Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Minarian Magnificence

I blame Jeff Rients.

Jeff gets that a lot from me, it seems. But it was, indeed, his post on the magnificence of Minaria as a setting for Dungeons & Dragons that reminded me of those maps. And many, many pages of calculations. Man, what on Earth was I thinking back in 1995?

Well, here are the maps:

Minaria (north) and the Scarlet Empire (South)
Note: The Scarlet Empire portion was my own invention. Not terribly imaginative, really, especially as compared to the original Minarian portion.

The Kingdom of Hothior, which apparently was going to be the center of my campaign

Maps that I will not scan and show, mostly because they show the level of insanity into which I can descend when it comes to campaign settings, break Hothior down into 18 different major noble domains, and then each noble domain into its constituent hexes by hex quality, in order to calculate the population of each domain using a system written by Bruce Heard in an old Dragon article.

An example of the calculation of one kind of hex from one single domain:

Borderland (base 450) x (Flat (5) + Light Forest (-1)) x 3 hexes = 450 x 4 x 3 = 5,400

Doing this for every hex of every domain in that Hothior map, with each assigned any of a dozen variables, brought the total population of Hothior to 1,842,566. Exactly.

From this, I was able to calculate that there were, for example, 1,200 fighters of 7th or 8th level, four paladins of 11th or 12th level, 20 thieves and 10 bards of 17th and 18th level, 3,100 1st or 2nd level priests, and 1,840 wizards (five total of 18th level or better). And so on. For every class, for every level. This was all for AD&D 2E, of course. I apparently derived these figures using variants of the system taught by The Companions during their presentations at Gen Con (along with some additional wisdom imparted by Len Lakofka at some turn).

The campaign never got anywhere, as I worked on this when I first got in the industry; I still recall working on it in the study of the run-down crap townhouse I had in Kent, Ohio when I worked for Andon Unlimited. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered a vibrant Mystara community online (on AOL of all places) and all my efforts for some time went into developing my Mystara campaign under the handle Mystaros...

And yes, I'm still on vacation... reminiscing about old campaign settings is what vacation is all about. And, according to my fiance, cleaning the apartment, too... very important, major element of vacation. Sigh.

Maybe someday I'll return to Minaria.

Monday, March 23, 2009

James is On Vacation

Hey all,

It's been a long slog for me since I left Krause Publications, and an especially rough one of late. There's been a lot of heavy stuff I've had to deal with lately, business wise and otherwise, and I really just need to take a break. From everything.

Self-employment is not a permanent vacation, whether de facto or de jure, and even when you work at that which you love, is still work. More work and worry than just working a nine-to-five job for The Man, in fact.

I haven't had a real vacation since, well, I don't know when. But I'm taking one, starting today.

I'm not going anywhere, can't afford to, so it's one of those "stay at home" vacations. I might drop in at the boards, or I might not. I won't be checking my e-mail. Orders placed between end of today and end of the month will ship on April 1st, not before.

I'll be kicking back, do some reading, watch some videos, do some spring cleaning, and spend plenty of time with my fiance doing a whole lot of nothing. Might get some gaming in, for fun, though I'm not counting on that. Probably will not be online much, if at all.

So take care, and I'll see you all back here in April. Good gaming!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 10

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 10 (Tuesday, March 17)

Well, the group hadn't met for Gary's Greyhawk Campaign since November, so we had some catching up to do.

First, Travis made new characters, as he felt that Zymm and Kreegin weren't really fit for the direction the campaign was taking. The first new character is Zev the Necromancer, an elven magic-user of the Gnarley who seeks necromantic power (though is wise enough to never use his self-appointed appelation in public). The second character will be a monk, though as I dislike both the official 1E monk and the Dragon Magazine alternative (feeling neither works quite right), I have yet to write up my version of the class... so his second character is delayed.

Also delayed is Jayson's new character, the replacement for Orid, as he was unable to attend. I was, however, able to get him my new 1E bard class before we took our extended break, so he actually has a character prepared.

Unfortunately, most of the events of Session 10 have already faded to obscure bits and scraps in my mind; I need to remember to write out the session immediately after I get home.

