December 28, 2012

THE BLACKWYRM BARONY

Click to enlarge

The Blackwyrm Barony is located in a narrow vale surrounded by bare woods and steep mountains: a grim, medieval borderland where civilization grasps to survive against those savage beings who dwell in the wilderness, and other nameless horrors which seldom crawls out of the forest to unleash dead and bane upon the helpless mortals. The region is especially famous for the Putrescent Vaults of Yoth (hex 0803), a vast and mostly unexplored mega-complex of underground halls and twisted corridors, supposedly the burial place of a mysterious, otherworldly race that left the planet eons ago. The House Blackwyrm rule over the Barony for thirteen generations, maintaining the status quo by means of brutal acts of repression. They rose to power when their ancestor, Eric Blackwyrm, slayed the dragon Smorg who had settled in the vale several years before, tyrannizing the inhabitants with incessant requests of sacrifices not to burn the whole place down to ashes. The words on their coat of arms say Debes Mihi Unum, "you owe me one", and none in the Barony ever questioned it.

Main Campaign Areas and Motives
  • The Putrescent Vaults of Yoth are kind of a lovecraftian mega-dungeon, constructed by the Serpent-kin to hide from the upper world and populated by all kind of unspeakable horrors.
  • Struggle against the tyranny of the House Blackwyrm by unearthing their terrible secret: the pact between Eric and the dragon Smorg, who faked his death in change of quiet and secret sacrifices and still lurks in his cave beneath the Devil's Pit (hex 0903). (Yes, the dragon's lair and the vaults may be loosely connected).
  • The tomb of Eric Blackwyrm (hex 0905), possible location for The Tomb of Horrors.
Rules
  • Most likely Labyrinth Lord
  • Realms of Crawling Chaos
  • Carcosa and Realm of Chaos mutation tables

December 27, 2012

KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS FINAL RUSH

Yesterday (and the day before yesterday) I met up with some friends to play in our mini BX campaign using module B2 The Keep On The Borderlands. We don't get to play often, like once every few months, and I'm running this game for a year and a half now. It's very satisfying to see people who never ever played rpgs going all mad about D&D, and I think I did everything to provide them with the best old school fantasy experience possible: loads of monsters, unreliable NPCs, and a good dose of Dungeon Master's sadism. (Laughing at their 1's and exulting at monsters' 20's do more than half the trick, you know.) During the session we played on the 25th they killed the Owlbear, fucked around with some Grey Oozes, and finally entered the Temple of Chaos. They were very clever (and lucky) in pointing directly to the chamber with the acolytes, Sleep-ing every one of them but one, who they Charm-ed to get information on the lair of the Evil High Priest (they called The Greater Evil). By the time the session ended they had a good plan, a good amount of information, and I was pretty sure that the next game would have marked the end of this mini-campaign with a great final climax.

But then, you know, players always have to surprise you and so they did.

Instead of heading directly to the Temple, they stopped in room 56 to fuck around with the evil cultists. Once again, they very cleverly made use of the Sleep spell, and had every four of them in one round, with the advantage of surprise. If you know something about B2, you know how important is to be sneaky at this point of the game. So, instead of moving on to the final confrontation, they eventually decided they'd slay three of the cultists, save one for some interrogation. (The kind that involves cutters, pliers and hot iron.) Needles to say, the cultist woke up screaming like a pig. I rolled for wandering monsters once, twice, three times and finally someone in the temple heard the noise and ring the massive bell. Loads of undead was approaching the room from north and south. If you ask me, that's a situation in which you run as hell, making room among the undead by turning them to reach the exit as fast as your short halfling legs allow you. If you ask my players, they're more like "WHOA TONS OF MONSTERS! COME AND GET IT YOU WANDERING PILES OF XPs!", and thus they entrenched in the room, cast Hold Portal on the northern door and decided to fight till death. With AC 2 Dwarves in the front line, polearms in the second, and AC5/3hp skeletons approaching two at a time from the southern door they were doing pretty good, until some cultist started to launch molotov cocktails inside the room to set everything on fire (save vs. poison or suffer 1d6 damage from carbon monoxide EVERY round). So out they went to retire, and some other cultist cast Darkness on them. And you know, skeletons don't need no light to beat the shit out of your stinking adventurer's ass. They eventually lost one fellow in the darkness (his fate unknown, as of now), and managed to flee.

Note: The only Lawful character in the party, a Cleric (also, the one who suggested they'd torture the cultist fucking up every effort of sneaking inside the Temple), decided not to destroy the evil scripts found in room 56. Instead, he would keep them for study. Ironically enough, destroying them would have granted him no less than 600 XPs, not to divide with anyone else. His comment after the game was: "I promise not to torture evil cultists for the sake of it ever again. Nor to collect satanic memorabilia instead of setting them on fire, for fuck's sake!"

So, wounded and sad they returned to the Keep. They told the lord about their last foray into the Caves of Chaos, and he was all "You fools! You unleashed the doom above us!" and "Let the women and children go! Fortify the Keep! THEY'RE COMING FOR OUR SOULS!" and around midnight of the same day, the Army of Darkness was slowly crawling out of the woods to raze the Keep.

So yes, the next session is most likely going to be some kind of small scale war, in which the party will finally confront with the undead servants of Chaos. (And possibly die in the attempt.) What a brilliant mess they made! Nonetheless, every last one of them was so amazed, so happy about it, and a little sad this game is about to end. It was fun as hell to play it, and doubtless the best campaign I've ever ran.

December 23, 2012

YESTERDAY I WAS IN THE MOOD TO DRAW STUFF

And so I did. You'll notice that there are some errors here and there, but remember that I never studied art, and that each of these took about an hour to make. (Also, sorry for the low-res scans).

Chaos Warrior
First is a Chaos Warrior from WFRP, featuring some of my favorite mutations from Realms of Chaos. I messed up a little with the scar, but I'm quite satisfied with this one. Otty (aka my girlfriend) said that the sword's scabbard really looks like a massive cock. I'd call that a feature more than a issue, tough. The reverse face was really fun to draw.

How to kill a goblin with a massive sword
Second one is a fighter killing a goblin. I messed up a little with the axe (which is very small, and supposed to be behind the sword, until Otty suggested that it should be in front of that). I'm not very good at drawing blood, but I think I made a good work with perspective. I also experimented a bit with shadows, and I can tell it didn't go very well. But I also think the brain slashing detail is really cool.

