A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

26 February 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] The International Stronghold

We're closing in on the end of the first week of sales of The Stronghold, Issue #1. Sales have been great! In fact, I've had a difficult time keeping up with the orders at times. Y'know, I've said it before, but I'm humbled that so many of you want to see what I've produced. Work has already started on Issue #2; I'm really excited about some of the content I've already put together.

There are still some copies left from the first print run. Get 'em while they're hot...and while they're still around. You can click on the link below and go straight to PayPal for your own copy.

**Thanks to some astute and concerned readers, I've added a link to a preview of the contents here.**


Plus, I was a little curious looking at my customer list; I wanted to see for myself just how widespread Issue #1's readership is so far. Then I thought I'd share it with all of you, just in case any of you are the curious type.

20 February 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Day One is In The Books--Sales Report

Well, my friends, "Day One" is done and, I must say, I'm both amazed and humbled. Amazed at the feeling of watching my product go out into the world and humbled that so many of you thought enough to grab a copy of The Stronghold 'Zine, Issue #1, on Day One. I have to give a shout-out to those who forwarded the news of the release out into the world; specifically +Tim Shorts and +Jim Magnusson for their efforts to get the word out.

All told, fourteen of you pulled the trigger on Issue #1 yesterday, from all across the US, to Canada, and the UK and Australia as well. Those of you in the US, your copies are in the mail. International customers? Well, yours will be in the mail this afternoon, once I clear up a couple things around the office.

A reminder: this IS a "print only" run. The good news is that I still have some copies left after yesterday's madness.

(I say "madness" only because every time I looked at the computer it seems there was yet another sale notification. And there's another one now.)

Grab 'em while they're hot, my friends. Purchase info is below.

**You can see a preview of the contents here or click on the link below to go ahead and buy.**


19 February 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Get the Cigars, Boys! The Stork's Arrived!

What you see is the cover image for Issue #1 of The Stronghold. That's right, boys and girls, we have a new baby. And I'm a proud, proud papa. Like I've said before, I think there's some good, fun, and useful stuff between these pages.

Plus, I'm humbled to have been graced with a magnificent cover image by none other than the great Jay Penn and two wonderful illustrations within by the extremely talented (and quick-penned) Jim Magnusson.

The first copies have already hit the US Mail system, hot off the press. I can't wait to see what y'all think. The link to buy your own copy is below; sorry, for the time being, it's a "Print Only" 'zine, in the old-school-style tradition. Also, unfortunately rates to places outside the US are a bit higher, due to postage costs. Hopefully that won't dissuade you from picking up a copy. Or two.

**You can see a preview of the contents here or click on the link below to go ahead and buy.**

When you do pick up a copy, please drop me a line, especially if you use anything from Issue #1 in your game.


17 February 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue One: To The Proofreaders!

Well, that's it. Issue #1 has been sent to my proofreaders. I just have to finalize the cover a bit and once I get any typos and problems red-penciled and fixed, we should be ready to let this baby out into the world.

Hope you're excited. I know I am. I think it's some good work.

Sorry for the short entry; as I write this, it's late and I've got an early morning tomorrow. However, I've got to finish up my report from this year's LTUE symposium and a couple other things are percolating...so there should be some more entries coming this week.

13 February 2015

Life, the Universe...You Know the Rest....

I'm here attending the 2015 edition of the Utah-based writing conference "Life, The Universe, and Everything." It's been a good experience, as it is every year. This year, there've been some special highlights, though. They've even had a couple of panel discussions that are RPG-related, although there were some more technically-oriented discussions at the same time that took precedence. Everything I've heard, though, has been applicable to all forms of writing, whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, romance, general fiction, or RPG writing. If you're ever in the area around Valentine's Day, I'd recommend it, and do so highly.

Plus, if you let me know, I'd love to sit down and have a bite to eat with you too.

Honestly? As fun as my experiences have been at the Salt Lake Comic-Cons and the local FantasyCon, I'd take LTUE any day. Honestly. Granted, it's a different type of event, with a different focus, but the inspiration and education I get here every year is amazing.

