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Friday, January 31, 2014


Funny the directions XKCD can be illuminating.  Check out the hovertext. I did not know there are ancient, multilevel underground cities in Cappadocia.

Gizmodo did a story on it.

Another gamer has already done an interesting writeup for RPGs.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More old maps

While assembling my Map Index links page, I found some maps in my uploaded pictures that never got posted back in 2012 when I was scanning old maps like mad and posting them. So here are a few more of my greatest? hits of the 70s, suitable for the 40th anniversary of D&D, and a couple of later ones. Definitely more on the functional than the arty side.

 I don't know what this one is. Something from the 80s I think. I notice it has some of my favorite map tropes, like the pit with a board bridging it, and a small tunnel from the pit over to a trapdoor up to another hall.

 I totally don't know where this castle was.

I think this is sort of a hidden oasis with a spring and a pool in a bowl on a hill, since the vegetation away from the water looks like dry scrub. There is a secret approach trail up the dry stream bed. I do not remember what I was planning, but I still kind of like it.

 This one was later in the 70s campaign. I can tell by the calligraphy, the little subtunnels for the ratmen to flank the PCs, and the hollow tree entrances.
 Wasserschein siege tunnels. This one got used once I think.

Gotta figure out how to rotate images in blogger. CSS, or is their a GUI trick to it?
Anyway, the siege tunnels on the map above are located on this map, I think.

Zershene was typical of the smaller dungeons from the campaign after I scrapped the 10 squares to the inch megadungeon from the first flush of learning. Four compact levels on one sheet. This one saw a lot of play.

This last one, the Mountain Troll Lair, was effectively a one page dungeon, heavily keyed right on the map, probably from either my 80s 10 year anniversary OD&D game or intended for a 3rd Edition game. Either way, I don't think I ran it. It might be a fun one to redraw in inks.

Crispr works in Primates

Technology Review article discusses the finding of Crispr modified Macaque experiment in China, originally reported in Cell.

Why does this matter? Crispr is a system of DNA modification found and described in bacteria and more recently used for genetic manipulation in bacterial and other systems. It has a lot of potential for direct repair of genetic defects without shotgunning accidental changes around the rest of the cell's genome. A proof of concept experiment in primates is a big step towards usefulness for human genetic diseases.

Brant's Bolthole

A little breakfast dungeon, drawn over my morning mocha. Tried something different in place of hatching or stippling, sort of hinting at a texture to the surrounding rock.

The entrance is intentional left vague, it could be a branch off a corridor in a larger dungeon or a worked part of a cliff face, or the flat line could be replaced and worked into something else. The cave tunnel is the escape route.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Malefic Mine of Magister Mixos

Perhaps the name will change to something less alliterative once I start stocking it.

I just noticed some bleed through on the scan from a page behind. I'll have to rescan it tomorrow.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

First game of The Witches

Played the Martin Wallace game The Witches based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels with my daughter this morning.

It is a game in which each of 1-4 players is a young witch from the group of Tiffany Aching and those in her age group, that go to Lancre and its surroundings for some on the job training under the eyes of the more senior witches of Lancre and have to solve both easier, more mundane tasks like caring for a sick pig or midwifing a pregnant mother, and hard problems, like the vampires and elves. Tackling the easy problems accumulates the problem tokens, which improves your card hand size, giving you more tools, and smaller victory point awards. Tackling hard problems gives bonuses to the problem solving dice rolls. Cards are played in various ways, with some cards giving some tough choices of how and when to play them.

I like it. It plays smoothly and has a fair amount of flavor built in. I need to reread the rules to see if I missed anything, but played competitively,  it felt in this game like it is missing any rebalancing mechanisms. Since you get better at solving things as you succeed and collect VPs, it felt like once I got ahead mostly by being luckier, she was hard put to catch up and I coasted to victory. As far as I could see there wasn't too much to be done tactically in a two, three or four person game to cut into a leader's lead, other than avoiding having tea with them so far as possible or picking off problems that are convenient for them to reach, which are pretty much mutually exclusive strategies. So with the proviso that I may have missed a rule or two which might make a rebalancing house rule unnecessary, here is a possible rebalancing mechanism.

Without going to the trouble of actually keeping exact track of points, it is pretty obvious on the tracks how many green and purple tiles each player has collected. So, after the first turn, at the start of each player's turn, if that player has the most problem tiles, counting purple tiles as two, that player gets an extra cackle tile (or a Black Aliss by the usual mechanism if they also lead in cackle tiles. If the lead in problem tiles is tied, and you are one of the leaders, you get the extra cackle.

Another possibility would be to allow play of some of the cards to take away another player's second move in the turn, which would add a direct competitive mechanism. Would have to look through the deck to decide which cards and how. Maybe any Magic card and you take the hit on cackle to harm the target player, and you play it against them just before the flip to locate the new problem, so you are risking the chance of regretting the decision to hamper them if there is a run of additional crises.

Alternatively, let other players play cards into the active player's problem to raise the difficulty before the first roll, with a Headology being 1 point and a Magic card being 2 points, but costing the cackle token added to the person playing it.

To keep it as a rebalancing mechanism the player(s) with the largest problem token count would not be allowed to play cards against other players.

If the group are all gamers, I'd recommend playing with the fewer crisis tokens advanced variant to make it a bit tenser.

There is also a cooperative two player variant that would not have the problem.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gearing up to run a Dungeon World game

Dungeon World has been in my back burner pile for awhile, but I do really want to try it so I'm pushing it forward to the front burner.  I started reading it again and told the Friday night game group that I want to run one pretty soon. So I am rereading it and starting to scan the web for stuff. Found The Fine Mess Games page on Dungeon Starters  after coming across mention of the Shallow Seas one on a message board this morning.

Rollplay R&D on Youtube has a good video of a play session of Dungeon World. Hadn't come across it before and was surprised to see Luperza from Planetside 2 there playing.

Interesting post with custom moves for a sci fi Apocalypse World setting that might have some crossover potential.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Troglodyte Campaign II - A February start?

