so my goal of typing it up got sort of shelved.
Then last autumn I saw that Luka Rejec had some free time and was looking for a few commissions. He’d actually joined one of our sessions in Seoul, where he illustrated every one of the PCs, and I knew his art would be perfect for this adventure. So I hit him up and couldn’t be happier with the results. But with those great illustrations, I now had to get this done.
Luka got the art to me in October. Since then, I’ve been pecking away. It got moved to the backburner for a few months while Wind and I finished Black Blade of the Demon King but in odd moments I’ve kept working on it. Since moving to Thailand in late April, I’ve been working on it almost every night. Despite being less than 30 pages and not heavy, I’ve spent probably 75-100 hours writing and designing this little sucker. It’s fun though and I’m slowly getting a little better at Indesign. In fact, this is the first adventure I wrote in Indesign, which is why there are so many random tables. Oh, extra space! Better think of a table to add.
I was calling the monsters “veggie men” but only as a placeholder. I wanted something less gendered and less generic. Just like the beastials (not beast men) in Black Blade of the Demon King, I didn’t want to use the most thoughtless name. On G+, I asked if anyone had any ideas and Jacob Hurst suggested Tuber Dudes. Maybe it’s just because I’m from the West Coast of the US, but I went with the notion that Dudes is non-gendered.
In my playtest, I’d used a dungeon from Dyson Delves 2. It was perfect but not licensed for re-use. Luckily Dyson is a rad guy and has lots of dungeons available for free use. The one I found wasn’t as perfect but it works reasonably well.
I’m neither an artist nor a designer. So when I wanted a cover, I searched public domain photos for anything involving vegetables. The best I got was the Dahli painting, which is quite cool, but totally inappropriate. It’s quite somber, for one, and the placement of the image makes it hard to get the title in there. The color scheme is cool though.
Wind saw that cover and politely suggested redoing it. He discusses the process in this post. A couple days later he emerged with the image on the right and it fits the tone and matches our Meatlandia cover perfectly.
When I ran this system, it was using the Lamentations ruleset. It was written mostly using Lamentations as well. However, when Gavin Norman released his B/X remix this year it seemed like a better system for this adventure. The Lamentations core audience, it seems to me, is looking for something a little edgier and a little less whimsical than this slightly fey adventure. So I read through the core rules, classes, and magic books a few times and made the necessary corrections. I think it’s a good fit, though I admit I’ll personally never play with descending AC again.
So there you go. All the background for this adventure. If it sounds like something you’d like, give it a shot and let me know what you think.