I’m working on a dungeon level for Fight On that is more akin to a small underworld. At first, I wanted to map it all. Then I realized that I really wanted to keep everything short. I was thinking of the One Page Dungeon model. My first thought was that I’d have a map of important locations because I love maps, and then I’d write on the map itself instead of writing a separate map key. In a way, that’s what my Water Temple (SVG) does, even if it isn’t such a great dungeon to adventure in.
With all the talk about Vornheim, though, I’ve started thinking about using tables to generate an entire region. Instead of having a spatial map with a room key and a small table of random encounters, have a vague and inspiring map, practically no room key, a small number of very important random encounters, and perhaps an interesting NPC or two per region.
I really should get a copy of Vornheim to see whether this is how Zak does it. Also, check out his Hack This Book Contest.
So now my goal is this:
I had some sketches already, but nothing solid. Today I started writing stuff up using this concept. What do you think—does this look like a format you would use at your table? I think it would work for me, but I haven’t tested it.
“The river opens out into a kind of lake and soon you see gas bubbles bursting and you smell sweet rot.”
Theme: frogs, floating eyes, stench
Bogling Names: Slap, Niwash, Blair, Darp, Oort, Karg, Ashzwash, Mort
Onbog was a priest of Mitra that got corrupted by Tsathoga ages ago. Now he maintains this fane along the river Styx, hating himself, and everybody else. He enjoys the control he has over the frogs and likes nothing better than the hope of corrupting others into the service of Tsathogga in order to share his well concealed misery. Onbog is also afraid of meeting Bilapudee, a frog demon ruling over the eternal swamp. Possibly that would reveal how minuscule his power is.
See also: 2011-03-31 How To Organize Adventure Notes.
I’m getting to play test my Styx Underworld with three friends. What sort of party should they bring along?
I rolled up seven arrays of stats and assigned them each one of the seven classes from the Labyrinth Lord book and gave them 600’001 XP. Then I went to the treasure tables at the end and rolled on some of the tables and assigned the magic items as I saw fit. After everything was distributed, I went over the stuff and gave little bonuses here and there.
My own campaign uses the house rule of rerolling all your hit dice when you gain a new hit die. So I gave them all the best of three rolls: 7 hit dice, 8 hit dice, and 9 hit dice except for the halfling who got one die less on each roll (the halfling level limit is 8).
My own campaign also uses the rule of limiting the spells known to the spells per day which is why they have open slots in their spell books. That’s where they will scribe new spells if they meet spell casters that will teach them new things.
work in progress
|plate mail (AC 3), shield, staff of striking (19 charges) w/ continual light 60’ radius, ring of fire resistance, decanter of endless water|
|special abilities: true oath, anybody holding a hand into a flame will not get hurt and only be able to speak the truth or not at all|
|spells memorized (cleric of Mitra): |
1. cure light wounds (memorized 4×), detect magic (memorized 2×)
2. bless, find traps, hold person, silence 15’ radius, speak with animals
3. cure disease, remove curse, striking (memorized 2×)
4. cure serious wounds (memorized 2×), neutralize poison (memorized 2×)
5. raise dead, cure critical wounds, commune
6. heal, stone tell
|royal dwarven plate mail +3 (AC 0), matching shield +2, dwarven axe +2 w/ continual light 60’ radius, potion of treasure finding|
|special abilities: trained to deflect arrows in Taipur, save vs. paralysis once per round to avoid an arrow|
|dwarven plate mail +2 (AC 1), matching shield +2, wolf bane sword +1, +2 vs. lycanthropes w/ continual light 60’ radius, ring of fire resistance, potion of speed|
|sword of the wild hunt +1, +3 vs. undead w/ continual light 60’ radius, elven plate mail of the crab +1 (AC 2, allows wearer to hunker down and look like a natural stone ⅔ of the time), matching shield +1, philter of love, spell book|
|spells known (student of the sea elf queen Gerdana): |
1. charm person, sleep, read magic
2. detect evil (memorized 3×), continual light (not memorized), (open slot)
3. lightning bolt, protection from normal missiles, water breathing
4. polymorph self (memorized 2×), remove curse, (open slot)
5. telekinesis (memorized 2×), (open slot)
