Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Out-takes and Random Notes from last game

Just some random stuff that didn't make the summary.

- The Hand of Honus comes down to Indicate Who Dies!

Actually, I think he's gesturing wildly while arguing everyone needs to gather on the dias.

You can also get a better idea of just how many corpses are stacked by the entranceway - that's like half of those 40 zombies, maybe more, in a few square yards . . .

- I passed out my first "awesome bonus", for the fight on the dias. I mean, Conan cover stuff right there.

- I ruled that it would take 30 minutes to do an Exorcism on each altar in the Temple of Evil Chaos. It should have been 3 hours who the whole lot; the PCs got off work an hour early. I guess Inquisitor Marco was really well-prepped to deal with this particular location, eh?

- I'm coming to the conclusion that the Keep isn't a good base to explore my megadungeon. I might need to put in a Mos Eisley kind of place - maybe a mid-sized river port? - near-ish to the dungeon. Probably not a major city, but close enough to one to trade with it and make it a destination for visits. I haven't decided. What I did decide was that the keep lacks fun stuff - one tavern, one inn, no brothels, no place to stick oddball business that cater to PCs. I could have a shanty town build up near the keep, but the PCs aren't pulling in that huge of a haul (they took home about 18-20K worth of loot this past time, which isn't huge, and there isn't much more out there really).

I'm not sure what I'll do. I do want city trips to happen much more often, so I can use my Citybook series and Vornheim and my various city location ideas. But a big city within easy distance of the megadungeon means it should either see a steady stream of adventurers or - if it's really wealthy and really dangerous - a concerted official effort to clear and contain it.

Big city, small town? Not sure yet. I'll probably post more on this, as it certainly bears some thought.

Monday, January 30, 2012

DF Game, Session 7 - Caves of Chaos, Evil Shrine Part 2

I'm trying a summary with pictures, so this is both big and long!

Sunday, January 29th 2012

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (266 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (265 points)
Borriz, dwarf knight (264 points)
Nakar, human wizard (255 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (260 points)
Red Raggi, berserker barbarian (NPC co-adventurer) (unknown points)

Unfortunately, Borriz's player wasn't able to make it to game. We had to use a substitute player and a substitute mini. Borriz's player took his mini home to paint him, and we haven't met since that session. Honus's player made it, so I told him Honus just missed the PCs leaving for the Caves and tracked them down. ("Damn it, I go to the outhouse and when I come back you're all gone!")

At the end of Part I, the PCs had just snuck up from the EHP's room to the shrine's alters. They looked into the room, and saw three altars, a dias with a throne on it, and purplish light coming from above. As Nakar the Unseen peered in at the ranks of priests, zombies, and skeletons, he spotted a vulture demon - who spotted him in turn and hissed a warning!

That's where we picked up. The fight was between - ahem - one priest in plate, four acolytes in maroon and black robes wearing goat masks and toting shields and maces, 43 zombies with cleaver-like blades, and 24 skeletons. Oh, and a 10 1/2' tall winged vulture demon.

The fight started ugly. Thanks to the heavy tapestry, no one could just launch missiles into the room. Red Raggi ran forward at someone's suggestion (Borriz? - run by Honus's player) and whacked his axe into the tapestry and started to cut it to the floor. Unfortunately, an axe is a good door buster but a poor slicer, and it opened up a gash but didn't drop the curtain or open a doorway. The zombies advanced, the vulture demon flew over and landed on the opposite side of the curtain, and the PCs backed up and readied missile weaponry and spells. They all took Opportunity Fire actions to aim at a specific hex, hoping to attack the vulture demon when it came through. It didn't. Instead, it stabbed through the tapestry hole that Raggi made and injured him badly, and he went berserk. He chopped more but the tapestry still didn't fall. The demon sliced it and it dropped . . . and beyond it was a wall of blackness - it's demonic darkness power (aka GURPS Obscure). No one quite knew what to do - attack into the dark? Attack a hex you can't see to aim at? How does that work?

Occasionally my players get a little too into "solve the in-game problem with rules" and not enough "if I was there I'd just . . . ". IMO, anyway. This was one. I asked people to tell me if they attacked into the blackness or not - no "Where do I think he is?" or anything - just tell me what you aimed at and roll. They went for it. A sling-fired flask of alchemist's fire flew into the darkness. So did a big stone missile. Both struck something and breaking noises and a falling body "thunk" were heard.

The demon kept advancing - as noted by the advancing wall of darkness. The PCs nearly panicked - what do we do? If it covers us with darkness, we're screwed. There was a brief debate about fleeing to the surface and coming back another time. Hello panic my old friend! But wiser heads prevailed - Vryce's player argued that no where was a good place to fight a flying demon with a giant sword, so here was as good as any place.

Red Raggi, now berserk, charged into the blackness. He swung wildly but didn't land anything, and two massive sword chops later, he dropped, seemingly dead. The fight looked bleak. Vryce fired another alchemist's fire into the darkness, and heard it break somewhere.

Then the demon closed with them - and tho their relief their light stones were sufficiently bright to counter its (weak) darkness. Not well, but they only had a mere -5 to hit instead of -6 to -10 for fighting in darkness. They laid into it. It slashed at Vryce and did 19 damage, wounding him seriously. He shrugged off the injury and attacked back, as did Borriz (whose night vision ignored the gloom's penalty). They inflicted some heavy damage on the demon - Borriz crippled its left hand, and then fended off its claw and tail strike, and Vryce slashed it with his sword. Then Vryce sliced it and finished it off - it disappeared in a pillar of smoke and went back to Hell, leaving only its dropped sword and its darkness faded. Inquisitor Marco held up his holy symbol and began to turn undead. They could see into the room and saw that a few zombies were down, and two big roaring pools of flame covered part of the entrance.

Suddenly, having run after the other PCs, Honus Honusson roared up into the fight - from the other entrance into the temple. In fact, from the side the priests had expected all of the PCs to come. He saw the wall of skeletons, shot at a priest and missed, and then ran. Exit, pursued by skeletons. He stayed just ahead of the skeletons due to a head start and a long stride, but they were closing.

Meanwhile the other PCs advanced into the fray. The zombies didn't seem inclined to run from Marco's power - they simply ignored him and advanced. Nakar cast Great Haste on Vryce and he moved up and started killing, quickly.

And this it got messy - Honus fled and then starting shooting arrows at the skeletons when they returned (as commanded by their leaders). Borriz chucked a hatchet and nailed the priest, despite his distance, intervening zombies, and his ready shield. Bamn. He ducked down behind the dias to take cover. Nakar cast Great Haste on Borriz and Inq. Marco contributed a Sunbolt or two (once to try and distract the priest, another to just singe a zombie).

