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Preview: Mighty Thews and Non-Euclidean Geometry

Mighty Thews and Non-Euclidean Geometry

Yet another Old School Renaissance blog with a cranky old guy talking serious about playing pretend. This one has metal and swear words, though.

Updated: 2016-09-08T00:27:55.453-04:00


Random-er Encounters


Haven't posted in a while, here's a thing. Crossposted from a 1e group on the Book of Faces:

I dig my little subsystems, and random encounters are no exception - randos are great because I get to be surprised by the events that transpire in play, same as the players are. Here's my formula(e).

For wilderness encounters, I use the check frequency and dice described in the DMG (frequency depending on terrain, die type depending on proximity to "civilizing influences," and 25% of encounters in patrolled areas "converted" to a patrol encounter), but I roll randomly (on my trusty d24) for the actual hour when any encounters occur. In dungeons, I'll default to the "1 in 6, every two turns" frequency from Basic, more or less depending on the location.

In addition to the normal "Monster Manual encounter" on a result of "1," I have further possibilities for encounters on the die - I don't have the actual table in front of me, but it's something like "hunting/animal encounters on a 2, "interesting flora" on a 3, noteworthy natural scenery on a 4, trail/wagon/animal "incidents" on a 5, a new "Ravaged Ruins" result from the Wilderlands tables on a 6, so on and so forth. (These really help the druids and rangers come to the fore in wilderness travel, I find.) Plant and animal encounters rolled from CDD#4 Old School Encounters Reference.

Encounters on roads are a special case - I roll an extra chance every hour (1 in d6 on an actual Roman-style road, 1 in d10 on a trail) for a "road encounter" (I use the list from CDD#4, but there's a great list in Dragon #105, published as "Travel Works Both Ways"), in addition to the normal wilderness roll.

On top of all this, for ANY encounter, once I've determined one is occurring, I roll the same chance to see if there's already an encounter with another party (monster, NPCs, etc.) in progress. If so, I'll roll some quick reaction rolls to see whether it's a fight, ongoing negotiation, or what. (Note that on the wilderness rolls, with the expanded stuff I'm using, this could totally end up being "ogres picking daisies for pret-ty ogress" or something, haha.) This extra roll can result in some really interesting situations, for what it's worth, I recommend you try it in your game - the "situation in progress" stuff can be a great opportunity for interesting roleplaying.

Finally, if I'm not using an existing local table, I'll throw a quick d6 to decide which book I'm rolling out of (1-2 is using the table from the DMG, 3-4 the tables from Fiend Folio, and 5-6 the tables from MMII), and, generally speaking, if the first result doesn't really blow my skirt up I'll do a quick scan of my notes/maps to see if there's a "locally-sourced" encounter to use in its place. (This is where those monster grudge matches come up - "Soooo, remember last time you came this way, and you webbed the hill giant chieftain in place while the thief braided his toe hair? Well, so does he.")


Dark Sun Random Cargo Table


First post in a while, let's not make a big thing out of it.

This isn't brain surgery, just the list of cargoes from the Dune Trader supplement, hammered into percentile table form. I attempted to put some weight on the cargoes that a) were listed on the big Trade Route Map from that supplement, or b) I thought merited them.
For a single caravan: My rule of thumb for the moment is d6-2 cargoes (minimum of 1).
1-2 Ale
3 Amber
4-5 Armor
6-7 Beer
8 Bronze
9 Candy
10-11 Ceramics
12 Chalk
13-14 Chitin
15 Cider
16 Cinnabar
17-18 Cloth
19-20 Clothing
21-22 Coal
23-24 Copper
25 Cosmetics
26-27 Cotton
28-29 Crodlu
30 Dyes/Pigments
31-32 Erdlu
33 Feathers
34 Figs
35 Fruit
36 Furs
37 Gems
38 Glass
39 Gold
40-41 Hardwood
42-43 Herbs
44 Incense
45 Inix
46 Ink
47-48 Iron
49 Jade
50 Jewelry
51-52 Kanks
53 Kank Nectar
54-56 Leather
57 Marble
58 Medicines
59 Mekillots
60 Mirrors
61 Nuts
62-64 Obsidian
65-66 Oil
67 Paintings
68 Paper
69 Perfume
70 Resins
71-72 Rice
73 Rope
74 Rugs
75-75 Salt
76 Silk, raw
77 Silver
78-80 Slaves
81 Songbirds
82 Spell books
83 Spell components
84 Spice
85 Statues
86 Sugar
87-88 Tools
89 Vegetables
90-92 Water
93 Wax
94-95 Weapons
96-97 Wine
98-100 Wheat
Generating a cargo or two can tell you a lot about the caravan shipping it - whether it's a ponderous mekillot train bearing salt and hardwoods, or a swift crodlu phalanx carrying spices and silver (and maybe some spell components disguised as lunch, who knows?).

So I Got Level Drained Tonight



and I'm over it.

Since I'm usually the one running games, and have been since I was a kid, this has actually never happened to me, before. (I've had it happen in my games maybe a handful of times, and only one time that I can think of where it didn't just end up killing the character in question.) The bitch of it is, I saw it coming. We (the Fear Böners) are up in the eastern mountains, having somehow (against high odds of getting seriously squished) negotiated an alliance with the frost giants, but the whole thing hinges on our clearing out a cave system full of ghostly insubstantial nasties (the giants being too big to fit into the cave, you see). We were riding high on luck and smooth talk, having already survived a scrap with a roc besides the giant armistice, and honestly it was going to have turn sooner or later.

We fought a couple of relatively manageable beasties ("breath stealers", which do what it says on the tin, killing by suffocation), but when we entered the cavern with the ghostly-form-superimposed-on-skeleton sitting on the throne, I kinda knew it was time to pay the piper. The (mid-level) party cleric called to Kurdan and attempted to turn, no dice - and while my character just knew enough to be freaked out, the DM in me is already mentally rolling up a new guy. The apparition screeched and charged, taking a single spear hit from my fighter (Ordrick of the Hill People) before falling on him and SUCKING OUT HIS DAMN SOUL. Oof. Two levels, from 3 on the cusp of 4 to HELLO FIRST LEVEL FREDDY. (Unconscious, to boot.) Luckily, the next round our dwarven badass hit with a 20 for full damage, banishing the spirit, and we avoided a fate far worse than death (NO NOT THAT, c'mon, don't be gross).

