Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chainmail vs ADD1 on Weapon vs Armor

Hey, I finally found my 1st edition Players Handbook! I's been missing for a couple weeks now. Turns out it slid down between the arm and cushion of the easy chair. Anyway, that allows me to finish my look at weapon versus armor modifiers in early D&D. Back in the middle of July I converted a few items on the Chainmail weapon versus armor chart to a d20 roll.  The next logical step is to compare these to the 1st edition AD&D weapon versus armor rules.

(click to embiggen)

The first line for each weapon is my Chainmail conversion target numbers.  The second line is an AD&D Normal Man using the same weapon.  I expected the numbers to line up a lot better than they did.  If I was Uncle Gary and sat down to write the AD&D version of the chart I would start with the one I already wrote as my basis.

giants in the Earth

ROYAL DE LUXE / EL XOLO from FKY on Vimeo.

According to this report one of these two puppets is 18' tall, though it's not clear to me which one.  That would be the size of a Cloud Giant, according the 1st edition Monster Manual.

Friday, July 29, 2011

are your elves insufficiently creepy? here's one horrible fix

This may be my worst idea ever, but I think it will totally work if you want your elves to be less sweetness and light and more scary not-quite-people from the shadows beyond the heartfires of civilization.  I can sum up the idea in 3 words:

Fairyland is Carcosa.

Change the place names to better lull players into a false sense of security if you'd like.  And maybe spruce up the various races of men.  White Men become high elves, Green Men are goblins, Blue Men are Andorians or xvarts if you don't like Star Trek races in your D&D, Bone Men are Newhon Ghouls (i.e. no change really), maybe Red Men look could like Coop devils (wait til you're not at work to google that one if you don't know what I'm talking about).  Black Men become drow if you want, though I favor the more purplish depictions.  I'm still working on the three unearthly colored races (Dolm, Jale, Ulfire).  I'm thinking they look weird when visiting Earth, as if light interacts with their skin all wrong.  Maybe one of the races shimmer or sparkles with rainbow hues, another has a mirror sheen and the third is invisible (Jale Men = Invisible Stalkers, who are reclassified as fairies).

Imagine the average Carcosa wilderness hex as a green and pleasant land like you see in a TV commercial promoting tourism in Ireland.  It's a gorgeous place, it just also happens to have crashed alien saucers, mutated dinosaurs and abominable elvish sorcerers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Incident at Brimstone

I had two new players at last night's Boot Hill game, young fellows maybe still in high school.  The PCs were hired to be the law in a rough and tumble mining town, but one of the new guys didn't want to do that.  He accepted the assignment, but his first action in town was to stone cold murder a drunken gambler in broad daylight, in front of a livery stable that was open for business and across the street from the boarding house the PCs were staying in.

He was not expecting one of the other PC lawmen to shoot him down in the street like a mad dog, but I'm kinda glad he did.

Carl made it unnecessary for me to act, but the murderer had two witnesses who saw the PC and the victim leave together just moments before the murder. This incident points towards something I've seen from young people many times over the years.  Some kids are so flush with the raw power of playing a game where holy crap! I can do whatever I want! that they completely overlook the obvious consequences of their actions.  I'm all for PC shenanigans and I truly believe that one of the useful functions of roleplaying games is that they allow us to stretch our ids a bit without ending up in jail, but especially with adolescents I feel that the game world needs to bite back in these sorts of circumstances.

In my experience a younger player with this problem will get his first couple of PCs killed stupidly.  If he or she (and I've seen young ladies with this same difficulty as the boys) can get over that hump they can then go on to become ordinary amoral, bloodthirsty PCs, i.e. the kind that make sure not to get caught.  I've actually seen this process play out in a single con session.  It's one of the reasons I bring spare characters to any con game where chargen will take for than a couple minutes.

The Stewpot is full

Sorry, the troll can only fit so many halflings in his stewpot.  If you didn't get an email from me letting you know you're in, then your grisly end will have to wait another day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Get in the stew pot!

Like some gaming Krishnamurti, Zak S. has declared that we are all free to run games whenever we want, thanks to Google+ hangouts.  I've stayed the hell away from online play for a long time, but at his urging I am giving it a go next Monday at super-early o'clock, as part of his ConstantCon 2011 effort.  Details follow.

Day - Monday, August 1st, 2011

Start Time - 4:30 AM Chicago/6:30 PM Tokyo (Did I do that right? I'm a provincial yokel.)