After this the fight got even more messy. Vryce stacked up some corpses, and then did a running jump up on the dias and crouched down. Borriz moved up into his spot and started to kill zombies. He killed them by the score - of maybe half the 43 zombies in the room, Borriz must have killed 20 of them in a 3 x 2 yard belt around the door. He had to climb up on bodies to keep killing, and even then he couldn't kill them as fast as he wanted. Nakar moved up, as did Inq. Marco - who realized he couldn't turn the mindless undead as he'd been doing in the past.

Vryce popped up on his next turn, stepped up and (still hasted) attacked the main priest and his two acolytes. He chopped down the priest, who was holding some kind of black sphere-ish thing in his hand . . . it spread over him as he fell and sent him twitching. Then he wheeled to his right and slashed down the two acolytes.

Honus faced off with a dozen skeletons, and the rest headed towards the main fray. Inq. Marco kept up his attempts to turn, and headed to the dias. So did Nakar, still invisible. Borriz kept killing. Honus kept maneuvering to find a way through the skeletons. And Vryce charged the other two acolytes.

In short order, Vryce reached and slew the acolytes, and then turned on the skeletons.

Honus tried to slam some skeletons but fumbled and lost his shield, and backed off - but with the acolytes dead they merely waited at the edge of the room.

Borriz kept killing zombies, Vryce started killing skeletons off on his own, Honus started to charge into the fray, and Nakar and Inq. Marco got up on the dias. This is when it got bad for a while - with the visible Inq. Marco up on the dias, a bunch of zombies peeled off from trying to kill Borriz and attacked him. Nakar blew one away with a massive Stone Missile shot, but then he was visible and they went after him, too. Borriz tried to hop up on the dias to defend them, but critically failed to jump up on the run and slipped and fell (oops - it's hard to jump 3' on the run when you're 5' and carrying a hundred pounds of crap, in combat). There was a great Conan book cover scene going - surrounded by undead, the harried warriors fighting to the end. Unfortunately, zombies are very poor opponents for barbarians and knights, but are more than a match for wizards and clerics (who couldn't turn them). Inq. Marco took some cleaver shots, and Nakar was slashed and knocked back off the dias - actually, he stepped off the edge to try to get away (Retreat) but it didn't work and he dropped unconscious from a slicing cleaver blow. Inq. Marco was reduced to making consciousness rolls, and Borriz barely got up onto the dias in time to defend him.

But from this point the fight got anti-climactic. Honus ran through the skeletons, who dodged his slams and let him through. He ran towards the altars and dias and then turned to fight as he closed in. Borriz diced up zombies. Vryce, having chopped up a bunch of skeletons, had run back to stand over Nakar and defend him. They stood there and finished the zombies, and then whittled down the skeletons.

In the end, everything in the chamber was dead or destroyed, and none of the PCs were down. Red Raggi turned out the be unconscious, not dead, thanks to Hard to Kill. ("What'd I miss?") It took a long time in real terms (like, 3 hours?) due to a few things, like GURPS fights generally being a bit time consuming and it taking a long time to knock off 72 combatants with 6.

The PCs secured the room by dragging dozens of corpses to each exit and heaping them up as barricades, and then standing guard. Inq. Marco healed Raggi and everyone who needed it got first aid. Meanwhile, they examined the room and its odd tapestries (which no one looked at too closely), altars, and throne. Then, as Vryce and Red Raggi stood guard, and Inq. Marco and Nakar rested and looted, Borriz started to chuck his hatchet into the bone chandeliers decorated with black candles that hung from overhead. He rolled a critical and cut the chain on one and it fell and blew into pieces. The place got oddly lighter. He did it again, standing back a bit futher to avoid bone shrapnel, and rolled another crit. Down it went - and the place got brighter still. Then he nailed the last (no crit though), and it came down. Then the unnatural glow was gone, as the strange dancing skeletons and goat-masked people on the tapestry were gone.

After this, the PCs got down to business sanctifying the temple. Honus and Nakar helped chant while Inq. Marco did an exorcism on each item, taking a full 30 minutes each and sanctifying it with holy water (brought to kill wights, ironically). Each time he rolled well vs. the resistance of the items and destroyed them. Borriz set the work prying gems and gold out of the throne, Vryce and Honus and Borriz flipped the altar, Nakar looted corpses, and then Nakar even used Shape Stone to check the dias to ensure it wasn't hollow. Oh, and they cut down the tapestries.

After this, they took their loot - which was substantial, and checked the nearby room. Nothing - just a "barracks" for zombies and skeletons. They returned the way they came, looted more stuff they'd bypassed on the way, and then headed home. They found more places in the shrine they needed to visit, and marked them for later.

On the way home, though, trouble struck. Still wounded, and laden with loot, they camped pretty close to the caves. While Borriz (luckily) was on watch, he heard something close by. It sounded like snuffling, and then like mail armor moving. He quietly woke up Honus and Vryce and they got ready. Then suddenly a minotaur rushed out of the dark, with mail and a spear! A brief fight ensued. Honus struck its hand, and Borriz struck him and Vryce jumped up and fast-drew his sword. The minotaur stabbed and gored with his horns, first getting Borriz (and dropping him, stunned with a maximum damage roll hit!) and then Honus (1 point off max damage!) but not dropping him. Meanwhile Vryce, having discussed tactics of "how to kill berserk minotaurs with Nakar" (their players are brothers, and discuss this kind of stuff), repeatedly stabbed the minotaur in the eyes. He blinded him in two shots using Telegraphic Attacks, and it kept fighting (and even nailed Honus). So as Honus cracked its other hand and then body, he stabbed it in the eyes again and it fell. Red Raggi had just jumped up, and was dismayed he didn't get to kill it.

They took its horns, buried its mail nearby, and then in the morning started to track it back - believing it to be the minotaur Honus discovered to be the caravan marauder. They tracked it and discovered it had been tracking them, possibly since they left the caves that previous afternoon! They headed back to their camp . . . and the minotaur was gone, the mail was dug up, the spear was gone. They decided it was some kind of were-critter or something, or regenerating, and debated hunting it down. They decided to leave it for next time, and headed to the Keep.

They made it back, and that's more or less where we ended it. The group made it back to Falcon's Keep, got healed by the priest (well, Inq. Marco did), and took some time to evaluate their magic items. These included some ornate magical light plate, a magical shield (albeit with a Goat Demon Face on it), and an amulet that protects against good and holy powers. Nakar is tempted to keep that as his power item, but . . .


- that demon really panicked people. It threw up Obscure and you'd think the battle was automatically over. Nevermind even a flat -10 and can't aim wouldn't drop Vryce or Borriz below double-digit rolls to hit. I was really surprised by this.