Some of the highlights:
  • Michaelbrent Collings espousing "Because the dog!" as a motive for villainy. (Let me 'splain: the hero is standing with his friend with the villain of the piece walks up, punches the hero's friend in the face, and yells, "Because the dog!" before fleeing. (In response to the hero's friend harming/killing the villain's pet.)
  • perhaps the greatest summary of the War in Heaven and the casting out of Heaven of Lucifer and his angels. Not everyone in the room appreciated it due to a severe case of "stick-up-the-rear-itis"...but then, those who have ears to hear....
  • Listening to a PhD in economics discuss the economics of Super-Villainy, including various types of "rewards" and the motivations behind collecting said awards.
  • Hearing Howard Tayler, Michaelbrent Collings, and L.E. Modessit debate Sanderson's First Law.
    Some additional highlights of this discussion: the idea that magic systems should be AWESOME/interesting/wonderful. (They don't need to be AWESOME, says Modessit, because subtle is sometimes more effective. It was then clarified that AWESOME in this context meant interesting, or even more exact: interesting. Also: that it should always exact something from the user/caster.
  • A frank presentation by Sandra Tayler, Howard's wife, on how to "Break through Blockages," whether that be your Inner Critic, your Voice of Perfection, your kids/work/church/social obligations, or your fear of failure. She also discussed how to experiment with your writing process, to learn what worked best for you. Most importantly, perhaps, was her observation that you need to learn who, in your life, feeds the "voices" and who in your life is your ally against the "voices." Oh yeah, also that most "time complaints" are simply masks for a deeper blockate: in 10 years, what memory is going to satisfy you more--playing "Plants vs. Zombies"? or writing something/being creative?

    But the greatest highlights so far? In ascending order:
  • The official debut of the horror anthology Old Scratch and Owl Hoots containing my real-life alter-ego's first official published work. If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy, Umm.... Why not? I'm serious.... My contributions aside, there are some chilling works here, including some of the best in Utah horror. I'm honored to have been included in the volume.
  • My first request to sign a book. To young Melissa, wherever you are, thank you for that experience. I hope you enjoy the stories.
  • Having an established author-friend, one whom I respect greatly, ask me for my autograph in his copy, followed by the assertion that mine "was the only signature he wanted to deface his copy." He then told me that the book would be going into his library, in the corner reserved for authors he knew...and that I'd be right there beside Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, and a host of other men whose written work I admire.
  • Being able to spend this time with my family, all of whom are aspiring writers and artists in their own right.
The only real downside so far? My friend, Dr. Michael Collings, who is a FIXTURE at LTUE (he's only missed a couple of sessions in the 30+ year history of the conference) apparently failed to even get a formal invitation from this year's organizers. Not only is he a fixture here, he is a true scholar of speculative fiction and a great writer in his own right. (If you don't believe me, or haven't heard of him, click the link there on his name and take a gander.) Plus, it's one of the only times each year I get to sit with him and chat. It's been a real loss. SHAME ON YOU, LTUE. Granted, the loss was mitigated by being able to talk with his wife, the lovely and gracious Judi Collings, and of course his son, Michaelbrent.

Anyway, the conference runs through Saturday, February 14th. Once that's over, I can get back to layout work on Issue #1 of The Stronghold.

I promise.

09 February 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue One: Layout Complete!

I was hit with some food allergies today. Something I ate last night was...contaminated with something I shouldn't eat. By noon today, I was filling up with gas like a hot air balloon. Then the queasiness, the dizziness, and the diarrhea started. And kept going. And kept going.

If someone holds a copyright to this image, please let me know.

So I was up late tonight, or rather, early this morning. In between trips to the Porcelain Throne Room, I decided to start setting up the layout for Issue #1 of The Stronghold. I've got more than enough material; I needed to see what, if anything, I needed to weed out and keep for next issues. I'm not shooting for the War and Peace of OSR 'Zines, after all.

Then I had to try and figure out how to make the actual copies come out. I recently purchased a new home printer; it's a small one, just meant for odd jobs and what-not. Certainly not as fancy as the family printer. But, it's the one that was sitting on my desk and plugged into my computer. That meant I'd see what I could make it do and if it worked the way I wanted.

So far, I think, so good. I've got one more test to run with the printer, because I really don't want to have to use a photocopier to double-side the pages. I'd rather do the rotate and reverse print with the printer and save a generation of deterioration on the copier. As far as I'm concerned, the old adage holds true, even with fancy digital copiers and printers: the more times something is copied, the more degradation occurs.

So...my late night/early morning bore good fruit, I think. I just need to get my artists to e-mail me the art files and I should be set. Google+ hasn't been cooperating with my download attempts with the artwork, so I have to resort to the "old fashioned" e-mail method.

