Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Horny Bard doesn't represent us!

Just watched The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. I know it been out for a while but it popped up on Netflix. I was laughing pretty much all the way through. Not exactly high art but a lot of fun to watch.

See you behind the barricade of dead bards.

And apparently you don't have to watch the movie but can play it as well. As Dungeon Crawl Classic #20.5 the Mask of Death.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar a partial homage to John Carter?

I kid you know. Don't let the hamfisted "message" or the Aliens style tech fool you. The spirit of the plot behind Avatar was inspired in part by Burroughs's John Carter of Mars.

From this 2007 article
How did you come up with this story?
Well, my inspiration is every single science fiction book I read as a kid. And a few that weren't science fiction. The Edgar Rice Burroughs books, H. Rider Haggard — the manly, jungle adventure writers. I wanted to do an old fashioned jungle adventure, just set it on another planet, and play by those rules.

Your premise reminded me a lot of the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter, Warlord of Mars series.
It's definitely got that feeling, and I wanted to capture that feeling, but updated. To be certain, I wanted a film that could encompass all my interests, from biology, technology, the environment — a whole host of passions. But I've always had a fondness for those kind of science fiction/adventure stories, the male warrior in an exotic, alien land, overcoming physical challenges and confronting the fears of difference. Do we conquer? Exploit? Integrate? Avatar explores those issues.

If I squint my eyes I guess I see the homage. Lone earth hero on a strange alien jungle world. I think the 60's idealism of Cameron runs much more rampant in the movie.

Like Abram's Star Trek the plot of Avatar is not it's strong point. You will be swept the away by the stunning images that are displayed on the screen. Like Cameron's Titanic the plot's weakness and predictability only bumps the film to an A from A+. And as a bonus there is no Leonardo DiCarpo so my friend Tim of Gothridge Manor may actually may see this. Plus seeing Signourney Weaver back in Sci-fi was great and I am beginning to like actor Sam Worthington.

Finally the 3D version was the best damn use of 3D I ever seen. There is are no cheap 3D "moments" in the film. It's use definitely enhances the film. I will go as far as say that its use made a scene work far better than it's 2D counterpart. It was a scene where you see something burning with ashes falling down in the foreground. The 3D version made it far more hard hitting.

You definitely should see this in the theater preferably in 3D.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trends in the Old School Renaissance

Now that we are reaching the end of 2009 some definite trends have begun to emerge in the OSR.

Sandbox Campaigns
Sandbox campaigns becomes a part of the general toolbox for old school referees to use to put together a campaign. This will come with a level of product support that is lower than traditional adventures but higher than the near zero stuff we had in the past two decades.

As one of the leaders in exploring this aspect I am probably not the best person to spot a trend in this area other than to say it THE most popular topic on my blog. I definitely plan to support this with products that are not related to any specific campaign.

A niche within a niche because of the volume of writing needed to flesh one out even when tersely written. However unlike the "World's largest" craze that hit 3e a few years back I see this as a enduring part of the OSR not only because of the tradition of having dungeons with older editions but because of the fact the OSR has developed a more compact format than having to describe each room as an encounter.

Making a Megadungeon today can be considered a hard project rather than an insanely hard project like was under the "world largest" craze. I consider the evolution of Megadungeon a good positive example of the impact of the OSR at it developed from many people writing from the viewpoint "Here how I do things". From that a good set of shortcuts and tips developed.

Science Fantasy
I think this area is just developing and one in which the OSR will have a very large impact. While I am personally not interested in Science Fantasy I can appreciate the quality of the work that being done and welcome more of it. There are several products being worked on and all of them have real passion behind them. This is good foundation for a breakout hit (at least by OSR standards) and wish everybody working on this the best of luck.

Weird Fantasy
Not sure if this the best label for this but I see a lot of stuff written with a touch of Lovecraft, weirdness, and other strangeness. Like Science Fantasy this area offer a lot of room for OSR authors to make products that are distinct from what was done in the past and today. I consider much of James Raggi's material to be an excellent example of this type of material as well as Geoffery Mckinney's Carcosa (in the expurgated version)

Concluding Thoughts
I feel that 2009 marks a definite transition of the OSR from it's retro-clone phase. The focus of the retro-clones is now on getting physical books into the game stores.

Regardless of how 2010 shakes out we see more adventures, more support products, more genres being explored by the OSR in 2010. There will be plenty for new gamers looking for something different and for older gamers looking for more support of their favorite edition.

Now for a bit of advocacy

Return of the Supplements

The main reason I included Supplement VI as part of the title of the Majestic Wilderlands is because I viewed the originals as a missed opportunity. I think the evolution of D&D would have gone better if Supplement I - Greyhawk and Supplement - Blackmoor were really about how Gygax and Arneson ran their respective campaigns. Presented as "OK the we have these D&D rules there how I (i.e. the author) applied them."

I feel that the OSR is at it's best when it does this. A bunch of folks publishing how THEY run older editions. Then the rest of us cherry pick what we like to make a more interesting campaign. I think that anybody who publishes a book like this should feel free to put Supplement xx as part of the title. This type of product presents the best of we like about the resurgence of older editions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Making it your own:Sword & Wizardry Quick Start

The Swords & Wizardry Quick Start by Michael Shorten is an excellent introduction to Swords & Wizardry and serves well for any older editions of D&D. It also includes a small dungeon that can be used for a short adventure in any campaign. The Quick Start can be downloaded for free here. Plus you can purchase a hard copy here.

The key element of adapting the Quick Start Dungeon is that is the lair of a evil cleric worshiping a evil frog deity. She has skeleton minions making her a bit of a necromancer. In addition she obviously allied with a goblin tribe and to round out the dungeon denizens is Marcus the were-rat and his rat friends.

Finally there are some prisoners waiting to be rescued. You could plant NPCs here to fuel further plot. Perhaps one of the rescued fighters provide a way for the players to get into an important organization like a noble family, guild, or a law aligned temple. Certainly you could put an important local that was kidnapped. The player hired to rescue this person.

All of this can be tied to together to make the Quick-Start dungeon a nasty little lair of an evil cult. Another consideration is the magical mushrooms and the strange fountains. The evil clerics and her minions don't seem powerful or savvy enough to have actually created the place. So perhaps, like many dungeons, it was built in an earlier time. You expand on this idea to act as an initial seed for a larger plot in your campaign.

While simplistic I find these type of dungeons often the easiest to adapt. Utterly devoid of background this can be easily transformed into the type of locale you need for your campaign.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making it your own: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is considered one of the classic modules from the TSR AD&D 1e line. It is for first level character and has a straight forward setup.

There a house that is "haunted" but in reality is the lair of smugglers using it as a depot for the town of Saltmarsh. The climax of the adventures comes as the adventurers are hired to turn the tables on the smugglers and hit their ship the Sea Ghost.

In my campaign I adapted this module in several ways. First is the house itself; while "haunted" by the smugglers, it was once the home of a sinister alchemist/magician. If some plot in your campaign involves magical lore or a old magic-users this may serve as the perfect place to plant the initial seeds of this portion of your plot.

This module leads into U2 Danger at Dunwater and U3 the Final Enemy which climax with a fight against the Sahaugins. If you decide not to go with that plot the smugglers can serve as the initial plot seed for a larger criminal organization that becomes the nemesis (or allies as the case may be) of the PCs. In my own Majestic Wilderlands it has served as an initial lead into the Slaver's network and as a lead into a plot involving the Skandian Vikings.

