Friday, January 29, 2010
Does anyone know if there is a specific name for maps rendered this way? I know I've seen others done in this fashion, so I'm assuming it must be a particular style. If anyone knows of a website or book that contains other similar maps, I'd be much obliged as well.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Anyway, The Dungeon Alphabet is now available in .pdf format for those of you who either prefer electronic versions for some bizarre reason or find overseas shipping costs astronomical. You can purchase a copy through RPGNow by clicking here. The file will also be available from Paizo and e23 within the next few days.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
With my Labyrinth Lord Society membership in hand, the time has come for me to get a game going. I play in a regular group but time and interest won’t allow me to run a regular game with those guys. And I really need a regular game to ref. I’ve got too many ideas and nobody to share them with. Plus, I might as well use some of this newfangled “Author of ‘The Dungeon Alphabet’" fame before it gets cold.
So, if you’re on Long Island and are looking for a B/X, “red box,” Labyrinth Lord game, and have either Sunday afternoons or Monday evenings free, drop me an email at poleandrope[at]gmail[dot]com. Below is the text from my FLGS flyer so you can see what I’m thinking.
Veteran referee seeks to start up a classic “sandbox style” campaign of Dungeons & Dragons using the Basic D&D rules (a.k.a. B/X, “Red Box,” or Labyrinth Lord). Players will create 1st level adventurers beginning their careers on the edge of the Eldritch Frontier, a vast expanse of wilderness teeming with dungeons, monsters, treasure, and magic. The Eldritch Frontier is an old school D&D hex and dungeon crawl, and the players will be free to choose their own paths to fame, power, and riches—provided they’re lucky and smart enough to survive!I figure if I can get three, I can get four, and we’ll grow from there.
The Eldritch Frontier will also turn back the clock on the history of D&D and present a “what if?” scenario of how the game might have developed if left solely in the hands of gamers. Although Basic D&D will be used as the rule set for the campaign, further material will be taken from periodicals and supplements dating from the early years of the hobby, as well as new additions created by the players and referee through actual play. Because of this, The Eldritch Frontier is best suited for those with open minds and laid-back attitudes. Rule lawyer-types might find themselves frustrated, but creative players will have the opportunity make an indelible mark on the campaign world and the referee’s house rules.
Game sessions will be held at Brothers Grim on either a weekday evening or Sunday afternoons depending on player availability. Regular sessions of The Eldritch Frontier will start once three or more players have committed, with an eye on adding additional players as interest grows.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
- Eli over at I See Lead People has gotten a copy and has placed a review of it here.
- Over at There's a Bugbear in My Kitchen, the Runokobold also reviews the book.
- Paizo.com has ranked the book at #3 on their "Top Selling Products from Other Companies" list this week. Subsequently, the book is currently on backorder on their website.
- Noble Knight Games is still sold out, but copies are available through RPG Shop. If you're in the UK, you can get the book via The Orcs Nest and iguk.com.
- Goodman Games still has the book on their website and has also collected many of the book's reviews at the DA's product page here.
That's the week in The Dungeon Alphabet. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Friday, January 22, 2010
All I can say about this film is that it involves a group of trappers/explorers hauling a fairly large boat across the plains of either America or Canada. I seem to remember them being in the company of some natives as well.This might be but a short moment of the film or a sizable plot point--I'm uncertain. I suspect the movie probably dates from the early to mid 1990s if only because of the film stock, but again, I can't be certain.
I do know that it wasn't Northwest Passage or Fitzcarraldo. It might even be some small independent film. Quite frankly, my inability to ID the film has been driving me a little mad; hopefully one of you can point me in the right direction. Anyone have any idea what it was that I saw?
UPDATE: It was A Man in the Wilderness. I just finished watching it and, although not a great movie, the images of a mule team dragging a boat across all sorts of terrain does tend to stick with you.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Once I receive my golden fez and membership ring, the time of conversion shall commence in my local area. I might even have a few things to offer the Labyrinth Lord Society Newsletter too.
The box has been crunched but the books are all in good condition with only slight staple rust and two penciled-in additions to the text (apparently a previous owner thought clerics got off too easy experience-wise once they hit curate). It’s a sixth printing but I cannot complain too much considering I didn’t have to pay a cent more than I budgeted myself for the set and even the reference sheets are included.
I’ve had the .PDF versions of the books for some time, but they fail in comparison to being able to handle the LBBs in physical form. As someone whose career revolves around the preservation of materials with intrinsic historical value, finally having a set of these books means a great deal to me—not only because I know that at least one set will remain in excellent care but also because ownership of one of these boxes is like the OSR’s secret handshake that grants entrance into some bizarre inner cabal of owners.