Again, the DM in me knew it was a spectre, and that we got off EASY. It actually missed its first attack, and didn't get a chance to make a third. Beyond that, we were rolling well enough. (Although our thief sent one of his dogs to attack the thing, which had predictably tragic results for the animal lovers in the house (and probably tragic for us, later, since the words "spectral dog" were tossed around).) And, let's do the math: While being back at level 1 stings (SHIT FUCK GODDAMMIT), with the XP I'll net from treasure in the last couple encounters (and for surviving the encounter), I'll be back at 2nd the next time we can train, and at the level we're punching at as a party, 3rd a session or so after. Even until then, I'm sure as hell not equipped like a first level character. I've got plate mail and two well-trained (well-armored) war dogs. We netted a nice haul from the spectre, still to be sorted, and I've voice my *ahem* strong suggestion *cough cough* that I be first in line on that, namely on any spears or armor that come out of it.

Still - damn, that shit stings.

But fuck it. Some stuff is supposed to be SCARY, even to the players. And now my PC's got distinguished salt-and-pepper temples. Reed Richards gets all the girls, right? Besides, it was a great game moment - especially 'cause I was the only player at the table actually experienced enough to know that was a thing that could happen. The general intake of air when Matty dropped the 2-level bomb was priceless. The other players were genuinely taken aback (and you could see a general nervous shuffling of character sheets as everybody reevaluated their place in the game universe and considered exit strategies). And I got to experience one of old-school gaming's more "special" experiences. [Wonder Years narrator voice]In some small way, I think we all grew up a little bit that day.[/WYnv]


In Search of Adventure (Young Lord Steakfist Goes Forth)


Well, hell, that was fun. Wednesday's been kind of a big deal, lately - Wednesday is the night I actually get to PLAY D&D. Like, as a player. Most of the time, I'm the one running the games. (Sure most of you know how that is.) However, over the last 6 months or so, I've gotten to try out Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, gotten into a good handful of Labyrinth Lord sessions, and even banged out a session of our buddy's mythic Greece AD&D campaign. It's cool to get some time on the other side of the screen. (Heavy is the head that wears the Viking Hat, after all...) This week, though, a slot opened in our Wednesday night rotation, so I kicked off a new Classic D&D campaign of non-specific vintage. I'm using the Rules Cyclopedia as my reference, but the players are all using '81 Moldvay Basic books. Beyond telling the guys that thieves can't use two-handed weapons, it's close enough for government work - if anybody gets to Companion level, we'll address the differences. We're using GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, B1-9 In Search of Adventure, and my modest pile of B Series modules for background and adventure material. Compared to our usual Monday Forgotten Realms game (where my... well-stocked Realms library can be a double-edged sword, sometimes), this is a nice slim set of sources to work with, and of course Basic is just a whole other order of simple compared to drink-from-the-firehose-style AD&D. It's liberating. Now, I know it's base heresy, but I am enjoying the added minute or so the GAZ1 background tables add to B/X character creation. (For human characters, it amounts to 3 rolls, less for demihumans.) We get to find out a human PC's social standing, ethnic background (native Traladaran, Thyatian, or mixed), and their hometown. I'm firmly in the "character is what you do, not what you write down" school, and I like to see players develop their PCs in play. Two-page backgrounds are not encouraged in our games, much less a requirement. But with just 3 pieces of information, the guys were spinning off all kinds of speculation about their characters' place in the world, their family structures, and their relationships to each other. Great signal-to-noise ratio - once these guys are at Expert level, and their adventures expand in scale a bit, we'll have plenty of grist for the mill. We already have the illustrious dynasty of Lord Steakfist (and their ancestral home, "Castle Planet Fitness") contrasted with the ill-fated and penniless Brownwater clan of Black Eagle Barony (poor Dunder escaped that blighted land concealed in a pig cart, got killed in the face by a giant shrew in the first encounter, and was in short order replaced by his brother Slipsun). Great stuff. Let's talk about the source material a bit. In particular B1-9. I've seen this collection get a lot of bad press from completist Mystara folks, and on one level, I can see why. The premise is that it's a collection of the first 9 B Series adventures (I'm with you, so far), and that they're threaded together in a loose campaign - not a lead-you-by-the-nose "adventure path", but a branching web of adventure hooks that allows the players the lead in navigating (a great idea, and - even if you don't use the adventures presented - it shows how this can be done, which is an important lesson for new DMs using published material). Unfortunately, several of the adventures presented are chopped for space, and I have to question the decisions made on what got in and what didn't. B2 Keep on the Borderlands is included, but the Keep itself (one of the most iconic base towns in the hobby) is reduced to a paragraph describing the castellan brushing off the PCs. B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (the green, published version, not the extra-spicy orange version) is included, although the "programmed adventure" Chooose-Your-Own-Adventure content is skipped. (I don't miss it - as a matter of fact, this version is in some places better-presented than the[...]

Hex Crawling in Style


Haven't posted in a long time, but I had to recognize this.  Our Monday AD&D group finished their long-term mission last week, and this session was slated to be the "intermission" episode, so to speak.  I've been selling the guys on the whole hex crawl thing for months, now, and tonight was the night I had to put my money where my mouth was.  I had whipped up a quick player version of my local hex map (just masked out all the color for black and white printing, and all the areas the guys haven't gotten to, yet) and - since I didn't have any ink for the damned laser printer - fired off a copy via email to one of the guys to print at work.