Finally the Sea Ghost portion of the module serves as a useful template for a sea-faring ship. I used this as template in a number of campaigns where the player owned their own ship. It it is one of the few sources for a complete deckplan of a sailing ship.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

To all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Storing your old school stuff

OD&D and it's supplements were produced in digest format. In addition many of the products created for the Old School Renaissance are also produced in digest form. Chgowiz in this post (thanks Philip) mentioned that this paper mache book shaped box made for excellent storage of these digest sized books. Unfortunately the on-line site had it not available for months. I finally scored a pair when I went Christmas Eve shopping and came across them in a large Jo-ann store in Peoria Arizona.

Determined to some find some that the rest of you can buy I put my google fu to work and came across this website at The only problem is that you have to order 3 sizes at once.

If you search for yourself the key term is Paper Mache Book Box. Also if you happen to find a rectangular box of the right size (6" by 9") then probably a lot of folks would be interested in that as well.

The Original D&D Discussion Forum has a lot of useful advice here.

And the post by Coffee which the true origin of this particular quest of mine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Easter Eggs in Christmas in the Majestic Wilderlands

Reports are coming in that people are getting their books (and so far seem happy)

To spread a little incongruous holiday cheer I invite you to read the last sentence on Page 94 in the Ament Plains entry.

Blame Jeff at Jeff's Gameblog

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bat in the Attic Status Report #2

It been an exciting week. The good news that sales been good I made back my investment (small but still) and I have some money for better art for the next product. I appreciate the support of the Old School Community.

In particular I would like to thank Dwayne, Tim, Al, Akrasia , Havard, Bliss, Atom Kid, Chris and Moritz for their shout outs.

Thanks for the reviews by Grognardia and Jeff Rients. Good, neutral, or bad I hope to see more.

Also thanks for for Zach and the RPG Circus Crew for mentioning the Majestic Wilderlands on their recent podcast.

All Contributor and review copies have been mailed as of Friday Dec 18th, 2009

Well the week been exciting with the crash of my main hard drive. I had backups and was able to recover everything the last four paragraphs I wrote of Nho. One thing I will be doing is getting a hard drive to along with the replacement and cloning the main drive monthly. Hopefully this will allow to get back up quickly.

I started work on the District of Nho for the next issue of Fight On! I settled on the following format for the stat portions of my settlements.

0104 Usudir Keep
Pop: 345, Holds: 48 urban/21 rural; Acres: 2,850, LQ: 95%;
Econ: Size 4; Market: 1/wk, Fair: None: Resource: Market, Farm;
Notable: Captain Olen Warsin, Prefect Baden Denoi, Senator Stephen Denoi;
Military: 31 Militia, 8 Yeomen, 10 men at arms, 6 Cavalry; Spec: Mill

Pop is population rated in total number of people

Holds is the number of household which most of the military and taxes are derived from. In most settlements it is all rural but in some like the large village that surrounds Usudir Keep there are urban households comprised of craftsmen and unskilled laborer.

Acres is the number of acres under the administration of the settlement. Typically 2200 to 3000 acres with an average of 25 households.

LQ is Land quality. Whatever system used for generating revenue or supplies you multiply by the LQ factor to get the actual amount. The area around Usudir is mostly swamp hence the lower than normal LQ.

Econ is Economic stats

Size is the market size from 1 to 10. 4 is typical of the large villages that surrounds a keep.

Market is the frequency of the local market. PCs will be hard to pressed to buy anything outside of special orders outside of market days.

Fairs are special markets that held up to 4 times a year. They can be specialized (furs, gems, etc) or general fairs. They attract a far larger crowd than the regular markets and can be a great place to find leads for adventures. Usudir doesn't have a fair as it would be too close to Nho's annual fair.

Resource are the most abundant resources found in the settlement. Usudir is both a farming community and a local market. A referee can look at the surrounding villages and hamlets to see what other goods may be found here.

Notables are important local personages. This list may be modified as I write up the town description and develop adventure ideas. Since Usudir was formly part of the Viridstan Empire it still retains it's imperial hierarchy. This consists of the Captain in charge of the keep's garrison, the town's Prefect the local administrator and representative of the Shah of Gormmah. Finally Usudir is home to Senator Stephen Denoi, the partiarch of the Denoi family and a senator in the regional senate that sits at Nho.

Finally a listing of the military capabilities. Militia are regular townsfolk that have minimal training at arms generally only called out in emergencies. In the lands once dominated by Viridians the militia's weapons and arms are kept safe in a central armory. The alternative is to make the individual militia members responsible for the upkeep of the arms.

Yeomans are regular townfolks that have training comparable to normal soldiers. They probably have a level or two in fighter. They are available to be called up to augment any imperial forces in the town. In exchange for keeping up their training they are given tax breaks.

Men-at-arms are imperial troops garrisoned at the Keep. Mostly 1st to 2nd level Soldiers. In Viridstan they are armored with scale mail, plate pot helms, spears, short sword, and a medium sword.

Finally there are 6 Imperial Cavalry stationed at the Keep with the Captain counting as one. The remanding 5 are a quarter company on permanent station at the keep. In the former Viridistan Empire the cavalry are organized as Cataphracts and are often used as fast infantry as well as regular cavalry. Their armor ranges from Scale Mail, Chain Mail, to Splint Mail, and their kit include the Scimitar, Spear, and Heavy Shield. In the past when fighting against Ghinorian Knights of the Dragon Empire they will opt for a mace instead of a sword. However since the rise of the Tharian Overlords they have reverted back to the Scimitar.

Haven't done much work on the Beast of Kensla. Work on this will pick up after the first week of January.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ships and more ships

Beyond the Black Gate and RPG Corner had a good series of post on ships

Beyond the Black Gate has

A little info on Ships
More on Ships - the Crew

RPG Corner has

Ships of the Wilderlands

For my own contribution I would like to point out Columbia Game's the Pilot's Almanac

It may be a Harn product but the articles on Pilots, Crew, Maritime Trade, and Shipwrights present a seafaring setup that are comparable in scope and in simplicity to Traveller's rules on Spacecraft and trade. While the Port Almanac and Charts are Harn specific you can use them to get a sense of what stats to assign to the various ports of your setting. The only downside it is a bit pricey.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

From the Attic: The first campaign of the Majestic Wilderlands

The first part of the wilderlands that became the Majestic Wilderlands was an area of Map 3 Valley of the Ancients. I was bored of Greyhawk and decided to move my campaigns over to the Wilderlands. At the time I was running a group of players calling themselves the Rane. One of them was fighter named Valeric and his player wanted to rule a kingdom. To get the Rane over from Greyhawk to the Wilderlands I made this story of how Valerica was a really an heir to the Kingdom of Nome that existed in another world. So off they hopped on their dragons and went across the planes into the Wilderlands. What Valeric found was a bunch of warring provinces. The kingdom had collapsed after the death of his father.

I still have the original notes I made for this.

This listed Valeric's government after he took over. For some reason I decided to go with Pharaoh for the title instead of King. I included ambassador to and from the other major power of the Wilderlands. Remember this is was still 5 miles per hex and very much the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Next is the listing of all the provinces and their military governors. Much of this is taken straight from the Map 3 listings. The obiliterated V was the Lord of Tarsh governed by Marlenius a human. This part was written first and then later when Valeric succeeded I flipped it over and wrote up his government. Note that Greenswabs was Valeric's capital.