I'm really excited about this first issue. I think it has some good material in it; while some of the stats are 3.x related, I think they're easily converted to other editions. Happily for my OSR friends, there's a substantial amount of setting-free materials. And the contributed artwork is killer. Absolutely magnificent--both the cover and the interior art; I almost feel embarrassed to think I used some clip-art and a hand-drawn map. My stuff certainly doesn't hold up to the contributed artwork. But I'm still excited for you all to see it.

More to come.

03 February 2015

[From the Mailbag] Mythoard January 2015

So.... Bad day yesterday, all day. As you may know if you read yesterday's post, it was a bad day made much better by the arrival of the Storyteller's Thesaurus.

Then I get home, and by 11 p.m. Google+ feed has blown up with people raving about the receipt of their January Mythoard package.

Wait a second, I think. I'm a subscriber...where's MY package?!? So I turn to my son (who was the first one home yesterday) and I ask, calmly: "BOY!" (for often I call him "Boy") "Boy!" I say, "Was there any kind of a package in today's mail for me?"

"Oh, yeah. There was one."

(silence for a moment or two)

"Um...son.... Where is it?"

"Oh, I left it on the table by the front door."


(second facepalm as my boy has not yet moved to retrieve said package)

"Um.... Could I have it please?!?"

For those of you who may still not know about Mythoard, Mythoard is the first Tabletop RPG Subscription box! From the website: "From modules, minis and maps to rules supplements, accessories and dice, you'll be sure to find some great RPG treasure in every single box! Sign up today for your own hoard!"
Quest for the Mythoard, No.1  Randy Musseau 2015
And oh, baby...did it make my day even brighter. I didn't have my camera with me, so I don't have pics, but let's look at a quick roster of what was inside:

  • First was a pair of polyhedral dice in orange and black vortex: a d4 and a d8--these match the orange and black d6 from last month's Mythoard offering. Sweet, especially considering my motto. [Aside: for any new readers, I am firmly convinced that there is no such thing as "too many dice" because, well.... Hey! Dice! Ahem. Period. Your argument is invalid. End aside.] . Courtesy of Chessex Games.
  • A button featuring Thopas, the gnome. Courtesy of Lesser Gnome.
  • An unpainted metal miniature version of Thopas. Also courtesy of Lesser Gnome.
  • Two Mythoard two-pocket folders with front cover art by Randy Musseau (see above), back cover art/maps/text by Monkeyblood Design and Chubby Monster Games. I found it kind of humorous that the map was for "Tenkar's Tomb." I can only imagine this refers to the infamous Tenkar, and that he went out in a spectacular fashion.
  • Inside one of the folders were two cardstock sheets: one a preview of Old West firearm rules for the DCC game: Black Powder, Black Magic and the other a copy of "The Brimstone Epitaph," an Old West newspaper. Both courtesy of Stormlord Publishing.
  • Next out was an encounter card deck of 54 system-neutral "monster inspiration" cards rather than stat cards. Clever idea; they'll be useful for at-table random encounter generation. My deck was the Fey, Constructs, and Wildlife deck. I understand that there were two other decks and inclusion in each package was random. The artwork is fantastic; I'm definitely going to try and pick up more of these. Courtesy of Inkwell Ideas. A pair of solid-cover card sleeves were included as well, for use with these encounter cards.
  • Last out was a Pits & Peril supplement, "The Powers That Be." There's always room for another couple deities in a pantheon. I need to devote a bit more time to this one, but there's likely something good there for mining, at the least.
So. All in all, Groundhog Day came up good for me. I feel content today, and can't wait until the next Mythoard. The first two have been really great, full of good stuff. Well worth the price, in my opinion. As of this writing, there's 180 spots left of 250 for the February package...swing over and sign yourself up!

02 February 2015

[From the Mailbag] Kickstarter FULFILLED! Storyteller's Anthology

Today is one of those sadly all-too rare of days: the day when a Kickstarter promise is FULFILLED.

There have been many unfulfilled Kickstarters that have made me wary and choosy about the projects to which I pledge. Several of those actually have my money. Sigh.

But this one.... This one made it to the finish line, and then some.

The Storyteller's Thesaurus is one that I've been eagerly awaiting ever since the initial announcement and KS launch. Chalk that up to my being an (1) English Major, (2) Word Geek, (3) aspiring writer, (4) recreational Dungeon Master, (5) Bibliophile/bibliophage, (6) Dictionary collector.