I was expecting to get back 4 black and white laser printed sheets from a desktop printer.  Instead my roommate goes to the print lab at the school he does IT work for, and comes back with this monster hi-res poster map.  Looks AWESOME (and, man am I glad I sent him the vectored PNG rather than a rasterized JPG).  It really drove home the hex crawl concept, and the guys have already started making it their own with penciled-in notes and symbols for the crazy ruins and relics they've happened across (not to mention a big "LAND SHARK HERE" mark - yeah, they fought a bulette, lost a conveniently tasty halfling and a warhorse to it).  Without further ado, my awesome players' awesome player map (click for full-sized image):

Can't wait to run'em through this sucker some more, next week.

   - DYA

Vaguely-Remembered Realms (coming home)


21 years ago, I broke the shrinkwrap on a slim (but wiry) campaign box set from TSR (The Game Wizards, don'cha know), and dived head-first into the Forgotten Realms for the first time. And was completely absorbed in a way that other, arguably more useful pursuits (say, schoolwork) never quite managed. Greenwood and Grubb painted a hell of a picture with that first effort - the majority of the location entries were (at most) a single column, spare on game rules, absolutely dripping with flavor. Broad strokes, but what a set of lines to paint between. Thing is, I never really felt like I could do it justice. Lotta reasons - first of which being, I was friggin' 12, and I just didn't have the knowledge of pseudo-medieval living, the depth of pulp sword and sorcery reading, or the organizational skills to make it stick. I'll be honest, starting off with 2nd edition AD&D didn't help - as a budding DM, all the handwringing and finger-wagging in the PHB and DMG made me afraid to flex my muscles, and Dragon in the early 90s only reinforced that. I had one regular player, a little brother who'd make it through half a session at best, and a revolving door of confused try-onces - and that doth not a campaign make. A series of abortive attempts and false starts was all I could manage until several years on down the road.At 16 or so, I managed to hook up with a few folks who had some idea what was going on, and we strung a few games in a row here and there - but we'd usually only make it through half the session before the ambient level of booze and other assorted brainfoods reached critical mass and things would either drift gently apart, or (just as often) simply explode. Again, not really conducive to campaign play, and pretty soon bands and girls began to look like more attractive wastes of my time. (This was due, in no small part, to the rise of Vampire: The Masquerade, which began to fill the game stores with the same kind of people my punk rock friends and I would run out of Harvard Square on the regular - but, really, this was just another nail in the coffin.)So, somewhere around 22, 23, I start getting the itch again, only now there's a new ruleset out? I'll admit: For a returning player, d20 looked pretty good. A lot of what WotC was doing, I had been doing anyway, when I hung up the screen (spontaneous casting, full hp at first, etc - common enough homebrew solutions for small parties and new players). The rest looked good on paper - and, hey, there's a new Forgotten Realms campaign set, too! Keep in mind, I lost, oh, every damn thing I owned, around age 19 (long story - sleazy, ex-cop slum-mongering landlord, no money and less sense, got every last thing sold out from under me, and too far into the bottle to do anything about it - nice to know I can survive something like that, but I wouldn't recommend it), so with my old collection gone, new books were more than welcome. I ran two yearlong Realms campaigns under the yoke of d20, and - besides learning the hard way how d20 D&D collapses under its own weight past 5th level - I was just drowning in canon. 15 years of actual game material floating around, metric tons of novel plots shoved into the corebook with no structural support, and it was just a goddamn nightmare. But there's this thing that happens to Realms fans - you start to buy the "one Realms" line, start worrying about how your game looks to people who suck down every last drop of game fiction (note that these people were never really AT my table), and next thing you know, you're paralyzed. I eventually closed the book on the campaign, the ruleset, and the world, and dove feetfirst into Garweeze Wurld and HackMaster. (This quickly led to Greyhawk and several years of exploring puritanical, by-the-book Gygaxian AD&D - tip of the hat to many, many tireless Dragonsfoot posters. You guys argue about this shit so I don't have to.)Of late, things had sl[...]

Update On Not Having Any Updates


Hey, folks. If you're wondering why there's been so much gaping nothingness here, lately, it's because I'm in the home stretch to finish school. (Associate in C.S. with a concentration in Game Development and Simulation, as it happens.) After this next few weeks, things should pick up again to my usual half-assed posting schedule.For the time being, here's some crap to hold you over: The first is some line art that I did for an Intro to Drawing class - it's a work in progress, the image here is presented before shading.The second is a work in progress shot of the map for my Saltmarsh/southern Keoland sandbox game (a campaign we're just now getting off the ground, in the mode of Ben Robbins' West Marches campaign - basically a revolving cast/open door idea, which fits the schedules of my player base, most of whom are either in touring bands, or have crazy work schedules). It's composited together from several different sources, with my additions mostly coming out of (or based on results from) Kellri's (completely fucking essential) CDD#4 Old School Encountersnetbook. You'll note I'm gradually overlaying my stuff on top of the underlying regional map - the end product should look an AWFUL lot like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy maps, thanks in part to the hyper-useful screentone scans found at John Cooper's website. These are a perfect match for the old-school cartography style - very inspiring. (My players, kindly stay out.)See ya all once I'm out of this here tunnel - I can just see the light, now. ;)- DYA[...]

Diamond in the Rough: Murderhobo with a Plotgun


Once every year or so, amongst the millions of lines of special snowflaking and moral safe placeitude, manages to produce a line or two of actual content. Here's this year's contribution, coming in early and thus putting a lid on the forum's relevance until at least January 2013:

"The great part about being a murderhobo is that not only can you fight city hall, it turns out that it's usually extremely flammable."

It goes on to elaborate that

Likewise, the terrible part about trying to enslave a murderhobo is that they don't fear death or pain, can't be bargained with for better living conditions, have no loved ones or friends to threaten, and also are very murderous on top of that.

Words to live by.


Back in Black (and white): Not sure if want...


Huh. Wow. Honestly don't know how to feel about this:

Wizards Is Reprinting the AD&D Core Books! (via

(Old news, I know.)

