Monday, November 30, 2009

Boglings

In Points of Light I introduced the Boglings a race of amphibious humanoids. Here their full stat for Swords & Wizardry.

Boglings
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2+1
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Underwater, Jumping, Extensible Tongue
Move: 6/12 (when swimming)
Challenge Level/XP: 2/35

• May breathe underwater indefinitely
• Can Jump over 60 feet and up to 20 feet in height.
• Has an extensible tongue can immobilize a target if it fails it’s saving throw.

These are amphibious humanoids with bulbous eyes. Boglings are noted for their ability to jump long distances and for their extensible tongues. They are found in tribes in tropical swamps and rainforests as well as on several of the outer planes most notably the Swamps of Acheron home to the god Set.


The Boglings originated in one of the rare planar adventures I ran. Two PCs were adventuring in the Swamps of Acheron searching for the Artos the lost King of Nome. One of the players was a bit cocky, Tim of Gothridge Manor, and convinced the other, Dwayne of Gamer's Closet, they could directly assault one of Set's outposts that were scattered along the swamp. They had their asses handed to them but luckily were able to escape. Severely injured, they found the Boglings who gave them healing and aid. In their gratitude the PCs swore that they would find a way out for the Boglings after they rescued Artos. An oath they eventually fulfilled.

That adventure also proved that the Codex of Infinite Planes can be useful in the right hands. The way I was calling it the Codex transferred a 10 foot globe and everything in it from one plane to another. Well as it happened one of Set's guardians was a Turtle Dragon. The two decided to rest on an island when it started moving. The Turtle Dragon's head emerged from the much and calmly informed them that he was taking to see his master Set. Both of their character were not tough enough to take on a Turtle Dragon.

A few minutes into the trip, Dwayne calmly asks me if he could sit on the Dragon Turtle's head. I told him the Dragon Turtle doesn't care. Then Dwayne pulls out the Codex and start reading. Before the Dragon Turtle could figure what going on both Dwayne and the Dragon Turtle's head were transported back to City-State.

Earlier in the campaign the two bought the Red Pearl Inn in the waterfront quarter. After the adventure they razed and now the Turtle Dragon is now part of the structure of a new establishment; the House of the Dragon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Original City-State Reproduction

Bill Owens, one of the founding members of Judges Guild, has located the oldest copy of the blueprint used by Bob Bledsaw Sr. to create the map of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.
As I found out for myself this was not an easy project. It being sold on eBay and there are 144 copies all signed by Bill Owens and Bob Bledsaw Jr.

I haven't snagged one yet being in the midst of Christmas Shopping and monthly bill time but if there any left in two week I plan to get one myself. From the few pictures posted there appears to be small differences between this map and the subsequent product something I look forward to checking out.

City-State Map Reproduction

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Art of Character Sketches

While not practiced by every player making a sketch of your character is a time honored tradition. Especially if you character sheet has a little box to put it in. Even better when the character sheet has an outline to help the artistically challenged.

I doubt I will ever turn into a triple threat like Paul Jaquays (writer, artist, cartographer) but here are a few of mine. Mostly of NPCs I had over the years.

The feared tin-can orc Grandar. Virtually unhittable in GURPS 3rd edition and even if you do his plate armor soaked up most of the damage.


Just went kinda of crazy in sketching out the whole scene. An otherwise nondescript hafling fighter NPC.
A crack halfling archer. Had a quirk of shooting small game continually while on the trail.

A priest of the Nature God Silvanus. The colors represented the seasons.

Gil-Tarin the one handed elf. Just to show that not all elves are sweetness and light.



A priest of Set and they don't use frickin maces. This guy was Lareth the Beautiful from the Village of Hommlet. I created a GURPS version of Hommlett in the early 90s.

Serina a necromancer from one of my adventure. She is an albino which is not much of disadvantage for her profession when you think about it.


Menstice the Rogue from a GURPS Campaign where all the players played 50 point characters. The normal start is 100 pts. 50 pts in GURPS is pretty close to playing a 0-level character in AD&D.


A Myrmidon of Set my LE variant of a paladin




Calurin a priest of Mitra I played in a GURPS Campaign that revolved around going into Judges Guild Dark Tower. It was some campaign I tell you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What Tolkien meant for roleplaying.

At the height of RPG's popularity in the early 80's one element of Tolkien's Style stood out above all else.

The appendixes for the Return of the King.

From the Greyhawk Folio to latest Forgotten Realm Hardback. From Wizard to well just about any RPG company. The appendix of the Return of the King was the ur-document on how to present a setting. After Shannara this format dominated the alternative formats notably Judge's Guild Wilderlands and GDW's Traveller.

As a 13 year old gamer in the late 70's Tolkien was the only source I had for writing up a campaign world. With King Lists and Timelines galore. However Tolkien has some major weakness as a source for RPG campaigns. Only a dozen or so elements made for good additions to a D&D game.

It the same problem that drove me from Greyhawk to the Wilderlands. The howling emptiness of the map. While Tolkien had a wealth of details in the appendixes, only a few areas were detailed enough to run an RPG campaign in: Bree, the Shire, Rohan, etc.

Myself and I am sure others turned to other sources to plug in the gaps and after Shannara there plenty to be found for whatever taste of fantasy the group preferred. One thing I learned that the format of Bob Bledsaw's Wilderlands and Marc Miller's Traveller was way better for running a campaign then Tolkien style.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some Sandbox campaigning advice

A lot of referees feel a little lost when running their first sandbox campaign. Feeling overwhelmed by the need to generate dozens of locales and having no idea what the PCs ultimate objective will be.

A good way to over come this is to make a sandbox setting but have a campaign where the PC are doing missions at the start. They are all members of the City Guard, one of the Guilds, or the King's Court. The mission helps focuses your preparations. Then let the players have free reign to decide how to accomplish the mission.

Then follow up on the consequences of their decision both bad and good. The follow up is important because this establish the sandbox nature of the campaign. Several sessions in, the players find themselves driving the campaign as they follow up on the consequences of the consequences of the consequences of ... well hopefully you get the picture.

By this point you will have learned what tricks and techniques work best for you. How to best use your (limited) prep time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shannara and the Long Shadow of Tolkien

While Tolkien was fundamental to the development of the D&D rules, Lord of the Rings was just one of many influences on roleplaying games as a whole. Swords & Sorcery, other fantasy subgenres and even science-fiction were all thrown into the mix of those early games.

Why?

Just because it was cool in the eyes of the players and referees.

As for Tolkien the author and the Lord of the Rings rose in popularity through the late 60s and the 70s. However he didn't spawn much in the way of imitators. Far more popular among authors were the 1001 variants of swords & sorcery with a sprinkling of original works like Elric, Earthsea, the early Deryni novels and many of the novels of Appendix N of Gygax's DMG.

Then came Terry Brooks and the Sword of Shannara around 1977.

It didn't have much of literary impact. Many ripped it apart for being a pastiche of Tolkien. Even among gamers I never heard of anyone saying stuff from Shannara was really cool.

However Brooks did manage to break into the New York Times bestseller list. Something that no fantasy author including Tolkien managed to do.

My opinion of the book was that it was a fun and easy book to read. But not memorable in any particular way. I never followed up on the sequels after taking a stab at the Elfstones of Shannara, once was fine.

Since it was a big epic fantasy in the mode of Tolkien that cracked the NY Times list every fantasy imprint started putting out epic fantasies. Another early success was the Thomas Covenant series.

Despite the emphasis on the big epic the resulting market expansion brought in a lot of different styles of fantasy. Two of my group's favorites were the Guardian of the Flames series and Thieves World. My personal capstone of the era was Elisabeth's Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion series released in the late 80s.

After Shannara, Tolkien's style dominated the mass market for fantasy which had a lasting impact on RPGs. The most visible result was the release of Dragonlance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

D&D would not exist without Lord of the Rings

But not in the way you think.

The consensus is that roleplaying started to jell with the Braustein games of Major David Wesley. The short version is that every player portrayed a spy in a Napoleonic era town of Germany. Each player had their own motivations and goals. They were free to whatever they wanted within the town limits. Wesley refereed any actions taken by the players.

Dave Arneson took Wesley's ideas and applied them to the exploration of Blackmoor and it's environs. It is in Arneson's Blackmoor games where all the major elements of roleplaying came together in one game.

Gygax then learned about the Blackmoor game and developed his own Greyhawk game. This turned into the original 3 booklets of Dungeons and Dragons.

In this whole chain of events there is little mentioned of Tolkien. Greyhawk and Blackmoor were no clones of Middle Earth. So Lord of the Rings doesn't look like it had much or any impact on the development of roleplaying.

However where it did have an impact was in the development of the rules for Dungeon & Dragons. And it all goes back to the fantasy supplement to Chainmail.

The first editions of Chainmail did not have any fantasy supplement. In the late 60s Tolkien was rising in popularity. Both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit had these cool descriptions of battles that the miniature wargamers of the time wanted to fight out. Coupled with the stories of Howard (Conan) and other fantasy writers of the time you had a strong push to come up with some rules to allow these battles to be fought.

