Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year end crystal ball gazing

The end of a year brings with it reflections over the past and thoughts about the future. The Escapist has an interesting series of articles on the past, present, and future of D&D.

I think that musing about D&D is only natural given the social nature of RPGs. Both in playing and creating things. 
How hard is it to organize or play in a RPG campaign?

Because if that is hard then everything RPG related is in trouble..

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The iPad

Thanks to Kelly Anne, and my family I got a iPad for Christmas. It was literally my only present but what a present it is. The two things I want to use the iPad is for entertainment (Netflix, etc) and to use to organize my notes at the table.

First off I recommend reading this excellent thread on digital readers over on the SJ Games Forums. PDF releases are a big part of the GURPS Product lines now and with the advent of e-book readers and tablets people are interested in how to effectively use them. Then there is this page on Enworld with a good list of useful RPG utilities for these devices.

I am excited about using the iPad as my experience with computers suggests that touchscreens combined with the right software are the way to go.

I bought Goodreader to handle PDFs on the iPad. It has a tabbed interface for multiple PDFs and a handy customizable bookmark list. It also nice that I can organize everything into folders.  So on the second day of owning the iPad, I downloaded my copies of GURP Core campaign book (has all the rules) and my copy of Swords and Wizardry and spent some time bookmarking them.

GURPS Core Rules Campaigns

Swords and Wizardry

The bookmarks are chosen on the basis on my experience on what I looked up the most during a session. I will working on the Swords and Wizardry Monster Book and a couple more of my GURPS pdfs. One nice thing about the Core Book on other GURPS PDFs is that they have a nice table of contents already built in.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Computers, Rolplaying, iPads and all that

I program for a living, creating interfaces for metal cutting machines, and at home I am a computer hobbyist in addition to my tabletop roleplaying. In the 25 odd years since my family got a Radio Shack Model I, my main interest with computer has been how to make a better machine for tabletop roleplaying. 

From my first word proccessor, CorelDRAW for mapping, to writing utilities to cranks Traveller Sectors I fiddle with my machines to make running my campaign easier. I never liked using a computer at the table as it was too clunky and in the way. Instead I tried to figure out how to produce really good play aids for myself and my player keeping to paper on the table. Heck when somebody tried to use a iPad for dice rolling, I told him to put it away and gave him one of my spare sets to use in it's place.

I am not against the use of computers at the table. It great to have DM Genie and Nbos' the Keep running while I am using Fantasy Grounds., but it has to be the right setup before I starting using at a normal tabletop session.

For two years I finally found it and it was the iPad and similar tablets. The reason is not in using a utility but rather as a means of organizing the books and reams of notes I use during the game. Lying flat with a touch interface with well bookmarked PDFs would be exactly what I need. While I appreciate the open Android platform, I learned with my experience with the Kindle is that it is really worth the extra money to get the best when things are so unsettled. For now, the best in tablets means the iPad.

And I got one for Christmas. It was my one and only Christmas present this year given to me by my entire family.  My wife Kelly Anne organized the effort and I can't thank her enough. Tomorrow I will post some details on how I am going to set it up and what I am going to use the other computers I have for.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in your campaign?

To myself and billions of Christians around the world today marks the day of the birth of the savoir.  Cynics will say that Christmas is only celebrated as the birth of Christ because of the need to compete with the pagans of Rome. But I can't help note that in nearly all cultures of the world the time around the Winter Solstice is a special time of renewal and hope. In my view if one didn't know the exact day on which Jesus was born there is no better time to celebrate his birth.


Which leads me to my question How is the winter solstice depicted in your setting?

In the religions of the Majestic Wilderlands, winter symbolizes the enslavement of the mortal races to the demons during the Uttermost War.  Imbolc is celebrated at the winter solstice and is remembered as the turn of the tide in the war against the Demons. When the forces of light finally moved from fighting for survival to fighting for victory.

To all, my family and I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dwarven Names

The recent release of the Hobbit Trailer reminded me that I looked at Tolkien's original source for the names of his Dwarves. I took the old Norse Poem and extracted all the names from it, modified them to fit english better, and made a list. With this it easy enough to make a random table for Inspiration Pad or Tablesmith.

Ai
Alf
Althjof
An
Anarr
Andvari 
Aurvang
Austri
Bafur
Bifur
Bild
Billing
Bombur
Bruni 
Buri 
Dain
Dolgthrasir 
Dori
Draupnir
Duf
Durinn
Dwalin
Eikinskjaldi 
Fili
Finn
Fjalar
Frar
Fregr
Frosti 
Fundin
Gandalf
Ginnar
Gloin
Hanar
Har
Haugspori 
Hepti
Hlevang
Hornbori 
Jari 
Kili 
Litr
Lofar
Loni 
Mjodvitnir
Motsognir
Nain 
Nali 
Nar
Nidi 
Niping
Nordri
Nori 
Nyi
Nyrad
Ori 
Radsvid
Regin
Skafid
Skirvir
Sudri 
Svior 
Thekk
Thorin
Thrain
Thror
Veig
Vestri 
Vili 
Vindalf
Virvir 
Vitr
Yngvi

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Arena

I am doing some mapping for Tim on Starter Adventures and a miscommunication occurred. He told he wanted a simple arena like the one in Spartacus Blood and Sand. So Dwayne of Gamer's Closet and I looked at some trailers and figured out what roughly it looked like on all four sides. Then I tweaked the layout to make it unique.

It turned out that what Tim wanted was more of a fighting pit than an arena. So rather then let the map go to waste I am posting it for use in your campaigns. Click on the image to get the full resolution version.

  1. The Arena Floor, it is has a sand and sawdust floor.
  2. Room is where the Gladiators stay before their fights.
  3. The animal pens with a set of bar gates to safely get the animal from the cages into the arena.
  4. These pens can hold larger animals or more typically those sentenced to die in the arena.
  5. Store
  6. Store
  7. Commoner Entrance
  8. Small Store
  9. Small Store
  10. Small Store
  11. Noble Entrance
  12. Noble Seating, The small room to the south is where slaves can prepare drinks and meals for their masters.
  13. Common seating. They are in three tiers stacked three feet above each other.
  14. Food vendors, commoners can buy food and drink during the fights.
Hope this is useful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Welcome to the Tavern

Along with the Hommlet write up I did some battlemaps for GURPS.  The one that survived was the floorplan of the Inn of the Welcome Wench. It prints out on 17" by 11". There is not much in the way details as I used miniature tables and other props.

Download

Monday, December 12, 2011

From the Attic: GURPS Hommlet

In the mid 90s I ran a fantasy campaign using GURPS that combined the Village of Hommlet with the A series Slavelord Modules. It marked the first major use of my computer to prepare for a campaign. I rewrote the entire Hommlet module and even did a layout (without art) of it. Obviously I can't post the entire thing due to copyright but I do have bits and pieces I can share.

First off is the roster of NPCs I used. I changed some of the names to fit my City-State campaign. And to make it more confusing at some point after the actual campaign I must have tried to adapt it back into a GURPS Greyhawk campaign because all the languages and area knowledges were set to Greyhawk.

The characters are GURPS 3rd Edition done with Suerer's excellent Makechar.

GURPS Hommlet NPCs.

I am making a expurgated copy of the text I wrote. When I finish I will share it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mongoose Legend for $1

A while ago Mongoose announced that they were not renewing their Runequest II license. However they decided to continued the system under the Legends name. They did a nice things by declaring the text of the core legends books to be under the Open Game license. And now I learned they are having a $1 sale of theCore Rule PDF on RPGNow.