|dagger w/ continual light 60’ radius, spell book, potion of ESP, wand of detect enemies, scroll of stone to flesh, reincarnation|
|spells known (student of Ubon): |
1. magic missile, light, read languages
2. invisibility (memorized 2×), detect invisible, continual light (not memorized)
3. lightning bolt, fly, hold person
4. polymorph self (memorized 2×), polymorph other, (open slot)
5. conjure elemental, contact other plane
|ring of x-ray vision, feathered spear of the sea elves +1 w/ continual light 60’ radius, elven leather armor +1 (AC 6), cloak of protection +1, potion of poison, lock picks|
|short bow, 3 arrows +3, 15 arrows +1, 22 ordinary arrows, sun sword of the sea elves +1 w/ continual light 60’ radius, plate mail (AC 3), shield +1, eyes of the eagle, potion of heroism (grants a temporary fighter level 10), thieves’ tools|
The party owns some standard adventuring gear as well: pots, trail rations, 4×50 ft. of rope, 4 grappling hooks, 20 spikes, hammer, 2 manacles, pick, shovel, ink, pen, 10 sheets of parchment, 6 vials of holy water, garlic, bedrolls, backpacks, several large sacks for treasure.
The party also owns a treasure map for the crypt of George Crowfeather, Vulture Lord of Rainburgh, who apparently escaped the dungeons of Dis but had to leave his mythical armor, sword, and helm behind. The map shows how enter the dungeon via the river Styx and where to find the secret stash.
Two players chose a character each from the list. J. picked the magic user and F. picked the elf. The framing story I had presented involved them searching for the secret stash of loot left in the prisons of Dis and they were going to try to enter the prison from the water—from the river Styx.
The game started in the region called Eternal Swamp. I didn’t have many notes beyond a few visuals. Predictably, the feedback was that the beginning of the adventure needed more of a challenge for players to overcome, or a riddle to solve, or a dark secret to uncover. Good points and something to keep in mind for the next session in 14 days.
Most of the time was spent exploring the Bubbling Stench. My take on the evening was the following:
What is Facebook for? I use it to keep in touch with a new category of relations. Before Facebook, I had family, friends, acquaintances, and people I lost contact with. With Facebook, there’s a new category between acquaintances and people I lost contact with – now there is a very faint link online. This category of “online friend” is for people I have never met, people from work – and since I’m not a person that likes making phone calls – it is also for friends that have moved away or family that lives abroad. And I’m ok with that.
That doesn’t mean I like the various ways in which my privacy is being invaded.
I’m catching up with some old episodes of RPG Circus and liked a segment about group size and Henchmen in the party. I sent them an email with some thoughts and decided to cross-post. Here are two points regarding group size, player types, and henchmen.
The first point is about the difficulty of providing equal spotlight to all players in large groups. In my groups of up to seven players, I usually have one or two really quiet people. When I ask them, they say they enjoy the game. I figured that they are either casual players that just enjoy the company and the chaos at the gaming table, or they just like imagining the events without necessarily feeling the need to share what is going on in their head. That’s how I stopped worrying about unequal spotlight. The only thing I pay close attention to is when shy people want to say something but they get interrupted all the time. I’ll make sure that everybody gets their say, and if necessary that means we’ll go around the table, player by player.
The second point is about NPC characters in the party, or secondary player characters. In my D&D 3.5 campaign with up to seven players, I still encourage people to create secondary characters. I have a house rule saying that all player characters will turn into NPCs of the campaign setting when they reach level 10 because I don’t like how the rules slow combat down at higher levels. I also have a house rule saying that new characters start at level one. Thus, there is an advantage of bringing in secondary characters: if your primary character dies, or gets taken out of the game, your secondary character is no longer on level one. I had read about this so-called Entourage Approach in the old school fanzine Fight On. Secondary characters get half XP and that really works for me.