December 19, 2012

SWORDS & WIZARDRY WHITEBOX HACK I

Here's a to do list of stuff I'd like to modify, add and rewrite to make the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules more suitable for my own use:
  • Getting Started
    • Modify the text to make the optional Universal Attribute Modifiers rule the official one.
  • Character Classes
    • Rewrite the introduction to include a streamlined advancement table similar to the one found in 3.X edition. (Possibly included lately as an optional rule).
    • Add a section for simple Multi-classing (again, in the spirit of 3.X edition). (Possibly included lately as an optional rule).
    • Modify the BHB advancement according to the 3LBBs
    • Make up a Thieves class that integrates with the below-mentioned skill system.
    • Rewrite races description to integrate my simple Skill system.
    • Eliminate the Elf Variant paragraph.
  • Items and Equipment
    • Eliminate the AAC paragraph
  • Playing the Game
    • Import the LotFP Grindhouse Edition encumbrance rules.
    • Make the Statement of Intentions rule the default one.
    • Rewrite the combat section to include the Target 20 mechanic.
    • Modify the rules for character death to include the Glimpse on the other side table.
    • Tweak the Turning Undead paragraph to make it the same as it was in the 3LBBs.
    • Add Old School Saving Throws from the 3LBBs.
  • Spells
    • Include guidelines for magic research and magic item creation based on cathegories (scrolls, rings, armor, weapon, etc.), possibly inspired by this post at Untimately and LotFP Grindhouse Edition.
  • Running the Game
    • Modify or rewrite the paragraph to include the random room content table from the 3LBBs (possibly modifying it so that you don't need multiple dice rolling to determine the content of a single room - Monster Only, Monster with Treasure, Treasure Only, Empty).
    • Experience Points based on monsters HDE (100xp per each HDE point).
  • Monsters
    • Include the Random Monsters Determination by HDE tables and the Wilderness Monsters tables from 3rd printing (or the 3LBBs, or a combination of both).
  • Revise the text for typos and make it consistent with changes. Possibly hire someone to proofread it.
  • Possibly draw a new B/W cover based on Holmes Basic.
  • Print it, fold it, and play the hell out of it.
  • Make it available for anyone to download.
Now that's a lot of stuff to do, so I will stick on the 1st printing until I have everything done. Now, if only I had some paper to print it.

TALES OF THE WANDERING PRINCESS

This Saturday I'm going to run a one-on-one game with my girlfriend, who is totally new to roleplaying games. I have some of notes on a village (Camponebbioso, which loosely translates as Misty Fields in English), a bunch of rumors, and a couple of NPCs she can interact with. While playing with newbies is nothing new to me (most of the people I played with since I returned to D&D were completely new to the game), solo games are something I rarely dealt with. But I really want her to enjoy this session, so that it can possibly turn into some kind of irregular game.

As for the rules, I decided to run Swrods & Wizardry Whitebox, 1st edition, with some minor modifications (streamlined advancement, Thieves, skills, the Target 20 mechanic, multiple saving throws, the Save or Die rule, experience for killing monsters) and no miniatures. One of the things I want to make sure is not to threat S&W as a clone of D&D, but as a game in itself. I hope this will lower down the frustration of not having a perfectly adjusted clone, you know. Yes, I do suffer of some kind of mild compulsive disorder. Go figure.

December 14, 2012

FLAY AND RESKIN: GNOLLS BE BEASTMAN

Now that's badass
Gnolls are stupid. Like kobold-stupid. On the other hand, I am lazy. Like, Italian-lazy. So instead of coming up with a new monster, I will just use the Gnolls stats to represent Beastman in my games from here on. I like to call this process flay and reskin: same old stats, new exciting flavor.

Now, for your edification and enjoyment, I would like to point you to this Wikipedia entry for the Broo, the monsters that inspired the Warhammer Fantasy Beastman:
"Broo or Goatkin are creatures with the body of a man and the head of a goat, or some other animal. Broos are filthy creatures, always carriers of disease. They worship Malia, the Mother of Disease, in addition to their patroness, Thed, the goddess of rape and mother of Chaos. Broo have the ability to mate with any other species, with the child eating its way out of the host at full gestation. The newborn would distribute traits of parent and host. Within Dragon Pass (where most players set their adventures), goats are generally considered ritually unclean animals (perhaps because of their association with Broo) and are rarely herded."
Now that's fucking badass.

SKILLS

I often wonder why D&D always failed in putting together a nice and elegant skill system, especially since the seeds for such system where present in the game since 1974. So I decided to extrapolate the skill system from the LBBs, and merge it to the BX edition (or Labyrinth Lord). You may find this simple little system to work perfectly with Swords & Wizardry, if the universal attribute modifiers house rule is used (see Ability Modifiers moreover).

Categories
There are six categories for skills:
  • Breaking doors
  • Listening at doors
  • Locating mechanical traps
  • Locating secret doors
  • Hiding
  • Surprise
As a general rule, characters succeed at a skill check with a 2 in 6 chance. Since the basic assumption of D&D when it comes to dice is that you better roll high, characters succeed in a skill check if they roll 5 or more on a six-sided die. (From here on, 5+.)

Racial Modifiers
The skill check is modified according to the character race:
  • Elves get a +1 at Locating secret doors
  • Dwarves get a +1 at Locating mechanical traps
  • Halflings get a +1 at Hiding
  • Humans get a -1 at Listening at doors

Armor Modifiers
The skill check is modified according the character's armor:
  • Chain mail: -1 at Hiding and Surprise, +1 at Breaking Doors
  • Plate mail: -2 at Hiding and Surprise, +2 at Breaking Doors

(Optional) Ability Modifiers
Every skill refers to a particular Ability and is modified accordingly:
  • Breaking Doors: Strength
  • Listening at doors: Wisdom
  • Locating mechanical traps: Wisdom
  • Locating secret doors: Intelligence
  • Hiding: Wisdom
  • Surprise: Dexterity

September 9, 2012

Even More Ideas For The Call

A new psychotropic drug recently made its appearance on the streets of New York City. From the yuppies to the homeless, everyone is getting addicted to it (easiness of finding, cheapness, fashionable appealing). What the customers don't know is that this drug, aside from its chilling and tripping effects, is also a way to open up their minds and make them dream about R'lyeh in order to create a strong magical field upon all the city, from which the evil cultists (member of the above-mentioned international conspiracy, see previous posts) can barrow the amount of MPs necessary to complete a certain ritual (OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS) and contact (OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS). Three days ago the DEA Police planned a raid in the biggest reputed factory of this new drug, (SOMEWHERE, OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS). It ended up with six dead officers, and one dead drug dealer. (Actually an infiltrated; the police haven't still shared this information because they have two others, and they don't want the public opinion to know about this. So, it's up to the characters to find it out.)

In a public conference, they said the raid failed because of a tip, but really some of the DEA officers were also involved in the conspiracy, and shot the others in the back. The coroner has collected evidences that proof this, but is afraid to share them (most likely received some kind of pressure). She will try to contact the characters in order to receive some help, just because they appear to be out of the conspiracy (she doesn't trust any policeman in service). She will be probably killed at some point before she can reveal too much (who said Hounds of Tindalos? Ah!) so that the players will now they are on something.

On a side-note, think of the international conspiracy as some kind of reversed Delta Green. They can stop the characters bank accounts, make them appear as criminals, even delete all their records so that they officially "never existed".

Some More (Late Night) Thinking On The Call


  • Modern days setting, starting in London or even Milano. The characters get somehow sucked in this world sprawling international conspiracy, whose head cultists masters control everything: politicians, police officers, etc. I can't help but imagine the faces of the players when they realize the only organizations who could provide some help not only don't want to hear what they have to say, but actually try to kill them/have them imprisoned. Perhaps some criminal organization is involved too, and some other criminal organization will provide help just to impede the counterpart etc. Never played Masks of Nyarlathotep but I wonder if the general idea is something similar?
  • I want to make more use of northern/eastern Europe than the average CoC campaign. Perhaps with such things as a pagan druidic cult and scientology fanatics who are actually puppets in the hands of the conspirators.