If I was to start up a game of the Troglodyte campaign  in Roll20 in February using a lightly hacked version of OD&D and a variant on Chainmail man to man combat, would anybody be interested in playing?

Monday, January 20, 2014

More caves!

Yet another batch of caverns, trying another approach to marking walls. With the emphasis on the wall treatment, I left the floors blank for now. Is it better to fully treat the walls of the upper cave in the vertical overlaps like on the right or leave them a simple line so to to reveal as much as possible of the one below like on the left?


This level is loosely inspired by Kevin Campbell's maps that Dyson reposted. Its not an attempt to reproduce his style but borrows the short stretches of wall meeting at odd angles, giving some of the faceted look, and then going off in other directions.

Caverns of the Western Reaches updated

Added some slopes and intensified stippling near the walls. Rescanned in color, which seems better for this creamy paper, digital retouch limited to a bit of smudge cleanup and a sharpen filter.

Of course there are always places to add stippling that I don't see until I've scanned, and emailed, and posted.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Slings get underrated in D&D on their range, ammo types, damage (at least for the quality ammo) and variety.  Their actual difficulties also go uncovered. I've been very fond of slings since reading of the Grey Mouser using one in the story collection "Two Sought Adventure", making and shooting a couple and clay shot for them in my rural teens, and reading an article on them in Sci Am back then. is a gathering of sling geeks and sling info.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Caverns of the Western Reaches

Drew this while we watched West Side Story on Netflix. I was learning as I went. Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.5 and 0.1

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Skrad - a dungeon

The scanner saved a PDF. I converted two copies of the file in Preview, one a JPEG, one a PNG. Posting the PNG, since the JPEG went gray and the PNG did not. Source of some of the gray background mystery, I guess. Will save PNGs from now on.

The loopy bits to the stippling were a fun experiment to do but I don't think I'll go with that particular embellishment next time.

Since Skrad is an exercise map, I'm scraping off some rust in dungeon stocking as well... I'm doing this more from the perspective of what the map calls to mind than a plotted adventure. As I was drawing it, about the only thing I had in mind was to place some kobolds or something else that is small in the narrow passages section at the top, a secondary bit of construction. 

Any notes on armament and armor for most creatures here should be replaced by whatever your figures have if you have miniature figures to use in playing this.

1 The entrance is a stone archway into a cliff face. A row of stone blocks raises the sill several inches. Inside the archway the floor slopes away downward. The diagonal lines are wires from the floor up to a niche above the capstone, where they will pull down a box of many small round stones if triggered.  Careful search or a find traps success will spot the fine wires before they are triggered. Easy Dex check to avoid stepping on some, falling, and rolling down the slope if they are triggered. If a character does fall, they are likely to lose one item in hand or on their person (2/3 chance), take 1 HP, and be surprised by the hobgoblin sentries in 2 when they fetch up. The hall here down to 2 is approximately 8' wide.

2 The base of the slope, a couple of  hobgoblin guards lounge in the fresh breeze that blows in from the outside. If they feel threatened and have time, they'll fall back into the cover of the barricade in 3 or all the way back across the pit bridge in 4, hollering and throwing their missiles. Both are in leather armor. One (7 HP)  is armed with a javelin, a sword and a shield, and the other (5 HP) a two handed club and a rock for throwing. 20 SP each. Each wears 3-5 barbaric talismanic nodoz fetishes of bundled bone and feathers. The fetishes (collectively fore each set, not individually) are good enough to enhance one save vs magic once, for a +2, and give a normal save vs magic against a sleep spell, and then they are consumed, bones crumbling and feathers shredding and drifting away in bits. If split up, each fetish will provide a +1 or +0 to the save instead.

3 The niche in the wall has marks on the floor indicating it once held an octagonal pedestal. Across the hall is a partial barricade of wooden boxes filled with rocks and earth. One has 20 coppers and a the top half of a crude and broken statuette buried in the dirt, the statuette glows faintly green in the darkness, enough to be spotted in the dark within LOS but not enough to provide a useful light source to see anything over a few inches away. In games with a Luck stat, take a -1 to Luck rolls while carrying it. In games without a Luck stat but with saving throws take a -1 to whichever save is listed first on your character sheet or master table. It is not a "sticky" cursed item. It can be discarded at will.

4 A deep pit spanned by a makeshift bridge of rough boards. Dex check or the equivalent to cross quickly, auto success if going slowly and carefully and not under attack. They can be removed from either side, pulled back with care or just kicked down into the pit. The pit is about 25 feet deep. The bottom of the pit has a secret door on the south side into room 9 about 4 feet up from its floor. The narrow opening in the north wall west of the pit  is 2 feet above floor level and goes directly to a short stairway of stairs about 4' wide with 5' of head clearance and steps so narrow they are practically ladder rungs for normal human feet.

There is a bas relief of a flaming demonic head and an inscription of warning in an ancient tongue on the south wall over the stairs, foreshadowing room 7.

5 As mentioned in 4, 4' wide by 5' high halls link a series of small rooms. Human sized PCs will have to stoop and not have much space for weapon play and should get appropriate penalties. The ceiling in the rooms is higher, about 6-7 feet. The stonework is noticeably different from the larger halls, with smaller stones set into the walls. A dwarf's stonekenning check or some similar dungeoneering skill will recognize kobold wrought stonework.

