Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 3

This is part three of my read-through of the Chainmail rules. The first two installments can be found here and here.

This time, we're into the turn sequence for the game. The rules present two different possibilities for the turn sequence, a move/countermove system and a simultaneous movement system.

In the former, the turn breaks down as follows:
  1. Both players roll a die. The player with the higher score chooses to go first or second.
  2. First player moves, performs split fires, and takes pass-through fire.
  3. The second player moves, performs split fire, and takes pass-through fire.
  4. Artillery fire is resolved by both sides.
  5. Missile fire is resolved by both sides.
  6. Melee is resolved.
In the simultaneous movement system, the turn breaks down this way:

  1. Both commanders write orders for their units. Orders must specify direction of movement and facing.
  2. Both sides move half their movement.
  3. All split fire and pass-through fire are resolved for both sides simultaneously.
  4. Once move-based fire is resolved, unobstructed troops complete the other half of their movement.
  5. Artillery fire is resolved by both sides.
  6. Missile fire is resolved by both sides.
  7. Melee is resolved.
The first sequence is similar to the typical “you go, I go” turn sequence that Warhammer and most other miniatures games use, except that movement happens in sequence and combat is always resolved simultaneously. It also differs from Warhammer and others because you roll to see who moves first every turn. Each commander has the option every turn of deciding to take the initiative or wait and respond to what their opponent is doing with their movement.

The second sequence eliminates the possibility of immediate response to your opponent's actions during the turn. It forces commanders to really think ahead and plan what their troops should do for a particular turn. I like the idea of this system, as it automatically introduces some uncertainty and “fog of war” possibilities into the game. The only downside to it is recording all of the orders and making sure that they make sense and are executed appropriately. I can definitely imagine situations that would cause problems using written orders, and I would only play with this system with people that I trust not to nit-pick things to death. Otherwise, I can see a lot of arguments happening.

The one thing I love about both systems is that combat is always resolved simultaneously. You still have the typical “move-shoot-fight-recover” breakdown, but all of the fighting happens for both sides at the same time. You can't have half your force wiped out before they get to act unless you move poorly and subject yourself to fire in the movement portion of the turn. I can accept that exception, because it's based on something I do and not on the arbitrary basis of having rolled higher on a single die roll. In a lot of games, you are at an impressive disadvantage simply by having lost the die roll to see who gets to move first. Both of these systems mitigate this.

LL Reference Sheets and Monster Matrix moved

I finally moved the Labyrinth Lord Reference Sheets and Monster Matrix I made last year over to my RPG Files page. They're both available in pdf. For now, they only include information from the main LL rules.

Reference Sheets
Monster Matrix

Saturday, May 28, 2011

That was fast!

I ordered a copy of Woodland Warriors and the compilation of the first four issues of Fight On! from Lulu on Thursday, and they just got to my door. On top of the fast shipping, both books were individually wrapped in bubble wrap and plastic wrapped to a stiff sheet of cardboard! This is the first time I've ordered anything from Lulu, and I have to say that I'm definitely impressed.

Look for some reviews of the new books soon.

Kicking the ant nest

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about giant ants where I expanded on the types of ants available. You can download a copy of my writeup here. I also put together a map of an ant lair for an adventure I was planning to put together featuring giant ants. I’m still kicking the adventure around and working on some more ideas for it.

One thing that I’m thinking about is having no specific map for the adventure. Instead, the ant nest would be generated on the fly, making every run through the adventure completely unique. To accomplish that, I drew up the following table. It’s designed to be used with hex paper (or Hexographer), but you could probably adapt it to use with regular gridded paper if you wanted. I like hexes for this because it gives a lot more variety to the angles in the nest. It could also be used for other tunneling insects or monsters as well.

