A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scanning Project: Catacombs of the Dragon Master

Following on the heels of yesterday's post, we have here a reworking of that same dungeon.

The specific date of creation for this piece is January 26, 1996. I know this because, by this time, I was aware enough of my own need to be able to accurately place my creations on my personal timeline of gaming development so that I was more diligent about dating my creations. This made it easier to know to what era things belonged when I got swept up in the heat of nostalgia - which I was when I created this.

A little background: I moved from Moldvay Basic D&D (my introduction to this hobby) very quickly. I got the boxed set for Christmas of 1981; by the spring of '82, I was incorporating monsters from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual into the game; by the summer of '82, I was playing a mix of Basic D&D and AD&D (using my new Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide). I continued in this fashion until some time in 1983 or 1984, when I set aside D&D in favor of TSR's Top Secret.

Except for occasional one-off games, I didn't play D&D again until, IIRC, 1989 (immediately following a three-year period where I gave up RPG's altogether). During that renaissance, I played full-on AD&D - Moldvay Basic was a topic of derision in my new gaming group. ("Race as class? Hah! What a joke!") We played at least 14 or 15 AD&D games before the game was again shelved, this time in favor of embarking on the adventure of discovering many of the other role-playing games that I had previously overlooked, or that were just coming out.

I gamed quite regularly with that group, and we tried a lot of different games - and indulged in a long-running series of sessions of Beyond the Supernatural, followed by an even longer-running series of Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic sessions - but we didn't return to D&D for a very long time. However, this being my gaming heyday, I had a fairly large pool of players, and varying subsets of the group not only played at different times, but often different games. This was especially true where my good friend Terry was involved - we played many solo games, because we liked games most of the others didn't.

Terry also shared my penchant for indulging in bouts of nostalgia. This commonality resulted in a second D&D renaissance in the mid-90's. We wanted to go back to our roots, so we opted for Basic D&D - this time, though, the rules came in the form of the Rules Cyclopedia. During this period, I created a number of "dungeons" - some of my best, IMO - of which the following is an example.

Since I was in nostalgia mode, I spent a bit of time looking through my creations from the early '80's. In doing so, I got the idea to recreate the Dungeon of the Dragon Lord for our game. For your enjoyment, here is the end result:

As I mentioned in reply to a comment on my first dungeon ever, the location descriptions for this dungeon were written out on the same paper I used to map and describe my dungeons in the early '80's. This was done on purpose - to preserve the sense of nostalgia.

Also, should you wish to actually use this dungeon, you may want to scale back the treasure rewards a bit; Terry and I, being true to our "old school" roots, opted for over the top, Monty Hall play. You'll see this style reflected in the treasure rewards in this dungeon. (Our PC's could have easily destabilized the economy of the entire game world...)
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[Addendum: It just occurred to me that this year marks the 13th anniversary of the creation of this dungeon - which was created on the 13th anniversary of its forebear. It may just be necessary for me to revisit this dungeon in the coming months. Maybe the full treatment is in order: deeper dungeon background, environs, rumor tables, better maps, more levels - all in a product-level PDF. Hmmm...]
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Scanning Project: Dungeon of the Dragon Lord

As promised, here is another of my home-brew dungeons, scanned and posted for your consumption.

Unlike the previous dungeon, of whose exact date of creation I am not certain, I can give this one a relatively accurate birth date: some time in February or March of 1983. How can I be so certain? Well, it's because I have a semi-clear recollection of watching Wizards & Warriors as I drew the map for this dungeon. (How's that for "old school?" /wink)

As I mentioned in my last post, you'll see some familiar features in this dungeon: an underground river/stream, an underground lake, and several pools/wells. Oh, and a complete disregard for "Gygazian naturalism." (I didn't start worrying about the care and feeding of dungeon monsters until much later. At this point in time, I was really just looking for things to give my PC's to kill and loot. Ah, simpler times - how I miss them.)

So, seen here by eyes other than mine for the first time since the early 80's, I present to you the Dungeon of the Dragon Lord. (I seem to have misplaced the stats for the Dragon Lord himself, but any NPC magic user of third or fourth level should do.) Enjoy!

Up next in the scanning project series: Dungeon of the Dragon Lord revisited - 13 years later!

Stay tuned...
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Scanning Project: The Dungeon That Shall Not Be Named

At long last! The scanning project has begun! (Much rejoicing and Kermit-flailing.)

Over the weekend, I embarked on a long and arduous journey: traversing the wildlands from having all of my pre-21st century gaming material only in physical form to having it in electronic form. This means scanning many pages of notes, characters, maps, etc. - a task which I learned yesterday will more than likely take much longer than I had originally anticipated.