For those who don't know what the system like. It is part of the Runequest family of games where characters are defined by skill and using a d100 for resolution. 

I got the PDF and will be posting my impressions later. One nice thing they right off the bat is format it for digest size which makes printing little booklets of the various chapters easy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

License update on Blackmarsh

I am a fan of GURPS and while talking about GURPS Dungeon Fantasy a couple of folks mentioned they would feel more comfortable using Blackmarsh for a fan publication if it was dual licensed under a Creative Commons License.

So I did just that, the Blackmarsh Setting Reference Document  is now dual licensed under CC BY-NC-SA. You can download the SRD, or use RPGNow.

When you create a fan publication you can choose either license to use. The Creative Common license should make it either to release a Blackmarsh related fan publication for a RPG that doesn't have an open license. Please check the Game Publisher's policy on fan publications first.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2,748 and still counting.

Over on Grognardia there have been some interesting discussion on professional versus hobbyists. Along with I talked with a OSR gamer on Google chat about his ideas for publishing. My advice to him was that If you think that you can sell a 100 copies then the hobby time you spend on making your idea publishable will be well spent.

A perfect storm combining the Internet, Print on Demand, and Desktop Publishing has driven the cost of publishing to all time low. The cost of doing a project is pretty much down to the time you are willing to spend.

The 2,748 in the title of this post is the total I earned from my self-published works. All but $200 of that from Majestic Wilderlands. This is over two years since December of 2009.

For Blackmarsh, I only earned around $200, but I have had over 1,724 downloads. Which is pretty much what I intended when I decided to release the whole thing under the OGL. With Delving Deeper coming out soon even more people will have Blackmarsh in their hands.

The only reason I didn't earn more was I haven't completed the projects I been working on. Partly due to my procrastination and partly due a busier schedule due to my family's activities.  I make progress, just not very fast.

The only caveat in all this is that it is still takes work and patience. You need to advertise yourself either by blogging or maintaining a steady output. While straightforward publishing is not easy, but it is not particularly hard. The nice thing is that if you get a good reputation then it easily becomes a hobby that pays for itself.  You may not get to go to Tahati as Zak mentioned but you will some extra bucks to
spend.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Magic Item Prices

Since I published the Majestic Wilderlands, I ran several campaigns using Swords & Wizardry Core. In one of my campaigns the players are starting a point where they can create and buy magic items. One of the things I done is brought over the details of magic when I ran the Majestic Wilderlands using GURPS and other systems. My style since refereeing AD&D in the early 80s has been that Magic Items can be bought and sold. I always treated it similar to historical trading in luxury items. Low power items can be bought in shops catering to the wealthy, while the rest have to be commissioned or bought at elite auctions.

My previous price lists were based on the power levels of various magic item in the system I was using (GURPS, Fantasy Hero, D&D 3.X, etc). And now I am working on a list that reflects Swords & Wizardry. It doesn't need to be exact in the ballpark is just fine. I would like to get folk's opinions on what I come up with so far.

I am currently working on Weapons and Armors

I have the following base categories. I am going to set a +1 weapons as the base cost everything else is a factor. For example if you say that a +1 swords costs 1,000gp then a +5 sword, which is 15x, will cost 15,000gp.

+1 missile .1x
+1 missile weapon 2x
+1 melee weapon 1x
+1 shield 1x
+1 armor 2x

I multiply the above prices by 3 for +2
I multiply the above prices by 6 for +3
I multiply the above prices by 10 for +4
I multiply the above prices by 15 for +5

+5 to Hit and +5 to Damage is the max bonus from any combination

I get the factors by adding the pluses 1+2=3, 1+2+3=6,1+2+3+4=10, 1+2+3+4+5=15.

+1 Damage vs foe is 1/2x
+2 Damage vs foe is 1.5x
+3 Damage vs foe is 3x
+4 Damage vs foe is 5x
+5 Damage vs foe is 7.5x

This adds on top of the base bonus. Again there is a max of +5 damage so a Sword of +3 to hit, +5 vs Undead cost 6x for +3 Plus 1.5x (+2 damage vs foe) for 7.5x. IF you decided that +1 weapons cost 1,000 gp then a +3 Sword +5 Damage vs Undead is 7,500d.

This effect add on top of the base +
Extra Attack 5x
Destroy Undead 10x
Throw and Return to Hand 2x
Light, 15ft radius 1/4x
Light, 30ft radius 1/2x

Flaming Weapon 2.5x
Freezing Weapon 2.5x
Dancing Weapon 5x

Arrow Deflection Armor 10x
Ethereal Armor 15x
Fiery Armor 5x

All of this is going to be incorporated into a follow-on to the Majestic Wilderlands I am calling the Lost Book of Magic. After I finish Scourge of the Demon Wolf and some maps for Tim of Gothridge Manor I will start working on it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Additional reflections on the OSR and older edition D&D.

James Maliszewski over on Grognardia is spot on with his post on the OSR and older edition D&D.

Everytime I see this come up, like on the theRPGsite, I point out the OSR is what it is. Because of it's grassroots origins, the OSR reflects the desires of gamers not the business plans of companies. And the simple fact is that most old school gamers prefer an older edition D&D over other RPGs.

As one of the commentators pointed out many of the other popular old school RPGs are still supported by active publishers. This takes away a lot of the reasons for a grassroots movement to form around those games. And explains why the OSR is so overwhelmingly focused on older edition D&D.

And other commentators point out that large segments of the OSR are involved in preserving other older edition games.  Some are involved in creating new games for different genres designed to appeal to old school gamers. Mutant Future, and Stars without Number are two of many examples.

The nice things about all of this is that because of it's foundation on the Open Game License there is very little to stop anybody from publishing what interests them. In addition the expansion of the OSR has lead to opportunities to buy original games from their copyright holders and release them for the current generation of gamers. Spacemen & Spaceships from Goblinoid Games is an example of this.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dominon

Ars Magica by Atlas Games has been a major influence over the nuts and bolts of magic in the Majestic Wilderlands. Mostly because it describes a easily understandable and gamable culture of magic-users. The I only used a few of the mechanics of magic from Ars Magica and one of them is the Dominion.
The Dominion
As powerful as magic-users are they pale against the divine power of the gods. In various holy (and unholy) places the local mana has been altered to only respond to those who have faith in a deity’s religion. Magic-users has labeled this phenomenon as the Dominion. This is represented as a penalty to the caster level for all magic-user spells including those associated with that deity. If the caster level drops below 1, then spells can only be cast through a ritual or with an item. The dominion levels do not add together. Take the highest one that applies.

Location, (Spell Level)
Altar or Sanctum, (-10)
Temple Grounds, (-5)
Shrine or minor holy place, (-3)
Holy ground, graveyard, etc, (-1)

Region dominated by a single religion may be considered a holy ground for that religion.

Location (Spell Level)
Wilderness (-0)
Rural Countryside (-1)
Village (-2)
Town, City, (-3)

In the present day of the Wilderlands, the following regions are noted for their dominions.

Location (Deity)
The Elven Kingdom of Irminsul (Silvanus)
The Sarnic city states (Hamakhis)
Principality of Modron (Mitra)
Principality of Nome (Mitra)
Principality of Tlan (Mitra)
The Karian Empire (Mitra)
Limerick Shire (Dannu)


The Empire of Thule to the far south of the Wilderlands is noted for being under the dominion of Set. Before it fell a thousand years ago, the Ghinorian Empire was under the dominion of Mitra, many of the surviving Ghinorian successor states have maintained the remnants of this dominion.

The dominion of Mitra in the Principality of Lenap has faded due the corruption of Mitra’s church in the region. What remains is strongest in rural villages where it still can be found at a -1 modifier. For a different reasons, the dominions of Mitra in Tarantis and Nomar have disappeared. The influx of Skandians invading both realms has changed the local population to the point that the land is no longer dominated by those following Mitra.

In the Sarnia the dominion of Hamakhis nearly faded due to incessant wars between the city-states. The temples became corrupt due to politics and factional conflict. But it was renewed several centuries ago by the reformers of the Order of Pegana.

A dominion of Dannu appeared in the Limerick Shire after the fall of the elven kingdom of Silverwoods four centuries ago. Many attribute this to the halflings remarkable efforts in creating a safe haven for refugees of al races trying to escape the chaos of that time period. Their continued work in keeping the peace between the races has caused Dannu’s dominion to persist to the present.

The Viridians of Viridistan never had a dominion and in the past actively worked to destroy the traces of any that appeared by killing the populace. Today with the empire torn apart in civil war, adherents of all the major religions of the Wilderlands are adventuring to rid any remnant of the Viridians and their demonic influence.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Other kinds of Sandbox

Currently I am running a one player GURPS Campaign with Dwayne of Gamer's Closet. Dwayne recently listened to the Game of Thrones audio book and liked it a lot. He came to me to see if I could come up with a campaign where he got to play a knight. Luckily I have an area of the Majestic Wilderlands that is perfect for this. Nomar my "Arthur" land. Instead of focusing on the myth of Arthur, I will focus on the politics. That in conjunction with recent events of my setting should produce something that gives the feel of Game of Thrones but has it own unique situation.

During my prep I discovered something interesting. While knowing the geography and locale was useful of far more importance was the roster of NPCs. The campaign was going to be a sandbox but it wasn't going to be about wandering from place to place. But instead it was more likely it was going to be more about going from people to people.

I am still developing my thoughts on this but here is one of the background documents I developed for the campaign. It details the regions of Nomar focusing on the nobles. Currently I am working fleshing Dwayne's family and I will post later on that. Here the link to the maps to make sense of the writeup.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gold Star Anime Levels Up

Two weeks ago I walked into the Gold Star Anime to setup for my weekly Majestic Wilderlands game (Swords & Wizardry) when I find this.

Jerry, the owner of Gold Star Anime, has built three gaming tables with plexiglass tops. He has one with 1" inch squares, another with 1" hexes, and a third one with 1.5" squares for Heroclix and other miniature games. It was really cool of him to do this and proved very useful during the game. Not only for drawing out the battle map but also gave me a place to write down NPC Hit Points and other useful info.

There facebook page is here where they post upcoming events. I am there every Wednesday from 7:30pm to around 10:00pm and play a monthly Saturday game. The next Saturday game is on November 19th.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

After Action Report, Erie Days of Gaming

Kelly Anne and I arrived at Erie Days of Gaming on Friday Night and set up her booth. She was selling hair sticks include some copies of Majestic Wilderlands and Blackmarsh. This included a nice selection of d20 hair sticks.

Friday proved to a very slow day. I brought my painting stuff and finished up the unpainted cauldrons that were in my collections.

Kelly Anne had a good suggestion of using the metallic green I had as highlight for the cauldrons with the icky green stuff. I thought they came out nice. Also shown is the last of the unpainted orc figures in my collection. Now every orc is painted and it off to finish up the unpainted official guards.

For Saturday I had two session slated. The first was to run another playtest of Night's Bride Coven. It was is a three level dungeon built into a cliff. It is the base for a coven of warlocks that the players were set to take out by the Invincible Overlord as they were frustrating his plans to colonize Dearthwood.

The adventure started well with the party killing a raiding party of Purple Claw orc. Given most current gamer unfamiliarity with older D&D, I have a straightforward combat encounter to get them used to the system.

For Night Bride's the party then has a choice of going to the base of the cliff or the top. The party elected to send all their hireling mercenaries to the base of the cliff. While the adventurers went to the top of the cliff. At the bottom they found a cave entrance and signaled the hirelings to charge into there. The party spotted a ledge twenty feet below and elected to repel down. Unfortunately the only thief in the party, Jasons of Underworld Ink, rolled very low for his climbing roll and plummeted to his death onto the ledge. A house rule in my game is that you don't die until you reach negative con, Jasons rolled a very low constitution for his thief. Then to compound the tragedy, one of the party's mage rolled a 1 for climbing and not only fell but missed the ledge completely and fell 60's to the base of the cliff. Needlessly he died as well. So we found out why hirelings are useful as the two took two of the mercernaries and rolled them up as fighters. It was good they had hireling left as the cave they charged into was filled with spiders and slaughtered 2/3rd of them.

The rest of the module went well. Unintentionally followed how the previous playtest went at Eriecon. However I ran out of time and had to cut it short before the final encounters. The players had it pretty much wrapped up with only one further death when one of the replacement characters, not Jasons but the other guy, fell into a pit with poisoned spikes. He just drew one of the remaining hireling and continued with the party.

Next was the game I was very excited play Traveller. It was the first time I played Traveller in 15 years and I went all out including setting up my referee screen just so.


I elected to use Classic Traveller and to have the player rolled up characters. The process proved to be more involved than I thought. The big omission was I didn't have any explanation of the cascade skills.

But with all the cards and cheat sheets I made it was borderline. Half of the players liked it and other half didn't. A couple of things I was going to use from Mongoose Traveller. First was their mishap table if any of the player blew their survival rolls, and second was I had a package of needed skills that the party could distribute among themselves. I may go with pre-gens next time.

We wound up with a Marine General who was a Baron, A one term Army Lieutenant, A Army General who was a Knight, A Scout, and a Rogue. The players were the crew of the Semper Fi and we quickly estabilshed that the Marine General was the owner/captain with the other players owning shares.

The adventure involved going to Focaline in the Aramis subsector. The players were contracted to deliver a cargo of breeding groat. Luckily for them they didn't have the Serenity problem of live cattle, instead they were in low berths.

The players had a lot of fun with the adventure, it involved Zhodani, Ancient artifacts, Vargrs, big guns, and all the usual Traveller fun stuff. Part of the adventure involved figuring out why a passenger spaced himself in the middle of the jump. One comment it I got was that it was like being part of a SF Short Story written by Phillip Dick before he gone bonkers. I was worried that it would play out like Adventure 3, Twilight Peak which also involves Zhodani, and Ancient artifacts but it played out much differently.

One interesting thing is that I studied the Traveller Combat and skills rules a lot to prepare for this game. However I didn't really use them at all. This seemed weird to me compared to the Majestic Wilderlands games when it hit me. It was pretty much how my original Traveller campaign went.

They play out like an old episode of Mission Impossible. The players figure out what they have to solve. Then they sit around the "coffee table" and discuss how to solve it. Finally execute the plan which usually involved surprise and overwhelming force.

I had a great time refereeing this and going to see how I can work this into a rotation of games at the Gold Star Anime.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

GURPS Combat Examples

If you have trouble puzzling out GURPS Combat the Mook has an excellent page filled with different combat examples.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Erie Days of Old School Gaming 2011 (a reminder)

Erie Days of Gaming will be held at the Avalon Hotel in Erie PA from Friday October 21st to Sunday the 23rd. I will be running two events on Saturday a Swords & Wizardry event and a Traveller event.