September 8, 2012

The Call

Ideas for a short Call of Cthulhu campaign:

  • All the characters are part of a very small private investigation office, specialized in the occult and mysterious. Before starting the campaign, each of the players get one random obscure secret from the Kult RPG (they are very cool and vary from "Victim of medical experiments" to "Sole survivor of dramatic/inexplicable event").
  • The game basically works out as a sandbox: at the beginning of every adventure, the party gets clues from newspapers, friends, and even clients. They are free to go wherever they want.
  • Don't use the abstract hit point system. Instead, a localized wounds and wound levels, such that if an investigator gets shot in the arm he/she won't be able to use it for a while, and if a second blow is taken there's a very high probability that he/she will faint after too much pain. And, of course, Things From Beyond and regular street gangsters and cultists can blow your investigator's head out. Mythos entities will still use the abstract hit point system, even if humanoid in shape.
  • No Library Use ability. Instead, use the ability related to the kind of information the investigators is looking after (i.e. if the investigator wants to know about the early days of the Chapel Of Contemplation in Barker Street, roll on History).
  • If you're looking after some evidence, you never fail to obtain it. If you fail the roll, you only get a partly, possibly cryptic clue instead of the real clue. Thank you for nothing Trail Of Cthulhu.
  • The only problem is, as always, the setting. But perhaps I will try something interesting in the Italian edition of Horror On The Orient Express, which has a fuckload of information on many places in 20's Europe. Mh.

August 20, 2012

Out Of Paper

Running out of paper is one of those weird things that only occur when you're on vacancy. The nice side is that I've A Damsel in Distress almost completely written, while not on my hard-drive (I'm missing my PC pretty bad), and some preliminary notes on The Wicked Witch (a remake of the very first ConstantCon adventure ever). I think each adventure will probably take 12-20 pages, A5 format, or thereabouts, with very few art (by me) and a mid-70's fanzine distinctive look. There will be a print run of 20 copies assembled in the basement, and when (if) they sold out I will upload the PDF on DriveThrouRPG. Yes, that means not all of the adventures will eventually be available in PDF form. I'm also thinking of some kind of coding to present each adventure, like Drama, Action and Exploration. A Damsel in Distress, for example, would be Drama 4/5, Action 3/5 and Exploration 2/5. That should help costumers in buying adventures that better fit their DM-ing style. By the way, I'll try to get my hands on a Moleskine notebook this evening, so to have something to collect my notes and inspirational bits for more adventures.

August 17, 2012

A Damsel In Distress

Hello readers! I'm writing from Isola d'Elba (Tuscany), feeling so fine. The girlfriend's house here is wonderful, as is the landscape (pictured below). So far no gaming, and I doubt there will be any by the end of our sojourn. Instead, I have plenty of free time to do some adventure writing. Aside from the work on Castle Vorndrang, I had several ideas for one-shot adventures, partly inspired by the stories of Conan I'm reading. My question is, do you think there would be any interest in a series of short, dirty on the cheap adventures, designed to be completed in one or two sessions? I would design them for generic old school Dungeons & Dragons but using only the 3LBBs, making up everything else as I see fit, and possibly including an Appendix for Pathfinder stats.

P.S.: A Damsel In Distress is the tentative title of the first adventure of said line.


August 13, 2012

Ready Set Go

Despite my best efforts to lose the train I eventually managed to leave. I'm now traveling to Florence, and tomorrow I'll be moving to Isola d'Elba with my girlfriend, her brother and her brother's boyfriend. (And yes, this is exactly what I mean to say.) Then on August the 26th we'll fly to Poland, and I will be back home on September the 6th or a few days later. Aside from the fact that I will almost certainly meet Albert (of Terminal Space fame), I also hope to convince the guys at Elba to play a game or two. Hence I spent most of the morning and evening packing up my stuff, and I'm quite pleased by the final result you can admire in the picture. Aside from the very core (3LBBs and dice) I put together a bunch of tables (Jeff's likely doom and carousing, Untimately's random starting equipment, hirelings generated from Meatshields, random NPC names), Castle Vorndrang Level 1, another very cool OPD from Untimately's campaign, 10 copies of my own Adventure Log sheet and 20 character sheets. I can hardly imagine running out of supplies till September. So wish me luck, I will try to write again during the trip, just don't hold your breath. YO.

P.S.: Sorry for the lack of links, I'm writing from the phone.


August 12, 2012

My Mapping Style

In a comment to this post Gibbering Mouther of Dungeon of Signs asked this question:
"May I ask if that map was drawn freehand, on graph, with tools or on computer?"
So, since I'm mapping a new side-dungeon for Castle Vorndrang, this is an how to post to draw maps similar to my own.

Tools: good music, pencil, rubber, trattoPEN, compass, paper, scanner, computer, Photoshop or The Gimp. (This is my choice, so feel free to add/remove any other tool as you see fit.)

Step 1

For first, I mark the paper to delimit a 30 by 30 square grid, and sketch the map in pencil. At this point I usually have a general idea of how I want the final map to look like, and I don't care too much of making errors because I can always correct them later. I don't use any ruler, but having a compass handy for the round sections always proofs to be useful.

Step 2

When I'm done I add the key and stock the damn thing. This is very important, so that when I start inking I've already made all the alterations to rooms and corridors and keys and the map is in its final form.

Step 3

Inking is usually the easier and faster step. A good tip is to start from the upper left corner (if you're right-handed, upper right otherwise) so that you don't end up drooling the fresh ink. (Especially if your hands sweat as fuck as my own do.)

Step 4

At this point I go paramecium. You can choose your own style, or skip this step at all, since we're going to the rock grey anyway.

Step 5

Now I go scan the map as is, in grey scale, just to have a handy copy for when I will erase the pencil (and the key), in case I forget what goes where.

Step 6

Then guess what? Erase the pencil.

Step 7

The scan is where the magic happens: scan in grey-scale AND in B/W without moving the map and setting a low threshold. You can always scan in grey scale only and set the threshold manually in Photoshop (or The Gimp), but it usually takes longer and can proof to be a little tricky if you're not much skilled (which happens to be my case). Also, if you plan to draw many connected maps it makes it difficult to set a "standard".

Step 8

Open the last two scans in Photoshop and on the same canvas, then ctrl + A (select all) and center using the Moving Arrow tool. Be sure the grey scale scan is over the B/W scan.

Step 9

Crop the image to the size you need using the Crop tool (set to delete) following the squares.

Step 10

Now you can delete the grey scale scan layer and here you are your map!

Step 11

Select the space you want to paint in grey using the Magic Wand tool, then create a new layer and paint it black.

Step 12

Fill the blanks using a small round brush (10 px worked well for me). Be sure you're working on the right layer!

Step 13

When you're done, set Layer Opacity to 30% et voilà! The magic happens again.

