Friday, January 28, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos- Review

Realms of Crawling Chaos by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis is a gem. I'm surprised to find myself saying that really as I've been getting pretty tentacle weary lately. This Goblinoid Games release has however freshened the whole fishy eldritch genre horror for me. Realms of Crawling Chaos does cover some of the ground that other games books have in the past but it really doesn't go down and delightfully avoids aping other games.

The book begins with a look at Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy as Proctor and Curtis express it. The literary themes of the insignificance of man, the vastness of the universe, an uncaring natural world, the reality of man as an animal, superior otherworldly beings and science as a double edged sword are discussed as how they relate to the genre and the games that may flow from it. Campaign types are discussed in very loose fashion and places of significance and mystery to the realm at large are outlined.

Next we get four new character races. The races are presented to work with straight up Labyrinth Lord or in the more Advanced style. Sea Blood carry the taint of inhuman blood and are drawn to the sea where perhaps they will join the Deep Ones. Subhumans are a crossbreed of men and near-men not too different looking from neanderthals. White Apes are an ancient race that evolved in dark jungles far from human civilization that s able to create White Ape Hybrids with humans. The races in my view are interesting enough to include in a traditional campaign or be the only ones along with humankind in a campaign, they all certainly serve to question humanities place in the universe and what it means to be human.

New magic details a selection of otherworldly magics and a new area of magic in the form of the Formulae. The magic is in the main certainly supportive of the genre and an evocative addition. Formulae are presented in the same format as spells but are distinct in how they deploy a alchemical process to produce an eldritch substance. Games heavy with material components will see little distinction between spells and formulae but campaigns where spells are generally point and zap the arcane procedures of the formulae set them apart in flavor.

Monster follow along with 2 new stats for LL game beasties. The Intelligence and Psionic Strength of the monsters is noted. A number of monsters familiar to Cthulhu aficionados are present and a few I haven't seen reproduced time and again. the power scale for the new monsters goes from easily defeatable to the party killing. The old one are presented as very powerful beings but not as gods; needless to say an encounter with Abhoth, Atlach-Nacha, Azathoth, Cthulhu, Dagon, Hydra, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, Tsathoqqua and Yog-Sothoth are all likely to be significant.

Eldritch Artifacts describes a number of devices described in some Lovecraftian tales in power and in tune with rest of the book.

Psionics presents a means for handling mental power in Realms of Crawling Chaos. It's mechanically similar of not identical to the method used in Mutant Future. Psionics are meant to represent alien powers generally unavailable to the PCs of a campaign. A number of distinct psionic powers are detailed. This section has the sloppiest editing of the whole book slipping in terminology between game systems :PS and WIL are interchanged here and there, there is no WIL stat in LL or in this book but it can be deduced it is equivalent to Wisdon or Psionic Strength.

Reading Eldritch Tomes presents an excellent set of mechanics fro digging into ancient books filled with knowledge no sane mane was meant to know. Some books are quick reads and present a little bit of knowledge (in the form of rituals/spells) without too much danger while others are weighty tome demanding much time and risk. I like the method presented and could see it's use curbing the abilities of high level MU's in a significant and fitting fashion.

Random Artifacts presents the means to randomly generate at least 1,000,000 different eldritch devices for a campaign. Each artifact has it's power determined, what object the power resides in and then a strange property. One can for example end up with: A Bell that is perpetually cold and unpleasant to handle that allows the owner to contact one of the Old Ones to ask a question of their unfathomable knowledge. The range of option is interesting and flavorful and as it is presented as a set of random tables will keep any one campaign's artifacts from being identical to another campaign's selection.

There are notes for using the Psionics with Mutant Future that are really geared to the Mutant Future Variant known as Mutants and Mazes.

Lastly there is an excellent index of literary sources that details where each bit of Lovecraftian lore in Realms of Crawling Chaos came from.

In conclusion Realms of Crawling Chaos is a supplement that explores familiar territory for RPG gamers in it's own way and makes it compatible to Labyrinth Lord (and other OSR games) without tiresome retread of what was done in the past. The art is good and evocative. As it is a supplement it is presented as a host of options to be used or ignored as a ref desires it doesn't attempt to put a straight-jacket on how the elements in the book are deployed. This is the type of book I think OSR fans and really any fantasy RPG enthusiasts with a taste for the dark side can really get their teeth into.

recent game play at my table

In my regular game the players have made a foray into Death, Frost, Doom and survived and they didn't release doom upon the countryside at large. They did escape with a couple small choice treasures, 2 taken from a bad spot in a very bad place.

On the way to a market big enough to sell their new found treasures the party was set upon by a pack ghouls while they were traveling via boat. The powerless druid in the party (still suffering from a gross alignment violation and not acting to neutralize the transgression) was rake and grappled and drowned in the river they were traveling in and tragically for his heartless companions went over board with one of the choice bits of cursed treasure.
This treasure will likely remain in the mud for many years until it is found by a pair of simple fishermen ... (oh boy oh boy, I got myself a lord of the rings style tie in for future campaign development that a couple of the players might remember).

At the market town the players were wise in having one of the treasures examined by a witchey-woman known to them. She freaked out informed them of the dire curse upon the item and after unloading a dangerous but un-cursed treasure elsewhere in town. The barbarian in the party hired a minion to do camp work and tend to the cart and animals so Hughe has been employed. the party returned to Death Frost Doom to return the cursed treasure.

In the mean time armies of darkness are growing. The army of the crimson banner is back from the dead, a mysterious serpent godling is somehow involved and the armies of the Snow Queen are on the move waiting for winter and magic to freeze the river so they may march against the cities of man.

The players ended the session stuck in Death Frost Doom (tinkered with it by just a little amount). They are wandering and lost in the place and sure to release doom in this state.
The puzzle to escape isn't too tough and tied toone that is present in the module. I outlined the situation to my wife as the players are aware and she pretty determined the solution in but moments, too bad for them she isn't playing currently.

So we have growing armies of darkness on the march and a band of trapped grubby adventurers desperate to escape form a place where their deeds could add a lot more to the conflict on hand.