System(s) - Basic/Expert D&D/Labyrinth Lord/etc.

Level - 1

Everyone bring a first level halfling. Roll 3d6 in order. If you don't get a Dex 9 and a Con 9 you may swap stats to achieve those minimums. If you didn't roll two scores of at least 9 please cheat.

Don't bother buying equipment, as you start without any, in the troll's stewpot.

When speaking in character you are encouraged to use an outrageous French accent.

This session will last no more than 2 hours.

Contact info:

Shoot me an email if you want on the player list.  As I type this I have one player.  I believe there can be up to ten people in a Google+ video chat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lifestyles of Long-Lived and Pointy-Eared

random architectural features of elf villages (d12)

1. buildings (and most furniture) composed of living trees patiently twisted into useful shapes
2. huts on stilts, the river nearby floods every millennium or so
3. village plan incorporates ruins built by titans
4.  town hall is big Noah-style ark built just prior to sinking of Atlantis, washed inland by tsunami
5. stone buildings made of volcanic rock and carefully arranged dolomite channels, 'dormant' volcano nearby
6. built on incline, series of waterfalls and tiny streams actually eons-old natural plumbing system designed to deliver sufficient water to every household
7. bomb shelter type bunker, actual village destroyed by orcs forty or fifty years ago, new village blueprint still under review by planning committee
8. large number of lifelike statues, volunteers who agreed to petrification for a few centuries until harvests are back up to normal yields
9. numerous crystalline globes on pedestals, somewhat like modern streetlights except that they magically capture and rebroadcast both sunlight and moondark, keeping light levels in the village at a constant twinkling twilight
10. a series of large stone stelae in town square gives minutes of once-a-century village board meetings going back to a week after Creation
11. buildings laid out in specific plan, when wind blows through town the buildings act as large musical instruments, playing a different tune based upon wind direction and speed
12. village composed of tents and carts like a gypsy camp, village officials may ask directions to a far off location, as they intend to resume their journey after a few more decade's rest

silver daggers are so 1981

In Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa it's not uncommon to find a laser capable of shooting a beam of pure elemental fury.  Not elemental as in fire/earth/water/air, mind you, but rather things like a zap gun that fires sulfur rays.  And depending on whether your PC is a purple-skinned or blue-skinned Carcosan, you might take double or half damage, varying by element.

It's a level of weapons-based lunacy that ranks up there with the Midnight Sunstone Bazookas of World of Synnibarr.  And like everything else in Carcosa, determining which element your atomic ray spews at people is determined by a die throw.  True fact: Geoffrey McKinney may be the only dude in the Old School Ruckus who actually pushes random generation too far for my tastes.  I love Carcosa to pieces but the idea that at the beginning of combat you should roll a die to see which dice to roll is one step beyond the pale for me.  Again, going back to Synnibarr, I'm reminded of Raven McCracken's advice when you want to generate a chance for something to happen.  Mr. McCracken advises throwing percentage dice to set the % chance, then rolling the same dice again to see if that happens.  CRAY-ZEE.

Anyway, there's this two page chart of 96 possible elements and who they affect.  I wanted to see those effects overlaid on a Periodic Table, so the following monstrosity was born:

(click to embiggen)

That took way longer to make than I thought it would.  And I'm not sure if I learned anything new from it.

PS - I'm totally stoked that McKinney and Jim Raggi are joining forces to publish a Lamentations of the Flame Princess deluxe edition of Carcosa.


Mr. T as portrayed by pop artist LeftyJoe.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Who's Who in Wessex

Back in May I 'cast' Archibald Cunningham, Tim Roth's dandy/swordsman/rotter from the flick Rob Roy, as Geoffrey of Anjou, a major player in my faux 12th century England setting.  I think I've finally got a few more NPCs at the top of the food chain nailed down.

Empress Maude is Erica Kane.

I'm not as big a fan of the daytime soap All My Children as my wife, but Susan Lucci's character makes a pretty compelling Empress.  She's smart, tough and motivated by a grasping desire to be the top dog, but also a sympathetic character because she's weathered so many of the men around her doing their damnedest to wreck up her life.

The only King Stephen that could go toe-to-toe with this Empress Maud is J.R. Ewing, of Dallas fame.