On the one hand, you're supporting AD&D, and the Gary memorial as well. On the other hand, I was pretty ok with never giving WotC any money ever again, ever. And the irony is, they're not reprinting Unearthed Arcana (the one AD&D core book that REALLY needed a reprint, sans shitty bindings).

I mean, I want new (NEW) AD&D manuals. Don't get me wrong. And I like throwing in for support of the Gary statue (as long as it has gem eyes and is sufficiently trapped to discourage vandals). Honestly weighing the value of preordering and making sure I get some of these, and waiting and seeing in case the binding /printing sucks. They're at least leaving the contents alone, all original art & text in glorious black and white. (Hoping they're not all glossy stock, though.) And then there's the "attractive new cover design". *rolleyes* We'll see how THAT turns out (with WotC's track record, predicting lots of piercings and tribal tattoos, possibly a halfblind feycursed gelatinous cube weremonk fighting robots and bondage elves). 'Course, I could always sell'em if they're lame.


Sage Advice under a Dark Sun (or, "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Dragon!")


Here'e a handy-dandy link: All the "Sage Advice" Q&As (mostly Dark Sun-related) from Dragon #182 (not pictured above).

Dargonsfut forumz

First session of our Dark Sun game, tonight. Utterly surreal to be running 2nd Edition, again (it's been 15 years or so) rather than our usual mish-mash of Basic, 1e and HackMaster. Should be interesting.


Adventures in The Google (nonsense post)


Heh. Apparently when you do an image search for "blackleaf nooo", Mighty Thews comes up on the first page. That is all.


P.S.: If it's been a bit sparse around here, I'm currently in my last quarter of school and juggling music on top of it - not a lot of time for gaming, lately. We got a round or two of Mordheim in the other week, and I'm actually running 2nd Edition next week? (Dark Sun? That might generate a post or two.) And Paranoia the following weekend. But I'm not promising anything.

P.P.S.: So there's some actual content, here's a map of every D&D world on one globe. Probably compressed to shit, good luck with that.

The Middenheim Madam (and why the WFRP career system rules)


Real quick observation on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay career system:

The players are hard at work establishing a crime syndicate (the Crime Dudes), and one of the specialties they're looking to diversify into is the flesh trade. Hos, to be blunt. To facilitate this, they've put the word out on the street for an experienced ("old" was how they put it) doxy with house experience. A former madam if they could get one. Thus was born Marienburg Rose.

So now to stat our new NPC. Browse browse browse, I'm actually mildly surprised to find that neither 1e nor 2e WFRP books have a "prostitute" career (as completist as they otherwise are) - until I read twice under the "Camp Follower" entry. Uh-huh. Charm, Street Fighter, Sleight of Hand, Resistance to Disease, so on and so forth. Well, fair enough - and the career actually offers a good mix of survival and interpersonal skills. One career down.

Now, of course, they're not gonna have a "madam" career. Buuuuut - Innkeeper? That'll do for government work. And then I see that you can go directly from Camp Follower to Innkeeper in just 2 career changes via the Servant career. BANG.

The funny thing is, a character that's 3 careers in like this is actually fairly formidable in WFRP, at least to my first-career PC group. This tough old broad has a pile of people skills and is a nasty customer in a scrap, to boot. Should make for some interesting bar scenes if the PCs actually get a house going.


Not to worry, sir - I've got a Cunning Plan!


Notes from tonight's WRFP session, while they're still semi-fresh in my head: When we'd called it last time, the guys were fresh off a remarkably successful killing spree (especially down a dwarf, as they were). They'd been hired by a local nobleman to "forcefully acquire" a gem from a gang who'd recently made aquisition of it themselves - a stone, keep in mind, that local lore held to be tainted by a Chaos god no less than the patron of plagues himself, Father Nurgle (and one which, like crazy people, they still decided to fuck with). This turned out to involve picking their way through a series of already-stormed gang warrens, getting into a few pitched swordfights (maybe two?) and actually coming out alive and intact, and the odd bit of diplomacy (supplemented, of course, as always, by the Cunning Plan). We got to meet the lively and deeply silly Tileans (who I'm playing more or less as the Marx brothers in 3 Musketeer costumes, at least here) in the guise of the Valentina gang, who'd been thus far outfoxed and outfought by our stalwart gang of sanitation workers. As we picked up tonight, however, they met the one surviving person in the complex with any brains in their head - the Boss's bodyguard, Salasomthing or other. Sal something. *run to look it up* It's Sebastiano, apparently. Anyway, him. He manages to (very nearly) get the drop on them with a crossbow pistol (which the guys all immediately lusted after, of course - sealing his fate, or so I'd have thought), and avoid a whack at his noggin with Otto the graverobber's club, before convincing the party of the inevitability of casualties should they fight needlessly (something that ACTUALLY FUCKING WORKED for once, which just proves that Warhammer FRP is MAGIC). I think the fact that he was prepared to go into battle with brass knuckles had something to do with it, too, the players seemed to half respect that. Heh. So they pump him for information, successfully resist their deep needs to immediately murder him for his crossbow, and find out that the reason the Boss's bodyguard doesn't want to fight, is that the Boss's body has already been bloodily compromised - to the utter bewilderment of the bodyguard, who didn't see a thing. They find the body, sans head, track the blood to the not-anymore-quite-so-secret door (says the bodyguard: "The tracks, they lead to the book-a-shelf! But a book, she cannot kill a man! This makes-a no sense!"), and actually let the fucking guy go. (Take note, THAT NEVER HAPPENS.) Leave it to my guys, though: They offered him a job. After that, they trekked back through the sewers (where the Small But Vicious Dog proved quite useful tracking a fresh blood trail through the awfulness) to a side cavern wherein there was a minecart. A minecart containing both the boss's head and the corpse of his apparent killer. Oh, and the stone, which they immediately put in the Box For Evil Awful Things they'd been given for that express purpose. The guys knew something was up (I may have even heard an "I've got a bad feeling about this" in there somewhere). The corpse was covered with... rat bites. The rat... catching dog started to go apeshit. They took the hint and got in the minecart, just ahead of the Huge Fucking Swarm of rats. *this is where I make my DM face* They have a short Indiana Jones ride, find out the brake doesn't work, and realize that they're going WAY the fuck too fast. Resourceful fellows that they are, they decide to use the corpse as a brake. By hanging him over the back by his ankles. And letting his face drag behind them. Now, in my defense, I'm going to admit that I'd just watched Hobo With A Shotgun (which you should immediately go watch, too), and that this had a [...]