The tome was supposed to be released in October 2014. To be fair, the PDF was released on-time and I've used it numerous times. However, I note the time-delay issue only for the record. Not only were the publishers more than candid and forthcoming with their frequent updates, I'm more than pleased with the final result; the additional time was certainly worth the wait, considering the product they put out. Here's what I saw when I opened the box:

Imagine my surprise...when I pledged, I pledged for the leather cover AND a softcover. After all, I need one for the home and one for the office, right? Well, somewhere in the intervening months I apparently missed a vote to make the softcover a hardcover. That made me smile in and of itself. Then to see that they added a dust cover for the leather version as well (seen at the upper left, removed)? Magnificent. Of course, the leather cover is itself magnificent; the cloth-bound hardcover is nothing to complain about either. The content? 550 pages of synonyms, from medieval/fantasy weapons to modern military vehicles and firearms. Transportation of all kinds. Animals, real and imagined. Plants, symbols, and descriptive terms usable in ANY genre of storytelling. And it comes with a truly MASSIVE index, helping you find your way through the pages and words.

Truthfully, I'm not sure that I could have (reasonably) asked for anything more. After all, the gilded pages, silken page finders, and the hand-illuminated pages were kinda pipe dreams anyhow. [Tongue currently planted firmly in-cheek.]

Also included were physical copies of a novel by the great James M. Ward, entitled The King's Commission and The Storyteller's Anthology. There's nothing wrong with a little extra reading material, right?

All in all, a nice surprise on an otherwise grey, depressing day. What made it better? It came to the office, rather than my home address...so I could enjoy it earlier!

30 January 2015

"Fun" vs. "Balance"

As I was thinking back upon last weekend's 3.x session, and reliving the sheer hopelessness of the situation with my (all-too tolerant) wife, one of my kids said, "Dad, that just doesn't seem fair that Uncle L would throw that at you." It was then that I realized--truly realized--for the first time that there was a generation gap in the definition of "fun."

Don't get me wrong: several of our former players ditched the group and dumped 3.x play in favor of 4E because, and I quote, "Third edition is broken; there's just no balance to some things." BALANCE became a four-letter word to our gaming group. Seriously, everything needed balance for these players. Challenge ratings had to beclosely monitored and followed TO THE LETTER. Everyone needed to receive a powerful magical item if one character received one. We were (nearly) always assured of a victory, knowing that the villain/foe would be BALANCED. After ten years of gaming together, the one time we didn't actually see "balance" was when the DM at the time decided to throw everything he had at us as a "I'm leaving and want to show you how broken 3.x is!" effort.

The fact is, it probably would have been fun if we hadn't been on the DM's personal railroad.

You see, to me (and to most of my group) fun does not necessarily equate to victory. Certainly not "certain victory." We've long accepted the fact that everything in the world doesn't scale with our character level. We're going to be handed tasks and missions that are WAY out of our league. "Running away" is as much of a part of role play as "kicking butt and taking names." You learn from each.

Picture from Exfanding Your Horizons
by Flashman85
Let me explain simply: Just because the DM puts a dragon in front of your characters, doesn't mean he's going to let you win. Period.

Look at the difference in size. Dragons are majestic. Unless you have a group of characters that are equally majestic (and not just egotistical) then "running away" should be considered a viable option. You can always regroup and come back later.

I'm not alone in this. Consider this quote from the author of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen (5E), Steve Winter:
A mistake (from my perspective) that many people seem to be making is assuming that every situation in D&D should be "fun." If my ambition is to have nonstop "fun," I'd be better off playing Lego Star Wars or Whack-a-Mole. D&D can also be thrilling, frightening, inspiring, maddening, depressing, frustrating, immensely gratifying -- name a reaction on the human emotional scale and there's probably a place for it in D&D. The match against Cyanwrath was never meant to be "fun." It was meant to trigger an emotional response -- anger, even hate, and a desire for revenge against the Cult of the Dragon. I haven't seen much to indicate that it isn't doing that.
Amen. Even "frustrating" D&D can be fun, if only in retrospect. Frightening or depressing? Yep, but they're still moments to reminisce about later.

And before I get called a hypocrite for saying these experiences can be edifying in nearly the same breath that I said the railroad campaign was not, let me point out a key difference: our responses, reactions, etc., were all scripted for us. We had no chance given to us to run away. (We even tried to, individually, commit character suicide at one point. It wasn't allowed because it wasn't in the script.)