Random Tunnel Generator
Die Roll (1d12)Result
1continue straight for 2d4 hexes (1 in 6 ends)
2turn left behind; check again in 2d4 hexes (1 in 6 ends)
3-4turn left ahead; check again in 2d4 hexes (1 in 6 ends)
5turn right behind; check again in 2d4 hexes (1 in 6 ends)
6-7turn right ahead; check again in 2d4 hexes (1 in 6 ends)
8-9branch in two directions (roll 1d10; check again on this table for each passage after 2d4 hexes; 1 in 6 chance for each passage to end)
1left behind and left ahead
2left behind and straight
3left behind and right behind
4left behind and right ahead
5left ahead and straight
6left ahead and right behind
7left ahead and right ahead
8straight and right behind
9straight and right ahead
10right behind and right ahead
10branch in three directions (roll 1d10; check again on this table for each passage after 2d4 hexes; 1 in 6 chance for each passage to end)
1left behind, left ahead, and straight
2left behind, left ahead, and right behind
3left behind, left ahead, and right ahead
4left behind, straight, and right behind
5left behind, straight, and right ahead
6left behind, right behind, and right ahead
7left ahead, straight, and right behind
8left ahead, straight, and right ahead
9left ahead, right behind, and right ahead
10straight, right behind, and right ahead
11-12chamber (roll 3d12 for size in hexes; roll 1d3-1 for number of exits if room is less than 24 hexes in size, otherwise roll 1d6-1 for number of exits)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best captcha ever and a milestone

I was leaving a comment over at Chicago Wiz's blog, and this was the captcha that came up on the form. Obviously I couldn't resist taking a screen capture.

I also noticed that I have finally made it to over a hundred posts here, which would be a great milestone if I hadn't started the blog almost a year ago. Taking several months off obviously killed my post count for a while, not to mention losing me quite a few readers. The funny thing is, I'm not really worried about either of those things now.

I started the blog as a way to get some of my gaming ideas out into the world and as a way to recruit some players. It's working admirably for the first and not so well for the second. Despite the lack of players, though, I'm still working on gaming stuff almost every day and trying to get more of it written and posted. I haven't lost the idea of developing as much of my own stuff as I can. I've just hit a few bumps in the road that have slowed me down.

Until I can get more new stuff done, I'm enjoying doing the Chainmail read-through, posting maps, and generally trying to clean things up. I still need to migrate my old stuff to RPGFiles and correct the links in the old posts. I also have quite a few stalled projects to filter through, prioritize, and get back into. It's going to take some more time, but I'll get to it soon. In the meantime, hopefully the rest of my content here is better than the captcha.

Thank you to everybody that has been reading and putting up with my crazy gamer ADD here. Hopefully some of what I've been putting up has been useful for some of you. If there's anything I've started you think I should pick back up right away, let me know. (And, Trey, I've got some ideas already in the works about yeti and Bigfoot.) In the meantime, Keep gaming!

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 2

Moving forward in my reading of the Chainmail rules, this time we reach the "Chainmail rules for medieval miniatures" section of the book. The section starts with some notes about the purpose of the rules, the scale for the game and ratio of figures, as well as what is now a fairly typical suggestion about the game rules.

In regards to the scale and ratio, the rules were developed for 40mm scale figures, which were probably the most common scale miniatures in the authors’ collections or thatthey saw as being the most commonly available. They note that they will work equally well with any scale, including the 25mm plastic figures that were produced by Airfix back in the day. The recommended figure to man ratio is 1:20 for larger figures (30mm or larger) and 1:10 for smaller figures.

I collected quite a few sets of the 1/72 scale figures when I was a kid, and I'm thinking that may be the best way to get some figures to test out the rules. They're available in reasonably large quantities for much cheaper than any of the traditional plastic and metal miniatures, and I've seen examples of figures from just about every time period and place. As much as I love higher quality minis, I'm just not that interested in spending a fortune to play.

I'm not really sure about the figure ratios suggested. My first thought is that it really doesn't matter. The only real determinant for which to use is how many troops you have on each side and the appropriate ratio required to make that look good on the table. I agree that miniature wargaming should produce spectacle, so I'm going to use that as my main criterion for what ratio to use. I’ll see how it actually works out in play before I really decide how I like it.

The ground scale is static, specifically 1" to 10 yards, and each turn is about one minute of scale time. There is no flexibility in these categories. Interestingly, these same scales will carry through almost all of the derivatives of Chainmail, especially Dungeons & Dragons.

