Saturday, April 13, 2019

James Smith of Dreams of Mythic Fantasy passed away


Sadly James of Dreams of Mythic Fantasy passed away a few days ago. He enriched us all with his love of our hobby. More than that he went above and beyond by collecting information about what other folks were doing and letting the rest of us know with OSR News

He will be missed

James Albert Smith Jr (1968-2019)


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Four more Maps! The Wilderlands of the Magic Realm, Revised Edition is released!

I am pleased to announce the release of the Wilderlands of the Magic Realm. This is one of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers five 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.

This product is a 48 page Guidebook for the four maps of the Wilderlands of the Magic Realm. The books has an introduction and commentary by Robert S. Conley who has used the Wilderlands as his main fantasy campaign for nearly forty years. Each map is detailed with the following listings: Villages, Castles and Citadels, Idyllic Isles, Ruins and Relics, and Lurid Lairs.

Due to the extensive use of monsters from the supplements to the original edition, this release details 17 monsters and provides full statistics suitable for use with Swords & Wizardry and similar RPGs.

Because the maps for Wilderlands of the Magic Realm are dominated by ocean; charts, tables, and rules concerning water adventures have been included from various Judges Guild publications. A three page summary of the ships presented in Dave Sering's Wave Riders & Sea Steeds are also included along with ship illustrations.

Included with the Guidebook PDFs 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. This guidebook covers the Ghinor Map 11, Isle of the Blest Map 12, Ebony Coast Map 13, Ament Tundra Map 14.

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:  Ghinor Map Eleven, Isle of the Blest Map Twelve, Ebony Coast Map Thirteen, Ament Tundra Map Fourteen. 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 will be followed by the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches covering the last four maps of the Wilderlands.

A preview PDF

The Wilderlands of the Magic Realm Guidebook

The Wilderlands of the Magic Realm Color Map



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Figuring out the scale of Viridstan's Map

One of the mysteries of the original run of Judges Guild products is the scale of the map of the hexes on the City State of the World Emperor.


Nowhere on the above the map or in the text of CSWE is how big each hex is and has remained a minor mystery for the past 35 years.

Recently I realized that the city map to Tarantis is drawn in a similar style to CSWE. While it doesn't have hexes it does have a scale.

So I superimposed a section of Tarantis on top of CSWE and resized Tarantis until the main street, alleys, and building look comparable to the same on the CSWE map.


I then made the Tarantis map transparent and moved the scale over on of Viridstan's hexes. And viola! It looks like each hex is 120 feet.


While my works is an elaborate guess it makes a lot of sense. It unlikely to be 240' feet, but it could have been 60 feet. Or the 60 yards of the Thunderhold Map. Making the scale 120' would make the size of the building comparable to those in Tarantis.

If I ever get around to drawing the City State of the World Emperor that the scale I will go with.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

So about The Fantasy Trip

I got my Fantasy Trip Legacy box on Friday. Then the next day I got a email from SJ Games saying it shipped. Looks like they really got this Infinity thing nailed down tight.


So when I opened the box and removed the plastic the above is what I got. All I got to say that is one monster box. I also picked up pocket box version of Melee/Wizard. It thicker than the original but it also nice quality cardboard counters instead of the stiff paper version of the original. I think anybody who want Melee/Wizard for a wargame is going to be pleased with the pocket box version.



I then opened the box.


It nice how they made the inside box lid a function aide in it own right. It can be used as a drop table to generate a random dungeon.

Removing the cover sheet and the contents we get.


As for the packing, note they cleverly put two finger wholes in the The Fantasy Trip Mega Hex lid. This made it super easy to pull out from the bottom. 

As for the rest, you get the paper boxed set of Melee, Wizard, and Death Test. A very sturdy referee screen. A expanding file folder style organizer, two poster maps, In the Labyrinth main rulebook, reference book, and Tollenkar's Lair adventure.  Along with dice, a deck of pregens, and pads of character sheet (two sizes).

It was exciting to open this up and look at each item. Definitely felt like I got my money worth even though I didn't get the "Get it all" level.

The poster maps


The referee's screen along with the map and book for Tollenkar's Lair


The front of the referee's screen

The remaining leaves of the front of the referee's screen.

Finally some of the cards with pregenerated characters,

Overall I think this is a outstanding product for a RPG. Steve Jackson and his team did a great job with this. One of the best part going forward is there are multiple entry points for people to try out the system before deciding to buy into the line.

Wrapping it up.
Right now I am in the midst of preparing Wilderlands of the Magic Realm for publication. Once I get that done, I will setup some of the counters and megahexes and do a run through of the system.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Some days this hobby of ours makes one go WOW!

So Douglas Waltman has been busy lately.


I am just simply amazed. Douglas talks about wanting to bring it to GaryCon in this facebook post.
B1 Search for the Unknown has been one of my favorite modules for years. I first encountered it when I got the Holmes DnD boxed set in late 1977. 

The best part of was the dungeon layout with a constructed complex above and caverns below. It has a lot little touches I liked; the fact the upper level felt like something two high level adventurers (Roghan and Zelligar) would make. That the bottom cave level had a back exit that opened to a cliff ledge. The long opening corridor with the magic mouths. And of course the cat in the jar, the room of Pools and the mushroom room.

For more B1 (and B2) goodness there is Goodman Games' Into the Borderlands

Way go to Douglas! Your work is simply amazing.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 & Game Reprint


The Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 kick starter just funded. What people may not know it is also to enable a reprint of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set. Granted it is a bit pricey at $95 however if you wanted one stop to get into GURPS, the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is your ticket, now with more monsters.