The upshot of the session was as follows:

When they arrive back at the Wench early in the morning on Godsday 4th of Patchwall, and after being briefly apprised of the situatiun by Tarnish, Rufus spoke with Mort, Tarnish, and Kor (Elyas being banished in toto, he had to wait outside on the porch). They were warned that if they saw Adamond, they needed to report to Rufus or Burne immediately. Shortly thereafter, Zymm and Kreegin left town, deciding that they wanted no part in the brewing troubles, especially as the loot had been, well, non-existent...

Meanwhile, back at the gnome settlement to the south and east, Twidorek and Friar Pudge met an elf, Zev of the Gnarley, a grand and foppish fellow who seeks adventure. Twidorek decided to introduce him to the party back in town, as he knew they could use some magical back-up, what with Orid being still lately deceased. So the three set out to Hommlet, planning to stop by and see how Adamond was doing at Gorkh's hut.

There, Adamond had eaten a fine breakfast with Gorkh, and then together they went fishing on the river, as Adamond sought peace and quiet to think. He knew he'd raised a world of hurt for the party, and tried to think of a plan.

Back in Hommlet, the party was sitting alone, nursing their morning ales as the activities of the past day had all but emptied the Wench of custom; they would have been thrown out had not the ostler already told them they could stay through to the end of their pre-paid period (tomorrow, as it stood). Of course, Elias was still stuck on the porch, and likely would sleep in the barn, if his friend's actions had not scared even the stableboys.

Then, shortly before lunch, in walked Zert, Rannos Davl, and a dozen men, all ruff-looking types, some of whom the party recognized from when they were captured on the South Road! All smile and wave, hoot and jibe at the group when they see them sitting alone. Zert strokes his neck, where all could see the lack of a scar, due to magical healing provided by the Canon.

Elyas is sipping his ale as he sees a serving wench flee down the road toward the tower. He considers how Zert and his friends had just walked in, then decides to follow the wench to see where she went. Turns out she runs to the tower, and shortly thereafter returns, followed by Rufus and several guardsmen, Rufus with a grim look upon his face. He walks slowly east as they pass him to the west. The wench stops for a moment as she recognizes him as the fellow who got he friend fired; she makes an obscene gesture and curses at him, then runs after Rufus and the guard.

Elyas just shakes his head, "Whatever baby," and then looks around, just in case. He notices the wizard, Burne, standing atop the tower, watching Rufus and the guards going toward the Wench. He then watches Burne as he turns and looks directly at him, standing in the middle of the road. Nervously, Elyas makes his way back to the Wench.

There, all were peacefully eating lunch, though if looks could kill it would be as the grand melee at the Overking's Court! Rufus and his guards enter and question both parties, telling them he wants no trouble. The Ostler whines that he has lost a whole day's custom and more due to these troubles. Mort decides he's had enough of the Wench for the nonce, and the others follow him outside. He decides to talk with the Canon at the Church of St. Cuthbert. Perhaps that goodly fellow would have some advice.

Back at Gorkh's hut, Adamond is getting a lesson in fishing: silence is golden, and his yabbering on as he "thinks" about his situation has done him little good, either with ideas or with catching fish. Fortunately, Gorkh has been luckier, and caught several trout... when in walk Twidorek, Friar Pudge, and Zev. Adamond spots them... "HI GUYS! HOW'S IT GOING?" he shouts.

With a great sigh, Gorkh decides that fishing is done for the day. He reiterates the first lesson of fishing to Adamond "with the sharp point of a fang" as his pappy would have said, and then the five return to the hut for lunch. At the end of the repast, Adamond surprises everyone by saying that he will return to Hommlet with the three in order to turn himself in.

[Yes, everyone hopes there's a plan in there somewhere. We all plan to be disappointed. It IS Adamond, after all.]

So now four set out, back to Hommlet.

While en route to the church, Mort notices Gremag in the process of selling a mule to some local peasant. "Huh," ht thinks. "Wasn't Gremag on his way to Verbobonc?" They stop and chat with Gremag for a bit, and he claims that his trip was cancelled by the trouble with Zert, as Zert was supposed to be one of his guards for the trip.

Hmmm...

On to the church. There they meet Canon Terjon of the Church of St. Cuthbert. He seems to them to be a rather supercillious fellow with a dreadful lisp. Of note upon entering the temple, Elyas immediately feels uncomfortable, as though he were walking with a weight upon his shoulders upon a floor sticky with honey or glue. He does not comment on this, nor do any of the others comment of any similar feelings.