Another thing that will carry forward from these rules is the suggestion that they be house-ruled:

Although the rules have been thoroughly play-tested over a period of many months, it is likely that you will eventually find some part that seems ambiguous, unanswered, or unsatisfactory. When such a situation arises settle it among yourselves, record the decision in the rules book, and abide by it from then on. These rules may be treated as guide lines around which you form a game that suits you. It is always a good idea to amend the rules to allow for historical precedence or common sense — follow the spirit of the rules rather than the letter. (p. 8)

Because of the variety of options available in the rules, some interpretation is always required. Also, no matter how clear a particular set of rules is, there will always be arguments about how particular things work during a game. There will also be times when the rules produce conflicting situations. This is pretty common in all of the wargames and derivatives I’ve played.

Something that stands out to me in this particular statement of the “have it your way” paragraph, though is the last two sentences. In most games, the wording of this sentiment is much stronger. The designers want you to use their rules their way and only adjudicate rules arguments when things conflict. That isn’t the case here. Gygax and Perren want you to use the rules as guidelines to create the game you want to play. Chainmail is the skeleton that you can flesh out to suit your own particular tastes.

This particular sentiment may be the spirit of the times. In the late 60s and early 70s, the wargaming community was experimenting with a lot of different rules ideas and game mechanics and styles. Game clubs exchanged ideas and tweaked rules, often creating entire systems of home-brewed rules for tournaments and events. Part of this was due to necessity (there were not a lot of different rules sets to draw from) but part was the do-it-yourself nature of the hobby at the time. If a set of rules could approximate more than one period or style of game with just a few modifications, it makes more sense to develop a few house rules than try to reinvent the wheel and create a whole new system.

On the other hand, though, my interpretation of these lines may be simply based on hindsight and my preferred understanding of some history of the game. Knowing that it was the framework that D&D was built on, specifically through the process described by these two lines, probably colors my thinking. I like to see intention where it may not be appropriate.

Regardless of which is true, though, the fact that these lines appear in the second paragraph of the rules definitely encourages us to work with them and make them useful for our own particular games.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Something's happening here

What it is ain't exactly clear, but George Strayton has been hinting at something that completely change the gaming industry. If you read his post about it today and do the math, you'll find that it coincides with the beginning of Gen Con this year. So there will at least be one big thing happening at the con this year. I'm not really convinced that anything will be that revolutionary anymore, but we'll see.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 1

Last week I posted about wanting to read through the Chainmail rules to see what I could make of them. Having finished an initial read-through, I have to say that I am impressed. I am looking forward to getting some minis out on the table and running some games. In the meantime, though, I'm going to go through the rules here and tell you what I think of them.
At the time I wasn't sure that I wanted to do a full page-by-page reading of the rules, but I've changed my mind since actually going through them. There's a ton of information there! There's also a fairly robust system for wargaming.
This reading is based on the 3rd edition, 7th printing of the rules that was published in April 1979, according to the copyright page. The 3rd edition was copyrighted in 1975, so this edition is four years after that date. Presumably, it incorporates some rules changes and/or clarifications that were developed over that time. I don't have access to any prior versions of the rules, so I'm going on what I've got here.
The book is 45 pages long. Pages 1 through 3 are the title page, copyright notice, and Table of Contents respectively. Page 4 shows a couple of pictures of figures on a gaming table. The Introduction starts on page 5 and runs through page 7. We then have the "Chainmail rules for medieval miniatures" from page 8 through 24, "Man-to-Man Combat" rules from page 25 through 27, the "Fantasy supplement" from page 28 through 39, and five appendices with combat and reference tables on pages 40 through 44. Page 45 shows a listing of products from TSR.
The Introduction is fairly dense with information. It begins with a one-paragraph description of wargaming as a hobby and then launches right into the requirements for a game:
In order to play a wargame it is necessary to have rules, miniature figures and accompanying equipment, a playing area, and terrain to place upon it. There can be no douubt that you have fulfilled the first requirement, for you have purchased this set of rules. Your troops can be any scale that you desire. The playing area that the battles are fought out upon should be a table rather than the floor. It can be from a minimum of 4' to a maximum of 7' wide, and it should be at least 8' in length. These sizes will assure ample room for maneuver. There are several methods of depicting the terrain features generally used for wargames, such as hills, woods, rivers, roads, etc. (p. 5)