My wife is intrigued by all the stuff a-brewing in the campaign and wants to play but doesn't want to jump in with the band of cads and thugs that the current party is (they are in the main horrible scum). Luckily for her my son has a character trapped in the dungeons of the Snow Queen and he'd sure like some help...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Funny Names.

My teen son starts a semester of freshman Health class today and the teacher is Mr. Cox.

The alternate Doctor who helped deliver our babbling baby boy was Dr. Payne.

The wife once stayed in a hotel in a room/cabin that was once the playhouse of Ima Hogg.

Is Conan Jr. or Bilboo really that bad a name for an RPG character?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Odd Look Dungeon Map

Here's a slightly odd looking dungeon map I whipped up to cleanse the gray-matter after a bit of writing earlier in the day.

(click for larger view)

This dungeon level was done with Adobe Illustrator and a bit of touch-up work in Photoshop.
Sorry, no doors and no numbers to aid keying the dungeon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

9 more henchmen

9 more henchmen stated up on Cyclopeatron's Fillable Henchmen Cards.

This group of toughs seeking wages are in line with my Swords & Wizardry one-off/now and again games but could certainly find employ in other campaigns.

Note: A pygmy without a juju-bag is unlucky and a other pygmies may be prone to avoid them for fear of attracting bad luck to themselves.

9 Henchmen

9 simple henchmen made with the fill-able hireling/henchmen cards from Cyclopeatron

Kit Bashing Your Own Game

I absolutely love all the retro clones, semi-clones, simulacra and related games. They a ll produce little bits and pieces I can use. The profusion of choices and expression of similar rules and themes gives me lot's of fodder to play FRP the way I awlays have. I've always been what I would call and omnivorous DM taking a bit from here and a bit from there and making a game of my own in essence.
I'm sure I played a "pure" version of a rule set now and again over the years but in the main I've never been a purist. Sometimes it's been adapting a feature of another game system (or a related setting), other times I grafted on a segment of rules perhaps replacing a related rule in the main game and finally there were times when I took two or more games and bashed them together into a new game for my group to play. I've played AD&D with RuneQuest-2 strike ranks, D&D with TFT talents, curiously enough D&D has always been the core.

I'll admit it here for a time I loved the D20 days, there was a delightful smorgasbord of rules to grab from. At one point I shoved together Arcana Unearthed, Conan and Everquest d20 into the D20 game I played for about a year. I did however feel the weight of the rules and the damaging inertia of players not willing to read a few hundred page rulebook in order to learn how to play well. I whipped up my own D20-lite and it was good.

The OSR games drew me back...sort of, I never really left and I played BFRPG for a while in one of the few campaigns where I used a tone of modules. An old school system and a few other compatible rule systems were all that was required to run a fun campaign using Wilderlands (necro-d20 and original JG), B2 (old D&D), Castyle Zagyg (cnc).Temple of Elemental Evil (AD&D), Castle Greyhawk(AD&D2), Undermountain(AD&D2),Whiterock(d20) and Rappan Athuak(d20) which required constant rules adaptation. The rules were never stale.

So I'm clearly rambling here but I just love the current environment with a multitude of compatible rule systems out there and lot's to pillage so as to play the game at my table the way I want to play the game at the moment.

Too many OSR/ retro-clones....nay say I, bring them on I can always use a few new paragraphs of genius to "borrow" for my games.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A little 3D Dungeon art

I whipped up a similar scene to last posts pen and ink piece using 3d tools:

It's not totally identical to the last piece but the features are in scale to the last. This is a quickly knocked together scene with misbehaving textures. The viewpoint in this scene is set about right for a 6' tall person walking down the middle tilting their head a bit to note the side corridor and steps as they approach. The whole thing took about an hour and a half , which includes kid related snow-day distractions and messing about with the camera shot and textures for the last 30-40 minutes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Little Dungeon Art

I got a number of pads of paper for Christmas this year. The original of the piece below fills an 11 by 14 sheet of paper and is the first pencil and ink I've done of that size in years.

The hall has a sunken cneter section about 9 feet across (a little less) with a minor dip in the center to facilitate drainage. There is a raised platform to the left a little under a yard high and a yard wide, it wraps around to the left ahead. On the right we have stairs leading to a platformed height of about six feet that is about 6 feet wide, travel along the right down the corridor is blocked by a hefty door. There's a pillar there because I wanted to draw one in. The main corridor is about 18 feet wide and 20 feet high.

A Hand Drawn Dungeon Map

I just whipped this one up, I suppose it took about 15 minutes to draw. It's not a very complicated place. "Out" and "UP" could both be dungeon entrances or not, maybe the staircase up leads to a castle or tower. I didn't put any doors on the map or ceiling heights( it was on a tiny pad of paper the ceiling heights wouldn't have fit with the room numbers.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dungeon Slang, where are you?

So where's the dungeon slang? We've been playing D&D and it's descendants for 30+ years now, where's the dungeon slang? I'm not really aware of a lot of it.

Could it be the RPG hobby is so jargon filled it comes with a ready made lexicon of terms to initiate the neophytes that there isn't a lot of slang?

Do we play in such small groups slang doesn't develop quickly or stay for long? I'm pretty sure online mmo land has a few slang terms that have leaked out into the wider world .

here's three I can think of :

Dungeon Crawl- door smashing , secret door checking,trap dodging, monster hacking dungeon based adventure.

Dice Chucker- a player who has a virtual fetish with dice.

Run, A- a pass into a dungeon or other adventure.

So is there Dungeon Slang that doesn't come from the mm0-land?

Trench Slang [NML:MF]

A few bits of slang from the allied trenches:

ARCHIE - Anti-aircraft fire or artillery piece

BRASS HAT- High-ranking staff officer

CRUMBING UP - De-lousing.

DIXIE- a large cook pot

EMMA-GEE- Machine gun.

FLAG WAGGER- Signaller.

GREY HEN- an earthenware rum jar.

JAKES- Latrines.