The few details I remember is that Valeric had a lot of trouble with Tarsh as it was by far the largest settlement in the region. That Ligni Neben of Cudgel was a sneaky guy who managed to get Valeric to appoint a lot of his relatives to various positions. While loyal Valeric had always keep a hand on his pouch (and treasury) when he was around. Circess, his wife, was literally the greek sorceress of myth and wound up betraying him and kidnapping their son Valon. The quest to get his son back was the last thing that occurred in this campaign. (He succeeded).

A intesting epilogue was the player came back my home town in the mid 90s and played in a campaign with Tim of Gothridge Manor, Dwayne of Gamer's Closet. He was trying to figure out what to play and I said "Why don't you play Valeric's son Valon?" We looked at the campaign dates and it turned out that enough time has passed that the kid would be 18 making him old enough to adventure.

My first set of Wilderlands maps were much scribbled on with notes. You can see them below. First I scanned and combined the maps and drew in the borders so you can see it better

Here is a link to the original scan. Note that the each of the maps are 2 meg JPEGs.

The Kingdom of Nome on Map 3 Valley of the Ancients was the first step in the long process that culminated in the my release of the Majestic Wilderlands.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Making it your own: The Ruins of Ramat.

One thing about the campaign I ran in my Majestic Wilderlands is that I rarely created any adventures from scratch. Plots, roleplaying NPCs, and following up on what the players were trying to do are my strong points. Writing scenarios not so much. But if you run a setting of 30 years you tend to accumulate stuff even in your weak area. I have a few that were completely made from scratch that I will be publishing.

The majority of dungeons/locale scenarios I ran were adapted from various commercial modules. I like site based modules the best. They are the easiest to twist and alter to fit the current area and plot the players were involved in. Over the years I have developed some opinions on how to fit specific modules to the Majestic Wilderlands. Hopefully this will help you in adapting them in to your campaign.

I am going to start off with something that is readily available, the Ruins of Ramat by John Adams and Any Taylor published by Brave Halfling Publishing. It is available for several Old School rule systems as well as an expanded version. The one I will using for this post is the Original Edition Adventures version.

The basic premise of the Ruins of Ramat is that two years ago a religion revolving the worship of Ramat suffered a schism. Ramat is the peaceful god of righteousness, the schismatic sect had one of it's training complexes on Witch Hill the site of the ruins. The new sect was militant and aggressive putting it at odds with the more pacifist orthodox sects. The center of the sect's devotion was a newly discovered artifact the Spear of Ramat

Eventually a priest named Akhemat joined the sect under false pretense. His hatred of the sect's teaching was such that he was willing to deal with demons and other dark forces. He called on them in the midst of the training complex and brought about it's ruin. But in the process damning his soul. But the Spear of Ramat was saved in the final battle and hidden before the last of the sect's priests were cut down.

This is the kind of backstory to a locale that I just love reading and adapting. When I read this I knew where it would fit. Several hundred years ago before the rise of the Tharian Overlords, City-State was the capital of the Dragon Empire. The religion of Mitra was the dominant religion. Mitra is the goddess of justice and honor in the Wilderlands. The religion that existed in the Dragon Empire had it's origins in the belief that Ghinorians were her chosen people. However as the Ghinorians spread throughout the Wilderlands they came into contact with dozens of other cultures and the religion began accepting non-Ghinorians.

In the module the tension was between pacifists and militants. In my adaptation it will be between reformists who believe in toleration, and orthodoxs who believe only true born Ghinorian can be members of the Church.

Now some of you say "Why the elaborate backstory?". It there for players who like to dig a little deeper. Many of those campaigned in the Majestic Wilderlands developed alliances, friends, and enemies among the various cultures and factions that exist in the setting. So this information could help a player in their goals.

A player allied with the Mitric reformists could use the discovery of the training complex as a means of gaining a better reputation. Especially if they decide to cleanse the place and restore it. There have been several instances of PCs taking over a dungeon in my campaign and turning it into their home base.

Also while I created some new details surrounding the spear and the specific order of Mitra that inhabited the ruins. Much of it established in the 9th, 10th, 14th, etc campaign I ran in the Majestic Wilderlands. I just looked in my existing notes found what I like and went with it from there.

Which I recommend for you. You don't need to to make an elaborate backstory. Just look at your existing notes, find a good fit, and write the little extra that you need. Do this enough times you will find that you have a pretty fleshed out campaign setting. One that grew from actual play rather than being written at one go.

The next part of the module involves the hook to get the PCs into the module. It pretty cliqued and involves the PC helping a little girl find her lost dog after being attacked by a clawed creature. That may work for many campaigns but it something that just doesn't work well in the Majestic Wilderlands. It kind of heavy handed and has big neon sign saying ADVENTURE HERE!.

The new hook that better for my campaign still has the little girl losing her dog. Only it is the Baron's daughter. The PC are somehow the Baron's guest. Now what this means in my game is that I won't run this module until the PC somehow are the Baron's guest.

What happens is that when a session ends I look at what possibilities for adventures exist for the next session. I then go diving into the original adventures I have (very few) and stack of adventure modules (a lot) and pick out a couple. I then read them and decide how they fit in the current locale that the PC are at and which will advance the plots that the PCs are involved in. When the next session starts I will work the hooks into the general flow of the game.

Generally the PC will pick up on one of the hooks and decide to pursue. The adventure as laid out in the module will then ensue. Sometimes they don't pick anything and go off on a tangent. In which case I just wing it relying on my bag of stuff and tricks to make things interesting.

So back to the Baron, little girl, and the dog. So last session ended and they are the Baron's guest. So I pick out the Ruins of Ramat because I know there some ruined monastaries nearby left from the civil wars that brought down the Dragon Empire. The Baron I am going to roleplay as apologetic when asking this favor of the PC. He know that the task seem trival but the baron is concerned about the clawed creatures more than the dog. The ruins as far as he knows are abandoned except for a gang of bandits that were routed out of there in his grandfather's day. He would owe them a favor if they do this. Likely it will be good odds the players will accept this as having a favor owed by a Baron is pretty nice to have.

The rest of the adventure I can run pretty much as is. It works with the spear, the undead, the demons, and the cursed priest. The only detail I will add is the ground above the entrances looks newly caved in. Explaining why nobody has gone in in the centuries since.

The conclusion of this adventure could have a major impact on the PCs. They could be feel touched by the direct appearance of a divine agent of Mtira. Even convert. Cleansing and rebuilding the ruins could be a new goal for the PCs.

I hope this examination of the Ruins of Ramat helps you in using this and other published modules in your game.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Majestic Wilderlands Rituals

James Maliszewski of grognardia gives a good review of the Majestic Wilderlands. James comments reminded me that I haven't really talked about the results of the playtesting I did.

Once I started creating variant magic-users around 1990, rituals became an important part of my campaign regardless of the rule systems I used. To be honest I didn't know what the impact of introducing a ritual system to Swords & Wizardry would be until I started playtesting earlier this year.

Rituals definitely gives a more magic rich feel to the game but amazingly the resource management was still there. In the games I ran using S&W and MW the players were continually weighing whether to use a memorized spell or burn some of their limited spell components. The prices are set high enough that they just can't keep burning healing rituals after every fight. I am generally a bit light on treasures on my adventure but the resource trade off occurred even using other people's modules. (Ramat, Cave of Rot, the S&W quickstart, etc). It is hard to tell sometimes exactly what a rule does to a campaign without playtesting.