On his blog, Jeff Uurtamo also asked how to find players for old games. I find that in order to get new players for my old school D&D game (Labyrinth Lord rules) I had to recruit new players that had never gamed before, I had to start playing in a group that is interested in playing many different systems, and I had to end my existing D&D 3.5 campaign. Every one of these steps gave me one or two players. Together, I finally had a group big enough to run it.
Finding others to run the old school games for me has been impossible.
However, the conversion schedule is about to hit a snag. First let me reassure that all of ST including the big book at the end will be coming out, it is done, it is NOT vaporware, but we may not be able to meet our one-a-month guesstimate that we made last summer. I know I said we were still shooting for this a week ago, but the limited FGG resources are getting retasked for the moment…for a good thing, but admittedly not likely to make our loyal ST subscribers happy. For this I apologize. – Greg A. Vaughan 
I still remember the Razor Coast delays. (I got a refund.) Having ordered both The Complete Tome of Horrors and Slumbering Tsar, I don’t feel too good. The sad thing is that the lesson I should be learning here is that I should not pre-order. Unfortunately the reality appears to be that small companies are unable to take financial risks and therefore are unwilling to bet on their products, relying on pre-orders instead.
June 1 is when the pre-ordering for the Swords & Wizardry Tome of Horrors will be ending, and it’s a somewhat important deadline because not very many additional books are going to get printed. – Matt Finch 
In addition to that, I find myself unwilling to spend a lot of money for role-playing game products as I realize how little material I actually read and use – even though I play around ten times every month.
I really need to find a way to disconnect from the market: Not read press releases, not read blog posts eagerly awaiting this product or that, not read forum threads where all the excitement is building.
Strange, that. I used to be proud of myself for having disconnected my television from the networks. No more ads, no more endless zapping, no more longing for useless stuff. And now I find that the web is exhibiting similar properties, except it’s all hidden in social media. Excitement building on Twitter and the blogs, product information reaching me via forums and Facebook, endless zapping on my feed reader, the regular shopping experience in bookstores and malls has been replaced an endless stream of subscriptions, fanzines, eBay purchases, Amazon buys and small-press preorders coming in at an indigestible rate.
Stuff I pre-ordered and now I feel like I should not have done it because I have the D&D 3.5 Monster Manuals I–V and I don’t think I’m going to run Pathfinder or an adventure path any time soon:
Stuff I am subscribed to even though I feel I should cancel:
I’m falling behind in reading the books and I’m not running a Pathfinder game and I have difficulty imagining a way of integrating the adventures into my D&D 3.5 or Labyrinth Lord sandbox – and currently I feel that running a Sandbox is my preferred mode of play.
Stuff I managed to cancel reluctantly because I figured that sticking to Fight On ought to be magazine enough:
Stuff I bought even though I wasn’t sure I needed it since I’m not running a Pathfinder game:
Stuff I managed to avoid even though I was tempted:
Stuff I managed to avoid even though I am still tempted:
I guess writing this list and linking all the stuff was a bit of a penance. Now I feel bad for tempting you, gentle reader.
Some call it the Old School Renaissance (OSR) echo chamber, others call it a conversation. Here’s my contribution.
I read Dan Proctor’s Observations and Comments about the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game (DCC RPG). He’s somewhat critical. I found myself nodding along as I read his post. Some hours later, I realized that even though I might not be playing the DCC RPG, it exhibits some properties that I’d be adding to my own (hypothetical) old school RPG:
Not bad, thus far!
The main problem, of course, is that I don’t have the time – and not enough friends – to play everything out there. I must also confess to a certain anti-consumerism ideology. I’m sure I read too much To Have or to Be? by Erich Fromm. Thus, while I like elements of the game, I probably still won’t buy it. I’m not going to ask myself: is this a good game? I’m going to ask myself: how much better is this game than my current favorite? My current favorite is Labyrinth Lord, but any of the other old school systems out there already sets a pretty high bar. I’m thinking that maybe the difference is small enough to not be worth the cost, the shipping, the discussions with potential players, the time it takes to learn about the differences.