So here we see the basic list of equipment. Apparently the authors assumed that players would have dice on hand.
It's interesting that here they say that the miniatures used can be any scale, while later they will recommend using particular scale figures for the game. It's also interesting that they insist on a playing area of at least 4' by 8'. This is a fairly large area for a basic skirmish, but is definitely good for a larger action. I'm thinking that a board that large will definitely "assure ample room for maneuver," but it may also make for lots of maneuvering and wheeling without a lot of fighting. I'll have to see how that plays out in practice.
In the descriptions of the methods for constructing terrain, we see suggestions for piece terrain, modular 2' by 2' boards, and a sand table. The latter is described as the most complicated and realistic option. Having seen the way that wargames terrain has developed over the last 35 years, I'm going to respectfully disagree with the authors here.
The authors next turn to the different ways that players can select their forces for a game. They suggest the following:
  1. Use a historical battle and choose the forces to match historical accounts.
  2. Choose sides by points.
  3. Have the forces assigned by a neutral third party.
  4. Map based campaigns determine the forces. "... worked out from a 'campaign' situation where larger armies are moved on a map until hostile forces come into contact." (p. 6)
What's most interesting in the determination of forces, though, is the way that they interpret "balance." In most current rules sets for wargames, there is an overwhelming emphasis on playing games balanced by having equal forces on both sides. The authors here specifically say that shouldn't necessarily be the case:
Playing ability and terrain must also be taken into consideration, however. If, for example, the better player is to receive a 300 point army, it might be wise to allow his opponent to select 50 additional points worth of troops in order to balance the game. Similarly, if one player decides the kind of terrain the battleground is to be composed of — or the historic terrain favors one side — the side with such a terrain advantage should probably have a considerably weaker army. (p. 6)
So when determining the balance between forces on the table top, it is important to consider the relative playing ability of the players. Curious, and definitely a different take on balance.
The remainder of the introduction talks about the abstract nature of wargaming (scaled movement and representation, randomness represented by dice rolls, and so on), morale, and determining victory conditions. For the latter, "it is up to the parties concerned," (p. 6) but the following options are suggested:
  1. Play until one side is down to a particular percentage of its original strength.
  2. Play until one side is completely routed or destroyed.
  3. Play a set number of turns for points assigned to particular troops or terrain features.
  4. Play to match a particular historical objective.
The first and last are the most realistic in terms of historical gaming. The second is generally the option that I have seen most wargamers use. One side is beaten when it's wiped out. The third is similar to the objective and victory point systems we see in games like Warhammer. What is interesting, again, is the amount of variety that they've managed to suggest in a very small space.
More than anything else, the Introduction stresses that these rules are about creating options. They do not insist on being absolutely specific, because they want people to be able to use the rules in as many ways as possible. As they say in the last paragraph,
With no other form of wargaming — or nearly any form of game for that matter — is the player given the scope of choice and range for imagination that miniature warfare provides. You have carte blanche to create or recreate fictional or historic battles and the following rules will, as closely as possible, simulate what would have happened if the battle had just been fought in reality. (p. 7)
Although I can't really speak to the accuracy of the rules for historic recreation of a battle, they do have plenty of variety and a broad enough scope to cover a huge variety of historical periods, game sizes, and types of action.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It

With all the talk of the supposed Rapture today, I've been thinking about apocalypticism. I know that several people in the blogosphere have talked about the typical D&D setting being post-apocalyptic. Lots of dungeons and ruins, fallen civilizations that have left their loot behind just for the adventurers to find, legendary artifacts and relics of a bygone golden age, and so on all point to a prior civilization that the characters are gleaning the scraps from. But what if you made D&D pre-apocalyptic? Especially immediately pre-apocalyptic?

Think about it. You have a civilization at its peak, peopled with the most righteous of the righteous and the most depraved of the depraved. Throw in a religion that has a view of history that includes both a goal and an end to history. Then add some prophets, omens, signs, and portents that point to the end of days being immediate and definite instead of at some nebulous time in the future.

What would your characters do if they heard the world was going to end in a matter of hours? What if they knew the world was going to end in a matter of hours? Do they prepare for it? Take cover? Try to burn all their gold carousing and make a few last XP?

