Saturday, October 31, 2009

More on Religion

The best source for roleplaying is GURP Religion. There is very little in the way of rules so it is usable for just about any RPG. While it may seem academic at first glance the authors explain how the various concept are applicable to a RPG campaign.

You can get the book here. The PDF here.

While more rules oriented towards GURPS. A more concise treatment that is useful for D&D campaigns is the recently released Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics. The Dungeon Fantasy series is about how to use GURPS to run D&D style Dungeon crawls.

While it doesn't tell how to build a religion Harnmaster: Religion is a in depth look at a ten fantasy religions. While written for Harn the deities can be easily adapted to other campaigns. Harnmaster Barbarian has sections on barbarian style religions.

Ars Magica has a variety of good books on religion for the medieval era (Christianity, Islam, etc).

A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe has a good section on medieval religion that has rules for the D20 version of D&D.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In reality evil religions don't exist.

The Blood of Prokopius is an interesting blog and has a lot of interesting posts on how FrDave Christian Faith relates to D&D and his campaign. Recently he had a post on Evil. I responded with a lengthy post on my cosmology and the theology behind it and he replied.

The main point he picked out was this statement

My whole system came about because I wanted true evil, rejection of creation, but I wanted shades of gray in religion. In my reading I know that "evil" religion don't exist in reality.

The problem with evil religions in D&D is that they are not realistic if they are part of a culture or nation. My definition of a evil deity is somebody like Lolth, Elemental Evil, Bane, Howard's Set, etc. They are not realistic because throughout human history cultures just don't go into worshiping evil deities. Isolated cults yes which often manifest as small groups or individuals rejecting the larger culture they are part of.

The technical definition of these type of religions is Maltheism.

Maltheism (from "mal" meaning bad, or illness, and theism, from... well, theism) is the idea that god is just out to get us and that he or she or it is malicious, like a kid who keeps selecting "Monster" from the disaster menu in Sim City. A Maltheist, therefore, is someone who believes that a god or gods exist, and that they are evil, malicious, incompetent, or otherwise causing the suffering of humanity.
The Cathars of southern France during the Middle Ages believed Earth was under the sway of an evil god, the Demiurge. The Demiurge was equated with Satan. But being a Cathar wasn't about worshiping the Demiurge. Their whole faith was about rejecting the world (mainly through a severe form of asceticism) so their souls would be put on the road to the realm of light where God exists.

This doesn't mean cultures haven't adopted religions or philosophies that were considered abhorrent by neighboring cultures. Also various cultures adopted religions that essentially turned their nations into totalitarian states with all that entails.

The "evil" religions have some fig leaf that makes it appealing to members of that cultures. Usually by preaching some type of racial or cultural superiority. The worst practices of these religions (and they can be pretty bad) are reserved for those they conquer or capture. But among those in the "in-group" the religion can be benign. The Assyrians around 800 B.C. are a good example of this.

The way I apply this to a fantasy campaign is rather simplistic. Religions involving a truly evil deity have cults and never dominate a nation or a culture. The rest have various fig leafs to make them appealing to the cultures that adopted them.

In my own campaign cultures dominated by Set are totalitarian and tyrannical in nature. The culture worshipping Hamakhis believe that the practice of human sacrifices aids the god in holding back the chaos that will destroy creation. And that culture has an ongoing reformation that is trying to return the worship of Hamakhis back to it's older form in worshiping him as the Judge of the Dead. The last evil god of campaign, Kalis, is a nature goddess of blood and revenge. She is only worshiped by cults.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dungeon Alphabet

I just got a copy of Dungeon Alphabet in pdf from Joseph Goodman. The product hasn't been released yet. Because of my work on Points of Light he wanted to me to one of the few people to look it over and comment on it.

I have to tell you that I am not a fan of Erol Otus art. I know, I know. Put your pitchforks down. I do appreciate the appeal for many. He just not one of my favorites out of the original gallery of artists. (Although the jester/Cthulu monster cover for Dragon I liked). This cover just has too many primary color and looks cartoonish.

But then I looked inside of the PDF.


4 stars WOW.

What is Dungeon Alphabet?

It is a series of Random Tables on topics ranging from A to Z;
Altars, Books, Caves, Doors, Echoes, Fungi, Gold, Hallways, Inscriptions, Jewels, Kolbolds, Levers, Magic, No Stone Left Unturned, Oozes, Pools, Questions, Room, Statues, Traps, Vermin, Wierd, Xenophobia, Yellow, Zowie!

It pretty much Old School in tenor and tone.

The tables are well done and evocative of the various subjects. If the product has a flaw is that it left me wanting more of Micheael Curtis charts and tables.

But where the product goes from nice to a sublime WOW! is the interior art. There are 13 interior artists and they all do a hell of a job. (Even Erol Otus ;) )

More than anybody else the 13 captured the feel, tone, and tenor of the art that graced the original 3 AD&D manuals. From the crisp yet silly Holloway illustration to the creepy Otus pieces.

My favorites are

A full page Jeff Easley illustration on page 15 showing a shadow of a orge/troll thing around a corner of a vermin filled passageway.

A Holloway illustration on page 20 showing a bunch of kobolds beaning a flop in the head with a sling stone.

A even more funny picture on the next page by Jeff Wilson showing why you should be careful pulling levers.

A two page spread by Peter Mullen on page 44-45 showing a overview of a very nasty dungeon. I have say this is best one in the book. It so good that I feel it should have been in the original DMG at least.

To top it all off Goodman Games is selling it only for $9.99

I have to admit I was kind of rolling my eyes at the enthusiasm of James Raggi's review. But now that I have seen it I think this product is a outstanding achievement in both content and art. At it's price it is a great value.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From the Attic: Zhodani Courier

At some point I lucked in a desktop blotter that was a pad of 1/4" graph paper. We are talking huge sheets that were about 17" by 22". My first thought wasn't about making a megadungeon.


My first thought was now I can make huge Traveller deckplans :D

Here is one of them a Zhodani Courier from Classic Traveller Alien Book on the Zhodani.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mapping Question

I wrote several posts on mapping; tutorials and tips. After reading James Mal of Grognardia frustration over mapping here. I wanted to get some feedback for future posts.

To me mapmaking is both art and science. The science is cartography and geography, the art is painting and drawing. It possible to emphasize one side too much with the result being not much of a map.

I am not much of a raw artist. I have limited abilities in painting or drawing. However thanks to my geography minor in college and a general interest in the subject I think I got a good handle on the cartography. I know a lot of you like maps. My trick is picking the map styles that allows me to use my limited artistic abilities to the fullest.

I think with a few basic rules that anybody can draw decent maps. Event distinctive ones that look nice. But it is a pretty broad subject so I could some feedback on what you guys need help with or like to see next.

Monday, October 26, 2009

From the Attic: Regarding Hommlett

In the mid 90s I decided I wanted to run the Slaver modules (A series) using GURPS. The leadin would be the Village of Hommlett. Our old friend Lareth would a priest of Set working as a agent of the slavers.

For some reason I got it into my head that I was going to rewrite all five modules plus the two extra filler modules I was going to create to bridge the two. I had a pretty good computer for the mid 90s and I guess I was thinking I was going to put that tech to use. This included buying a cheap copy of Pagemaker.

I only managed to rewrite the Village of Hommlet but it was fully detail with every NPC stated out. Well not quite that far I developed of templates to handle the different types of commonfolks.