Thus the fantasy supplement to Chainmail was born. Gygax and Perren say flat out why they included these rules

Most of the fantastic battles related in novels more closely resemble medieval warfare than they do earlier or later forms of combat. Because of this we are including a brief set of rules which will allow the medieval miniatures wargamer to a new facet to his hobby, and either refight the epic struggles related by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and other fantasy writers; or you can devise your own "world," and conduct fantastic campaigs and conflicts based on it.
If you look at the original list of monsters you will see Tolkien creates dominate the list.

The fantasy supplement to Chainmail provided the foundation for the rules used in Blackmoor and Greyhawk and later Dungeons & Dragons itself.

Now Gygax said numerous times that Tolkien wasn't a big influence on him writing D&D and I believe him. When it came time to write original D&D that Gygax was using every source of inspiration available to him.

So while the roleplaying side had little to do with the Tolkien. The game side would not have existed without the desire to refight the battles of Middle Earth. What started out as a way to fight the Hobbit's Battle of Five Armies became much more.

I would say that Tolkien influence waned in the early days of D&D and RPGs as people were using the just about anything they could find or think of to drag into their games. It only rebounded after the Sword of Shannara was published in 1977 and fantasy exploded into mainstream publishing. After the Shannara the big epic fantasy in the style of Tolkien dominated fantasy for a long time with a similar effect on the imagination of the players of D&D.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A new spell and class of magic items for OD&D.

Enchant Charm
Spell Level: Magic-user 4th level, Cleric 3rd Level
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent

This spell is used to create magical charms, in addition to whatever research, special ingredients, and other efforts the Referee may determine are necessary for the task. Charms are similar to scrolls and wands in that they are used to cast the spells stored within them. Unlike scrolls the charm can have another spell infused them at a considerably cheaper cost; 50 gp per spell level. The creation of the charm itself is twice as much as a scroll cost to make; 200 gp per spell level. A charm can only be infused with spells at the level they are made or less.

For example a 5th level Charm can have 3rd level Fireball infused it in it but not a 6th level Flesh to Stone. Charms are made out of materials worth at least 10 gp time the spell level stored. They take the forms of pendants, rings, cords, and other items that are easy to wear. Only one charm may cast on an object.


This represents a intermediate level between a scroll and a full blown magic item. Basically charms are one charge magic items. My version is assumes that scroll cost 100 gp per spell level to create. If your campaign uses a different figure then the cost of CREATING charms should be DOUBLE your cost, and the cost to RECHARGE charms should be HALF of your scroll cost.

This addition may appear trivial in combination with other additions and variants it allows me to create different magic user classes and order without straying from OD&D roots.

Charms form the basis of rune magic which lead to the rune-caster class. The Enchant Charm assumes that you are using an amulet, bracelet, etc as your charm. The rune variant allow the charm to be cast into a rune. The advantage is that the you can inscribe runes into anything that can take writing including tattoos on a human body.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A quest for all concerned

There are a few missing bits from the origins of Dungeons & Dragons that are not preserved on-line. For example the 13 to 14 issues of the Domesday book published by the Castles & Crusade society.

The one thing I would like to get my hands on is a photo or scan of the map referenced in the forward to original Dungeons & Dragons

"ONCE UPON A TIME, long, long ago there was a little group known as the Castle and Crusade Society. Their fantasy rules were published, and to this writer's knowledge, brought about much of the current interest in fantasy wargaming. For a time the group grew and prospered, and Dave Arneson decided to begin a medieval fantasy campaign game for his active Twin Cities club. From the map of the "land" of the "Great Kingdom" and environs — the territory of the C & C Society — Dave located a nice bog wherein to nest the weird enclave of "Blackmoor", a spot between the "Great Kingdom" and the fearsome "Egg of Coot". From the CHAINMAIL fantasy rules he drew ideas for a far more complex and exciting game, and thus began a campaign which still thrives as of this writing! In due course the news reached my ears, and the result is what you have in your hands at this moment. While the C & C Society is no longer, its spirit lives on, and we believe that all wargamers who are interested in the medieval period, not just fantasy buffs, will enjoy playing DUNGEONS and DRAGONS. Its possibilities go far beyond any previous offerings anywhere!

Any help with this would be appreciated. I have messages throughout the various old school forums hopefully somebody reading this will know somebody with a copy that can be scanned. My intent is not only have this preserved for everybody to look at. But re-render it like I did with Blackmarsh so people can make their own version for their campaigns.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Military Matters

In a previous post I talk about how the military of city-state is organized. For those who care about realism it looks implausible as rigid table of equipment and organization did not evolve until much later in history.

I could fall back on the excuse "I am the referee and I can do whatever hell I want". There is a bit of that in my setup for city-state but in general I like to keep things as realistic as possible. I find that keeping things historical with a touch of the fantastic makes for a more interesting game then either extreme.

The key for applying table of organization to fantasy society to remember that recruitment of armies varied over the centuries. If asked the vision that most people have in their head is the feudal lord issuing a call to his vassal to assemble at a place to march to war. For those who seen the Lord of the Rings movies this vision is much like the mustering of the Rohirrim at the beginning of the Return of the King.

However the feudal muster was in vogue only for a limited time centering around 1000 AD. The problem is that it wasn't reliable. In fact the only reason feudalism established itself was because there was nothing better. The collapse of the money economy after the fall of Rome left little choice for those in power to adopt a feudal system to support the troops they needed.

As the economic situation improved during the High Middle Ages the Kings of Europe instituted a better way of recruiting the troops they needed. First they started to commute the military service owed by their vassals into cash payments. In turn the Kings used the money to hire mercenaries.

The interesting part was how they hired mercenaries. There was no merc-mart or emporium where individuals and companies could be hired. The system they used was built on it's feudal predecessor.

When the King of the High Middle Ages wanted to go to war, he and council figured out the size and composition of the force they wanted for the companion. After doing this they divided it up into individual contracts. The King would turn around to trusted vassals and retainers and offer one or more contract. The contract stated that for a specified payment the holder will appear with a certain amount of troop equipped as stated in the contract.

Rarely the contract holder had enough men and resources to create the force the contract required. Instead he would create sub contracts and offer them to HIS trusted retainers and vassals. This process repeated itself down to the landed knight accepting a contract to bring himself, his squire, and three yeoman to the mustering point.

In general the contract holders got a free pass saying that their feudal obligations for military service were fulfilled by being part of these contracts. The rest of the hierarchy were paying the taxes and feudal dues to the king so he could pay the contract holders.

This web of contracts relied heavily on the social network created by the feudal society. Which makes the concept eminently useful for a roleplaying campaign. Having done the Baron a favor the PCs could find themselves being offered one these contracts. Not only they would get paid for fighting but also a share of any plunder gained on the campaign. In addition much of a medieval campaign is comprised of skirmishes rather than pitched battle so there is opportunity for individual glory.

In my Majestic Wilderlands campaign, the Overlords of City-State have fully embraced the contract system. It evolved because the clan based society of the Tharians made it difficult for the Overlord to recruit troops reliably. For the last four generations the Tharian Overlords have successfully converted many of the clan obligations of service into direct payments. In addition the Overlords have won substantial territory that they own personally outside of the Tharian clan system.

As a consequence the Overlord forces have been divided into two Legions both roughly 5,000 men. The first legion is a permanent standing army maintained by the Overlord personal revenues. While the second is comprised of the remaining Tharians who still fulfill their obligations with personal service rather than cash payments.

Both are organized and recruited by the use of mercenary contracts. The main difference is that the first legion contracts are renewed on an annual basis. Some units of the first legions have existed continuously for over 80 years. These unit often have an associated fraternity of former veterans that act mentor and patrons for the current muster of troops.

In contrast the contracts of the second legion are temporary rarely lasting longer than a season. They are generally offered to those who have personal service requirements to fulfill. The initial contract holder relies on the social network provided by his clan and its allies to fill out the muster. In general the forces raised for the second legion are used for garrison and patrol while the forces of the first legion are assembled to fight the Overlord's wars and conflicts.

Rarely the system works out perfectly and many contract holders of both legions come up short. At this point they turn to the Mercenary's Guild of City-State to hire one of the numerous free companies. Established two generation ago the Mercenary's Guild is supported by the Overlords as a useful mechanism to keep order among the free companies. A free company that is sanctioned by the guild is cut off from earning an honest living and must live the much more difficult life of brigandage, piracy or heaven forbid adventuring ;)

All of this came about because novels like the Black Company became popular in the 1980s. There was a sizable segment of player who wanted to play mercenaries. One of my best campaigns started out as a mercenary campaign where one player owned a ship another the leader of the mercenary company. They made a lot of gold raiding the Skandians for the Overlord.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XI

Part X

This is the eleventh in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the following step.
Come up with 6 to 12 general encounter for the region as a whole. Should usable in any area of the region. They are a sentence or two each.



