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Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the slope sensing ability of Dwarfs

One of the old chestnuts in D&D is that dwarfs have a special ability to sense sloping passages that humans would be fooled by. On a long enough sloping passage, humans could blithely go down a level without noticing.  The problem with this one is that it has always taken away an ability that normal humans have in real life. It is not hard to sense whether you are walking uphill or downhill on a street or in a corridor with very little slope to it. It would have to be a very shallow slope indeed to not be noticeable unless D&D humans and elves and halflings are very thick indeed when it comes to sensing slopes. And even if they cannot feel it,  it takes the simple device of a marble or a small pair of wheels on an axle or a dribble of water onto the floor and see which way it goes unless the floor is irregular enough to conceal slope or mucky enough or channeled or otherwise impedes mechanical slope detection. A plumb line and plumb square is another way to pick out slope conveniently and will give an answer even if the floor is a mess, if you can see far enough, though that is often not the case in dungeons.

So for the dwarf slope sense to really matter compared to a human, you'll need to make the floor irregular enough to be confusing and disrupt taking a level mechanically or invoke the mythic underground which has properties of confusing human senses regarding slopes but a dwarf can see through the subterfuge.

Rough hewn tunnels

Brown tunnels are under the black level. Drawn last week, scan cleaned up today.

Dicing past dungeon designer's block

Sat down with my morning coffee to start a new dungeon map on bigger paper, 9" by 12", and ran into the blank paper "what do I do now?" wall. With a bigger sheet, it should be a bigger, more complex level, with some sub-levels to it that each had some character, and with explicit intent to stock, not just draw a map.  So, being stuck, I broke out the dice, actually a dice app on my phone, and started rolling and making pencil annotations that could be erased again once the inked version emerged.  Being too lazy to dig up one of the many sets of tables for random dungeon building out there on the web, I resorted to "Socratic dicing", pose a question, assign some spread on a D6 for the answer, roll it, note the result, ask the next question that makes sense, rinse, repeat. I've reordered questions a bit from how they occurred to me to more logical flow in the account below.

First question - how many subareas to develop? Range set - 3 to 6. Result: 5. Scattered 5 dots on the sheet as "centers of gravity" for the areas, not necessarily where the final centers will be. Approximately a pattern of three across the top and two lower corner zones. Assign a number to each.

Decision - one entrance to the level from above or outside.

Second question - Where is the entrance? D6 left to right horizontally: 4 and D6 down vertically: 1 to place it. It ended up falling between areas #2 and #3 in the top.

What kind of entrance?
1-2 open cave mouth
3-4 gateway or big doors
5-6 stairs

Roll 5, stairs

Complexity of stairs - 4, so moderately complex, draw something with some bends or platforms or something but not super baroque.

How many ways to go deeper?
Figured 1-3, rolled a 3 or 4 so two ways down.

Diced 1-5 for which area contained each, #4 and #5 in the bottom.

From the stairs, which area(s) are immediately accessible?
Looked like #2, #3, and/or #5 from the placement, so set 1:#2, 2:#3, 3 #5, 4-5 two areas, 6: all three. Rolled a 1.

Then did some further dicing to find out which areas were linked to which others. sketched in link lines. Did a later dicing to determine for each link whether it was horizontal or included a vertical element and noted that.

Stairs -> 2 -> 5, 5 -> 4 -> 1, 5 -> 3

Rolled for natural (caves) vs constructed for each area, wieghted odds in favor of constructed: 1-2 natural 3-6 constructed. Rolled 3 natural areas(1, 3, 4) and two constructed(2,5).

Then natural vs constructed for each area to area link, 1-2 like the first end, 3-4 like the other end, 5 natural, 6 constructed.

Rolled for each area what its dominant feature size is, which will seed into how big to make its rooms or caves and how wide the make the halls or cave linking tunnels, and noted 1(small) to 6 (really big).
 Area: feature size
1: 1
2: 2
3: 6
4: 5
5: 2

For the constructed areas I rolled for "regularity" on a 1- 6 scale - how much to draw it as simple rectangular rooms and rectilinear halls. Could have done this for natural areas too, but didn't.
2: medium regularity
5: low regularity

Then a bunch of questions about area character:
Which has the toughest monster? 3
Which has the most monsters? 1
Which has the fewest monsters? 3
Where is the biggest treasure? 3
Which is the most ruined? 3
Which is the weirdest area? 5
Which is the most trapped area? 5
How many areas with water features? one
Which area will have water? 3

So area 3 will be the climax boss, without minions, and the major loot for this level, and be a large, natural, ruined area (cave-ins? sink holes?) with water. Maybe the boss has become trapped by a cave in? Given the nature of its' lair, a dragon is the first thing that comes to mind for the boss. Adventurers will have to pass through areas 2 and 5 to get there, and 5 will be interesting with smallish features, low regularity, high weirdness, and lots of traps, just the sort of gauntlet a fiendish boss wants between him and his hoard and a bunch of aggressive murder hobos.