Son of the Return of the Lost Raiders of the Temple of Elemental Evil Part II: Elemental Boogaloo



Lately we've had a little trouble getting a full table. The usual reasons, jobs, school, everybody's in different bands, some folks are off at war. So I did what I do every few years, which is put out a random cattle call for gamers on the various Meetups, local game store forums, and so on. This is always a hoot - you're pretty much just dipping from the well, here, so you get all types of folks (ALL TYPES) showing up.

Now, historically speaking, I've generally gotten 1, maybe 2 long- to semi-long-term recruits, a handful of people who are cool but just not into our thing (or who aren't as inured to the constant criminal schemes, in-game frat pranks, and dick jokes - lately our table is kind of a fantasy version of the Trailer Park Boys), and 1 or two total neckbeards (who usually don't have the thickest of skin, and don't really last long). Some people dread this kind of thing, but I have fun with it - always a blast seeing somebody new getting a taste of our style of gaming.

This time I've got a double handful of responses - so I'm setting up a once-a-month weekend AD&D game, taking all comers, and we're gonna tackle the fucking Temple of Elemental Evil for real this time if it kills me. I've got 3 or 4 regulars, and as many or more randoms, so we've got a sizable group if half of everybody shows up (and it's a little easier to get attendance in a non-weekly game, in my experience at least).

I've dashed a couple parties against the rocky shores of T1, and couple against B1 in would-be preparation for Hommlett, so I've got a good bit of design work on the area done already, although it's not quite as detailed as other stuff (T1-4 was the very beginning of my experiments in hexcrawl, and I kinda didn't have a grasp on it, yet). So now I'm just pulling all my notes together and attempting to forge them into one cohesive campaign doc (the better to update, my pretty).

I'm looking forward to this - I think this time we're gonna kick that mother over and take its stuff.


P.S.: The image, if you didn't know, is the cover art of Burzum's "Det Som Engang Var", which of course was directly inspired by the cover art from T1-4. Entirely appropriate mood music for the campaign, in my humble opinion (YMMV on that one).

"The little dog bites! The sewer rat bites! The little dog bites!"


Randomly got the overwhelming urge to run Warhammer FRP this weekend. Without ever having run it before, or having read through the combat rules more than once like two years ago, or having played it more than 5 times (like about two years ago). Ran up the flag, ended up with 3 players for the evening. Luckily one of my guys has run it a couple times (and was amply capable of co-GMing), and it's actually pretty fucking light, rules-wise, so we pulled it off. Here's the quick and dirty: SHORT AND SWEEET WFRP SESSION REPORT Date: Current date is 2512 (10 years after the coronation of Karl Franz, 10 years before Storm of Chaos happens (or doesn’t)) Characters: Otto – grave robber from Hochland Gustav – rat catcher from Ostland Bigtooth – dwarf tradesman from the Zhufbar (World’s Edge Mountains) First session: PCs wake up, hung over, in a locked wagon, on their way to Middenheim, having been shanghaied into service as rat catchers after getting drunk at the Festival of St. Iverson in the village of Arenburg. They are held along with two thugs (Strigo and Piggy, brothers in arms if not in fact), and Hans (a bewildered young boatman, far from any river). Bigtooth starts a fight with Strigo, which quickly draws in Otto and Gustav (as well as Piggy), and the combatants pound each other until they are all exhausted (and soaked with foul stew by the guards). Finally they arrive at the great viaducts of Middenheim. They are taken to a barracks, and from there (their promise of service obtained by Serjeant Fogelmann), to a sewer grate. They are put down in the shit, literally, and locked in, while an angry mob of rat catchers and dung sweepers advances on the watchmen above. Bigtooth and Strigo immediately resume their earlier feud, only this time they are armed. A messy combat (again, literally) ensues, and both Strigo and Piggy are killed. (Strigo's leg was "demolished", and his skull then neatly bisected just above the mustache by the enraged dwarf's axe. Piggy, seeing this, slipped a gear, went berserk, and was cut down.) Meanwhile Hans and Otto look on with bewildered dismay. Eventually the remaining prisoners make their way down the sewer, bearing left at an intersection before the rat catcher’s small (but vicious) dog takes off after some prey. The party catches up, only to find more (and larger) rats than they’d bargained for. Bigtooth is nearly brought down by his wounds, everyone gets soaked in sewage, and only 1 rat is killed before the rest run off. So far, so good. [end session] I'm psyched to run this, I've been curious about it since just about forever (WFRP was big at the FLGS I got started at as a lad), and the system seems like it just oozes awesome. Picking through the available material to determine what from the 2e run is worthwhile, and what is just rules bloat. * Next time, I'll pick at their backgrounds a bit, dangle guild membership in front of the dwarf, and fuck with them a little bit more. Assuming they make it out of the sewer (it's not looking too good, even the small but vicious dog has broken ribs, haha). - DYA * It should go without saying that I'm running WFRP 2e, not the Descent-with-Skaven board game that FFG's hawking under the WFRP name, nowadays. Fuck that shit.[...]