This is an example entry

Clean but slightly run-down buildings indicate that this farm is not very prosperous. However, the stock appears fat and healthy. An active lad of 12 or so is doing chores out front.
An elderly couple are master and mistress to the 12 year old boy. These folk nothing they desire or want to trade. They will say that their son Euin (you-in) would be interested in any tales that the party may have, currently he is at the inn having a jack of ale. Their other son Osric (they sadly shake their head) took service with a mage and is away seeking his fortune.

Euin Location:

1-3: arrives at the farm
4 : meet on the road to town
5-6: at the Welcome Wench
Ansovald: head of household, Captain of Hommlet Militia, 59 years SEE NPC A
Basina: goodwife, 57 years old (Baa-see-na)
25 pt goodwife
Dragolen: servant, 12 years old
5 pt farmer


Underneath some rusty nails in a keg in the back shed are 203 silver pennies and 3 gold pennies. Within the house there is a silver service worth 750d.

Euin has his valuables hidden in a lead lined oaken chest in the dirt floor of the barn.

NOTE: If something should happen to this family Osric will attempt to track the players down.

I used the Merovingian name chart from Dragon #49 to generate more consistent names. The picture also showed the state of the art in battle maps from the period. The one in the upper left is the Inn of the Welcome Wench.

While I never repeated this the exercise was useful because it settled for me how a complete village looked in my Majestic Wilderlands.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My take on the Third Imperium

Probably the biggest thing for a GM using the Third Imperium to get a grip on is figuring out how the Imperium works. Frankly there is a lot of ways it can happen. From where it doesn't do much at all to a really dark empire that is a reflection of the Star Wars Empire.

This is my take on it.

The Third Imperium was established to allow business to make money on a huge scale. Not just subsectorwide or sectorwide but stretching across multiple domains (4 sectors in a 2 by 2 grid). The watchword of the Imperium is stability. The early Emperors achieved this in two ways. First by allowing the member worlds near autonomy in their internal affairs. Second by creating a nobility that is loyal to the Imperium as an ideal worthy of defending with their lives. These two factor combined in creating a stable empire that spanned dozens of sectors. This allowed trillions of credit to be made in good and services. The idealism of the nobility was reinforced by the prosperity they enjoyed.

My Imperium is about commerce. Creating it, and protecting it. It not about a short term view either. Many nobles and corporate execs will forego billions now for trillions later.

What it means for your game that the Imperium is rarely involved in individual worlds. They operate the official local starport and will patrol out from the starport to the 100 diameter limit. The rest of the system is the responsibility of the local world which usually has only a few outposts. Starport are freeports. Their budgets are partly subsidized by fees for fuel and berthing and the rest covered by the subsector budget. Their value comes when they are used by the various megacorporation own by the emperor and the nobility.

Starports have only a handful of restrictions on what you may carry or trade. Slavery and nuclear weapons are two big no-no. And if you try to pull a gun in the starport bar likely a few minutes later a janitorial robot will be cleaning your brains off the wall after an Imperial Marine has blown your head away.

Just outside Stargate the local world will have established their customs area. Once there you and your good are at the mercy of local law and custom.

The Imperium collect a tax based on the Gross Domestic Product. This provides the vast majority of funds used in the subsector, sector, domain, and imperial budgets. Subsectors are primarily responsible for maintaining and administering starports. Sectors are primarily responsible for sector wide defense and responsible for maintaining any military bases including scout bases.

Domains have recently reemerged. They were originally founded as a planning and logistical center for the initial expansion of the Imperium. Later Emperors made their role mostly ceremonial and relegated their task to the sector or imperial level. Emperor Strephon has reactivated the domains restoring them to their original roles. To this end the Domains now maintain and administers the central depots. Depots are entire systems devoted to manufacturing, maintenance, and repair of the Imperial forces.

At the Imperial Level are the vast central bureaucracies. Most of their task involves the collection and processing of data to be relayed to the Emperor, and the drafting of technical specifications for use at the Domain, Sector and Sub-sector. There is very little of what we consider regulations in the modern sense. The Imperium is simply too vast and too diverse for any central authority to issue specific instructions.

For example the Imperial Ministry of Justices maintains a variety of databases, publishes several dozen specialized journals on different areas of Imperial Law, high tech level labs, and forensic research establishments. The result of all of this is shared (slowly) among the various law enforcement units at the sector, subsector, and planetary level.

The Imperial Army, Navy, and Scouts operate much like the central bureaucracies. Leaving Operational control at the Sector level. The central staff used to be involved in planning but Emperor Strephon has pushed that down to the Domain level. What planning remain is about logistics.

What this means that the Imperial Nobility and Officials have access to 4 star support for just about anything they attempt. Anything new or novel they had to overcome get fed back up the chain to be disseminated to the rest of the Imperium. The process is slow but the results is second to none.

So how is policy is made? That where the nobles come in. The Emperor in theory could give a direct order to a Sector Admiral. There is no chain of command like in the US where the President order the Secretary of Defense who then orders the Joint Chief of Staff who then order the Theatre Commander and so on. The system is setup so that the Emperor will take the advice of his staff and then issue the order directly to the Sector head.

However the speed of communication is such that this process can take up to two years from when new was sent, and the order was given. To overcome this the Imperial Nobility has been created. Each Imperial Noble knows they are the personal representative of the Emperor and are expected to act as such in daily business and in times of crisis.

The Nobles operate outside of the normal chain of command. They may have some specific position but they are expected to look beyond that and deal with any problems that come up.

For example Sir Albert has a nice job as the Starport Administrator at Ashdown. He notices that insurance rates keep going up on starships registered at his port. He looks into it and finds out that it because there has been a rash of hijackings and disappearances in the last two years. A query is made to Sector Command which will take a couple of weeks. Meanwhile at a few social gatherings he talks with other nobles and finds out there is something going on. Sector Command comes back saying there is "No Problem."

Sir Albert then requests an audience with the Subsector Duke. The Duke looks over his data and his reports and agrees that more is going on. The Duke then sends a message to Sector Naval Commander insisting that they look into the matter. Also sends a message to Sector Justice that a law enforcement taskforce needs to be convened to investigate why Sector Command hasn't picked up on this.

Within a few months it was found a that a group of pirates have been stealing and hijacking starships. They had a man on the Sector command staff that altered the data so that the losses wouldn't raise any red flags. The Duke congratulates Sir Albert and recommends to the Emperor that he be raised to a Baron.

Nobles are the Emperor's enforcers. Their power comes form the fact that to cross a Noble is to cross the Emperor himself. Now nobles can and do come into conflict over policy. In which case it a matter of being Machiavellian as to which side wins out. Whichever one does that will be Imperial Policy.

The different ranks of nobility comes both a sign of social status but also of level of expected responsibility. A Duke is expected to watch over a subsector. A Count a group of worlds. A Marquis an important world (high-tech, high population). A Baron a world. Knights have more limited areas. Often assuming certain positions carries with it a specific noble title. For example Sector Admirals are often given a title of Duke. This is so that they can deal with the other dukes of the sector on a equal social level. These "rank" title are lost when the person leaves the position. If the person had an honorable service then the Emperor will generally reward the next rank lower on a permanent basis.