Areas 1 and 4 are off the track to the big boss, but 4 is a way downward and 1 a network warren of small caves full of monsters, a source of some sort of horde of creatures that could be a backwater, but could also come boiling out into a blocking position behind the adventurers if they are ignored. 

 With that much info, I started drawing. So far I only have outlines of areas 1 & 4 and the connection to 5, so its too early to scan and post.

Could dice some more things, like the character of the two ways downward from 4 and 5. With high weirdness and traps in 5, I'm thinking that is probably a teleport trap or elevator room trap.

Anyway, this is shaping up to be an interesting dungeon level, with more coherency that I expected. More to come...

Here's a link to the later post with the nearly complete map:   Diced Dungeon Map WIP

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Tunnels Level

Leaving the floors and most doors blank here until it starts to fit it in to something larger that hints what the next level of detail should be, rather than heavily random detailing. Just noticed a bit of incomplete stonework with no stippling, so there's an opportunity there to put something into that space, maybe a half turn of stairs.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mesa Cavern

Entrance is via the spiral staircase that puts the PCs on top of the southern mesa. By way of rope bridges they can get to the stairs at the north that wind down the side of the NE mesa. Then out the passage to the east or down one of the holes. Still working on a name.

It still surprises me how effective it is to go back around the outer wall of the cave and add those little inward lifting/flicking  strokes with a thinner pen where the walls go inward and occasionally just because there hasn't been one for a ways, sometimes doubled as a V.

Dungeons of the Gang of Four

So I have started to accumulate a pretty big collection of ink-drawn maps, and some are starting to look connected to me. There's a megadungeon brewing in there. I need a theme. So far my ideas haven't inspired me to start writing. But in this morning's coffee and map drawing session I had an idea that might just be weirdly meta enough to work. And by work, I mean keep my interest while I arrange and stock this puppy and generate ideas to help keep the stocking from being too bland.


 Use the Gang of Four Design Patterns book to theme individual levels. Have a Facade Pattern level and a Factory Pattern level, etc. Sometimes make the contents or layout work analogously to the design pattern, sometimes just let the words inspire whatever comes out. Use it as a new vein to mine for puns. have boss monsters inspired by the authors. And so on...

It may just be crossover geeky enough to keep my interest. If nothing else, trying it will make me review the patterns again and that can't be a bad thing for work.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blobby, a meeting monster doodle

Sketched on my notepad while we discussed server issues, ergo the faint rule lines. Probably has more tentacles around the backside since there's a cluster of four up front.

Probably slow moving, HD? attacks? A.C.?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Miscellaneous weekend gaming activities

Submitted my third magic item to the OSR Superstars contest. It was fun to work it up from an old sketched out idea. Will be posting a couple of my "almost submitted" ones here.

If you follow the Saturday Paint Table postings Sophie organized on G+ you can see my daughter and I building Japanese buildings for use initially with Osprey's Ronin.  The bigger kit from 4ground is now done except for a bit of touch up paint it will need, perfectly usable. The smaller one from Plastcraft is assembled, gap filled, has a coat of primer spray, and is ready to paint. It's her first assembled building and with all the artistic skills she's developed recently, she did a fine job. I look forward to doing some more together and try her on some figures. Pics of the complete buildings coming soon. Posting in Sophie's Paint Table Saturdays has helped me get painting again. I may not do much each week, but at least I do something, which helps fight painter's block. This weekend it was quite a bit.

This shows the buildings today, the Plastcraft one still needs painting, and a few of the figures I am preparing for painting.

Saturday afternoon into evening was another Roll20 run at the Barrowmaze run by  +Billy Compton and a good time was had by all. Was very glad I let Jose glom first onto the bejewelled cutlass that was lying around when it promptly proved to be cursed in the next fight.

Digging around I found my unpainted or partially painted old Samurai figures from Grenadier, Ral Partha, Citadel, Dixon,  and Clan Wars. Found most of the painted ones, some RPs and badly painted Heritage. The few good ones are probably scattered among D&D character boxes so will need a bit more hunting. Should be plenty for Ronin if can resist buying any of the shiny new lines from the likes of the Perry and Kensai. Started working up a batch of the bare metal ones, getting in the scraping and basing onto fender washers. Some of the RPs are getting a 3/4" washer on top of the 7/8" washer to give them a bit of a lift for more height compatibility with their later, taller brethren.

Laserburn rules turned up too, might give those another go.

Got in a first learning game of Longstreet with Aaron Gorfein, who's organizing a 6mm campaign for later this spring at Endgame. It is a fun set of rules, at just about the right level of detail to feel reasonably realistic without being too fiddly. The cards help keep it interesting. I've opted in for the campaign.

Aaron prolongs his Confederate artillery.