Of course, thus is only my 2¢ worth. I realize there are as many ways of having fun as there are players. I'm not saying that this is BADFUN or WRONGPLAY...just that, I suppose, that younger players may have different expectations than an old Grognard. When you have some of each of those parties entering the same game, you mp (as DM) need to be aware, and should set forth your expectations regarding "balance" and "fairness" at your table.

24 January 2015

[game report] Near-TPK

Game night tonight. 3.5 edition.

My 19th-level dwarven rogue and his companions found themselves trapped in a castle's inner room, one exit. Resurrected (and rescued) a cloud giant high priest whose skeleton we found shackled to the wall. However, we found ourselves facing a vampire (storm giant), 3 spectres (giants), 4 mummies (giants), and several other undead giants. Led from afar by a lich giant. We put ourselves under a shaped wall of force, but there was just enough space for the vampire to make his way through in cloud-form.

My character has nothing that could hit him as he was, so I spent most of the night readying an action. If I could get a shot at a physical attack, I could unleash some serious damage with my twin hand-axes.

The vampire finally re-manifested...but outside the dome. Our key tactical plan morphed: I would be teleported out from under our "dome of force" and unleash everything I had on him. Then we'd be teleported out of the castle. He was at near-full strength; I wasn't. But I was the only one that could touch him in melee at that point. So I took a deep breath; the sound of the All-Father's hammer was ringing through my mind.

Song lyrics came to mind:
I wake up in the mornin'
And I raise my weary head
I got an old coat for a pillow
And the earth was last night's bed
I don't know where I'm goin'
Only God knows where I've been
I'm a devil on the run
A six gun lover
A candle in the wind, yeah

You're brought into this world
But they say you're born in sin
Well at least they've given me something
I didn't have to steal or have to win
Well, they tell me that I'm wanted
Yeah I'm a wanted man
I'm colt in your stable
I'm what Cain was to Able
Mister catch me if you can

I'm goin' down in a blaze of glory
Take me now but know the truth
I'm goin' down in a blaze of glory
Lord I never drew first
But I drew first blood
I'm no one's son.
Call me young gun

Bon Jovi - Blaze Of Glory

I was ready to unleash, we were all ready to go. I was ready for the supreme sacrifice. The elf was ready to teleport us...and it fizzled. We were locked in place by a counter-spell.


That's when we saw TPK coming on the horizon. The only way out was to dispel the force wall and fight our way through to the door.

And THAT was when our other spell-caster remembered he had a miracle spell readied and a (hopefully) willing deity. One of the party cast a desperation destruction on the vampire--his last...which finally succeeded (try #3). That's what we wanted to accomplish before fleeing anyway--the vampire's dereat--so miracle was cast--successfully--and we were then able to teleport back to the cloud giant city from whence we set out.

Much rejoicing for our return, made even more special by returning the high priest back to his home. (Can you say XP and story points out the wazoo?)

One other high point: the shackled skeletal giant we found? Throw-away detail. DM had to quickly stat up an NPC to aid us. Our group LOVES to throw wrenches in the DMs works like this.

21 January 2015

[RPG Inspiration] Expedition to the Canaveral Cape

"I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was... We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you!" -- George Taylor

The Planet of the Apes line was the first thing I thought of when this picture popped up on my Facebook feed this morning.
White Castle by Yuri Shwedoff

Unfortunately, in my pessimism, this picture paints what I fear is our space-faring future. It struck a chord with me, and not a good one. I'm one who firmly believes that mankind should be out there among the stars, exploring, learning, growing, and discovering as we have throughout our existence. I look out into the night sky now and wonder, "Where is our Columbus? Our Marco Polo? Our Thor Heyerdahl or Jacques Cousteau? Where is this generation's (or the next generation's) Neil Armstrong or Jim Lovell?" Forget what you may think of their supposed politics, alleged ethics, or remembered reputation: these men were explorers. They stretched our maps and widened our world views, risking life, limb, and possibly soul to do so. They were men of vision. They were heroes.

I still remember the thrill and adrenaline rush from the first shuttle launch. My father roused me early one morning and dragged me downstairs to watch. "Dragged" I say...I had always resented being born just a little bit late to see the moon landing; I wasn't going to miss this for the world. My father later had the opportunity to be present at a shuttle launch; he took pictures and, through his experiences--both there and as a bomber pilot--I watch the launches now and can almost physically feel the shock wave from the engine ignitions and the G-pressures from the acceleration. I remember looking at these men (and later women) as heroes. Certainly the crews of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles are heroes. Once we had vision and a drive to learn.