I realize many appreciate relatively rules-light RPGs these days. However the virtue of GURPS that is is a well designed system where things you want do as your character have a one to one relationship with the mechanics. There very little in the way of abstraction or fiddling with mini game mechanics. And when it comes to character customization GURPS is still without peer.



Also check out Douglas Cole's The Citadel at Norðvorn kickstarter which is a viking themed Dungeon Fantasy setting.


Friday, March 15, 2019

So about OD&D presentation and style.

There long been a thread of thought that ODnD is poorly written and organized. When criticism is charitable it a result of ODnD being Gygax's first attempt at writing about a tabletop roleplaying game. When it not it because Gygax's ability as an author is also being criticized.

So this came up again in a forum that I participated one. To date the general gist of my response has been
Part of ODnD are uncleanly written but as a whole it is a work of genius and a lot of what is unclear is a result of Gygax writing for the miniature wargaming hobby as it existed in the early 70s.
But this time I got thinking that I never really dug into many of salient. So I decided this time I would look at ODnD with fresh eyes.

Men and Magic

The crucial section is on page 5 of Men & Magic titled Preparations. Here at the first Gygax summarizes and outlines everything he going to talk about.
The referee bears the entire burden here, but if care and thought are used, the reward will more than repay him. First, the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,” people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level. This operation will be more fully described in the third book of these rules. When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.” Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.” First, however, it is necessary to describe fully the roles possible.
Breaking it down we see this involves
  1. the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,”
  2. people them with monsters of various horrid aspect
  3. distribute treasures accordingly
  4. note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level.
  5. Explicitly states that the above will be more fully described in the third book.
Then
When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.”
But
Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.”
Then for the remainder of Men & Magic, Gygax outlines how how characters are defined, and some of what they can do or have like equipment, combat and magic.

It is in the details where writing for his expected audience of miniature wargamers is most evident. He assume that his reader has experience running or playing other miniature wargame campaigns. That they are familiar with the idea of initiative, and combat turns. That what needed to be spelled out are details to make it work at the level of the individual character. One method is the alternative system. Another is how to integrate with Chainmail, a rule system that he know many of his potential customers already have and are using to handle not only medieval melees but one and one combat as well.

Another part where his intended audience comes into play is that he doesn't offer anything like skills or general action resolution. Because he expect his audience to do the same thing they do in the miniature wargames they play. If something comes up that isn't covered by a rule or a chart, then you go back to first principles and reason it out based on how it  worked in life or in the case of fantasy in various movies and books. Something we know was common from the recent work documenting the early days of wargaming and tabletop roleplaying.

Gygax is consistent in spelling out the unique parts of the D&D rules, the parts that his fellow hobbyists would not know.

Monsters & Treasures

Then after Men & Magic, he launches into Monsters and Treasure. Which important details about two of the elements he outlined in preperation
  1. Monsters
  2. What treasure monsters have
  3. The available treasures.
The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures

The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures is where the rest of what outlined in preparation is broken down and reinforced by examples of play.

Starting from the first page.
  1. Gygax describes what he meant by levels of the "underworld" and give examples. (pg 3 to 5)
  2. Offers details on distribution monsters & treasure as well other things that can go into the underworld as well as tips for keeping things fresh throughout a campaign (pg 6 to 8)
  3.  Gets into the logistics of handling characters exploring the Underowold including encountering Wandering Monsters ( pg 8 to 12)
  4. Give an example of play. (pg 12 to 14)
  5. Presents an alternative to the Underworld the Wilderness. Like the details for an Underworld, he discusses how they are setup and the logistic of handling character exploring a wilderness.
  6. The above also touts the board for Outdoor Survival game by Avalon Hill as a useful aid as well as how to use it. Which to me echos the inclusion of Chainmail in Men & Magic.
  7. Then gets into constructing castle, undoubtedly something of interest to his player and his audience. (pg 20 to 21)
  8. And since we are on the topic of castle, he now talks about the troops and men a character could hire as well some of the logistics of being a lord. (pg 21 to 24)
  9. We now talked about castles, and troops lets talk about warfare in general including rules for stuff you wouldn't have (not found in  Chainmail) like aerial combat and naval combat. Again another example of where he writes for his audience. (pg 24 to 33)
  10. And since the last thing he wrote about warfare naval combat, here are some ideas for naval adventures (page 24 to 36)
Finally wraps it up with
There are unquestionably areas which have been glossed over. While we deeply regret the necessity, space requires that we put in the essentials only, and the trimming will often have to be added by the referee and his players. We have attempted to furnish an ample framework, and building should be both easy and fun. In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you? Write to us and tell about your additions, ideas, and what have you. We could always do with a bit of improvement in our refereeing.
And of course


Wrapping it up
To me the above looks like a reasonable way of presenting something as novel and different as DnD was at the time. The most serious issue, that it written for the audience of miniature wargamers  resulted because the idea outlined in preparation proved so compelling that it expanded far beyond it intended audience. One that didn't share the experiences and assumptions of miniature wargamers of the early 70s. This resulted in novices to the hobby confused about aspects of ODnD.

In addition Gygax could have written a better explanation with some of the unique details of ODnD like spell memorization.

It is evident that Gygax recognized these issue given the Holmes Basic D&D was commissioned within two years of ODnD release. Then later followed up with B/X DnD, BECMI, and ADnD.

But after looking at it again I feel the presentation is solid and explains fully the most important and unique concepts that made D&D different from the miniature wargame campaigns of the day. Concepts that propelled DnD and tabletop roleplaying into their own category of gaming.