  1. Captain Arvis Black and his ship the Red Revenge are encountered. If it is on water then it is a ship to ship confrontation. On land a shore party is encountered.
  2. After a storm the bodies of several Sahuagins are found washed up on the shore. One of them has a coral route map to the Sahuagin’s lair that can be interpreted by Valard the Yellow Mage of Southpoint.
  3. A small shrine to Saint Edmund exists on an accessible ridge just below the peak of Mount Devon. A party of 3d6 pilgrims is encountered while making their way to the shrine.
  4. An avalanche on Mount Devon has uncovered a small outpost of Tavaras the Lich Lord. It is a two level complex.
  5. The fishermen of the Midland Sea periodically hold untaxed illegal fairs to trade among each other. Loud noises draw the party to one such fair being held on the north shore of the Isle of Piall.
  6. The annual tavern race is about to start. Run from Hawth to Kathi, the participants are required to stop at each of the half dozen taverns on the island and drink at least four mugs before moving on.
  7. Baron Argus Gervon is hunting the slopes of Mount Devon. He is annoyed at the lack of game. Upon encountering the party he blames them for scaring away the game and fines them 100 gp each for forest law violations.
  8. On the east shore of the Isle of Piall a beautiful voice is heard singing. It is Merisa the daughter of King Tuoris of Aventis singing while resting on the rocks on the shoreline. She has a 18 charisma.



When creating these encounters you should be taking a broader view of the setting. For example if an barbarian invasion is part of your setting is the spot to put any encounters involving that plot that is not tied to any one location. Raiders or temporary encampments for example.

As to when you want to use these encounter one answer is "When you feel like it". Many have the idea that a sandbox is deterministic in that you go to location x and find y. If that it all it was then it would be little better than playing Ultima or Oblivion on your computer. General Encounters is one tool a sandbox referee can use give a sense that the character are moving in a larger world. They also useful to move the players along if they flounder or appear to be going in circles.

If that is too subjective for your taste then you can use "triggers". This triggers can cause or terminate general encounters. For example barbarian raids can cease if the High Chief of Nermanni is killed. Or undead start wandering the Isle of Piall if the 2nd level under the Bone Keep is breached.

However you decide to implement General Encounters you need to think of your sandbox setting as a whole rather than a collection of locales. Of course also make them fun and exciting adventures.

That it for Part XI, next is Part XII.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Erol Otus first published piece.

I listened to this podcast at Ninja Mountain I found it interesting to listen to the perspective of everybody involved. During the podcast Erol Otus mentioned that his first published piece was in Dragon #2. So I dove into Dragon Magazine Archive and see what I could find.

Of course it had to be the Remorhaz.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Military in the Majestic WIlderland's CIty-State

There are several military units in my version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord

The Legion of the Overlord
The Legion is main standing army of the Overlord. It is comprised of 5000 men divided into VastThrongs and EquiThrongs. The composition of the Legion is as follows

Legion (5000 men) Lord Marshal
8 VastThrongs
2 EquiThrongs

VastThrong (500 men) Marshal
5 Throngs

EquiThrong (500 Horses) Marshal
1 Squadron of Heavy Cavalry
2 Squadrons of Medium Cavalry
2 Squadrons of Light Cavalry

Throng (100 Men) Captain
1 Company of Swordsmen
2 Companies of Pikemen
2 Companies of Bowmen

** A Throng can be divided into Two Cohorts of 50 men as follows
1 Maniple of Swordsmen
1 Company of Pikemen

Bowmen are not part of Cohorts and used as support.
A Cohort is usually led by the Captain and the other led by a Senior Lieutenant.

Squadron (100 Horses) Captain
5 Companies of Heavy/Medium/Light Cavalry (depending on unit type)

Company (20 Men) Lieutenant
2 Maniples

Maniple (10 Men) Sergeant
1 Corporal
8 Soldiers

Ranks are as follows:

Lord Marshal
Commander of the Legion usually is in the City-State planning with the Overlord. Except when in a major conflict with Sotur or Viridstan then he commands the assembled Legion.

Marshal
Commander of a VastThrong; usually at the province or march seat directing the operations of the various Throngs. In cases of the mass rebellion such as what is occurring in Bernost Province then the Marshal will take direct Command.

Captain
Commander of a Throng. The Throng is the smallest independent unit in the Legion. Comprised of a 100 men and includes pike and bow, the Throng is capable of sustaining battle where the Overlord directs. The Captains is in direct contact of the Throng at all times.

Senior Lieutenant
This rank is given to the most experienced or worthy Lieutenant in the Throng. This ranks marks him as being able to take over the Captain's position in case of death or command a Cohort if the Captain choose to spilt the throng. A Cohort is not a independent unit but is used for tactical flexibility by the Captain.

Lieutenant
The Commander of a Company of men. A Lieutenant responsibility is to listen for the Captains order and ensure that they are obeyed correctly.

Sergeant
The Sergeant leads a maniple, and is responsible for the training, discipline, and morale of his maniple. A Lieutenant depends on his sergeants to have the men ready to obey the order relayed to him.

Corporal
The Corporal is the assistant to the Sergeant and aids him in training and discipline.

The colors of the Legion is a red tabard with a black trim.

The Lord Marshal has a Gold Trim
The Marshal has a Silver Trim
The Captain has a Yellow Trim
The Senior Lieutenant and the Lieutenant has a White Trim
The Sergeant and the Corporal both have a Blue Trim.


The Royal Guard
The Royal Guard are the personal Troops of the Overlord. They number 500 men and are divided into the High Guard and the Low Guard. All members of the Royal Guard receive training in sword and shield. The High Guard are also trained as cavalry, while the Low Guard are trained in the Crossbow.

The Royal Guard are normally stationed in the City-State occupying the Cryptic Citadel and the Silverlight Palace.

The Composition of the Royal Guards are as follows

The High Guard
1 Company of Heavy Cavalry "The Knights of the Inner Circle"
4 Companies of Medium Cavalry

The Low Guard
1 Company of Sword/Crossbowmen "Guardians of the Gate"
4 Companies of Sword/Crossbowmen "The Guardians of the Citadel"
5 Companies of Sword/Crossbowmen - II Cohort
5 Companies of Sword/Crossbowmen - III Cohort
5 Companies of Sword/Crossbowmen - IV Cohort


There is a Captain for the High Guard and the Low Guard.

A Commander leads each of the five companies of the High Guard.

One Lieutenant leads the Guardians of the Gate and the Guardians of the Citadel. Each of the other Cohorts are lead by a Lieutenant. Each Company in the Low Guard is lead by a Sergeant assisted by a Corporal.

The Knights of the Inner Circle are the personal guards of the Overlord himself and they are present inside the Palace itself. The rest of the High Guard reside in a compound next to the Palace. All members of the High Guard are allowed to be called Knights Bachelor.

The Guardians of the Citadel are the elite of the Low Guard and they reside in the Cryptic Citadel. Four Companies live in each tower while the fifth lives in the Citadel's gatehouse. The fifth is known as the Guardians of the Gate is the elite of the elite. The remaining Low Guard man the outer defense works of the Citadel.

The color of the Royal Guards is a tabard with red on the left half and black on the right half

The High Guard were the tabard with a silver trim
The Knights of the Inner Circle wear the tabard with a gold trim
The Captain of the High Guard wears a Gold belt
The Company Commanders wears a Silver belt
The remaining members of the High Guard wears a Red belt.

The Low Guard wear the plain tabard
The Guardians of the Citadel wear a tabard with a blue trim.
The Guardians of the Gate wear the tabard with a white trim.

The officers of the Low Guard wear their belt the same way as in the Legion.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GASPCon Second Day

The 2nd Day at GASPCon went very well. I ran a playtest of the adventure I was working on called the Beast of Kensla. Wolves are terrorizing Kensla and the villagers have refused to bring in the harvest. More than the Ruins of Ramat, Kensla represents the sort of adventure I typically run in my campaign. It is set mostly outdoors. While having monsters there is a ton of roleplaying involved. Mostly involving conflict between different groups of people. I ran this adventure two times before, once using D&D 3.0 and another with GURPS. So I was interested to see how it worked out with S&W/OD&D.

The father and son who played the berserker and thug from the Ramat session returned with their characters. They were even more enthused about playing than yesterday which lent nice energy to the table. Two new players arrived. One played a mage from the Order of Thoth another played a Priest of Nephthys the goddess of wealth, pleasure, and fate. The mage player hadn't played D&D in ages and the priest player was a member of Jason's (of Elf Lair Games) group. It slipped my mind that Jason lived in Pittsburgh.

The berserker is pretty much a D&D fighter that has the ability to rage. Raging get the berserker+2 in nearly all combat stats (hit, damage, ac, saving throw) for duration of a fight. The thug fights pretty crappy (like a mage) but gains good bonuses whenever the player tries to perform feats of strength, and intimidates opponents. The Thothian mage is a standard magic-user that has the Shield of Magic a form of magic resistance against spell directly cast on the mage (fire ball will hurt, hold person will be resisted, etc).