Dragons of Summer Boredom


Haha, sooooooo, I went and bought myself a Dragonlance module? *ducks tomatoes*Alright alright alright, lemme back up and justify, here. Even back in the distant, primordial days of the early 90s, the setting wars were already in full swing. I got turned on to the Forgotten Realms grey box, and therefore was held in sneering contempt by the Dragonlance partisans at the local gaming store. (Meanwhile the Greyhawk holdouts looked on, shaking their heads knowingly and writing angry Usenet posts about Carl Sargent.) And, for my money, DL quickly became the clear harbinger of all that was wrong with 90s (A)D&D. (Never mind that the 2e Realms supplements would soon establish their own list of crimes, more concerned with OCD-inspired meticulous setting detail (read baggage) than the railroady plotwagon excesses of Dragonlance.)Well, it's a lot of years later, and thanks to the internet I'm all too familiar with the atrocities of Lorraine and the Blumes in the 80s, and while I can see where it's tempting to find a scapegoat for the fall of the golden age, the Realms still don't fit. (See THIS blogpost for a good list of reasons why. ) But the meme still persists, no matter how ill-placed and uninformed the arguments.So if the 'Hawk diehards are (passionately, heart-breakingly) wrong about FR, it follows that I may have judged Dragonlance a bit harshly as well. I've always enjoyed the fiction (the stuff by Weiss & Hickman, at least - let's ignore Sturm & Kit's moon trip and all that crazy shit), although I'll still maintain that good fiction is often anathema to good gaming. The glut of 2e-style setting supplements and later modules always turned me off, but reading through the 1e Dragonlance Adventures hardcover describes an intriguing (finely-tuned for the desired effect) AD&D setting. So when I had the chance to pick up a used (near-mint) copy of DL1 Dragons of Despair at the friendly local, I went for it. (They have the whole original run, from what I can tell, but I'm not THAT invested quite yet.) The question is: Can this series be run as a "real" campaign, with players who may or may not have read the fiction (probably not), and who don't have any special pre-formed attachment to the setting? And without the rails on? I don't know, yet. So far, I can at least vouch that DL1 contains a wilderness hexmap (high marks for usefulness), and some interesting encounters. Seems like you could have a good time with the material as presented, and if you were willing to spin some BS should the PCs employ "lateral thinking" (i.e., having the attention span of a cross between a housecat and a superball, like all PCs), things should work out. (I do have the hardcover and a map, I flatter myself that I've got the DM chops to make something interesting out of an aborted run at the "plot", should it come to it.) The question is, does this play out once you're a module or two "deep", and the PCs have had more chances to "rewrite the script"? (Guess I'm gonna have to pick up the next one and see.)At the very least it's something to read. - DYAP.S.: And apparently the cover art above is actually by Clyde Caldwell, not Larry Elmore? I never knew. Suppose I should've guessed, what with the distinct lack of almond eyes and boobies.[...]

I am playing the SHIT out of Cyberpunk 2020


And I'm really quite excited about it.I only feel the need to trumpet it in this fashion because, by all appearances, NOBODY is talking about this game online. Which is a crying goddamn shame, on a few levels. But mainly because CP2020 was the second game I ever purchased (and the second game I ever ran), and I never really got a chance to run it through its paces the way I would've liked back in the day. Beyond that, there's a pretty bad-ass iteration of the CP2020 rules available in Interlock Unlimited, a fan-created project (albeit with the official nod from Mike Pondsmith, Cyberpunk 2020 creator) that is very much in the spirit of the OSR - taking the spirit of the original, smoothing out a few kinks and bolting on a few bits where the author's campaign needed them (mainly in the form of supplements, like one for the author's Night City PD campaign, another expanding the Mad Max-style American midwest). I like a lot of the tweaks, mainly streamlining Friday Night Firefight in a few places, and blurring the class-based/skill-based line a little more (providing a pretty clean option for multiple Roles). (The layout could use some love, but that's pretty much par for the course for old CP2020 fans. ;) )System aside, I've been a big fan of the assumed setting in the CP2020 rulebook since I first ran across it. It's got the same pitfalls as any future setting - obsolete in places as soon as it hits the press - and a few of the setting assumptions were charmingly quaint even in the 90s, especially the information tech-oriented ones - but if you can't see your way clear to either fixing or ignoring these bits in a futuristic game, you're probably better off finding a game that spoonfeeds you monthly updates (I understand White Wolf does pretty well on this model). Personally, I started monkeying with the timeline when I was 15, and half this shit hadn't come to pass, yet; there's a bit more to be done, now, but that's half the fun.The tech anachronisms are dead-easy to fix - cellphones are cheap, cybermodems run on cellular networks (towers only available in city centers, outside the city you've still gotta jack in, and running wireless is slower so you'll take a -2 penalty to your rolls) (or something). Audio and video content is distributed via the Net like everything else. That's pretty much it. (I'm still working out exactly how useful the "dataterm in your skull" chip will be in this paradigm.) Other than that, most of it lines up with our understandings of information and tech, even 20 years after the game hit the shelves, if you're willing to sort it out.My game is gonna be centered around Boston Metroplex (as I imagine it), although I'll keep Night City as an occasional destination (gotta work in some jet-setting here and there) (and it's a great city supplement), but the great thing about the CP2020 setting (*cough*Gibson*cough*) is that it'll do pretty much anything. Mad Max-style road raiders, got it. Street-level dirt, got it. Glittery cyberhipsters making moves in corporate circles, it does that without even trying. Hard-boiled grunts, cybered to the gills and racking up bodycounts, no prob. And so on, it's all there if you're willing to spend some time on the specifics. Or, failing that, there's a supplement for pretty much every established subgenre. So I'm just excited as shit about this, this is a great game that's been sitting on the shelf for a few decades, waiting for me to make sweet, sweet gamer love to it and lay it down by the fire. And so on. I'm the last dude around to care what's cool or what people are playing these days, but hopefully if we keep[...]

Medieval Demographics (or, "The Peasants are Revolting")



If you don't know about this, well, you're fucking up. I don't know what to say. This shit (the Domesday book) has been up for a long-ass time, I vaguely remember consulting it regularly when I was running my d20 Cormyr campaign (which was a LONG-ASS TIME ago), and it's sprouted features since then.

What I'm interested in here is "how many people can [x] hexes of arable land being worked at [y] relative efficiency feed?" Domesday Book takes easily-arrived-at figures and gives you projected data on how many settlements the land will support (and of what size), how many fortifications will be required to hold the land, what size standing security force (guards, watch, etc) will be present, and how many of several key professions will be supported by this domain. (It's not ideal, for my purposes, that it uses kilometers, but beggars can't be choosers.) (Pretty sure it says that in the DMG somewhere, at any rate.)