HAYBURNERS- horse and mules

REST CAMP- A cemetery.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mazes and Monster cover to cover....part IX

Chapter 10

Robbie and Kate are continuing their relationship but Robbie is dismayed to discover the empty spot isn't filled and he has horrible nightmares. Eventually Robbie becomes his character from the game (Pardieu) in his dreams. He awakes from the first of these dreams feeling some hope for the future.

Chapter 11

Kate, Daniel, Jay Jay and Robbie get together for a great game session before they all go home to their families. We get a detailed description of how the players relate to game play. Each player is lost in their role, little do they suspect Jay Jay isn't lost in play as Freelick the frenetic sprite but is engineering the end of the game Daniel is acting as Maze Controller for, so he can lead them as maze controller for his game in the caves. Jay Jay loses his character to an obvious trap short circuiting Daniel's campaign and gets them all to agree to a game in the caves following Christmas break a game that must be their secret alone.


Robbies' mental health is not doing too well and Jay Jay is a rat bastard control freak.

Mazes and Monsters Cover to Cover... part VIII

Chapter 8

We find out more about Daniel's care-free love life. Robbie and Kate are practically living with each other. The group stays at the college during Thanksgiving break so they can play a marathon session of Mazes and Monsters. Daniel longs for love.

Chapter 9

Jay Jay feels alone and lost, he can't drown his sorrows in booze and old movies. He briefly contemplates killing himself. He wanders off and explore the caves near the college and has a revelation: he'll run a "real" game of Mazes and Monsters in the Caves.


Yup, these folks aren't all too stable.

Mazes and Monsters Cover to Cover... part VII

Chapter 6

Kate and Robbie are getting along fabulously, passing notes and eating meals together. She feels herself getting closer to Robbie but it's difficult because of her jerk boyfriend of the year before.

On the night Kate was through with her ex boyfried she decided to do some laundry and her fear of the dark was laid in place by an assailant armed with a knife who attempted to rape her in the dark laundry room. A situation she wouldn't have found herself in if her ex hadn't abandoned her like all men in her life did.

Robbie is so sweet to Kate and their friendship an feelings are growing so she decides to test him and give love a chance or maybe it would be better to withdraw entirely.

Chapter 7

Robbie is baffled by Kate's behavior finding the growing distance incomprehensible, they still have the game but that's really all. Robbie confides in Daniel. Miraculously Kate soon decides to give Robbie a chance and they become a couple.

Robbie tells Kate about his runaway brother Hall who disappeared years ago and how much that hurt him. Robbie doesn't tell Kate about his complicity and deep guilt in his brother's absence.

Monday, January 17, 2011

one hour dungeon map handdrawn

Continuing my one hour dungeon drawing experiment inspired by reading this post at Planet Algol here's a hand drawn dungeon map:

(click for larger image)

It looks better on the paper before I scanned it and pasted it together in photoshop (it was a little too big to fit the whole thing on my scanner originally).
I was able to get in doors and ceiling heights on the hand drawn dungeon map. This one isn't as large an area as the earlier digital original and geomorph based maps and I still didn't get labels on it for keying the dungeon but there is more playable info on the map.

one hour geomorph dungeon

Still curios about the one hour limit on how much dungeon I could get drawn in an hour using digital tools and geomorphs:

(click for larger image)

Not too shabby. This was done mostly in illustrator with gray only geomorphs. I don't think I could have done as well or as much with photoshop alone using the detailed fill geomorphs.

one hour dungeon map

After reading this post:

I wondered, hmmm how much dungeon could I draw in an hour with a program like Adobe Illustrator?

Here's how much:

(click for larger view)

Friday, January 14, 2011

3D Hexes and Visualizing Terrain

Playing around with 3D terrain hex tiles I realized how darned big and how tiny some features could look relative to scale of a tile. Most of the mountains and hills I did looked pretty darned huge relative to the hex size.

The graphic above has two terrain hexes. The one of the left shows what a 528' ridge looks like along with a 1000' high hill, both look pretty darned tiny in a 5 mile hex. The one on the right has two mountains, one is a mile high the other 2 miles. The one mile high mountain starngely enough doesn't look shockingly large while the two mile high one looks colossal.

Not a lot to go along with this just yet but it was fun to give it a look and see what things look like in scale as opposed to simply abstract icons on a map.

on my gaming

In my real life gaming world I've incorporated Death, Frost , Doom into my regular campaign. The players have hauled off a fair bitof loot (considering I've been cheap in the campaign so far) and haven't ended the world yet. They don't know about the curse a couple of them are under so I'm sure they'll be back. They've actually been doing an annoyingly good job of avoiding entering dungeons until as of late, now the lack of cash is driving them to the underworld so even withotu the curse I know they'll get back to Death, Frost, Doom.

So how'd I spring Death, Frost,Doom on the players? Well by having them bump into a littel old man looking for some partners to help him hunt down some treasure, they checked out his map and agreed to giving him a substantial share for everything the hauled out of the ruins that are rumored to be up there on the mountain which is known as "Death, Frost, Doom" in an obscure elven dialect in my campaign. Beore they finished prepping and set out the gentleman turned up at the Inn they were staying at,smunped to the floor poisoned to death and was clutching the empty scroll case that held the map to Death, Frost,Doom. Inspecting his home revealed it hand been searched but soem of his M-U parephenaila hadn't been hauled off. The party split for the dungeon the next day.

I just can't keep my players away from a place labeled Death, Frost, Doom in an obscure dialect on a dead man's map.

I hope to (soonish) get in a few sessions of Mutant Future using the NML:Mutant Front setting. I neeed the direct feedback from the players and the need to spontaneously create to give me more to add to life to the setting.

There is a Call of Cthulhu campaign on hiatus I'd love to get back to (as a PC even). My character there was willfully entering a cycle of depravity and madness. A few of the other players asked me why I was playing such a sick soul as the mad doctor I'm playing and I replied: Lovecraft's tales weren't always about the good guys and there were darned few heroes that I recall.