The only man as greedy and lovably vicious as Erica Kane.  Instead of coveting Ewing Oil, our audacious J. R. sets his sights on a crown never intended for him.  And even though he can be a total son of bitch you want to punch in the face, he still has his tender moments and certain sentimentalities.  He might fight tooth and nail to get what he wants, but he also knows that in a family feud there are a few lines you shouldn't cross.  Or at least if you cross them, don't get caught.

Also, don't mess with King Stephen when he has his magic bottle handy.

Henry of Blois is Bruno Gianelli.

Undoubtedly Bruno Gianelli is less well-known character than the two biggest stars in soap opera history.  Played by the late Ron Silver, Gianelli was the manager for President Bartlett's re-election campaign in season 3 of The West Wing.  (Which incidentally, is pretty much my favorite TV show that doesn't involve swords or robots.)  But four years later Bruno jumps parties to do campaign consulting for Republican senator Arnold Vinick.  Gianelli is smart, tough and a bit of a womanizer.  He's got a clear sense of right and wrong, but to some extant he'd rather win dirty than lose fair.

Henry of Blois is Archbishop of Winchester (or Wintoncester, as it is known in my campaign, which uses Thomas Hardy's naming conventions) and Abbot of Glastonbury.  His refusal to give up control of Glastonbury when advanced to bishop suggests to me that he knows something about that ancient site's Arthurian connection. Henry is also a younger brother of King Stephen and quite probably the richest man in England.  He's a power-behind-the-throne figure like Gianelli.  Henry is also a lavish patron of the arts, especially architecture.

Henry changes sides at one point during the anarchy, which is what inspired me to match him up with Silver's character.  It looks to me like Henry of Blois switches allegiances simply because he wants to be on the winning team.  Bruno Gianelli has a much more nuanced and interesting motivation.  I like the idea of keeping my options open by thinking of Henry as Bruno.  Maybe Henry is playing the game on a whole different level, engineering the situation for the overall betterment of the realm, whoever ends up on the throne.  Whether that makes him a good guy in the eyes of the players will probably depend on which side they take in the conflict.

things I learned from my summer vacation

  • When a light breeze is blowing over Lake Namekagon there's a certain time of day, maybe an hour after sunrise, when the sun clears the treeline and the whole lake is lit up in shimmering gold.  It was amazing to watch.
  • Wisconsin-based brewers South Shore and New Glarus both have pretty dang good English-style brown ales.  The New Glarus is slightly on the hoppy side for me, but pretty tasty nonetheless. My brother-in-law Jim also brought along a variety pack from Shiner, and I enjoyed a couple of darker beers from it.  The Angry Minnow Brewing Company's oatmeal stout was okay for washing down some lunch, but it was too insubstantial to drink by itself.
  • P. G. Wodehouse is a funny guy.  This is a widely known fact, but I finally got around to reading one of his books, A Damsel in Distress.  I'm still tickled pink that one of the major plot points  of the book is confusion over the difference between "an American" and "the American".  I'll probably read another Wodehouse soon.  My whatever-in-law Willie, a rather sophisticated fellow from New York, recommends The Code of the Woosters.  He says he read that one on a plane and laughed so long and hard everyone thought he was crazy.
  • During the twilight after sunset but before the sky is completely dark boats on the lake look like gliding black shadows, especially if the fools piloting them don't turn on any lights.
  • I thought I knew how to make a toasted cheese sandwich.  Turns out I really only knew how to make one in a nonstick pan.  That poor sandwich.
  • Everyone who recommended that I read the Brother Cadfael murder mysteries of Ellis Peters was right on the money.  I got the third book in the series at a library sale for a buck and it was a real joy to read.  Peters has some great insights into life in 12th century England.  Particularly I liked how two searches had to end early because the light at the end of the day was insufficient and also how everyone at the abbey marked time by the schedule of daily services (except for a single jarring reference to "ten o'clock").  But I'm not convinced that Welsh farmers of the period knew how to distill liquor,  which came up in passing.
  • Following running kids around to shoot a Cops parody results in footage that is much shakier than on the show.  Also, however much you are willing to run, kids can run much more.  I already knew that, but I hadn't been reminded in a while.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

just an idea

You know what would make for some pretty kickass armored demon figures?

Pretty much any of these Tekumel soldiers painted with red or blue skin


Reaper also does angel wings, if you need some stern warriors for the upper reaches as well.  I'm not really sure how well the sizes match up, but Reaper sells a lot of different wings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A small but useful reference guide

You see the elevated train is called the 'El'.