Step 14

Create a new layer and paint it white. Then add a Stroke Layer Effect (black, 5px, inside) and change the Layer Mode to Multiply. This way you have a nice, simple frame for your map.

Step 15

Add numbers and keys using the early grey scale scan as reference. I use Century Gothic, bold, 12pt.

Step 16

And here it is the final map, complete with the compass. TA-DAAN! Now you can have fun making your own!

August 11, 2012

DIY OR DIE - AKA Get Ready For Summer

Vacancy is approaching and I find myself dealing with the same old questions: should I bring that shirt, will I need a jacket, which edition of D&D should I carry with me. Since I'm not at ease with putting my original 3LBBs in the bag, I thought I was going either with my Single Volume edition or Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox (Il Male™'s Cut), but really wasn't enthusiastic of either option. I mean, Single Volume is pretty cool, but it's hard-bound and it takes up space and weight to carry it around (both things I have to take into account since I'm going to fly with Ryan Air), while Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, even if emended and expanded so to include all the original bits (original HD progression, level titles, monster stats, attack tables, etc.), just doesn't feel the same as the LBBs. I ended up by waking up this morning and thinking "Screw that, I'll print my own LBBs. And they will be orange." (True story.)

I had these OD&D re-creation files sitting in my hard-drive from quite a while. Not the awful scans from WotC, nor polished scans of the original, but a friggin' re-creation with the original fonts and art and everything!

Suck it, WIZ

Now, I can't really explain the orange cover. I just kinda woke up in that state of mind and went for it. And I'm soooooo glad I did it.

TU&WA is ready for some stapling

Stapling is always hard for me, and this time I figured that using a "drive" sheet of A5 paper would have been better than fucking around with the ruler all the time. It was a good idea, after all.

You can't really tell what fetishism is all about
until you buy yourself a  long reach stapler

At this point, I only had to trim and fold. Now, you probably know that we have no letter-sized paper in this godforsaken corner of the earth, but I just didn't like how my booklets looked with all that empty space. So I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed until I got "mini" versions of the originals.

The smaller the merrier I say

And finally my summertime copies and the originals, side by side!

My precioussssssss!

If you ask me what playing OD&D is really all about, well, that's it. It's about doing things yourself. It's about being creative. It's about spending an entire evening absorbed by the joys of home publishing. It's about playing the fuck out of this game rather than complaining about it all the time. And now, just because I took all these pics with Instagram, this.

You ain't no hipster if you don't photograph your feet.

(Almost) Ready for Poland.

July 30, 2012

Proofreaders Call

Because, you know, English is not my native language. By the way, I look for 1-3 proofreaders for my latest (Mega)Dungeon project. This is how it works: you tell me your e-mail, I submit the file*, you read it and send corrections back (both for grammar and syntax), I apply corrections and send you the file back so you can keep it and use it (if you want). By stepping in, you agree on the following:
  • You will not redistribute any received file in any form, unless I give you explicit permission.
  • You will not be paid. (This may change if I ever get to make money out of this, just don't hold your breath.)
It's a matter of trust so I don't think any of the above will ever comes out. You will of course be credited as Proofreaders if I ever get to publish this in some form, and if you play with any of the things I send to you and write a report back, you'll also be credited as Playtesters among with your party of players. The sole requirement to jump in is to be a native English speaker.

Thanks!

*Most files will be One Page Dungeons, although occasionally I can send you a map or some notes (setting, new monsters, new magic, etc.)

July 28, 2012

One Page Dungeon Constraints

Castle Vorndrang Level 1A

I was mapping Vorndrang standard style, and eventually after a while I got straight back to the One Page Dungeon template. The fact is mapping smaller sections is easier, and it lets alternate mapping and keying so that I never get tired of either. Given my little previous efforts with OPD, I knew when I started working again that I needed a higher room count: the Dungeon Of Doom was stocked using the DMG tables, and looked just fine, but this time I'm going with the 3LBBs and I need more room for empty space. I also knew that I needed another map style, specifically something faster, so I resumed the old paramecium habit (with Khunmar style doors). Also, for some more eye-candy, a nice compass and some grey shade.

About the map itself, the major tweaking involve the use of non-standard angles (that is, 90° and 45°) in lieu of some more weird and unusual ones (30° and 60°) for a more dwarven architecture look. Also, the problem with OPD is the natural constraints this kind of map making carries: while the four quadrant concept is cool for circular dungeons, I don't want all the levels to look the same in shape. You will notice that the stairs that lead to Level 1D (bottom-center) are not justified with the quadrant. I hope to find the way to make this a recurring feature, with some levels sparse rather than aligned (the mines level will be a good example of this I hope).

All for now, I'm getting back on stocking. Hope you'll enjoy the map. Cheerz, yo.

Brand New Ready Ref Sheets

Did you know Different Worlds has a shitload of Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets in pristine condition for 2.99$? I mean 2.99$ guys, it's like you can buy a dozen o'them for a lifetime supply. I mean, the fuck are you waiting for? It's fucking cheaper than the PDF at DriveThrouRPG!

July 26, 2012

Only Ten, my take

I just stumbled in this post by Untimately, and despite the fact I'm in the middle of re-organizing my DM's binder (more on this topic soon), working on Castle Vorndrang and, y'know, incidentally having a life, I thought it deserved some thinking. A couple of years ago I decided to let the Zen enter my life as a role player, and I gave away most of my RPG collection trying to keep only the books I was ever going to use. (It ended up keeping only the books I was ever going to use and some books I was really attached and some unsalable titles, for a total of two dozen books or such.) Today, had I ever need to decide only on ten titles this is what I'd keep:
  • OD&D Single Volume with compiled Philotomy's Musings
  • AD&D Monster Manual
  • Supplement V: Carcosa
  • Ready Ref Sheets Vol I
  • Chaosium's Call Of Cthulhu
  • Gamma World, 1st Edition
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • D&D 3.0 Player's Handbook
  • D&D 3.0 Dungeon Master's Guide
  • D&D 3.0 Monster Manual
Note that this is the bare minimum I require to play. Some of you may be shocked by the fact this list doesn't include the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, but honestly I've mostly used it in past for dungeon dressing/design purposes, and its 3.0 nephew has quite as awesome tables - thus having to keep one edition for Advanced play I'd rather choose third edition. (The reason why 3.0 vs 3.5 or Pathfinder is the fact it has less options, and I enjoy the unbalance between the various classes.) Also, what no 3LBBs? Of course it would be a pain to depart from my beloved white box, but playing-wise OD&D Single Volume is one hell of a reference, a plus for being something I would actually use at the table.

July 23, 2012

Castle Vorndrang Bits

Just had a couple of good ideas for Castle Vorndrang this morning and feel the urge of writing them down somewhere I'll be able to find them later when in need of new ideas. Actually, this might even become some kind of regular column.