Mazes and Monsters....between the covers....arghhh

As many of you surely know I've been doing one of those "cover to cover" dealies with Mazes & Monsters by Rona Jaffe. I've got to say...ugh, the deeper I go in the more dreadful it gets. All the characters have emotional issues,most have a crap home life and it's just feebly melodramatic.
Reading this in my 40's with decades of D&D game play and life behind me It's hard to imagine how this book was ever sensational or read by many folks at all. I'll keep reading and keep posting but golly gee I know it'll be a while before take on another task like this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

3D Hex Map

I've been experimenting with 3D wilderness terrain hex tiles and whipped up a sample map I felt like sharing.

(click for larger image)

A really cool feature about doing the map in 3D is I can also generate a 3D view from one of the hexes. The shot is looking West-Northwest from one of the bottom right hand hexes on the map.

(click for larger image)

With such a hex map it'd be technically possible to generate shots to answer such questions as "what do we see to the west"? It could also (more realistically) be used to generate scenery art of places and views that actually are on a campaign map.

Canals of Tantoom

Random Tables for random determination of world spanning canals on a declining or collapsed sword and planet world.

2 Irrigation - 1 to 3' wide
3 Tight- 5 to 10' wide
4 Narrow- 10 -30' wide
5 Moderate- 30-60- wide
6-7 Broad- 100' wide
8-10 Grand- 150-300' wide
11 Vast- 400-600' wide
12 Overflown- 1000'-10,000' sunken area.

2- Trickle- not navigable, check again in 100-600 feet
3-5 Shallow- 10' draft, check again in 300-1800 feet
6-9 Moderate- 30' draft, check again in 1-6 miles
10-12 Deep- 50' draft ,check again in 1,000-6,000 feet

2-4 Negligible, no speed from flow
5-7 Very Slow, 1/2 mph
8-9 Slow, 1 mph
10 Moderate, 2 mph
11 Significant, 3-6 mph
12 Swift, 7+ mph
Check for change in flow as per Depth of Canal.

2-3 Collapsed- no well defined bank, navigating near sides is hazardous
4-5 Gentle- gentle slope leading to canal
6 Aqueduct- to cross an obstacle canal section is contained and raised.
7-8 Berms- earthen work levee
9 Reinforced- reinforced levee
10-11 Fortified- reinforced levee topped with castellated features
12 Tunnel- section of canal flows through tunnel

Terrain (only roll if terrain unknown)
2 Dry Seabed
3-6 Sandy Desert
7 Rocky Desert
8 Moss Plain
9 Fungal Forest
10 Crystal Badlands
11 Cactus Jungle
12 City

Obstruction (1 in 6 chance)
2 Wreck
3-6 Debris
7 Sealed Gates
8 Chain Across Canal
9 Pound Lock ,which consists of a chamber within which the water level can be raised or lowered
10 Flash Lock, consisting of a single gate
11 Ramp
12 Boat Lift

Features (1 in 6 chance)
2 Crane
3-7 Docks
8 Waterwheel
9 Pumping Station
10 Canal Basin, canal enters or flows alongside a reservoir
11 Tower, a fortified tower overlooking the a canal side
12 Battery (1-3, on one side of canal, 4-6 on both sides) arms: 1-catapult, 2- Ballista, 3- Primitive Cannon, 4- Flame Cannon, 5- Electric Gun, 6- Ice Ray

Canal-side (only present 2 in 6)
2-4 Farm Fields, maintained
5-6 Farm Fields, abandoned
7 Groves, abandoned
8 Groves, maintained
9 Shanties
10 Boats
11-12 Rookery

Canal Vegetation (only present 2 in 6)
2 Canal-side Trees
3-4 Canal-side Brambles
5-6 Canal-side Creeping Vines
7 Bog Carpet, over grown vegetation, a danger to swimmers may conceal other features
8 Choke Weed, may grab swimmers, possibly grab sailors or even small craft
9 Lilly-pads, higher chance of wild-life encounter
10-12 Swamped-in, canal is overgrown large vessels will not be able to pass.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shields Again

I've brought up shields on this blog before in the past most recently in Splintering shields by Material a fiddly variant of Trollsmyth's shields shall be splintered rule, I also posted variants back in 09. Shileds are just so darned prevalent in warfare and underrated in D&D and many an OSR game I'm always finding myself whipping up variant rules for shields. Here's another based on a recollection of a method I used back in the late 80's.

Add a combatants STR, DEX and Fighting Rank (fighter level equivalent in most games) and check this score on the chart below.

(Click for larger image)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I want 2011's EPT too

I want 2011's EPT too...but the first one was a result of decades of invention and creation. Will we even notice 2011's EPT, most people in the RPG hobby never noticed the 1975 EPT even when it was published by the biggest publisher in RPG-land, most have still never played it and most never will.

There were no boundaries recognized for the world of Tekumel when it was first invented and then hammered into a D&D-like game. Modern RPG campaigns have lot's of boundaries and boxes folks are going to shove a campaign or game into. We could lose sight of it because someone shoves it in the wrong box.

What good is 2011's EPT if most folks simply rip it apart for a few pieces to shove in their plain old games? Is 2011 EPT fated to evolve in 2017's Swords and Glory to be followed by 2027's totally-unpronounceable-esoteric RPG?

As for Blackmoor, almost every DM since has done Blackmoor (many may have done far better) but we didn't do it first. We weren't the spark of original genius. There will be no Blackmoor but there might indeed be a Caverns of Thracia.

EPT and Blackmoor were both inventions of men who had no experience with RPGs as most readers of this most certainly do. Each of us has likely has decades of experience and has read many hundreds times more about RPG then either innovator was exposed to when they got to work.

Who has the decades of non-RPG invention that will let them come up with the 2011 EPT? Are they going to let us know they did it?