Now I'm just waiting on a trio of old school d20s (numbered 0-9 twice) and a set of Zochi high precision, uninked dice coming later this week. I guess it's 1974 again at my house this week. Good stuff indeed.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I've been detailing my hexmap sandbox and I've got a few fens and marshes to fill. Normally, this would call for beasts like alligators or crocodiles to help round out the list of "things likely to eat the adventurers." However, my map is located on a part of R'Nis' surface that stretches between 41° and 44° latitude--a climate not usually very gator friendly.
If I was worried about rationalism and realism, I couldn't just slap fur coats on them and move them into my swamps now, could I?
No. Enc.: 0 (1d6)
Movement: 90’ (30’) Swim 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2
Hoard Class: None
This species of alligator is similar to its common cousin with one exception: the thick patches of wool-like fur that cover its scaly body. This fur and the creature’s fast metabolism allow it to range further north than its sub-tropical relative and specimens have been found as far as 43° latitude. A woolly gator’s fur also acts as a superior form of camouflage. This fur collects algae and stray water plants, forming a mat of greenery that disguised the gator in its surroundings. When amongst similar plant growth, woolly gators surprise their prey on a 1-3 in 6.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Some of these related anecdotes will be short and sweet; others will require a bit more text to relate. While not all of them may be especially interesting to everyone, I will attempt to stick to only telling tales that I think have some entertainment value. If you’re the type of person who likes Easter eggs or delights in the reason why the phrase “Stop her, she’s got Mike’s keyboard,” is so funny, this series of posts is for you. And to start things off, I’d like to tell you the story behind Coal the bear.
On September 14th, 2001, just three days after 9/11, I was on one of the first flights out of JFK to start a new phase of my life in California. Having found myself out of a job after the web bubble burst, a producer friend of mine offered me a gig out in Hollywood. I’d lived in L.A. before and knew the city, so, with nothing keeping me on the East Coast, I took him up on the offer.
My first job “on location” in the film industry took me to Auburn, CA, where I spent nine weeks working on a cable movie remake of the TV series, “Gentle Ben.” The film featured Dean Cain and Corbin Bernsen, and, in the role of Ben, an 8 year-old, 600 lbs. black bear named Bonkers.
The shoot itself was a trip. One colleague kept calling those nine weeks in the woods “band camp” with good reason. Despite 14-hour work days, six days a week, the fact that I was standing atop a mountain under a brilliant blue sky for my paycheck was a welcomed change from the previous three years I’d spent in front of a computer monitor. Plus, just like summer camp, plenty of shenanigans ensued to keep the cast and crew entertained during our limited downtime. Not a bad way to earn a paycheck!
The highlight of course was regularly working with a very large bear. Bonkers was a most unusual ursine. He ate ice cream and chicken fingers like a stoned frat boy and had a penchant for jumping up and down in his trailer, resulting in thunderous booms and rattling steel that would occasionally ruin the audio track on a take. Then came the day when it was discovered that we couldn’t legally drop an eleven year-old kid down a mine shaft and onto a bear. The director looked about and, seeing my size, promptly sent me to wardrobe to be placed in the bear suit. I spent the latter part of the afternoon crouching next to a crash mat while our child star’s stunt double fell down a mocked-up 10’ pit, “bearly” missing me with each take.
That day was only the first of several which saw me standing in for our loveable bear. Thanks to some method acting and advice from Bonkers' trainers about how to comport myself, I blend seamlessly into the film. You’d never know it was me in the suit. As a reward for my efforts, I was allowed to pose with my co-star one afternoon during lunch. That’s me on the right there.
When it came to writing Stonehell Dungeon, I found the need to include a creature to help diversify the habitat of the surface level. So, as homage to my time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and my hirsute co-star, Coal was introduced to the dungeon. And, just like his real life counterpart, Coal can seriously mess you up if you’re not careful.