And what do they do if they survive? Do they look for other survivors and try to rebuild? Do they carve a bloody swath through the world and establish their empire on the ashes of the old world? Do they loot to their heart's content? What do they do?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The other day I decided to check out RPGFiles.org as a way to host some of the things I've put together. In the past I've used Scribd and Google docs to host things, and somehow I always seem to have problems with one or the other. Fortunately, RPGFiles seems to have solved all of the problems.

Setting up the account took a couple of emails. The response was very fast. Once the account was setup, it was easy to upload documents through a web-based ftp site. Addresses for hosted documents all point to the same folder, which has very simple structure. This makes it very easy to link to documents and maintain them on the site.

I can't say anything to uptime, troubleshooting, or technical support, because I haven't had any issues with the site yet. Overall, I'm really impressed. If you need a place to host some files for an old-school rpg, check it out.

In the next couple days I'll be migrating all of my old resources to the site. If you want to see what I have uploaded so far, you can access my files here. I'll provide specific links to each file later once I get them switched over.

Checking out Chainmail

A couple months ago, I won a couple auctions on eBay for a Collector's Edition OD&D boxed set with the three little brown books, Supplement I: Greyhawk, Supplement II: Blackmoor, Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes, and Swords & Spells. Although I already had them in pdf from WOTC from years ago, it was nice to have actual printed originals. If nothing else, it helps me spot some of the inconsistencies between the pdfs and the originals.

This convinced me to finally print and bind a copy of the Chainmail rules. I'm not as worried about getting an original copy of them, as the printed copy is perfectly readable. I'm also not really sure I want to use it for gaming. I'm perfectly happy using the alternative combat system for OD&D, after all.

I still want to get a handle on Chainmail, though. So the other day I started reading through the book and taking some notes.

My first impression is that this is a much more solid game than I was led to believe. I've seen all kinds of criticism of it, from it being archaic and unwieldy to downright unplayable. There are some things I would probably want to house rule, but I can definitely say it's not unplayable. In fact, from my initial look through the rules, it looks to be a pretty fun little system.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll spend a little more time going through the book in more detail and give you my impressions. It probably won't be a true cover-to-cover analysis, but I'll cover the things I find interesting about it. I'm not really interested in going through everyone else's impressions of it again until I get done, because I want to read it with fresh eyes and see what I see in it on my own. Later, though, I'll try to sift through some of the other stuff online and see where my reading matches and doesn't.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Old Village Map

I found this map in a folder with a ton of old maps that I worked on about twenty or twenty-five years ago. I'm going to work on scanning and posting them as I can. This map was drawn in pencil on graph paper, and you will probably notice how much it was influenced by the map of Hommlet from T1. I'm thinking of reworking it to make the fields larger and move some of the buildings off the grid to make it more realistic. In the meantime, you may use it for personal use. If you do so, let me know how.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hex Calculator Revisited

Jim over at Carjacked Seraphim posted a spreadsheet that populates my spreadsheet from yesterday with values from ChicagoWiz's table. In his post, Jim noted that he was unable to get the Excel sheet to work properly. Here's an Excel sheet (.xls for Excel 97-2003 or .xlsx for Excel 2007) that fills the cells based on the table entries. It doesn't highlight the empty cells in yellow like Jim's, but it's a start.

Sometime in the next few days I may revisit this with different tables, but we'll see how things go. Now it's back to writing more papers for school.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hex Calculator

ChicagoWiz just posted a nice table that combines several resources into a single table for populating a hex map. In the post he mentions putting everything into an Excel spreadsheet that could then be tweaked and modified easily. I love what he's done here, but I hate rolling tons of dice to randomly populate maps. So I made a spreadsheet that will do the rolling for me. Obviously, you can use it with whatever percentile table you want to generate results for hexes.

This spreadsheet has two pages, one for vertical hexes and one for horizontal hexes. I only did 100 hexes per sheet to avoid eyestrain. Besides, 100 hexes is plenty for most people to run a sandbox campaign for years. If you need more, just generate one page, print it, and then do another one.

The sheet calculates a random number for each hex between 1 and 100. It automatically recalculates every time you open it. If you want to manually recalculate it, press F9.

