Friday, September 20, 2019

Evocative Maps

While Google+ was a thing I posted this map from my Majestic Wilderlands campaign


The party talked to the dragon Mori (center and up) and succeeded converting her to their cause. In turn she explained what she knew about the forest. But rather than write a description, I described it visually with the above map. Figuring that it was more effective in visually conveying the highlights of what could be found.

Recently I did another for the current Swords & Wizardry campaign I running using my Majestic Fantasy rules. In this case it is about the Valley of the Dead Queens northwest of Viridistan.

As with Dearthwood, the characters were able to have a long discussion with allies knowledgeable about the region. I felt it was easy to convey the information visually. In the valley you can see the towers of the Dead Queens along with the Obsidan Tower and the Serd Worms.

Keep in mind the scale of the Majestic Wilderlands is 12.5 miles per hex not 5 miles hex. So the maps are larger than the original counterpart. Which is why villages are now castles or towns. 

Below is how the above looks on the main map I drew for myself.


Finally here is the first poetic map I drew. It was for the last GURPS campaign I ran in the Majestic Wilderlands

And the written summary It is written from the point of view of the rebel giving the information.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Your help is needed for Jim Kramer of Usherwood Publishing

OSRIC along with the Basic Fantasy RPG ignited the OSR as we know it today. Jim Kramer is part of the OSRIC community and through his company, Usherwood Publishing, offered a print version of the OSRIC rules as well as his own works.

Jim and his family need your help. The OSRIC community explains,
You may know Jim Kramer from his Usherwood Publishing modules & supplements, or his work helping produce works like OSRIC and Knockspell. You probably didn’t know Jim had multiple brain surgeries to remove tumors, and the battle has gotten much harder. To help Jim and his family during this difficult time, a group of his friends, collaborators, and first edition enthusiasts banded together to make this fundraiser fanzine, where all royalties go directly to Jim and his family.
To this end the Saving Throw fanzine was created.  You can look over the table of contents and buy the Saving Throw fanzine from this link. Or look over his store and if something interests you buy something from there.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Journey's End (for now), the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches has been released!

I am pleased to announce the release of Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. This is the fourth of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers four of the maps as detailed below. The four sets combined will cover a region equal in size to Western Europe providing years and decades of adventuring for you and your group.

Unlike many setting products, the Wilderlands sketches out the overview and history in light detail. Then presents a comprehensive list of local detail in a compact format that is customizable. This eliminates much of the tedious work involved in creating a setting and allows the referee to focus on the campaign and the grand adventures the players face as their characters.

This is presented as two products both in PDF and Print on Demand.

The first product is a 44 page guidebook containing a brief overview of and commentary on Maps Fifteen to Map Eighteen of the Wilderlands along with lists covering details on Villages, Castles, Lairs, Ruins, and Islands.

Due to the extensive use of monsters from the supplements to the original edition, this release details 7 monsters and provides full statistics suitable for use with Swords and Wizardry and similar RPGs.

The Guidebook for the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches also includes charts, tables, and rules concerning the Triumphant Grand Tactical mapping system used by the Wilderlands, how to build strongholds, and establishing baronies. In addition information has been added on the demographics of the Wilderlands along with new rules governing pastoral and nomadic cultures. Because Tula, the City of Wizards, plays a prominent role in this region, rules for potion and magic item creations has been included. Finally as the Isle of the Blest straddles the corners of four maps, a combined map and list has been added as a bonus chapter. This includes the background originally written by Scott Fulton in Pegasus #3.

Included with the Guidebook are letter sized blank map of the Wilderlands that can be used to take notes during a campaign. A PDF with the map legend. A letter size black and white guide to the placement of each of the 18 maps within the Wilderlands.

Finally a giant sized preliminary version of the master map that I used to crop the individual maps from. With the right printer this can be printed as a full scale map 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. With the PDF you can selectively copy out regions as complete maps that overlap the borders of the 18 maps. After the release of the final set of maps this file will be updated as a layered PDF allowing for custom maps of the Wilderlands to be copied or created.



The second product is a set of four maps:  Isles of the Dawn Map Fifteen, Southern Reaches Map Sixteen, Silver Skein Isles Map Seventeen, and Ghinor Highlands Map Eighteen. When ordered via print on the demand they are printed in two overlapping halves each on a 12" by 18" poster. In addition each map is presented as a 22" by 17" PDF file.