As one side note to my time in Auburn, I was shamefully unaware of the pulp connection that Auburn had and its subsequent role in this hobby of ours. It was only after we had wrapped shooting that I discovered, thanks to the book, Shadows Bend, that Auburn, CA was once home of Clark Ashton Smith. Had I only known at the time, I’d have gladly taken one of my few days off to track down his home and search the hills for his discarded carvings. Perhaps someday I’ll return to Auburn to not only reminisce about the shoot but to follow in Smith’s footsteps.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Speaking of Stonehell Dungeon, Lulu is offering a 20% "cabin fever" discount this weekend. The offer is good until January 18th at 11:59 PM GMT. Enter the code CABIN during checkout to receive 20% off your purchase. The offer does not "stack" with the READMORE2010 discount.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Dungeon Alphabet Now In Stores - Visit your local game store or our online store this week to pick up The Dungeon Alphabet! The Dungeon Alphabet compiles twenty-six classic dungeon design elements in one place to assist the game master in creating subterranean challenges. Suitable for any rules system, the entries are accompanied by outstanding art from classic fantasy illustrators, including Erol Otus, Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Jim Roslof, and others.The book is currently listed as
UPDATE: Noble Knight seems to have removed The Dungeon Alphabet from their website. I'm uncertain of why, but, judging from the sale's rank of the book yesterday, it's conceivable that they are out of stock at the moment.
UPDATE II: Amazon has the book in stock but with a 3-5 week shipping wait. Those not wishing to wait so long might want to seek other venues.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tucked away in the back of one of those folders, I chanced upon a map that I'd forgotten I still had. It is the first giant city map I ever drew and, while the exact year of its creation escapes me, it can be no earlier than 1985, as Gygax's depiction of Greyhawk in Saga of the Old City influenced a lot of this city's design.
The map consists of 6 pieces of 8.5 x 11 graph paper held together with Scotch tape and illustrated with a mix of pencil and permanent markers. All the buildings are numbered but I can't remember if I actually got around to detailing and stocking the entire city. In fact, I can't even remember the name of the place.
Like any good walled city, this one is composed of several different districts and quarters. The reason I know that Saga of the Old City influenced my design is because a few (the Slum, River, and Foreign) are taken right from the book.The northeast section of the city, which is comprised of the Low District, the College District, the Slum District, the High District, the Magic District, and the Palace.
Every time I look back on this city, I remember the summer that I spent drawing it and the wide-eyed enthusiasm for the hobby that gripped me at that time. Some of that enthusiasm can never quite be replaced, but the map still gets me excited to visit it. While I wouldn't use this map as it is now, there remains plenty of details to re-purpose back into the campaign world--which is why I've kept it for so long. That and the nostalgia it gives me in looking upon it again.
Monday, January 11, 2010
As I mention previously, I’m uncertain if I’ll ever be completely comfortable giving in to the wahoo attitude, but that doesn’t prevent me from trying to escape the classes' rut. Even if none of them ever see the light of day in game play, they keep the mental waters roiling. Creativity, after all, is a pond that grows stagnant if you don’t throw in the occasional rock or two.
These various attempts have yielded strange fruit, as some of you commented on regarding my Octopus class. But that class, although serious, was intended for use in a “dreamlands” setting: a place where the logical and the outré are intertwined. In a standard campaign, however, I don’t have quite as free of a run to create. This if fine though. I’ve discovered that the limitations imposed by the average fantasy campaign can lead to much more interesting results.
One such result is my Mule class. While it’d be unlikely that anyone would spend a year or so of gaming to raise their humble beast of burden to the lofty ranks of 8th level, it might be the thing for a jaded role-player looking for a challenge. On the other hand, gamers are an interesting bunch and there’s possibly someone out there who’d love to level up the first mule of renown in their campaign world.
In either case, while I can’t claim the class is without a little humor, it was my intention to make it as serious and playable as any of the traditional class choices, thus chipping away at the shackles of class complacency. After all, what else fits in to a standard dungeon expedition better than the always-welcome pack mule?
Would I let someone run a mule in actual play? Without hesitation, if that’s what they wanted and were aware of the challenges such a class has to overcome. The stories, laughter, and fond memories that might result from a PC mule in the party would be worth the risk. And those things are the reasons we chose this pastime in the first place.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
I'd like thank Joesph Goodman, David "Zeb" Cook, Erol Otus, Elizabeth Bauman, Peter Bradley, Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Jesse Mohn, Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof, Chad Sergesketter, Chuck Whelon, and Mike Wilson for making the book possible. Special thanks also go to all of you who've been fans of the Alphabet since it made its first humble appearance on this blog back in 2008.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Strangely, as I’ve grown older, I’ve adopted a less tyrannical approach to gaming. Instead of outright snobbery, I now meet such desires with a live-and-let-live attitude—provided the player himself isn’t a complete affront to common courtesy and can play and share well with others. I’m not above such occaisonal flights of fancy myself nowadays. I did create the Octopus character class after all.
This growing acceptance for the semi-serious or “unrealistic” elements of the game has led me down some paths I’d previously be loathed to tread. Without this attitude, I would have never come to accept my mantra of “Stop worrying and love the dungeon,” resulting in a slightly less enjoyable Stonehell and a more staid Dungeon Alphabet. I continue to encourage this open-mindedness in myself at every turn.