Now we're relegated to milk runs to a cramped little tin can in orbit. Especially as Americans, who have to humble ourselves to hitch a ride on someone else's bus to that flea-bag in space. Great way to honor the memories of the countless heroic astronauts who gave their lives to the space program and the idea of exploration.

We should be stretching out our hands and minds, embracing the wonder, the adventure, and the risk. From that activity comes growth, learning, and countless benefits to society. The other way--the way we're taking now--ultimately results in becoming Morlocks and Eloi.

That being said, the DM in me sees this image as a potential modern version of the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The "verticality" of the shuttle gives rise to some interesting environmental questions, though, like "how best to traverse the interior?" and "just how do we get inside that thing anyway?" Of course, the modern version of the dungeon--as suggested here--couldn't be much of a dungeon crawl; the size difference in the shuttle systems makes that unlikely.  I mean, just compare the potential maps between the two. Canaveral Cape would have to be extended to the base itself and the various outbuildings. The STS and the tank/boosters alone just wouldn't be enough for a full adventure.

Hmm. Now there is an idea.

Dang. Now I'm going to spend all day looking through online NASA files for blueprints and such. Sigh.

08 January 2015

[From the Mailbag] Starter Adventures

Look what was waiting for me after a miserable day at the office...Tim Shorts' Starter Adventures!!

I took advantage of the holiday sales over at Lulu to get my copy. I haven't even opened it yet; wanted to show it off too much first. From all indications, though, it's a great book. Knowing Tim's abilities and his other works, I have no doubt that I'll find great use in this.

And actually, my reaction when I saw the Lulu box was close to this (although the sound and video quality on the clip are crap):

**EDIT: It sometimes helps to add the image when you type: "Look what I got!" Sigh.**

19 December 2014

[From the Mailbag] MYTHOARD!

I just received the inaugural Mythoard package/bundle in the mail today. Great stuff. Really great stuff. Talk about an early Christmas; my wife suggested I leave it under the tree for a week.


The first thing I saw coming out of the envelope was a poster of two baby phoenixes, courtesy of Baby Bestiary.

Next out was a book: 10+ Treasures by David Guyll & Melissa Fisher, published by Awful Good Games. Designed for Dungeon World, at first glance, most--if not all--of these items are easily translated to any OSR or 3.x version of that one RPG. Not only does the book come with 30+ detailed treasure items, there's also a section that walks through item creation, and the theory behind it. Excellent stuff.

Then there was a postcard from the incomparable Jim Magnusson. This postcard features the Mushroom King. As one of Jim's Patreons, I already received a copy of this; however, one can never have too many--it just means another framed piece of art for my office. (Let my clients figure THAT out.)

Also included was a pack of Blue Dungeon Tiles by Red Kobold. I didn't have the chance to support these when they came up on Kickstarter, as I was low on funds. I wish I'd made the effort; these look GREAT. They're double-sided, usable with wet-erase, dry-erase, or permanent markers. 4x4 grids of corridors, rooms, and stairways. I'll definitely be saving up to grow my collection of these babies.

Last, but not least, Tim Shorts' Mythoard Exclusive labor of love: Stone Fields of Azoroth. Three separate books outline the environs: The village of Bad Water, the Last Temple of Praxus, and the Prison of Azoroth. Each one comes chock-full of NPCs, flavor, and maps. Everything you've come to expect from Tim, and more. You won't be disappointed. Well, I guess you will...unless you were one of the subscribers to Mythoard.

Then, down in the bottom corner of the envelope were three little beauties. A random d20 and two random d6. Ain't they purty? They wanted to get photographed just as soon as they came out of the wrapping. As you know, I can never have too many dice. These will cap off my 2014 fairly well.

Thanks to Jarrod Shaw as well as Kevin Chenevert and all the other contributors. My day has been made! If you haven't already checked out Mythoard, do it now. Sign up. Well, as long as you don't take MY bundle.

[Found Item Friday] El Diablo Cometh!

I dropped by my FLGS this morning, thinking as I got out of my car that I should leave my wallet under the seat. After all, I really couldn't afford much of anything. I mean, NOTHING at all.

I should have listened to my doubts.

