Saturday, December 15, 2018

Gaming Session Prep

I'm finally getting another session with Glenn in our one-player game. I've been designing things as we need them, and my schedule hasn't left a lot of room for playing. So, it's been a while since I put anything to paper. For this session, I wanted to open the possibilities a bit, so I gave him a few rumors.

1. Caldwell has found a magic user that can open the room you couldn't get into in his castle. He will pay you to check it out.

2. Beachcombers on the beaches at the bottom of the Fist report strange creatures seen in the sea caves. One of the combers says a friend of his was taken by them.

3. You've heard rumors of barbarian and humanoid raids to the north. The latest news is that one of the border forts has been cut off. There is a reward for anyone who can reestablish contact with the fort.

4. Everyone talks about riches hidden in the tunnels of the old fort on the Fist. It's easy enough to find your way in, but is it worth it?

The game started with exploring Castle Caldwell from B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond. The map for this adventure is terrible, and the encounters are simple. We had a lot of fun with it anyway. I guess a lot of play is how much you're willing to muzzle the inner critic and just have fun with things.

I put Castle Caldwell as an abandoned way castle along the road to the north. As you can tell from the rumors, there are barbarians and wilderness not too far north of where we're basing his characters.

Home base is a city called Threshold. It used to be an independent city-state called Moradin's Rest. The city was taken over by a southern empire (for now just known as the Empire) a little over ten years ago. It sits between a sheltered, natural, deep water harbor and a steep cliff. The cliff has an enormous mine and tunnel complex behind it.

The Fist was both a fortress that guarded the harbor and the hill it sat on. It also served as a prison. Before the conquest, it had its own small  town. The fortress was partially destroyed in the conquest, and the town was burned and sacked. The Imperial Governor has not reconstructed the fortress or resettled the hill.

A small, independent community has grown up around the ruins. The community is home to adventurers, mercenaries, escaped and freed slaves, and pretty much anyone else that is willing to live there. Its also a convenient, if somewhat shady, place for merchants and travelers from the north to stop over if they can't get into the city right away.

The ruins obviously have a dungeon, since it was previously used as a prison. The dungeons have been expanded since the conquest, and plenty of treasure seekers have started investigating them. There are rumors that a passage or passages connect all the way from the Fist to the city mines, and around to the southern tip of the harbor. There is a working castle there as well. Previously it was known as Moradin's Shield, now most people just call it the Shield.

There it is. A lot of sketchy detail to start things off. I've got a town and a city, several dungeons, a wilderness, and even some political structure.

Now any time I run a session, I can prep only what I need to run that session. In between, if I get an urge to work on some material, I can go in several directions.

For today's session, I had Glenn pick which of the rumors he wanted to follow, and I detailed things based on that. He decided to follow up on the strange creatures on the beach, so I've got a bit of seashore, a few caves, and a lair or two ready to go. Basically, a one page dungeon with a map and lots of scribbled detail around it. Depending on what happens in the session, I can change things as needed right on the map. If we come back to the same area in a later session, I have less prep then. I can just pull out the map, change whatever I need and keep rolling.

This has been a big shift for me. I used to do a lot of top-down design when I was working on a game. Now I have a lot less time for gaming, so I've switched to more bottom-up design. I keep a notebook with larger campaign details, locations get annotated maps, and NPCs are on file cards. I can carry everything easily if I need to go anywhere, nothing gets lost in the shuffle, and I can prep and run a session in an hour or less.

I'll post some of the maps and things once Glenn has found everything on them. Till then, onward and upward...

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 11

A good long time ago, I started writing a series of posts about my thoughts on Chainmail. At the time, I managed to get about a third of the way through the third edition rules. If you want to check out the previous posts, you can find links to them in the left sidebar. Starting with this post, I'm going to pick up where I left off and hopefully get through the rest of it.

Cannon in Chainmail strike me the same as arquebusiers. Historically, they have a place on the latest medieval battlefields, but they seem odd to someone coming at the rules backwards from years of reading Gygax's warnings about including firearms in D&D. Reading through the rules about arquebusiers and cannon in Chainmail, it is easy to see why some of those later warnings came about, though.

First, some basic rules. Cannon are treated the same as catapults in terms of rate of fire and fire arc. Field guns can only fire directly, but bombards have indirect fire as a catapult as well. Each type of gun uses a dowel rod of varying diameter - 5/8" for a light field gun, 3/4" for a heavy field gun, and 1" for a bombard. The dowel is marked in alternating white and black segments. There is also a variation measure marked off in 1½" segments. A die is rolled and the dowel is moved according to the variation measure. The firer names whether they are firing short or long. Any model (friend or foe!) touched by the white is hit and eliminated if firing short. If firing long, any model touched by a black segment is eliminated. Terrain will stop the cannonball.