You can get the file here:

.xls (Excel 97-2003) version
.xlsx (Excel 2007) version

A to Z Blogging Challenge

I missed the A to Z blogging challenge, at least as far as writing goes. I spent most of last month trying to get my life in order so I could have time to blog and game. I did follow quite a few old school bloggers that participated in the challenge, though, and it was interesting to see what people were posting. All through the month, I thought of things that I would love to write about if I had the time, energy, and inclination.

I am not going to go back and try to do a series of entries A to Z. Instead, here’s a list of some of the things that came into my head as possible subjects for posts. I picked three for each letter. I had other ideas for some of the letters, but I figured three was a good number for posting.

Eventually, I may try to flesh out some of these. If there are any that you really think I should pursue, let me know. For now, here’s the list with a few comments:

Abacus – I learned to use an abacus in grad school as a tool for teaching counting and arithmetic to people that are visually impaired. I’d love to look at counting systems and create some magical abaci to throw into a game.
Atlantis and Lost Civilizations – Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, Hyboria, etc.
Alignment – three-fold, five-fold, or nine-fold, I still have trouble with alignment schemes in games.

Bard – I like bards. Not the start at first level, second edition and later bards. The first edition, be a fighter then a thief, pray you keep all the high ability scores, you finally made it after four years of playing bard. Years ago I developed a similar bard class for BECMI D&D. I created a prestige class to emulate the 1e bard for 3e. I’d like to bring the bard back to where he started.
Backstabbing – Whether thieves or players are doing it, backstabbing gets in the way.
Bibles – I studied theology and focused on biblical ethics. Can your campaign have a holy book or books that have the same weight that the Bible had in the medieval world? Especially interesting since most people in the medieval European world knew the Bible but never read it.

Comic books – I read a lot of comics back in the day. A lot of them influenced my games. Some of them still do.
Cartography – I’ve used quite a few cartography and drawing programs to create maps. Now I’m going back to pencils, pen, and paper.
Creativity – All of us have it. Some of us use it. Few of us develop it. I’m working on it.

Depth – The deeper the dungeon, the greater the challenge. It applies as much to the pre-game experience of the game master as it does to the in-game experience of the players.
Death – 0 hit points, negative hit points, and save or die. Death in the Tarot and the Death card in the Deck of Many Things.
Decisions – Make some as a game master but leave room for the players to make some, too.

Evil – I played my longest-running character in a mostly evil party. We made it work. Evil isn’t stupid, either.
Elves – I love elves, but I would just as soon send them all across the sea. My love-hate relationship with the pointy-eared.
Experiments – Sometimes you have to try new things in your game. Sometimes they don’t work. What do you do when that happens?

Fire – I’m terrified of burning, but I love having monsters set things on fire in dungeons and enclosed spaces. Make your characters deal with a literal smoke screen sometime.
Fantasy – How fantastic is your game?
Forests – I worked at a Boy Scout camp for several years. That means I spent a ton of time in the woods. Forests are fascinating and have a lot of character. You can use that in your game.

Gods – I don’t like big, removed gods. I like the gods in Conan stories, the kind that you can hack the head off with a broad sword.
Gold – I don’t mind the gold standard in D&D. I never have. I didn’t even used to mind the problems with encumbrance and weight for coins. I just accepted that it was fantasy and got on with it.
Geography – Earth has a ton of variety and some crazy geographical phenomena. Why don’t most fantasy worlds?

Howard – I started reading Conan stories when I was in junior high. Howard influenced my idea of fantasy but really didn’t change my D&D games much.
Herbs – Outside of a few articles in Dragon, herbal medicine never really made it into D&D much.
Heraldry – Different places should have different styles of heraldry, depending on the prevalent culture and their ways of conducting war.

India – I would love to see a game that uses the myths and legends of India as a basis.
Inspiration – We all have our own Appendix N.
Ivory – What kinds of rare materials exist in a fantasy world? What creatures are hunted for specific materials? How rare are they? Who hires the characters to do it?

Jester – I hate the old jester class from Dragon, but jesters serve a very important function in society.
Justice – I love looking at the weird laws that exist in different places and times. I’d love to see more of them come into play in games.
Jerusalem – The holy city and the immediate surrounding area have been contested and fought over for three thousand years. What would a campaign set there be like?

Kilts – I can trace one branch of my family tree back to the Scottish clans. So I like kilts. I’d like to have a society in game that has such distinctive clothing.
Kings and royalty – Everybody uses kings, knights, and other European royalty. I want to come up with different titles and organizations for hereditary government.
Kit-bashing – Stealing rules from other games is like kit-bashing models. It works, but you have to do some serious fitting to make it work well.

Library – The real world library can do as much for a game as a fantastic one.
Limits – Sometimes you have to say no to your players.
Leniency – Sometimes you have to say yes.

Money – Money never really works right in D&D.
Monsters – I love the Monster Manual, but people always scare me the most.
Magic – D&D takes magic for granted, but magic in fantasy fiction is very different. Is there a way to make magic magical in game?

Necessity – If your players push you, be ready to expand your boundaries.
Necronomicon – Why don’t books in D&D have this much power?
Necromancers – I played a necromancer for years. Necromancers are not nice people, and they should be the creepiest things running around.

Official supplements – I was always a little annoyed at the stuff about official supplements that made it into the DMG and Dragon back in the day.
Old School Renaissance/Revival/Rebellion/Ruh-ro Raggi – Just what does the R stand for anyway? I’m going to start splitting the Old School from the Olde School from the Olde Schoole.
Organization – I always kept a DM binder back in the day, and I still use one now.

Playing – The best way to get jazzed for running a great game is to play in one.
Painting miniatures – I’ve built models and painted minis as long as I’ve played role playing games.
Patrons – A good patron is great for a character or party.

Quests – You might as well just call the spell Laying the Tracks, since most quests are just a way to railroad the players. They still make for a good game if handled well, though.
Quasit – I love imps, quasits, mephits, and other little demons and devils.
Quitting – Sometimes you need to just take your dice and go home.

Ridiculous – Sometimes it’s fun to throw in something completely gonzo. It’s fantasy after all.
Riding animals – A friend of mine played a minotaur that rode a rhinoceros. What other kinds of animals can characters ride in a game?
Renaissance – What would the Renaissance be like with D&D-style magic thrown in? What would need to be added or changed to move from a medieval-style to a Renaissance-style D&D game ?

Sanity – Just like Tim, I hate the rules for insanity in games.
Science Fantasy – I loved mixing D&D and Gamma World back in the day. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is still one of my favorite adventures. Back in the 70s and early 80s, there was no hard distinction between sci-fi and fantasy. I dropped a hive city in my LL game because of that.
Stormtroopers – I loved stormtroopers from the first time I saw Star Wars. Who are the stormtroopers in your game?

Treasure – What constitutes treasure exactly?
Titans – I love the idea of old deposed gods hanging around and plotting revenge.
Teaching – One of the best things about gaming is learning new things. An even better one is teaching other people to game.

Underworld – This could be either the mythic underworld or the world of crime. I love the stories of old organized crime, especially in the Depression. I want to incorporate a similar organization into a game without it just being the Thieves’ Guild.
Usurpers – One of the things that makes George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire so good is the fact that ultimately all of the seven major houses are usurpers. I love that kind of unrest and political tension in a game, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of playing.
Undead – There are a lot of ways to make something not quite dead.

Variety – It’s the spice of life. Change things up already.
Villains – The best characters are defined by their villains.
Vesting – Pay back the players so they stay with you.

Writing – Languages, spellbooks, scrolls, messages, etc.
Witches – They were promised by Holmes and made a few appearances in Dragon and elsewhere.
War – Making war work in a D&D game has always been difficult for me.

Xerxes – Sometimes a great defeated would-be world conqueror is exactly what a campaign needs. After all, what would Greyhawk be without Vecna, Kas, and Iuz?
Xenophobia – I always liked the racial preferences table in the PHB.
Xanadu – Aside from the mystical lost continents, there are all of the hidden places like Xanadu, Shangri-La and Avalon.

– It might be fun to have a campaign that uses a world tree that connects various planes. It might be a good way to play OD&D and incorporate all of the various supplements and ideas that people have created – Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Carcosa, Chicagowiz’s OD&D Modern, Terminal Space, etc.
Young at Heart – Frank had it right.
Yeti – Yeti, Bigfoot, and other legendary primates were all the rage in the 70s. Bigfoot even made it into the Six Million Dollar Man. The premise for the show might make a good science fantasy adventure.

Zodiac – Astrology is fun to play with, but it hasn’t made its way into a lot of games other than Fantasy Wargaming.
Zagyg and fantasy names – If your name is unusual, it’s easy to come up with some good fantasy names. But what do you do when your name is Bob?
Zap – Punctuate your game like an old comic superhero show.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Another Map Doodle

Here's another map doodle I did. I did this one with a blue Sharpie pen. I definitely like the Sharpie pens a lot, and they are probably going to be my pen of choice for a while. They're about half as expensive as artist tech pens, and they give a strong line without a lot of bleed.

Several months ago I proposed the idea of doing a map a week on the blog. Like som many of my plans from last year, I didn't get the chance to keep up with it. Now that I have the scanner running, though, I'm going to work on getting back to that goal. I want to publish at least one map a week, even if it's just a quick doodle.

I dug out a folder that has a lot of my old maps from back in the day, along with some newer ones that I've done over the last few years. I'll start posting these here as I get them scanned.

You may use this map for personal use. If you use it in your game, please let me know how.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cave Map doodle

I've been experimenting with some mapping lately. This is a small set of caverns drawn in a style similar to the style Dyson Logos uses for his maps. I drew this in a small spiral notebook using a cheap gel pen as I was watching television.

I'm fairly happy with the overall look, but I want to figure out some kind of shading to use other than the Dyson-like crosshatching. I love his style, but I need to develop something of my own.

I also need to find some better pens to work with that won't cost a fortune. The one I used for this map has very wet ink, so it tends to run into the paper and produces some mushy line work. If anyone has some suggestions, other than the expensive artist tech pens, let me know.

I'm making this map available to the community for personal use. Let me know what moves in here if you use it in your game. You can download it here.

Back in the saddle at Back to the Keep

A little over a month ago, I made a post that I was going to be getting back into blogging here. That was the most recent of several such threats. Needless to say, it has taken me a bit longer than I thought, but I am finally starting to get things back in order again so I can start posting on a regular basis.

I apologize to everyone that was following my scattered ramblings last year and was disappointed that I just disappeared. I would have happily kept going then, but real life got in the way. Without going into a lot of detail, I have had quite a lot of things to deal with. I had to move quite suddenly a couple of times in the fall, and I started a job that took most of my time. I started dating a great girl at the beginning of the year, which is great but definitely takes some time away from gaming. At the beginning of April, I was laid off from the job. Then I had a few doctor's appointments that confirmed some things that dramatically impact my ability to work. Finally, I started back to school at the beginning of May, continuing to work on the MBA that I abandoned a couple years ago. Needless to say, it's been a roller coaster ride, and I'm not sure if that lanking is the rise of another hill or the run up to the platform. Either way, though, I've still got my hands in the air!

All of that said, I'm getting back into some gaming again. My LL group fizzled in the midst of all my drama, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it back together again. I'm still looking for ways to run a local face-to-face old school game, though. I'm also considering running an old school PBP game as well, but I need to decide exactly what I want to do with it first.

In the meantime, I've been lurking about the OD&D and LL forums a bit and started playing in a PBP game over at the OD&D forums. I'm playing Boro in the City-State of the Emerald Eye game. So far it's been a blast, and I'm enjoying a chance to play again. It's been a while, so I'm still shaking off some of the rust, but it's a good time.

I've also been trying to keep up with what has been going on in the blogosphere lately. I'm glad I missed the A to Z challenge, although I did have a few ideas for that. For instance, I'm still wondering why nobody talked about backstabbing for B. In the next few weeks I hope to get completely caught up on all the stuff I missed and throw my two cents in. Fortunately, my longest-running character was a necromancer, so I don't feel bad about reanimating a bunch of dead posts and arguments. I'm also going to start catching up on some of the other things I promised last year. I've got a bunch of maps I've been working on, several reviews to do, and some new gaming stuff I've written that could use some playtesting from the community.

Time to saddle up and get back to the keep.