Well, maybe; maybe not. I went in looking for a copy of the 2nd Edition AD&D title, The Complete Book of Dwarves. I was going through my shelves earlier this week and realized that my copy was missing. At least, I'm fairly sure I had a copy. The FLGS usually has an eclectic mix of out-of-print titles from earlier editions. They didn't have that title (although they did have The Complete Book of Psionics (which I'm not interested in) and The Complete Book of Fighters (which I already have)) but they did have a couple titles that piqued my interest. Titles that I got for around 60% of cover price (even the marked-down price was discounted for me).

First up was the Diablo II: Diablerie. One shelf down was the Diablo II: To Hell and Back. Both are 3.x supplements released by WotC, meant to build off of the popularity of the Diablo II video game. The first, the Diablerie is more of a brief "setting" book. Within its 96 pages you can find character classes for Diablo-specific classes, such as the Amazon, necromancer, and sorceress. There's some equipment lists and a bestiary. A blank character sheet template in the 3.x style. Even a sample adventure--five pages--that sets out a "How To" for the uninitiated (with differing levels of encounters: Basic Level, Nightmare Level, and Hell Level), explaining how to prepare an encounter for the Diablo-verse. Most of the book is geared this way: playing in the Diablo-verse.

The To Hell and Back volume is a detailed 192-page "module" set in the Diablo-verse. It contains a bigger bestiary, equipment lists, and magic items. I'm not sure that I'd ever use it as a stand-alone adventure path. I'll more likely cut it into pieces and use those pieces as drop-in encounters in our regular adventure. However, I can also imagine sitting the guys down one night and describing how they wake up next to a shimmering portal, a portal which disappears even as they awaken. They find themselves in a small hamlet, one terrorized by demonic creatures that have taken over a nearby church and accompanying catacombs. Heh. Just thinking about it makes it more intriguing.... Hmm....

They were previously-owned by the same person, as I found scribbled notes on steno-pad paper in several spots in both books. Also slipped inside To Hell and Back is a print-out of the web enhancement "The Secret Cow Level" that anyone familiar with Diablo will recognize. There's also a couple of old PC character sheets: Krump, the human barbarian (played by "Jake") and Isabell, the human Amazon (played by "Sally").

I'd be interested to know if anyone's played around with these books. If you have, drop me a line in the comments. Let me know your experiences, would you?

08 December 2014

Mini-Map Monday: The Citadel of Nor-Von

Just a little something I threw together last night as I was suffering from insomnia. The Citadel of Nor-Von. The corridors are somewhat larger and wider than what the normal Dwarven citadel would contain. The reason for this--indeed, the reason behind the citadel's existence--is that the hallways were originally the shafts and corridors tracing the mithral deposits. They were eventually shaped, dressed, and decorated as the citadel aged and became the formal home and hearth for the Dwarves of Nor-Von.

I'll leave it to you to stock and key; just a few pointers from my own thoughts.
  1. The large round oval is an open fighting arena/training area, ringed by a walkway.
  2. To the immediate left of the arena are two throne rooms. These rooms are connected by a secret corridor. The smaller, oval-shaped throne room is reserved for meeting foreigners; the larger throne room is the formal, ceremonial throne room.
  3. Three bridges cross the chasm that bisects the citadel. These bridges--and the open caverns to which they lead--are edged by a banister, otherwise open to the chasm.
  4. To the right of the chasm is a formal statuary. Each of the fifteen previous Masters of the Citadel are represented here by stone golems.
  5. The citadel is edged on the right side by an underground river.
  6. All of the arrows designate a descending corridor.
The medium is the back of a 3"x5" card, using a fine point Sharpie grip pen. This map is smaller than the ones I typically draw on 3"x5" cards, primarily because I chose not to use the gridded side, but the plain, white side instead. This, combined with the fine point pen, freed me to draw smaller rooms, corridors, and features than I would have with the 0.25" grid. I'm actually pleased with how this turned out. I'm providing links to both a gridded and a non-gridded version. Contrary to my usual, all of the lines were hand-drawn; the only GIMP work I've done are some slight touch-ups, contrast/brightness, and adding the grid. Also atypically, the grid I've used is scaled to the image rather than using a 1" grid, so it may not be overly useful as a battle mat.

Feel free to use my maps in your home games. You can rename it, modify it, stock it, or abuse it in any manner legal in your particular jurisdiction. If you do use it, all I ask is that you let me know and tell me about it afterwards.
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