It still may be rituals are not for your campaign. The rituals definitely does change the feel of a setting. But you still have the resource management that an important part to early editions of D&D. So hopefully this will leave better informed whether it is right for your campaign.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Computer Crash

The main hard drive to my computer crashed. Have recent backups of work files so I am good there but it will take me a day or so to recover to where all my software is functioning again.

Update -11:30 Eastern Time
Got a Terabyte HD and reinstalled Windows Vista on it. Now have internet capability. Hooked the old Main HD and determined that the something dinked the NTFS volume that I boot off of. Ten years ago the answer would have been to use Norten Disk Doctor to get the drive bootable again and manually clone it. However day it is a little more complicated.

Surveying the different disk utilities out there it is hard to say what is the best for my situation. I want to get the damn thing going again so I have more options about not having to reinstall every last program. One thing the open source utilities have vastly improved over the last couple of years. I am going to use a program called Test Disk. It works as far as pulling off some files now I have it trying to rebuild the drive structures which will take all night.

Update-Dec 17 6:00am
Forgot to turn off automatic updates so the rebuild of the drive's structure stopped sometimes last night. So will have to to restart the process after work. The point of this is to make the drive bootable. The good news is that I managed to recover my latest work. It wasn't much since the last backup but still nice to have.

Update-Dec 17 6:30pm
Copying off files left and right so far so good.

Some useful advice on Clergy

FrDave of Blood of Prokopius can be a bit heavy on the Theology. But this post on the church and clergy is spot on and useful to just about anybody campaign.

I use the level equal rank in church rule myself with 3rd level being a full priest. The higher level you go the more your responsibilities become focused on the church as a whole.

Being a Catholic and a avid reader of history I read a lot about my faith. But I never picked up on the distinctions between the different orders (Deacons, Priest, and Bishops) that FrDave mentions. This will very useful in as a source of ideas for fleshing out some details of my Majestic Wilderlands.

In my oldest notes for the Majestic Wilderlands I made mention of three orders. The Order of the White Rod, the Order of the White Staff, and the Order of the White Quill. The Rods were administrators and parish priests, the Staff were mendicant friars, and the Quill were scholarly Monks. Color white was because Mitra symbol was a white lion head on a red field.

At that time Mitra was a man who was elevated to godhood. By 1990 I ditched that in favor of the current myth of the goddess Mitra and the Ghinorians her chosen people. I never did much with the orders since as they were part of the "old Mitra" but the notes are still around. When it comes time to do the various religions of my setting FrDave post is going to be very helpful.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Cursed Chateau

James Maliszewski has released The Cursed Chateau an old school funhouse adventure. Similar to Castle Amber and Tegal Manor it is a moody atmospheric place based around an old residence.

Plus it includes three levels of maps drawn by me. Even with the first draft I had I could tell this would be an interesting adventure. Drawing the cartography for this was a lot of fun as I weaved in and out rooms placing a fallen candelabra here a ruined table there.

The product page with links to buy it is here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bat in the Attic Status Report #1

My next project will be the Beast of Kensla which is set in the Duchy of Dearthmead SE of City-State. So far I completed an outline and a list of maps to be completed. It well playtested I refereed it about 3 times now. I am shooting for a end of March 2010 release.

One of the things that didn't make into the Supplement was a mini campaign for the Majestic Wilderlands. I felt it would have make an already massive book to unwieldy for me and those who helped to edit and layout. I was thinking of making a free download but after reading the latest on the Fight On! forum I realized I have not submitting anything recently. I feel I can get it done before the deadline of January 9th, Much of it is written, I just need to finish it and give a final pass. Plus Dwayne and Tim been asking when I will DM again so this would serve as campaign prep too.

This is a preview of the map

For those with the PDF there is now a original style cover for you to use if you choose to print out your book. You can download it from here. If you need the same type of card stock for the cover you can buy some from this site.

I got the print copy from Lulu and it look very good. The cover looks great far better than I expected. I fretted over the interior art and maps but after showing it to a couple of friends here in Meadville they assured me it looked fine.

Finally my plans are to still continue the How to make a Fantasy Sandbox. As you can see I was preoccupied with the development of the Majestic Wilderlands. Also the next steps involves a bit of map drawing and that takes time. The good news that these posts is a first draft for a expanded How to make a sandbox that I plan to release in the summer. I will include the Isle of Piall as well another complete sandbox setting the size of the one of the Points of Light settings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Original Style cover for the Majestic Wilderlands

Two days ago I released a PDF to allow people to print an original style cover for their PDF. Several have requested the ability to order a print copy with that cover. With the internet being the way it is this is not a problem to issue.

One thing tho is that the PDF is black on white. And I don't think that what people were expecting. Luckily I own the three original booklet (the box sadly trashed many years ago). One of them has a very clean back cover with no text or graphics. So I scanned that in and used it as a background texture.

I used my photo printer to see how it looked and it looked very nice. Since I printed the first cover and it matched the proof copy from Lulu I figure that it would be OK to release it now.

Supplement VI: the Majestic Wilderlands (with original style cover) $12.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The rest of the story about Day Jobs

Back in June Tim at Gothridge Manor talks about Day Jobs. I was the GM for all three examples he gives here.

How all of this came about? When you run the same setting for decades, you need to mix it up a bit. Especially when you have players with as much experience as Tim and Dwayne (of Gamer's Closet).

The first with Devon the Blacksmith originated in a idea that I had for a campaign. Namely discovering the secret of gunpowder. I just finished reading Guns, Germs, & Steel and followed up with some more reading on the history of Gunpowder. Because Gunpowder was first used as a way of making better siege equipment I could introduce into the Majestic Wilderlands without causing a lot of change the esstential medieval feel of the game. Because of some events that occured in a previous campaign, the whole idea for a new campaign just popped into my head at once.

In the Majestic Wilderlands, City-State is the seat of the Tharian Overlords. The Tharian Overlords are leaders of a confederation of provinces and clans stretching from the Estuary of the Roglaroon to the Viridistan border. One of the province, Bernost, lies north, next to the Tharian Coast. It's Dukes have always resented living under the rule of the Overlord and every couple of decades will forment a revolt. A revolt that usually ends with the Duke head cut off, and a lot of Bernost folks dead.

This time the Duke has an edge, he lucked into a alchemist who showed him the wonders of something called Dragon Powder (aka Black Powder). The alchemist, being somewhat of a reinaissance man, not only could create Dragon Powder but also had designs for using Bronze Tubes to create seige engines of unparralled powers (i.e. cannons). The Duke immediately became the alchemist's patron and started mass producing Dragon Powers and Cannons. Among other things this required the hiring of a lot of metalsmiths who could cast bronze.

The hiring of all these metalsmiths did not go unnoticed by the Overlord and thus enter our heroes. Dwayne played an agent of the Black Lotus and Tim played a blacksmith. The two were charged to go north and find out what the hell was going on. The resulting campaign played in several distinct phase: The journey to Bernost, getting hiring, the gathering of information, the escape, and the denouement. The way it played it out the players rarely (if at all) got into a fight. I believe there was a encounter with bandits during the journey to Bernost. The most dangerous moment came when they were sneaking around and wandered into some wood downrange from where they were testing the cannons.

Now the campaign sounds much like a railroad. I assure you it wasn't, the combination of the fact it was a mission and that both characters where hired meant it was focused on specific goals from the get go. The campaign was proposed pretty much as all my games do with those two. "What do you want to play?" When Dwayne said "Black Lotus Agent" and Tim said "Average Blacksmith" I thought it was a perfect setup for my idea.