This one, believe it or not, comes from

Monday, July 18, 2011

trying minis again

Every time I go to my friendly local game store for game night I do a quick scan of the used games section before I sit down to set up the evening's scenario.  This week I spotted a copy of the Age of Mythology boardgame for only 25 bucks.  Upon inspection I discovered it was opened but unpunched.  I have no interest in playing the game per se, but it comes with a metric crapload of vaguely 1:72 figures, including a bunch of monsters.  And all of them are pristine on the sprue.  I already own a couple of boxes of medieval knightly types, so I think I'm going to get serious about trying some dungeoncrawlery in miniature.  I'm not much of a figure painter, but I've long wanted to try the dipping method.

Someone on the OSR blogosphere uses Jenga blocks for dungeon walls, but I can't remember who at the moment.  That strikes me as a good middle ground between flat terrain drawn on the map and the fullblown Dwarven Forge/Hirst Models route.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

D&D chargen as a party game

Step One

Everyone writes down the usual six stats numbered 1 to 6, like so:

1. Str
2. Dex
3. Int
4. Wis
5. Con
6. Cha

Or whatever order you normally use.  The numbers are the key part.  Next just one player rolls 3d6.  Everyone then cheers if it's a good number or boos if it's low.  Then all players (including the player who just threw 3d6) write that number down next to a randomly generated stat.  I.e. roll 1d6 to determine where to plug the number Bob just saddled you with.  Go around the table repeating the process until all stats are full.  If any d6 roll indicates a stat you already have a value for, just skip down to the next empty slot.  Now everyone has the same raw numbers but distributed differently.  No more whining that Fred got kickass stats and you wound up with a scrub.  And more importantly, chargen now involves everyone paying attention to each other for a bit, instead of a room full of silent people rolling dice at the same time and staring down at their own charsheets.

Step 2

Now look over your stats and figure out what class you'd most like to be.  Write this down on an index card.  The ref takes all the cards and shuffles them, handing a card to each player.    Don't show your card or tell anyone what it says.  Now, start with the player the left of the last person to roll 3d6 in Step 1.  That player must make a choice:

Keep the card they hold and play that class.
Trade with the person on their left, without knowing what the other player is holding.

The person to the left cannot opt out of the trade and the person initiating the trade is stuck with whatever they just got in trade.  Optionally, you can signal your decision by dramatically flipping over your own card or that of the person to your left.  If you trade, give your card face down.  Repeat until everyone has a class.

Step 3

When someone dies, repeat the whole rigamarole.  You might get a better stat/class fit the second time around.  Excess PCs generated this way could be put into a henchmen pool.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's the name of this game?

I'm making myself nuts over here.  A year or three back some game company came out with a fantasy wargame with lots of plastic figs in the 15mm to 20mm range.  One army was Egyptian, another was Celtic, etc.  It seemed pretty clear to me they were aiming for the wallets of the folks who liked BattleLore.  For the life of me I can't recall the name of the game or the publisher.

I did not know such a thing existed.

Metal with lyrics entirely in Tolkien's Black Speech!

There's a point in there where the synthesizers are doing a deep-pitched horn sort of thing and it ends up sounding to me like the oompa of a polka tuba. But many metal songs with a sense of the grandiose tend to teeter toward the ridiculous.

more mind-blowing d20 Chainmail

Being a Hero ain't as awesome as I thought it was.

Again, here the original chart if you want to check my work or expand on it:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

this photo creeps me out

This is a 'handfish',as identified in this National Geographic item.  I keep imagining a bunch of these guys, maybe about goblin height, clutching wicked little spears.  Maybe they aren't overtly hostile to man, just inhumanly indifferent to our non-aquatic lives.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

d20 Chainmail weapon vs. armor

Below I've excerpted a few of the weapons and armor on the Man to Man (i.e. weapon vs. armor) chart from Chainmail. I converted the 2d6 target numbers to percentages, then rounded them to the nearest 5% to make d20 targets. The results were nowhere near what I expected.

WeaponNo ArmorLeather/ PaddedShield OnlyLeather & ShieldChainChain & Shield
1Hand Axe8+8+12+14+18+18+
4Battle Axe12+12+12+12+8+8+
11Mtd. Lance4+4+4+4+6+8+

I hope the formatting works out. I did the chart in google docs then exported to HTML, because I have no idea how to do a simple printscreen on my wife's Mac. Anyway, if you want to check my math or finish the chart here's the original:

Why no entry for a simple club or quarterstaff?

This book is cool.