- I tried some time guidelines for searching, just so we're all clear on how long it takes to do stuff. We'll see how it works out, but I learned already that I need to ask "What are you doing?" and then assign a time based on that, not "How much time do you spend?" or "How thoroughly do you search?"

- Great Haste is a killer spell. We always knew this, but man, it's so clear how useful it is. But I'm not worried, really - it's almost a Win Button for big fights but Dungeon Fantasy is about winning the big fights and managing resources, and Great Haste costs a lot of resources (5 to cast, and 5 off the target - only the first can be reduced for skill).

- the downside to Power Items is that no one wants to sell valuable things that can be used to store energy. So even though the PCs scored some nice loot (gems, jewelry, magic items), they won't part with much of it. Speaking of power items, I'm not going to allow armor or weapons, in most cases, to function as power items. Staves, sure, but not swords and plate armor and such.

- GURPS fights with 78 combatants can be long. But awesome. We've done lots of these before but this was the first in a long time.

- Tactically, this fight was very much like our usual gaming group's fights. Initially everyone is very cautious, and often will throw away surprise or a location advantage in favor of tactical defense. Then, once it gets rolling and they realize they have a power advantage, they split up to take advantage of tactical opportunities (kill the wizards, usually), then they get hurt by having exposed weaker members of the group, then they converge and wipe out the remainder of the enemy. This works out fairly often, but I can't help but feel that it's resource costly and eventually going to bite them. It did in previous games. It can be painful as a GM to watch a group have a good chance of a solid victory and pull out a Pyrrhic one because of a little too much caution or too much confidence. I'd rather see a more disciplined fighting force and willingness to take a little punishment to win a larger victory instead of "best way to survive this turn" type moves. But everyone seems to be having fun and they aren't my PCs, so . . .

- the group realized that more than half the undead were hobgoblins and orcs and goblins. Yeah, those guys. No gnolls, though. It hit them that their avoidance of the temple meant its ranks of minions got larger.

- the group also realized it's not minotaurs out there, but one that keeps coming back. Heh.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The amazing OOTS Kickstarter drive

So I'm a fan of The Order of the Stick (linked to my hands-down favorite strip). It's at least partly responsible for me keeping my appetite whetted for playing fantasy games. And for forcing me to learn D&D 3.x terminology to keep up with what spells were being cast. "Quickened Disintigrate? What the heck does that do . . . hmm . . . where is that SRD page . . .?"

If you haven't seen it, check out this amazing Kickstarter that Rich Burlew is doing. It's up to over $200K, from what I originally thought was a pretty lofty goal of about $57K. Hardly. People have shelled out $5K for a walk-on appearance by their D&D character in OOTS, over $1200 to get to choose a character for a special story, and more. Some fans clearly have deep pockets and a real love of the comic.

Me, I kicked in enough for a copy of an OOP print I never got a chance to read.

It makes me realize a bit of the scale involved in things - and just how popular OOTS is. That's not small change for re-printing books. And it puts some of the other gaming-related kickstarter projects I've seen into perspective. Even with Kickstarter's cut it isn't crazy to think he'll pull in a quarter-million dollars to fund the reprints.

I'm just really impressed.

And I can't wait for my OOP book to come out so I can finally read it. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stocking the Megadungeon

I have decided to pick a random generation method for my megadungeon. I'm doing this for a few reasons, mainly:

1) I feel I'm a bit predictable and randomly rolling eliminates that.

2) I don't want to spend hours agonizing over monsters and treasure placement.

3) Rolling up room contents is fun.

4) I will need to re-stock sometimes, and I don't want to repeat the agonizing.

I decided I'd snag a stocking method from the old school games I love and from their OSR clones.

But which one to use?

Here are the ones I've got, in chronological order. All I really need is to know what is in the room, not its treasure or to roll on a monster table or on a treasure table. I might do that, I might not, but I'm examining these in the simple light of "room contents" and not as a complete system.

1) Book 3, white box D&D

The method on page 6 boils down to:

1) Place special encounters - monsters and/or treasures - as desired.
2) For the remaining rooms:

1-2 on d6 = Monster
If there's a monster, 1-3 on d6 = Treasure.
If there is no monster, 1 on d6 = Treasure.

Pros: Simple enough.
Cons: Lots of rolling (2 dice per room) and specials must be placed specifically. Same with traps or tricks. Most rooms will be empty (4 in 6 will lack monsters, and 5 in 6 of those will lack treasure).

2) AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, pg 170

This one is from random dungeon generation; no specific placement advice exists elsewhere, although lots of Gary Gygax lecturing you about your game does exist. But no "roll XdY" system exists until the one on pg 170 that I can see.

This one is a one-step process - roll a d20 and see what's in there.

Die Contents
1-12 Empty
13-14 Monster only
15-17 Monster and Treasure
18 Special (or stairs)
19 Trick or Trap
20 Treasure

Pros: Again, simple. Includes lots of detail - I can roll for every room.
Cons: 60% of my rooms will be empty, statistically, and 25% will have monsters, and 20% will have treasure. For a 100 room level, this is 40 rooms with stuff in it and only 20 with any treasure. I'd need lots of treasure in them to ensure a profit potential, and it means I'll need lots more levels and lots more rooms.

3) Moldvay Basic (B52) and Expert (X53)

This is a two step process:

1-2 Monster
3 Trap
4 Special
5-6 Empty

and then roll for treasure on a matrix:

Roll Monster  Trap   Empty
1     Yes         Yes    Yes
2     Yes         Yes    No
3     Yes         No     No
4-6 No           No     No

Pros: Covers all the varieties of rooms I'd like, and uses d6s.
Cons: Still assumes I'm stocking the important rooms, and now 2/3 of rooms will have something in them (and if you count treasure, 1 in 6 of that final 1/3 will have something in it).

4) Labyrinth Lord, pg 124

Roll d00   Contents  Treasure
01-30     Empty        15%
31-60     Monster     50%
61-75     Trap          30%
76-00     Unique      Variable

Another one-step one - you don't need to place special encounters.

Pros: Very simple, and you can roll up anything from empty rooms to treasure only to traps to monsters and combos of the above.
Cons: 25% of my rooms will be unique - that's 25 rooms on a 100-room level. That's a lot, and if I'm pre-placing specials too, it's a lot of work. Also, percentile dice, so I can't just drop pairs of d6s and jot down the results (I have lots of d6s, I play GURPS).

Any others I should know about, or consider? I mean from game systems, I know a lot of people have their own variations of these. But for my purposes it'll be more interesting if I use an existing system from a game . . . if I end up with a home grown one I'd rather grow it myself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

PCs who won't run

Some players won't ever have their PCs run. Or surrender. Or negotiate from a position of weakness (read: "Take our money and spare us" instead of "Give us your money and we'll spare you.")