The crowning moment of the campaign was in the denouement. Dwayne's Agent got a promotion to a prestigious position within the Black Lotus, and Tim's Blacksmith gained his guild mastership along with a leading position in the monopoly that the Overlord was setting up to control Dragon Powder. We all looked at each other and came to the same conclusion. "This campaign is over. The characters got what they wanted and there no reason for them to adventure." It wasn't a feeling of "aw there nothing more to do" but rather the satisfaction of something that was just well done.

Allen Hess, the village priest, was a campaign involving GURPS 50 point characters. Now in GURPS 50 points means that you are a joe average person. Your best skill may be a 13 or 14 and the rest dead average. It is not quite as bad as AD&D's 0-level but close. I ran two campaigns with 50 point characters in college and they were a lot of fun. The main reason is because the group has to work together to get anything done. With normal 100 pts the individual characters usually just enough versatility that they can go off and do something by themselves. Not so with 50 pts, try to do that and likely you will just wind up hurt or worse dead.

This particular 50 pt campaign was a couple of years later and set in City-State. I took a neighborhood in the southeast corner near Guardsmen Road and populated it. Including a vampire that was preying on the locals. All and a fun campaign to play.

The twin brother campaign, was definitely not what I planned. The campaign was supposed to be a foray into the underbelly of the world of thieves and thugs. The basic idea is that the players were to be the goons and go up from there. Not burglars, pickpockets, con-artists, but just plain thugs. Well it didn't work out that way. Dwayne decided to play a very anti-social character and like it was told over at Gothridge Manor, got Tim fired. Afterward Tim decided not to be mad at Dwayne's character. No siree, he was just going to be mad as insane period.

The reason that Dwayne got Tim fired was that they can do this job they got "right away". Well Tim taught Dwayne a new definition of "right away". What followed was a rampage of violence and brutality that would leave even Quentin Tarentino gasping. They made their way up the hierarchy of the thieves guild to find out where the Baron's Heirloom was. At some point things just were getting way out of control.

When I feel out of control what is happening is that players are going things that will bring down the big guns of the campaign on them. But I don't like doing that in general unless there is a fun way of doing it. Which is not very often. Being blue bolted sucks and feels arbitrary no matter how much you sugar coat it. Well two encounters later they just about exhausted the hierarchy. They were only one step away from the Grandmasters themselves. Then I thought of the twist about the Grandmasters returning the item. In the end they still got blue bolted by the baron, but the twist made for a nice ending for the campaign.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The OGL and the Majestic Wilderlands

I had some inquires about adapting the Majestic Wilderlands to other systems. I apologize for not stating this out front but the entirety of Men & Magic and Monster & Treasures is under the Open Gaming License except for any Judges Guild specific terms like City-State of the Invincible Overlord which are Product Identity. The setting information in Wilderness & Adventures is likewise Product Identity. The declaration of open content is on the page with the foreward and the license the back page.

This is deliberately liberal as while I believe in a strong copyright (perhaps for shorter term than life+95 years) I also a strong proponent of open gaming. The rules for the Majestic Wilderlands wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the d20 SRD and Matt Finch's Swords & Wizardry so it only fair that I return the favor.

So this means you can take whatever section of the rules, adapt them, mutant them, kitbash, or whatever as long as you use the OGL in turn.

Also my Section 15 is pretty easy to copy consisting only of four entries. For those who don't know copying section 15 of the license to a derivative work is a requirement of the OGL. Some otherwise open product have section 15s as long as my arm.

Also if anybody managed to fabricate a book out of the PDF I would like to hear about it. I had to get my printout chopped in two and coil bound as I just couldn't staple it together.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Print Version of the Majestic Wilderlands is available!

Announcing the release of the print version of the Majestic Wilderlands. It is available for $12 at (purchase here)

The First Myrmidon of Set

It started with Dragon #39 and the Anti-Paladin. While cool the article left me disappointed. The class seems to be the province of maniacs not all what I was thinking an anti-paladin would be like. To my way of thinking the opposite of a LG anti-paladin isn't a CE killer but a LE tyrant. As evil as the paladin is good the anti-paladin is the paragon of tyranny. These anti-paladins are called to a higher goal to be accomplished by any means.

I needed a cool name so I lifted AD&D's level title for a 6th level fighter, Myrmidon. Greek for " the one who obeys" or according to Merriam-Webster - a loyal follower; especially : a subordinate who executes orders unquestioningly or unscrupulously. Sounded perfect for my LE anti-paladin

Somewhere along the way in the mid 80s I ret conned Hellbridge Temple to be a Temple of Set. For a long time Myrmidon's were just scenery at the temple. Then around 1985 we were kicking around campaign ideas for the summer and everybody wanted to try an evil campaign. I have a vague memory of Dwayne thinking up and throwing away various characters. Finally the question of #39 came up and I said no I am not going to use that class but I do have Myrmidons. Dwayne liked what I came up with and decided to roll up Lord Divolic. (or as he spelled it Divolick).
I admit trying to remember this goes back into hazy memory territory. But between the two of us and some preserved notes we managed to dig up some stuff.

It started with everybody at the Keep on the Borderlands. It was set in the Wilderlands on the edge of the Dearthwood. As it turned out the evil plans costs gold to it is off to the cavern they go. Right away ran into a big problem. They were handling the monster OK but they were POOR! They were getting virtually nothing for treasure. Then Divolic started examining all the swords, armor, and other gear so lovingly detailed in the way that only Gygax can do. He pulled out the PHB price list and realized that here was the treasure of the cavern.

So they quickly went back to the Keep and hired a teamster and his wagon. The rest of the module was the party clearing the section hauling it back to the wagon and taking it back to the keep. Divolic was able to negotiate a package deal with the merchant. They didn't get book price but it resulted in a lot of gold being paid out to the party.

At this point my Dungeon Master Adventure Log intrudes and I have a snapshot of the party just after they left the Keep on the Borderlands. Click to get a larger view.

The party members were:

Lord Divolic Myrmidon 4,, 52 hp, Male Human, LE with a +1 Platemail, +1 Shield, and a agate gem +3 vs poison, with Plate armor and shield
Divolic was the man with the plan within the group.

Aladan, Fighter/Illusionist , 2/3, Male Gnome N, 22 hp, a deep sphere (no clue), +2 scimitar, Cloak of Elvenkind, a Ioun Stone of some sort, with Splint and Shield.
Heath was one strange player. He did crazy off the wall things like throw milk at barbarians.

Tryen, Archer 1st(from Dragon #45), Male Half Elf, 23 hp, NE, +1 Ring of Protection, Studded Leather
The player was greedy which annoyed people out of game to where he dropped out of the group.

Ivie Jack, Archer 2nd, Male Half Elf, 26 hp, NG!, +1 Dagger, Plate Armor and Shield
The player was a laid back guy who was along for the ride. Probably why the fact he was NG didn't get him killed.

Tab, Thief 3rd, Male Human, 39 hp, CE, +1 longsword, +2 throwing dagger, Studded Leather
Tim of Gothridge Manor's character. Must have died at some point because later in the campaign he plays a fighter named Count Travlin.

Highlights of the rest of Divolic's career

Went into a Dungeon and used local peasants as trap detectors. Had to kill the local strongman before he was able to force them to do it.

Went through the A series and wound up coming a Slave Lord.

Subdued a Blue Dragon and made a deal to use her offsprings for dragon steeds.