Dragons of Vorndrang: I quite love the idea of Dragons bound up to special places as outlined in Terry Pratchett's The Colors Of Magic. If you're not familiar with the book, here is an excerpt from this article at Wikipedia:
"Noble Dragons are the large, graceful fire-breathing creatures of legend. Probably evolved from Draco vulgaris, these dragons use magic to combat the physical laws that would normally kill a flapping-winged creature weighing several tons and spitting burning substances. Because this requires more magic than the Discworld can in normal circumstances provide, Draco nobilis now exist mostly in a parasite universe closely connected to the human imagination. They can be briefly released from this universe by a sufficient expenditure of magic, or summoned on a more permanent basis in areas of high background magic. Examples of this can be found in The Colour of Magic and Guards! Guards!"

Mines Level: Two of them, maybe three. A complex network of tunnels and train tracks, probably on a scale much wider than usual (1sq = 50' or thereabout), with mini dungeons scattered all the way around (most likely OPDs). One of them is haunted by undead dwarfs awakened by a powerful necromancer.

Fatal Misapprehension: Do you remember the incipit of John Carpenter's The Thing? With the poor crying dog and the misapprehension that made The Thing itself survive and start haunting again? Well, I plan to do the same, only using some tough monsters hunting a seemingly harmless bunny (this is because I recently watched Monty Python's Holy Grail and had a blast).

Reworking Goblins: As Gremlins. How cool is that?

July 22, 2012

Making Of A Nameless World

I know I should stay focused on the 0e Megadungeon, but sometimes ideas just spot in my mind and I can't help but need to work them out somehow. It all started with the Realm of Zarhad (as hinted in this post I wrote a few days ago) and quickly evolved into something much bigger. Dare I say quite the size of a gaming world. After some more work I think I reached a point where the basic outline is done, thus ready to be organized - and which better way than sharing my ideas here at The Yaqqothl Grimoire?

Having decided which regions I wanted to include, I thought the best way to go was a simple sentence or two with additional notes for climate, culture (which include names) and monsters. In other words, things that help setting the right mood instead of pages over pages of accurate description of history and politics and blah blah blah. That is, if I introduce a Fighting-men NPC named Anthemion who comes from a southern region known as the Thracian Empire, this is pretty much anything my players need to immediately think of Jason And The Argonauts. And this is quite the point.

Realm of Zarhad: North of the Midland Waste and the Desolation of Eibon, kind of reworked Realm of Angmar including Witchking. Only monsters and wicked humans who worship and serve the Witchking dare to live in this terrible place. Climate: Mordor. Culture: Mordor. Monsters: Orcs, Goblins, Giant Amoeboid Horrors, Warhammer Fantasy Chaos Warriors, Trolls, Giants, Wyverns, Chromatic Dragons, Chaos Dragons, etc.

Midland Waste: South of the Realm of Zarhad, east of the Slashed Islands, north-west of the Desolation of Eibon, north of the Thracian Empire. In are Sarnath The City Eternal, Castle Vorndrang, the Eldritch Forest and the Stonekingdom of Kezrar. Big wilderness region with no central govern, dotted with castles (small baronies), abbeys and odd places of pagan worship. Climate: Moorland. Culture: Dark Ages Britain. Monsters: As per the wilderness encounter tables in U&WA.

Sarnath The City Eternal: Somewhere west of the Midland Waste (i.e. close to the sea and the Slashed Islands). Immense multicultural city-state, magically and technologically advanced, ruled by some kind of outer-dimensional immortal sorcerer. Slave markets, magic academy, in-city wilderness, sprawling undercity. Climate: Temperate, coastal. Culture: Somewhere between Jakalla and New Crobuzon. Monsters: Vary according to district, day/night, over/under city, but in general mostly mutated horrors.

Castle Vorndrang: At the very center of the Midland Waste. Classic Old School Megadungeon and campaign tent-pole. Climate: Cold mountains. Culture: Khazad-dum meets At The Mountains Of Madness.  Monsters: As per dungeon encounter tables in U&WA + First Edition Carcosa + New horrors.

Eldritch Forest: Somewhere south-west of the Midland Waste, marks the border with the Thracian Empire. (Also, main reason why the Thracian Empire has not yet conquered the Midland Waste.) Once a verdant and joyful, fairy land, nowadays an intricate vicious forest. Hosts the last refugee of the Elves. Climate: Third Age Fangorn. Culture: Wood Elves of the Mirkwood as described in The Hobbit. Monsters: Giant Vermin, Giant Spiders, Trolls, Ents, Black Trees, Dryads, Satyrs, etc.

Stonekingdom of Kezrar: Somewhere north-east of the Midland Waste. Last Dwarven refugee, bigass mine, engaged in eternal struggle with the Realm of Zarhad. (Also main reason why the Witchking has not conquered the Midland Waste yet.) Climate: Cold mountains. Culture: Lonely Mountain with a sprinkle of Kislev. Monsters: As Realm of Zarhad + Evil Dwarfs + Dark Elves.

Thracian Empire: South of the Midland Waste, west of the Slashed Islands and east of the Desolation of Eibon. In are the Principality of Wraclow and the Royaume d'Averoigne. The main region is called the Republic of Thracia, sort of a Roman Empire lead by bleak Empress Octavia, with advanced technology and magic. Climate: Mediterranean. Culture: Roman Empire. Monsters: Roman and Greek mythology.

Principality of Wraclow: North-east of the Thracian Empire, its mountains marks the borders with the Eiglophian Desert. Truly ancient reign haunted by monsters and bandits. Climate: Cold mountains. Culture: Dark Ages Fantasy Transylvania. Monsters: Werewolves, Frankenstein, Vampires, Skeletons, Zombies, Ghost, etc.

Royaume d'Averoigne: North-west of the Thracian Empire, south of the Eldritch Forest. You know, CAS. Only less renaissance and more medieval. Climate: From moorlands to temperate countryside. Culture: Dark Ages France. Monsters: Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, Color From The Space, Froggy Things in Swamps, Deep Ones, Werewolves, Worms That Walk, more in general unique monsters.

Slashed Islands: West of everything. Dozen small islands inhabited by wild humans and pirates. Climate: Temperate to warm sea. Culture: Pirates Of Carabbean meets Simbad. Monsters: Cannibals, Voodoo Zombies, Slaadi, Lizardmen, more Froggy Things, Deep Ones, Seamonsters.

Desolation of Eibon: South-east of the Midland Waste, east of the Thracian Empire. Include some kind of nameless legendary Egyptian-like empire ruled by mummies (the wicked necromancer Lovecraftian type). Otherwise pretty much The Abominations of Yondo. Climate: Weird Desert (some regions really cold, others really hot, seemingly random). Culture: Sumerian, Egyptian, Acheron-ian. Monsters: All Things Cthulhu.