His middle name is Gustav, not "Gustavus".  That's an amateur hour mistake.  Is Gustavus even a real name?

Aaron Allston's Strike Force

Also: The cover is pretty cool.
On Monday Zak asked me to explain why I like the old Champions supplement Aaron Allston's Strike Force so much.  I haven't been able to find my copy, but I wanted to talk about it before the topic went cold and I forgot about it completely.  So I'll try going over it from memory.

It's been a while since I've made a totally ridiculous and utterly indefensible claim on the ol' Gameblog, so here it is: Aaron Allston was the first RPG blogger.  Dude just didn't have a blog.  When I first read Strike Force it was a breath of fresh air.  Here was a GM with a successful campaign, talking directly to the reader, explaining how he reached that success.  He presents his house rules and villains, like you would expect from any "here buy my campaign" book.  But he also provided all or most of the PCs from the campaign at both their initial 250 point versions and what they looked like with some XP spent.  It was very neat to see what his players were doing with the system.

But the best part of the book is his narrative of the campaign.  He outlines what happened in play, but also shows what is happening behind the scenes.  Allston deals with things like what to do when you have a change in player roster and what happens when campaigns get too big for their own good and you need to split the group.  Most importantly, he covers how he had to learn the hard way that different players want different things from an rpg and that he needs to take that into consideration.  And you know the way people play RPGs in forums by writing back and forth to each other rather than talking out loud?  Allston and his group invented that before they had access to the internet.  They called it "bluebooking" and sometimes whole sessions of the Strike Force campaign were devoted to private conversations done via this method.

In short, at the time Strike Force came out Aaron Allston was the most forward thinking mind in the hobby.  I can count on one hand the number of RPG authors I consider as on-the-ball as him.  Some parts of Strike Force will seem old hat to veteran GMs, some sections will be irrelevant if you don't play Champions/HERO System or another supers game, but if you can find a copy cheap don't pass it up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

even more stupid map tricks

I bet you didn't know that you can go from the Wilderlands to Greyhawk via Minaria. The map below almost sort of works, if you assume Rhombume (the pink realm at the bottom of Minaria map) is a peninsula and that the Waste of Va-Ka-Ka and the Land of Black Ice are somehow the same.

That's the Known World of Basic/Expert D&D tacked on to the bottom.  Since you have to go through the jungle or desert to get to it from Greyhawk, maybe it could serve as the Flanaess equivalent to the Kingdom of Prester John.

I think Ed of Esoteric Murmurs is right, the best explanation for this arrangement would be that they are all part of the setting of The Fantasy Trip, Cidri. The canonical description of Cidri suggests that it is a flat earth of vast size, but I prefer to imagine it as a hypersphere. That would give it a crapload more surface area than an ordinary planet, but it could still look like a sphere in 3 dimensional space and it could still orbit a star (sunrise and sunset over a large plane seems tricky to me).  But it would look radically weird from space, as whole new continents slide across the surface for days on end.

Mr. T hates treants

Today I wanted to post a pic from that A-Team where Mr. T enters the lair of the bad guys by chainsawing through their wall, as it was one of the most ridiculous things I remember from the show.  Instead I found this photoshop made in commemoration of 1987 incident were Mr. T bought a mansion in a Chicago suburb and personally chainsawed down a bunch of trees.  I don't pretend to understand Chicago or the thought processes of people who live in mansions, but the new guy in the neighborhood landscaping his own property annoyed the neighbors so much they passed an ordinance barring such actions in the future.  Here's the retrospective on the incident that originally posted this image.

Monday, July 11, 2011

more fun with maps

Just a little follow-up to yesterday's map post. Evan of In Places Deep commented:
You'll also notice that the Wilderlands map fits snugly over the Mediterranean. It sorta looks like the Med flipped on its side.

Yeah, I guess I can see that.  The central peninsula is sort of an Italy/Greece combo.  Makes me see the setting as more sword-and-sandaly.  Maybe replace all the platemail with Greco-Roman breastplates.

Meanwhile Al of Beyond the Black Gate says:
This is both an awesome comparison of maps, and an unwitting perpetuation of a very old typo - the Wilderlands maps were supposed to be 5 leagues per hex, but ended up published as 5 miles a hex.