These players always go "all in" - essentially betting the whole campaign, or at least just their characters, on winning every fight.

They have reasons/rationalizations for this:

- our enemies will kill us if we surrender, so it's a fight to the death anyway.

- our stuff is so valuable that it can't be replaced, and if we lose it, it's as bad as starting over, so it's a fight to the death anyway.

- these enemies won't let us surrender, so its . . . (refrain)

- my character wouldn't surrender, (refrain).

- (in town) we'll be arrested and put in prison or sold into slavery, which will end the campaign, (refrain).

- and so on.

I find that some players also regard every fight, especially fights in town versus guardsmen, as a game of chicken with the GM - "He won't kill us in a fight with guards after spending so much time developing this city" is an example of that. To my mind, the solution is to kill them all off if they play chicken with me that way, and use the city with new PCs. They can view the heads of their old PCs on stakes as they come into town. It's winnowing out bad behavior.

If the PCs literally can't surrender (berserkers, say, or under some kind of magical compulsion or curse) you can be nice and spare them when it's not really their fault. But that's case by case, in my opinion. Maybe the downside of that very fine longsword with Puissance +3 and Penetrating Blade (5) is that you go Berserk occasionally and might fight to the death when surrender would have been a valid choice. You knew the breaks when you picked the sword up. Or maybe you chose Compulsive Behavior (Fighting) and Berserk and Bloodlust and Intolerance (all non-humans) and then you get into a bar fight in Dwarftown and get out of hand. Maybe your disads will kill your character.

But, as a GM you do need to make it clear that:

- you aren't going to bail them out if they play chicken with your game, or make characters who can't avoid fights/back out of bad ones, or make terrible choices. Combat is potentially lethal.

- you can flee. Not all encounters are beatable, and running away is acceptable. Some encounters can only be "beaten" by fleeing.

- you can negotiate. For Gygax's sake, talk to them.

- it's just stuff, you can get more stuff. But you start over at the bottom if you die and have to make a new character.

- you can (sometimes) safely surrender, especially if the law is involved.

About that last one, The Law. Zak S. has a great line in Vornheim about the law - basically that legal consequences have to make the game better. To quote him precisely, "the arrest process should lead to something unexpected and interesting rather than just meaning the game grinds to a halt" (Vornheim, pg 39) So one trick to town battles, in any case, is to let the players know that arrest is going somewhere interesting. Maybe they'll be tossed into the gladiator pits and get to fight. Maybe they'll be sent to recover the Soul Gem (see C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness for this exact plot). Maybe they'll be cursed to always tithe 50% of their cash until they pay off their debt and turned loose on the worst dungeon imaginable. All of which are fun, but the players must know that surrendering for crimes committed isn't death.

As a player you need to find out if fighting to the death is the only thing allowed in the game. Odds are, it isn't. Know when to run. Remember permanently dead characters don't advance, and it's better to lose your vorpal blade to a magistrate after surrendering to than to lose to his men after they kill you and burn your corpse to ashes. It's better to bribe the goblins than to die against them. It's not always do-or-die; you can lose a fight and keep playing. And running away isn't really losing, it's just not killing those monsters now. Come back and get them when the odds are unfair in your favor.

Short version: The GM needs to make it clear that running, surrendering, or negotiating are going to be valid options (although not all options are valid at all times). The GM also needs to make clear that these options will lead interesting places, not end the game. And finally, the GM needs to be willing to pull the trigger and kill off characters who don't take these options when they need to.

All in my experience. Maybe it's just my players who won't run . . . how about yours?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My megadungeon mapping "best" practices - Part III

Part III in my series of lesson I've learned during the mapping of my first megadungeon.

Here are Part I and Part II.

First, a progress report: The surface and two levels are done. So is one sub-level. A further sub-level is in progress, and I'm almost done with another full level.

Copy Things,or, The World is Your Geomorph. If you like something on another map, copy it. Either use it as inspiration, or just use it.

I've found that copying is the sincerest form of not having to map stuff. I like those caves in a particular module? Copy them onto my map. Need a cool temple area and someone did a great one? Lift it. I literally copied a few maps, shrunk them down to match my page size, and physically pasted them on. It works fine. This does mean my maps can't ever really be published as-is, so I'd need to change it. But it's not meant for publishing, rather for gaming, and I'd really like to use those particular areas. Besides it's GURPS and I'm mapping on squares, so it would need to be re-mapped anyway.

It's the same, really, as sticking a published adventure's dungeon out on your hex map somewhere. Or using Gygax's Dungeon Geomorphs. I'm just sticking in stairs that say "leads to the dungeon entrance for ." At least it's the same to me.

Corollary: You don't need to match scales if you go "off the map." If you do copy a small area, yes, scale must match the rest of the map. But a teleporter that dumps you outside the the Lost City or inside the Mines of Moria or something doesn't require matching scale - just switch maps. If a staircase goes down from your 5-per-inch 10' per square dungeon map to a 4-per-inch 5' per square dungeon's second level, just swap maps when it happens.

Corollary: You can use as much or as little as you need. Quite simply, steal what you need. Need a watery cave? Find a watery cave in an adventure and use that. Need a temple? Just copy the temple. You don't need to honor the original creator's complete vision because you're not here for that. You're speeding up your mapping. You can use the whole thing, of course, but you don't have to.

By the way, this includes Earth - just copy stuff from Earth. Your PCs haven't been there, either, so just copy those dark caves and strange temples and lost cathedrals. If they have been there, well, give their PC some strange knowledge - either explained by skills or by visitations from the spirits or something of that sort and let them use it.

Keep Mapping I've said this before, but the key is to keep drawing. Don't draw and erase, draw and draw and draw. Keep mapping. Set it aside and you're likely to be finished. Take the map out now and just draw a room or two. You'll thank yourself later.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 1: Mirror of the Fire Demon

Full disclosure: I was a playtester for this adventure when it was in development, and I'm a credited playtester in the book. I was comp'ed the book, I didn't purchase it. I'm also a lot biased when it comes to GURPS in general and Dungeon Fantasy in particular, as I wrote for both GURPS in general and Dungeon Fantasy in specific. I still think I can fairly asses the strengths and weaknesses of this particular publication, so I'm reviewing it here. If you want a review from someone who isn't associated with SJG in any way, you will have to look elsewhere - and when they come online I'll edit this and link to them here.

Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 1: Mirror of the Fire Demon
by Matt Riggsby
50 pages including the cover and credits but not the back e23 advertisement

Mirror of the Fire Demon is the first official adventure for SJG's GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line. The DF line is basically GURPS distilled down to a pre-selected group of options aimed at simulation old-school dungeon bashing. Pretty much, this adventure has you start in town on the fringe of a region threatened by a huge hoard. You go find an oracle to locate the Fire Demon who's organizing the horde, then go after his magical mirror to defeat him. And then loot him, because this is DF, and adventuring is about money. Oh, and rival adventuring groups are out there, and they range in motivation from cheap greed to noble motives, and treat you in varying ways if you run into them. All of this is set in the scenic and lovely Devouring Lands, which is a damn fine place to go kill stuff.

As an adventure, it's both pretty linear and really non-linear. Linear traits: You start at A - town, go to B - the oracle, and end up at C - the lair-sized dungeon. Non-Linear traits: You can wander around all you want, you don't actually need the oracle, you don't actually even have to go to C if you prefer to let someone else win the day and then whack them for the money, and that's discounting the pointless "don't bother with the adventure at all" alternative.

There are lots of little bits in the adventure I like:

- Wandering monsters, wandering adventurers (the rivals mentioned above), and hostile terrain - any or all of which can show up at once. All three are on one table, given a good example of how to assemble a mixed encounter tables. Old TSR modules often had wandering monsters, but random hostile terrain or rivals? Not often.

- another random treasure table, with full price and weight and game rules for the stuff on it. And a short but handy bit of text on treasure to help you place it appropriately.

- 7 wilderness hex maps, scaled for 25mm minis, that you can use alone or print out, cut out, and assembled into pre-made battlemats. Everything on them is statted out, from the DR a tree gives you to the damage from knife grass.

- a whole mess of new monsters, generic fodder monsters (orcs, especially), and pre-made NPCs (who make great pregens and rivals alike).

- highlighted skill call-outs. It's easy to scan the text and find what you need by which skills are involved, and what skills are needed for a given situation. This duplicates DF2, so it fits into the whole DF line style. With that and GURPS's easy default progressions, you can handle both experienced PCs and guys taking a crack it it.

and my favorite: the concept of "N" monsters.

N Monsters One thing DFA1 does to scale the adventure is provide encounters in terms of N monsters. "N" is the number of PCs. So encounters might be like "N orcs plus N/2 orc brutes plus 1 demon" or something like that. N also covers points above the starting norm, so you can make this a higher level adventure pretty easily.

One thing I think this does well is it lets you scale up the adventure to higher powered delvers, or scale it down, or use it for big parties or small and provide the challenge the author expected. Whether this is good or bad depends on the GM's style, and how you implement it. Some old school GMs will pshaw at the very concept of scaling - you should place the monsters and if it's easy because 10 x 300 point delvers showed up instead of 2 x 250, well, that's fine, and vice-versa. Others might want to scale continuously, so if those 10 delvers get whittled down to 5, then the difficulty scales down. Others might scale once and then let it go from there. But it's GURPS, which means there is explicit support for doing it your way - and N lets you make this decision out of the box, even if you've never run a GURPS DF game before. That's pretty good beginner adventure support right there.

One piece of advice I'd personally ignore is the idea of scaling up if the party gets allies - I'd prefer to set the scaling based on the original group, and if they gain or lose party members on the way, or recruit an NPC group into helping them, or otherwise skew the odds, just let the chips fall where they may. I figure that both scales the challenge appropriately and lets the PCs wheedle out advantages in play and take advantage of them. But I like the idea that if you roll up Rival Party B and also Wandering Orcs, you add up the party and Rival Party B to figure out how many orcs show up. Maybe that's potentially later-generation-game "bad scaling" to some, but me it says "three way battle royale." Heh.

The adventure also does a great job of explain why the bits are there, what happens if they are skipped or avoided, and how to segue past them (or work them in). It's covered with hooks to help a new GM fit the whole adventure together seamlessly. Old hands might ignore them but could easily benefit from insight into how Matt Riggsby puts together adventures, at least.

The adventure also does a great job, IMO, of doing what GURPS does best - providing options. It provides a lot of options for ways to run the adventure - moving the locale, setting up the PCs as the horde monsters instead of the adventurers, dealing with high-tech adventurers, etc., etc. It's amusing to think of how easy it is to chuck some high tech firepower into DF (ray guns and fantasy go back ages together) or just throw some high-tech folks into this scenario. "Defeat the demon, then use his mirror to return to Earth . . . " - all with no rules changes needed.

One thing the adventure either stands up on - or falls down on - is the lack of detail on the Big Bad and his Big Bad Magic Item. To me, this is classic old school. Er, who the hell was Tsojcanth again? I'm not sure, but I've plundered his lost caverns. How about the name of the Castellan in the keep? Er, never given. Well, DFA1 doesn't give you much, either. This is clearly deliberate, because it's expected you'll fill that in yourself. But people expecting setting as much as adventure might be let down a bit.

How is it for other game systems? Usually I'll tell you how a non-GURPS book is for GURPS. Here it's the reverse: how is this for non-GURPS systems?

Not bad. A good portion of the pages are dedicated to GURPS-statted NPCs and monsters, true. But the adventure itself is a straightforward adaptation. You already know what orcs and ogres are, so just use stats from your own system. A good number of the monsters are only described in Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons, however. A full 20 pages are devoted to the rival NPCs and new monsters, so factor that in if it's the adventure you are after and expect to ignore the GURPS rules in the process.

That said, it's a good example of a series of set pieces put together without a railroad. And if you add an area map instead of leaving it more vague like DFA1 does, it's pretty sandboxy.

Content: 5
out of 5. A complete GURPS adventure, with all you need to run it and lots and lots to steal for other adventures.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Nice art, well written, well organized. But for all that, I'm picky and I'd like to have seen more art and a pretty area map.

Overall: If you're thinking of giving GURPS a try for dungeon adventuring/old school plundering type play, this is a great place to start. More experienced GURPS GMs will love the tables, maps, N monsters scaling, and hordes of useful monster and NPC stats. It's pretty well loaded and it's well done. Highly recommended for beginning GURPS GMs, and the pre-statted NPCs and monsters will be enough to justify the price to experienced one. Folks playing non-GURPS games will find things to like here, too.

Editing later: The author put up a "Designer's Notes" post on the SJG forums.

Monday, January 16, 2012

DF: XP Awards house rules II: Unexplored Ideas or Ideas for the Unexplored

Over on the SJG forums someone asked about PC advancement in Dungeon Fantasy and megadungeons. I linked to my DF XP awards house rules article, but then later I came up with another idea, which I'm repeating here so I don't lose it.

I proposed the idea of a bonus for risking a descent to a lower dungeon level. The idea is that if you find a set of stairs/pit/chute/elevator/gate/whatever and hazard going down it long enough to encounter something, you get +1 xp. This would be for everyone who makes the trip, but only the first time.