  • a - 2 kobolds, 1 is cooking over crude brazier stove in NW corner if not alerted. If alerted, they'll spread 2 flasks worth of oil behind the door and he'll be ready to fling the brazier of hot coals into it. There's a couple days supply of perishables and a couple weeks of nonperishable foodstuffs.
  • b - Gark the "guard dog", a demented and twisted kobold, will bark and growl and foam at the mouth at intruders. He was maimed and maddened in a horrible magical lab accident, on all fours, and is chained to a rusty iron ring in the floor,  so not much of a direct threat unless you walk right into his reach.  (fecal mess,  food scraps, bones)
  • c - 6 kobolds (basic book stats). Szipp Yip, Krrek's henchman and littermate will talk for them if it comes up. If alerted, and they probably will be due to  Gark in (b), they can use a net prepared to drop over intruders that enter the room. The corners of the net are attached to stones rest in niches up on the walls over the west side of the room. This is manually operated by a tug on a rope to dislodge the weights and release, so there is no disarm possible from outside, but really cautious entry gives a chance to spot a corner of the net resting in the niche on the other side once the door is open. The trigger rope is hooked to a bracket on a wall when they aren't standing alert and takes a few seconds to loose and ready.  If prepared the kobolds will wait in the safe east end and be ready to trigger the net. It'll be a Dex save or similar to dodge back through the door or rush past the net before it finishes falling.  They don't have much, copper and silver trinkets and coins to a total value of 150 CP and 24 SP. 
  • d - Kobold leader Krrek Yip is tall and burly for a kobold. 1 full HD, 7 HP, dagger and whip. The door is trapped, as he doesn't really trust the other kobolds. Its a simple 1D6 damage deadfall of stones from a hollow in the ceiling behind the door unless his brass key is used to open it. Lockpicking will unlock the door on the first success, but usually trigger the trap. A crit or second roll to disarm traps must be made to safely open it by lockpicking. He proudly wears four gold pieces pierced and strung on a on a leather necklace. In his pouch is a packet of mushrooms, and the skull of a mole.
  • e - hallucinogenic mushrooms grow here - Krrek's private stash and trade goods. There are some hanging from threads and drying, and four hide packets of dried mushrooms on a flat stone ready for use or trade at the north end of the room.

6   Three hobgoblins (4, 4, 6 HP, leather, 2 daggers, handaxe for sidearms). If unalerted they are eating and gambling. A table and stools at the south side. Three baskets of dry foodstuffs along the north wall. 240 CP and 30 SP are in stacks on the table, some in front of the players, some in a pile in the center. The game seems to involve small bones and stones scratched with runes.
Spears and shields lean against the wall. The big one has fetishes like the ones in location 2. The other two have lower quality fetishes of no magical effect. If alerted, one will bang on the door to 7 to alert their shaman and they'll take up the spears and shields and move to ambush positions in the NW corner (one) and SW corner (two).

7  Gazgur, hobgoblin necroshaman, festooned in mystic fetishes, is in the midst of a long series of rituals seeking to bind the spirit of the demon Alakiterosh, Black Goat of Fire,
whose skull is entombed in the living rock north of this room.

Gazgur is 4th level, 4D6 HD. Most of his spells are tied up in rituals towards binding the demon's ghost, but he can cast a level 2 blinding curse (save vs magic) that lasts until the save is made, checking once an hour. He is the maker of the fetishes worn by the other hobgoblins, and has a nodoz set (save vs magic on Sleep and +2 to magic saves) like the others, and more that he keeps to himself, one set that will turn the first  melee blow or missile that strikes him, and another that gives him a +2 save vs poison, once. He will have a variety of shamanic paraphrenalia and fetish components, worth maybe 5 GP to a merchant, but 100-200 GP to a mage or sage with an interest in shamanic magic. He has 5 GP in a pocket, and wears rings worth 10 GP, 10 GP, 40 GP, 120 GP, and 300 GP. He uses a silver shod staff and a silver dagger engraved with necromantic sigils that is +1 underground or at night.

Unalerted, he will be conversing with Alakiterosh, and spend his first round compelling the ghost to defend him. Alerted, he will be lurking at the back of the room, and Alakiterosh will be the first thing the PCs see.

Alakiterosh should be pyrotechnic! Metal!! AWESOME!!!  Lots of flame effects, swooping, horrific scream, and histrionic declarations of doom and woe. Invoke a fear check if you can't induce fear/caution in players by the narration. Holiness or having been Blessed armors against its fear effect, +4.

Given the partial success of Gazgur's ritual to date, Alakiterosh's manifestation is incomplete. It cannot chase beyond room 6. It has 4 HD and 16 HP, AC4, fly 12", only affected by magic, silver, holy water or weapons wielded by lawful Clerics, Paladins, or characters under a Bless or similar holy enhancement. It can strike with a 30' linear gout of flame that does 1D6+1 and sets the target afire unless a save vs magic is successful for an ongoing 1D4 per round until ordinary fire can be extinguished, up to 4 rounds. This costs it 1D3 HP, so it cannot use it too much. It has a burning melee touch attach, with the same damage but no HP expended. It will flow and swoop around and attack any character it chooses for its attack, will not be pinned in melee. Fire will boost it, water or wine will harm it (typically 1D3) temporarily. It can regenerate damage by normal weapons wielded by the holy or ordinary water at 1D6 per full turn, even after defeat. Should Gazgur complete his rituals in a couple weeks time, he will level up and Alakiterosh will be bound to serve but become much larger, able to leave, upgrade to 8 HD, AC 2, lose vulnerability to normal weapons and water completely, and do 2D6 with its gout of flame (range 60') and melee attack. Alakiterosh will also subtly start preying on his mind and working to free itself. If it does so, it can be a terrible threat until the statuette mentioned below

A secret niche where the south wall meets the curved wall holds a magic statuette of an fire demon bound in chains. Gazgur has not discovered it. It is a key component to binding the ghost to this place and this plane. If  destroyed, Alakiterosh can go wild for several rounds, increasing in power by a HD per round, until it reaches 8 HD, and will then open a portal back to its home Plane and pass through it after three more rounds of rampage. Any within 20' at that point save vs petrifaction/paralysis or get sucked along through the portal. If carried away, Alakiterosh will be able to manifest within 100 feet of the statuette at midnight.

8 Crated supplies.  A table with three skulls on it. They are dwarf skulls if examined with a sufficient forensic anatomy related skill or a really good perception (raw INT?) roll. The skulls chatter and roll around if disturbed in a minor bit of animating magic. They don't talk, or attack, or anything particularly interesting but might have a bit of value as magic knicknacks to the right buyer. A necromancer, given some research and rituals, might get much more powerful results from them. They are a backburner project of Gazgur's, neglected since he has become absorbed in controlling Alakiterosh.