Emperor is the owner of many worlds, corporations and properties as many nobles. This can come in two forms. The first is that the office owns the property. In the case of the Emperor this means the Imperium. The second is that the person owns the property. Emperor Strephon holds own dozens of worlds outright. Some as the Emperor of the Third Imperium and others as Strephon Allea Alkhalikoi. For example the Depots are owned by the Emperor of the Third Imperium and are assigned to the Imperial Navy to administer under the supervision of the Domains. The planet of Calis in the Core Sector is a resort world owned by Strephon Allea Alkhalikoi and is run by the Calis Resorts Limited with the dividends being paid directly to the Strephon's household. The same technique is applied by Dukes, Counts, and down the line.

This means while the Imperium is highly decentralized the Emperor and/or nobles often have considerable local resources in various regions.

The primary effect of my Imperium on the game I ran is that the Imperium comes across very disjointed and sluggish to the players. They can literally run rings around their opponents keeping one step ahead of the law so to speak. Until...

Until they draw the attention of the nobility. The higher the level of attention the faster the Imperium start responding to the players. Of course this means there also an out for the players. Get a noble on their side (or the player be a noble) then the Imperium returns to being sluggish.

All of this really only applies to hopping between worlds. What happens on a particular world is pretty much the province of that individual's world society.

I hope this helps with your version of the Third Imperium.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Roar of the Megadungeon Grognards

Two blogs that I highly respect, Grognardia and Greyhawk Grognard have very interesting posts on Megadungeons here and here.

The basic problem is that we never had a published version of any classic Megadungeons we heard about Blackmoor, Greyhawk, El Raja Key in the original rules they used. We had various later version but they all suffered from the "We made shit up for this release" problem.

Much like the beautiful Darlene Map was made for the Greyhawk Folio and doesn't not represent the map Gygax actually used for his campaign. Although it was said later he adopted it as his own.

In the last couple of years, because of the Internet, a lot of people wound up comparing notes with help of commentary from the folks that ran stuff back then (Gygax, Arneson, etc). The general consensus is that the problem is the original dungeon don't exist in the format that we think they exist in. The original dungeons are mostly a map with notes and few detailed rooms. Often coupled with some method of random generating room contents and inhabitants. It explains all the examples we currently have (Blackmoor from FFC, Tegal, etc)

However what dominated the publishing market was not those early example but the fully fleshed out Tournament Dungeon like the G series, Tomb of Horrors, the Ghost Tower, the A series, etc. This became THE format in which to present an adventure module.

Suddenly those old notes looked unpublishable much to the detriment of our hobby.

While both James and Joesph make good points they both miss the mark.

See the greatest enemy of a DM is time. Time to prepare for a upcoming session. It is only natural that the early (and current) DM try to only write down the minimum needed to run the session or campaign.

This press for time create a market for publishers to provide GMs with products that save time. Adventure module, aides, settings, etc. The first thought of a publisher is "Hey! I can spend the time fleshing out everything for the GM. Everybody will find that valuable." It logical and easily understandable. But it is also probably the worse thing one can do for these old dungeons.

One of the initial appeals of the RPGs, as Greyhawk Grognard points out, is their dynamic nature. Now you need some base level of detail but beyond that you need to make shit up in response to what the player are doing.

I think the notes found with the few examples of the old Megadungeon are sufficient with one important caveat. The GM needs to be taught how to use them. And that what lacking from the old days.

The way to tackle this for a mega dungeon not just be a map and a collection of sparse notes. But also have chapters on teaching somebody that has never run this type of dungeon before how to run it. They need to be written not as a series of detailed room description but how make up detailed room descriptions ON THE FLY. How to keep thing consistent (if that a goal) and all the other issues.

Then suddenly the sparse notes format of the old megadungeons become publishable in a affordable format. New Megadungeons can be made within a reasonable time. They become a springboard for the GM and player's creativity rather than the straight jacket of the tournament style dungeon.

What the best for gaming in the Third Imperium?

Jeff gives his recommendation for what to get for gaming in the Third Imperium.

I heartily agreed with his choice of the Traveller Classic CD-ROM from Far Future Enterprise and his specific recommendation of using the Traveller Book and the Traveller Adventure. At $35 it is an excellent buy-in.

So you get that and decide that now you want to go down the rabbit hole? I got some advice for you then. See I went down the Traveller rabbit hole back in 1980 starting just after High Guard was released. So I have some experience with this stuff.

My recommendation after getting the Classic CD-ROM is as follows

  1. Anything from Digest Groups Publication. It is that good. Unfortunately you will be running into the collector's market on this stuff. An example is here.
  2. GURPS Traveller which is here
  3. The Gamelord stuff which can be found here in PDF
  4. Mongoose
  5. Mega Traveller from Far Future
  6. Traveller New Age
  7. Anything else.
I heard good things by BITS and Avenger but never bought their products. Just wasn't the right time I guess. Martin Dougherty right good stuff so if you seen anything for sale by him snatch it up.

The order is based on quality which means to me the best gaming for the dollars you spend. Remember most 3rd Imperium stuff is interchangeable regardless of ruleset. GURPS Traveller and Digest Group stuff is perhaps the best at fleshing out the Third Imperium setting. The problem with MegaTraveller and many other Traveller Product is that they suffer from a narrow view. You get a intensely detailed slice of a particular topic and has limited application to the rest of the setting. You have to wade through a lot of stuff before getting to the few bits of gold nuggets. In short Digest Group and GURPS Traveller are just better written and better made.

So how far can you go down that rabbit hole? Let's check it out.

A) Classic Traveller booklets including Journals
B) Gamelords, Paranoia Press, and other 70s/80s era third party Traveller Companies.
C) My youngest likes this book
D) A pristine MegaTraveller Box, an extra New Era, and a printout of the MongTrav playtest
E) My Classic Traveller Reprints
F) My Azhanti High Lightning Maps
G) Classic Traveller 8.5 by 11 books including the Traveller Book and Traveller Adventure
H) An small assortment of Judges Guild Traveller. Mostly crap.
I) Megatraveller, oh the errata (there was a lot)
J) My Digest Group stuff, I have nearly all of the stuff they had in 8.5 by 11 format no Booklet size Traveller's Digest tho :(
K) Traveller New Era
L) Marc Miller's Traveller (T4) a lot of crap what a missed opportunity.
M) D20 Traveller, not too bad just not into using a d20 based system for Traveller. For all you Old School folks around take note that it's prior history system is under the OGL. And it is worth looking at. Something to consider for adapting to use with OD&D.
N) My big box of Traveller Notes only my notes on the Majestic Wilderlands exceeds what I written for Traveller.

On separate shelf

P) GURPS Traveller
Q) Mongoose Traveller, a bit too pricey and has editing issues, but it got heart and good stuff. Where it is especially good is when you want to use Traveller but with your own setting.
R) Traveller Deckplans for 25mm figures from SJ Games . I bought them mostly for the cardboard heroes that are in them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part X

Part IX This is the tenth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the following step.
22) For each population locale come up with three to five encounters. They should be a sentence each.

Encounters 0105 Hawth (village) Dwarf Balkrin Strongaxe, a Dwarf, needs several nuggets officially assayed in Mikva. He wants to remain in his tunnel to avoid claim jumpers. Avarik the Bald, a Dwarf, has recovered some pages that could unveil what’s underneath Southpoint. The rest of the book is thought to be in Bone Keep Valard the Yellow Mage recently made a small flying animated statue. However the enchantment failed midway through the test and the rather valuable statue fell into the sea next to Southpoint. Dair’s son Nar stupidly left his axe somewhere on the south downs. He want the party to help find it quietly. In return he will pay them a small amount of gold and an introduction to his father. 