July 18, 2012

Castle Vorndrang Introduction and House Rules

As I was working on section 1D (which is ready from a week but I'm waiting to publish) I decided it was time to write up some kind of introduction for the Dungeon of Doom, and to decide on the rules to use once and for all. Since I want this dungeon to be used in the widest possible range of situation and for the widest possible range of players (from the reckless noob to the experienced grognard), I think that straight By The Book Whitebox OD&D is the way to go. After all, I can definitely see me using its rules as a base to easily convert the game to other systems (like B/X, Second Edition AD&D or even Pathfinder). Thus, here is the short introduction and some of the House Rules I'm planning to use. Enjoy!
"In ages past Castle Vorndrang has been one of the most prominent bastions of the Dwarfkin in the wild north. Ruled by the Clan Vorndrang it prospered for a thousand years, enduring the raids of the dire Goblins and the uncountable perils of the Underworld. Then, a couple of centuries ago, it fell under mysterious forces. It is not clear if the doom of the Dwarfs came from their own greediness, or if the Witchking of the nearby Realm of Zarhad helped in some measure. What is certain is that the Gates of Vorndrang were firmly closed, not to be reopened again. Until now. Careless of whatever eldritch power lies behind this inexplicable event, hordes of reckless adventurers have rushed in the nearby town of Hazen Hollow, attracted by the legendary hoards that presumably await in the deep dungeons beneath the keep. The few who returned from Castle Vorndrang alive carried immeasurable treasures and tales of horrors beyond the human comprehension. It is now your turn to descend into the unknown, and meet your fortune (or your fate) down in the bowels of Castle Vorndrang."
HOUSE RULES
Character Creation
  • Determine Abilities rolling 3d6 straight down the line, modifiers work as per the 3LBBs with the following exceptions and modifications:
    • STR > 14 is +1 To Hit and Damage for all;
    • WIS > 12 is 1st level spell for Clerics;
    • DEX > 14 is +1 To Hit (missiles) and +1 AC for all;
  • Class Fighting-man, Magic-user or Cleric, Race Human, Elf, Dwarf or Hobbit. Elves can be Fighting-men OR Magic-users, Dwarfs can be Fighting-men or Clerics, Hobbits must be Fighting-men.
  • Every character begins with 2d6x10 gp (Clerics must return unspent moneys to their church).
Skills
Roll 5+ on a 6-sided die to succeed in a skill-check. Racial modifiers, as well as heavy armor penalties apply according to the following table. Note that “armor penalty” only applies to regular armor, as magical ones are considered to be lighter and smoother.

Skill
Racial Modifier
Armor Penalty
Break doors/Lift bars
None
No
Climb rope
None
Yes
Find secret doors
Elves +2
No
Find traps*
Dwarves +2
No
Foraging and hunting
Elves +1
Yes
Hide
Halflings +2
Yes
Listen at doors
Humans -1
Yes**
Move silently/Surprise
Halflings +1
Negates
Read maps
None
No
Swim
None
Yes
*This include locating slanting passages, new constructions underground, pits, etc.
**”No” if the helmet is removed.
Note that this skill system works more or less as the one detailed in Volume III, if a bit modified. With regard to armor penalty medium metal (chainmail) is -1, heavy metal (plate) is -2. I didn't take ability modifiers to skill checks for a more 0e feel (if you know what I mean).
Combat
Works as detailed in the 3LBBs with the following exceptions:
  • Maximum hp at 1st level. You can re-roll all of your HD at the start of every expedition.
  • Initiative is either à la 3rd Edition (without Dexterity modifier, players have the possibility to re-roll after having declared their action every round) or B/X, according to the pool of players.
  • If using d6 weapons, two-handed roll twice and go for the best but always act last no matter what initiative is rolled.
  • Fight with shield is +1 to AC, Fighting-men can fight with two weapons with +1 To Hit and Damage.
  • Knocked out at 0 hp, characters can go as negative as Level-1 before death. Magic-users and Clerics must roll against Intelligence/Wisdom if knocked out not to forget their spells.
  • Bind 1-4 wounds after each combat, or stabilize a fellow at 1 hp. Potions of healing restore from 0 hp (i.e. a character at -3 who drinks a Potion of Healing and rolls 4 on the die awaken with 5 hp).
  • Molotov cocktail: roll to hit, if miss roll d8 for random direction and d6x5' for random distance from the intended target, if critical miss (1 in 20) it blows up your face. d6 damage to target and d4 damage to anyone within 5'. Throw your lantern for d8/d6 damage.
As always, if you find anything wrong with my English just ask.

July 9, 2012

The Dungeon of Doom Level 1C: Beneath The Tower of Bones

The Dreadful Tower of Bones
I just want to point up that I never quite finished mapping and keying a level, and now I have three of them completed in four days of not-so-hard work for a total of 41 encounters. I take this fact as another proof the One Page Dungeon format really is a tool that fits my GMing style (at least when it comes to make some prep work). I really can't wait to see how it works during the game, although I feel really confident. By the way, it's with great pride that I present you the third section of the infamous Dungeon of Doom: Beneath The Tower of Bones (picture on the left courtesy of Zdzisław Beksiński - thanks to Jeremy for reminding me the name). You may notice that I made some little changes to the layout, by making the description box even more shorter so to make room for a proper Wandering Monsters table (as suggested by Brennan in his comment to the first section). I've also updated Level 1A and 1B to match the new style. To conclude, I'm sorry if any of you have experienced the "lack of map when download" issue with the previous entry - I still don't know why Google Docs messed it up that way, all I can tell is that right now the download is working just fine. As always, if you have critics and/or grammar errors to report, just leave a comment. Peace!

July 7, 2012

The Dungeon of Doom Level 1B: The Tenebrous Hall of Mirrors

I'm feeling pretty inspired those days, and the One Page Dungeon format really fits my legendary laziness. So here you are the second section of the first level of the dreadful Dungeon of Doom, The Tenebrous Hall of Mirrors! Also, I've made some minor and major changes to my previous effort (The Secret Pits), so give it a fresh look if you want. Finally, as many of you know, I'm not native English speaker, so I'd be very grateful to anyone reporting grammar/syntax errors.

I don't know when I'll be able to run a game in this new dungeon of mine, but the girlfriend is showing mild interest in this D&D thing I happen to like so much, so hopefully I'll get to run a game for her and maybe some other friends in the next few weeks. Let's just wait and see, I say.

July 6, 2012

My First One Page Dungeon

After several days of mapping, designing, thinking, and procrastinating, today I finally sat down and realized my very first OPD: The Secret Pits (The Dungeon of Doom Level 1A, click to download from Google Docs). A couple of consideration include:
  • Mapping a 30x30 section is weird if you're not used to;
  • Keeping the room count to 15-20 room is way better than going up to 30-50 (this might be related to my laziness in keying dungeons, BTW);
  • I can't wait to see how the OPD works in actual gaming sessions.
My final design process went as follow: map in pencil, fill the room key (using the DMG) making minor adjustments, ink the map, scan the map, make adjustments in Photoshop and add numbers and letters, do the layout. The thing took two and a half an hour to complete, although I was watching a movie while inking so probably I could spend less time on it. Also, I can't help but need my maps to look fancy, so this probably made the process longer too. I would really like to hear your opinion on this, especially from anyone with more experience than I have with OPDs. If I ever get to map the other sections of this level, I promise to post them on the blog too!