The maps have been redrawn from the original in a color style. Instead of the distinct symbols of the original maps, terrain has been drawn as a transparent fill and vegetation represented by colored areas. This allows both terrain and vegetation to overlap. Representing more accurately the complexity and diversity of the Wilderland's geography.

This release is the final book in a series of four covering the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

A preview PDF

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Guidebook

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Map


Bundles

I now offer bundles of all four sets of guidebooks and maps at 25% off buying separately. There are four bundles two sets of print or PDF for the guidebooks, and two sets of print or PDF for the maps. DrivethruRPG doesn't allow maps and books to be mixed in the same bundle (or order).

Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (PDF)
Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (Print)
Wilderlands Map Bundle (PDF) 
Wilderlands Map Bundle (Print)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Some thoughts on Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax Part II

This is the second in my series post about the legacy of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

 


I consider myself informed on the legacy of the two men and the history of DnD and tabletop roleplaying. There are other that have spent far more time, and money on the subject than I. Sharing what they learned in formal films and books.

However for each of us to come to our own conclusion on the topic we need a path to get there. The sources I have used were the following

Playing at the World by Jon Peterson
The Hawk and Moor series by Kent David Kelly
The First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson and the Judges Guild Staff
Dave Arneson's True Genius by Rob Kuntz

Gygax Q and A series on various Forums
Dragonsfoot
Enworld

The TSR Q and A series on Dragonsfoot

Old school forums such as
The Comeback Inn
The ODnD discussion forum.
Knights and Knaves

Recently there an another new source of information the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary which I haven't gotten completely through yet.

Browsing through the above when you have the time and interest will lead you to other sources that I haven't mentioned.

The reason I haven't given you my opinion yet is that throughout the recent round of discussion there are lot of editorializing and opinion given but nobody is explaining how you can form your own opinion. Especially in a way that is compatible with the time and budget you have for a hobby. Everything that list except for the First Fantasy Campaign should be readily accessible to anybody reading this. You don't have to digest it all at once. Just read (or watch) through what you can when you can.

Eventually you get to a point where you have your own answer to the questions I posted in Part 1.

And no I am not going to make you wait for a Part III for my answer.

So what does Rob think?

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?

My conclusion is no. In the absence of that session happening in Lake Geneva maybe Gygax would have followed up man to man section of chainmail with a Metagaming Melee type wargame or some other type of wargame that had the players playing individual characters (like Gladiators). But it is Dave Arneson who the first to put all the element that we know as tabletop roleplaying. And more important did the work to figure out how to make it fun and interesting.


  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.

Blackmoor started out as a miniature wargame campaign. Not a traditional one where the players were in essence the armies on board. In Blackmoor, like in the various Braunsteins being run, the players played the actual commanders and other important characters. Not just the good guys but the baddies as well. 

Dave's role was that of a neutral arbiter. He created the setting, drew up the rules to resolve battle, logistics, and prices list. Within those constraints the players were free to do anything that they would as if they were there. In short a wargame campaign but a very sophiscated one.

What turned Blackmoor into the first tabletop roleplaying was Dave's willingness to say yes. When Peter Gaylord wanted to play a wizard, he said yes. When Dave Fant figured out how to transform into a vampire, he said yes. And so forth and so on. Week by week the focus of the Blackmoor campaign shifted from a struggle between good guys versus bad guys to the individual exploits of the players as their characters.

My opinion that it is the introduction of Blackmoor dungeons the defines the clear line between two phases of the campaign. Prior the dungeon Blackmoor was mostly a wargame campaign, afterwards it was mostly about the exploits of the individual characters.

The reason I picked the dungeons, because the First Fantasy Fantasy campaign and other anecdotes clearly state that the good guys players were punished with exile because they lost Castle Blackmoor to the baddies by spending too much time exploring the dungeon. Instead of learning their lesson when they arrived at Lake Gloomy they went off to explore new dungeons.

I know my statement makes it sound like a AHA! moment. But I can't stress enough that this developed over weeks and months. With Dave and his players constantly trying things out.

When Dave goes down to Lake Geneva to run that fateful adventure. He has nearly two years of running Blackmoor under his belt. The same amount of time Gygax used from the writing his first manuscript and running the Greyhawk campaign, to the publication of Dungeons & Dragons.

Also keep in mind as Gygax ran Greyhawk, Dave continued to run Blackmoor that the two corresponded frequently.


  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?