Then managed to dig out my 5mm ACW guys, who led me a merry chase before the game,  having been shifted from the Chessex box I remembered to a Plano box at some point, scrounging the Chessex box for use with 25mm-28mm guys no doubt. Fortunately Aaron could provide both sides for the learning game. Now I just need to rebase them from 3 to half an SPI counter to about 8 infantry to a 20 x 15mm base, 20 x 20 for fewer cavalry or one artillery gun, and maybe get and paint up a few flag bearers.

Reread a Fritz Leiber Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story which was a lot of fun, Thieves' House.

Sketched a small outdoor encounter map at a coffee shop.

In between I followed a +matt jackson link to the Dungeon Crafter's purple worm construction video and from there I went through many of his videos and those of UK gamer who goes by DMG. Both do a lot of cardboard dungeon scenery in what they call 2.5D, or a flat template with a raised curb where the walls would be and only vertical pieces for special bits of walls and doors, sometimes for dungeons, sometimes as bases for lift-off 3D buildings. They get a lot of mileage out of cardboard, white glue, cheap paint, paper towels, toilet paper, and especially hot glue. I'd probably go one level more finished if I emulated them, which would mainly be to cover more of the corrugated edges that bug me, but that would be at the expense of more time. They knock very usable stuff out very rapidly with their techniques. I'll definitely have to break out the hot glue gun and try some of this.

Three day weekends, yay!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

British Library Flickr Finds

Did some searching for pictures useful for gaming. Here's a few.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tile 2

 Barely any floor detail this time. It's an endpoint with only one way in and no level change. F.D. is for false door. If you really want a stair up, it could be a real door opening to a level above or more stairs.

Searching the British Library images on Flickr

Replace the search term after the q= with the term you are looking for.

Spells of the Blue Book

Before I go into the spells themselves, I need to note that by the time I was writing these, circa '77, I was using my personal alternate magic system. Possibly more details later, but the core ideas were that Piety and Psychic Power were additional stats that provided spell points for Clerics and MUs respectively. Spells had to be rolled for when memorized with varying costs, based on 1D6 per level for average value spells. With good stats and good luck, they'd have a bit more casting power than a standard book caster. Spell points held in reserve could be used to cast unmemorized spells at double cost.

I am sticking pretty close to the original wording but substituting in more conventional later die roll terminology like 1D6 instead of 1 to 6 or 1-6 and correcting some grammar.

These were not generally available. They turned up on scrolls or in spell books.

1st Level

MU - Mage Flame, MU 1
With this spell the magic user calls upon a fire sprite which will do his bidding. It is six inches tall and resembles a small fire. It moves 6" per turn or may be hurled by the magic user up to 12". It takes 1 die of damage and can be attacked by magic weapons, dowsing with water (1D6 damage) or smothering (1D3). It is A.C. 4.
The magic user must concentrate on it to control it and has a control range equal to his Psi -1D6 inches. If the mage's concentration is broken or the range exceeded, it will become a free agent, doing mischief to all around. It can ignite ready combustibles such as paper or oil instantly and harder items such as doors and spear shafts in 1D6 turns. It attacks for 1D4 points of burn damage. Duration Conjuror's Psi, minus 1D6 turns.

Hallucinatory Sight, Illusionist 1
The person affected by this spell sees things falsely. IF an orc charges him he may see it as a gtroll, or vice versa. He attacks and defends at -2 and hsi aim with missiles will be exceptionally poor with a -4 and magical ones such as fireballs and lightning bolts will be off target by 1D6 inches. Spells read from scrolls will change and doors and walls will appear distorted and moved. Range 9" Duration 2D6 turns.

Second Level

Disenchantment I, MU 2
This spell disenchants weak magic items such as potions, +1 arrows and unread 1st to 3rd level scroll spells. It renders them nonmagical until a Remove Curse or Dispel Magic is applied with a 75% chance of working. If the counterspell fails it is permanent. 6" range.

Mind Speak, MU 2
Mind Speak will form a link between the caster and another person which allows two way communication between them. Duration 3D6 turns. Range: Underworld 36", Wilderness 1 mile.

Call of the Forest, Druid 2
When sounded this ululating call will summon forest creatures to aid the caller (who must be in the forest). They will aid him if it doesn't mean exceptional danger to themselves. It will also turn away non-enraged attacking beasts 2/3 of the time.
Type and number affected:
1,2 mammal
3,4 avian
5 reptilian or insectoid
6 humanoid

1,2  2D6 small
3,4  1D4+1 medium sized
5,6 1 large

Aid will appear in 1D6 turns and stay as long as necessary.

Third Level

Jharunel's First Spell, The Withering Blight, MU 3
This spell was the first developed by the sorcerer prince of Kharoon, Jharunel. It inflicts a rotting atrophy of the muscles and sinews of the victims which number 1 to 4. This atrophy will reduce their strength by the number of spell points divided by their level (assume 3D6 spell points for this calculation in normal D&D). If reduced below 3 Strength they will be incapacitated and if -1 or lower, killed. Remove Curse will halt it and Cure Disease will remove the effects.This spell takes three turns to act doing 1/3 of its damage each time. Range 6". Save versus magic negates.