9 secret room. Secret doors in from the pit N (see 4) and room 8. A chest here with a poison needle trap in the lock contains a potion of healing, a scroll of Cure Disease, and 200 GP.

10 Four hobgoblins, all have the nodoz fetishes. 30 GP.  Stairs go down to the second level. They have a barrel of oil (not depicted on the map yet) and a burning oil lamp at the head of the stairs, ready to make a fiery defense against the horrors below.

11 The cave in is still unstable and digging at it has a chance to cause more of this disused chamber to cave in. Detect Magic will pick up a source of magic in the rubble though, a Ring that grants the power to speak to cats, though cats being cats, they will often be dismissive after initial curiosity. The ring has a feline motif to the cut stone and markings in an ancient language indicating it was crafted in honor of the Cat Goddess, Bast if appropriate to the campaign mythos. A second power, less likely to be discovered, is that it makes the wearer fascinating, even alluring, to weretigers and Rakshasas. It will take three turns of digging to recover the ring. After one, there should be creaking and some shifting, some dust or gravel falling. After two, serious cracking and a dislodged stone has a 1/3 chance of hitting a digger for 1D6. After three, the clumsiest, lowest Dex digger rolls 1D20 vs Dex: over Dex triggers a major cave-in. Each point over Dex caves in two feet of the chamber back from the cave in. Anybody that would be caught rolls a Dex check to cinematically escape as the ceiling collapses behind them. Anybody caught in the cave-in takes 2D6 and is buried under rubble. Success and the ring is found.

Possible Hooks
How to use Skrad? Krrek Yip's magic mushrooms are a likely hook, as is Gazgur's plot to enslave Alakiterosh reaching either a PC mage, pulling him or her here when it is a disturbance to spell meditation nearby, or a more powerful or cleric further away dispatches the PCs to investigate the disquieting emanations in the magical ether. Or the PCs come across the legend of Alakiterosh's entombment in the wake of Gazgur having found the same clue. It can just be a drop-in "What's that gateway in the cliff face?" sandbox location as well.

What is below?
I don't know yet. Haven't started a map or settled on any thematic ideas. But the oil barrel trap in 10
suggests Gazgur's hobgoblins fear it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Playing "How to Host a Dungeon"

I started a game of "How to Host a Dungeon" last night, recording the map this time in Krita, and the log describing the dungeon and some play by play commentary in a text file.  It is basically a game you play solo to build a fleshed out classic side view dungeon map with levels, history and factions developed as you go.  Last night I completed the Primordial Age. Will post the game here once it has progressed a bit. Once done, the map you make can be turned into an OSR dungeon by drawing up and populating the levels to go with the side view.

I played once before, on paper, but stopped before the Age of Villainy. The resulting map was quite evocative and not one I would have drawn a priori. It might be worth finishing as a scenario as is, or setting back up and completing the rest of the How to Host a Dungeon history.  I'll probably scan it and transcribe the notes anyway.

Bought the paper game kit on a whim a couple years back. It's definitely a worthwhile thing for anybody who enjoys building your own dungeons with some random aids. Planet Thirteen has an unillustrated PDF version for free on their site.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Troglodyte campaign

One of the games that has been clattering around in the back of my head is a village in a cavern system who have been cut off from the surface so long that an open sky is a thing of legend and not much believed. Maybe they are humans who have adapted to a life in the caves. Maybe some more normally troglodyte species. Goblins that just think of themselves as "The People" are the most frequent way I've poked at this idea.

It's probably a sandbox/underground hex crawl campaign, with a small area of caves making up the village and the well known immediate surroundings and fungus farming & fishing cave streams being the main food supplies of the village at the start. They'll have fuzzier knowledge and maybe some artifact maps of places up to a couple of days travel down tunnels and through caverns, and know some local dangers with strategies passed down for coping with them.

They'll be neolithically equipped, not a metal culture, with some shamanistic use of specialized fungi (& creatures? & minerals?) along with the usual eating kind. Spirit/ancestor magic seems a likely second magical path for them. The spirit magic could also include some attunement to the spirits of the stone - so they can appease elementals that might otherwise bring down the ceiling on them, etc. Memory songs - their records of the past would likely be largely retained in song. Their "bards" would also be keepers of tribal history. Re metals, finishing the thought, coming across metal weapons and tools will be a major and precious discovery.  For this to be the case, the first few layers of opposition have to be unarmed creatures or similar to themselves or they would at least be culturally aware of metals.

Beyond that a cave network extends beyond their ken, much like the TSR Underdark. 

Most of the tribe is very cautious about going too far, and after a coming of age test/hunt versus some of the local dangers and creatures, settles into regular patterns of life and ritual.

Possible hooks: Our PCs could be
a) an unusually curious generation, for reasons to be developed

b) thrust into the role of explorers by some creeping doom that imperils their village which can only be answered by finding a solution or place of refuge beyond the known extent of caverns

c) cut off from the village by a calamity (earthquake and rockfall maybe? shifting of an underground river?) during a coming of age hunt and looking for a way back the long way round, getting into adventures and exploration while seeking a way home.

Big discoveries possible for the PCs:
Strange or legendary creatures
More advanced worked stone
Subterranean places that are less of a forgotten backwater than their home
Magic, beyond the shamanism they have at the beginning
Other races & subterranean cultures, friendly or otherwise 
Surface Dwellers
Access to the surface

Rules? probably something OSR, but maybe Savage Worlds, Dungeon World, BRP

So does this appeal? Has something close to this been published in game modules I don't know? I'm not too familiar with the Underdark stuff, it being from the era between OD&D and 3rd edition when I got back in but think it was mainly from a traditional D&D surface explorers or considerably more advanced Drow perspective.

Notes from a decrepit pocket notebook

While looking for the other half of the card deck came across an ancient pocket notebook with some RPG idea notes. I will transcribe the notebook here for whatever small utility the notes may have and chuck it. It's grotty.  May not be interesting to anyone else but that's okay. Somebody might find a bit of it useful.

Try working through a universe in which a young, growing Terran space effort (united? divided?) of maybe 40 systems and maybe 1-3 allied alien species bumps up against large, powerful alien empire, old, slow, patient, some tech advantage and some tech disadvantages. This empire should have a dominant alien race and several subject species. It isn't eager to enslave/destroy H. saps bu is driver to do so by obvious manifest destiny behavior on human part.

On other sides should be open/dangerous region(s), useful planets including undiscovered alien races, and maybe a smaller, but very aggressive alien territory or brushfire war neighbor.


Good king poisoned in ambush is resting up in Tower Keep in Wilderness awaiting rescue. An evil army joins the ambushers for assault to capture the king. A messenger has slipped away and summoned rescuers including a priest who can cure the king.


D&D room situation

An ornate room with frescos of the Walking Dead (skeletons, etc) in imitation of the Four Seasons.
 Spring - planting, lovers wooing
Summer - peasants at fieldwork and nobles at war
Fall - Harvest festival, Nobles hawking
Winter - Feasting, Boar hunt in snow, skating

A tree carved of white marble stands in front of Spring bearing five ruby "fruits".

If PCs enter, five phantoms will materialize before them, somewhat slowly, taking one round, but can move while materializing. The phantoms are linked to the rubies. They attack by draining STR at 1D6/hit (recovered at 1/day if COM roll made)

They are 6 HD, AC 2, Move 9", invulnerable to normal weapons and dematerialized by magic weapons for # of rounds equal to hits inflicted.

They can pass through walls and doors an will stay within ten yards of the rubies, attacking if rubies are removed and carried on a  D6 roll of 1 each combat round.

The phantoms can be destroyed by clerical turn as spectres. On turn result, they return in hours equal to the cleric's level. They can also be destroyed by magic weapons rolling an instant kill, 20 followed by 19-20 confirm, or a single hit by magic or a magic weapon over their HP, return in a number of days equal to HP. Or by destroying the gems.

They can be gotten rid of by leaving the gems.

A deep well shaft close to the room is a possibility.

A lawful cleric that inters the gems with a proper burial ceremony gets 500 exp, others 200 exp. If the rubies are interred with the crypts housing the final remains of the phantom's earthly bodies nearby, they achieve final rest and the cleric gains 1000 exp.


A Magic Mouth on the Door shouts when the door is listened to. "TRYING TO LISTEN TO THE DOOR, HUH?" "TRYING TO SURPRISE THE MONSTERS, HUH?"


Little man in little house -

A box like a gingerbread house, if handled, has a little man, 3" tall,  come out.

He can be induced to serve in some way. When carried along, he'll leave box, shrink useful stuff to his size and take it into box. The box is like a little Tardis, has unlimited Dimension Door and will do so at his choosing or when threatened with damage, like attempts to pry or bash it open.

Reconstructing a half-forgotten card driven miniatures campaign

In the late 70s, as one of my various forays in wargames and RPGs, I conceived of a miniatures campaign that would try to evade the problem of epic clashes that make subsequent battles pointless. Mostly I played it with Scott Wisher, but a few of our other friends joined in on occasion, I particularly remember Jim Mzik from Chanute being there for one of the bigger battles involving the evil temple.

Thematically it was a small scale fantasy skirmish campaign. The rules for battle were my man to man fantasy skirmish rules that started from having played a lot of Chainmail and riffed from their towards how I felt the game ought to play. The spell tables were used straight from Chainmail with a few tweaks. Most of the changes were in the movement, morale, and combat rules. I've been sitting on a half done post presenting the rules for some time now, maybe this will be the inspiration I need to complete it. Usually we'd play fairly large battles when playing these rules, maybe 6 to 8 units, mostly of 12 figures, plus some specials on each side. This campaign took it down a notch,  the fights were smaller, some much smaller.

The campaign map was a pencil sketch on a piece of notebook paper, which I may be able to dredge back up along with the rosters. It was an area of mixed temperate forest, open fields and hills, with a couple roads crossing through from one important off map place to another, and a river or two if I remember correctly. Most terrain features were named.

The map was being contested by a variety of small factions, some Lawful and some Evil, with rosters for each faction in each side. All the non-monstrous characters that took more than a single hit were named, as were some of the monsters, and some of the single hit characters.  The factions could be very small, The Wizard in the Wood, with a few servants, creations, and monstrous minions, or a homesteading family with a farm in another clearing, or a small stand of Entwoods with a handful of Ents. The largest that I remember were a Lawful castle with palisaded village and a pretty solid garrison of knights and men at arms and evil temple up on a hill with a dungeon complex beneath it. I drew up some maps for that and another dungeon but I don't think a delve there ever came off as part of the action. The cards were red construction paper that I wrote on with a felt tip pen, all text.

 Campaign events came about mostly through the play of cards, certain cards set things in motion on the map, and when things were moving on the map, each side had both a card play and a map move to make in a turn. I do not remember the details of hand size, draw or discard. It was probably a draw one card system, with option to discard or play. I can see from some of the cards that there was a passage of time recorded, but I don't remember how card play fit in, weekly card play turns would probably make sense.

The deck was designed around the idea that most factions would be very unlikely to fully risk their existence to offensive action, so cards that activated a faction for an attack usually specified a fraction of the group that could be used. But there were a variety cards that created or broke alliances, and added extra forces or weakened a force, so that larger attacks could be organized, or broken up at the political card play level and then once a player felt strong enough, he'd play the card to launch the attack. There were also two levels of attack, Raids which were smaller, and Attacks which were larger and had to be preceded by a declaration of war. The state of war was between individual factions, not whole alignments, but factions on a side could become allied and then could be pulled in by playing the Summon Allies. There were alliance breaking cards and truce cards that would end a state of war, so that getting enough political traction to set up for military success was always difficult, keeping the campaign continuing for awhile. Each card was coded with who could play it L-Lawful, E-Evil, B-Both. As you will see in the cards listed, dungeon expeditions were another form of miniatures play. The plan was roughly to do a simplified D&D like dungeon expedition using the miniatures combat rules if I remember correctly.

The nature of the campaign was such that with the map, rosters, and a bit of a log going, and each side's hand bagged between sessions, we could sit down and play the campaign card game for awhile, often changing sides when we sat down to a new session, and play a fight, maybe two in the evening if the fights were small. Log the losses and save the game away for next time.

One problem I remember with it was that there was a gold economy in the game that could be used with some cards to reinforce groups and build fortifications I think, and pay taxes to off map powers, but the income/outflow was not in balance so we accumulated wealth in some of the stronger factions on the map. Reading some of the cards, the money was in GT, so Gold Talents, and I see a notation GTJ on the adventurers card, which probably meaning Jewelry worth a Gold Talent. ST silver talent, CG common goods, PG precious goods. A talent is between 100 and 1000 coins in D&D, will have to go through all cards to figure out a rate if every trying to tie the two together.

All that said, I came across part of the deck of cards this morning, so I will transcribe them to give more of the flavor of the thing. I think it is about half the deck. I count 50 missing numbers below 96.

Since Reinforcements cards describe a starting offmap location, I think they actually moved onto the map, and could possibly generate combats before arriving at the group they were joining.

Summon Allies is clearly an "instant" that can be played together with a combat initiating card.

The Deck

Ambush E 4
The Orcs of the wild wood may ambush one party ont he High Road with up to 1/3 of their force. Allies may be called, up to 1/4 of each may help if a Summon Allies card is played

Treaty B 8
The High King will invoke peace on all warring armies. Having determined the war to be the fault of Lawful forces, they must pay the Evil ones 10 to 60 GT in tribute. All prisoners must be returned. Ransom of 5 per Hit may be demanded.

Mercenaries B 15
All mercenaries are inducted into royal service and immediately leave for the Great Kingdom.

Invaders E 17
A band of nomad raiders from the Dry Wastes swings down from the N.E> and attacks Demsley.
Nomads: 18 M. Horse, 4 M. Horsebow, 1 3H M. Horse Hero

Weather B 19
Battle prevented by terrible storm.
Either side may withdraw. If neither does, the fight will commence the next day.

Disease B 21
Plague strikes one stronghold. Roll die for each occupant.
1-3 no effect
4-5 ill for one month
6+ killed
If besieged, add one to the die. Presence of Bishop or Patriarch will subtract one from the die.

Famine E 24
Demsley and Bannock's Freehold are struck by a famine. One CG per fighter must be expended for food relief. Any shorted will die. One raid may be attempted by each in order to capture enough food. Up to 1/2 may go.

Quest L 27
One Evil warrior, monstger, or leader will be summoned to the City of the Gods to perform an Unholy Quest. After 1 month roll a die.
1-3 slain
4-6 returns with +1 Hit, 3-30 GT and a magic weapon.

Summons E 31
The Lord of Orly Castle and at least 3 retainers must journey to the Great Kingdom to appear at the wedding of one of the High King's sons. Each will return with 1-6 GT and 1-3 PG as guesting gifts.

Undead L 32
The Undead will asssist the lawful side in one battle. 1/2 of each type will appear with the Undead Lord, coming in on a 1 or a 2.    (Note: I think this was my version of Aragorn and the Paths of the Dead, the 1 or 2 reference was probably a die roll each turn in the battle, so this card must have been playable once a battle has been started.)

Rebellion B 34
One captured stronghold will rebel against the garrison with one half their original strength but without a leader.

Tribute L 37
must be sent by the evil forces to Sea Spray in the amount of 30 GT. If it is captured by someone en route, more must be sent until one shipment gets through.

Taxes L38
Taxes may be collected by the lord of Orly Castle from tributary territories to the north to the amount of 12 GT, 30 ST, 40 CG, and 10 PG.

Dungeon Expedition L 40
One party may go from any lawful group to the Dark Citadel. This may include 1/4 of its force plus 1/4 of any ally called by the Summon Allies card plus ALL lawful adventurers if any.

Dungeon Expedition L 43
One party may be sent from any lawful force to the Great Stone Mountain. This may consist of 1/3 of its force plus any lawful adventurers.

Dungeon Expedition L 45
Any lawful adventurers may go to either dungeon.

Reinforcements E 47
12 Heavy foot and 2 Evil Vicars come from the City of the Gods to join the troops at the Temple of the Goat.

Reinforcements L 48
6 heavy Foot and 1-6 Adventurers join Demsley or Bannock. They come from Sea Spray. Adventurers:
1 Fighter
2 MU
3 Cleric
4 Elf (1-2 F, 3-4 M, 5-6 T)
5 Dwarf (1-4 F, 5-6 T)
6 Hobbit (1-3 F, 4-6 T)
1-3 Hits each, Each possessed 1-6 GT, 1-3 GTJ and has a 1/3 chance for each hit of having a magic item.

Reinforcements E 49
1-2 8 Goblins and a Bugbear join the Badlands Goblins from the East.
3-4 6 Orcs and an ogre join the orcs in the Wildwood.

and 1-6 adventurers join the Wizard in the Wood. (See card 30 for specs.)

Summon Allies B 51

( Probably most of the missing cards between 50 and 55 are Summon Allies, since I did similar cards in runs.)

Magic! L 56
The Lord of Orly Castle searches his armory and finds the Sword of the Mists. It is +2, does double hits to ogres, and casts spells as a seer. (If the Sword of the Mists has been found already, roll for another magic item.)

Magic! E 57
The Goat God bestows on his High Priest the Staff of Kings. It strikes as a flail +1, finds secret doors and casts spells as a lawful vicar.( If the Staff of Kings is already in play, roll for another magic item.)

Mercenaries E 61
A mercenary company from the City of the Gods heads to the Temple of the Goat for employment at a rate of 20 GT a year plus support.
Mercenaries: 12 Heavy Foot and a 2H heavy horse hero.

Mercenaries L 62
12 mercenary dwarves and a 2H hero dwarf come down to the Last Chance Inn from Seaspray. They will hire on for 6 GT per month plus board.

Mercenaries E 63
A company of 18 mercenary orcs come from Seaspray to the Wizard in the Wood for service at a rate of 20 GT per year plus board.