So here the thing, Dave does not have a lot of published works to his name. Nearly all of the anecdotes paints Dave as a genius at running campaigns, making wargames.  But shined when it was face to face not words on paper. But Gary Gygax was able to see a project through publications and did so a number of time prior and after Dungeons & Dragons.

So what would have happened if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons. We would have seen Megarry's Dungeon boardgame at some point. We would also probably seen wargames where the players played individual characters. Probably something like GDW's Engarde, the first Boot Hill, or the later Metagaming's Melee and Wizard by Steve Jackson. We would have probably seen some Braunstein scenarios published.

But without that Lake Geneva session run by Dave inspiring Gygax, we would have not have tabletop roleplaying. When I read through First Fantasy Campaign and the various accounts, I notices there is a lot of focus on the wargame side of the campaign. In terms of rules, scenarios, the miniatures, and the props being made.

But because Dave had to travel to Lake Geneva, he couldn't bring all that so brought the part of the campaign that was easier to transport (and popular in its own right) the dungeons. Hence Gygax was inspired to run his own dungeon campaign, Greyhawk.

My opinion that the dungeon was the perfect setting to convey how different this game was. Compared to other type of adventure locales, the dungeon is clearly focused on players acting as individual characters. In this case exploring the monster filled maze.

Gygax contribution to the development of tabletop roleplaying was to take what Dave did and figure out to make it work for himself. Then write it in a way that was understandable for everybody else to learn for themselves.

In my view that was as an impressive feat as Dave developing the concept of tabletop roleplaying. Is why I view that there is no path to what we have as a hobby and industry that doesn't run through the two of them.

Wrapping it up
There are people who wrote whole books about the subject (and filmed documentaries to boot). I can't encompass all that into two post. What I can do is outline for you the path I took to reach the basic conclusions I reached above. Hope this help.

In the meantime
Fight On!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Some thoughts on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson Part I

A recent article that was published has ignited discussion, some heated, about the legacy of Dave Arneson relative to Gary Gygax. I have my opinions which I will explain in part 2. But the process I went through involved me answering three questions for myself.

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?
  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.
  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?


In other news
Sorry for the light blogging this month. The time I have for this was mostly consumed by two major projects. Drawing maps for Gabor Lux's upcoming Castle Xyntillan, and the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. I am happy to say that the guidebooks are going through the print approval process. So release should be in two to three weeks.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fantasy Medieval Style Law. Part 2

The Arrest
As Sigurt and Thil enter Lado's shop, the one of the two Greene men following them runs to tell Aldus and Marcus where Sigurt is. Unfortunately for Sigurt, the Greene has gathered everybody and ready to move. Several minutes later everybody arrives at Lado's shop.

Lado was successful at covering his discomfort at the arrival of Sigurt and Thil and managed not to tip them off that something was amiss. Their conversation about provision was interrupted by a loud insistent knock at the door. When Lado answered he see Marcus with his posse backed by a City Guard patrol standing nearby.

Marcus presents his writ and then turns to Sigurt and Thil announcing he is here to arrest Sigurt for the murder of his brother. Sigurt puts his hand on his weapon but Thil noticing the posse and the guards stops the Northeron. Thil examine the writ and finds it in good order. Sigurt and Thil get in to a heated argument until Thil pointed out the dozen or so armed individuals outside in the street. Thil will take Sigurt's gear and get back to Corbin to see what can be done. But for now they are out numbered.

To everybody's relief, Sigurt surrenders after giving his gear to Thil. Marcus, the city guard, and his posse take Sigurt to the nearest Jails and has Sigurt locked up. The writ is signed by the Jailor indicating that the arrest has been made.

The Trial
Aldus and Marcus Green return to Alderman Mallory and present him with the signed writ. Aldus requests that Sigurt be tried at the next assizes for the murder of his son. Alderman Mallory agrees and issues a Writ to compel Sigurt to appear before the commission of oyer and terminer when it assembled in 18 days at the monthly assize to answer for his crimes. Aldus pays the Alderman another two shilling for this writ.

Rob's Notes: Eastgate as a freetown is not allow to try capital crimes. The king holds monthly assize in where felonies can be heard and adjudicated. In this fantasy kingdom, the Grand Jury is a group at the assize that issues indictments requiring the named individuals to appear at the next assize. Indictments can be presented to the Sheriff or Aldermans to secure a writ to arrest the named individual to force them to appear.