Saint Eulor's Lethargic Hammer, C 3
Lost when the prayer books of Saint Eulor were stolen by the green dragon Haregh, this spell was orginally given to Eulor by the Lord of Light Celephirion. Celephirion is among the kindliest of the Gods and disliked the idea of permanently harming opponents so he devised this spell. When cast it draws forth the life force of the subjects and encapsualtes them in small silvery mallets which become the possession of the caster. It will affect 1D6 of 1st to 3rd level, 1D3 4th to 7th, or 1 of 8th to 12th, The bodies will become encased in a shell of force which will make them imperivous to all attack, magical or physical. Upon the death of the caster or his release of the mallets, their life force will reanimate and cause a Geas to be cast upon any finder to return them to the rightful owners. Their bodies, meanwhile will remain immobilized and catatonic until their souls are returned. Range 3".

Will of Iron, C 3
The receiver of this benison will have his Will increase by 2D6 points. Duration 1 day. Range 1" (Will was another  additional statistic in this campaign).

Illusionary Disenchantment, Illusionist 3
Usable against intelligent magic swords and similar magic items, this spell convinces them they are no longer magic. It takes the Illusionist an entire turn to convince the item. The item will get an NPC reaction check. IF favorable, it becomes non-magical. The Illusionist may add one to it's die roll for each level his is above 6th. Range 6" Duration: Until dispelled. Check reaction for the dispel also.

Well, that's about half of them and I have to log off for now. I hope you find some of them amusing.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

RedRawn Goblin Caves

That old one page dungeon upgraded with current art.

When you're totally stuck for an interesting name, go with the stupid pun.

I went with all the text still right there on the same page. Plus - it puts the key text very close to where its needed. Minus - its a bit messy, especially with my printing without lines to guide. Might have to digitally realign some of the text so at least it slants the same way. Or should I digitally remove the key and type one either into the graphic or alongside?

A note on process: Since I don't have a light box, I did the initial sketch trace with a jury rigged one- masking taped old map and paper to the transparent lid of a big plastic storage box, put a fluorescent reading lamp in my lap upside down and rested the lid over it. Had to shift a few times since the illumination was uneven, but got the job done.

Not quite a geomorph

Sat down this morning at Peet's intending to work on my submission for Dyson's map contest, but ended up drawing this instead.  Drawn on Strathmore 4" by 4" watercolor Artist Tile so it is square, but I didn't try to match up entrances with extant geomorph patterns or even each other. It could be used between geomorph map areas as a pattern breaker or at the edge of one.

By the way, the tile is very heavy paper, so drawing on these could make for really sturdy physical geomorphs.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A rough one page caves dungeon

 A cave dungeon I ran as part of that 3rd ed campaign. Point 13 on the campaign map. Entry at the south, extensible to deeper in the north. Must have been winging it or using tables for loot and probably using "by figure" weapons and 3rd ed random pack plastic figure cards for stats where it mattered. I did that alot, used some net printouts, and fudged some out from rulebooks. Hated doing serious 3rd ed stat blocks myself. 

Notation at the bottom show where denizens go if alerted by noise, probably of combat, in the first few rooms.

This one might be worth redrawing to look good and rekeying for readability. Maybe even add some boss loot.

.... and I did redraw it the next night after posting this, see two posts later.

Campaign planning map for 3rd edition

Sketchy campaign maps from the 3rd edition era. Campaign map and expansion map of the NW corner of it, in the dashed box.  My son and his friends were the players in this campaign, somewhere around 2000-2002. It didn't last terribly long, much remained unexplored.  A sketchy map like this feels about right to me as a campaign starter. It roughs in some locations and relationships with amendment still feeling appropriate. The more detailed second map felt appropriate to do when a part of the campaign was focused around Riddock. The more detailed one works out to roughly a mile per square given the scale note at the top of the main map. Had the campaign continued, the outer map would have been redrafted for appearance and more expansion maps done up. This was very much a generic fantasy setting, was sticking right in the middle of the comfort zone running mostly off the cuff for the kids.

Some of the notations at the right side of the key are mysterious to me now, but for completeness or if something else rings a reminder bell, I'll leave them in
1 Axewhistle - Small village trheatened with invasions
2 Lost Temple of Hieroneus   In ruins, haunted, occupied by enemies
3 Riddock - Lg village, 1/3 Halflings, - 4, 40
4 Halcastle - Small Town, Castle
5 Porcy - Lg Village
6 Veredford - Lg Village   r
7 Veredor - Med. City    5
8 Lowfield - Sm Village
9 Bald Mountain - Goblin Caves, Trasinis the Necromancer
10 Durik's Pass
11 Caves of Carnage - Lizardmen, Orcs, Undead
12 Bugbear Burrows
13 Goblin Caves - mapped in the next post
14 Bentish - Town
15 Burley -  Sm City
16 Grannock's Rock - Fortified Tavern Waystop
17 Dwarven Forge
18 Blasingdell
19 Hurdle - village
20 Gripley
21 Dog Hollow
22 Carredsfork
23 Dore
24 Longpole
25 Cliffhaven
26 Ripley
27 Torstengard
28 Dravins or Dravius
29 Seagate
30 Bell Harbor
31 Far Crag
32 Ennis
33 Sandersby Island
34 Black Sands Island
35 Stormcrow
36 Germantle
37 Castle Scar
38 Sollek
39 Fool's Gate
40 Lantern
41 Essinaissa
42 Calinar
43 Orichalcum
44 Seluna
46 Inn