June 2, 2012

Mapping Sarnath, Work In Progress

Sarnath, The Eternal City. The year 1417 After The Fall

This is but a rough sketch of the city center of Sarnath. I made it in Photoshop experimenting a bit with paths - it doesn't look very evocative, but it's really clear so I'm cool with it. It still misses a lot of features (notably the docks along the river, street names and important buildings, etc.) but you can see the blocks, the slave market (the big square in the far-east part of the west river section), the Citadel (the big isle), the University square (in the far east part of the east river section) and the Garden of Tsàzaar, a big mutated forest wildly grew out of a little greenhouse built by Rector Tsàzaar The One And Million Eyes over five hundred years ago for use of the Alchemy Faculty. (There lie many ruins of the old inhabitants of Sarnath, and such stuff as swamp-dwelling-debauched-savage-worshiper-of-long-forgotten-gods tribes. The usual suspects, you know.)

Uh No Wait I'm Not Dead At All

During the last (OMFG) two months I've:
  • Found a part-time job at Linate airport here in Milan;
  • Been dating a truly awesome girl from Florence;
  • Been drunk most of the time (see above);
  • Not played too much (again, see above);
But I'm alive, in good health, and Happy™. I also started working (lazy as usual) on Yaqqothl and the Doomed Wastelands again, and the metropolis of Sarnath in particular. I'm doing most of the notes on Word, although I think I'll be switching to Obsidian Portal soon. It's very likely that the Tower of Zordaz will be moved somewhere near the town, or perhaps even "in" the town - still musing on this. Be cool, see ya!

March 31, 2012

Random Funny Moment At The Table

This is from our last session. Just for you to know, we're playing Pathfinder: our party joined this brotherhood of demon haunter hunter monks who sent us around the desert in this weird sunless world which happens to be quite near the Abyss, so demons often pop in anywhere - except, apparently, near this city we're investigating. Then, suddenly, they began to pop up again and nearly kick our asses all around the place.

Sir Hector: "I think we should probably worn our masters that this desert is safe from demons no more."
Mater: "Perhaps we can contact them by using the Amulet of Sending?"
SH: "Perhaps, though 25 words sounds pretty hard to me."
Cydric: "What about WASSUP MASTER YOU WERE WRONG ABOUT THE DEMONS IN THE DESERT LOL!"

March 25, 2012

Planning A (Pathfinder) Campaign, Part I: Know Your Party

So, after the initial brainstorming I have some ideas to go with, that is: building a fantasy mash-up over the Middle Earth hack (more about this later) and using Obsidian Portal as a campaign manager. I will also produce a new DM binder to store all the tables and stuff printed from the Wiki so not to end having to play with the computer, which is something I don't really like. But this, again, is another topic I will cover moreover. In this post, I want to discuss the last year or so of weekly campaign, analyzing the adventures, what worked and whatnot.

Adventures And The Plot
Our first adventure was about becoming part of this guild of demon-hunter monks. The campaign was set in this world with no sun, toe-to-toe with the Abyss, where demons and devils often pop-up here and there causing troubles. The "test" was about entering a dungeon, fighting some stuff, get out and begin the training. So eventually we managed to do all of these things, got a bunch of new special abilities and a couple of minor magic items. After the training, we were sent to this port to investigate some strange ritual murders (second adventure). We failed gathering enough clues (which really wasn't our fault, or so was my impression anyway) and a powerful demon was eventually raised in the city. In the meanwhile we fought some Goblins in the sewers (that ended up having nothing to do with the murders and demon rising at all), some Imps (supposedly the killers), and were contacted by this mysterious NPC that helped us and then we heard nothing about her again. At this point we joined a merchant looking for a library in a ruined city in the desert (the world apparently was mostly desert - we never saw a map of it anyway so who knows). There we confronted some powerful devils, some weird tricks and traps settled by the MU who was the original owner of the library, and finally reached our goal retrieving a huge hoard. (That was the end of our third adventure.) We went back to the port, spent our moneys in magical gear, and learned about the nearby woods. Thinking we could find some clues about what was raised in the city, we headed there, met some Rangers in trouble, and learned about this mysterious cavern. We went there, my character almost died in a battle against some really huge displacing spider (only character who really risked his life in the game - he was a Sorcerer anyway), and finally arrived to the cavern. (From hereon I think we were playing some 3.0 adventure, name it if you recognize it.) In there we found a huge tower, at the top of it was a dragon. My character came to terms with the dragon by gifting him something magic (like a useless wand or something), avoiding the battle and being allowed to enter the tower. There we fought a lot of monsters, mainly undead, and I admit it was like the most entertaining part of the campaign (I love dungeons). We kicked the boss' ass, and crawled out with some treasure we left to the Rangers to remake their stronghold. End of the fourth adventure. Then, some way I don't quite remember, we learned about this truly powerful artifact: a necklace crafted by the Gods themselves (note: the setting was so poorly detailed we knew nothing but this about the Gods, whatever). Last time it was used it really screwed up everything and eventually created the big desert in which we lived. So we decided to get over it, find it, and possibly destroy it. Then we learned we weren't the only one looking for the necklace: someone else was on it, and they owned this diary leading straight to the pyramid in which the necklace is said to be stored. We tried so steal it, but eventually someone scooped us. And here we are.

What Worked And Whatnot
I had similar issues with my previous campaign with this party of players (The Doomed Wastelands). To me, the biggest problem was our DM mixed the sandbox and railroading kind of play the wrong way - that is: we were thinking about following some path of sort while we were truly only going around, and the vice-versa. This is something that must be absolutely avoided. The more, most of the players in the party are not good on sandbox playing, and want to be railroaded. I bet that if I'd go with you go kill the Dragon of Despair as an adventure for 1st level characters, they'd go without asking a question. Also, they are not really interested in writing the story, and much prefer to be passive tools of faith in their quests. Thus, I'm not offering any kind of sandbox playing to them. Also, it's my guess they want something truly linear - so no twisting plots. Oh well, good for me - lot less work needed.

Thus, The Plot
From the above consideration, I'll go with a simple stupid idiot proof linear plot. The more, I won't even struggling writing down something original. I think I'll go with LOTR: you go find this powerful artifact (the above necklace) which is important to the Big Bad Guy (Vecna-style Lich) to regain his power and strike back subduing the Free Peoples of the world. When you find it, you destroy it. I guess half the campaign will be about finding, the other half on destroying. Or perhaps 3/5 finding 2/5 destroying. Whatever.

Campaign Structure
I will plan five adventures, from level 9 to 14 (thus, one level for each adventure). According to what happened in the last year of playing, it seems likely that this will take about 10 months to complete. Each adventure will be clearly and easily linked to the following one: I really want to give them a sense of what's going on and a strong sense of "you are winning". I don't want to turn it all in a cake walk, but I think it's important not to take things at a level of complexity they are not capable of/not interested in carrying.

March 23, 2012

New Campaign Brainstorming

A couple of days ago I was asked by the actual DM in our weekly Pathfinder campaign to take over the role and start with a fresh new cycle of adventures. I'm quite excited about it, especially now that (having played a little) I feel quite comfortable with the rules. Despite the fact that I've never liked running story-oriented campaigns, this time I'll try to go in this direction. I think I'm doing something really simple and quite linear, not to end up with a story too difficult to handle (playing once a week means little prep time in-between sessions, especially considering that I do have a life outside D&D, whatever), thus the trite classic prevent the rise of a new dark lord theme. The point is I need a world to settle this new campaign, so here's some brainstorming about the topic. Suggestions and critics are welcome!