0204 Sandpoint (village) Halfling Buck Hightower prized flock of sheep (their wool is extra-fine) was scattered in a wolf attack. He needs extra hands to find and gather them. He will pay well. Albrus Oldham is organizing a posse to go after Lodan Brightbuckle. Two star-crossed lovers from the Greencastles and the Yellowjams are missing in the south down. The two families need help finding them. They have a long standing feud. 

0401 Aventis Village Two of the best sea horse racers challenge one of the party. King Touris expects them to compete or lose face. Horan, a master merman artisan, has grown a beautiful statue out of coral. Just as it was ready to be detached a school of Giant Octopus take residence around it. King Touris’ youngest son Ormus despises surface dwellers. He attempts to steal something valuable from the party to make them lose face.

0403 Mikva (castle, town) Human A fight brakes out between Baronial Loyalist and King’s men. It spills from the tavern out onto the street. A Giant Squid has taken to liking to Master Willis’ barges. He wants the party aid in killing or driving off the Giant Squid. The party walks by an alleyway where a bunch of folks are unloading a wagon. One of the crate falls and a bunch of spearheads, swords, and arrowheads spill to the ground. Master Donovon from Sandpoint has a tear in his tent that renders it useless for market day. He needs somebody get his spare from Sandpoint so he can setup for market day. In a market stall the party comes across some scrolls that have details on Sable Port. They are quite old and brittle. The Sheriff needs somebody to take a ride around the island looking for anybody living in the wilderness. He wants to make sure the tax rolls are complete. Thomar Devar approaches the party. Several of his fellow fishermen buddies have disappeared (Sahuagins?). Thomar and his buddies are smugglers and are in league with Moran of Carra

0403 Datha (hamlet) Human Somebody has been cutting clam traps in the bay. Helmar need more hands to watch for the perpetrators. A boat is seen floundering in the bay the party is the closest. Helmar needs extra swords to help break up a suspected smuggler’s meeting tonight. He can’t offer much but will put in a good word with the Baron.

0404 Carra (hamlet) Human A body is found on the shore north of Carra. The Sheriff has an arrest writ for on Hevus a resident on Carra. He needs a well armed party to go get him. Ordham’s compatriots got busted last night and now sit in the Baron dungeons. He need a well armed party to help with a smuggler’s meeting that night in the entrance of the bay. 

  0504 Kathi (village) Human Sir Vandas warmly welcomes the party with food and drink. He later suggest a friendly bout with him and his son Andal. However he is a sore loser. A bloody man staggers into the village screaming that Sea-Devils are attacking the outlying hamlet and sheepfolds. A small spy party from Po is also caught in the midst of the raid and do not wish to be discovered.
Random tables really help in generating the mass of encounters needed for this step. I like S John Ross Big List of RPG Plots as a starting point This about the 36 plots is also helpful. The venerable Tablesmith is always good (if you run Windows)  
You can use Inspiration Pad Pro by Nbos.
That it for Part X, next is Part XI.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My other website

Looking over my blog posts I realize I never talked about my website on the Wilderlands. It is not comprehensive but various people found useful bits over the years. It not about the Wilderlands of High Fantasy about about my own personal Majestic Wilderlands. Also most of the rules information is for GURPS.

Also is my old Traveller site logging the brief GURPS Traveller campaign I ran

and the Babylon 5 campaign I ran

Monday, October 19, 2009

The future of RPGS is marching on.

I talked several times about how future technology will impact RPGs.

Peering into my Crystal Ball
The Future of RPGs? One more piece fell into place

I basically hypothesized several parallel paths that future technology will have an impact on RPGs: Virtual Tabletops, E-books, and Surface Computing.

I found that a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are hard at work on the surface computing angle. There was a team in Brazil that had built a battleboard using a custom built rig. The CMU guys are apparently using Microsoft Surface and D&D 4th edition rules to build their system.

This is their website. And this is a video of what they are doing. They are calling their project Surfacescape. Unfortunately their website is not the best. They should have tested on people running higher resolutions and browsers other than Internet Explorer.

Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough from Visual Story TAs on Vimeo.

A few quick thoughts.

1) The they should look at fantasy grounds on how to do virtual dice. Their virtual dice is way too sluggish. Fantasy Grounds animation timing on the dice roll is pitch perfect.

2) The 3D Virtual monster seems like a good idea but in reality should be focusing more on incorporating physical miniatures. If people buying what is a big expensive battlemat do not want to play a computer game. They want help with what they are already doing which is pushing stuff around a table or board. Surfacescape with just touch is just a novelty, Surfacescape with pushing miniatures around is damn cool.

3) Like the dice the monster moves way too slow. Probably should not have any animation at all.

4) In general they should shy away from using heavy animation. It may attract people and investors but will cause the product to fail in actual use as it will be perceived as sluggish and unresponsive.

5) While it understandable that 4th edition D&D would be chosen as it first target. Keep in mind that you should have rulesets, like Virtual Tabletop , that developers can swap out so they can play different board games and RPGs.

The CMU team has built a solid foundation in their demo and it will be interesting to see how it is developed further.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I ran a handful of convention games mostly at the Erie Day of Gaming. I had a lot of fun with the setup I did this year with Swords & Wizardry. The only problem is that I been doing it on a last minute spur of the moment basis. So for GASP Con this year I decided to prepare early. I preregistered and now have my events up as you can see here and here.

So any of you live within a few hours of Pittsburgh I hope to see you there and perhaps we can enjoy a few hours of gaming.

GaspCon runs from November 13th to 15th. Information can be gotten here.

The events I will be running are

RPG - Original D&D - Ruins of Witch Hill
By Robert S Conley. Witch Hill was once Ramat; once one of the greatest abbeys of Mitra the goddess of justice. During the religious wars that brought down the Dragon Empire something unspeakable happened and Ramat was destroyed. Now four centuries later the nearby villagers are reporting strange sights around Witch Hill.

This is a low level roleplaying adventure using a playtest of the Majestic Wilderlands rules; a variant of the original 1974 rules of Dungeons & Dragon. No experience is needed and all materials are provided.

RPG - Original D&D - The Beast of Kensla
By Robert S Conley. The Village of Kensla is being terrorized by wolves and is refusing to bring in the harvest. The nobles are sending in a force to clear the region of wolves once and for all.

This is a low level roleplaying adventure using a playtest of the Majestic Wilderlands rules; a variant of the original 1974 rules of Dungeons & Dragon. No experience is needed and all materials are provided.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A variant Coinage system

My games are heavily influenced by harn. One aspect of Harn I adopted was the coinage system. The reason for this is that it gave gold back it's place of pride. The finding of a cache of gold coins returned to be a momentous event.

The trick is that everything is silver based. The average coin a NPC or player sees is the silver penny struck at 256 pennies per pound of silver. For convenience we will just say that 250d (d for denarius or a roman silver penny) equal 1 pound for encumberance

Gold coins are typically struck in Crowns weighing in at 1 oz or 16 per pound of gold. 320 silver pennies equal a gold crown. 16 pennies per 1 oz of metal times 20 the historical ratio of the value of gold to silver.

Lesser used coins are gold pennies which weigh the same as a silver penny and are valued at 20d to one gold penny.