Monday, February 10, 2014

Astoria Campaign - Playable poisons circa 1977

I wanted some variety in my poisons and to have some be less harsh than death on a failed save. Still mostly a pretty brutal bunch of poisons now that I read over them.

With the bloat of scanned files, this one I'll type in instead:

Giant Snake Venom
Save -2
If save is successful, 1/2 hits lost. Con -2
If save is failed, death in 1-4 combat rounds

Giant Spider Venom
Save normal
If successful, 1/2 hits lost.
If failed, 1/2 hits lost and paralysis in 1-3 rounds, lasts 1-6 days, then save again, if failed - death, if successful - recuperate in 1-4 days

Giant Scorpion Venom
Save -3
If save is successful, -2 dice constitution, heals as hits 1/day, if reduced to zero, death.
If failed, paralysis, roll second saving throw, if failed death
Acts in 1-2 rounds, paralysis lasts 2-12 hours

Wyvern Poison
Save normal
If successful-1/3 hits
If failed, death

Stingray Poison
Save normal,
If successful, 1-6 hits damage
If failed,  paralysis for 2-12 turns and 2-12 hits damage
acts in 1 round

Small Spiders
Save +1
If successful, -1 hit where bitten
If failed, Illness, -2 from STR, DEX, & CON, (heal as hits), Move 1/2, -2 impetus*, 1-6 hits damage.
Acts in 3 rounds

Purple Worms
Save -2
If successful, -1/2 hits and move 1/2, -2 impetus* (if reduced to zero or less, no action that round)
If failed, Death and -30% chance to resurrection.
Acts in 1 round

Black Lotus
No save if contacted, contact save 15 + DEX bonus
Effect - Hallucinations, incapacitated 2-12 hours, 30% - Intelligence chance of insanity. Remove curse 30% effective, Wish 80%

Yellow Lotus Dust
Wind carried, can backfire, save -3
If successful, coughing fit for 2-12 rounds and 2/3 hits lost.
If failed, death instantly.

Cube Jelly
Save vs Wand/Paralysis
If successful, no effect
If failed, paralyzed 1-6 hours
Acts immediately

Spines, Darts, Gases from Traps -variable
Normal effect:
Save normal
If failed, death
If saved, -1/2 hits
Acts in 1-6 rounds.

*Impetus refers to a 1D6 roll for initiative, usually rolled by each PC, modified by DEX bonus, and usually rolled collectively by monsters.

Ronin skirmish rules

I read most of the Ronin skirmish game from Osprey over lunch. It looks promising. Seems to be a good reason to drag out the old Samurai minis, finish a few more and do a bit of scenery for them.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hitting some technical limits

Thinking out loud post here, boring details warning...

That last post of Castle Cairnin broke my patience threshold. I got the files enhanced to readability reasonably quickly once I found the pattern to it, but it took a long time to upload so many graphics files given my current DSL internet connection. The Blogger graphics file view is starting to get too big for conveniently finding stuff. The post loads really slowly in a browser with that many graphics of that size, which makes fitting it in a blog format where you scroll from one post to the next even worse.

So it's time work through the mitigations that will make it sustainable.

I'd already been thinking  about the need to do a content based split of the blog. Posts that need more than a couple of graphics are a second dimension to consider.

Save as JPEGs instead of PNGs and wring out some file size reduction to help cut into the upload times a bit.

Be more savvy about how many graphics files go in a post. Text as graphics has some nostalgia value but damn its inefficient on space and time and manageability.

This is yet another prodding to move from DSL to cable.

Hosting some images somewhere else is worth a try to see if part of the throttling is at the Blogger end and not just the raw internet connection speed at my end. It also gives more control

Astoria Campaign - Castle Cairnin

And now the key. Okay, this a dungeon aimed for pretty high level characters, but still, looking back on it, I shake my head at how very Monty Haul the loot got. Some of the items are pretty funny to think of, like a wandering vampire carrying 12 goblets around, practically a full kitchen cupboard. Even with the 100 GP per pound rescaling in place of the 10 GP per pound, they weren't going to be carrying out all that coin without a bag of holding. The dungeon is named for the castle, is below it but isn't attached to it, and there is no description or map of the castle at all. It's just a landmark for some reason. Not exactly the most coherent thing.

Rencounter is now available in ePub format

 My Rencounter rules are now available as an epub courtesy of veteran wargamer and great guy Walt O'Hara, who did a conversion as part of learning to do the format.