The priest of Nephthys is same as a D&D cleric with the addition of the ability to use a Greater Command at 3rd level. This spell of my own creation works as a command spell for one hour effecting a number of targets equal to the priest's level. The target gets a saving throw for each command even new ones. Also the priest gets a shield of faith which works similarly to the Shield of Magic of the Thothian mage.

Finally I used my ritual rule which allows the players to cast spells directly out of their spell book (or for Clerics out of their list) for 10 gp times the spell level squared. Most magic using class can only do this at 1/2 the highest level spell they can cast rounded down. Among both group this rule was popular. It gave a slightly higher magic feel to my setting and it still involved the management of limited resources. For the session the mage and cleric could cast 1st level spells as ritual which cost 10 gp.

Thanks to Jeff Rients tables the Berserker was 4th level, the Thug 3rd, The Mage 3rd, and the Priest, 3rd. The Thug was lucky and rolled up a Potion of Flying from the chart.

The adventure went well. The mage player was very sharp and was the leader in figuring out how to solve the mystery of the Beast. The father and son were just as happy playing Kensla vs Ramat despite the big difference in setting and tone.

For ability rolls I used the d20 system. Basically for something done in combat you had to roll a 15 or higher. You go a +1 for a 13 or high attribute and a -1 for a 8 or lower. The Thug character really shined as the player figured how to use some of his abilities to help the party. One of the bonuses the thug gets is area knowledge and in combat it allows the thug to position the party to get a +1 bonus for surprise. This came handy in several situations.

Likewise the Priest' Greater Command came in handy several time particularly in defusing a near riot among the villager. The most impressive use was on a demon that was part of the adventure. He commanded the demon to return to hell and the demon blew his saving thrown. Well that ended that particular fight quickly. The player had an impressive voice so it was a fun moment to referee. Of course the priest player had to endure the ire of the rustic priest of Mitra, the goddess of Honor and Justice. He showed great patience while the priest was calling his goddess a harlot.

The Berserker player had the worse luck of anybody I seen. He kept rolling 2's, 3's, and 4's on any and all d20s he touched. BUt after he raged in the final battle things turned around as extra +2 really helped.

I continue to refine my convention package. I believe I am going to stick with Ramat and Kensla for the spring Con I plan to go to (Coscon in Butler) the rotate out Ramat for something new. For this convention I made cards for all the classes plus a one page folded sheet with the price list and spells. The players for both events got to roll up their characters an experience they enjoyed. S&W/OD&D makes the experience a snap. I need to improve the character sheets I am using and update the cards with some missing information (mainly to hit). Again Jeff Rient's XP table is a great tool to have. Jeff if you read this I could use a link to the module and xp chart.

Now the fall Cons are done it is off to editing my project which I hope to have done soon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gaspcon First Day

Running the Ruins of Ramat was a success! I had four players including a 11 year old who was playing a RPG for the first time. The party consisted of a Cleric of Mitra, a Berserker, a Thug, and a Trehaen Mage. The party managed to clear out the ruins and free the spear. Once again I had players make up characters before the games. While I was using stuff from my project my classes reflects the simplicity of OD&D. Using the S&W reference and some reference stuff I had character creation done in a 1/2 hour. This was a little longer than at Erie Day of Gaming as one player was a novice and another hadn't played in decades.

They had a lot of fun. Combat was fast and furious. And two of the players are returning on Sunday to play the Beast of Kensla.

So tommorrow look for a Con wrapup report.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Crappy Map of Valon

Over on the Wilderlands subforum on the Necromancer forums somebody asked for a good map of Valon.

Unfortunally all I have is a crappy map.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Off to GASPCon

It 5:00 pm Friday and I am off to GASP Con to play (boardgames and 4th edition) and to run some games (S&W/OD&D).

Writing the last two posts was a bit of lark and I hoped you enjoyed them.

Travelling continued, An alternate look at RPGs

Here some more on the what-if history of Travelling.


Forward to Adventure Part 2
A retrospective of 30 years of Adventure Games.
Imagination #225, October 6th 1970

Travelling and World War 2.


Travelling 2nd edition became a minor hit during World War as entertainment for soldiers. Especially in 1943 when Saul Banner submitted the idea to Imagination of using a single referee to judge the scenario for a group of player working together. This article came with the classic scenario Output Alpha, which featured the famed Nostradamus Bugs.

Saul Banner went on to write several more classic scenarios, notably the Memory of Beta, about a sentient ship, and Gamma Twilight which took placed on the tidelocked world of Gamma in the Victoria Subsector. Gamma Twilight was written in conjunction with Miller's article on the Aryan Consulate. The Aryanites were the main villains of the scenario.

Towards the end of the war, several companies came out with their own adventure games, but most were poorly put together in rules and binding. Travelling kept its dominance.

After the 2nd Edition V. Wiseman stopped contributing to Travelling. He graduated from the University of Chicago, and went to work for the Manhattan Project.

During the war, Imagination introduced the Aryan Consulate the sworn enemy of the Spinward Republic. Also the Dogmen of Antares made their first appearance, along with the master intriguers the Ceti Octopiods.

Travelling 3rd Edition

After the end of the War, the WorldCons were resumed starting in the fall of 1946. Miller, with backing from Campbell, hired Saul Banner and formed AGW, Adventure Games Workshop. In 1947 the two released Travelling 3rd Edition. This edition completed Travelling's transformation from a writer's aide to a full fledged Adventure Game.

How Pirate & Plunder almost sank Adventures Games in the 50s

During the war, rivals of Astounding, and even comic book companies put out knocks off of Travelling. Most of them were poorly written, poorly designed, and poorly bound. Travelling wasn't that much better but Miller used what resources he had to make Travelling the best product he could.

Most of the World War 2 Era Adventure Games were space related. Amazing Planetary Adventures, TriPlanetary (later sued by E.E. Smith), Astonishing Space Adventures were some of them. The remaining half dozen expanded Adventure Games into new genres, superheroes mostly, but there was a western (Tombstone Tales), a Three Musketeers game (Legends of the Rapier), several Pirate games, a game based on the Greek Myths, and one Time Travel game from Educational Comics (Time Travel Tales or TTT)

When EC Comics founder, Max Gaines died in 1947, his son William took over. William Gaines decided to jettison the comics and focus on taking the Adventure Game market away from AGW. He hired many of the best sci-fi and genre writers from Astounding rivals and turned them loose.

The result was an explosion of titles, and magazines for the Adventure Games market. Time Travel Tales was cleaned up and the Time Patrol was created along with their arch enemy the evil Denebians. Galaxy Trek was created to go head to head with Travelling. Their most popular game was Pirates & Plunder, a game dealing with the pirate genre. With the Adventure Games expansion the company changed it name to Entertaining Games.

By 1950, Entertaining Games was still second place to AGW. In the fall of 1950, The 2nd edition of Pirates & Plunder was released. It added a chapter on the dead, pirate curses, and black magic. This caused an explosion of interest in Pirates & Plunder and for a brief time in 1951 it outsold Travelling.

During the early 1950's Entertaining Games introduced the standalone scenario. Previously scenarios were only published in one of the magazines devoted to Adventure Games. It also introduced the idea of expansions with the release of Tales from Davy Jones' Locker. Davy Jones' expanded the chapter on the dead, curses, and black magic. This was followed up in 1953 with Legends of the Ancient Mariner.

The year 1953 was the highpoint of Entertaining Games. In 1954 Seduction of Youth was published which criticizes Adventure Games and Entertaining Games in particular. Sales plummeted and with the bankruptcy of Entertaining Games' distributor in 1956, William Gaines ceased publishing everything except for a humor magazine known as Crazy.

During this Miller and Banner kept toiling away at AGW. Despite the competition from Entertaining Games, the general Adventure Game market boomed during the early 50s and AGW expanded to a dozen employees. Miller and Banner released a 4th edition of Travelling. The 4th edition was noted for the introduction by Physicist V. Wiseman, who also contributed charts and notes on on Nuclear technology. Miller also began publishing standalone scenarios and supplements. Mostly repackaging earlier contributions to Imagination, updated for 4th edition.

With Seduction of Youth and subsequent downturn, AGW was forced to let most of employees go by 1956. Miller writes.
The summer of 1957 was pretty bleak. We were down to myself, Banner, and our secretary/office manager Lauren Smith. That fall We had a small uptick in sales from some tie ins with the International Geophysical Year. Grand Survey was the best of that year's releases. We knew that there was work being done to launch something into space.
Miller continues
By October I was working on some stuff about the early days of the Spinward Republic and thinking about how to incorporate what was going on. When Saul runs in and tells me to turn on the radio. That when I heard beeping of Sputnik and the report that the Russians launched the first satellite. I was mad and afraid along with the rest of the country. As beloved as the Spinward Republic was, this was real and the Russians were first. But inside I also knew that beep was the sound that AGW was going to be saved.
Spy versus Spy and revival of Adventure Games in the 60s.