More common are silver marks which are silver bars with a mint or maker's mark worth 240d. They weigh nearly 1 lb.

There are farthings which are worth 1/4 penny each. If found in coin form they are a copper however most of the time they are really quarter bit of a penny. Most pennies are minted with lines to allow them to be easily broken up into farthings.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Definition of Sandbox Gaming

During a forum discussion of sandbox gaming I refined my explanation of what sandbox gaming it. Hope you find it useful.

The term Sandbox was taken from computer gaming (not just Computer RPGs) and used to describe campaigns that featured players wandering around driven by goals they set. With the GM acting as a simulator of the setting.

Certain settings, notably Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy were noted for their support of this type of play because of their format. The format being a variety of locales keyed to a numbered hex grid. Alternatives exist like the format of Keep on the Borderland or Mystara.

There no clear definite boundary between a Sandbox campaign and other type of campaigns because the classic examples of a sandbox campaign are a subset of non-linear gaming. Non-linear gaming means that in a setting there are more than one way of accomplishing a goal or overcoming a challenge.

One does not need a Wilderlands or Mystara to have non-linear play as part of a campaign. It just those type of settings makes it easier for the GM to manage sandbox play.

Many players like this style because it makes their choices mean more. Many GMs like it because the direction of their game can go off in unexpected directions.

Like any other type of campaign there are certain tricks and techniques one can use to make things easier. For example by having rich character backgrounds and players willing to roleplay one can cut down the preparation time down considerably. The character's background will suggest what you will need to prepare.

For example being a member of the mage's guild as opposed to a being a mage attached to the royal court. Both players can choose wherever they wish to go but if they are roleplaying then their choices will be shaped by the background they have written up. In the former example the Royal Court is a peripheral organization that can be summarized in one paragraph. In the latter the mage's guild is the peripheral organization.

A sandbox becomes easier to manage as the campaign progresses. At the beginning there is a wealth of choices for the players . Later the players past decisions have pushed the characters down certain paths. The consequences or future of these path can often be easily predicted by the GM and prepared for.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Mapping Secrets

Yesterday I was asked what do I use to make my maps.

The short answer CorelDRAW currently using X13. The current version is X14. The Corel website is here.

After you get over your sticker shock there is another alternative, Inkscape. Which you can download for free here. It is a open source vector editing tool.

If you are wondering about the red and the really wide screen shot it because I use Dual Monitors. The red area is outside of my monitor. Inkscape is maximized on my widescreen monitors. To the left I have a regular LCD monitor.

I can't go enough about the advantage of having two monitors for both work stuff and play. If your video card has two parts, even if one is a digital lcd monitor port, then you have the ability to use two monitors. If you only have vga connectors you can buy an adapter to covert the digital port to a vga connector.

The reason I continue to use CorelDRAW is inertia. I spend a better part of a decade with the software and it is second nature. But two years ago Inkscape finally got all the features I use in CorelDRAW and even does several better.

The most important is the bezier drawing tool. Here you can see the scanned image of the dutch map and a coastline in progress. It is hard to see but the green line is the curve that I am working on. The process is simple you click, hold down the mouse button, drag the mouse which allows you to dynamically shape the curve, and then release when you have the right shape. Best results occur when you click where the line changes direction.

Another important set of tools are the geometric function of union, difference, etc. These allow you to combine, chop, and dice shapes based on other shapes. Ideal when you are trying to setup complex geography.

Setting up to slice out a river bed.

The result after using the difference command.

Another important feature is the ability to do a coast glow. I create a layer underneath the ground layer, copy the ground shape, make it white, and enlarge it slightly. Then I blur the edges. In Corel I have to turn the shape in a bitmap and apply a gaussian blur. Inkscape does Corel better in this regard by allowing you to blur the object directly.

This is the combined result.

The coast layer turned off

Showing the different layers I use.

The ground layer off.

Inkscape has handy property called blur that you can set for an object giving you the above. Here I set it to 20%.

Finally with nothing but the water.

You can download the map from here.
Oh if you are running a browser that supports the SVG format (Firefox, Opera) just right click the link and save it. Clicking on the link will cause you to display the svg image directly in your browser (A nifty feature).

Finally you can use textures fills which you download from my sidebar. Plus you will need to spend some time making the symbols you will need. For overland maps you will need only about a dozen or so types. Dungeon maps can be more detailed if you want to show the furniture.

This is just a brief overview and I had a start of a tutorial here. I plan continuing it before the end of the year but first I want to get the sandbox tutorial done with 13 more steps to go.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Introducing Blackmarsh

When I did my review of First Fantasy Campaign, I intended on finding an old Dutch Map and drawing it up as a fantasy map as the final post. But alas I couldn't quite figure out which old dutch map to use or how it looked anything like Blackmoor.

Review Part 1
Review Part 2
Review Part 3
Review Part 4

But now thanks to James Mishler of Adventures in Gaming, I get how it was used. The map James shows is a bit too low res. So after some searching I find this map.

After clipping and flipping I got my proto blackmoor area. Following James' ideas leads to the following map.

Clicking on this will take you to a high res version that you can download and alter to your heart's content. I intend to make a fleshed out version the my next Fight On! submission.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part IX


This is the ninth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the following step.

21) Look at your notes and come up with two to four plots that ties one or more locales together. Write a paragraph or two on each.

To me plots are not a script but rather a plan in the form of what ifs so I can better prepare for what players could do. The plan will have to adapt as choices and luck alter the circumstances of the campaign.

Fortress of the Lich Lord
Hopefully this will wind up the centerpiece of this campaign. The pull is simple greed; the lure of more treasure and better gear. The push will be the realization that someone or something is trying rebuild with dire consequences for the island. This entity I will call the Black Queen, Lady of the Underearth. She will be a wraith like figure. Originally a minion of the Dark Lord and a minor ally of Tavaras she survived the crusade. Now several hundred years later she has carved out a kingdom in the Underearth and not seeking to reclaim Tavaras old domain.

The plot will initially start at Sable Port. In a bit of twist I will be making this a 1st level ruins to explore saving the dungeon for later. In Sable Port there are several factions. The Rot Lord the agent of the Black Queen is in the process of creating a zombie army to seize control of Sable Port. The Bone Knight is a skeleton warrior and is in nominal control. He remain loyal to Tavaras’ command to defend the port although his forces are much diminished because of the Crusade.

From Sable Port the PCs will be able to find out that the Rot Lord is the servant of Sir Avar. Once a paladin and now fallen into darkness. Sir Avar has taken control of much of Bone Keep. Partly because he an ally of the Black Queen but also because he is searching for the body of Duke Barradon. Duke Barradon was the leader of the crusader and fell during the assault on Bone Keep. 200 men got cut off during the assault and Duke Barradon personally led the rescue against impossible odds. The rescue was successful but the Duke was cut down. His men say that the divine light of Veritas was with him during the fight.

When Bone Keep was sacked a shrine was erected to him. For a few decades it was a minor pilgrimage site but then forgotten amid the ruins of Bone Keep. Sir Avar believes that if he finds the shrine he will be able to be redeemed. He will use whatever means necessary to find that shrine. But so far it has eluded him. There are multiple levels underneath Bone Keep still to be explored.

The players will learn of the Black Queen and after they are finished with the Bone Keep hopefully decide to move into the Fortress of the Lich Lord.