I recently started listing to the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast. It took me a bit to get used to the occasional belching. Does it have to be into the microphone? Anyway, one of the guys, Stu, also runs the Douchey DM blog, and there he wrote about using Obsidian Portal to keep his notes. He also notes that his players did not seem to interested in actually reading the stuff he writes on the wiki. In fact, one of his commenters writes the following:
I feel your pain about players not paying attention sometimes. I’ve emailed them pdf’s of campaign notes and all that good stuff. Then about a quarter of the way into the first session, I start getting some blank looks. “You didn’t read any of the stuff I emailed you, right?”
I recognize the situation. Here’s what helped me cope:
I was reading Don't be afraid of Nostalgia by Stefan Poag and noticed this awesome quote:
Pure and simple, for many, D&D represents a lost age: It was an individualized, user-driven, DIY, human-scaled creative space separate from the world of adults and the intrusion of corporate forces. As Allison rightly noted, D&D recalls that day “before orcs and wookiees were the intellectual property of vast transmedia corporations.” Back when you had lots more free time than money—before girlfriends, job, kids. Life. – How Dungeons & Dragons changed my life by Ethan Gilsdorf
I noted it on Google Reader and Lior commented on Google Buzz “Would we not be better off if, just every once in a while, we would also mention RPGs other than D&D? Maybe one of those games which is not about inherently geeky tropes and is not structured around campaigns of 30+ hours and constant player groups?”  He lamented the missed opportunities, and I have to agree. There are many people left behind because of obligations and distractions. Traditional games are demanding in terms of time and effort.
Speaking for myself, however, I have noted the following preferences:
Thus, while I am still interested in toying with other systems – Lady Blackbird, Solar System (The Shadow of Yesterday), Polaris – my interestes right now point towards old school, traditional games. I’d be interested in Legend of the Five Rings, or GURPS, or Warhammer 2nd ed. All of them are traditional role-playing games. They need long term, regular play.
So yes, the game style I currently prefer leaves many people behind. Given these preferences, and given the list above, I’d rather try and solve the problems with my preferred play style:
The last point is a bit problematic for me right now. On the one hand, recent years have been blessed with a gazillion opportunities to play. On the other hand, summer has come and people prefer to be doing other things. I’ve had to cancel a few sessions, lately: if there is a large pool of five to eight people, it is usually not a problem to find three of them willing to play (three being my lower limit). The drawback is the ugly truth of discovering that other people might have different priorities on short notice.
Something about sending those emails a day or two earlier asking who will be playing and the slow trickle of responses, further delayed by people unable to read their email during the day, the uncertainty associated with the entire process—I think this is sapping group morale. I’ll have to think about this some more.
Telecanter’s The Priest of Chaos Said… inspired me to the following:
“Alone we are weak and life is a valley of tears. Together we are strong. Together we build our homes. Together we till our fields. Together we defend our towns and villages. Together are we strong.
“We build dams against the flood. We build aqueducts against the drought. We build canals against the plague. We drain the swamps and push back the fever. We fill our granaries and defeat famine.
“We punish treachery and reward loyalty. We ensure law and justice. Even if the corruption of chaos and anarchy are on the rise, we have our heavenly order from the highest gods in heaven down to the lowest devils in hell. They make sure that punishment and rewards are not forgotten—not now and not for all eternity.
“In our world everybody has a place and there is a place for everybody—including you. See these books: the knowledge of the elders, the scriptures and tablets of our ancestors. This is our inheritance. Learn as much as you can, work as hard you can. Lift your head, rise! Be a true member of our proud community.”
Too bad it’s not as poetic as the chaotic counterpoint. Perhaps that is just as well. Law prefers lists of things rather than poetic allusions.