With the launch of Sputnik, interest in Travelling and Adventure Games exploded. Even with rivals putting out their own space related Adventure Games, AGW remained the largest publisher of Adventure Games.

The closest rival to AGW was Jackson Games of Tulsa Oklahoma. John Jackson gained noticed by writing for several of AGW's rivals. His work pushed the conventions of the space adventure games in new directions. Following the strange disappearance of Arc Johnson of Small Box Games. Jackson returned to his home in Tulsa Oklahoma and founded Jackson Games. He developed Spy versus Spy in 1963. Capitalizing on cold war tensions and the popularity of spy films and shows. Spy versus Spy and its line of scenarios and supplements became the #2 game of the 60's.

The triumph of the Hobbit, Adventure Games return to the past and fantasy.

In the fall of 1955, the third volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings was released. With the decline of Adventure Games due to Seduction of the Innocent both AGW and Entertaining Games did not notice the release. After the launch of Sputnik, the Adventure Games Industry focused on space.

In 1963, Gary Ganon and Robert Arendt founded Fantasy Adventures, Inc in Great Britain. They loved Travelling, Adventure Games, and Tolkien. With a desire to enter Tolkein's world. Arendt created a thinly disguised version of Middle Earth called the Wilderlands and Ganon created rules for the game. The two released Fellowship, Adventures of Fantasy, at the 1964 World Con.

The game was a hit. Lord of the Rings was beginning it's rise in popularity and people wanted to use Adventure Games to play in Tolkien's world. In 1965 Tolkien wrote to Ganon and Ardent praising their work and noting that they seemed to have lost his check in the mail. Fantasy Adventures started paying Tolkein a royalty and secured an official license to continue Fellowship. Arendt then created a line of "official" Middle Earth expansions along with continuing the Wilderlands. By 1967, Fellowship and Fantasy Adventures, Inc were the #2 company behind Travelling and AGW, Jackson Games and Spy Versus Spy remains a solid #3.

During the late 60's Travelling and Adventure Games gained mainstream notice with the success of Star Travels. Gene Roddenberry, the producer and creator of Star Travels, was introduced to Adventure Games when he was writing westerns for TV in the 50's. He learned about Travelling and was inspired to combine his work on westerns with the ideas found in Travelling. Today Star Travel is in its 5th season with Jeffery Hunter playing the role of the starship Enterprise's captain James Pike. The Klingon Leonoids are a homage to Travelling's Dogmen of Antares.

The Future of Adventure Games.

Today, in 1970, Adventure Games still is a strong vital market. The recent unpopularity of the Vietnam War appears to having having an effect on sales of Travelling and Spy vs Spy. However Fellowship keeps growing in popularity every year.

Fantasy Adventures newly established line of Mines and Caverns scenarios are especially popular. It is rumored that the Third Edition of Fellowship is going to make a Mine crawl the centerpiece scenario rather than the Citadel of Dun Arthanc.

There are also rumors that Jackson Games is expanding the rules used in Spy vs Spy to the Fantasy Genre. The new system is supposedly going to be called GUAG or Generic Universal Adventure Game and involve the use of the different polyhedral dice being used in the wargames industry.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Travelling: an alternate vision of RPGs

Now for something completely off of the wall. A what-if story about a world where RPGs developed earlier than our own.



Forward to Adventure Part 1
A retrospective of 30 years of Adventure Games.
Imagination #224, September 5th 1970

Hello fans, welcome to the 30th anniversary of the Adventure Game. It was at ChiCon I where Paul Miller and V. Wiseman introduced Travelling, Your adventures in the future. Surprisingly the first edition of Travelling wasn’t a game. Sure many of the today’s rules were present. World & creature creation, starship construction were present. The remaining rules were either non-existent or only presented in the sketchiest of outlines.

To understand why Travelling was written. We need to go back to the New York World Fair and the first Worldcon. Miller was one of those attending the first con. Like other fans he was intensely interested in the new style of science fiction being written in Astounding and other magazines. He wanted to learn how to write these stories himself. It was said that he spent much of the convention cornering Campbell and other editors with questions on how to write good science fiction.

Miller left the first WorldCon very frustrated as he felt that nobody could give him a clear answer to his questions. He returned to his hometown of Chicago where two month later he was talking to his friend Victor Wiseman. Wiseman was studying physics at the University of Chicago at the time. Inspired by his friend’s troubles, he sat down and wrote up a set of tables for his friend to use to create his stories. For the next four months Wiseman researched the available literature on planets, stars, rockets, and even a little biology. By the spring of 1940 he had over two dozen pages of tables, charts, and notes for Miller.

Miller loved what Wiseman had done and immediately used them to create his own worlds and settings pulling material from E.E. Smith and other writers of the time. When Miller found something that wasn’t clear or difficult to use, he made notes and worked with Wiseman to make the charts easier to use. One innovation that introduced at this time was the use of dice to randomize various results.

Miller wrote in Imagination #64,
I was making the first sector of the Spinward Republic and starting to get repetitive in how my worlds were turning out. To give my head a break I started rolling dice to randomly pick items off of the tables, modifying the more outlandish results. When I showed Wiseman what I was doing, he picked up on it right away. He knew quite a bit about statistics and probability from his work at the University. For the third revision he reorganized the tables so you could use 1 or more dice to roll for the results.
At the end of the spring term, Miller and Wiseman had what would be the first edition of Travelling finished. With the second World Con coming in September, the pair decided to spend $100 and print their charts and notes as a small book and sell it at the Con. They figured that there were other writers had the same problems as Miller did and Travelling would sell.
So that summer, Miller took all of Wiseman’s notes and charts and typed them up. To Wiseman’s star, world, creatures, and starship charts, he added chapters on characters, equipment, and mileau. At the end he included a small subsector of his Spinward Republic setting, the classic Victoria Subsector.

When September rolled around, Miller went to the WorldCon and set up a table with 100 copies of Travelling for sale for $2. Travelling was a hit! With all 100 copies sold out by the end of the second day. Years later Robert Heinlein wrote
“I walked by and saw Miller there with a crowd of people. I picked a copy of Travelling. Now I knew a lot of what Wiseman and Miller wrote and had the reference books; but it was nice to have it all in one place. Plus being able to use dice helped when you are stuck trying to figure out exactly what a place looked like.
Miller left the convention with orders for two dozen more books. In addition he used some of the cash to pay for ads in next month’s issue of Astounding and other magazines. When he got back he split the profits with Wiseman and the two ordered 100 more books. Throughout that first year Travelling was reprinted two more times. The third print run was 200 copies and the fourth was 500 copies.

The next major step in Travelling evolution were Chadwick’s famous “Bottle Caps” rules. Named for the use of bottle caps to represent starships and people. This first appeared in the March 1941 issue of Astounding, John Chadwick came up with a set of rules, using dice, to resolve combat using the starships and personal weapons listed in Travelling. Miller, immediately like the “bottle caps” rules. He contacted Chadwick and was able to get permission to incorporate them into the 2nd edition of Travelling.

The 2nd edition was released the fall of 1941 at the third WorldCon in Denver with a modified version of Chadwick’s rules incorporated. 2nd edition included chapters on characters, combat, worlds, stars, creatures, equipment, and starships. Over a 1000 copies were made and all were sold within months.

The 2nd edition was the first that could be played as a game. Although the characters and the equipment lists were much cruder than subsequent editions. The second edition increased Travelling popularity throughout World War 2 .

After the 2nd Edition was released, Campbell at Astounding Magazine was inundated with submissions based on Travelling. Some were little more than lists randomly generated from the charts in Travelling. Campbell founded a new bi-monthly magazine called Imagination, Gateway to the Future and filled it with Travelling submissions. The first issue featured Miller’s Spinward Republic outlining a complete sector done in the Travelling format.

Next…
Travelling and World War 2.
Travelling 3rd Edition
How Pirates & Plunder almost sank Adventures Games in the 50s
Spy versus Spy and revival of Adventure Games in the 60s.
The triumph of the Hobbit, Adventure Games return to the past and fantasy.
The Future of Adventure Games.



If you like reading alternate history there is no better place on the Internet than the Alternate History Forums.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on Warhammer FRPG 3rd

Zach at RPGBlog 2 gives us a link to a promotional video of the newest edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying. As these things go I find it pretty informative which FFG should be commended for.

However from viewing the video I feel the latest edition is fraught with problems. The killer is the price of $100 err $99.95. While quality components can justify a higher price; I can't see any combination of components justify that much of a price increase over a regular RPG. What they show in the video doesn't add $60 worth of value to a RPG (assuming the core book would have been $40 without all the extras).

The system itself seems needlessly gamey. The problem with trying to reward roleplaying with rule benefits is the average players starts gaming the system rather roleplaying more. The is the same problem with D&D 4th edition. Roleplaying should rewarded within the game world with interesting adventures or tangible in-game benefits like a title, a loyal henchman, or better treasure.

I know given my like for GURPS this criticism seems odd. The difference is that choices in GURPS map into what you would do in reality making it easy to say to referee situation not explicitly covered in the rules. The further you divorce your rules from what the character are doing the harder becomes to referee when you run into situation not explicitly covered.

Like D&D 4th my criticism has nothing to do whether it is a fun game.

Because of the pricing issue my prediction is that WFRPG will go down as the Heaven's Gate of RPGs. If you want to go the D&D 4th edition route don't make a $100 RPG.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Dragon for my Birthday

My Birthday is this month and Kelly Anne, my wife, got me a nice Dragon figure.

It is by Schliech which makes a variety of other figurines some of which may be useful for fantasy RPGs. Here is a link to the amazon site.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Old School gaming, GASPCon Nov 13th to 15th

I will be at GASPCon this upcoming weekend running some Swords & Wizardry with options from the project I been working on. If you happened to be in driving range of Pittsburgh, PA then I hope to see you there.

I will be running the Ruins of Witch Hill a slightly altered Ruins of Ramat on Saturday afternoon from 2 until 6. Then The Beast of Kensla on Sunday morning from 9am to 1pm.

The Con information is here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wilderlands of High Fantasy Map 8 Overview

The location of the Map 8 Overview I did the for the boxed set of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy also changed. It is now here or you click on the handy picture below.



The Original Southlands Map

Because of the change in website the original southland map can be found here. Or just click on the picture below. This is the original outdoor survival map turned into a RPG style setting map in accordance with the rules in Book 3 of OD&D. For those of you with the older version I fixed the scale notation to 5 miles per hex.

The squares are settlements, the circles are castles, and the diamonds are lairs. Of course you are free to interpret them however you like.

The gray shaded areas are desert.





Saturday, November 7, 2009

From the Attic: A better L1: Secret of Bone Hill

Len Lakofka's L1-The Secret of Bone Hill was another one of my favorite modules. It was because it was solid adventure that was generic enough to be adapted for a variety of campaigns by dressing it up differently.



I thought the map of Restenford was crap. So I fixed it. This an example of my handdrawn town map style


The Map Key corresponds to that of Restenford in L1. You can download the module from WoTC here. You can see by the map where I placed in my Wilderlands. The town of Bernost in the northwest corner of Map 1 (old)/Map 5 (new).

Hope you find this useful if you ever run L1.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Wilderlands site has moved

My earthlink account is the end road of my original dial up setup. I kept as a backup and for the extra email and webpage. Now that I have a domain and web hosting I plan to ditch it. The new url for my wilderlands site is http://wilderlands.batintheattic.com

The main address is where my website detailing my personal publishing efforts is going to end up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

From the Attic: City-State of the Invincible Overlord Part 2

The rest of the original City-State of the Invincible Overlord.

Now we get into Rules and Guidelines. For anybody who want to see how people houseruled back in the day this section is a gold mine.

First we read about Boons and Duties for nobles. If you PC thinks being a duke is all glory wait until the Overlord requires a a loan of 1,000 to 10,000 gp from them. Of course if they are a duke then they have a 13% change of being repaid each month.

Then we have a short section on Wills. We learn that if you character dies you turn over at least 10% of his wealth and any magic item has a 50% of being confiscated for "state protection".

Now we get to the Women table. Yes two pages of how to roll up women with every attribute defined. You can get Barmaids, Concubines, Courtesans, Goddess (!?), Houri, Shrews, and Vixens. I guess Foxy is post 70s. For their attributes we can roll for Age, Tress Tines, Complexion, Height, Vita Statistic (yeah the important one), Including how bust size, waist, and hips break down according to charisma.

After the wonders of rolling up women I don't know if the rest of CSIO can equal what has been done so far. Let's go on and see.

We get a trio of legal entries. Oaths & Promises, Proclamations, and the Council of High Treason. Just don't bring more than 200 men-at-arms into City-State. Trust me on this one.

Then we get a Commonor's Calendar with months like The Snow Leopard, Vineyard Bounty, and the Silent Scream :O. We learn what the major festivals are and the prevailing temperatures
(think Georgia, South Carolina, France)

Then we learn about Beggars which appear as an NPC classes ranging from the level 1 Beggar, 3rd Level Panhandler, to the top of the pyramid at 7th level the Guildmaster!

Next we get a house rule on using Characteristics. Basically you if you roll less than your ability on a percentage dice you succeed. The difficulty of the task determines how often you get retry. Some tasks take multiple attempts!

Now we move onto a new section where we learn about the Dwarves of Thunderhold. It comes with a sketch map of the Rorystone Road.

If you wondered why I wrote up Rorystone Road as my initial proposal for the format of the Wilderlands Boxed Set this is the map that inspired it.

Next we get a list of NPCs of Thunderhold mostly Dwarves, followed by Legends and Rumors. The Night Watchers: Spectres riding Manticores doesn't sound so good.

Next are shops and Taverns. Lettered from A to Y instead of numbered. Thunderhold may be ruled by the Dwarves but nearly half of the shops are human.

Next page being the guidelines to the upper level of the Sunstone Caverns. We learn about Lady Kostbera, the Overlord Black Lotus agent within the Caverns. Bragrash the Minotaur. Gorgomat the Prisoner at Very Old White Dragon. The Bandits of the Man-Ape. The enigmatic Oracle of Bubastis. Nikelaus and this goblin servant SHADOW! Zagrath the Spectre, and more for two pages.

The four pages has a four level dungeon that is drawn quite nicely. Unlike the sunstone caverns themselves there is no description other than some notes on the map. In case anybody wonders where they go they connect to the cave in hex 0103 in the upper left of the 11 by 17 Thunderhold Map.

After the Sunstone Caverns We get some Prosiac Poems & Provoking Prose

After the long and cold retreat
The Witch-Queen deigned to take her seat,
By the ancient Sleeping River clear,
Where harpies singing charm the ear.

Then we get three different rules for shock recovery. Basically how to get some hit points back after combat especially if you are below zero.

Next get some guidelines on Special Encounters. Including guidelines on Guard & Garrison Troops, what Social Level means and how to increase it. This followed by some guidelines on using Social Levels for Serfs, Villains, Military, Gentlemen, and Nobles.

Then we get a chart on being questioned by Guards or Constables.

Next a set of rules on Offensive Locutions plus the Buffoon fighter subclass. Basically a sucessful Repartee will stop everybody in earshot from taking offensive action for 1d6 rounds. A successful Witicism allow you to gain the initiative on the laughing opponent who is otherwise unable to anything for 2-8 rounds. Only Buffoons have honed their wit enough to use Witticism in combat.

Then a section on Poisons from the old favorite Belladonna to the venom of a Purple Worm.

If your encounter involves an attack then you can use the Attack Reason chart for the specifics.

Also some guidelines on the companions of high social level individuals. Manumission for slaves and the breakdown of the various quarters of City-State are coverd.

We then get to the Social level/City Encounter chart. I have to say the authors did a nice job with this one. You roll for the type of encounter, who encountered and then can quickly break it down to the exact social levels of the person encountered. There are some special encounters as well ranger from being Expectorated upon, a were-rat trying to kidnap, and finally meeting with a Hypnotist. For course Women have their own special subchart that refers back to the random Woman chart back on page 55.

Then for your miscreant PCs we have a section on Crime, Trial, & Punishment. A nice little subsystem for resolving your PCs legal troubles. Of course if the crime is bringing in more than 200 men-at-arms then you need to go back to the section on the Council of High Treason.

The punishments range from Drawn & Quartered, Flayed, to the ever nice Case Dismissed. The authors even include the specific effects of the various punishments. If you are whipped it makes a difference if a Silk Cord is used or a Flail.

One of the reason for heading for the big city of course is hirelings and henchmen. But to find the best in the teeming mass of humanity that is City-State you need to ADVERTISE!. The next section is all about advertising in City-State. Like the City Encounter Table it is nicely laid out and easy to follow.

After this are five levels of a dungeon that lies underneath city-state. The entrances appear to be a storage pit underneath the Wild Boar Tavern and the Basement of the Cut-throat Inn. The bottommost level has a fiery chasm.

In general Judges Guild products are not noted for their layout and art. But one thing that City-State did was great was it's index. Only two pages it was useful, accurate and made using the product a snap. Combined with the Hanging out in the City State index in Pegasus #4 made using City-State easy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Acaeum

I don't think I mentioned this explicitly but the best site for old AD&D/D&D products is the Acaeum. It includes images of covers, research notes, commentary, and a forum with pretty nice folks. It is oriented towards collecting older material.

From the Attic: City-State of the Invincible Overlord Part 1

Yesterday I posted some excerpts from my version of City-state. But what does the real deal look like?

The map of the City State of the Invincible is the product that started it all for Judges Guild. After securing a license from TSR Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owens went to GenCon with sets of 34" by 44" inch maps of the City-State and a plan to sell subscriptions to the later products.

You can read some of the history here and at Wikipedia. Also you can buy a pdf here for the same price they sold it back in the 70s!


So what inside this product?

First off on the cover map we see an early sketch map of the Wilderlands

The northernmost bay was my inspiration for the Wild North in Fight On! #3.

Inside we get the Background Guidelines. Until the Mines of Custalcon was released in 1979 it was the primary source of information on the Wilderlands. Although Tegal Manor was set in the Wilderlands it's background was high local. Even with Custalcon it wasn't until the City-State of the World Emperor was released a year later that we get an major expansion of the Wilderlands.

In the Background Guildelines you get

Chronology of the Dragon Kings a bare bones calender of years with evocative names.

We learn about F.E.A.R. Fraternity for Eradication of Armored Riffraff. Watch out you low level wearers of plate armor!

How nasty the Waterfront Quarter is along with the Mer-Mist Swamp. Make those Disease check rolls folks!

The mysterious Barbarian Altanis with their female psionic Protectors.

The Wild Orcs of the Purple Claws. They worship the Blood Stained God and led by a Amazon Queen/Priestess.

The madcap Goblin Reservation and their fetish with tunneling.

Finally a bullet list of minor details like a guideline for gambling, the role of slave grooms, and how it is against the law for anybody make change unless they have a moneychanger's license.

On Page 5 we leap into the city proper. The book is laid out by streets. The authors start at one end and work their way down. Fortunately the streets are in a rough alphabetical order so it easy to find a particular street. Once you figure out which end they start on you can look up the specific shop fairly quickly.

City State is a crazy mixed up city with all kinds of folks and races rubbing shoulders with each other. At the end of Regal Street are the three great temple of CSIO which has the CE Temple of Harmakhis next to the LG Temple of Oden next to the CG Temple of Thoth. Behind them is the Hellbridge Temple home of the Baleful Eye of Morg a LE deity. Makes for exciting times yes sir!

There are nearly two dozen taverns ranging from the all female She-Devel Tavern to the dive that is the Water-dog flophouse. Sage, check, Thieves, check, assassins, check, and mercenaries check. There nearly 400 entires depending on how you break it up.

Most are short and to the point looking somewhat like this.



By Page 53 we get to the Southern Keep and Paramswarn the Red a CE 16th level MU! the last of the entries.

Tommorrow the rest of CSIO!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

From the Attic: City State Excerpts

The following are some entries from my notes on my version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. This from the initial section dealing with various noble and guard buildings. While specific to my version of City-State there should be some bit useful for any fantasy campaigns.



1.CRYPTIC CITADEL
The Cryptic Citadel is the oldest structure in the City-State, it was built by the Knights of St. Caelam to house their dragon steeds. The structure is well over 100 feet and is estimated to be able to hold at least twenty dragon steeds and a thousand men. The outer wall and the four towers was added by Anarin I the first of the Dragon Kings. The outer ramparts was added by Atrabilorin the Dwarf when he rebuilt the defenses of the City-State. Currently the Citadel is mostly empty, however it's granaries are kept filled in case of a siege of the City-State. Also the treasuries of the Overlord is kept here as well.

The ground floor of the Citadel is a great hall known as the Hall of the Dragons. It fills the entire ground floor and is supported by twenty massive pillars in the shape of a Dragon rearing. The Overlord only holds court here three times a year; to receive the re-affirmation of oaths by the clans on Ostara, and the accounting of the taxes and harvest on Enserra. One each of these day the courts arrives in the hall at dawn, then a procession of those making offerings to the Overlords forms at the beginning of the Avenue of Triumphs and marches into the Citadel and then each, in his turn, makes his offering.

There are five levels underneath the Citadel, here the treasuries of the Overlord and the storerooms of the citadel are. The fifth level is given over to the Regulators; the Overlord's elite band of adventures. In the center of the fifth level is the Eye of Altasan. It is a 100pt powerstone that acts like a crystal ball. A person can use it to scry anywhere in the known Wilderlands and has the ability to cast spells thru it. It was captured by the Order of the Silver Dragon over thousand years ago when they were still serving in the old Ghinorian Empire. They captured from the Emperor of the Thule Empire. They hid it's existence from the Empire and when they left to found the colony of Caleam, they brought it with them. After the fall of the Dragon Empire it was left to dust underneath the Cryptic Citadel until rediscovered by Salm-Lorin. When the City-State fell to the Tharians, the Overlord Lucius found it and turned it to his own use. Ever since then it existence and use has been the highest of the Overlord's secret. It existence is only known by the Overlord and the Regulators. Also the Guild of Arcane Lore knows that it exists and desires to recover it.

The Citadel itself is guarded by the Royal Guard of the Overlord. Four companies of the High Guard guard the Citadel itself, each company is traditionally given one tower of the Citadel to call it's own. Out of the twenty companies of the Low Guard the five best are choosen to be the Guardians of the Citadel. Four of the Companies guard each of the outer towers, and the fifth guards the gatehouse. The Regulators provide any Magical assitance as needed.

In the southeast corner of the outer ramparts is the compound of the Royal Low Guard. To the north of the Citadel, the training camp of the Legion lies between the Citadel moat and the outer ramparts. Also within the outer ramparts is the Great Cistern. The Great Cistern is fed by a aquaduet from Orcle Lake. From the cistern runs pipes to the citadel, Silverlight Palace, and the some of the house of the northwest quadrants of the City-State.

2.SILVERLIGHT PALACE

The Silverlight Palace is the personal residence of the Overlord, here he holds court the most often. Along with the Summer Palace in the Northern March and the Clanhome at Castle Bulwark, the Silverlight Palace is one of three places the Overlord holds court. The current Overlord, Lucius III, holds court at the Silverlight Palace from 1st of White Wolf to 25th of Yellow Moon Dog. Then he holds court at the Summer Palace from 1st of Midsummer to 1st of Regal Serpant. Then he holds court at Castle Bulwark, the traditional holding of the Overlord's Clan, from 9th of Regal Serpent to 22nd of Sky Woman.

The Hall of Twilight is where court is held when the Overlord is at the Silverlight Palace. It gets it's name because when the sun set it's last rays illuminate the entire chamber. Because the Hall was made with red marble and make the whole hall look aflame. The Overlord's personal chambers are in the north end of the palace, while the Chamberlain, his servants, and guest quarters occupy the southern half. The name of the Silverlight Palace comes from the silvery shine the palace takes in the moonlight.

Personally guarding the Overlords are the Knights of the Inner Knights. Twenty of the best Royal Guardmen are chosen to be a member of this elite force. They are always with the Overlord and are responsible for his personal safety. Directly to the south of the Palace is the compound of the Royal High Guards. To the east is the garden and small woods. Lining the outer wall to the west of the Palace are the smithy and stables of the Overlord.

The Silverlight Palace was built by Salm-Lorin in 4320. When Halius became Overlord he used it as his offical residence when he was in City-State. His successors Lucius the Great, and Varius used it little, preferring Bulwark as their main residence. It wasn't until the time of the Overlord Tomius when the palace was made the main residence of the Overlord.

3.HARBOR TOWER
This the official residence of the Harbourmaster of the City-State. All ship must send a representative to here to pay the pilotage and the harbor fees, plus any docking fees if they wish to dock. The Harbourmaster notes the payments of fees and sends a pilot to navigate the ship into her moorage. Generally there about 10 pilot in residence.

4.MARSH KEEP
This anchors the western wall of the City-State currently is staffed by one company of City-Guards. This is considered a hardship post and usually the worst misfits and officers are assigned here.

Lieutenant Kelen commands here, he is a wastrel and easily bribed. He is the second son of one of the City-State wealthiest Mercantyler.

Sargeant Loran is the senior sergeant of the company, is a sadistic and cruel man. He is known to give flogging for the slightest infractions. The only reason that he remains alive is that he has built a cadre of the two corporal and three of the troopers to act as enforcers with the rest of the troops.

Sargent Michael is the junior sergeant and was placed here because he is too honest and called a Lieutenant on a bride and was able to boot him from the guards. The ex-Lieutenant was able to get his friends to bust him and assign to the marsh gate to "have a accident". Sargent Micheal was able to gain the loyalty of the most of the men to the point that if Loran's goons attacked Michael most of the remaining troopers would mutiny.

The Marsh keep has the responsibility of patrolling the lower half of by-water road, sea-brigand street, and the upper harbor area. It is under the direct command of the Captain of the End-Gate.

5.GRAND GATE
The Grand gate is one of the main entrances into the City-States. It is the traditional spot where the triumphs start.

Currently there are two companies stationed at the gate and one in the tower directly to the south of the gate.