Finally there is the Fortress of the Lich Lord. Some of it controlled by the Black Queen; but other factions exist. Some factions are good, some evil all are fighting for survival against the rising power of the Black Queen. The players can eventually go into the Underearth into the realm of the Black Queen herself. I envision this as a very high level adventure.

I will need to come up with some interesting treasures and artifacts when I detail these dungeons.

The Threat of the Sahuagin
I will hook in this in two ways. First will be by shore raids by the Sahuagins, if the players choose to investigate these raids they can track down the Sahuagins back to their lair. I don’t envision this as a simple follow the patrol back to the base. Rather the Sahuagins use every trick, such double back back on a trail to throw off any tracker. The second hook will be via Sable Port where they could rescue a merman from the Bone Knight. Hopefully this will lead to the player becoming friends of King Aventis.

I will probably do this in two parts. The first will happen at mid level and will result in a false victory. The PC aid the mermen in fending off a serious raid by the sahuagin. The later part will be at when the PC is beyond name level. The original raid was just a test to gauge the strength of the opposition. Now the more serious attack begins and it starts with a series of devastating raids around the island.

The Empire of Po
The Empire of Po wants to absorb the Kingdom of the Isles. If they succeed then they will have uncontested control of the Midland Sea. The Isle of Piall is near the border with Po and an early target for expansion. With this plot what I will be looking to do is too recruit the PCs as agents of Po. The ultimate prize will be the Empire granting the island to the PCs as their reward.

This plot will have to remain vague as its execution greatly depends on circumstances. I figure that there is a 50/50 chance that PCs will grow disgusted enough with the conflict between the Sheriff and Baron to give serious consideration to any offers from Po.

The Baron and the Sheriff
The Gervons have long enjoyed being the sole power on the Isle of Piall. They view recent arrival of the King’s Sheriff as a threat. Like the Empire of Po plot this will have to remain vague because circumstances will change depending on what the PC will do. The main effect of the conflict initially is that the PC can get different rewards for exploring Sable Port depending on if they go to the Sheriff or the Baron. Some of these will involve making a choice for example if both want the Chalice of Healing that is known to exist in the port the player will have to decide which one to give it too.

The Dwarves of Southpoint
If the players investigate the mines they will find an ancient evil from the time of the Lich Lord has been awakened. The answer to its demise will be found in the Fortress of the Lich Lord. I will probably design this so it can’t be defeated without the macguffin. It will be tricky to give the player enough foreshadowing to know that they may need to run to come back another day. I also thinking about way for the evil to escape to terrorize Southpoint. This is meant to be a fantasy Cthulu type plot.

Other stuff
Basically all of these plots setup the initial circumstances of the island. What happens after depends on what the players do. I have multiple points of conflicts happening. Conflict means adventures. Depending on how the players deal with these conflicts the campaign can head into an interesting direction for both me and them.

That it for Part IX, next is Part X.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More OD&D Con Reports

Tim of Gothridge Manor weighs in with his con report here.
As well as Al of Beyond the Black Gate here.

Appreciate the kind words guys.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Erie Day of Gaming was a success!

I managed to run both planned sessions. Both featured the players taking 20 minutes to generate character and both used rules from my project.

The first session had Tim from Gothridge Manor, Al from Beyond the Black Gate, and Joe from my hometown of Meadville. We playtested Tim's modules using S&W with the rules from my project. Tim played a Elven Cleric of Silvanus, Al a Mage from the Order of Thoth, and Joe a Skandian Berserker.

The adventure involved finding out why the village was being stricken by a unnatural pestilence. The players quickly found out it was being contaminated by something in a local mine. One of the local stream had it's source in the mines. The players entered along with another villager a big brute of a fighter named Clemmons.

The party encountered a variety of undead and eventually fought their into the chamber that had the source of the stream. There a priest of the demon Be'ellon had sacrificed a Oytugh and had it's carcass in the spring that was the stream's source. The party won the day but not after a narrow fight that included Tim's Elf being flatten by trying to pick up a demonic magic item of the priest, Clemmons Morale breaking and winding hugging the wall crying out for his mother. The battle was tipped when Al's mage managed to smash the magic item ending the darkness. He was able to rally Clemmon and the three of them were able to take down the priest.

The second session used the Ruins of Ramat. I also set in the Wilderlands as a monastary of Mitra ruined in the religious wars that brought down the Dragon Empire. As a special treat I used my newly acquired (for free!) Passageway Mastermaze set.

As it turned out Ramat's used of a lost dog as a hook proved perfect. Lee brought his daughter Sarah, 8, and a friend's son David 9 to play D&D for the first time. Lee made Colins a 1st level Cleric. David made James the Dwarf a 3rd level Fighter, and Sarah Angel a Elven Fighter/Magic-user 4th/4th level. Tim also sat in as Sir Kellington a 5th level Knight.

Running the adventure was a real treat thanks to the help of Lee and Tim I was able to really bring the kids into the adventure. The best moments were David cries of glee when he smashed two skeletons in a row with a single blow. Sarah when she casted a light spell into a big room that illuminated two tentacled demons within. The next round the light spell went out. She look a bit disappointed and I said to her "You know that it shouldn't do that. They put it out." I could see the gears click in her head and she said quite seriously. "I don't think we should go in there. Let's leave."

While they didn't manage to complete the dungeon (they had to leave early). they did find the dog and made the Duke's daughter happy. It was a lot of fun to see the wonder that kids have when playing D&D for the first time.

Not only I had fun DMing I felt I got some solid work done as well. Tim's Modules got playtested one more time and more importantly he got to see in action. I got to put all the elements of my own project in to action and was able to get a better feel how everything hanged together.

One result that for my Ability resolution I am going ditch the modifiers and just go with targets. During play I was just saying OK roll higher than a 20, 25, or 30. Other than that it worked pretty much as I thought it would with S&W.

The character generation went smoothly. I think I am going make up cards with the various class info on them for the next set of con games. Chgowiz 's S&W Reference Sheet worked not only for me but in the abbreviated four sheet character generation version I made. (Price List and Spells).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gone to a Convention

Gone to the Erie Day of Gaming.

Planning on trying to run two sessions of OD&D. One using Swords & Wizardry and playtesting a module writing by my friend Tim of Gothridge Manor. The other using one of the helpful suggestions with stuff from the project I been working on. The second is also based on Swords & Wizardry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It been one year.

Hoorah. Never thought I would make it but it been over a year since my original Bat In the Attic post on what else ... Why is my blog named Bat in the Attic.

My house was unusual in that our garage had a full attic. By high school it was used for little more than storage by my family. For me it was great as I could have a table with any game that needed to stay up for a long time. We played many long hours of Dungeons & Dragons.

It was a warm summer's night on Meadow Street and there was three of us playing D&D; D, H, and myself. We did not notice that another creature had entered the attic.

Suddenly the light from the overhanging bulb flickered as something flew past. Startled we jumped away from the table, "What was that?" H said. "It is a bat!" D said. The bat began to fly crazily around the light. As we frantically waved our hands and rulebooks to wave it off. "How are going to get rid of it!" I shouted.

As bat made another turn D reached down and picked up an old book. One of my Dad’s old thick business directories (they were hardcover back then). We stopped and looked at him in shock when he stepped into the path of the creature. Calmly D eyed the bat and readied the book in his hand. At the last possible moment he let the book fly.