Went through the Tomb of Horror and became very rich. Recounted in Rob! Read that again.

Went to City-State and took over the Hellbridge Temple as Divolic setup the High Priest to take a fall.

When into the sewer to investigate some problem. Beat the hell out of some vampires and made them his allies.

Donated a large sum of Mithril (from the Tomb of Horrors) to the Overlord and got named Warden of the Southern March (near the Old South Pass south of Dearthmead and Goodnap).

Starting building a complete town called Rhyl

Recruits a mercenary army and conquers Zothay, Halkmenan, and Horaja. At which point the campaign ended.

Divolic becomes one of the main NPCs in later campaigns and is the driver of the meta-plot that goes on in the background when I run things.

Note: Talking it over with Dwayne of Gamer's Closets Ivie Jack and Tyren were an half elf and I was lazy not writing the correct notation of 1/2 E

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

OD&D Tasks/Abilities/Skills the Final Chapter

Well it really about midway starting on page 57. If you followed this blog I went around and around about this.

D&D Task Resolution

More on Tasks
More Old School Skills; the Claws of Kalis
OD&D Tasks/Abilities/Skills Revisited (again)

Jeff Rients said in his blog post that it was "..the least offensive skill system I've seen in D&D." but he still doesn't quite like this system. Which is understandable, and many of you who play older editions feel this way. I am not going to tell that I made a better D&D because I added abilities to the Majestic Wilderlands. Even you don't like parts of what did; I think you find the process of how I wrote it useful.

Basically this was an area I felt I had to get right. I knew just throwing in a skill system like a zillion other RPGs wasn't going to cut it. But I wouldn't let it go either because classes that were good at stuff other than combat and spells were an important part of the Majestic Wilderlands.

The first step that was in from the start was the idea that any character could do anything. Most games interpret skills as what limiting what you can't do as well as what you can do. As many pointed out this is not how the oldest campaigns of D&D were run and was eloquently pointed out in the Old School Primer by Matt Finch.

What I did was make a long list of stuff D&D character commonly do in my campaign. And because I had the good fortune of a license deal with Judges Guild, I threw in a bunch of stuff I found in the Dungeon Tac Cards, City-State, and other products. I then categorized everything and named the categories so I can assign bonuses in the Rogue classes. I called the categories abilities.

For resolving abilities I needed some guidelines. When I combing the Judges Guild much of it was using a d100 roll low. Probably the first universal task resolution system. But I didn't like roll low and I don't like using d100.

For while I was going with a 3d6 + attribute roll high system. Basically beat a target and succeed. I liked because it emulated the feel of GURPS. Several issues sunk it. While it well at the cons I used it nobody understood it. All they knew that there was some number they had to beat and they added their attribute to the roll. Everytime I explained it people looked at me like I had three heads. In computer programming we call this the smell test and the 3d6 system was starting to smell like three day old gym socks. More serious that it was the fact I was using Swords & Wizardry. Attributes don't count for much in OD&D or S&W and attributes dominated my 3d6 system.

So finally I just went with a 1d20 roll high you need to roll a 15 or higher. There are modifiers based on what you are trying to do for example -5 for climbing a shear wall. Classes got bonuses with certain abilities. A burglar has a +2 to climbing at 1st level. Every ability had an attribute associated with it that you could use to give a small bonus. If the attribute was 13+ you get +1, 8- you got a -1.

Because you can this process for your campaign and get something better for how you run your setting then what I did for the Majestic Wilderlands

What I recommend is that
  1. Take all the rulings you can think of and make a list of them. Swinging on chandeliers, leaping over a lava pit, making a move on a barmaid all go on the list.
  2. Note the dice you use to resolve them.
  3. Categorize them however you like.
  4. Look for related rulings that differ by the degree of success. For example if you make your roll by 5 you get to leap 20 feet but by 10 you get to go 30 feet.
  5. See if you can use the same roll system for everything in the same category. For example all climbing is resolved by a d100 roll but hiring and firing hireling uses a d20.
  6. Type it up and print it out and keep it in your notes.

With this list you can do some interesting thing. Even you don't have Rogue or thief classes you can use to make a magic that give a +10% bonus to climbing. A helm that confers a +2 to hiring hirelings and so on. As your campaign develops you may find that, like me, you want classes that do things better other than combat or spells. In which case your list of rulings can help in creating these classes.

P.S. Jeff I am not trying to pick on you. You just gave me an opening for a good post.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Simultaneous Campaigns

On the theRPGSite the RPG Pundit asks whether anybody runs two campaigns at the same time using a setting here.

I been running my Majestic Wilderlands for close to 30 years. A handful of times I ran two campaigns at once. The most was three while I was in college in the late 80s. The most recent was around 2003 when I introduced some friends from NERO LARP to GURPS Fantasy when I was still GMing my normal group.

I run my campaign in a naturalistic sandbox style. Generally I start out with what is the present of my campaign extrapolate a series of background events which forms the backdrop on which the player campaign. If what the players do effect these events I change them extrapolating from the changes that were made.

Things get interesting when more than one group is involved. This occurred a lot in college when I had a group at home and a group at college. There were times when both groups were wondering at the changes going on around them.

I generally don't set simultaneous campaigns in the same immediate geographical area. It minimizes the chance where a direct face to face meeting is called for.

The other technique I use is too minimize the overlap in their social group. For example two groups in City-State; one deals with the beggars and thieves another hangs around the Church of Mitra.

Still another technique is the slight time shift. A GM can throw in extra stuff to throw off time enough to make sure two groups don't end up in the same locale at the same time.

All of this done for the practical reason that is not easy to get a large group of people together. Aside from that I cheerfully let the separate groups run into the consequences of what the other group does. One group kills an important contact of another group, oh well that how it works out.

It is rare but sometime one group directly interact with another. Most of the time it just one or more member of the other group showing up for a session. I do have one interesting story.

One group in college revolved around a group with a Paladin of Mitra named Endless Star. Another a group at home with a Myrmidon (LE anti-paladin) of Set (played by Dwayne of Gamer's Closet). During the summer I continued the campaign at home with the Myrmidon. During the campaign they went through the Tomb of Horrors and managed to trap the demi-lich in a bag of holding.

The module stated that the demi-lich would rise if touched. Since it did not immediately attack and sank down after the players left the room they got an idea. With one holding the bag, Tim of Gothridge Manor, Dwayne touched it. As before the demi-lich rose into the bag and they quickly sealed it shut. Along with the demi-lich was all the treasure in the Tomb.

However this did not upset them because shortly before this incident was the infamous, "Rob read that again!" incident when they discovered that the doors were solid Mithril. With a ton of Mithril to haul out. they were not concerned with a few thousand in gold and gems.

After the adventure they were mulling what to do with the demi-lich and the bag of holding. Having heard of the college group and their paladin they thought this would be a good time to mess with them. So they hired a courier to send it to them.

So several weeks later and back in college everybody was ready to play again. During the first session up comes the courier with the Bag of Holding. Although I run my campaign as a sandbox this was unusual as it just totally out of the blue.

They cast Detect Magic, it was magic.
They case Identify, it was a bag of holding.

Now they were really scratching their head as a Bag of Holding was a really nice item to have. Out of the blue the paladin players goes "I detect Evil". And with the demi-lich in there the bag was evil as hell.

That cinched it for the players who had it destroyed. They figured it was a trap set by Bargle their arch-nemesis. (yes that Bargle) and never tried to figure out who sent it. They only learned of the bag content's a years later when Dwayne became a student at my college. While they were glad not to have dealt with the demi-lich, they groaned at the amount of treasure that was within.