I now use these two points to explain alignment in my campaign to new players (in German: Gesinnung).
Es gibt genau drei Gesinnungen in meiner Wilderlands of High Fantasy D&D Kampagne alter Schule: Ordnung, Chaos und Neutralität. Das letzte Mal wurde ich von zwei Spielern zum Thema Gesinnung ausgefragt.
D&D hatte ursprünglich ebenfalls nur drei Gesinnungen und war ganz klar von der Idee beeinflusst, dass Ordnung und Chaos wie bei Michael Moorcock im ewigen Konflikt stehen. In meiner Kampagne wollte ich das ebenso halten. Und ich wollte darauf achten, dass Ordnung nicht zwingend Gut und Chaos nicht zwingend Böse sein muss. Das wäre langweilig.
Anfangs war ich von Jeff Rients’ apokalyptischem Gesinnungstest sehr angetan: Ragnarok hat begonnen. Auf der einen Seite stehen Thor, Odin, usw. Auf der anderen Seite stehen Cthulhu und Shub-Niggurath. Wo stehst du?
Zum Thema gab’s dann auch noch ein paar andere Interpretationen, aber grundsätzlich blieb ich bei dieser Frage: Thor oder Cthulhu? Nach einer Weile wollte ich noch pro oder contra Zivilisation einbringen und habe eine Tabelle angefangen. Doch als ich Telecanters Chaos Priester fand, dachte ich, dass hier endlich jemand das Wunderbare am Chaos niedergeschrieben hatte. So sollte es sein! Eigentlich sollte es für jede Gesinnung eine Art Predigt geben, die einen davon überzeugt.
Also schrieb ich einen ähnlichen Werbetext für die Ordnung. Was folgt ist das Resultat für meinen Kampagnenwiki.
Die Priester der Ordnung sagen:
Alleine sind wir schwach und das Leben ein Jammertal. Gemeinsam sind wir stark. Gemeinsam bauen wir unsere Häuser. Gemeinsam bestellen wir unsere Felder. Gemeinsam verteidigen wir unsere Städte und Dörfer. Nur gemeinsam sind wir stark. Wir bauen Dämme gegen die Flut. Wir bauen Aquädukte gegen die Dürre. Wir bauen Kanäle gegen die Seuchen. Wir legen die Sümpfe trocken und drängen das Fieber zurück. Wir füllen die Kornspeicher und besiegen den Hunger.
Wir bestrafen den Verrat und belohnen die Treue. Wir sorgen für Recht und Gerechtigkeit. Selbst wenn das korrumpierende Chaos und die Anarchie um sich greift, bleibt uns immer noch die himmlische Ordnung von den höchsten Göttern im Himmel bis hin zu den schlimmsten Teufeln in der Hölle. Sie sorgen dafür, dass Strafe und Belohnung nicht vergessen gehen – jetzt nicht und bis in alle Ewigkeit nicht.
In unserer Welt hat jeder seinen Platz und es hat einen Platz für jeden – auch für dich. Sieh diese Bücher: das Wissen der Altvorderen, die Gesetze und Tafeln unserer Ahnen. Es ist unser Erbe. Lerne soviel du kannst, arbeite hart und erhebe dein Haupt. Steige auf! Werde ein echtes Mitglied unserer stolzen Gesellschaft!
Die Chaos Priester sagen :
Das Leben ist Chaos. Unkraut wächst im Feld. Der Obstgarten verwaldet. Die Küste wird ins Meer gespült. Das Chaos sind die tiefen Muster dieser Welt. Die Wolken gleiten jede für sich im stillen Tanz über den Himmel. Der Fluss fliesst in tausend Windungen zum Meer.
Die Elfen leben in den Bäumen, ohne sie zu fällen und zu töten, sie in Bretter zersägen und diese dann morsch werden und faulen sehen. Nein, die Elfen beobachten die Muster, nach denen die Bäume wachsen, formen sie langsam, leben mit ihnen. Der Baum lebt. Der Elf lebt.