The book sailed through the air and hit the bat straight on. The poor creature was knocked straight back when it hit the wall with its wings outstretched. Slowly it slid to the floor

The three of us rushed up to where the bat laid on the floor.

"I got it!" said D

H, looking at the bat, "You got it all-right, I think it is dead."

I knelt down and poked it with a ruler. The bat reacted with a gasp. "No it is alive!".

D looked at the bat, "Well we can't leave it here and I am not going to go near it."

Looking at the other two, H said "Well I not touching it."

I went to the attic door "We don't need to touch it! I got an idea." I rushed down the stairs to the garage itself where hanging on the walls were the snow shovels. I though their large flat blades will be perfect for the job.

Coming back up the stairs I showed them the shovel. "We will use this." My two friends backed away while I used the shovel to carefully scoop up the bat. All three of us went down the stairs to the garage and then outside into the driveway.

In the driveway H looked at the gasping bat "Now what?". D shrugged "It has trouble breathing I don't know blow on it?" We looked at each other and began blowing on the bat. The gasping stopped and the bat began to try to move around.

“It looks better." I said "I am going to toss it and help it get flying." The other two backed off, while I started lifting the shovel up and down. "1.. 2.. 3.." and then tossed the bat into the air. Almost immediately the bat began flying, first to the left, then to the right, down a little, and then forward right into one of the doors of the garage!

As the bat fell to the ground, H quipped "Well that was good."

We advanced on the bat and saw it was still alive. D looked around "Maybe if it had more room?".

"Let’s try it out in the street" I answered. Scooping up the bat in the snow shovel, I walked out into the street. "1.. 2.. 3.." and again I tossed the bat into the air. The bat went left, and then went right, down a little, and then forward and flew away up into the night.

We cheered and when we could no longer see the bat went back into garage, up into the attic and once again entered our world of goblins, dragons, and treasure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Need help with OD&D for a convention

Does anybody have a recommendation for a good OD&D module to use for a convention? I am planning on heading to the Erie Day of Gaming on Saturday and want to run a slot using OD&D.

And still more gaming accessories for your hair.

My wife, Kelly Anne does a beautiful job with her hairsticks, drape lace set, and chignon pins.

She has made another hair accessory that may be of interested to the gaming crowd. You can look at it here.

The Sapphire Symmetry D20 hairstick is perfect for gaming night...or any night you need a touch of swords and sorcery. The clear blue d20 die is top-drilled and embellished with an alabaster cat's eye ball, a Swarovski crystal bicone of a most saturated sapphire blue, a coordinating Czech firepolished faceted rondelle, and a silvery, be-swirled beadcap upon a solid wood stick in gleaming pearl with shining protective gloss enamel.

The Sapphire Symmetry D20 hairstick is 7 3/4" in total length, with a 6 1/8" usable length.

Thanks again to Nightblooming for permission to use the wonderful d20 hairstick idea!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part VIII

Part VII

This is the eigth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the following step.

18) Write a paragraph describing each Population Locale
19) Write a paragraph describing each Lair (you could get away with a stat block)
20) Write a paragraph describing each Ruin

0102 Giant Squids
This area is the spawning ground for Giant Squids. There is a 20% of a ship being attacked by 2d6 Giant Squids. This rises to 40% during the height of mating season between May and July. Lying scattered along the bottom of the this area are the sunken remains of ships with Gems: 5 x 10 GP; 4 x 50 GP; 18 x 100 GP; 11 x 500 GP; 2 x 5,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 900; 1 x 1,000; 1 x 1,300; 6 x 2,000; 3 x 3,000; 5 x 4,000; 1 x 6,000; 1 x 7,000; 1 x 8,000; In a tube sealed with wax, Map to a Lawful Sword +1 with Detect Gems, Empathy; Ego 2; Potion of Treasure Finding.

0105 Hawth (village) Dwarf
Located just outside of the Southpoint mine this is home to 200 dwarves. Their homes are carved out of the rocky walls of the canyon leading to the minehead. Lord Dair Darkiron (Ftr5, L) directs the mining operations. Original motherlodes are beginning to play out. Lord Dair opened a new section of mine that promises renewed riches but a rash of disappearances has caused it to be closed up. Lord Dair’s brother, Gamli is challenging Dair’s leadership of the clan. Lord Dair will pay handsomely to anybody who can find out what has happened in mine.

0201 Spies
This is the camp of Sir Iago Dunth (Ftr 3) and 10 scout (HD1). They have been sent by Emperor Clovis of Po to scout out island’s defenses. In Sir Iago’s tent is 1,000 gp, and 2,000 sp to be used for bribes. Hidden nearby is a 20 foot dingy with its single mast stowed in the hull.

0203 Barrows
A dozen barrows dot the hills of this reason. Used by the island’s original inhabitants to bury their chief. The malign influence of Tavaras has caused several of the dead to return as wights (3 HD). Today only three remain along with their treasure scattered among the barrows. 3,000 CP; 2,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 700; 1 x 5,000;

0204 Sandpoint (village) Halfling
This is home to over 300 halflings who farm the fertile bottomlands and tend flocks of sheep on the South Downs. Buck Hightower is the current Lord of Sandpoint. The Hightowers of Sandpoint have long been the most powerful and wealthiest family in Sandpoint. Recently their preeminence has been challenged by the Oldhams who have grown wealthy on the wool trade. Albrus Oldham has been recently appointed the Reeve of Sandpoint by the King’s Sheriff to collect the various Royal fees and duties.

0302 Bone Keep
This is the ruins of Bone Keep. This was the hub for the latifundias dotting the North Downs during the reign of the Lich Lord. When the crusaders arrived the slave revolted and burned the tower down. Agarst, the wraith lord of Bone Keep was trapped in the tower before it was set aflame. Today the first level remains intact and with the partial remains of the second floor. There are at least two levels to the dungeons below.

0303 The Fortress of the Lich Lord
Halfway up the mountain slope is the entrance into Tavaras fortress. It is now overgrown and partly overrun by a rockslide. A quarter way east, around the mountains, is the entrance to the mine shaft dug by the crusaders to breach the third level of Tavaras Fortress. Thick underbrush cover the entrance; once clear the passageway beyond is still open. The number of levels inside is unknown although a search of records at the Temple of Veritas at Mikvas will show that they encounter caves below the 5th level. A note in the margin indicates that scholars believed that it connects to the Underearth.

0305 Ruins
Here are the remains of a three mast sailing ship, the White Wind. Within are the remains of the King of the Isles’ son and heir, Andrew. If Andrew’s body is recovered the King will reward the players handsomely. Complicating this are 20 (HD 2) Sahuagins resting around the ship. Within the ship are Gems: 100 GP; 2 x 500 GP; Jewels: 2 x 1,000. Along with this is a sealed pouch. If open on dry land it is the confession of Sir Uriens Balvair, who admits to killing Prince Andrew on the voyage. When he found that the ship was sabotaged to sink he spent his last moments writing out his confession implicating the King’s brother in the murder.

0401 Aventis Village
This is the home of 150 Mermen (HD 1+1). They are protected by King Tuoris (HD 10) and his 10 guards (HD 6) on Seahorses (3 HD). They are unaware of the impending attack of the Sahuagins. They settled here 200 years after the Cataclysm and aided the crusaders in sacking the Sable Port. Since then the Gervons venture to the beaches of the North shore of the island every ten years to exchange gifts with the Mermen. The next meeting is due in a year’s time.