Awesome! I can play with it on my iPad without getting my butt in gear first.

And another bump towards me doing a proper modern reformat/update with illustrations....

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First game of Dungeon World

And wow is my brain tired.

I'm about as old school as it gets when it comes to role playing games. Running OD&D or original Runequest feels very natural to me. Dungeon World has intrigued me since I first read the files off of Github but I've been playing more than GMing for the last several months, and when I was GMing it was a D&D 4th game, so my copy of DW sat there awhile. Picked it back up a few weeks ago to reread and tonight I sat down with my daughter and one of her friends who had played a bit of Guild Wars 2 but no real paper RPG.

Character creation was easy, and my daughter had a halfling druid set up at the cafe this morning. She did a call around to her friends to see if anybody was available this afternoon and one girl was. So I got set up on the table while they played with the laptop and graphics tablet. The friend is a skillful artist and got a lot out of it after just a bit, and we started her character creation as she finished up the drawing.

We built the setting on the fly based on the characters and questions, and the adventure itself grew organically from explaining what went wrong each time on bad rolls and fitting in the girls' answers to questions.

It was kind of strange and at times difficult. In old school games I can answer what happens next much more easily. Here it was sometimes a tough stretch, with "Yes and ..." sometimes making it easy to build story and sometimes making tough puzzles. At one point I had boxed myself into a corner in which too much power was collected in one place in opposition to the PCs, so to make success possible I had the make the Evil Shaman send off his minions to fetch a sacrifice he'd need to complete his elemental binding ritual  to give them two smaller targets to choose between.

For the final scene I played on a silly nickname they'd come up with along the way for the earth elemental, and made it concrete in a very satisfying way that ended in high fives.

They want to play again, and I have enough of a feel for the system now that I think I could run it for the usual Friday night gang. WIN.

Astoria Campaign - Lammasu PC class

Had one PC reincarnated as a Lammasu, so wrote up a rudimentary class for him. It's not very fleshed out, so I'm guessing he stopped playing the character soon after. Death? Rolled up another? I don't remember.

The scan, enhanced to make faint pencil readable.

Astoria Campaign - Werewolf PC class

Okay, so I converted the first file. Here is my Werewolf PC class in all its handwritten glory. I  played one (Venril Greytooth) up to 5th/5th level in Scott's game, found the character sheet in another notebook. I don't remember anyone wanting to play one in my game. It was available in case of wolf-bite cursing as well as for starting play.

Noticing the hit location rules, by the time this was created we must have been using Blackmoor.

I see an error now on re-reading. There should be another 0 in the Exp. column for level 8, so 60,000 goes to 120,000.

The Blue Book of Astoria

The core notebook of my main 70s campaign had a blue cover at one time. It keyed most of my dungeons, had most of the house rules, NPCs, etc, until I mostly filled and I overflowed to others. I just scanned it into a series of PDFs on a memory stick, and moved them over to this PC.

Bargle, I don't see an option here to post PDFs, will have to figure that out, convert them to separate image files or put them elsewhere and link.  Anybody know how to post PDFs to Blogger? Hm, maybe upload to Google Drive?

Bruno Faidutti's Citadels as an RPG city generator

One of the better games in Fantasy Flight's series of small boxed board and card games is Bruno Faidutti's Citadels. It is a card game in which rival players are each trying to build the most prosperous city. There is a buildings deck with a variety of buildings of various powers that the players try to build into their cities and a characters deck with each player having one of the character role cards and that card's special power in a turn (King, Bishop, Assassin, Thief, Warlord, etc). Its a good design and I recommend it to people who play multiplayer games who don't know how many people will show up as it will play well in a fairly broad range of player numbers. It says 2-8, but I'd guess 4 as about the minimum to be interesting. 

Anyway, assuming you have it around, draws from its decks can be an alternative to dice tables for answering questions like "What significant buildings are in this town?", "Who are the important civic leaders?", "What's the next important building the PCs will see going down this street?", "There's a carriage being held up, who's in it?", or even the arrangement of the city by laying a tableau, and then maybe making a couple of swaps to group things sensibly like putting the training ground, mistranslated as "Battle Field" on the card, next to the castle or the fortress.  You might even use the mistranslation literally and have the Battle Field mean the last laid building is being contested, and draw a couple of the character cards for who is contensting it, or a part of the city ruined in a previous siege or as an encounter activation if drawing as the PCs move through the city.

My favorite skirmish combat success mechanic - Fistful of D12s

Rencounter's core mechanic is a skill for Fire and one for Melee, both rated on a 1 to 11 scale. Modify skill number by circumstances of range, cover, movement by shooter and target, etc, and roll less than or equal to it on a D12. There were some fiddly bits for handling the long tail if the adjusted number went negative.This works well enough, but linear added modifiers math gets funny over big ranges in how much a plus or minus one matters. I think the true relationship is probably closer to multiplicative. I fiddled with alternatives for a long time and in the last games I ran of Rencounter before my locals gave it the heave-ho for Necromunda variants, (late 90s?) I used this variant pretty successfully. Somewhere on a shelf I have the variant modifier tables from the mostly Old West games of Rencounter that used it. I'm thinking about either digging that out or recreating it in a new set of rules.