Cannons are deadly in Chainmail! There are no adjustments for armor, troop type, or any other factors. This is probably the reason Gygax warns against including them in D&D. Despite their usefulness in sieges, which I'll get into in due time, they are simply too vicious for most D&D battlefields. This is especially true if cannon can eliminate some of the bigger threats or more powerful characters with a single hit. Smaug is not nearly the threat to Laketown we expect if a rank of cannon take shots as he passes!

The mitigating factors for the deadliness of cannon are mostly similar to catapults. The engines require a full crew to function quickly. They tend to have a fairly static position once deployed. Finally, terrain can interfere with their effectiveness. Best bet if encountering an army with cannon in open terrain with well-trained and defended crew is to avoid the field and try a different strategy.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A few more Kickstarter projects

I've backed quite a few Kickstarters. Enough apparently, that Kickstarter considers me a Super Backer. Basically, that means I've thrown a lot of money at creators for various projects. So far, I've got a good track record. Most of the projects have delivered, and more often than not, they've delivered relatively on time. The few that have been really late have generally kept in touch with backers to let us know how things are progressing. At the moment there are a few Kickstarters running that grabbed my interest.

Secrets of Blackmoor is a documentary film that deals with the history of the beginning of D&D. The focus is on the Twin Cities Gamers and how they playtested and built the ideas that eventually rolled into Dave Arneson's contributions to D&D. At the $160 pledge level or higher, you also get a megadungeon and set of old school rules that were initially created in 1973. I'm looking forward to seeing what new tidbits the film brings to our understanding of the history of the game as well as any new ideas and info I can glean from the Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg. I've already backed this one.

Frozen Hell : The Book that Inspired The Thing is a project to print a recently found expanded version of the story that inspired the movie The Thing. The project will release a book of the story (expanded from the originally published, pared down version called "Who Goes There?") along with another book, Short Things, that will collect a series of short stories based on the novel from many notable sci-fi authors. I've backed this to get both books.

Outdoor Encounter Cards 2 is a deck of cards for generating unusual outdoor events. The cards are system-neutral, so you can take the ideas and run with them. This is the third card project from Philip Reed. If you missed the previous two, you can pick up the PDFs through this Kickstarter. There are also a limited number of printed copies of the previous decks available.

The ART of De Architecturart: collection of fantasy maps is a collection of beautiful maps by Guillaume Tavernier. He produces amazing artistic isometric maps that can be used in any fantasy RPG. The PDF reward is available at the €22 level (about $25), and the book plus PDF is available for €39 (about $44).

Finally, Tegel Manor Returns! This one is being produced by Frog God Games and includes updated versions of the manor for 5E and Swords & Wizardry. I love the original, and I'm looking forward to what comes from this version. I am especially interested to see the updated maps.

Any other projects that I missed that have grabbed your interest?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

PBS Great American Read - Release the Kraken

I've been doing a lot for a couple friends that got married last weekend, and that's taken me away from doing much with gaming lately. I've put a bit of paint on my Warhammer goblins, but haven't made a lot of progress there.

This morning, a video from PBS Great American Read called Release the Kraken popped up in my Facebook feed. In the video, they talk about a lot of different ideas for where people developed the notion of the kraken. They also talk about a few other dangerous and alien creatures that live in the ocean. That got me thinking about underwater adventures.

Sea monsters have been a part of D&D since the publication of the little brown books. Over the years, they have gotten more refined and defined through the OD&D Blackmoor supplement, the Monster Manuals, a couple of underwater or waterborne adventures, and even full on supplements.

Despite their presence, I don't think I've ever spent much time with underwater adventures. Watching this video got the wheels turning to put something like that together.

Another reference in the video had me thinking of Lovecraft. In the video they mention The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Give it a read and tell me that doesn't remind you a bit of Cthulhu.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Back to Back to the Keep

With the announcement a few weeks ago that Google+ will be winding down next year, a lot of old school gamers have looked for another way to keep the community going. Some have switched to other social media sites. Some have expanded their presence on Facebook, some have migrated to MeWe, and some have gone to various Discord servers. Quite a few of the folks that had blogs either before or concurrent with Google+ have reopened them or started posting more frequently.

This was great timing for me, since I have been thinking for about a year of reopening the blog and starting to post some of my thoughts and discoveries again. I've dropped a few things on G+ over the past four years, but most of my gaming and musing have been privately between myself and a few of the players from past groups. I've kept up with some of the gaming news through G+, a little on Facebook, and bits and pieces from specific companies. I've backed some Kickstarters (oh so many Kickstarters), played in a couple games, painted some minis, and spent a lot of time reading and collecting. Still, I have been missing some of the online community I was engaged with in the beginnings of the OSR a decade or so ago. That community was what started me with the idea of blogging to begin with and, with the demise of G+, seems to be resurging. So a few weeks ago, I made the blog publicly visible again and started thinking of how to resume posting.