I see some upsides to this idea:

- it gives even more encouragement to risky exploration. Go down the stairs now, because maybe next time you'll miss the session and won't get any XP for the trip the next time.

- it only rewards risk, because you need to go encounter something significant.

- it mitigates some of the risk - who in their right mind will hop into a gate or push the "basement" button the Magic Elevator? No one . . . but if I offer xp, well, you think maybe it's worth that brief trip.

There are also some downsides:

- it encourages searching for level exits over exploration of level specials.

- it means I need to actually confirm if a new level was a new level. Go down stairs on level one and then up stairs you find on level 2 . . . if you get +1 XP, that means you found a sub-level or secret area. If you don't, that means it's just level 1.

- It requires firm tracking of who went where.

Any upsides or downsides I'm missing here?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

500 copies sold!

I've been impatiently waiting for this milestone:

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 has just sold its 500th copy.

I'd like to thank everyone who purchased a copy. Next stop is 600 copies, which should take a while . . . but I'm hoping each new Dungeon Fantasy book published encourages people to pick up DFM1 as well.

Again, thanks everyone! It's a great start to the day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Adventure

Just a quick note, the first GURPS DF adventure is out:

Mirror of the Fire Demon

I'll try to put up a review soon. I generally don't review DF stuff because I'm often involved in the projects. For this one I was a playtester, but I think I can give it a fair review nonetheless - especially since I've used some of it in actual play.

Let me get this straight . . .

. . . the new D&D's playtest is being set in an updated Keep, on some dangerous Borderlands, where people go and loot the Caves of Chaos.


Caves of Chaos with a modern game system?

What kind of person would do that?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dragon Magazine: The Wandering Damage Table

James Maliszewski doesn't seem to have gotten to this excellent article, so it's up to me to cover it.

From Dragon #96: The Meanest Of Monsters by Craig Kraus.

Mr. Kraus introduced us to two nasty monsters for the April Fools section of Dragon - the Killer Dungeon Master (who kills you dead, unfairly) and the Sleep-Inducing Dungeon Master (who bores you to sleep and then steals your dice).

The Killer Dungeon Master got to use the "Wandering Damage Table," a joke that really had legs for my gaming group and those of my local fellow players in other groups.

"How To Use The Wandering Damage System
First there was the wandering monster. They serve well when
applied in hordes, but why not cut out the middleman and just deal
out damage to the characters directly? It makes for a smoother,
faster-paced game, and if you want to kill off characters quickly, it
can only be beaten by divine intervention by Cthulhoid godlings.

You rolled on up to three tables - one to see what happened, one on the damage table (maybe), and one on the limb loss subtable.

Entries read like these:

"4 Your character cuts himself while shaving; consult Limb Loss


"11 Something invisible chews on your character, doing 6-36
points damage."


"13-20 Consult the Random Damage Subtable for no reason

Or the Limb Loss Subtable, which included "Head gone" and "Torso cut in half." Yeah, from shaving perhaps - I had a razor like that once.

Or the damage subtable:

"01-05 Take 10 hit points damage.
06-10 Take 15 hit points damage."


"56-60 Take 24 hit points damage and then take 31 more.
61-65 Take 1,000 hit points damage and roll again.
66-70 Roll every die within 30 feet for damage."

I love "and then take 31 more."

"74-75 Take 3 hit points damage and consider yourself very lucky - for the time being."

Part of the humor for me was that I always saw wandering monsters as, pretty much, wandering damage. "You're taking too long, so here's some damage without treasure. Still lollygagging? Here's more!" We still refer to things as a "Wandering Damage Table." I roll for wandering monsters and say "Let's see if any wandering damage, er monsters, show up."

The other was the sheer quotability of "Consult the limb loss table" or "And consider yourself very lucky" in play. We must have busted these out once a session for years, and the elder gamers in my area still use these. A few of the younger guys picked it up without ever having seen Dragon #96. It's the "This one goes to 11" of gaming for us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

DF Game, Session 6 - Caves of Chaos, Evil Shrine Part 1

Sunday, January 8th 2012

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (266 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (265 points)
Borriz, dwarf knight (264 points)
Nakar, human wizard (255 points)
Red Raggi, berserker barbarian (NPC co-adventurer) (unknown points)

Again, due to work Honus Honusson's player couldn't make it. We'll say The Honus took a long trip home to visit his family or something. Koric and Orrie were let go for lack of funds to pay their upkeep.

After some bookkeeping, we got underway. The group decided to "nut up and go fight the wights" they'd heard about in the very first session from Goldleaf. They figured out he'd probably come out of the cave up around 75', the one with all the bloated and mishapen trees and the vague scent of rot coming from within. You know, the one with the bloated tree Honus shot. They loaded up with holy water and some alchemist's fire and rations and left for the caves.

They roamed up, having had no encounters on the way (seriously, why can't I roll a one, like, ever?) they got to the cave and entered. The weird smell, and the unknown grey rock shot through with veins of black and strata of red, and the worn-by-countless-feet floor got them on edge. So did the way their footsteps echoed and their magic light dimmed when they entered.

They came in, immediately hit a 20' wide 20' tall corridor with an arched ceiling, and headed right. They walked to the end and found two doors and a hallway sloping away to the left. They pried open one (with a 3, a sweet critical) and saw stairs down and curving away. They left it open and turned to the other to ensure they didn't leave enemies behind. They opened it rather noisily but effectively with a crowbar and Borriz headed in. At the other end he found a living chamber and four goat-masked occupants in red robes jumped him with maces. Briefly surprised, he fended off the attacks and then the PCs counterattacked. Three acolytes went down to hatchet blows, and another got stabbed a couple times by a lunging Vyrce. But one managed to yell for a few seconds before he died, and his yells echoed throughout the hallways. Two died, and two were bleeding but not dead. The group pulled into the room, closed the door, and began to search as Inq. Marco bandaged one up to question later.

They found some coins, robes, holy symbols, etc. and - when Nakar decided to check on the acolytes - found that one of the men had stayed in the keep for about a week a little while back. A "passing traveler." Guess not. Meanwhile, a big gong noise started. The PCs hastily decided to fight here, and Marco and Vryce put on robes, and Marco a mask, to at least briefly disguise themselves.

They heard noises outside - clinking, clanking, shuffling, and a walking mob. A knock on the door came followed by "Come out and help us find the intruders!" Inq. Marco answered, and when he peeped through he saw a red-robed priest with a nicer goat mask with a mace and a freaking army of zombies and skeletons toting cleavers. The priest went to swing at Marco, clearly having figured out the PCs were in the acolyte's room. Marco cast Command and said "Wait!", beat the priest's resistance, and slammed the door shut. The PCs got ready, ditching robes and lining up to fight.