After discussing the situation with the Canon extensively at tea, including supplying all the information they had and the full history of their interaction with Zert, they discovered that no help would be forthcoming from the Church, for again, they had no proof; it was all a matter of their word against the word of Zert and Rannos Davl, and so far, through Adamond's actions and the way they generated such fear among the peasants with their activities during the Brewfest, they did not even have the support of the public.

When asked specifically as to whether he had healed Zert, Canon Terjon answered in the affirmative [Note: I've made Cure Serious Wounds a 3rd level spell rather than 4th level in my 1E games, to balance out healing more]. He said that he felt nothing untoward about Zert, and though he is no fan of mercenaries, he certainly seemed an innocent victim, and thus worthy of assistance. Remuneration for his services, of course, would be part of the punishment of the assailant...

Thanking the Canon for his time, tea, and not much else, the party left the church. They decided to make their way to the druid's lodge, and see what their friend Jaroo was up to.

As they were about to enter the druid's grove, Adamond and party wandered up to the tower stair, and Adamond presented himself to the guard, "I'm Adamond, I suppose you are looking for me. I'm here to turn myself in." Flabbergasted, the guard calls for reinforcements. Rufus and several other guards arrive, make Adamond strip down to his loincloth, and then escort him down to the cells in the basement. They search him and find his thieves tools hidden between his butt cheeks, but do not notice as he lifts then palms one of their own knives, a small tool lilkely for whittling. They cast him into the cell...

Upstairs, the other three are found by Burne. "Welcome to my tower! I have heard you have had such interesting adventures! Would you care to join me for dinner?" Servants enter with roast chicken, slabs of juicy ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, greens, honeyed carrots, and other luscious courses, in addition to flagons of ale and goblets of wine. An excellent repast. Of course the three agree. "Wonderful! Let's eat! While we do, maybe you can tell me all about your fabulous adventures!"

Of course, Twidorek does the talking for all three of them, and three and a half more besides, all between eating copiously from his plate and Friar Pudge's. For hours. He goes on and on, missing not a single detail, elaborating at length and twice over on many. Zev drowses after the long ride and rich meal. Friar Pudge, as usual since his torture, simply stares into space. Burne listens quietly, nodding now and again, eating lightly or sipping daintily from a goblet with his right hand. In his left, from time to time, Twidorek espies a small glowing blue crystal sphere. Zev, too, notices it at one point, which wakes him from his drowse instantly, as he can see it is an item of some sort of arcane nature. It glows blue during Twidorek's entire monologue. Then, as all are finishing and tired, Zev notes that it is time for sleep, and that the heavy and mediocre meal had done him in... he says this knowing that the last is a lie, for he had truly enjoyed every bit of dinner. And he was rewarded with a slight twinge of red that burst out from amidst the blue in the crystal held in Burne's hand.

Thanking his host, he begs off staying at the tower, saying he would much prefer to give his custom to the local inn, where, he says, it sounds like things have been "most interesting of late." Twidorek and Friar Pudge, on the other hand, decide to accept the offer of a night at the tower, and sleep upon fine beds quickly set up by servants in the great hall. Below, Adamond sleeps in the dark, cold cell...

The rest of the party is at Jaroo's. There they discover the druid and his aspirants setting up for a gathering, to which they are welcomed. The entire grove quickly fills with the mellow scents of the special herbs cast upon the fire by the aspirants (among them, Mort notes, leaf of the cannabis zindicus plant). All are given wooden bowls filled with fermented mare's milk; though they find its taste less than pleasant, they find its effects to most pleasing. Their discussion with Jaroo, however enlightening, however, is distinctly displeasing (and a downer, man). They discover from him that most folks hereabouts have been frightened by their actions, and their grandiose claims of the return of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Their adventures have gotten some local men killed, even, and apparently to no good end other than vendetta. They have fanned the flames of fear, yet done nothing to prove their accusations. "The local folk are simple farmers. People of the land. The common clay... you know..."

"..."

["What, none of you guys have ever seen Blazing Saddles?"

"Blazing what?"

"Sigh... nevermind..."]

Jaroo lets them know that he believes that something is going on; he has checked out some of their claims, and there is definitely trouble going on at the Moathouse, more than simple banditry. But more than that, he cannot say, and he is only one man...