The Commission of Oyer and Terminer, actually hears the case and renders a verdict. To have the commission hear a case the plantiff has to secure a writ in order to be put on the schedule or docket.

It is quite possible that the indictment step is skipped as in the case of Sigurt. In which case, if a suitable authority, like an Alderman or a Sheriff, issues a writ to put the case on the docket.

In the 18 days that follows these things happen.

Both the Greenes, and the Adventuring Party gather witnesses who would swear an account of the events that led to the death of Micheal. The Adventuring Party has a hard time of it due to the Greenes better connections. However they manage to find a merchant who was present during the incident who happened to be a rival to the Greenes.

Sigurt sits in jail and one of the adventuring party makes sure that he has food, water, and clothing each day. Medieval Jails provide minimal food and water. The expectation is that the family will keep the prisoner supplied. Luckily none of the jailers wants to mess with the Adventuring Party after the first visit so Sigurt is able to get everything that the party delivers until the assize.

When the day of the assizes arrives, Sigurt and the other prisoners to be tried are escorted by the city guard to the commons where the tents and the commission's benches are set up. It is cloudy day with rain drizzling off and on so everybody is in a foul mood and ready to get this over with.

At first the trial goes badly for Sigurt as the Greene line up an array of witnesses swearing that Sigurt instigated the fight with no provocation. And other testifying to Micheal's good character. However prior to the trial Thil managed to find out that one of the commissioners was a knight whose son got in trouble because of Micheal's rowdy ways. Thil's investigation and persuasion abilities (along with a few quiet Charm Persons) allows him to highlight Micheal's rowdiness.

At the conclusion of the trails, the commission finds Sigurt guilty of manslaughter not murder and fines him double weregild (400 shilling or 4,800 sp) for Micheal's death. The Greene family wanted death is not happy with the verdict. The party pays Sigurt's fine and quickly leaves Eastgate on their long delayed expedition to the Barradine Ruins. It unlikely the Greenes will be able to exact any type of vengeance unless the party returns to Eastgate.

Wrapping it up
I deliberately made the resolution more peaceful than would likely be the case. Odds are that Thil and Sigurt would have made a scene at Lado's shop. Either fleeing through the back of Lado's shop or attempting to take on the posse and the guard. Each with their own negative consequences.

But the scenario path I opted for allowed me to illustrate each part of how medieval style justice would work in a fantasy RPG campaign. The key to Sigurt paying a fine and not hanging from a noose is Thil clever work in discovering that others were negatively by Micheal. Thus painting the incident as one where a crime has been committed, manslaughter, but caused by Micheal's history of drunkenness. However because the Adventuring Party had no local ties it was a uphill battle at every step.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Fantasy Medieval Style Law. Part 1

Recently I created an example of how fantasy medieval legal system would work. I talked about this in a series of posts about building a feudal setting called Of Overlords, Kings, and  Barons. Of course there is a Harn Article on the subject called simply Law.

The Incident
The PCs are sitting in the Rusty Keg tavern in the City of Eastgate enjoying a meal and a drink after concluding a deal for a map that will lead them to the Barradine Ruins, their current focus. From two tables over, Michael Greene and his friends start mocking one of the party's member, Sigurt the Bold a Northeron. He is a member of the Greene family a local merchant family who works the northern trade routes. Northeron raider are one of the more serious threats that the family has to prepare on their trading voyages. As a result there is little love for Northerons from Micheal or his family.

Michael is drunk and starts making loud comments about SIgurt. His friends join in as well. Finally Sigurt had enough and walks over and just clocks Micheal after deciding that he can take on the whole lot if need be. Micheal jumps on top of Sigurt and the fight is on. Micheal's friend are about to jump but stops when the whole adventuring party stands up. The fight is between Micheal and Sigurt.

A few blows are traded by Sigurt has the upper hand being a veteran warrior. Unfortunately a few rounds in, Sigurt's player rolls a critical hit. Not only Sigurts puts Micheal down but also kills him.

The Aftermath
The tavern goes silent. Corbin, the leader of the party, decides that it is best not to stick around. He gives the barkeep 50 gp for the trouble caused. Then the party leaves and returns to the Wyvern Inn where they have rooms.

The barkeep, who also the owner of the Rusty Keg, goes over to Micheal Greene's friends and tell them to pick up Micheal's body and bring him to a back room. Then the barkeep start questioning Micheal's friend who are they and who is Micheal. Eastgate is large enough that not everybody is recognized on sight. However the Barkeep has heard of the Greene family and is well aware of their status as a merchant family. So the barkeep grabs his son and tell one of Micheal's friends to take his son to the Greene house.