Monday, January 10, 2011

EXP for Exploration

If D&D and related games are about exploration how about players earning experience points for characters based on Exploring? Here are a few suggestions to meet that end:

Dungeon Exploration Experience Point Awards-

Surviving a Descent Into a Dungeon Level or Sublevel- the first time a group penetrates the depths of a dungeon during a campaign the party gains 250exp per dungeon level which is split up among survivors of the expedition. Three (or more) keyed encounter areas must be discovered to qualify for this exp bonus.
No yo-yo descents allowed, if the campaign is the same no exp are earned for a different group penetrates a dungeon level for the first time.

EXP per Encounter Area Mapped- for each keyed encounter area a party maps with a degree of reliability and accuracy the party earns 10 exp/dungeon level of said chamber.

A Friendly Encounter with a New Group- for a friendly encounter with a new group of NPCs/monsters the party earns 50-300 exp per dungeon level.

For Curiosities Donated- the party will earn 2 exp per gp value for curiosities fetched from the dungeon depths and delivered to a museum, sages collection, university or Wizard's Guild upon acceptance.

Monsters Captured- the party will earn 200 exp per HD for monsters caught and returned alive from a dungeon to a zoo, hunting preserve, for a sage's inspection or a Wizard's Guild upon acceptance.

Documents- ancient and or obscure documents delivered to a sage, university or appropriate guild will fetch 5 exp per page of text upon acceptance.

Surviving Hirelings- for each hireling a party enters a dungeon with and leaves with the party earns 50 exp.

Outdoor Exploration Experience Point Awards-

Per Hex Explored- 10 exp per mile across a hex shall be awarded to the party exploring and mapping unknown territory.

Friendly Groups/Curiosities/Captures and Documents- as per dungeon exploration exp above.

Visiting a Noted Wonder of the World- 100 to 600 exp to each member of an expedition that visits a place of note for the first time.

Nature's Bounty- finding a grove, vegetable patch or plot of ground where a natural resource may be found and harvested by others is worth 3 exp per GP value that could be collected in a year split among all in the discovering party.
A fishing spot or game trail discovered is worth 1.5 times the value of defeating a single member of that species.

Visiting Temples/Churches- visiting temples, churches and shrines of one's faith for the first time earns the visitor 25 exp.

Attending Temples/Churches- attending a rite or sermon at a church or temple of ones faith (or friendly faith) earns the worshiper 50 exp.

Witnessing a Relic- witnessing a genuine relic of ones faith for the first time earns the witness 1% of the gp value in exp.

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover... VI

Chapter 5

The four characters whom we've met up to this point all gather to play Mazes & Monsters on the floor of Daniels room. Kate is Glacia the Fighter yet again, Jay Jay is still the irrepressible sprite Freelik the Frenetic of Glossamir, Robbie is Pardieu the Holy Man. They all sit there in a circle with Daniel the Maze Controller.

Beginning Mazes and Monsters players use rulebooks and as they gain skill they move on to incorporating advanced manuals with ever more complicated books of imaginary adventure. Danile used a combination of the advanced manuals and his own invention, he must after all since Jay Jay has a photographic memory.

The party travels for half a day and comes to the forbidden caves of Jinnorak once ruled by a race of men who are now rumored to be a devolved savage breed of creatures. After arriving at the cave mouth they are asked by the MC if they wish to enter the caves, luckily they all say yes.

As the play commences we get a view from the mind's eye of each player. Kate with her heart pounding uses her lantern to fend off the ever present darkness. Jay Jay is always frightened at the beginning of play and uses humor to ward off the dread as he's just a little afraid of the commitment the game requires to escape the pathetic ad boring human world. Robbie secure in the robes of the Holy Man is comfortable to act with bravery and cunning alongside his trusted friends now that he had a mission. Daniel is happy he has crafted a scenario that is drawing them all in and is happy as his work of art unfolds.

So in the brief chapter where they finally get to play M&M we have earlier character traits refined. We learn little of how the game is played beyond the threat of imaginary violence and Maze Controllers have a sort of god complex.

campaign sketch map

Here's a little map a sketched while away on one of the many pads of paper I received over the holiday season:

(click for larger map)

This is technically just a doodle and being the ceaseless campaign builder I am it's a campaign map. After but a few moments of reflection here's what's on the map.

We've got pterodactyls and dinosaurs sharing the Messar Plateau with the city of High Krithalapoor.

The eastern most extent of the Grith Hills is marked by the ruins of Valistoor the Fallen.

BroggleJum fortresses surround the Murmurak plain. Murmuraks are beefy bipdel bovines.
BroggleJums...???...uh, big headed goblins that ride Murmuraks.

Mungwrack the dragon sleeps in the Splintered Peaks and to the west through the moss hills one finds the Vander Spires. the Vander a strange un-men that do not build clustered cities like men but in far flung collections of high towers that keep each other in view miles away.

The grasping wood is full of carnivorous tentacled trees. The roots of those trees creep ever towards the ruined city of Broken Drathar which lies across the Direwash river from the city-state of Kathilpar.The city state is plagued by raids from the brogglejums in recent years and much fertile land to the northwest now lies fallow.

The Pile of Skulls marks... ????

The forest of the Shagmocks is home to a ape-like race of cannibals.
Wicked Thelloor dominates trade to the south.

In the west along The Meer Sea the men of Manthikar trade with caravans from the west and and the meek Dwaddle-men who harvest the lumber of the Lofty-woods ever fearful of the lurking Grindle-Groots.

Away for a few days

I was away for a few days and the domain suffered a little light wear and tear. I must appoint a worthy seneschal to pick up the slack when I am absent.
(or at least type up a whole bunch of brief posts and schedule their publication)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover... V

Chapter 4

We meet Robbie Wheeling who starts of his college career feeling feeling young and frightened. Robbie is an athletic swimmer who cares littel for his parents back at home and even thought he feels lost at college he still doesn't miss home. He finds a comfort zoen of sorts at college but still feels something is missing and meets Jay Jay 3 weeks into the semester.

When Robbie and Jay Jay meet Jay Jay is wearing an aviators cap with goggles in the cafeteria. As a lost college kid Robbie can't help but chat with and accept an invitation to a party for Bridget Bardo that Jay Jay is throwing.