I spent almost two hours of quality time with my new "all-in-one" yesterday. The result: 29 pages scanned and three PDF's created. To be fair, the bulk of that time was spent trying to make my older version of Acrobat (5) do something I'd come to take for granted with Acrobat CS: create a PDF from multiple files.

Anyway, over the next few days I will post the products of this exercise.

Up first, my very first dungeon. At least, I think it's my first. I don't recall exactly that it was my first, but it's from that era (circa 1981) and definitely predates anything else in my Folder o' Old Stuff. Since I saved everything I ever created in that folder, it's reasonable to assume that this is, indeed, the very first dungeon I ever created.

Enough blathering. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the result of my 15-year-old self's first (I'm fairly certain) attempt at dungeon creation: The Dungeon That Shall Not Be Named!

As I post more scanned dungeon maps, you'll see certain recurring features in many of them. (Namely: I'm a big fan of underground lakes, rivers, etc., as well as pools. Normal pools, magical pools, normal pools that look magical, magical pools that look normal - you get the idea.)
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swords & Wizardry Character Sheet

(Just a quick post, as I jump between projects at work.)

I've recently become enamored of Matthew Finch's OD&D retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry. I've had the PDF version of the game for some time, but haven't really looked at it until recently. (I was, admittedly, inspired by a number of my fellow old-school bloggers to give the game a closer look.) As I understand it, S&W is a clone of the "original" edition of Dungeons & Dragons (which most folks call "OD&D" these days, presumably to clearly identify it from its later offspring).

Mind you, I never played OD&D. Heck, I didn't even know the difference(s) between the game rules as presented in OD&D's "Little Brown Books" ("LBB") and the version of D&D that introduced me to the game (Moldvay's Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set) until I purchased the e-book versions of the LBB a couple of years ago. Coming from the point of view of a hardcore lover of Moldvay Basic, I didn't care for most of what I read in those rules. And, having never played them, I found little of nostalgiac value in them.

However, after becoming immersed in the old-school waters here in the blogosphere, I've gradually come to see that there is much goodness in the LBB. I'm a big fan of "rules lite" systems, and a proponent of the "less is more" school of game rules design. I like systems that support play, but don't interfere with it when they're not needed. I like systems that give GM's guidelines for running a game, but don't bog them down with tons of rules (and exceptions) that they have to learn, or that tie their hands. And the LBB offer just that, IMHO.

Having been moved to try the OD&D rules, I'm hoping to run a few games in my current campaign with them. However, I seem to have left $800+ (the amount I'd need to buy a decent copy of the LBB) in my other pants. Thankfully, I don't need to look any further than S&W.

I've recently ordered the S&W print version from lulu.com (as a Valentine's Day gift from my fiancee - she knows me so well), along with a copy of the first issue of Matthew Finch's old-school magazine, Knockspell. While I await their arrival, I've taken the opportunity to quickly retool a D&D character sheet I had sitting around. Here's the sheet I plan to use for S&W:

(Full disclosure: The design of this sheet was inspired by character sheets found at Tony DiTerlizzi's Imaginopolis Blog.)

As I said, I haven't yet received my S&W book, so this sheet's not been playtested. Hopefully, there are no errors herein. The PDF contains three sheet variations: a cleric sheet, a fighter sheet, and a magic-user sheet (each with a back). It's "bone stock," except for a "spell levels per day" space on the cleric and m-u sheets (for use with my own house rules). Also, the PDF is 100dpi, optimized. I'm not sure how it will look when printed, so if you'd like a non-optimized, 150dpi version, just let me know.

[EDIT: By request, here's a link to a 150dpi, non-optimized PDF, with a couple of minor modifications: 1) THAC0 (forgot to mention I use that) has been replaced with "To Hit"; 2) A "class generic" sheet (including a back page) has been added to the file. The file's ~3MB, so be prepared for a wait if you're on a slow connection.]
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

100 Character Names from an Unexpected Source

I'm still very busy, but I feel I'm neglecting my duties as a blogmaster, so here's a little something to keep things rolling.

Anybody who's posted a comment or two (or three or one hundred) on a blogger.com-driven blog has had to contend with the "Visual Verification" security feature. Those of a gaming bent have more than likely noticed that often times these nonsensical words are strongly reminiscent of Gygax-era NPC/pregenerated-PC names. I certainly did. (Please tell me I'm not the only one...)

And I thought to myself: Somebody should collect a bunch of these and put them in a numbered list, so DM's can use them on-the-fly. That would be cool.