Night's Bride Coven, Saturday at 1:00 pm
An Original Edition Dungeons & Dragon adventure for 3 to 6 players. All materials are provided
Deep in the forest a coven of warlocks weave their foul plans. Will the party end their reign of vile evil or become their next victim.
Drive to Focaline, Saturday at 6:00 pm
A Traveller adventure for 3 to 6 players. All materials are provided. Focaline is a backwater world of the Imperium noted for the raising of groats and cattle. The export of meat, and hides is a major part of the economy and the various ranchers are always looking for an edge. At the last minute an important cargo of breeding stock being delivered to Focaline was bumped from a major shipping line. Now the intrepid crew of the Semper Fi are hired to make this important delivery.
I hope to see some of you there.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Qanat Irrigation

Jeff posted a cool picture of a water structure here. It from a site called Subterranean Design and while poking around I found this post about Qanat Irrigation. What struck me is the extensive size of the underground network and the possibilities for adventure.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Erie Days of Old School Gaming 2011

Erie Days of Gaming will be held at the Avalon Hotel in Erie PA from Friday October 21st to Sunday the 23rd. I will be running two events on Saturday a Swords & Wizardry event and a Traveller event
Night's Bride Coven, Saturday at 1:00 pm
An Original Edition Dungeons & Dragon adventure for 3 to 6 players. All materials are provided
Deep in the forest a coven of warlocks weave their foul plans. Will the party end their reign of vile evil or become their next victim.
Drive to Focaline, Saturday at 6:00 pm
A Traveller adventure for 3 to 6 players. All materials are provided. Focaline is a backwater world of the Imperium noted for the raising of groats and cattle. The export of meat, and hides is a major part of the economy and the various ranchers are always looking for an edge. At the last minute an important cargo of breeding stock being delivered to Focaline was bumped from a major shipping line. Now the intrepid crew of the Semper Fi are hired to make this important delivery.
I hope to see some of you there.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Into the Dark Lands with Boog Part III

Sorry for the belated post. This for the September 28th session. I will have the notes for this week's session up on the weekend. After the conclusion of this adventure Boog survived to be 2nd level! Also I rolled maximum hit points for a total of 26!
A bunch of rot grubs fell on Corum and Grim. Boog, Corum, and Grim manage to knock a few off. A few burrowed in and the party managed to burn them out. The shrine had a curtain made of flesh along with three wooden masks for the statue. Wolf, Goblin, and Bird. After searching the room the party went further in. Found a latrine and killed a goblin taking a dump. Pushing further in the party discovers a temple with four black goblins. The fight doesn’t go well and Boog fumbles his halberd away. Boog takes a potion of speed aging him by one year. The party manages to down the four black goblins when the Goblin Lord appears. It turned out that Boog was charmed a while ago by the Goblin Lord. The party had no choice to listen but to everyone’s surprise the Goblin Lord offered a truce along with information. As sign of good faith the Goblin Lord let Grim keep the glowing sword. We agreed to talk to Commander Sterling about the Goblin’s Lords Offer.

On the way back Grim saw a guild symbol drawn in the dirt of the path. Looking around he found Mo a fellow Halfling thief one of Waldron’s cronies. Mo is not happy with Waldron and told Grim that Waldron has set Bear’s traps along the path we were using. We headed back to the fort by a different way. We also learned that Waldron has five to seven men including Smoke and Manny.

Back the Bastion, the party got healed. While we were eating, Grim and Corum talked to Marshall one of the farmers. It turned out that Waldron is promising the farmers a lot if they would join him. Prall left the Bastion to join Waldron. We took Marshall to Sterling who was saddened that Manny left. Sterling mood picked up after we told of the truce offer and he readily agreed.
The next morning the party headed back to the Goblin Lord to tell him that Sterling agreed to the truce. The Goblin Lord seemed pleased at this and told us that one of the outlying villages, Cason, was going to be attacked by Hobgoblins. He also gave Boog a +1 Ring of Protection. It can’t come off unless Boog decides to let it come off. The Goblin Lord also assigned one of his Black Goblins to accompany us.
The party debated about whether to go after the Hobgoblins or Waldron and we decided that the Hobgoblins were priority. Cason was a day’s hike away so we left right away. Along the way we found a band of four hobgoblins and we ambushed them. The fight was nearly as bad as the Black Goblins and Boog injured his arm. Luckily it was his off arm so he was able to use his footman’s mace to continue fightings. Afterwards the party found a cave and retired for the night.
Here is the adventure record.

Front PageBack Page

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Working on a New Campaign

My friend Dwayne really likes the audiobook version of the Game of Thrones and wants to try playing a knight. Those of you with my Majestic Wilderlands know that I designed different regions with various fantasy sub-genres in mind. I just happened to have one area that works very well for a Game of Thrones like situation, Nomar.

I originally designed the area as the Majestic Wilderlands version of the Arthur myth. Given my interest in history and politics, the original design reflected more the politics of Arthur rather than the more fantastic elements. This makes it easy to adapt for a Game of Thrones like campaign and as the benefit of being it own "thing".

Since this is for my personal campaign the setting "present" is twenty years after the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement. Artos returned a decade ago, and reunified Nomar. But the promise of his return has ran aground against the reality of the situation. Artos is a brilliant leader but most days make him feel like he is herding cats. The Skandian Viking invaders are too numerous and too entrenched to be defeated in a single war. Now City-State under the regency of Duke Divolic has become a rising threat, and Nomar is besieged on all sides.

I prepare for this type of campaign by doing several things. First I draw a map, it serves an outline for all the things I need to detail next.

You can download a PDF of the map here. It includes two additional pages showing the local realms, and sub-domains.

I found out that CorelDRAW can export layered PDFs. If you use Acrobat Reader or another PDF Viewer that supports layers then you can download this file.

Next I will write up a short history, detail each sub-domain with a paragraph or two, and then write up a sentence or a paragraph on each of the personalities.

After that I will collect together what I call my Bag of stuff. A list of ideas and "bits" that I will combine to create the individual locales and minor personalities Dwayne will come across in his adventures.

Then I will make a timeline of what will happen if Dwayne's character didn't exist.

The campaign will be run using GURPS 4th edition. Still figuring out the exact number of points. I will also being adapting some mechanics from Green Ronin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Mostly chapter 6 on creating a house.

I will post what I give Dwayne. My main notes will have to wait for the campaign's conclusion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Lythia Uploads for Harn Fans

There are two new uploads on Lythia.com, a repository of various fanon Harn articles.

The first is a continuation of the excellent Friends, Foes, and Followers series. Even if you don't use the Harnmaster stats the character backgrounds serve as excellent idea generators. And the illustrations are excellent as usual.

The second is a detailed description of the Delwyn Hundred a lightly populated region north of Thay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Into the Dark Lands with Boog Part II

Tim had his second session of his AD&D campaign last night. Rusty Battle Axe joined in although we had technical difficulties with Fantasy Grounds. We gave up and plan to fix it later this week. Probably something to do with firewalls and their setup. What made it strange that his gamemaster mode looked like it would have worked. But the player side didn't work. So we did voice for Rusty and trusted his die rolls. Fed him the maps through Skype downloads.
Grim, Corum, and Boog woke up the next morning after the Goblin Raid adventure and got breakfast. Boog collected the extra bacon rations that were owed to him. He let the soldier (the one he gave the shield too) keep half of his bacon as Boog was feeling good about everything. After breakfast the party headed into the woods where they spotted Waleron talking with an elven mage. Mage was new to the area and not at the forts when the pass collapsed. The Elven mage went over and talked to the party and offered to take items that weigh no more than 5 lbs with him. He wants a large fee to do this. Unfortunately this meant that Boog couldn’t send his Ma a message. She is working at the Green Stag Inn at the Wayfarer’s crossing. Waleron look pissed because the party was there.