Modifiers become more coarse grained. The later table basically halves the net plus or minus for each factor that affects the attack. But instead of it being a die roll modifier its a DIE. If the net modifier is against you, throw that many D12s. All must roll skill or less to hit.

So, here's an off the top of my head shooting example.

Private Kranz is a middling shot, rated a 6 in Fire. He's firing at a guy with a big axe that just came around a corner that he was not overwatching so he's a bit surprised. The guy is running and jinking. He's in the middle range band for Private Kranz's musket.

We start at 1D12, add another for the range, one for appearing target, and one for the target running and dodging. That's 4D12, all must roll 6 or less, in order to hit, yielding a probability of 1/16.

Let's say Private Kranz decides to aim instead and wait until his next action round to shoot, since the axe guy has a lot of ground to close and no more cover to break LOS as he closes.

Then, Private Kranz's shot gets a lot better.

If axe guy is still in medium range, its up a die for the range, up one for running and dodging, down one for aimed shot. The surprise die no longer applies. That's a net +1 die, so 2D12 and both must hit, or 1/4 chance.

Skill matters a LOT under this system. Let's look at Sergeant York under the same set of circumstances. Yes, that Sgt York, who historically has to peg any ratings scale. Sgt York is an 11 in shooting, since a 12 always hits every shot.

In the first shot, he's rolling 4D12 needing to roll an 11 or less on each one. Chance to miss is 1/12  + 11/12(1/12) + 11/12(11/12)(1/12) + 11/12(11/12)(11/12)(1/12). I'm too lazy to resolve that right now, but 8% + 7% + 7% + 6% or 28% will be in the ballpark, so he'll have around a 72% chance to hit.

Since a few circumstances improve chances by dropping dice, how do you resolve the really sweet attacks where the dice sum is negative? Flip from ALL dice must hit the skill number to ANY die hits the skill number to succeed. So if I have a net -1, roll 2D12 and either one at skill or less makes the attack hit. So if Private Kranz is firing at optimal short range against a standing unaware target (-1d), and has time to aim (-1d), he's at -2d and will throw three dice ANY for a really good chance to hit.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Temple of the Dead God of Fortune

This dungeon level started as a rough cross with clubbed tips. Then it got the double bulge clover leaf look in each tip because the semicircles were boring. But it was still boring and I really liked the big chasm on one of the G+ mapping guys' maps and thought I'd give that a try to break up the symmetry and add interest, and maybe tie into some of the serious seismic disruption in my How To Host a Dungeon playthrough. It kind of reminds me of a four leaf clover, so that's the reference to the God of Fortune, but his temple is half destroyed, so he's not currently so lucky.

... unless I come up with a better story for it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Old gaming materials- what's worth posting?

I've been digging through old boxes lately, and came across a lot of old RPG and miniature campaign materials I wrote back in the day. I could type up interesting bits from one or more over time and scan or redraw the maps but don't want to bother with stuff nobody is interested in.  Please chime in with comments if any of it piques your curiosity. A couple of projects at the end of the list are already digital but would take reworking from their web-1.0 design.