The zombies hacked the door down and came through. Borriz and Raggi and Vryce started chopping them up, but it was slow work. And then they forced their way in - the zombies and skeletons literally mobbed up and pushed the front rankers into the PCs, with no regard for balance, safety, room to fight, etc. Sheer numbers was the plan.

Inq. Marco stood in their view and used his True Faith w/Turning and rolled pretty well. The zombies and skeletons rolled pretty well but still blew the roll and lost the contest by 10. So, they had to back away ASAP from Marco until more than 10 yards away. Meanwhile, the ones in the back, out of range or out of sight or both, kept pushing forward.

This led to an extended but nasty slaughter. The PCs began to push out, led by Raggi (who got hit and went berserk). A priest yelled "Surrender!" and Vryce answered "We accept!" The PCs fanned out, and as Father Marco slowly advanced and backed them off with his True Faith they slaughtered the packed and retreating undead, who couldn't fight back and couldn't get away. They cut the undead into two groups and then attacked both. Something like 33 skeletons and 25 zombies fell, and four got backed down the stairs and then closed into the stairwell. The priests were briefly glanced, along with one in black robes with plate armor, but they retreated behind a wall of skeletons. The PCs let them fall back and finished off the rest. Red Raggi took a couple hits, but his mail hauberk helped.

The PCs then paused to briefly take in the situation, and then followed the priests. They found another room and entered - another living quarters. They tore it up, and Inq. Marco burned some scrolls containing prayers to the demon lords on them by putting them on a bed and Sunbolting them alight. They closed the room off and headed up.

They hit a corridor and found a secret door - thanks to Nakar, who is both Invisible and maintaining See Secrets the whole damn time (and carrying an 8-die stone missile, just in case). They found the way in, and entered the door and closed it after ensuring they could leave. They found another door, and opened it - it lead into the EHP's wardrobe. So they opened that, found a nice stack of gold coins (like 100) and a basket of precariously balanced gems, and dumped them into sacks. They entered his room, looted it more (and had a statue fall on Borriz, injuring him a bit), and then headed out. They found themselves in a corridor with a tapestry at the end, and heard chanting and piping noises and shuffling and a susurrus. They sent invisible Nakar ahead to peak into the room, and he saw multiple Evil Altars (dah-dum!), the five priests, and ranks of undead . . . and a big-ass vulture demon with a wavy-bladed sword. The demon stared at him, obviously seeing him, and hissed.

We stopped there, for lack of time.



Stopping in play. I hate to do this, but we had to. It would be a long fight so why rush it? Besides, if Honus's player makes it next time, I'll just say he tracked them after just missing them at the keep, and he'd obviously follow the clear path of destruction and then the sounds of battle. So that's not bad.

Why did the priests respond with such alacrity? I dunno, maybe because they live in a neighborhood that has been repeatedly ransacked by adventurers and noticed? Heh.

Maybe "1 week passes in game for each 1 week in reality" is a bad idea. Upkeep costs $150 a week, and that means with the slow pace of meeting folks generally need to make a lot of money to stay afloat. The PCs took home pretty good money last time but it wasn't enough to cover 5 weeks off, because of our inability to get a session together. I'm not sure if I'll change the time rate, or just start to be much more generous with money. Probably the latter because the first is too convenient. So maybe this note should be "I need to place more loot."

Nobody likes rolling initiative. Well, they don't like losing the roll. The guys I played with for years dislike this the most, because I rarely used it due to the nature of the previous campaign's encounters (generally at very long range, or a fight broke out after talking). I think everyone feels like "ready for combat" and "advanced slowly through the dungeon" are sufficient to mean "cannot be surprised or lose initiative" and I (and the rules) disagree. They'd like to be less easy to surprise, but that's difficult. I sympathize, but they need to find out what's waiting for them. Good scouting is the way to deal with this, IMO, and if enemies hear them coming (like the acolytes did) and wait in the dark in ambush, yeah, it's possible they'll get in a shot or two before the PCs can react effectively.

Pack fights made easy. I used a swarming method suggested by Sean Punch today. I just plunked down the 30+ minis I had and, ignoring separate movement, hexes, facing, figures per hex, etc., just shoved the pack forward at their movement pace every turn. End up in your hex? They're in your hex. End up through you? Too bad. The players immediately realized they'd be swarmed and counterattacked, which was cool. But this made running a big swarm easy, and make it potentially scary - they could overwhelm the group just with numbers, despite being fragile and weak. The fact that it backfired badly when the undead got turned only made it better.

All Undead Shall Be Turned. True Faith w/Turning from GURPS Powers is very, very effective. Couple it with a Will 15 priest and low-will mindless undead and you get a rout. Even with a strong evil shrine's influence, Inq. Marco was able to back off over 50 undead with no problems and force them into packs to be slaughtered. It has no numerical limit, so he could have done this to an undead army if they'd been close enough to him. I think this is fine, though - in a game with a strong cleric with True Faith w/Turning, undead are just going to be forced back and slain. Powerful, strong-willed undead better get their shit together to resist, use distance attacks to disrupt the priest, and otherwise step up. Undead do poorly against dedicated undead hunters, and that's just how it goes.

Dead counters. I need to make more 1" x 1/2" dead body counters. I used all of them and then some in that fight.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Now, THIS is gaming beer

I got a bottle of Hobgoblin Dark Ale for Christmas. Good beer, and sword-armed bow-toting axe-swinging hobgoblins on the bottle. I need a case for next game!

Hobgoblin Dark Ale

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Labyrinth Lord

Labyrinth Lord
140 pages (about 126 of actual game stuff, others are ads, OGL, etc.)
Revised Edition (Fifth Release), January 2011 by Goblinoid Games

Labyrinth Lord is a old-school clone. Basically, it's a clone of Moldvay Basic D&D and Expert D&D. It's also a well-done clone of those games.

In case you aren't familiar with the flavors of D&D, here is a quick rundown:

- races are classes. So dwarf, elf, halfling - all classes.
- Only classes are cleric, magic-user, fighter, thief (plus the races).
- clerics don't get a spell at 1st level. (Thanks Carter for spotting my error)
- stats and HP are generally lower, and stats less important, than in AD&D.
- three alignments.
- monsters have a morale stat.
- generally simpler rules.

Labyrinth Lord basically takes the approach of the red box and blue box Moldvay rules and models them well.

The strengths of the book, in my opinion, are its effective organization and presentation of the the rules. It's easy to follow, spells and monsters are organized logically (alphabetical order by class). The charts and tables are easy to read, and pictures (while generally of only moderate quality) are placed well to help you find what you are looking for.