Caravan B 64
A caravan loaded with 80 CG and 12 PG travels from the City of the Gods to the Great Kingdom.
It will leave 5 CG at each stronghold along the way in payment for services. Its guard force consists of 8 longbowmen, 12 heavy foot, 6 medium horse, and 1 Magician with 8 wagons.
(Note, both are offmap locations, so this is crossing the map.)

Caravan B 66
A caravan loaded with 30 PG and 40 ST is going from Panjud to the City of the Gods. The guards are 6 Elf light horsebow and 6 Elf heavy foot.

Assassin B 69
For 20 GT an assassin can be hired to slay one enemy leader.
On a 1 or 2 he will be successful. A 1 to the roll if the target is a spellcaster. Subtract 1 if the assassin is aided by a spellcaster.

Raid E 70
Raid by Badlands Goblins on Bannock's Freehold to capture Bannock's daughter. Up  to 1/3 of Goblins plus up to 1/4 of card-called allies.

Raid E 71
Raid by the forces of the Wizard in the Wood up target of choice to capture treasure and slaves for experiments. Up to 1/2 of Wizard's force plus up to 1/3 of any allies called by cards.

Raid E 72
Raid by up to 1/3 of any evil force plus up to 1/4 of any card-called allies up any lawful force.

Raid L 73
A raid by up to 1/3 of any lawful force plus up to 1/4 of any card-called allies up any evil force.

Raid L 74
A raid by up to 1/2 of the force at Godseye may be made against the Temple of the Goat to capture the High Priest. Up to 1/3 of an card-called allies may help.

War B 76
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

Break Alliance B 78
Break one enemy alliance.

Break Alliance B 79
Break all alliances of one enemy force.

Break Alliance B 80
Break all alliances of one enemy force.

Alliance E 82
Any evil force may form an alliance with any other evil force.

Alliance L 86
Any lawful force may form an alliance with any other lawful force.

Attack E 89
Any evil force may attack one lawful force with up to 2/3 its strength plus up to 1/2 of all card-called allied forces, if it has declared war on that force using a War card.

Attack L 92
Any lawful force may attack any evil force with up to 3/4 of its strength plus up to 2/3 of all card-called allies, if war has been declared by one force upon the other by use of a War card.

War B 93
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

War B 94
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

War L 95
Any lawful force may declare on any evil force.

War E 96
Any evil force may declare war on any lawful force

Friday, January 10, 2014

Color shift in Blogger

Why do some images that have a white background when editing, go bluish or grayish in Blogger?  Is there an easy way to fix it or file format that shows it less? Maybe its the background white I use on the blog that is the problem?

Rune Map

A little mapping experiment I drew the other day. The scanner/printer is on the fritz, so I just took a phone photo and played with brightness and contrast a bit and selected the part I wanted to get a "decent" image. Might do something like this for some player handout maps.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stone Shelters

There's this curious book I got a couple years ago. "Stone Shelters" by Edward Allen, MIT Press. Not me, he was writing it in the 60s when I was just a kid. Looking the book up, I find he was pretty prolific in architectural books. My copy is old and used, a '74 printing,  but I see copies available on Amazon.

Anyway, this other Edward Allen went to southern Italy on a Fulbright in the '60s and studied, photographed, and sketched trullo houses and cave dwellings that stayed in use well into historical times. A trullo is a house built around sort of a beehive dome of unmortared stone blocks. The combination of photos and plans of trulli here are appealing for modeling buildings or doing RPG maps. The cave dwelling maps he provides are fascinating to show the patterns in which cave dwelling people actually carved out caves into homes instead of a gamer's guess. Google image search turns up only one bad scan of his floor plan as part of an architectural essay.

It's worth picking up on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A GM notebook project

These are notes on a project I am considering doing, thinking out loud as it were.  Feel free to chime in with comments.

Way back in the 80s I ran my D&D campaign for awhile largely on a set of HyperCard stacks that I developed. The core of it was maps, sometimes tiled across multiple cards, with locations linked to a key database, usually with a snippet of a dungeon map showing the room and the page of text about its description. The world map was a big, linked set of cards that had links at marked locations that drilled down into dungeon maps, castle maps, and city maps, plus a panel of various DM aid buttons that went to stacks for character sheets, die rollers, sound effects players, treasure and overland encounter generators, etc.

Out of all of that the part I'd like to rebuild now out of HTML and Javascript is a convenient way to upload a map file, find it again, and cover it with an image map where I make rects or polygons that bring up an editable popup location key. It has to be really convenient or I won't bother using it.  All the pieces exist to one degree or another elsewhere. It ought to be convenient both at a computer or on a tablet, and be minimalist and focused. There should be two kinds of links, key popups and links to other maps, along with some sort of tree structured navigation map index. It's worth considering whether having a view on all the key entries separately is enough of a good thing to implement. I might do without it.  But it might make importing maps easier if a text file could be uploaded with a key along with the map, and parts of it matched up with locations on the map.

Coffeetime is over, gotta go, later....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Nameless Dungeon

I don't have a good name for this map yet. But I think I'll flesh it out as an adventure, so it will have one by the time I'm done.


Experimenting with a new pen - Micron 005 for the details, trusty Staedtler 0.5 for heavier lines, and paper - Strathmore 400 Series drawing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Medieval pet names

This article on medieval pet names might be useful for fantasy or historical RPGs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A villainous creature for Barbarians of Lemuria

The Zaqqun
A quivering mass of translucent motile plasm from which emerge groping pseudopodia, it appears to be a typical blob monster. But unlike most blobs, this one is very intelligent, and will act with deliberation and stratagem. Being smart it will retreat if appropriate, plan and scavenge to grow and plot vengeance. It can stealthily ooze through a crack of 1/2 or less width, taking a few minutes to do so. It's not so much a simple monster as an oozing villain.