These are listed in a vague overlapping chronological order.
  1. More dungeon notes and house rules from my original D&D game - keys to various dungeon maps I've already posted, my take on a hybrid Vancian/spell point system circa 1976 or 77, etc.
  2. Homebrew medieval skirmish rules descended from Chainmail's man to man and fantasy supplement. A spiritual sibling to the Heritage Knights and Magick rules that I played a bit later after they gave me a copy at a con where I was running my game.
  3. 79 to 82 or so Runequest 1 & 2 campaign - a not particularly canonical version of the Sartar/Tarsh border region. My Sartar wasn't barbaric and mythical enough in retrospect, but we had a lot of fun with it.
  4. Traveller - some subsector maps and keys, a few planetary maps, encounter tables, a couple of ship plans that would need redrawing to be interesting, pretty basic stuff.
  5. The Morrow Project. I was one of the playtesters and have some maps and campaign notes from my post-apocalyptic Illinois campaign. I didn't GM it much so its pretty thin. 
  6. Aftermath - notes and NPCs from a short campaign
  7. Stalking the Night Fantastic - I ran one epic run of Stalking, set at Michigan State University and very loosely based on the Dallas Egbert disappearance D&D media splash situation. It was very much off the cuff but I could probably reconstruct it more or less.
  8. Early 80s FGU Bushido campaign - mechanically interesting in that I converted the combat system to an Aftermath-lite system, quite lethal Samurai duels, rather crunchy. There's the combat rules used, campaign rules, background material for one Daimyo's lands, some hexes broken down in more detailed subhex maps, and some detailed location scenarios I could scan or redraw to a more presentable standard. Bushido and Aftermath are sister systems so they slot together extremely well, if you like nasty wounds and D30 hit locations on the body.
  9. The Forty Cities Campaign - Eventually nearly every hardcore RPG GM writes up a set of rules. This was mine, written in '82-83. It is a D30 based system, since those were new at the time and I was enamored of them, of a crunch level similar to Runequest, and was my personal synthesis of SCA combat, RQ, Bushido, etc at the time.  It had one of those two stats combine for base value skill systems and the beginnings of a psionics as magic system.  The rules were worked out well enough to have a couple good playtest runs at the time, but the campaign foundered as I moved west for grad school.  Had nice crowquill ink map of a land mass plus an archipelago of city states, some detailing of politics for some of them, and some scenario notes but never got that far on it, drawing and stats of a few weird creatures, etc.  I liked it, it was playable in so far as it was developed, but I never wanted to take it to the point of being publishable. Now it would be mainly an example of yet another game embodying early eighties design sensibility by somebody who knew their way around probability curves and RPG and wargame mechanics.
  10. Mid-80s Renaissance Miniatures Tony Bath style campaign world, sort of a simplified, miniaturized fantasy Europe/Middle East/North Africa with something like 8 or 10 countries, heavily worked out for politics and economic base of each, some diplomatic correspondence, foundered due to the time it took, but good map with a lot of supporting detail suitable to being a pseudo-historical fantasy world circa 1600 level tech. We played a couple of campaign turns, few battles, some skirmish games, and a really good light roleplaying scenario using a hybrid of OD&D and the Sword and Pistol skirmish rules for combat mechanics. 
  11. Vom Kriege - boardgame for 2 to 6 players that I designed based on the mechanics in GDW's A House Divided. Its a Horse and Musket game in a point to point movement fantasy continent filled with vaguely European sounding city & province names. It is sort of like GDW's Soldier King and inspired by a brief description I had read of Soldier King. I put it together when Soldier King was out of print and I wanted to play something like it. I eventually got Soldier King, but I think I like Vom Kriege better. Of course I am biased.
  12. D&D dungeons & campaign map from my mid-late 80s OD&D nostalgia campaign.
  13. Rencounter - my generic skirmish rules that work up to about the year 1900 - I could get the rules back together in an updated format with better illustrations, incorporate the later combat rules variant that never made it in, make it a PDF for printing, etc.
  14. Dig out stuff from the old Ed's Hobby Hovel website backup hard drive if it still runs - lots of miniatures stuff from the '90s, DBM, colonials, Rencounter, Monster Mash, ship photos, old newpaper illustration scans, etc.

Original Camp Table Skirmish Rules - page 1

Digging through a shelf, looking for my Creeks and Crawdads, I found a manila folder containing a couple of printed pages that were the original Camp Table Skirmish Rules.  So here they are to be compared & contrasted with the reconstructed version.  Well almost. It's two copies of the first page and there is pretty clearly a second needed, now that I've typed it in.

The Units


Base Move: 6"
Base Range: Melee
Base Morale: 7+
Base To Hit (Melee): 8+
Base To Hit (Ranged): 9+
Wounds: 1

Figure Cost 2

Melee onlyRanged or AOECone or Ranged AOE
Ranged (3" Range)1--
Cone (6" Range Cone with 2" wide tip3--
Area of Effect (3" diameter)24-
Agile (Extra Attack)12-
Accurate (+2 to Hit)124
Brave (+2 Morale)111
Fast (+3" Move)111
Armored (-2 to be hit)111
Tough (+1 Wound)222
Leader (+1 Morale to allies within 6")222
Additional Range +6-12



Enemy uphill: -1 to hit for melee
Cover (soft): -1 to Hit
Cover (Hard, less than 1/2 exposed): -2 to hit
Base to Base contact per friend: +1 Morale
Leader within 6": +1 Morale
Enemy contact behind Frontal Arc (180 degrees): -2 Morale

Sequence of Play

Dice for Init
High Init Moves
Low Init Moves
Missiles - Both sides fire before removing casualties
Melee - Both sides fight before removing casualties
Morale Tests


Move figure up to its maximum move ( -3" if ending behind initial 180 degree frontal arc), end facing as desired.
Note: When retreating due to morale failure, you still go full speed.
Move to contact: Enemy must be most direct.

(Hm, that says page 1 at the bottom, there must have been a second page with some discussion of combat and when to test morale.)

I find one unit card in the folder, a Drow force of five figures,of four types, that I'll type in later. It is clear from that force that you pay separately to upgrade melee and ranged attacks on the same figure. To Hit, AOE or not, and number of attacks are recorded for both separately, and there is a range column as well.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cthulhu Lemon

Eric Rauscher found this mysteriously developmentally warped lemon and brought it out during a game of Betrayal the House on the Hill a couple months ago. It's not as visible in the photo but the exposed fruit that looks brown in the top one really had a creepy shine to it.

Autumn pictures of the ground

Took these one day last fall for the fallen leaf textures.