Monday, December 7, 2009

% In Liar strikes again

% In Liar was a famous typo in the Original D&D books. It was found on the header of the monster listing on Page 3 in Volume 2 Monsters & Treasure. Now I know how those guys feel. The PDF I uploaded to RPGNow had several tables trashed. Namely the Viridian and Half-Viridian spell tables and the Trade deal table.

I fixed the problem and updated the RPGNow. I noticed that when I selected the option to let customer know about an update the number was less than the number of people who had bought the product. So hence a blog post letting everybody know the problem has been fixed.

The Lulu version I haven't released yet until I throughly check the first print copy.

I also want to thank everybody for their comments and to my fellow bloggers for their shout outs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Majestic Wilderlands PDF has been released!

From the City-State of the Invincible Overlord to the ancient city of Viridistan the wilderness is thick with dungeons and ruins. Contained in this book are the background and rules used in a campaign thirty years in the making. You will find over two dozen classes ranging from Soldiers to Mountebanks and races of Reptile Men to Half-Viridians. New races, magic variants, creatures, and magic items can be found within these pages. Also included is a complete overview of the Majestic Wilderlands. Begin your journey into the Majestic Wilderlands and become the next person to carve their mark in the hall of destiny.

A 140 page rules supplement compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rules and a guide to the Majestic Wilderlands.

Printed copies of the rules will be available through in one to two weeks

Print $12 at (coming in one to two weeks)
PDF $7 at RPGNow

Licensing Agreement between Bat in the Attic Games and Judges Guild
Bat in the Attic Games and Judges Guild are pleased to announce that a license agreement has been signed to allow rules and supplements to be published for the Majestic Wilderlands. The Majestic Wilderlands is a setting developed by Robert Conley based on the Judges Guild\'s Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Bat in the Attic Games first product will be Supplement VI, the Majestic Wilderlands, a rules supplement adapting the Swords & Wizardry RPG to the Majestic Wilderlands. Also Included is a guide to the Majestic Wilderlands setting.

For further information please contact Robert Conley at or read the FAQ at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A map on medieval times

Many fans of Columbia Games Harn go the extra mile in researching the medieval landscape. Here Chris and Andy of the Penultimate Harn Paget worked up a map of Notthingham shire as it existed in the 12th century.

If you want go crazy with all thing Harn there no better place than Bill Gant's Harnlink.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Regalia of the Demon King

These items were a major part of a campaign I ran in the middle 80s around the Viridistan Empire. During a tense fight within the city of Viridistan one of the PCs panicked and put on all three items. Possessed by the Demon King he proceeded to lay waste to the city's hierarchy. (this was after the death of the Viridian Emperor in a previous campaign) Afterward when the PC were all gathered, he thanked them and was going to send them all back to the realm they came from (Harn).

One of the characters, Bolothous, stepped up, played by Dwayne of Gamer's Closet, and stated he did not wish to return and offered his allegiance. The rest of the party was angered because they knew the character was evil being a priest of an evil god, Agrik. The PC wearing the Regalia happily accepted and allowed Dwayne's character to stand by his side. However when Dwayne got there he pulled out the one magic item the party had of nullifying the regalia and zapped him. Then proceeded to cold cock and knocked him unconscious.
-see the first comment for a more detailed account.

The PC that put on the items apologized while everybody else rolled their eyes as he was known to panic in pressure situations. The good thing is that PC stepped into the power vacuum caused by him killing just about everybody in charge and took control of Viridistan as the Council of Viridistan.

Regalia of the Demon King
The Demon King was one of the lords of the demon host during the Uttermost War. He created several items of jewelry to increase his powers.

The Scepter
This is an ebony rod ¾” inch in diameter and a foot long, topped with a carved quartz figurine in the shape of an ouroboros (a worm eating its own tail). The ouroboros is the universal symbol of demons in the Majestic Wilderlands. Every round it can cast a Finger of Death.

The Diadem
This is a cloth of gold strip two inches wide and about 36 inches long. It can be wrapped around the head and knotted in the back with the ends resting on the shoulders. It confers the ability to fly at a movement rate of 180 ft/rd. Embroidered within the strip is a continuous row of ouroboros in black silk.

The Usekh
This Egyptian style neck collar is made with strips of silk interwoven in with beads of lapis lazuli and pearls. The Usekh is enchanted with +5 protection to armor class. The lapis lazuli beads are woven to form an Ouroboros encircling the wearer’s neck.

The Combined Regalia
Through centuries of use the three Regalia became infused with much of the will and personality of the Demon King. The following effects occur when one or more of the items are worn.

When one item is worn it will send hints in the wielder’s dream and daydreams of the location of the other two items. If the player enjoys roleplaying then have his character become obsessed about other items and devote their energies to finding them. If your player is uncomfortable with role-playing this obsession an alternative is to start throwing hints of the locations of the other items into your plot hooks and events. The player will be bombarded with reminders until they take off the item. Dealing with annoyance will have much of the same effect as roleplaying an obsession.

When two items are worn, a shadow of the Demon King will appear in the character’s mind. The objective of the shadow is to tempt the character into evil and to find the final item to complete the Regalia. The shadow will assume any form (male or female) that works best to tempt the character. The shadow has ability to act as a Commune spell 1/day. The shadow will try to twist the answer to bring the most benefit to the character while doing the most evil to others. The shadow has complete access to what the character knows.

When all three items are worn, the will of the Demon King will fully manifest and fuse with the character. The main goals of the character now are: liberating the Demons from the Abyss, seeking revenge against the gods, against their followers, and achieving dominion over the Wilderlands. In the Majestic Wilderlands the first thing the reborn Demon King will do is go to Viridistan and seize control.

The character will be considered an enchanted creature and a demon for the purposes of spell casting. It is up to the referee whether the fused character is under the referee’s or player’s control. In either case the campaign is likely to be going in a radical new direction.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Packing stuff inside the Hex

When people make maps of the countryside they often think of this from T1-4 The Temple of Elemental EvilIn a 30 by 30 square mile region no more than another 30 miles from a city (Verbobonc) there are only two villages!

This section from the Trierzon Map by Columbia Games for the Harn line show more accurately the situation was in the high middle ages. (1200 AD to 1400 AD). Each 12.5 miles looked like the below map

Each hex had one or two castle towns/keep villages and 20 to 30 manorial villages and abbeys. This was because urban populations needed a LOT of rural population to trade with to get the food they need. In addition because everything by horse or foot the rural villages need to be relatively close the market they sell too.

Despite the packed nature of the above map it was not that dense. If you were visit the region it would be like visiting a rural area in the eastern United States. There is plenty of woods and green space but you can't travel for a few miles without running into local inhabitants. Further from the core regions villages spread out until you reach areas like Russian Steppes. There the situation is like the map from T1-4 with village spaced tens of miles apart.

The historical setup is nice for a campaign where the endgame involve characters commanding armies. The density give a lot of places for the PCs to raise the troops they need for their armies. But even with that consideration it still too realistic, too packed for my taste.

My solution is somewhat like this. This is 12.5 miles per hex.

Blown up it looks something like the below. Note I don't have any detail for the above map so I put a insert below to show how it looks on the campaign map.

To me this is a nice compromise for having a dense population so PC have lot of places to interact with (and raise troops :D)

Recently I experimented with the following.