Strength 6
Agility 0
Mind 4

Career - intelligent blob monster 2
All languages of characters absorbed until their bonus LB is gone are known, and careers at original level -2. It can form sensory parts at will. It can emphasize any one sense at a time, taking about a round to reconfigure, the optimized sense being nearly as good as an animal that specializes in it - smell like a dog with a bit of a cold, see like a slightly nearsighted raptor, hear like a slightly deaf bat, pick one. It can form vocal apparatus at will and sound like an eerily altered version of the person whose memory and vocal shape it is borrowing.

Combat Abilities
Strike with a pseudopod 1d6 acidic attack. Half of all damage absorbed by armor degrades the armor, roll off fractions (1-3 round down, 4-6 round up). Mighty success does both maximum damage and gives an ongoing +2 to hit that target as it begins to engulf, contact broken on a subsequent miss.

Defense 2
Protection d4-1 (half degrades weapon damage permanently by acidic damage, as above for pseudopod strike, but reducing the values of the weapon that hit it, instead of the armor it hit).

Lifeblood 16 + 1 per 50 pounds of flesh it digests, digests a +1 per round in contact with a dead or helpless target (takes 3-5 rounds after a kill to engulf and digest an adult male human target, bonus lasts for a day, if quiescent bonus degrades much more slowly, up to 20x, giving an opportunity to grow huge if it engulfs a lot of creatures).

Movement - it can ooze along at up to about 4 mph, faster than a walk, much slower than a run, but maintaining that pace will burn through 1 LB per hour.

If resting to slow its metabolism to not burn through absorbed lifeblood, it will take a full round after it is aware of enemies to rouse enough to action, and then act at -2 for a round.

It is vulnerable to fire. Plunging a typical torch into it will do it 1d4 of damage on a successful hit, extinguishing the torch. It is particularly vulnerable to alchemical bases, a few ounces of soda ash or ammonia will do it 1d6. Hunters, magicians, alchemists, and scholars might know this (knowledge test on the career, possible retest if there is time and a library to research it) and alchemists are likely to have enough for 1d3 attacks if they have their typical travelling supplies on them (resource test against alchemy career if necessary to determine randomly). Obviously, it will look out for alchemists and flee from prepared ones or fire bearing mobs.

Acidic damage to armor and weapons can develop slowly, mention the sizzle or blackening at first but only inflict the weakening effect after another round or so if you want it to feel a bit more real.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Using The Last Day of Ragnarok adventure generator with Barbarians of Lemuria

+Kenneth Hite wrote one of my favorite game settings, The Day After Ragnarok. I have the Savage Worlds version. I particularly like the random scenario generator, probably the best of its sort I've come across. I've used it a couple times with minor tweaks in other settings.I intend to make an example here of using it to set up a scenario for Barbarians of Lemuria. I'll dice my way through and discuss how I use and tweak the results.

Before starting, I want to mention that the random city generator is also quite good.

Our hook is 10 on D12 - Old Friend

The second table, location, is maybe the one to fiddle with the most. The result "City" is 1 out of 12, which feels a bit low to me for a lot of settings. That can be glossed over by several of the other results having an option to include cities, e.g. "Exotic Land", or possibly be included in cities, e.g. "Mansion". Or just set it in a city if that feels appropriate to where you last left the characters and where they were headed. No need to be a slave to the dice.

Anyway our location roll is 5, a Mansion. Given the more ancient theming of Swords and Sorcery, I'll probably take that to be a Palace instead.

Heroes' Goal - 3, Discover or solve a mystery, will have to see more of the results to figure out what sort of mystery fits.

Villain 6 Cultist, in The Day after Ragnarok, a servant of the Serpent. Well, serpent gods are almost de riguer in S&S so we can still go with a serpent cult just fine.

Villain's Goal 2 Destroy - The serpent priest is out to destroy somebody or something, what a surprise...

Henchmen - this table can get multiple rolls, as many as you feel fleshes out the scenario right. So let's go with three rolls.
6 - Igor, a long suffering, probably deformed, personal servant of the villain,
8 - Operative, an agent of some sort, in this case probably a palace official secretly working for the cult.
12 - Warlock, a magic specialist, a Sorceror in our case, but one subordinate to the High Priest of the Serpent God. This one and maybe the operative should have loyalty checks rolled to see how likely personal ambition for leadership of the cult or other advancement might conflict with the villain's plans.

Since all three are singletons, we might throw in a few thugs or turned palace soldiers for a rabble encounter with minions at some point. Or snakes, possibly an avatar of the snake god, or other creatures summoned by the sorceror?  Loyal guards that would oppose the villain would also be a possibility.  I've just realized that I have already be casting the villain as an outsider worming his way into the palace. While "Villain's Lair" was a different result, it could be that the story works out better with the villain in more or less control of the palace at the start.

Victim - 2, that most stereotypical victim is rolled, the Damsel in Distress, and in S & S usually some degree of undress as well. Is she of low rank or high? If the villain's goal is to destroy her, that would make her someone significant standing in his way to power, perhaps the Queen, or a rival like the new Priestess of the Sun God, newly in office since the sudden demise of her predecessor. Or she's the sacrifice by which he'll gain use of the Serpent God's power to destroy something grander, the palace, city, kingdom, something else? Or a destruction of the country and she's the victim because she's queen? Smaller scale, destruction of the rival Sun Cult's power if she's the High Priestess.

Guest Star - 10 Official or Bureaucrat. Perfect, that totally fits and can be used in the story in various ways. Would probably have some palace official scene anyway.

Guest star's goal - roll once on Hero Goal and once on Villain Goal and pick, 7 - Money/Reward  or 2 - Destroy, so we can have a greedy vizier or one that has long been a rival of the Snake Cult and wants to see it destroyed. Or does this official want somebody or something else destroyed that complicates things?

Obstacle - 3 Chimaera - a partially human or transformed human monster. Okay, a serpentman or a naga or some sort of partially snake-like monster seems to fit here.

Twist - 1 Ally in trouble (or innocents in peril) - Either through the heroes' actions, villain's machinations, or coincidence, there is a conflicting need to save somebody that complicates the heroes' ability to achieve their goal. Can they do both or do they have to sacrifice one to succeed in the other?

This is shaping up pretty clearly, but the final cohesive writeup will have to be continued...