0402 Ruins of Sable Port
This small port was destroyed when the Crusader landed on the Isle of Piall. Tavaras kept a force of skeletons at the bottom of the Bay of the Dead and they were not totally eradicated after the fall of the Lich Lord. The freed inhabitants avoided the area and settled around East Bay. Minor undead now inhabit the ruins as well as an assortment of other unwholesome creatures.

0403 Mikva (castle, town) Human
This is a small castle town of 800 humans with several dozen Dwarves and Halflings. The castle itself sits on a bluff overlooking the bay. It is the seat of the current Baron of Piall, Argus Gervon. A several trading vessels stop here every week to pick up ingots from Southpoint. Before the fall monsoon season dozens of traders put in at Mikva to attend the Piall Fair. Here the island’s grain, and more importantly wool is traded for goods and supplies needed for the next year.

Currently the King’s Sheriff Tomar Revan is staying at the one of the wealthiest merchants in Mikva; the Honorable Orlon Beras. The Sheriff is currently using offices at the Mikva Trading Hall to conduct his investigation and any other Royal business. There is considerable tension between Baron Argus and the Sheriff.

0403 Datha (hamlet) Human
Datha is a small fishing hamlet on East Bay. A hundred humans live here in mud and wattle huts along the shoreline. The headman of the hamlet is Danis Hobrun who is thoroughly loyal to Baron Argus. Danis’ brother, Helmar is the yeoman in chief of the Baron’s small coast guard. Helmar and his fellow yeoman patrol shores of Piall looking for smugglers.

0404 Carra (hamlet) Human
On an island in the middle of East Bay is the fishing hamlet of Carra. This hamlet is home to 75 humans living in mud and wattle huts. Conditions here are wretched and these people are among the poorest on the island. The headman of the hamlet, Moran Loder is also the leader of the small Piall thieves’ guild. While he rules Carra with an iron hand severely punishing anybody cooperating with Helmar and his yeoman.

0503 Wereboars
Several decades into the Lich Lord’s reign a rebel name Sarpdon nearly toppled his rule. As punishment Spardon and his men were condemned to roam the forest as Wereboars. The pack still exists as 12 Wereboars (HD 4+4) roam the forest. Spardon and his men have been driven insane by their centuries long curse. However if a mean is found to make him lucid while in human form; Spardon is sure that the cure for his curse lies in Mount Devon. Neither he or his men can aid the party as they are driven mad on their next transformation. If killed in human form Spardon his men will resurrect on the next full moon.

0504 Kathi (village) Human
This is a farming village on the eastern shore of the Isle of Piall. The village has 300 humans and is held by Sir Vandas Gervon a distant cousin of Baron Argus. A third of village is devoted to fishing and the remainder works the surrounding fields. Despite Baron Argus’ disapproval Sir Vandas tries to be helpful to the Sheriff. He hopes to win the Sheriff’s recommendation so he can send his son, Andal to be a squire at the royal court in Haras.

0505 Sahuagin Outpost
In the lee of a rock outcropping behind the surface is an outpost of the Sahuagin Kingdom. Here nearly 100 sahuagin (2 HD) are readying themselves to take out King Tuoris and the Mermen of Aventis. This operation is consider important enough to warrant the presence of Prince Xatharazzax (HD 12). Accompanying the Prince are his 5 honor guard (HD 8). Leading the Sahuagin troops are 2 Captains (HD 4) and their commander Loxak (HD 6). The Sahuagin have 10 Giant Sharks (HD 5).

In the Prince personal treasury are Jewels: 1 x 500; 6 x 1,000; 4 x 1,100; 1 x 1,300; 1 x 1,400; 7 x 2,000; 2 x 3,000; 7 x 4,000; 4 x 5,000; 5 x 6,000; 1 x 7,000; 1 x 9,000; Stone Tablet Map To (40,000 SP; 21 GP; Gems: 3 x 10 GP; 2 x 50 GP; 10 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP; 5,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 600; 1 x 1,000; 1 x 1,100; 1 x 1,200; 2 x 2,000; 3 x 3,000; 3 x 5,000; 2 x 6,000; 3 x 8,000; 1 x 9,000); 5,000 SP; Potion of ESP; Stone Tablet Map To (Ring of Spell Storing); Potion of Control Brass Dragon; Potion of Invulnerability; Stone Tablet Scroll of Prot: Elementals

The Giant Squids I rolled up on the Wandering Monsters charts. This got me thinking so I put it in. The treasure it likewise rolled in accordance with the treasure type using my .NET utility here.

Hwath was pretty much set from the background I written so far. I like politics and intrigue in my campaigns so I added the bit about Gamli.

More politics and intrigue with the Po spies. If you are wondering where i got the name Po from is from the Po River in Italy. Not because I am being flippant. The spies also illustrates following up on a background elements with something concrete. I feel if something is put in the background it should be reflected in the details of the settings in someway.

The Barrows and wights are totally ripped off from Tolkien. Left over undead from the Lich Lord's reign are a major theme of the island.

Sandpoint a typical shire style halfling village with a little bit of politics and tension with the Hightower-Oldham conflict. Throw a link to the arrival of the King's Sheriff as well.

Bone Keep aside from adding detail to the background of the Lich Lord this will be where I place the "mid-level" dungeon of the campaign after Sable Port.

The Fortress of the Lich Lord is the mega dungeon of the campaign and will setup to allow the player to make their mark as they crawl up to name level.

The White Wind is designed to allow the player to have a hook to the wider world of the Kingdom of the Isles.

Aventis Village is meant to be part of the endgame. My conception is that the player will emerge from the Fortress of the Lich Lord at name level and deal with the coming conflict between the Mermen and the Sahuagin. With luck I will get to use Battlesystem 1st edition :D

The Ruins of Sable Port is the starting dungeon where 1st to 3rd level character can get experience. From here they will find clues to Bone Keep and from Bone Keep to the Fortress of the Lich Lord. I admit is sounds linear but keep in mind it is just a plan that will be altered in the face of what the players actually do. If I don't get to use any particular part there always the next campaign.

Mikva is the "home base" of the players. More political stuff with the King's Sheriff and the Baron. There is the possibility that the politics and intrigue will be THE campaign if that how the players choose to go. Using the larger map I recommend in the original 34 steps you should have 4 to 6 of these plot threads running through your sandbox.

Again they are not a railroad but rather pieces of the setting that naturally lead to each other. By doing the background and history you make it all plausible and the player will accept it as a natural part of the ongoing campaign.

Datha this sets up a minor thread involving the thieves of Carras. Datha are the "good guys" in this plot.

Carra are the "bad guys" in the Datha-Carra conflict. Although if there are any thieves in the party they are likely going to have to deal with Moran.

The Wereboars are a bunch of fantasy tropes I cobbled together. With Spardon think Spartacus. The curse is probably what the Romans would have done to him if they could really cast magic.

The Kathi is a typical farmer manor that adds more depth to the Sheriff-Baron conflict.

Finally the Sahuagin Outpost. I just used monster description to come up with the roster and decided that since this was going to be a high level showdown one of the Sahaugin Princes will be present.

That it for Part VIII, next is Part IX.

There has been a hiatus

Sorry, last week was consumed by locusts followed by my first massive cold of the season. I love my boys but man start of school sucks for colds and flus.