It’s a tough fight, though. I keep oscillating between the desire to completely accept the absurd and my previous well-intentioned but straight-laced mindset. I’ve strapped myself to the bungee and made it to edge of the bridge, but I just can’t quite jump.
Some may not see this as a problem. Others might even interpret the desire to open my mind to the outré as the first step toward game degeneracy, convinced that such a path leads only to Arduin-like levels of madness—TIE Fighters strafing wizard’s towers and the like. I can’t fault these folks, for I was once like them.
Now, however, I find myself reading some of the accounts of older games and thinking that we’ve definitely lost a part of this hobby’s rich heritage to the expectations of realism and common sense. One has to look no further than Men & Magic (“There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top”) or “Excerpt from an Interview with a Rust Monster” (The Dragon #14) to realize there once was a very cavalier attitude to role-playing which has nothing to do with armored guys on horseback.
One of the reasons I’ve found solace in the OSR is because that “Devil may care” outlook isn’t completely lost here. As the trend of science-fantasy campaigns demonstrates, the OSR is a lot more accepting of weird ideas tied together with nothing more than some house rules and good intentions. Unfortunately, we’re not completely without prejudice.
I remember reading a thread on one of the boards some months back regarding character classes to be included in a new version of one of the retro-clones. The usual suspects were suggested: illusionist, ranger, paladin, monk. I was disappointed in the lack of vision these suggestions represented. Granted, these are the expected choices and the book wasn’t looking to expand any minds.
Regardless, it seems that we’ve allowed ourselves to dig a pretty deep rut over the last thirty-six years when we can’t easily think beyond the usual handful of classes. As much as I’ve determined that 3rd edition isn’t for me, I’ll give it a nod of respect for attempting to address this issue with prestige classes, despite their flawed (for me) execution.
Some may argue—rightly perhaps—that the game doesn’t need any classes beyond those already in the common parlance. This was 2nd edition’s stance after all: every profession can be portrayed adequately by role-playing one of the existing classes in the proper manner with slight adjustments. New, specialized classes just cluttered the playing field and overwhelmed the player with choices. But this mindset isn’t a benefit if you happen to like having a lot of choices.
With my newfound acceptance for the oddball in the sandbox, this battle of opinions regarding classes has become my biggest hurdle to overcome. I see the logic in staying with the established few, but the wahoo part of my brain wants samurai warriors, cavemen, crash-landed aliens, bounty hunters, goblins, and sentient polar bears represented in the party—so long as the players want them too. I know I have that gear in my head, but, so far, I’m just grinding metal every time I try to engage it. I can’t quite make the leap yet from “How Come?” to “Why Not?”
Not that I’ve given up trying, though. I’m continuing to tinker with the Crabaugh Method from Dragon #109. If I can customize and update that method to something that fits my tastes exactly, I know I’ll have found my personal character class Rosetta Stone. Little discoveries like the dwarven craftsman class from Liaisons Dangereuses inspire and excite me to keep working on a “unified class method” suitable for my own use. While this search remains underway, I’m continuing my own quest to find a personal happy median between the vanilla and the tutti-frutti of role-playing ideas and attitudes.
I may never get to the point where I can take a troll to lunch, but at least I’ve become unbiased enough to meet him for coffee.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
In other news, I’ve finally managed to clean my plate of responsibilities that I owe others for the near future. This is the first time in a year that I’m free of obligations to others and myself, and I’ve quite honestly forgotten what that freedom feels like. I might even start posting content of relative value around here again to celebrate. Only until March, though, because that’s when I pick up pen and start writing Stonehell Two: The Quickening.
I spent the morning answering some interview questions for a forthcoming article and had quite a bit of fun doing it. I haven’t done an interview since my punk rock days, and it was nice to have the easy part of a writing assignment for a change. The interview also put two thoughts into my head: One was that I’d be willing to do more email interviews in the future if anyone else gives a damn about what I think. You can reach me at the email addy over there to the right. Two was that I might do a “commentary track” for Stonehell Dungeon in some form. Like any writer, I put a lot of personal touches, in-jokes, and obscure references into the book. I personally like hearing the stories behind such things, but I’m also very much concerned that, by pulling back the curtain, I’ll ruin the enjoyment of the dungeon for some people. Also, it’s often better to remain silent and be thought a wise man than open one’s mouth and prove you’re a fool. If you’d be interested in reading some behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the book, let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll figure out the best spoiler-free way of relating them.