The rules themselves are pretty straightforward, like its inspirational source. They aren't complex and generally take the approach of "simpler is better." One chart for reactions. One chart for running away. One chart for attacking in melee, one for range and its modifiers. Etc. Nothing is more complex than it needs to be. Realism is sacrificed but it's not that kind of game.

Where the book is hampered is in some oddly written sentences and seeming inconsistencies. For example, the book says, under Cause Disease (pg 21): "The victim of this disease cannot be cured of damage from other spells . . .” This means the victim of a Cause Disease spell needs to fear only damage from other spells. Saying "by other spells" would have been more accurate. Another example of this is under Unicorns: "A lawful, virtuous maiden may only approach these shy creatures." Er, lawful, virtuous maidens can't do anything else except approach unicorns? Poor maidens! I think the author means "Only a lawful, virtuous maiden may approach these shy creatures." The book also repeatedly uses "affect" as a noun when it clearly should be "effect," which is a common confusion but easily fixed. Maybe I'm being too harsh but I've edited in the past and I teach English so grammar errors like that leap out at me.
(Just a note - I’m planning on submitting this stuff I found to the publisher as errata, so maybe these criticisms will become inaccurate in future printings.)

Inconsistencies include things like listing damage bonuses for weapon-armed creatures. Gnolls do "2d4 or by weapon +1" but minotaurs do "1d6/1d6 or by weapon" and then their description notes they get a +2 damage with weapons. Why not "or by weapon +2"? Seems likely to be an oversight. Giant boars are only 2 HD and +1d4 damage tougher than boars, but are 30' long (3 squares in a 10' scale dungeon)? Venomous creatures list an onset time for their venom, but Pit Vipers don't. Sapient Swords (aka intelligent swords) are their own entry on the treasure table . . . and nowhere in the text does it mention the pluses to hit and damage for them. So they have intelligence, languages, special powers . . . and no pluses? That seems more like an oversight than a design decision. Energy drain is called out and defined at the beginning of the monster section, and then each energy draining undead re-defines it. It's these little errors and inconsistencies that detract from an otherwise excellent rules set. There are a lot of these scattered around, and it gets tiresome to parse them out or decide if what you are seeing (damage stat, energy drain rules, etc.) is really the whole story.

Is it well-supported?

No point in playing a current game that isn't well supported, right? Well, Labyrinth Lord (LL) has an official miniatures line, numerous modules (such as Stonehell Dungeon), and even an "Advanced" version for people who want to play an AD&D clone off this base and an "Original" version for people who want white box 1974 D&D style characters (elf, choose your class today, Fighting Man or Magic-User). You could easily use this with any other retro-clone based on Gygax/Arneson spawned games, and use any old D&D stuff without any conversions. And all of the rules are available free, and in hardcopy via Lulu.

Content: 4 out of 5. It is a complete game. It's easily a replacement for those out-of-print materials and it's all you need to run a game. Some missing or unclear content (spell descriptions, the Sapient Swords bit, how exactly energy drain works, etc.) lowers its score a bit, but it's close to a 5.
Presentation: 3 out of 5. Easily readable, in general, but with a lot of oddly written sentences as mentioned above. Charts are clear and the text is attractive. The art is only so-so.

Overall: I'd play this game. I recommend it to others looking for an old-school game system that is recognizably D&D but also in print and easily available. The various nitpicks I have are because it's otherwise so good. I went ahead and purchased a copy of the Advanced Edition Companion because I was so impressed with this and with the free version I'd been perusing. Recommended.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My megadungeon mapping "best" practices - Part II

Here is Part I


Not a rule really, just what I'm using:

- assorted mechanical pencils.
- a couple of rulers.
- Japanese plastic erasers (the ones that remove anything without smudging and ripping)
- anything I can to make a shape. Coin edges are good, a stencil would be better but I don't have one.
- home-made graph paper using this site's tools. I managed to convince my cheapo HP4400 series printer (came free with a PC) to print it edge to edge with no margins, so I can put multiple sheets together if I want. I have some 8 1/2" x 11" and 8 1/2" x 17" paper with 8-squares-to-the-inch. That's the right size for me.
- a pad of graph paper at 4-squares-to-the-inch for "zoom in" maps of special areas, ala the Slaver Series of modules.

Label and Erase

Label broad areas of the map lightly in pencil - "storage rooms." "Wizard's labs." "Goblin warrens." Then you can go and erase them and fill in the details. This will help visualize the level before you draw it. You can also back-fill from those places to the known areas and vice versa.

Corallary: Labels keep you on track.
Having labeled areas helps you keep a theme. You can even grab whole blank sheets of paper and write labels on them. "Prison Level." "Warden's Apartments." "Escape tunnel." "Gladiator Pits." "Gladiator Prep Areas." That sheet alone is inspirational, even before you start drawing corridors and rooms on it.

Map in Pencil, Play on a Photocopy

What I've been doing is creating a photocopy backup of my map after I do big sections. Then I realized the map really "pops" on the photocopy. The lines are a bit darker and clearer, and they won't smudge. I can also use the copies to create progressive destruction by PCs or monsters, add or remove bits, and put on temporary notes - knowing I have a master copy elsewhere. Scanning it into the PC isn't a bad idea either.

That's it for now. I hope this helps.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Gaming Roundup

It's been a good year, gaming-wise:

- My books sold at least as much as the previous year, in total sales (in copies and in dollars). I only out one new book, Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, which has sold almost 500 copies and was acclaimed by rave review. Heh.

- I co-wrote another GURPS Dungeon Fantasy book (with Sean Punch, my ever reliable co-author), which should come out sometime in 2012.

- We re-started a regular game, which we hadn't had since the year before. It's DF on the Borderlands and it's awesome. We can thank our playtest of the first DF adventure (due out soon) for this; we gave it a roll with the idea that if it was fun we'd do a real game. It was great and we've been rolling ever since.

- I started mapping my very first megadungeon, something I never tried in my first days as a D&D DM in 4th grade, and which I only nibbled at the edges of in my later gaming years. I don't know how it will work in play, or if my players will like it, but it's worth the effort just to find out.

- I restarted painting minis, albeit slowly and in fits and starts. I discovered how much I like the Reaper plastic minis, too, perhaps a bit too late to encourage them to release a larger assortment. However until recently I didn't have an excuse to own any, but now with DF on the Borderlands . . .

- I started this blog, and thanks to that discovered a big depth of OSR goodness to delve into. I reviewed some of my finds (see the tab above), and read even more than I blogged about.

Non-gaming wise, my life has taken some really big jumps forward this past year. But that's not a dungeon fantasy concern, so suffice it to say 2011 was better than 2010, and I'm happy where it's all heading.

I'm looking forward to more of this good stuff in 2012.
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