What I am trying here is to have every village on the map. In the campaign write up I will note how many hamlets are around the village so that the overall population is where I like to have it for the endgame stuff I run.

In the end the focus of your campaign is going to determine how much work you need to put into this stuff. If you are going about dungeon crawls and exploring vine covered ruins then the T1-4 style map may work perfect for you. But if you want to run battles or have players run realms then some thought is needed to as to how many people you are going to need and where they live.

Finally S John Ross' Medieval Demographics Made Easy is still the best and easiest to use source to crunch the numbers on this stuff.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scale Comparison

Sometimes it is hard to figure exactly how big a setting or place is in relation to the real world.

Here is the City-State of the Invincible Overlord super imposed on the city of Pittsburgh.

The following two I made the map of Greyhawk transparent and super imposed on Europe. Because the two continents are point in opposite direction I flipped Europe around to it is facing east instead of west.

The next two are of my Majestic Wilderlands which at 12.5 miles per hex instead 5 miles per hex of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy

The Main Campaign Area where most of my campaigns were set. It is superimposed over Greece and Turkey. Doing this actually opened my eyes to doing a fantasy Greece sandbox. I thought the area was a bit small for everything that happened in it but comparing it to the Majestic Wilderlands I started thinking of how to tuck various adventures around the Aegean Sea.

The essential trick is too use Google Maps or a graphics file of a map that has a scale on it. Scan in the map you want to compare as a separate file. Then measure in pixel a known distance on both maps. Say you find that the scale on the real map is a 200 pixels per 100 miles and the scale of your map is 50 pixels per 50 miles. The first map has 2 pixels per mile, the second maps has 1 pixel per mile. So either I shrink the real map by half, or enlarge my map by double.

Then you need a paint program that supports layers and transparency. I recommend trying out Paint.NET for this. Paste your map on one layer and then the real map on a second layer above the first layer. Lock the first layer and then set the opacity of the second layer somewhere between 40 to 60%. You will find it under the menu Layers->Properties. Save it and you will get a map like above.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Iron Spikes for the Win!

For some time now I been playing a GURPS game with Tim (of Gothridge Manor) and Dwayne (of Gamers Closet) using a combination of Skype and the GURPS toolkit for Fantasy Grounds. He plays Torrun the Red Hand a Paladin of the Maiden and I play Ambrose a Scholar in the service of the Maiden. Torrun is the brute fighter of the group while I can heal and cast body control spells like Pain, Rooted Feet and Stun. Also I have high skill in Occultism and Natural Philosophy (low tech version of Biology, Geology, etc)

The campaign is based around a Castle of the Order of the Maiden transported to a world dominated by demons and other bad guys.

Currently we are exploring the B4 The Lost City. We were in a desert region in pursuit of demons that kidnapped one of our own, Celene an acolyte of the Maiden. We successfully rescued Celene although she is badly injured and in the frantic escape we stumbled onto the Lost City. We encountered the Brothers of Grom and convinced them to give us shelter and heal Celene. However the price was that we had to deal with the factions they were at war with.

This week we encountered the Maidens of Madara (sp?) We really thought we are going to die as we were outnumbered 11 to 2. But Torrun rushed the door of the room we were in and was able to hold them off with spell and magic item support from me. However we saw several break off and we deduced they knew of another way around to the door we entered from.

Torrun yelled at me to deal with the door. Looking at my inventory I noted I still had two iron spike left and ran like a bat out of hell at the other door. I reached it in time and started pounding in spikes. Since GURPS has 1 second combat rounds things can get real tense when doing things blow by blow. The first spike I pounded into the crack between the door and the wall where it swing opens. Since the door opens into the room, I figured it would make the door difficult to open. My rolls were successful (DEX and STR) and I got it in in two seconds.

I knew that it would not be sufficient so I knelled on the floor and started pounding on under the door on the opposite side of the first spike. This time I was no so lucky and it took me 7 seconds (7 rounds) before I had damn thing jammed in there.

By then two archers and a fighter moved into the room. Torrun was dealing with the fighter and the archers moved on me. Bobbing and weaving I managed not to get hit when I successfully unleashed a stun spell on one and then attacked the other with my wand of steam jet. I put 3 points of energy into it so I was able to roll for max damage (3d-3) , I hit, and the second archer failed to defend! I rolled damage which was a 2,2, an 1 for a measly 2 points of damage. My "big" moment sputtered out. The next round I got shot in the shoulder by an arrow and got floored.

However thanks to the spiked door Torrun and Ambrose were able to take down the remaining fighters in the room . By then the spiked door was smashed open. But Torrun was able to hack down two of the remaining four fighters and they surrendered.

It was the first time that I ever used Iron Spikes in a dungeon crawl. I heard about it, read about it, but never actually used Iron Spikes.

So today it was Iron Spikes for the Win!

Monday, November 30, 2009


In Points of Light I introduced the Boglings a race of amphibious humanoids. Here their full stat for Swords & Wizardry.

Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2+1
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Underwater, Jumping, Extensible Tongue
Move: 6/12 (when swimming)
Challenge Level/XP: 2/35

• May breathe underwater indefinitely
• Can Jump over 60 feet and up to 20 feet in height.
• Has an extensible tongue can immobilize a target if it fails it’s saving throw.

These are amphibious humanoids with bulbous eyes. Boglings are noted for their ability to jump long distances and for their extensible tongues. They are found in tribes in tropical swamps and rainforests as well as on several of the outer planes most notably the Swamps of Acheron home to the god Set.

The Boglings originated in one of the rare planar adventures I ran. Two PCs were adventuring in the Swamps of Acheron searching for the Artos the lost King of Nome. One of the players was a bit cocky, Tim of Gothridge Manor, and convinced the other, Dwayne of Gamer's Closet, they could directly assault one of Set's outposts that were scattered along the swamp. They had their asses handed to them but luckily were able to escape. Severely injured, they found the Boglings who gave them healing and aid. In their gratitude the PCs swore that they would find a way out for the Boglings after they rescued Artos. An oath they eventually fulfilled.

That adventure also proved that the Codex of Infinite Planes can be useful in the right hands. The way I was calling it the Codex transferred a 10 foot globe and everything in it from one plane to another. Well as it happened one of Set's guardians was a Turtle Dragon. The two decided to rest on an island when it started moving. The Turtle Dragon's head emerged from the much and calmly informed them that he was taking to see his master Set. Both of their character were not tough enough to take on a Turtle Dragon.

A few minutes into the trip, Dwayne calmly asks me if he could sit on the Dragon Turtle's head. I told him the Dragon Turtle doesn't care. Then Dwayne pulls out the Codex and start reading. Before the Dragon Turtle could figure what going on both Dwayne and the Dragon Turtle's head were transported back to City-State.

Earlier in the campaign the two bought the Red Pearl Inn in the waterfront quarter. After the adventure they razed and now the Turtle Dragon is now part of the structure of a new establishment; the House of the Dragon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Original City-State Reproduction

Bill Owens, one of the founding members of Judges Guild, has located the oldest copy of the blueprint used by Bob Bledsaw Sr. to create the map of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.
As I found out for myself this was not an easy project. It being sold on eBay and there are 144 copies all signed by Bill Owens and Bob Bledsaw Jr.

I haven't snagged one yet being in the midst of Christmas Shopping and monthly bill time but if there any left in two week I plan to get one myself. From the few pictures posted there appears to be small differences between this map and the subsequent product something I look forward to checking out.

City-State Map Reproduction