So Bob's Wilderlands is about 3 times bigger than everyone else's :)
I've certainly heard of people using leagues instead of hexes, but if someone ever told me that was Bledsaw's intention I forgot about it.  If that's the case I wonder why it wasn't corrected in the 3e boxed set.  Anyway, here's Greyhawk and the Wilderlands compared at the revised scale:

Which gets me thinking along these lines:

Somewhere I've got the official suggestion by either Bledsaw or Arneson on how to attach both the Outdoor Survival map and the First Fantasy Campaign map to the Wilderlands, so this duo-campaign could be grown even larger.  I wonder how Minaria would look attached to the west of the Wilderlands?

pre-DCC zero level play

N4 Treasure Hunt is one of only a handful of adventure modules that I have run more than once.  Each time the reactions have been good to great.  It was written by Aaron Allston, whose original Strike Force book for Champions I still consider one of the greatest supplements ever written for the hobby.

The basic deal is this: the PCs begin play captured, on a slave ship.  Unlike the last installment of the Slavers module series, where your mighty heroes bust out and kick ass, you are zero-level chumps who only escape a cruel fate because the ship runs aground in a storm that drowns most of the slavers.  So you free yourself but it's still storming, you have no equipment, slavers may lurk around any corner intent on recapturing you, you have no idea where you are and on top of that all, you suck.  It's a helluva way to kick off a campaign.

As far as I know, the rules included in the module for 0-level play appeared nowhere else.  The lynchpin of the system was this chart the DM kept on each PC, tracking their class-like activities.  If Bobert the PC started using the bardiche they took from the half-orc, then the DM would get out his sheet for Bobert and mark a plus sign next to each class that could use polearms and a minus sign next to each class that was forbidden from using such weapons.  If Bobert tried to cast the sleep spell found in the spellbook, the DM put a plus next to 'Magic-User' and a minus on every other class.

The module is scattered with opportunities to attempt different class abilities, which effectively sorts the PCs based upon what they do to survive, rather than upon any plan or desire. It's an interesting effect.  As soon as any character earns the XP needed to reach 1st level the DM looks at their tally sheet.  If someone has a lot of plusses next to a single class, that becomes their class going forward.  Otherwise you use categories that are net minuses to weed out various classes.  E.g. "You used an edged weapon in every fight, so you definitely can't be a cleric."  Alignment was similarly tracked.

The other thing that I really like about this module is that the biggest treasure in it is a small seaworthy vessel.  The cover art basically depicts the last scene of the adventure, assuming anyone survives.  Since the slaver ship is blown off course the small island setting for the adventure could be plonked down in pretty much any sea hex on your overland map.

If you choose to track down a copy of N4 and run it, please note that there is one part of the module that I think doesn't work.  There's a ghoul encounter.  It attacks the party early on, before anyone could possibly reach first level.  And it does so from surprise, while the party is asleep in a place they have every reason to think is safe.  With its three attacks per round and paralysis ability, that ghoul could easily turn into a total party kill.  Paranoid parties will post a watch and smart ones will run from the encounter (at least the members who survive the surprise segments), but there's still a strong potential for total disaster.  The last time I ran N4 I'm pretty sure I downgraded the ghoul to zombie stats.

return of the links numbering five

I haven't done one of these in quite a while.  Here's five links of old stuff (in goldfish-memory internet time) about old stuff (in history of the hobby time).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

fun with maps

These two maps should be in scale to each other.  The Wilderlands of High Fantasy is pretty dang tiny compared to the World of Greyhawk.  Imagine how awesome it would be to have Greyhawk fleshed out with maps at 1 hex = 5 miles, full of Wilderlands style encounters.  That'd be a hell of a lot of work.

This comparison turned out pretty much like I expected.  The Flanaess is mostly a mirror image of Europe with Lake Superior dropped in the center.

Looks like this confirms my suspicious that Indiana is pretty close to one of the 18 Wilderlands submaps in size, just rotated 90 degrees.  Now if I ever run the Wilderlands I'm going to have trouble not imagining that central peninsula as fantasy Illinois.  The Invincible Overlord as Rod Blagojevich.  The Blues Brothers as mysterious dark-clad bards fighting Thule cultists while on the run from the authorities.  Lotsa corn and soybeans in the fields.  Etc, etc.

Here are the figures I was working with, if you want to check my results and/or expand upon them:

Flanaess 4800 miles E-W , 3600 N-S
Wilderlands 780 miles E-W, 1020 N-S

12th century video

Pretty much every time I mention that my D&D campaign is set in England during the Anarchy (1135-1154) someone kindly recommends the Cadfael books of Ellis Peters, a series of medieval murder mysteries featuring a former Crusader turned monk and herbalist, Brother Cadfael.  I've not got around to reading any of the books yet, but my local library has the BBC televisions adaptations on DVD, which stars Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.  I've pretty much love everything of Jacobi's I've seen, going back to seeing I, Claudius when it was on PBS in the eighties.  Anyway, here are a trio of stills from the show that I wanted to share.

Note the smooth gemstone mounted on the lid of this keepsake box.  The art of cutting stones with angular facets didn't really catch on in Europe until the 14th century or so.  A DM could use this to his or her advantage by making normal gemstones appearing in treasure the smooth, polished type pictured above, but still using cut stones as rarer, more expensive gems.  Call them "dwarf-cut stones" or designate them as being from a faraway land and Bob's your uncle.

The design of this ring intrigues me.  The stone is smooth, for the reasons mentioned above.  But the barrel like setting looks like it could unscrew to reveal a tiny compartment.  Rings with compartments aren't a new idea.  They traditionally carry a dose of poison to be slipped into someone's wine.  But there are other options in D&D, such as a pinch of dust of sneezing and choking, a scroll or map penned by a tiny person like a pixie, or even a supernatural entity bound inside like a smaller, less obvious version of a genie's bottle.

Not an undead or mutant, just a poor bastard with a bad case of leprosy.  I could see a jumpy PC accidentally murdering this sorry fellow.  Hell, a low level magic-user with charm person could frame the PCs by asking their charmed leper friends to act like zombies.  A higher level might use actual zombie lepers as a way of doubly discouraging PC interference.

Friday, July 08, 2011

still thinking about elvish longevity

The top bar represents the historical rulers of Wessex (and later England) from the first known Wessex lord, Cerdic, who ruled starting in 519AD.  Each color change represents a change in dynasty.

The middle bar represents the rule of the Elf Queen, assuming that elves have approximate 10 times the average lifespan of humans and their rulers reign for about 10 times as long.  Each color change represents a new queen. 

The bottom bar represents dwarf kings, at roughly 4 times the longevity/reign of human rulers.  The names not swiped from The Hobbit are inspired by Snow White: Gloin the Dreamer is Sleepy, Bibur the Reticent is Bashful and Dubin the Foolish equals Dopey.

one dude's opinion

Ennies nominations are out again, so it's time for every armchair dillrod to second guess the process.  Here's my take.  I like Gaming Paper.  I own a couple rolls, have almost filled one with Boot Hill gunfight locations.  By next week it will be full when I add the OK Corral to it.  I'll need at least one more roll, probably two, before the campaign ends. 

But Gaming Paper Adventures getting an Ennie nomination for Best Aid and Vornheim only an honorable mention?  That's just crazy talk.  If you do D&D with minis I can see the appeal of the Adventures version of Gaming Paper.  They're dungeon geomorphs at 1 inch equals 5 feet.  That's totally groovy.  But its not mind-blowingly awesome and original in the way Vornheim is.

I don't know anything else about the other nominees, so in all fairness I can't really say they're not as cool as Vornheim.  I'll assume that WotC's nominee D&D Essentials: Dungeon Tiles Master Set – The Dungeon is cooler than it's hamhanded corporate-speak brandified title suggests, but that's just guesswork.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

let me get my 10' pole

Earlier Jamie Mal posted a publicity still from the upcoming film version of The Hobbit.  These guys definitely look like the kind of sons of bitches I'd want on my team for a little lair looting.

At one point I had statted up for my Bandit Kingdoms campaign an NPC party formed of one Randolph the Red, a human wizard, a surly halfling called Mr. Daggins (don't ask him his first name unless you want a fight) and a dozen dwarves.  Each dwarf had a different class, drawing on all the material available to me at the time.  Beyond the normal Fighter, Fighter/Thief, Fighter/Cleric etc. the group included Dragon magazine classes, things like a Death Master, a Smith, a Thief-Acrobat and some 3rd party nonsense as well, like maybe an Arduin barbarian or something.  They were all classes that dwarves could legally take, assuming you allowed that class in your campaign.

They were going to be part of the Search for the Crown Jewels adventure, with said crown jewels being part of the dragon's hoard that Randolph and company were trying to claim.  I was hoping to draw the players into a World of Greyhawk version of the Battle of Five Armies, with the players on the side of the goblins.  (The nicest guy in the party was Chaotic Neutral.)  But the players rejected the story line so we did something else entirely.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

thinking about elven longevity

This chart of pre-Flood patriarchs should be fairly accurate, where year 1 equals the year Adam was created.