I stopped posting here about four years ago, although I wasn't posting much of any significance for quite a while before then. When Google+ first started ramping up, I shifted a lot of my activity there. I also moved cross-country and wasn't doing much with gaming for a couple years. On top of that, for most of the time since I started the blog, I was dealing with a pretty rough combination of physical and mental health problems. Between all of those things, I struggled to motivate myself to write anything. A lot of that is behind me, so it's time to move forward.

I have a lot of work to do here, before I will have everything updated the way I want it. I need to clean up some of the layout and sidebars and update a lot of links. I've been looking through the old posts, cleaning up some things and clearing out some of the junk. Most of the prior posts will stay. There are some things that I will be deleting, though, so bear with me. I also need to make sure that things that were stored on old servers and links to other sites get reposted and cleaned up. I expect that to take a while yet, but in the meantime if you find any broken links or missing info, let me know.

Some of the projects I started will get finished. I plan to finish by thoughts about Chainmail and I'll be resuming the compilation of inspirational reading material for gaming.

I'm currently running a one-person Labyrinth Lord game using old printed modules and a bit of original material. I'll post about what I'm doing with that.

I've also started reading and going through as many of the old books, modules, magazines, and other stuff that has been published for D&D, its clones, and spin-offs as I can. I am trying to compile as many of the monsters, gods, heroes, etc. as possible into one big book. This is mostly for my own reference and for facilitating conversion of material between editions, but I'm sure I'll have some things to say about that as well.

I am still painting a lot of miniatures, so you'll see some things about minis, painting, and painting materials as well. One of the first things I need to do is update my thoughts about the various paints that I use, since I've started using a few new lines since the last post I put up about paint.

Finally, I'll continue to post about the other nerdy and gaming stuff I find. At the very least, I'll start posting about some of the Kickstarters and books I like.

If you want to add me on MeWe, here's my profile. If you do, please let me know you're a gamer. If I just see a request and a blank profile, I'm not likely to accept. If you're already on MeWe, I'm in a lot of groups, but most active in the Goblins & Grenadiers painting group.

Onward and upward!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Inspirational Reading - Part 7

Time to continue looking at sources for Inspirational Reading for games. This time I start looking at the individual authors listed in Appendix N.

Poul Anderson is listed first, and there are three specific novels mentioned. Anderson is probably best known for his science fiction. Like a lot of authors in the appendix, though, his science fiction occasionally incorporates fantasy elements and he wrote some straight fantasy as well. Of the three novels mentioned, Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword are fantasy. The High Crusade blends science fiction and fantasy.

Aside from the mentioned books, I am including a few more from Anderson in my list. The Ys series is historical fantasy set in the time of the Roman occupation of Britain and incorporates fantasy elements related to the legendary city of Ys in Brittany. I'm also adding his novels about King Harald Hardrada. The end of his reign is considered the end of the Viking age and his travels and career may have had some influence on Robert Howard when he was writing his Conan tales.

That adds the following to the reading list:

Anderson, Poul; Anderson, Karen. Dahut (King of Ys 3)
-----. The Dog and the Wolf (King of Ys 4)
-----. Gallicenae (King of Ys 2)
-----. The Golden Horn (The Last Viking 1)
-----. The Road of the Sea Horse (The Last Viking 2)
-----. Roma Mater (King of Ys 1)
-----. The Sign of the Raven (The Last Viking 3)

Next on the list in the appendix is John Bellairs' The Face in the Frost. I first read Bellairs in grade school, starting with The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. I recognized the name when I first read the DMG, but wasn't able to find a copy of The Face in the Frost until recently. Since this is his only adult fantasy novel, it's the only one I am including in the list.

As an aside, Bellairs was a faculty member at my undergraduate alma mater for a year prior to writing The Face in the Frost. According to various bits of online biographies, he taught at Shimer College for a year in 1966 then moved to Bristol, England for six months, where he wrote Face.

Next up I'll take a look at Leigh Brackett

Back online

The last half of this year has been an adventure. Lots of personal stuff has gotten in the way of me posting anything. I moved from Palo Alto to Long Beach in September, and I haven't had an internet connection at home since the move. That has meant a lot of reading actual, physical books and painting miniatures instead of sitting in front of the computer every evening after work. 

I'll update with pics of the minis once I get them transferred to the computer. I'll also start picking up some of the other projects, including the Inspirational Reading posts, once I get all the updates done on my computer.