The party made it to the goblin cave without incident. Boog gives Corum the potion of healing. Once inside the party makes their way further into the caves where they find a room filled with goblins eating, sleeping, and gambling. After carefully planning, the party attacked and had the element of surprise. The fight didn’t go so well as nobody could seem to hit anything including Boog. Boog fumbled his halberd away and it nearly turned disaster when Boog critically fumbled with his mace and KOed Corum in the head. Boog and Grim managed to kill the rest of the goblin and got out of the cave with Corum.



The party got back to Jedebiah’s Bastion and got Corum healed. Waleron mocks Boog for his ineptness. Boog gets Corum’s helm fixed at Henry (the smith) while Grim talks to Jonathan. Jonathan wants to work out a deal with Grim to get some goods into his shop to trade with. The party works at their jobs the rest fo the day (Grim, leatherworker, Boog, teamster, Corum, healer). The party meets Sterling that night and after giving the report Sterling arranges for a fighter named Dixin to join the party. He wields a spears and seems like a good person. That night, while trying to get to sleep, Boog wakes up after a snake bites him. Luckily the snake wasn’t poisonous according to Henderix. When Boog some back he finds Waleron and his cronies laughing at him and Boog punches Waleron in the face. Everybody backs off before the fight turns serious but Waleron and his goons back up everything and leave the fort. Waleron tells Boog that he just signed his death warrant.

The next morning Boog and the party (plus Dixin) leaves and heads to the goblin cave. They find Bear the Trapper with the crap beat out of him. Apparently Waleron and his goons attacked him and stole all his equipment including traps. Boog give Bear his special dagger (normal but a fantasy bowie knife). Bear appreciates this. The party decides to deal with the goblin cave first and head there. Once in the party try to sneak in carefully but sets off an alarm trap. The party manages to hide in time except for Boog who starts fitting a big goblin with a magic sword. The goblin is quickly killed and looted. The party heads deeper into the caves and finds a unused crossbow trap at the end of the corridor. The crossbow needs repaired to usable.

The party opens one door and find nothing, opens another and finds what looks like to be a shrine. There is a silver bowl on a altar, a dead goblin before the altar and a curtain dividing the room. The bowl is carefully taken. The curtain was open to reveal a hideous statue of a god and then a bunch of rot grubs fell on Corum and Grim.



Brian got to 2nd level as Grim which is great he now has 11 hit points and better skills. Tim's critical tables are brutal but they mostly work in our favor except for Boog's head shot on Corum. Looking forward to next week.


Once again a copy of the adventure record sheet
Front side
Backside

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grimtooth's Trap is available again!

You can buy the PDF of Grimtooth's Trap on RPGNow or E23. Hooray for an old favorite reappearing. Now we just need the City Books.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Into the Dark Lands with Boog Part I

Monday Tim ran the first session of his Into the Dark Land campaign.The characters was me playing Boog and Brian playing Grim a Halfling Thief. The session was pretty good. One outstanding item as Tim's Background notes. Not only they were well written and interesting they were formatted like a professional product. You can see a copy of the campaign start document.

We started out in Jebediah's Bastion. Boog thinks that complicated so calls it Jeb's Place to himself. Boog came here to find enough gold so that his Ma wouldn't have to work in the inns anymore (she is a cook). Jeb's Place is at the exit of Wallace Pass the only way through the rugged Reznor Mountains. Beyond are the Dark Lands. Named because the of surrounding high mountains limiting the hours of full daylight. Goblins, Orcs, and other humanoids like it here and it all prime land.


Unfortunately bad luck strikes and a major landslide covers the pass blocking the only way back to civilization. Of course the goblins hear of this and attacks Jeb's Place and thus the campaign begins.

Just to let everybody know, Tim has a distinct style of drawing maps that I think is great. I am flattered to draw maps for him and probably do better on the actual dungeon maps. But he really should use his local maps, like the above of the bastion. Especially that RPGNow has a cheap full color option (16 pages for $3 or so) for publishers to use. They are great to look at and very evocative of his setting.


The Goblin Raid

Goblin’s attacked Jebediah’s Bastion. Boog and Grim stationed at the pass exit. Ten goblins repelled down. Boog killed seven while Grim killed three. Grim gets knocked down to zero hp while going after Russell the fletcher. Boog kills the goblin, and Russell promised Boog his share of bacon, especially after Boog gives him the metal from two swords.

Grim revives and is helped to the shrine to be healed. Boog takes the swords to Henry the blacksmith and gets 8 tokens for later use. Waldron calls Boog an idiot and Boog beats him after connected with two blows. Hendrix lectures Boog about fighting but heals him anyway. Commander Sterling wants to see Boog and Grim at the tower.

Commander Sterling wants us to go into the woods and try to find the Goblin Lair. Promises us extra rations as an award and will consider it a favor. We agreed and went off to get something to eat. We talk to Corum, our friend who is also a cleric, Corum is bummed that he can’t go. Grim promises to talk to Sterling about it. We go to sleep and in the morning head out to the forest. At the gate, the soldier ask Boog to get a shield for him. Boog get him to agree to give his share of bacon for the shield.

Grim and Boog head into the forest and walk for a while. At one point Grim smells smoke from a settlement. When Boog and Grim scout around they see a boar. Boog immediately starts hunting the boar with Grim nagging at him. Boog shoots the boar and then charges it. Then fail save and get caught in a net trap set by four Goblins. The four attempt to shoot Boog but only one manages to hit. Grim sneaks around and backstabs on of the Goblins. Boog rips free from the net, while the goblns take more shots at him. Luckily Boog doesn’t take a hit. Boog and Grim take down the remaining goblins and finds one of them alive. While interrogating, the goblin reveals that the Goblin Chief has hidden his treasure in the woods and he knows where it is. However Grim had a enough and kills the goblin. We kill the boar and string it up to drain.

We head down a path and find the Goblin cave, Boog and Grim surprise two Goblin guard, unfortunately one of them gets a lucky hit and Grim goes down. Boog manages to take down both and carries Grim out of the cave. Then Boog gets the two goblin bodies and hides them outside. Hopefully the chief just thinks they ran off.

On the way back Boog and Grim spotted Smoke, one of Waldron’s flunkies, searching the ground of a clearing. After a while he finds something, notes the spot and leaves. Boog watches as Grim searches who finds a locked box buried. It is guarded by a swing tree spike trap which is disabled. The box is dug up and Boog puts it in his pouch. Boog had to make a save when he accidentally set it off while trying to hid to give Smoke a surprise.


Boog and Grim make it back to the Keep. Everybody cheers at the sight of the boar carcass. Boog and Grim reported everything but the box to Commander Sterling. Sterling agrees to have Corum accompany us back to the goblin cave. After getting Grim healed they goto the shrine to open the box. Corum doesn’t like this and thinks we should report it. Inside we find two healing potion. Grim gets one, he needs it, and Boog gets one after Courm said he would turn it in if he got it. Boog plans to give it to him at the cave.
I am also in the middle of writing an account from Boog's point of view. I will post a pdf link when I get it done. The critical hit system was simple and bloody, I will leave it to Tim to post the details on that. We handled pummeling with a normal attack roll and doing 1d3 + str bonus for damage. I think it was 1/4 real and the rest subdue damage. I was real lucky to have the 18/00 strength as I think Waldron was somewhat higher than Boog.

This is a copy of the the adventure record both the front and back.
The updated character sheet front and back.
Looking forward to see what happens in the next session and having the Rusty Battleaxe join as his cleric Corum.

Note: These sheets can be gotten from the Mad Irishman.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How many "Interesting" hexes should you have?

Over on TheRPGSite Noisms asks how many hexes in a hexcrawl map should you have something preplanned for?

I would shoot for 10% to 20% detailed hexes. In the dozen or so sandbox settings I wrote so far that what I averaged. Out of 512 hexes Blackmarsh had 76 detailed hexes. Most people have a dozen detailed ideas, two dozen more sketchy ideas, and for the rest that why God invented random tables for. A good set of random table is worth it's weight in gold as it is easier to explain why something is then make it out of nothing.

Remember it is meant to serve as a framework for you, the referee, to fill out in detail as the players traverse the landscape, and have adventures. Not as a fully fleshed out world detailed to the nth degree. So in the end it boils down to whatever you need to get at the proper area in your "Bag o' stuff" to construct the various encounters the players run into.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Arts of Magic

It been two years since I published the Majestic Wilderlands supplement. I didn't include all the details of magic developed using GURPS and other rule systems. In addition I continued to run Swords & Wizardry and had to make rulings related to magic. So I decided to start writing them up and expand them for use in further adventures.

In the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement I give information about the Chromatic Crystals. Nine crystals used to seal the Abyss after the gods banished the demons. The crystals include a tenth crystal, a master crystal, the Chromatic Crystal. The crystals have an important influence on magic in the wilderlands as detailed in this post.

Arts of Magic
In the Dawn Age, magic could only be cast through elaborate rituals. The level of ambient mana was too low to permit casters to memorize spells to cast at a moment’s notice. Through rituals the mana was slowly gathered and infused into an item such as a scroll, charm, or wand. Only then it could be quickly released to create the spell the caster desired.

After the Uttermost War, the gods imprisoned the surviving demons in the Abyss. To seal the Abyss from the Wilderlands the gods created ten crystals of powers. Nine of which were set around the entrance and the tenth, the Chromatic Crystal, was used to activate them and seal the Abyss. A consequence of this was that the ambient level of mana was greatly increased. The crystals gathered the ambient mana, cycled it through their lattice to power the seal, and then released back in a concentrated form into the Wilderlands.

Suddenly magic-users found they no longer had to rely on lengthy rituals to gather the necessary mana to power a spell. Instead a complex series of mediations allowed the caster to prepare to cast a spell at a moment’s notice. When needed the magic-user use his will to open a channel to let the mana flow through the spell’s form which created its effect.

Each of the crystals was created by one of the gods. They imbued their inner essence into each crystal’s lattice to add to the strength of the seal. This also subtly altered the mana after it flowed through the crystal. When the Order of Thoth, the Elves, and others studied magic, they found that certain mana worked better to create a particular effect. There are nine types of mana, each based on one of the crystals used to make the seal to the Abyss. In addition there is a tenth type of mana, the original ambient mana left over from the creation of the Wilderlands.

The study of the ten types of mana is universally known as the Arts of Magic, a near universal nomenclature has developed to describe each type; The Claw, The Eagle, The Flame, The Hearth, The Lantern, The Skull, The Storm, The Tree, and The Web. The original ambient mana is known as The Forge.

The Claw
This mana is best used in spells involving creatures and monsters of the wild. It originates from the Ebon Crystal created by the blood goddess, Kalis.

The Eagle
This mana is best used spells involving movement, protection, and air. It originates from the Crimson Crystal created by the goddess of justice and honor, Mitra.

The Flame
This mana is best used in spells involving fire. It also works well with mastery of the natural world and the body. It originates from the Ochre Crystal, created by the god of war and order, Set.

The Hearth
This mana is best used in spells involving earth, healing, and the body. It originates from the Emerald Crystal created by the goddess of healing and the earth, Dannu.

The Lantern
This mana is best used in spells involving knowledge, and symbols. It originates from the Amethyst Crystal created by the god of knowledge, Thoth.

The Skull
This mana is best used in spells involving death, and life. It originates from the Ivory Crystal created by the god of judgment and death, Hamakhis.

The Storm
This mana is best used in spells involving weather, and water. It originates from the Indigo Crystal created by the god of thunder and warriors, Thor.

The Tree
This mana is best used in spells involving plants, and the spirit. It originates from the Azure Crystal created by the god of forests and dreams, Silvanus.

The Web
This mana is best used in spells involving the mind, divination, and illusions. It originates from the Amber Crystal created by the goddess of fates and pleasure, Nephthys.

The Forge
The original ambient mana is best used in spells involving the control of magic, also the creation, control, and manipulation of objects. While the most difficult to use it is the most powerful and versatile form of mana. It originates from the creation of the Wilderlands and many associate it with the Chromatic Crystal created by the High Lord Veritas, the god of creation, and artifice.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introducing Boog

Tim is starting up a new AD&D campaign. He sent us the character generation rules which is 4d6, drop the lowest, do this six times. So I rolled a 18,12, 7, 15, 12, and 13. So close to being a ranger. But I decided to go with fighter going with Str 18, Int 12, Wis 7, Dex 12, Con 15, and Charisma 12. I rolled a 92 for exceptional strength.

After thinking about it, I decide to play a half-orc. I figure the +1 to strength will get me the rest of the way to the prized 18/00 and the +1 constitution is nice as well. -2 to charisma is a hit especially I wanted one of Boog's goals is to build a castle to hold lots of feasts. But a 10 is workable. Along the way I rolled age and Boog is 14 years old, a young adult. Looking at the DMG, he gets another +1 constitution, but a -1 wisdom. Taking it down to a 6, yikes!

I downloaded Mad Irishman's original AD&D character sheet PDFs. I save both sides as a jpg and used them as a background in CorelDRAW to write on them. Had a lot of fun doing this and went all the way filling out everything including weapon speeds, weapon modifiers and the always fun, pummeling, grappling, and overbear modifier. Then I printed it out using some goldenrod cardstock I had stashed away.



Here the completed character sheet. Boog's driving ambition at the moment is to get enough treasure to allow his ma to retire in style. I have a personality for Boog developed during a couple of convention games where I played a half-orc fighter. It a bit hard to describe, but people seem to enjoy and the inane solutions I came up with.

For those of you without CorelDRAW, you can use Paint.NET or inkscape. Just save the character sheets as 300 dpi jpg. (you need to set the option when saving from Adobe). Put them on a bottom layer. Then another layer on top where you type in your text. I used 8 and 6 point text to get stuff to fit.


Friday, August 26, 2011

From the Attic: The first Wilderlands Campaign

Every campaign has a beginning and it is no different for the Majestic Wilderlands. I knew I started the using the Wilderlands sometime during the very early 80s but wasn't sure exactly when. Now thanks to a fortuitous discovery by my long time friend, Brian, now I know it is was sometime in the early part of 1981 before March.

Brian found his original Holmes Box and Rulebook and inside the box were some of the original character sheets for Valeric (or Valoric depending which one you look at). Below is a copy of the front and back of his character sheet.

The campaign first started in Greyhawk. It revolved mainly around two characters, Brian played Valeric and another friend played a wizard named Blackstone. In Meadville at that time people hopped campaigns all the time so characters came and go. But Valeric and Blackstone were at the heart of this campaign. When they started to reach name level I decided to do something cool and make Valeric the lost prince of Furyondy. The king of Furyondy was killed and the whole realm fell apart leaving it open to the depredations of Iuz and the Horned Society.

The first few sessions were sort of OK. I was in 9th grade at the time and just didn't have the knowledge to do really do a cool political/military campaign. What I really hated is what I still call the "Howling Emptiness of the 30 mile hex." One of the character sheets shows this period of the campaign.


If Greyhawk was all that I had, I probably would have stuck it out and figured something out. But I also just got the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. And it had detailed terrain maps, traveller style listing of locales, the works. I could focus on crafting the politics and stuff I liked and rely on the Wilderlands for the low level details.

Below are the campaign notes I created.


I bought two copies of Wilderlands of High Fantasy and drew further notes on the second set of maps. Below is an annotated map and here is a link to the original scans.

By far the best part was Brian not only finding Valeric's character sheet but also the original write up of Sunblazer one of the 13 Swords of Power. The stats in Majestic Wilderlands were based on my hazy memories. I knew it was a powerful and try to recreate it as best as I could. But the true original version was a bit well... you can see for yourself.


Sunblazer
+5 to Hit, +5 to Damage
Lawful Good
Int -18, Wis (must be Ego)-18
-5 Armor Class to wielder when drawn

Command Word:Sunblazer
1) Fly 120' ft/rd (written as 12' but meant as 12")
2) Locate Object 100' Radius
3) Locates and Identifies Precious Metals
4) Instant Death to Undead (except Vampires make a saving throw at -4, Demons and Devils make a Saving Thrown, and ArchDevils and Demon Princes at +4)
5) Regenerates 2 hp/rd
6) Cast Heal 1/day

Plus as a bonus there is Iron Fang which I have no memory of. It might be something I handed out or something from another person's campaign. I think it is a dagger.

Iron Fang
+2 to Hit/Damage
+3 to Hit/Damage versus Fire
Paralyzes for 1d8 rounds, Saving throw at -2
Gives 50% magic resistance to the owner.

This campaign started at 4433 BCCC, the year all the Judges Guild products were set at originally. Every year of high school I advanced the timeline one year. When I went into College it was 4436 BCCC and during my freshmen year is when I ran the campaign that resulted in the paladin Endless Star killing the last Viridistan Emperor. For those of you wanted more detailed after reading the Nome entry in the supplement, I hope this helped.

Thanks to Brian for digging this up and letting me take all of you down memory lane.







Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eriecon is this weekend.


Just to let everybody know, I will be at Erie Con this Saturday running a new Swords & Wizardry adventure at noon. And if there is interest another adventure late afternoon. It will be held at the Avalon Hotel in Erie, PA.

Update: I realize the con page behind facebook. Here is a link from a post on a boardgame forum.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/685322/eriecon-2011-aug-27th-continental-qualifier

and here is the flyer he sent me.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The world's crappiest orc miniature painted

I been methodically painting the remaining unpainted miniatures in my collection. Shamed by the nice dwarven forge miniatures I got a few months ago (thanks to a gift certificate from Jerry of Gold Star Anime), I been began painting miniatures again. At first I focused on the resin props and now going into some of the unpainted monster figures. I am starting with the orcs. I got all the generic orc figures done and now I am tackling my unique figures.

For a long time I had this "thing", some misshapen lead blog representing a orc, hobgoblin or something holding a bow. So after priming everything I decided to tackle it first just to see how much better it would look.



I am pleased with the results now you can tell it is something orcish. Although I am now wondering if it is some weird vampire orc from Tekumel.

Next I decided to tackle one of my simpler unique orcs. Basically a big brute wielding a club.



In case you are wondering what I am using for the orc skin color it is Italian Sage.

Then I painted the mule figure I had. I need to paint the base and then glue it to a wider base. It gotten to be known as the narcoleptic mule from all the time it fell over.



The baggage on top was painted with a color called linen. Sort of a brownish white which makes a nice cloth color. All the paints I got are acrylic paints from Wal-Mart or Jo-Ann Fabrics. I protect the completed miniature with a coating of matte Mod-podge.

Update
Thanks to Scottsz I have a screen shot of the Orc



He mentions that it came from a Heritage Model set called the Crypt of the Sorcerer. I still have the map somewhere. Who ever has this model has a worse one than mine as the area between the legs is filled in with metal. On mine it is free of metal.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Creativity can't be taught. Yeah so what!

Hill Canton's Building a better GM got me thinking further on how I got to the point where I am today in refereeing and writing for RPGs.

It is accurate to say that people are born with an artistic talent or not. That if you don't have it in you no amount of practice and study is going to allow you to match the top performers in a particular art or craft.

But it is irrelevant. Because you are not in competition for a publisher's slot, or a role of a lifetime for a movie. The only person you need measure your creativity against is yourself. And there are a hell of a lot of things you can do make yourself more creative today than you were the yesterday.

I know everybody can learn to be a good referee, if they have the interest. I also know that it is not always apparent that a person will be a great referee at first. Sure some just pick up the dice and books and never look back. But for many it is more of a matter of playing and learning until that day comes when it all comes together for them.

How I know that? Because that my story. I have a learning disability in language skills. When I was six years old, I had scarlet fever. Afterwards my doctors found that I suffered a 50% hearing loss because a chunk of my nerves got burned away or something like that. And it isn't a 50% decrease in volume either. It 80% at one frequency and only a 20% loss at another. So they figured out my hearing profile and I got hearing aids.

Then later they found the really sucky part, apparently it just didn't get my nerves, it hit where it they entered my brain. It takes me two or three times as long compared to a normal person to learn speech, writing, spelling . Also it made learning foreign languages a long drawn out process. All throughout school my scores were like 90% math, 100% science, 100% history, and then 60% English.

So in the middle of all this comes Dungeons & Dragons. Which I am sure you all realize by now is something I really like. And if there is one activity that needs language skills, that activity is Dungeons and Dragons.

It was not the only thing driving my improvement in language, I have my mother to thank for much of it. She was a teacher for several decades and she really helped me. But Dungeons & Dragons provided that extra boost for me to keep going even after I moved away from home and was on my own. And I kept writing year, after, year, over decades. And I am still not finished. All of you reading this blog have seen dropped words, misspellings, switched letters. All I can do is keep practicing and make sure my published material is not edited just once, or twice, but several times. I have Tim of Gothridge Manor to thank for helping a lot with that.

Because of the hearing loss, I struggled with running a game. It was hard, and while hearing aids helped it is a not a universal antidote. The main issue is that I can hear certain voices better than others. For me running a tabletop is a challenge. At one time I had a tape of the "The Great Party Fight." I had two groups of players at the same AD&D game. The groups had a history of backstabbing and were always threatening each other. I was getting kind of fed up with the trash talk so for this session I instituted the rule that what you say is what your character does.

Well I thought the player said "I backstab him with the sword." So I told him to roll and the party proceeded to kill each other. It just so happened we recorded the session and when we played the tape back, what the player really said was "I ought to backstab him with the sword".

Sigh.

Because of my hearing loss I really had to play attention to the way I referee. Which lead to me thinking about how to prepare, run adventures, interact with my players, and all the other things that make up a successful campaign. I also learned that it not a one size fits all deal. Depending on the genre, situation and players, different techniques need to be used. Roleplaying is a young hobby, we only scratched the surface of what you can do with it or how teach it.

If I can learn to be a good referee, I don't see why anybody can't either.

Being the best GM possible

Hill Cantons ignited an interesting discussion on Building a better GM.

First I read books and watch movies. Both for enjoyment as well as keeping an eye on how they do things. Twenty years ago, I gamed with a guy named Wes and we went to a couple of movies. He was a movie buff in addition to being a gamer and he had a gift for explaining what was good and bad in a film. It was an eye-opener for me and I never looked at movies in the same way again. Afterward I learned a lot of little bits that I incorporated into my game. Mostly dialog and how two actors played off of each other. I also read lots of books and found them a great source of inspiration.

I do this to build up a bag of stuff in my head to pull out while running a game. A bigger bag of stuff means you have more options for when the player talks to the tavern keeper, arrives at royal court, or just stumbles across a peasant's hovel in the middle of the forest.

The key thing is to take some quiet time and organize things in your head. Think about a peasant, an orc, a kobold, etc and then ask yourself a series of what if. There is no right answer and you don't need to be Star Trek's Data and have perfect recall. Do it enough times it will come to you when you need it. This technique shares some ideas with that of the Memory Palace. The best part is that you likely have much of what you need already due to being exposed to fantasy and other genres over the years.

Another technique is to challenge yourself. Conventions are perfect for this. Run some situation, genre, or game that you never done before. The idea isn't to change your style of play but to broaden your experience. By experiencing different methods of roleplaying you will understand the ones you like better. With Google Plus gaming and the virtual tabletop games there are more opportunities today than ever before to try different games at a convenient time.

For me it was playing and running a LARP game for over a decade. Writing and running adventures for LARPS is stifling. It is because the physical logistics precludes the flexibility of locations, creatures, and items, that you have for tabletop. Despite the limitations I learned to write fun adventures for LARPS and it helped my tabletop game immensely.

Another thing I did was run a dungeon adventure cold. All I had was the stats for the big bad guy, the map, and a general idea that it was a coven of warlocks. I just made it up on the spot as the players went through the dungeon. Knowing that it was a coven keep things from getting incoherent.

Also surprisingly running Tegal Manor. The sparseness of the description, (a room name and maybe a sentence or two) has really forced me to reach deep into my bag of stuff to keep the game going. I always done it with my sandbox campaigns but since Tegal is a funhouse dungeon it forced me to go outside of the things I done before.

On a different note, I been refereeing large groups of players at my Gold Star Anime games. One session I had ten players. This is something I hadn't done since the early 80s so I had to relearn a few things. Once thing I did was figure out how to keep individual initiative. Basically everybody roll for initiative. I roll once for each group of monsters.

In my games the DEX bonus gets added to the die. Fighter get to add their to hit bonus from their class. For monsters I add 1/2 hit dice. So I start at 10 and count my way down calling for anybody who has initiative at that number. I found this works just as fast as doing single die initiative and going round robin around the table.

Split groups don't bother me, I just go round-robin between each group giving them 5 minutes at a time.

There is my How to Build a Fantasy Sandbox for preparing a campaign.

I always have players speak in first person when they speak as their characters. I find it helps immersion.

I do the funny voices, I also practice so I am pretty comfortable doing them. I understand it is not everybody cup of tea.

If you use miniatures, the best thing you do is take all the most commonly used items; beds, tables, orcs, guards, chests, doors, etc and put them in an easily accessible box. I use foam lined bead trays bought from Wal-mart.

Plot in my campaign is a time-line of events that would occur if the players don't do anything. It gets changed (or not changed) after every session to reflect what the PCs did (or not do). I have a roster of NPCs. The creativity comes from deciding how the NPCs react to the PCs.

I try to sit down with each player and do a one on one session to develop their character background. Then incorporates elements of that into the campaign's plot. I make sure there are as many potential benefits as there is potential complications from doing this.

I have way more than the three Hill Canton asked for, I hope you find them useful.




Friday, August 19, 2011

ErieCon 2011

I will be running the Night's Bride Coven at ErieCon in Erie, PA on August 27th at Noon. It will be held at the Avalon Hotel.

Saturday August 27th, 12:00 pm, Night's Bride Coven.
The forest of Dearthwood has long been haunted by evil. Finally it's source has been located, the foul mages of the Night Bride's Coven. Be part of the band of heroes that strikes down this ancient menace one and for all. An adventure for the original 1974 rules of Dungeons & Dragons. Rules and character materials will be provided, just bring your dice! Suitable for novice and experienced gamers.

One interesting aspect of this dungeon is that it has been delved from a cliff side rather than completely underground.

If there is enough interest I will run another dungeon during the evening.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interesting Google Plus development

Looks like games are coming to Google Plus in this announcement. What makes this of interest to us is that they will be having a developer's program which you can read about here. Eventually we should get additional tools, like dice-rollers, that will enhance Google Plus for table top games.

Presenting s the first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city

Neverwinter Campaign Setting, seriously you can read the press release over on Dorkland!

This and the Gates of Neverdeath, I have to say I got to wonder what going on over at Wizards.

There are dozens of example of city books, in fact I was involved with one a couple of years back. It based on the very city ever to be described in a book for a roleplaying game.

Let's look at the real first-ever RPG book focused solely on a city.

It no longer in print, but you get a PDF from RPGNow. Both the original and the Necromancer version.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gold Star Game Day

Saturday was D&D Game Day, while Tim of Gothridge Manor was working on perhaps the most quintessential activity of older D&D, creating a random dungeon. I on the other did one the most quintessential activity of 4th edition D&D, ran a canned adventure of encounters for D&D, "Gates of Neverdeath".

I did some prep for the game. Not the actual adventure of course, Instead I went through my miniature and props for stuff to use and to make the encounters visually exciting for the people attending. Here the results The ship encounter when the party first sails into Neverwinter. When this picture was taken, Josh's Goliath just pushed the wagon into the water on top of a zombie trying to climb onto the dock.

The climatic encounter in the graveyard.

The players really like this especially the newcomer who hasn't played with in my Swords & Wizardry sessions.

What was most uncanny of the whole session is what Kelly Anne, my wife, got for her character. See in the grab bag that Wizards has for each participant there is a theme care the player can use for their character. This one had to do with the character being a ex-member of the Brotherhood of the Rat (or something like that) give them an at-will power to allow them to change into a tiny rat.

Which makes this ironic is that we have adorable pet rats at home. Years ago I was skeptical and so was Kelly Anne when my youngest wanted to get some as pets. But they turned out to be great pets, a little like owning small excitable dogs rather than the boring gerbil, hamsters, and mice, Kelly Anne had when we were kids.



Initially skeptical at playing 4e, she was pretty exciting at playing her thief now. Especially when she had a +14 to her stealth roll as a first level character.

The session ended with one party member dead, two members down. Kelly Anne's thief was the only one still standing. The main bad guy was dead but his minions survived and dragged his body away. Overall the party was battered but succeeded in stopping the bad ritual.

While the session when well, the adventure was some of the worst crap I seen published for roleplaying in a long time. I understand constraints the authors have to operate under. I experienced some of them myself when trying to run good live action roleplaying events. The format imposes limitation on what you can do in terms of plot and the action. It results in a sequence of encounters that is a railroad. But if you write good plot and design inserting encounters the result can be fun for organized play.

But those limitations are no excuse for crap. And make no mistake Gates of Neverdeath is crap. The adventure hinges on the main guy stealing the McGuffin. The way it is written the bad guys just appears and there is nothing the PCs can do about it. Railroad combat is one of the things that will piss off players to no end.

I fixed it by bringing the bad guy on stage. I practiced the encounter the night before and so my version was fair. If the guy died I would dropped the graveyard as the location where some nasty things were setup and the guards asking the players to go and clear it out. Although this fixes the issue, it shows the problem in sharp relief. To pull this off requires luck and requires a highly skilled referee. My solution is not ideal for use in organized play where skill levels range all over the place.

To top it all off, some of the experienced 4e players were commenting how tough the monsters were. I don't play 4e on a regular basis so I had little to compared this too. But looking at the monsters afterwards, they were startled at how they are stated. The hallmark of Wizard's 4e offering is the combat encounter and I am left wondering if standards slipped on this.

Wizards should be ashamed at letting this go out with their name on it. And the limitations of the encounters format is no excuse.