The Captain of the Grand Gate is Thomen Meralis, he is a old vet of the Overlord's army, a former Captain, when he retired ten years ago he quickly got bored of farming and moved to the City-State and was able to made a captain and was given command of the Grand Gate. He is currently 56 years old and still the equal of many younger warriors. Thomen is a real spit and polish commander and expects his troops to look their best. He doesn't condone the taking of brides and quickly punishes those he catch taking bribes. To placed as a lieutenant under Thomen's command is considered a privilege as he trains them well.

Lieutenant Jarvis Felon, is in command of the 1st Grand Gate company. He is a rising young star in the City-Guard 24 years old, he is noted for busting a well-concealed burglary ring in the merchant district. He was quickly transferred to the Grand Gate to receive further training under Thomen.

Lieutenant Merrick is in command of the 2nd Grand Gate company. He is 32 years old and is in line to be promoted to Captain. He shows great competence in patrolling the wealthy district, and has a good grasp of courtly manners. Thomen uses him when information is needed from some of the wealthier residents of the district. Merrick is in love with one of the Jeweller's daughter but feel he lacks enough wealth to make a impression.

Lieutenant Alcambra is in command of the 3trd Grand Gate company. He is stationed in the tower directly south of the Grand Gate. He is 28 years old and Thomen has been quite pleased with his performance to date. Alcambra company patrols upper part of Beggar's street and the alleys around it. Alcambras is secretly is a plant of the Thieves guild and able to arrange his patrols and investigations to allow a steady income from his area. The guild is able to use him against the beggar's guild and control some of the shop along hedonist street and the plaza of profuse pleasure. Also the guild keeps the level of violent crime to a minimum and trys to hand over any violators to Alcambra to make him look good. However Alcambra truly is competent is intending to use his position to turn the guild to his own ends.

6.CASTLE GATE

This is main entrance into the outer ramparts, it is guarded by two Companies of the Low Guard.

7.NORTH GATE

This is the main gateway between the City-State and the Arena/Slums area. Except on Arena days all person trying to gain entrance into the city must pay 2 silver pennies, this helps keeps the riffraff from the slums out of the city.

8.ORC HOLD
This is the main headquarters of the City Guards. The City Guard of the City-State is over 500 men strong, it is commanded by the Senior Captain, under him are the Captains of the Gates who command the troops and patrols. Like the Overlord's army the City-Guard is divided into companies. Each gate has forty men and each tower has twenty. A hundred men are stationed at Orc Hold as a reserve in case of massive rioting. Plus there is a elite company, the Knights of the Silver Dragon, stationed to guard the Hall of the Dragon Kings where the Council of the City-State meets. Also by agreement with the Guild of Arcane Lore each company of the City-Guards has two mages assigned to it to help defend against any magical threat.

Each company of the City-Guard stationed at the gates and towers and is assigned a area of the city to patrol. A given day is divided in four watches each six hours long. Typically the day begins with the morning watch transferring the previous day's prisoners to the City Jail for processing. Then for the rest of the day the assigned area is patrolled. Also a standby watch is kept on alert guarding the tower. When prisoners are caught, a runner is sent to the tower to get the standby watch and they will take the prisoner back to the tower to be kept until transferred to the City-Jail. If the patrol runs into a situation they can not handle, they have a stick that all they do is snap it. This will cause the stick's pair at the tower (or gate) to snap warning the tower of danger.

The situation is much the same at the gates but there is a additional company stationed (for a total of two) whose watches do nothing but guard the gate and check incoming travelers for contraband. The standby watch mans the battlements. Typically each company of a gate rotate between gate and patrol duty.

The hundred men stationed at Orc Hold are typically patrolling the surrounding land for bandits and orcs. At any one time two companies will be out patrolling. Traditionally all lands within five leagues are under the protection of the City-Guards.

The Colors of the City-Guard is a black taberd with a white dragon on the chest. Rank is denoted by the trim, with the Corporals and Sergeants in Blue, the Lieutenants in yellow, the captains in white, and the senior captain in silver. The Silver Dragons have a silver dragon, instead of a white dragon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

OD&D Tasks/Abilities/Skills Revisted (again)

With the help of friends and a few play tests I decided to revamp my ability system again. The whole thing started when I wanted new classes that are better things other than spells, praying, and combat. I labeled them as Rogues and they included claseses like Burglar, Mountebank, Thug, Merchant Adventures, and the Claws of Kali (assassins).

I made a whole list of things that OD&D characters can do and called them abilities. Climbing walls, fast talking your way out of a situation, haggling over a item and so on. The way I recommend these abilities work is that you describe or roleplay what you are doing and the referee uses the roll and modifiers as a guideline for the chance of success. Any character can use these abilities but Rogues are better at them then other characters at the cost of either combat and/or spell casting.

Originally I tried making a 3d6 + attribute system work. While it worked well in playtesting the disparity in attributes proved it's downfall, couple with actually trying explain it to other GMs. Most had a negative reaction. The disparity in attribute swamped the effect of the Rouge classes which defeated the point of doing this.

I still want a roll high so percentages are out. So, sigh, I just fall back to using the d20. So now as go through the individual abilities (climb walls, pick locks, haggle, etc) I use this as a template.

If your attribute is 8 or lower you get a -1 to the roll, 13 or higher +1 to the roll. The attribute used depends on the ability. Str or Dex can be used for climbing, Charisma for haggling. To see if you succeed you roll a d20+modifiers and see if you beat a target. I set abilities to a base between 10 and 20. For example trying to climb a steep slope in the middle of combat is a 10, a sheer wall is a 15, and ice covered cliff a 20. A Burglar would start out with a +2 to climbing going up to +8 around 10th level.

I am still working the numbers basically going through a variety of Judges Guild stuff and other older sources and seeing what various DM did. Most of it is in percentages (perhaps the first "universal" task dice) so converted it over to a d20 roll by dividing by 5. Judges Guild's Dungeon Tac Card are a goldmine for this stuff.

I didn't copy over d20 system even though I am using the OGL. This is because I am using Swords & Wizardry as the basis for my project. In S&W (and OD&D) the effect of high (and low) scores are a lot less than later additions.

Along with this and the just completed editing I am ready to layout out my project. I should have an announcement with details this month.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

From the Attic: Favorite TSR Modules .

There are a couple of TSR Modules I used over and over again. This collection I consider my utility modules. TSR had plenty of other good modules but these have elements that allow them to be incorporated easily into my Majestic Wilderlands. In no paritcular order here they are.

Note: You can find a nice overview of all the AD&D era TSR/Judges Guild products here at the Acaeum.

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is one of the best low level modules put out by TSR. It locale of a haunted house and smuggler's cave underneath made it easily placed any where I needed it.



In general the UK series was "different" than the rest of the TSR Modules. I liked reading all of them however I only every ran two of them, Gauntlet and Sentinel. Typically I placed them in a mountain region along a pass or broad valley.



Ah the Village of Hommlet one of my all time favorite. The was the only module I took the time to convert fully into GURPS. I liked however every inhabitant was listed in the module. One thing I did in my conversion was add a little plot to the town itself.

The construction workers are having issues with the regular villagers who view them as "outsiders" who cause trouble. The construction workers live in a temporary settlement of mud and wattle huts near the castle.

Tension is mounting as the workers attempted to erect a tent to serve as a pub. The resulting protest from Ostler Gundigoot forced the Brewer not to sell any more kegs of beer and ale to the workers. One of the workers is currently in jail because he tried to steal a keg from the Brewer. Much of this is inflamed by the two Trader who are secretly evil agents.

Typically the way the events unfold when I run this are as follows

  1. The PC comes into Hommlet gets a room at the Welcome Wench
  2. That night a rock is thrown into their room shattering the window.
  3. The PC track down the kid and find out about the problem between the two groups
  4. They get interested and start talking to everyone to find out what really going on.
  5. They start seeing that the two Traders are way more involved than they should be and investigate them. Usually by breaking into their establishment.
  6. The workers for a mob intent on liberating the jailed worker
  7. Evidence in hand the PC expose the trader and help forge a compromise between the two sides.
  8. They interrogate the Traders finding out about the moathouse.
  9. Goto the moathouse and clear it out.
I don't use the Temple of Elemental Evil but instead tie it to the Slaver series.




The Destiny of Kings is another favorite of mine. I liked it because it was one of the few AD&D modules that was human centric. Basically revolving around a plot around the search for the missing heir to the kingdom of Dunador.



The Island of Castanamir isn't really about an island but rather it is about the crazy lair of a a fore named wizard. It is a puzzle dungeon and always liked running it. It for low level character as well.



First off this module, Against the Cult of the Reptile God, has a complete village, the Village of Orlane. Plus the associated adventure isn't bad either.



The classic puzzle dungeon is the Ghost Tower of Inverness. I probably ran this one several times too many.



Finally the Secret of the Slaver's Stockade. I used the hill fort several times when I DMed AD&D. Dressing it up with the whatever bad guys where the antagonists of the campaign. Unlike the Ghost Tower the players never really caught on to this.