At the party Robbie meets Kate and is rather smitten with her. Kate is thrilled to discover Robbie played Mazes and Monsters in high-school back at home and managed to play up to 3rd level. Robbie is introduced to Daniel and invited to the game, the group hasn't played yet as they've been looking for another player.


Poor Robbie lost and innocent is about to be trapped in the world of Mazes and Monsters because he's desperate to find a way to fit in somewhere.

Adventures with religion

JB in this post asks where the heck is religion in RPGs? Religious thought and institutions have been a major motivator throughout human history but we don't touch on it much in RPG land. Many people falsely believe there isn't much adventure to be had with religious themes and religiously motivated characters. I'm going to mention a few films and the books that go with them where religion is behind the adventure.

Black Robe, 1991 film adapted from the novel of the same name. This film covers the journey of a young Jesuit to seek a remote Catholic mission in Huron territory in 1634. He's bringing his faith to a wild an dangerous land, his journey and communication challenges his faith and that of the Hurons. It's a beautifully filmed movie and the young Jesuit doesn't go off character and become rambo with a cross at any point despite the constant and ever present threat of violence.

The Mission
, 18th century jesuits try to protect the local south americans indians from falling under the yolk of slavery. Rodrigo Mendoza is a daring Spanish adventurer who is a cad , scoundrel and killer who is motivated by politics and religion to do the right thing.

The Name of The Rose
, 1986 film staring Sean Connery as William of Baskerville is embroiled in a deepening murder mystery in a 14th century Benedictine Abbey. Baskerville is nonconformist and intellectually motivated but he doesn't turn from his faith. The story is all about how the world of religion effects and motivates the deeds of men in wide sweeping matters and very personal ones. The flm is entertaining but the book is wonderful. There is an excellent puzzle based dungeon adventure in the film that is a must see for dungeon adventure writers.

Dogma, 1999 flippant road comedy that is most certainly a religious adventure. At it's root it's all about the relation of each character in the film to their faith and the divene along with the realization of how personal it is in a world where politics and irreverence have squashed that personal relation for many. After the sex and potty humor it's still thought provoking.

There you go 4 films full of mystery, murder, epic battles, personal challenges all with religion as a significant portion of the adventure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mazes and Monsters cover to cover... IV

Chapters 2 & 3

In chapters 2 and 3 we get to learn more about Kate who plays Glacia the Fighter and Daniel who is the Maze Contoller for this band of college students.

Kate Finch is an 18 year old sophomore with her own room this year. She's driven across country again to Grant University and her mother worries that Kate isn't eating right or enjoying life as much as she can. Kate's parents broke up a while back, mom is a slightly frumpy grandma time and dad is a swine of a swinger. Kate wants to be a writer but the muse has left her with a pile of half finished stories, how can she write about things she doesn't know? Playing Glacia in Mazes and monsters has given Kate a safe place where she can enthusastically be part of the story without the fear of rejection and her ignorance and lack of experience were not a hindrance, bravery and caution were both rewarded in the game.

Daniel Goldsmith is a six foot tall computer genius from the Boston area; Kate thinks Daniel has a John Travolta thing going for him as he's easily the best looking guy in the dorm and not a bit conceited. Daniel has a comfortable life back at home where he feels too hemmed in and wonders about his brother who ran away so he turns away from MIT to attend Grant and get out of his traditional comfort zone. Daniel wants to program computer games, he spent his whole summer working up a new maze for his fellow players, on his morning runs he can't help thinking up more things to add to the game. Daniel, the immortal youth and Maze Controller, also can't help but wonder about the caves which he passes on those morning runs of his.

The three characters introduced so far have a problem, they need a 4th player. Jay Jay thinks they should simply post on the message board next to the gay rights meetings and the science club notices. The players are reluctant to embrace a stranger as they wish to double up into one of their dorm rooms to save the spare as their inner sanctum gaming room, their own private world. Daniel has done a lot of work on the new maze and Jay Jay is pretty sure they can find someone able to play at the with a notice that reads something like " Wanted: a Mazes and Monster freak who can play at the third level and promises to neither fink out nor flunk out".


So far we see everyone who plays Mazes and Monsters just isn't totally thrilled with their home-life and families. They seek a childish escape from reality where they can build their own sheltered world. Kate is escaping failure and inexperience. Daniel is running away from a life he feels he doesn't control to a world where he controls every detail. While he isn't the Maze Controller Jay Jay is the true leader and motivator for this group of players, he can be the leader his weirdness hasn't allowed him to achieve in his short 16 years of life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Motivational Poster

Dungeon Exploration- Grappling Hooks

Throwing a grappling hook and securing it can be a tricky and critical maneuver.Here is a chart with suggested score to resolve with a d20 roll. Attacks bonuses and dexterity modifiers may or may not apply.

Grappling Hooks Table

type Parapet Wall TopBranchesRocksWooden Wall
Improvised 15/19 17/1913/1517/1915/16
Soft Metal 14/18 16/1812/1416/1814/15
Steel 14/17 16/1712/1416/1713/14
Exceptional Material 12/14 14/1510/1214/1511/12

The first number in each entry is a successful catch but it will slip free if weight is put on it. It takes a round to safely test for to see if a thrown hook has securely caught hold. The second number is a secure hold.

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover... III

Chapter 1-

In chapter one we meet Jay Jay Brockway arriving back at college after summer vacation. Jay Jay is weird by his own admission, he's small and lithe with a pointed face with a halo of golden curls at but 16 years of age he's a college sophomore English major. He never connected with his father , his parents are divorced for they married too young, and he has a macaw named Merlin. He embraces his differences and uses humor to forge himself into a leader. We discover him as he's shoving his dozen cashmere sweaters and two dozen preppy shirts into his dorm dresser and his collection of funny hats (oh boy, Jay Jay is going to be funny indeed). Jay Jay festoons his room with old movie posters not at all uncommon for the era, he has a thing for older women a collection of books and records, cartons of cigarettes, a bottle of vodka (uh....he's 16) and mai tai mix and a little bag of Acapulco Gold and most curious of all the maps from the Mazes and Monsters games he's played, his dice, fresh graph paper, his already memorized Encyclopedia of monsters and the Creature Compendium advanced Edition III.

Jay Jay has arrived ahead of his other friends and is eagerly awaiting their return on the steps in front of the dorms. Micheal will not be showing up, Jay Jay and his friends were going to rig things so they could use one of their dorm rooms as a game room but Micheal screwed that up becasue the game took too much of his time and attention. Jay Jay is waiting for Kate and Daniel to arrive. Daniel is the Maz Controller and he's fair for we learn if Daniel says the king of the Grey Rats has bitten off your arm then Daniel is indisputably right. Kate , brave precocious Kate who Jay Jay seemingly has a crush on arrives and we are reminded Jay Jay is funny when he offers Kate a knuckle sandwich.

We also learn that Kate plays the groups Fighter and Jat Jay plays a Sprite: Freelik the Frenetic of Glossamir. Each players character seemingly reveals something about the players personality. Kate may be strong but her breastplate is just a shield that covers her frightened, vulnerable and wildly beating heart.


So, Jay Jay is a wonder-kin minor with substance abuse issues into Mazes and Monsters...what could go wrong there? He seemingly has a crush on Kate as he has a thing for older women, of course at 16 all women are older women. Jay Jay adores Kate and the Maze Controller who is fair and absolute, no overplayed arch-typical overblown player-vs-GM competition there at all.
So the girl in the group of 4 (well 3 for now) is going to play the fighter and the 16 year old boy is going to play the wild and care free sprite , Mazes & Monsters is already looking a tad removed from stereotypical D&D.

Dungeon Exploration- Illumination

A few items for the crucial element of dungeon exploring: Illumination.

Puff Breeze Gust Gale
7 1318X
5 715X
3 613X
- 71419
- 31115
- -511

Suggested Prices

Candle, taper(10)...............10 cp
Candle, wax(8)....................2 sp
Candle, long Burning(6)....5 gp
Torch (8)............. 3 sp
Clay Lamp............ 2 sp
Brass Lamp...........6 gp
Candle Lantern.... 2 gp
Oil-Lantern......... 9 gp
Brazer................ 25gp
Oil, slow burning.... 2 sp
Oil, quick burning... 1 sp

Candle, taper- a simple low quality candle, it will illuminate a 5' radius for 1 hour
Candle, wax- a medium quality candle, it will illuminate a 5' radius for 2 hours
Candle, long burning- a high quality candle, it will illuminate a 5' radius for 3 hours
Torch,- illuminates 30' radius for 1 hour
Clay Lamp- holds 1/2 flask of oil illuminating 10' radius for 2 hours.
Brass Lamp- holds 1 flask of oil illuminating 10' radius for 4 hours.
Candle lantern- may be closed to hide light, burns one candle for same duration as candle type, will illuminate a 20' radius
Oil lantern- may be closed to hide light,burns one flask of oil for 4 hours., illuminating 30' radius.
Oil, quick burning- traditional dungeoneering oil. Burns as stated above.
Oil, slow burning- burns half again as long as stated above. Can't be used to make effective incendiary attacks.
Brazer- large and heavy, provide warmth immediately around and shed light to a 30' radius.

additional: Illuminating gear.

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover ... II


The novel Mazes and Monsters starts out in the spring of 1980, a gifted student has disappeared from Grant University in Pequod Pennsylvania. Vanishing students aren't unheard of there but this case is different. The police discovered a connection to the game Mazes & Monsters.

We find out Mazes & Monsters is a war game played in world set a medieval background using nothing a vivid imagination, dice, pencils, graph paper and an instructional manual. Players create characters that may be Fighters, Sprites, Holy-men or Charlatans who seek treasure by navigating a series of mazes (and such) run by the Maze Controller. The mazes are filled with dangers and monsters that seek to enchant, kill, maim and paralyze the players if the players are able to do so unto their foes.

What made the disappearance and it's connection to the game significant was a group of players discovered by the police seemed to acting out these fantasies in the caverns nearby the university. These caverns had been off limits for years having claimed the lives of some hapless spelunkers decades earlier. How the police discover this isn't explained in the prologue as we discover the students aren't immediately forthcoming about the game of Mazes & Monsters.

A national media frenzy is sparked and the university is painted in an ominous light by mazes and monsters. One student shares this passage in the university newspaper "I know Mazes and Monsters is a very popular game on this campus. I played it for two years. But last summer I destroyed all of my $100 worth of equipment. The game takes control of your life...quit before it's too late." The media discovers these players could be anyone's kids as Mazes and Monsters is a game that's inside everybody.

So we have discovered Mazes and Monsters is war game where the players can be controlled, maimed or killed (extreme indeed). Some kid on campus simply destroyed $100 worth of gaming gear in 1980 , that's $2654.00 in modern money , poor kid he could have unloaded all of it on ebay if only it were a couple decades later. It's all presented in a manner that is a tad melodramatic.

For those that must know there is no Pequod Pennsylvannia and of course no Grant University there, they are fictional locations, it is a novel. I suppose that means there are no caves either...

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover... I

We've all heard about the really poor film Mazes and Monsters starring Tom Hanks. It was based on a book By Rona Jaffe a moderately accomplished author, she has 17 more books published than I do, one of them was lamentably Mazes and Monsters published in 1981.

The book and film were controversial to some, hated by others. It was a very fictionalized spin on misreported actual events, the real story can be found elsewhere. I vaguely recall seeing the film itself, it was clearly nonsense at the time.

My mother got me the book sometime in the mid 80's and was glad she found me a book that was D&D related (and for a sale price). At first I was outraged...she had no idea what evils the book had wrought and clearly didn't recall seeing the horrible movie (she may have luckily missed it). I avoided going off on much of a pique and didn't' throw a tantrum or dispose of the book in the nearest trash can, Eventually I ended up reading it and not hating it all that much.

For some reason I can't recall why it's been sitting on one of my bookshelves collecting dust for the past few years while a host of other books languish in storage. there's been some buzz about Mazes and Monsters out there on the internet again so I figured it was time to re-read the book. I have read it in about 25 years and my views of literature have likely evolved some since I was younger. A re-reading of "Mazes and Monsters" by Rona Jaffe seemed a good idea to share with you, oh gentle reader, on this blog.

The dust jacket is white with a blue grid and tells us Rona Jaffe in big blue letters, is the author of "Class Reunion" a book I've never read. In smaller stylized type the tittle of the book is shown to us as a sort of dungeon map style and among the title is a small red heart. A small read heart you ask, what can that have to do with Dungeons and...I mean Mazes and Monsters?

Here are a few excerpts from the dust jacket: "It was only a game...", "four friends brought together by their obsession with a game of imagination", "They could have been anyone's kids: attractive young students sent to college to prepare for life, offered the American Dream. Yet rejected it for their secret fantasy world, Why?"," The game fulfilled their needs. But then they took it a step too far"

Hmmm...looks like we could be dealing with a cautionary tale here. The dust jacket goes on to tell us Rona Jaffe is taking us into the lives of today's generation of college students and the book is a terrifying thriller, the book is filled with treasures for the reader that will make it the most extraordinary read of the year ( I hope not,I just got back to the Children of Hurin which I'm also reading).

So there we could I not continue reading after that fascinating dust jacket?
I must crack the spine for I am dying to refresh my feeble memory and delve into this perceptive work of breathtaking depth where the loves and needs of a group of youths ensnared by the strange phenomenon of Mazes and Monsters is revealed (according to the dust jacket).

more to come

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quickie Tomb Stocking Chart

To randomly stock tombs with 20 or less rooms/chambers. I wrote this up with loose stats for Swords and Wizardry. The tomb-robbers are generic thiefly delvers who will be able to use scrolls they have on hand.

Roll 1d6
1. Tomb Robbers, (3-6) HD:1, AC: 7[12], AT: weapon(1-6), ST:17, MV:12,A:C;XP:15
roll 1d6 per 2 tomb-robbers for special gear-
...1,2- nothing special
...3- scroll, protection from undead
...4- scroll, turn undead (as 2nd level cleric)
...5- Robber's Wick
...6- Weightless Rope (50')
...33% chance group has 20-200 g.p. worth in mixed loot
2. Skeletons (1-8) HD:1, AC 8[11], AT: weapon(1d6), ST:17, MV:12,A:N,XP:15
3. Vampire Bat (1) HD:1, AC: 8[11], AT: bite(1d6)+ blood sucking, ST: 17,MV: 4/18,A:N,XP: 60
4-5. empty
6. Burial
...1-2 looted
...3 looted, missed inexpensive jewelry (2-24 g.p.)
...4 intact, ferry tokens
...5 intact, ferry tokens & 1-4 pieces of inexpensive jewelry
...6 intact, cursed, ferry tokens & 1-4 pieces of inexpensive jewelry

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fantasy RPG Mash-up

Crazy (likely bad idea) for Fantasy Role playing Fun. Pick a fantasy RPG and replace major rules components from different games and mash them together to make a fantasy campaign.

Let's take original D&D
Use the ability scores and generation method from The Fantasy Trip
Use Runequest battlemagic spells for PC-magic.
Use 7th Edition Tunnels and Trolls weapon statistics.
D20 D&D saving throws.

We'd have a little tweaking to do on our hands.

Those ability scores, easy to keep track of, PCs aren't going to have many modifiers. Maybe lump together a couple of the D&D scores functionality.

Runequest battle magic has lot's of spells but needs a POW stat/magic points. Do we make a new stat or use one of the three main characteristics? Let's use strength. Maybe spell casting classes get some bonus magic points equal to their level. No one has a big flash-bang combat spell. I'd go with STR as POW and bonus Magic Points equal to level for spell casting classes (STR + level, not each level)

Tunnels and Trolls weapons do a lot more damage then D&D weapons. Lot's of fights are going to be quick. Boost PC-type HP the same amount as their STR score, they are still goign to be soft and squishy just not as badly so without the boost. T&T weapons have ability score requirements. Don't meet one stat then -2 to hit and 1/2 damage with that weapon, don't have either you can't use the weapon. Except for weapon stats we are still using D&D combat rules.
Let's Throw in a parry rule, which the weapons of T&T sort of go along with. A parrier gets to subtract their damage roll for the foes damage roll, parrying gives up a chance to make an attack in a round.

D20 style saving throws aren't hard to lift and adapt. We've got classes and level already, just remap each save to one of the three ability scores.

There you go, an "original" set of rules for a fantasy rpg campaign.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Weird Arms: Alchemical Sliver Gun

Weird Arms are suggested for use in those campaigns where magic and technology are often indistinguishable to the locals.

Alchemical Sliver Gun- 1d4 dmg + poison/potion effects, range:20'/40'/60'
Suggested Value: 2,500 g.p.

A pistol like weapon that allows the user to pour a potion or poison into the funnel like loader, wait for the darts to form and then fire a hail of of icy slivers upon a target which must save or suffer the effects of the potion placed in the gun. The slivers inflict 1d4 points of damage upon a target. In theory one could use water or other inert liquids to simply inflict damage but that's just such a terrible waste of the potential of this arm and considered crass by those of station.

Hot targets and hotenvironments provider the attacker with a -4 penalty and the target receives a +4 to save vs the effects of any potion/poison slivers.
Targets able to bear shields or in heavy armor receive a +2 bonus to save vs the slivers.

The normal rate of fire for this weapon is 1/3. In areas of temperature over 100 degress the weapon takes longer to recharge (it may hold but one vial of fluid at a time)allowing a maximum rate of fire of 1/5, and range is halved. A fully charged weapon will be able to generate enough propellant force to project up to 100 doses of potions/posions (one at a time). Alchemists will generally be able to recharge such a weapon in about 3 days (it doesn't require the alchemists constant attention but does take time) and they typically charge 200 g.p. for the service.