A 1/2 hour later, Aldus Green and his eldest son and heir Marcus Greene arrive at the Rusty Keg. Sad and angered at the death of his younger son, Aldus tells Marcus to start questioning people as to what happened. While a lot of the patrons have left a few remained who saw everything. Between them and Micheal's friends, Aldus and Marcus gets a general description of the party, and along with the name of the person who they met, Lado Thorne a chandler local to the ward.

The Investigation
Aldus and Marcus secure a cart from the Barkeep and transport Micheal's body back to their house. It is almost midnight when this is done. Because it is night time Marcus gather a guard wakes up a handful that work for the family. Picking those who have brawled or can fight. They march through the street towards Lado's shop.

Along the way, a City Guard patrol stops them and asks their business., Marcus explains that his brother was killed and they were on their way to Lado's shop to question him about the identity of the killers. That they intend no violence. The guard corporal in charge of the patrol knows from experience that tempers are high. So he tells Marcus that he may go but only if one of the guard accompany to act as a witness.

Marcus agrees knowing that his family hasn't done anything formal yet. So the guards are well within their authority to order Micheal and his posse to turn back. But the guard corporal knows about the Green family and their status. Since the purpose of the posse is to question Lado it fine as long as it doesn't get out of hand. After Marcus leaves with his posse and the assigned guard.. The corporal sends a runner back to the ward's barrack to let the Sergeant and Lieutenant know that a murder took place and that the Greene family has sent out a posse.

Marcus, the guard, and the posse arrived at Lado's house. After pounding on the door for a few minutes, Lado open a window and ask their business. He becomes a little frightened at the posse below, he calms down a little when he see a guardsman with them. He lets Micheal and the guardsman into his shop and they begin to talk.

As a rule most proprietors including Lado keep quiet about their customer's business. However when Lado learned that Micheal Green was killed in a bar fight after he left. He quickly identifies the adventuring party to Micheal and to the guardsman as a witness. He also happen to know through the dinner conversation with the party that they are staying at the Wyvern Inn.

He doesn't tell Marcus what his business with the group was about. Telling Marcus that his father can talk to Tomas, the guildmaster of the Chandlers if the Greenes want to know. However that discretion doesn't extend to protecting his customer from a murder investigation.

The Writ
It been a long night so far with no end in sight, Marcus leaves Lado's shop. He tells the city guardmen that the Greens are going to keep watch on the Wyvern. The guardsmen acknowledges and asks for an escort back to the barrack. Marcus does this as well as send his own guard and one of other employee to watch on the Inn for the remainder of the night. Afterwards Micheal returns home and spends the remainder of the night comforting his mother.


Rob's Note: Aldus doesn't authorize Marcus or any of those who work for them to go into the Inn and grab the party as the Inn is the property of a innkeeper who in good standing with the innkeeper's guild. Innkeeper are expected to protect their guests and safeguard their property as one of their responsibilities. With a writ from a Alderman, the Greenes have no recourse to wait until they secure one. However if Sigurt or the party steps out of the Inn then they are fair game.


In the morning the party wakes up and has breakfast and plans the day's shopping in order to prepare to leave for the Barradine Ruins the following day.

At the earliest possible hour, Aldus Greene and his son Marcus head over to Alderman Angus Mallory's house. The Mallory family have long been friends of the Greens. The Mallorys own one of the largest weaving establishments in Eastgate and the Greenes often ship their linen and wool to distant ports.

Aldus reports the murder and has his son Marcus swear to the particulars. Alderman Mallory is more than willing to accept their sworn oaths and issues a writ authorizing the Greene to seize Sigurt's person and transport him to the nearest jail to await a hearing. The writ further allows the Greene to call on the CIty Guard as the accused is reputed to be a member of an adventuring party. Aldus pays the Alderman two shillings (24 sp) for the writ.

While the party is eating breakfast and planning their day. Aldus and his son Marcus are gathering every guard and employee they have along with sending a runner to the ward barracks to ask for a patrol to be on hand.

This takes time so the party conclude breakfast and break up to go shopping and prepare for the expedition. The two men that the Greene station see this and start to follow Sigurt. Sigurt is in the company of Thil the Cowled, a mage, and their job is purchase rations and other consumables for the expedition. Ironically they head over to Lado's shop.