Fantasy Mashup
The first idea I had is to paste together everything I like in fantasy, so to create a world in which I have a spot for every weird idea pops into my head and use for future attempts. Things to throw in include: a pirate archipelago, a sky realm, Transylvania, a dark desolation of chaos, primitive lands for swords & sorcery, a couple of different human kingdoms (vikings, medieval knights, despotic technocracy) and a lot of empty space for future addenda (desert land for Arabic themed adventures, an uncivilized land, a Japanese themed country, and so on). So yes, basically nothing too different from Mystara. Creating a brand new world has its benefits on the long run (that is, re-usability), but its nonetheless one hell of a work even if one limits his efforts in barely sketch up everything focusing only on what's really needed.

Middle Earth Hack
I'm toying with this idea since, like, always. I think hacking the Middle Earth could really provide me with a very interesting world for a D&D campaign. Of course, the hack part is where I put in everything D&D-ish (like common high-magic, clerics, powerful magic-items and artifacts, Dwarf Rangers, Gelatinous Cubes, etc.) with little attention not to denaturalize Tolkien's masterpiece. The benefits on the short run is that I would only need to adjust what is worth (like, for example, place the Witch-king of Angmar among with Sauron and Smaug all in the same time-line) and already have a general idea of what's where, and how the world scale works (I always have hard times with this kind of things). The major drawback I see here is the limited re-usability of such a setting.

A Possible Solution
How about using the Middle Earth hack as a base for the Fantasy Mashup world? Like, it's obviously the western portion of a larger continent, and many of the things I wish to include (oriental, Arabic, Viking, medieval kingdoms, etc.) are already in one way or another. I could make it work by reorganizing it's geography (for example, switching Rhovanion and Eriador, Mordor and Angmar, making room for Transylvania in the eastern part), changing most of the names (except the generic ones, like I don't know, The Misty Mountains) and so on.

March 16, 2012

Introducing The Megadungeon Arena



Our Champions
Rappan Athuk Reloaded: Almost probably the only Megadungeon published in the 3e era that doesn't suck (but this is my humble point of view).
Stonehell: In which Michael Curtis brings the One Page Dungeon concept to a completely new dimension.
The Castle Of The Mad Archmage: One of the best fun-made Megadungeons available for free.
The Caverns Of Thracia: Representing the early days of the hobby.
The Mines Of Khunmar: Even if an early draft, I consider Stefan Poag Khunmar The Megadungeon by definition. Probably the only published one in which I'd feel comfortable running a campaign in.
Under Xylarthen's Tower: I consider this awesome little (free) module from JRients to totally fit in the category. It's fairly big, with lot or room for expansion, and basically a small sandbox on its very own.

There are many other Megadungeons around I left out from this competition: Dwimmermount, ASE, Barrowmaze, Palace Of The Vampire Queen, The Black City, White Rock Castle, Ruins Of Undermountain, Greyhawk Ruins, etc. I decided not to let them in either because they still have to be published, or I don't really know them, or they're too difficult to pick and refer for comparison. Or I find they're total shit and they don't qualify for this competition.

Rules Of The Game
In each post I discuss one particular aspect of these dungeons: Presentation, Background, Keys, Maps, Level Connections, Usability and Creativity. Then I set up a poll and you vote your favorite the one that best represent said aspect. At the end of the competition, I compile a PDF with all the entries and poll results and declare the Absolute Winner Of The Megadungeon Arena.

March 15, 2012

Dwarf-land Draft Available

Huge Ruined Scott, one of the most awesome writers in the Old School blogosphere, has an early draft of his ambitious Dwarf-land project for download. If you ever followed his blog(s) than you already know what to expect - otherwise just get there and check it out by yourself. Long live the DIY D&D!

The 5th Edition I Want To Play (An Open Letter To WotC) Part II

Look, I'm not the kind of non-purposeful person who just ask for stuff without giving suggestions. So this is how you do this new 5th edition, step by step. No kidding.
  1. You get back to the BECMI model. Release content box by box, and as you're done you make it into a new Rules Cyclopedia (wasn't it your best sold product ever?)
  2. In the Red Box (Basic Set) you cover levels 1 to 3. You include all the base races (human, dwarves, halflings & elves) and classes (warriors, thieves, wizards and clerics), with some real basic skills (choose the dungeon-crawling related from Pathfinder list, like Perception and Climb and so), a list of feats (include only those who can be picked from levels one to three, and if you go with the 3.5 list this means maybe 10-15 of them) and all the 0 to 2nd level spells. In the DM section of the book you put all the dungeon-crawling rules, treasure & magic items, some dungeon dressing/design tables, rules to set up an encounter and the monsters. The page count is 64 pages in a single book. Include in the box: a (decent) set of dice complete with a custom bag, a copy of the character sheet, and module B2 (or T1) complete with the maps remade the fancy way printed in color on cardboard. No cardboard minis, no plastic maps: we don't give a fuck to this.
  3. In the Blue Box (Expert Set) you cover levels 4 to 9. You include the advanced races (gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs) and classes (barbarians, bards, rangers, assassins, druids and paladins), new skills oriented to wilderness crawling, more feats to cover the higher levels, and all the necessary spells. In the DM section of the book you put treasure & magic items, magic item creation rules, magic research rules, and all the wilderness crawling rules, among with tables and suggestions to run a sandbox. The page count is 64 pages in a single book. Include in the box: a module similar to X1 detailing the region surrounding the Keep On The Borderlands, numbered and non numbered hex-paper, and a sturdy DM screen.
  4. In the Green Box (Companion Set) you cover levels 10 to 15. You include prestige classes, all the spells, even more feats and optional rules for powers. In the DM section you put treasure & magic items, a gallery of NPCs, and tables to aid building domains, cities and strongholds, among with rules for the PCs wanting to run one. Optionally put some specific rules for using miniatures (attacks of opportunity, tactic movement, etc.) The page count is 64 pages in a single book. Include in the box a gazetteer in the style of Karameikos to further expand the lands (and factions) around the Keep.
  5. In the Black Box (Master Set) you cover levels 15 to 20. You include even more prestige classes, all the spells, and more optional rules for powers. In the DM section you discuss major artifacts, rules to craft them, more NPCs and rules to conduct planar adventures among with the usual tables. The page count is 64 pages in a single book. Then, if you really want to go wild, you can put in a sort of a gazetteer describing the Multiverse and detailing the various Plans.
  6. In the White Box (Immortal Set) you cover levels above 21 putting all the epic stuff in.
  7. Once you're done, you release a Rules Cyclopedia. Put in all the stuff from Basic to Master, except for the modules and the cool stuff that comes with the boxed set. This way you can sold the same rules twice in a way that is acceptable (I buy the boxes because they're cool, and the big-ass manual because it has all the rules in one place). If you want to go really wild you can add even more stuff, divide in three books, and label it Advanced.
  8. And remember, when in doubt: tables over shitty advice. I don't give a fuck on page count, and none I know considers a manual silly because it has less then 300 pages.
That was a lot to write. I'm tired, so I'm not re-reading this - if you find terrible syntax horrors please point out in comments. G'night!