Die Ordnung ist die Hybris zu glauben, dass man der Welt seinen Willen aufzwingen kann. Sie verdammt Mann, Frau und Kind zum Joch. Chaos ist nicht das Niederbrennen der Städte sondern die Einsicht, dass es eine Dummheit war, sie überhaupt zu bauen. Chaos ist nicht Gesetzlosigkeit sondern die Einsicht, dass Menschen, wie Bäume, eine eigene Art zu leben haben. Wer Gesetze aufstellt, ohne dies zu bedenken, heisst Menschen töten und sie in Bretterkisten begraben.
Komm mit! Ich weiss nicht wohin wir gehen, aber wir werden auf dem Weg so manches lernen.
Wer sich aus diesem kosmischen Kampf heraus halten will, bekennt sich zur Neutralität.
Es gibt keine Priester der Neutralität.
Irgendwann, so in den frühen dreissigern, ist mir zum ersten mal aufgefallen, dass sich etwas an meinem Körper geändert haben musste. Ich konnte nicht mehr essen was ich wollte ohne etwas anzusetzen. Ich war über zehn Jahre lang einfach 78 kg schwer gewesen. Plötzlich merkte ich, dass Claudia und nicht einfach jede Woche einen Liter Eis essen können.
Dann hatte ich nach langer Zeit wieder einmal eine Verstauchung und musste erleben, dass ich Wochen und Monate lang schmerzen hatte. Früher, so schien mir, waren Verstauchungen so schnell verheilt, dass ich mich mehr daran erinnere, je eine gehabt zu haben.
Jetzt, in meinen späten dreissigern, merke ich, dass der Körper Abnützungserscheinungen zeigt. Beim Laufen tat mir ab und zu der grosse Zehen weh. Plötzlich tat er mir auch im Büro mal weg. Ich liess mir Einlagen für hunderte von Franken machen, liess Röntgenbilder anfertigen und erfuhr, dass die Knorpelmasse langsam am schwinden sei. Der Beginn einer Arthrose. Mir wurde Physiotherapie verschrieben.
Anfang dreissig war mir aufgefallen, dass ich nicht lange mit dem Laptop auf dem Schoss am Boden oder auf dem Bett arbeiten darf. Wenn ich das tue, schmerzt mir nachher tagelang an den Schulterblättern ein Muskel.
Schleichend bemerkte ich, dass ich morgends Rückenweh habe. Ich kann nicht mehr lange im Bett liegen und dösen. Dann wurde es stärker – morgendliches Kreuzweh. Vor zwei oder drei Wochen war es nach einem Veloausflug besonders schlimm: Eine Woche lang verdammte Rückenschmerzen beim Liegen, wie wenn ich ein Bandscheibenvorfall hätte. Ich hatte Angst. Der selbe Arzt wie beim grossen Zehen sagte mir dann, dass ein Bein um 2.5 cm länger als das andere sei, sich der Körper aber angepasst habe, die Wirbelsäule entsprechend etwas krumm sei und mir wurde mehr Physiotherapie verschrieben.
Man könnte also sagen, dass mein Körper bis dreissig einfach automatisch fit war und nun zwischen dreissig und vierzig hat sich das Blatt gewendet. Nun muss ich den Körper pflegen und trainieren, damit er mir nicht verfällt. Ich muss mich pflegen und trainieren, damit ich nicht verfalle. Ein beunruhigender Perspektivenwechsel.
Mehr Sport! Mehr Längen schimmen. Mehr Velo fahren. Mehr Physiotherapieübungen daheim. Regelmässiger ins Aikido gehen.
Morgen Abend ist Aikido Prüfung für den 1. Dan.
What: “Boy Meets Girl, The End” by Gregory Tkac
When: June 22, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
This special edition is for an unpublished book, and the author will be present at the meeting looking forward to discussing his book and getting some feedback on it. To read it, go to zenahora.com where you’re welcome to download it in either PDF or MS Word format – but please respect the copyright.