Well, I got tired of waiting for someone cool to do it. So, without further ado, here are 100 character names, culled from blogger.com's "Visual Verification" feature:

01 Dulkoff
02 Mingl
03 Turmun
04 Undle
05 Gersatte
06 Cranta
07 Leati
08 Abideli
09 Cyportro
10 Faciree
11 Palimati
12 Sasel
13 Slatter
14 Berepreg
15 Whisteer
16 Thill
17 Claterp
18 Theorta
19 Versi
20 Fingi
21 Pargeba
22 Florex
23 Amettlec
24 Tersu
25 Multo

26 Dymet
27 Sumenth
28 Wilipa
29 Spurch
30 Glyrob
31 Upetar
32 Penfulin
33 Bleng
34 Telin
35 Nurkind
36 Heaphe
37 Enticu
38 Ingswi
39 Nolles
40 Cozymal
41 Fonizan
42 Bionche
43 Finsor
44 Hoome
45 Sters
46 Larassec
47 Squiter
48 Boractu
49 Ophopa
50 Zatteraw

51 Lisess
52 Ponati
53 Whaki
54 Bilab
55 Tesec
56 Spier
57 Dultin
58 Kiven
59 Shizer
60 Ineta
61 Bernall
62 Tenhermi
63 Coutorus
64 Caphotri
65 Abanulum
66 Amystal
67 Hanomite
68 Promero
69 Inxierna
70 Dersa
71 Saustili
72 Repnes
73 Twori
74 Fifien
75 Ratedi

76 Mingui
77 Prenche
78 Rinishim
79 Terrali
80 Resterc
81 Mories
82 Cudic
83 Emica
84 Hedig
85 Bucen
86 Calypti
87 Larti
88 Intenx
89 Rindle
90 Heestero
91 Tryng
92 Dalon
93 Alesin
94 Ornse
95 Kerce
96 Triesa
97 Slint
98 Rophyd
99 Jareson
00 Valesel

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Aloha from Hell - RIP, Lux Interior

I wasn't planning on posting again this week - as I more-or-less said in my previous post, I'm busier than a one-armed paper hanger in a hurricane. But upon learning of the passing of Lux Interior, iconic lead singer of the iconic punk/psychobilly/whatever band The Cramps, I was compelled to put up... something.

I didn't know who The Cramps were until I saw their name on the soundtrack for the awesome zombie flick, Return of the Living Dead. (Gods, I love that soundtrack!) I probably wouldn't have known them for any more than my favorite song from that cassette ("Surfin' Dead") if it hadn't been for my friends, Dave and Walter. Thanks to them, I learned that there was more music out there than the early-to-mid-80's rock and heavy metal I was listening to at the time. Thanks to them, I added to my music vocabulary band names like The Dead Kennedys, The Dead Milkmen, The Ramones, Violent Femmes, Suicidal Tendencies, The Cure, and many others.

But the band that I was most attracted to, by far, was The Cramps. I listened to my copy of Bad Music for Bad People so much that I wore out the tape in less than a year. To this day I can't put my finger on it, but the band's music just appealed to me in a way none of the other music at the time did. Maybe, subconsciously, I was connecting with Lux's (and his wife/The Cramps guitarist Ivy's) love for pop culture, B horror movies, and what I guess you would call "schlock."

I eventually moved on to other genres of music, but The Cramps have always had a special place in my heart. That's why I was so saddened when I heard that Lux passed away this week. Here's the official press release:

For Immediate Release:
February 4, 2009

Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, passed away this morning due to an existing heart condition at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California at 4:30 AM PST today. Lux has been an inspiration and influence to millions of artists and fans around the world. He and wife Poison Ivy’s contributions with The Cramps have had an immeasurable impact on modern music.

The Cramps emerged from the original New York punk scene of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, with a singular sound and iconography. Their distinct take on rockabilly and surf along with their midnight movie imagery reminded us all just how exciting, dangerous, vital and sexy rock and roll should be and has spawned entire subcultures. Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly.

The family requests that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.

Missed dearly, indeed.

It's one of my regrets that I never got to see The Cramps live - one of the really crappy results of living in the middle of nowhere is that very few decent bands include The Middle of Nowhere in their tour dates. On the up side, I have plenty of good memories associated with the band, mostly involving alcohol and teenage/young-20's mischief (which I'm glad I survived!); but always involving some really great, really cool, friends.

So, here's to you, Lux: Thanks for being there and supporting me during my late-onset teenage rebellion, and for providing the soundtrack for a truly memorable part of my life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Spike the door and break out the iron rations

The party is making camp.

Or, in less symbolic terms, the blog is going to be on hold for a few days.

Turns out I have a ton of deadline-driven work to do - both in my day job and beyond. So any spare time I have will more than likely be spent getting some of this off of my plate instead of posting cool stuff to the blogosphere.

To hold you over until my return, here's a little creation I threw together about 10 years ago: a character sheet for Games Workshop's Warhammer Quest - probably my all-time favorite role-playing/minis/dungeon-bash mashup. This isn't the spiffiest sheet I've ever made, but here it is for your pleasure just the same: