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.


*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."
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).
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.

Racial Modifier
Armor Penalty
Break doors/Lift bars
Climb rope
Find secret doors
Elves +2
Find traps*
Dwarves +2
Foraging and hunting
Elves +1
Halflings +2
Listen at doors
Humans -1
Move silently/Surprise
Halflings +1
Read maps
*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).
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!