Now, I'm actually using Midkemia Cities to generate my city professions, and there is some assumed demographic info there, and there's some figures from the Wilderlands booklets that have other figures, so I'm still kinda juggling all 3 just to see what feels right. The irony in all of this is that this shit won't matter for quite a while, but once players are at the "worrying about domains" stage of the game, it'll be too late to change all of this crap without serious re-working, and I'm gonna want a clear picture of the situation at the commencement of full-on armies and politics shenanigans.


P.S.: Oh yeah, the map is from Darklands, the best open-ended sandbox RPG set in the Holy Roman Empire that nobody's ever heard of.

P.P.S.: Oh, and here's Michael Bolton as Captain Jack Sparrow.


Medieval Professions by Social Class (or, "Get a Job, Hippie")



This is pretty sweet. A list of medieval professions at They're grouped into broad specialties (farmer, artist, etc.) but the actual professions themselves are nicely granular (as the very guild-oriented professional classes tended to be).

This is relevant to my interests, BTW, because I'm attempting to cobble together a rough profession-based "no-system skill system" for D&D (or "insert your pseudo-medieval European fantasy game here"). Basically, just a roll on the social class table from the Unearthed Arcana, and a second roll on a social class sub-table of professions - each one gets a handful of skill names (some of which you might have only a 25% or 50% chance of actually acquiring), and that's it. No numbers, no rules whatsoever, you just have those skills, write'em down. If it comes up in a game, we'll deal with it during the game.

Luckily, I'm the proud owner of Gary Gygax's Living Fantasy, and that book lists an astounding array of medieval professions, and it groups them using the same class hierarchy (lower-lower through upper-upper) that the UA does. (Shocker, huh? :D) so between that, the above link, and a few other online resources, it shouldn't be a huge chore to at least put together fairly comprehensive profession lists. From that point, I can pretty much just fill in the interesting ones as I go along - if "land court bailiff" or whatever isn't represented on the skill list, I'm sure nobody will kick.

We did a very tentative test of this at the game tonight; we know know that the fighter is from an upper-class military background, the thief is the son of a well-to-do merchant, and the elf's parents were wealthy antiquarians. (Which of course means so far nobody knows how a shovel or a mop works, or how to navigate by the sun or the stars, for example.) (Should I run a polo-themed adventure, they're all set, though!)


Dirty Dungeons, Done Dirt Cheap



It's not too terribly dissimilar from a double handful of similar tools (and the more the merrier as far as these go, the usefulness increases along with the variety), but this one a) creates a fairly tight "maze"-style dungeon via geomorph, b) stocks them with B/X creatures (or just Basic, or d20), and c) creates some detail with results from the DMG dungeon dressing tables. The dungeons definitely have a certain style, and wouldn't use them for everything, but for a couple of quick "just in case" dungeon levels to toss on the wilderness map? Perfect.


Wilderness hexes as dungeon rooms - Putting the "howl" in "howling wasteland"


I have a million good resources to stock wilderness areas. Choosing between them and then deciding how to apply them is the trick. My main source material for this latest campaign has been the monster encounter tables from the B/X rulebooks, and the Judges Guild random ruins tables to give the areas some character. Once you're used to the JG tables, one line can easily provide a launching point for tons of spot detail. But every ruin having a monster ends up being a bit excessive. And you certainly don't want a substantial treasure at each location. Nor do you want every entry to be a deathtrap. Of course you can just use your judgement, but the programmer in my likes to have a methodology to start with (which I then freely ignore to taste).Then it occurred to me - why not just stock the hex like I was stocking a dungeon?Using the dungeon room contents table from B/X, 2 of 6 rooms have a monster, 1 in 6 a trap, and 1 in 6 have "special" contents (the remainder standing empty). Rooms with monsters have treasure fully half the time, while trapped and empty areas contain loot less frequently (2 and 1 in 6, respectively). This, for me, is a perfectly acceptable ratio for outdoors areas, and it's scalable to whatever level of detail / population density / ruin frequency you want. For example, I needed to stock a 10 hex x 10 hex area in a hurry for our last game. I went through every hex in order, rolling d2 ruins results for each one. For each of these ruins, I rolled the standard d6 dungeon contents roll - if monster was indicated, I stocked the lair from the Expert Set tables (note that more than a few of these end up being men or demihumans). If it came up trap, the item/location was described as being potentially harmful to the players (this is a great way to throw in wilderness hazards like rockfalls and quicksand, BTW). "Special" results got "lost world" / weird fantasy-type stuff (gates, lasers, dreamworld crap, etc.), and empty "rooms" just got an unihabited / unguarded ruin or relic.This process went smoothly enough with a notebook just jotting notes - when I added Tablesmith to the mix, it got a hell of a lot faster. has the Ruins & Relics tables in TS format, which is just beyond fucking awesome. (TS is free to use, but there's a $10 registration to disable the nag - I STRONGLY advise you to check out the program and see if you don't think 10 bucks is actually a steal, and to consider registering.) This is an amazing piece of software for anybody that loves tables. You know you want it.So, basically I end up with 100 hexes, each with one or two "somethings" in it (on top of the handful of locations already included from the Silver Princess wilderness map). Enough of those are monster lairs that you can get in a fight in maybe every other hex without me adding new creatures to the map, which is about right for the "first stock" by my tastes. As the players wander they'll uncover (and/or slaughter) map contents gradually, but the timed encounters will also _add_ new results to the map - so "restocking" is, I guess, almost automated? We'll see how that works in play, at least. - DYA[...]

Posting on is Fun and Rewarding


pic semi-related


(Note that I actually don't engage in trolling over there, but the comic above describes what it's like to even attempt to participate in the discussion if you're a) not into the flavor of the day (or at least not fawningly apologetic to those who are), and b) not in the emotionally-safe-place weaboo cool-kid's-club. SO ANNOYING.)


Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Saving Throws (But Were Afraid To Ask)


Hahaha... So, every once in a while, dredging through the open sewer that is yields a nugget of wisdom, nestled gently amongst the turds. This is pretty great:


It's a discussion of old-school saving throws, and the perceived reasoning behind them. I've seen this kind of thing on Dragonsfoot here and there, but not with this level of thought and illustration. Worthwhile reading, I'll have this in the back of my mind next time I pull an, "ok, save vs. [THING]" out of my ass in-game.

Valley of the Silver Princess (or, "How to See Gulluvia On 50cp a Day")


Running House D&D this Wednesday, or so I'm told. ("House D&D" being "Basic D&D with housemates and associates, including girlfriend-types and not specifically aimed at super grognards the way we usually roll around here".) Last time (the first time), we ran one session of the (banned) orange-cover version of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (weirdness very much in - see HERE for details (UNLESS YOU'RE PLAYING AND THAT MEANS YOU, YOU SNEAKY ENGLISH K'NIGITS)). They spent most of the session getting there (jumping around city roofs and playing 007 before getting to the green dude with the hook), and then proceeded to make it a hundred feet or so in, blunder into a pit trap, and get their asses more or less handed to them by militaristic kobolds. Barely managing to force a failed morale check, driving the overly-effective dogmen away, the party limped back to the entrance, short a player character.So now they're in need of warm bodies and an outfitter. (Besides the dead PC from last time, we may have one or two new players.) They're in poor shape for the "wander around until we inevitably run across imprisoned adventurers" thing, so that means travel. I'm loathe to handwave such things - sure, you can say "you get to town X with Y random encounters on the way", but I dig when things evolve a bit more organically. TO THE MAPPING CHAMBER.I'm basing this on the overland map in (orange-cover) B3, sort-of-mostly shoehorned into the corresponding area from the Mystara map included in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Which is not to say I'm giving much if any weight to the Mystara stuff that's gone before - the material from B3 is pretty clearly out of line with what's been published for this area since, and I'm not a huge Mystara scholar anyway - but I figure I have the RC, and the pretty map pages in it, I may as well make use of it for the surrounding areas. Most of what I've done here is actually just North of the extreme Northwest corner of the RC Mystara map - which also means that the Western border of my map is "off the charts", even in the source material. So that's where I can get freaky-crazy - I'm envisioning a vast, weird steppes area populated by barbarians and giant animals (stolen from Judges Guild, natch), with a spice road across it and lots of "on the road" zaniness. With a nice, dangerous reputation to keep folks away from it before I've actually done any of the design work, of course. :DWith that context in mind, I spent some time mapping the locations and routes (roads, paths and rivers) from B3 onto my RC-based hex map. (Using the 5-mile Judges Guild scale for this.) (Yes I know it was supposed to be 15 miles, no I don't care.) Some map distortion crept in getting things to fit where I wanted them, but I managed to more or less preserve the distances between locations, so fuck it. From there, we have a pretty bare map. Time to flesh it out.Using the "habitation" table from the AD&D DMG (pg. 173), I rolled the "chance of habitation" for every hex in a 15 x 15 hex area. Any weird results (assuming that the main towns were those on the map, and that there weren't a bunch of extra cities, for example) were massaged out (either moved somewhere useful, or ignored). Got a bunch of small thorps & hamlets, a ton of individual settlements / camps, and more than a few ruins. Using the "race of settlement ruler" table from Kellri's GDD#4, we find that there are a lot of displaced dwarven [...]

Repurposing Battletech Maps (or, "Re-Re-Inventing The Wheel")



School is very very crazy and gaming is pretty few and far between, lately, so I was psyched to have a chance to break out the Battletech stuff (for the first time in a loooong time) the other day. (Got two weeks off until it's back to Crazy Robots and Polygonland.) Introduced one of the roommates to tabletop BT - he's an old hand at the PC series, so most of it was already familiar. We did a pretty standard "attack/defend" scenario, just 'mechs (no combined arms stuff like tanks or infantry) and strictly 3025 designs (and level 1 rules). Today we'll probably do something similar, and then maybe we'll start working in the non-'mech stuff. I've always been curious how that mode of play goes - all my BT experience has been strictly 'mech-on-'mech.

So I'm reading the Mechwarrior book (the RPG chocolate to BT's boardgame/mini hybrid peanut butter), and there's discussion of running man-to-man combat using the standard Battletech maps (with a 5 meter to a hex scale). This looked lke fun, but it also occurs to me - why not use Battletech maps for other games where outdoor combat comes up a lot? I've never been a huge fan of wilderness layouts drawn on battlemats - visually it just doesn't work for me the way it does with dungeons - but I already own a big pile of hexed-out terrain sheets, with beautiful art no less. Next time I have occasion, I'm gonna whip out a few BT mapsheets and see how it flies. (The big decision: What scale to use (the hexes are a little bigger than the 1" I'm used to on my mat), and whether to bother restricting figures to the hexes, or to just use a ruler (a la traditional mini wargaming).

Of course this repurposing thing is nothing new - our learned and crusty readers will already be aware that Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival map was the original wilderness map for Gary's home game. Has a nicely circular feel, this.

It occurs to me as well that AD&D inherited OD&D's outdoor scale of 1" to 10 YARDS (as opposed to feet, as it is in indoor settings like the dungeon), and off the top of my head I can't remember whether Classic D&D followed suit. (The next chance I'll likely get to use this is our still-fledgling house Red Box game - the guys (and gal) came out of the Palace of the Silver Princess with one less adventurer than they went in with, and are considering making the trek down out of the mountains into the valley below, in search of able sword-arms and a decent outfitter.)

This would be a great fit for Traveller, as well, especially if I ditch Trav's assumed scale - the old Snapshot ship maps are beeeeyootiful, but who the hell wants to track down 15mm sci-fi minis when most everything else I play is 28mm and up?