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


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

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!