Enoch didn't die. That dude was mighty sly.

So Lamech, the 8th generation descendant of Adam and father of Noah, knew the First Man for 56 years or so.  This is kinda like the situation between Fry and the Professor in Futurama, except imagine that Fry was awake the whole time making an ass of himself at every family get together and no one can do anything about because he's been the family patriarch for centuries.  Incidentally, my number crunching on Old Testament patriarchy also suggests that old man Noah knew young Abraham, who was born in the 1900's.  The secrets of Creation could be trasmitted thusly: Adam teaches Lamech, who teaches his son Noah, who instructs Father Abraham.  Try to imagine this for a minute from Noah's perspective.  Him saying "My dad told me this" is the same thing as "Here's what an eyewitness to the Fall of Man said".

Here's another way of looking at the issue.  Below are some historical figures from the 1st millenium AD given longevities identical to the dudes in the first chart.

So Origen spends the better part of 800 years hashing out theology with St. Paul, who runs the church for almost its first thousand years.  St. Augustine takes the reins directly from him.  Rome never becomes the seat of church power because Alaric sacks it every 50 or 100 years just for fun.  In my campaign set in 1139 Mani's faith would still be a threat to Christianity, as he spent almost 900 years organizing his own religion. And who would reign in England?  King Arthur (i.e. Riothamus)?  Perhaps he retired to devote his time to reading Caedmon's 400 year corpus of poetry, leaving Alfred the Great to contend with Charlemagne always trying to increase his empire.

Only slightly related thoughts: Elves don't sleep each night for the same reason you probably don't nap for 20 minutes of every hour.  When you ask an elf "When?" don't expect an answer more specific than "Winter." for the same reason you don't tell people "I'm taking my lunch break at 11:32 and 47 seconds."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Augerville?  I've lived in this burg for 20 years and have never heard mentions of it.

This is so dang simple everyone looking for fellow gamers ought to be using it.  If you've already signed up for it may be time to check your profile.  Mine had an old address on it and I know one dude on that map has moved out of state.  Also, your tags might need a little editing.

Then the next step is to hopefully find someone nearby and use the site's private message function to contact them.

Good luck!

Hey, kids! Who wants to play some Mr. T?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Fun Fact: In some jurisdictions in the U.S. it is completely legal to celebrate the 4th of July by using the jack knife powerbomb, the DDT and/or the piledriver on descendants of King George.  Check with your local law enforcement before applying your finishing move.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

showing your sources

If you haven't already, do yourself and favor a check out Chris Hogan's Small But Vicious Dog, his juicy hybrid of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (the old version) and Basic/Expert D&D.  Especially if you are a fan of the lowlife end of adventuring as expressed in things like the 0-level "funnel" of the DCC rpg or Johnny Nexus's tales of Fat Gregor.

There's a lot of good stuff back into those 36 pages of Hogan's, but I just want to highlight two things.  First, the text is really funny.  It's just a hoot to read.  Hogan really nails the cynical black humor of the Black Adder vein.

The other thing he does is borrows from elsewhere cite his influences right in the text.  For example, Jim Raggi has one of the sanest methods for adjudicating encumbrance, so borrowing his rules makes a lot of sense to me.  Mr. Hogan does exactly that, and says so right in the encumbrance section.  I like that a lot.  The kind of folks who write up D&D variants should be swiping each others' best bits.  Because really, unless encumbrance is your bag, finding someone else who has already put the work in is a godsend.  Ditto any other type of rule that you aren't inspired to work over yourself.

I've seen quite a few published 3rd party books for 3.x that borrowed open content from other publishers, exactly as allowed under the licensing.  But sometimes the only way you'd find out that part of the book was someone else's work was by reading the stupid tiny-fonted legalese in the back.  That sucks.  If someone is good enough to swipe from, don't hide it under a bushel.  There's no need to be insecure about borrowing, especially here in the OSR scene.  We already rely on ridiculous amounts of material from Gygax and Arneson and many others.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

this one goes out to my bud Pat

I don't think I've seen a couple of those photos of Uncle Al before.

Friday, July 01, 2011

real post later

FYI I've updated my little piece on what to drink to get wasted in Wessex.  New version here.

Quick update:  My daughter wants to play some Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, so by "real post later" I guess I mean tomorrow.