After that, the evening turns into a cascade of colors, dancing, scents, and unfathomable chanting and drum beats. Mort wakens on a bed of boughs, a log right on the small of his back. He turns, and sees his leprechaun sleeping nude between two mounds... the large, heaving breasts of a lovely nude aspirant.

"Well, at least someone had a good time last night..."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dreaming Dungeons

As much as I am into gaming, for some reason I rarely ever dream about it. And I cannot recall ever having actually dreamed about being an adventurer in a dungeon... daydreamed, sure, plenty of times, but never so dreamed whilst sleeping. Of course, remembering the dreams of sleep in the waking world is difficult if not impossible.

But last night I dreamed of adventuring in a dungeon.

One of the most prominent memories of the dream is how uneven the dungeon was. The dungeons we design all tend to be quite flat, or otherwise even, and easily walked or even run through (provided lighting is available). Even natural caverns are all laid out flat, like some sort of modern cavern tour. This dungeon certainly was not.

The entry was twisted and shattered, and mostly vertical rather than horizontal, with no evidence of stairs. There was evidence of work having been done on it, but all for naught, as it had been affected by an earthquake, or perhaps merely a collapse at some point. We slowly made our way down the irregular pit with ropes swaying and creaking above us, thrown torches sputtering on various level places below and above. Exhilarating, especially as I am in the waking world terrified of heights and would never, ever engage in such spelunking.

We finally got to the bottom and there found several tunnels leading off. Most were worked, some were natural, all were, like the entry, ravaged by time or happenstance. Even walking along slowly was difficult, as we had to pick our way through shattered rock. It was much like walking through the spill at a gravel quarry, until we got to areas that were inhabited.

There things were more as one might expect from D&D dungeons; the ground had been cleared and in some (though not all) places leveled. There were doors cutaway in the walls, with actual wooden doors (though none bound in iron, I noted). It was at this point where we took stock of the situation that I first noticed the appearance of my companions. They wore leather armor with metal bits sewn on, some well tailored, others very random and haphazard, like Mad Max road warriors. Some had greaves and elbow guards, and all had helms (spangenhelms, some with cheek guards, some not) but none were outfitted in chain or plate. Clothing was heavy and of leather and dark wool, and I noticed then that the dungeon was kind of cold. All had numerous weapons of black iron and a few of burnished steel; the weapons were short, generally, with no great swords or the like, suitable for dungeon delving. All carried several round canteens or bota bags, and at this point we all had a drink, for we had been continuously on the move since we reached this level. I then noticed that I was outfitted similarly.

After a drink, we tried opening one of the doors. It was jammed or locked (though we saw no lock on this end), so we tried to force it... and failed our roll. And also made a noise that carried throughout the dungeon, or so it seemed, as the crash against the door reverberated throughout. Dust and small rocks also fell from the ceiling... a factor that worried us all, as much as the possibility that the crash had warned everyone present as to our presence. [This is something I definitely need to consider in my dungeons henceforth... even a simple action as breaking down a door might cause a cave-in!]

We finally got the door down, and rushed into the *lit* room beyond, where several filthy, raggedy men were cringing in the corners. I thought at first they were beggars, then realized that beggars don't hang out in a dungeon! That's when I saw the glitter of madness in their eyes, the cruel smiles upon their lips, and the sharp blades in their hands... berserkers! They then rushed us...

And I woke up.

I hope to dream soon again of dungeons... it has been a very interesting, and from a design standpoint, worthwhile, experience.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

M&T of the Wilderlands 1 Oddity

Well, I went to ship out the first copies of Monsters & Treasure of the Wilderlands 1 today, and got a bit of a shock. At first, I thought that the plastic sleeves that I ship my products in were too small (as that happens with polybags sometimes). But after trying four in a row, I discovered that the M&TW1 was actually too big.

Apparently, the printer had the press set to the wrong size; rather than the usual 8 1/2" x 11", the first run of M&TW1 was printed at 8 5/8" x 11 1/4"... too big to fit in the polybags. They barely fit in the mailing envelope!

So the first run will not be shipped in polybags, though they are still shipped with a board to maintain a strong envelope. If you receive a damaged copy, just let me know and I'll send a replacement.

The first print run of M&TW1 is very limited, merely 50 units, so ideally they won't last too long...

Monday, March 9, 2009

M&T of the Wilderlands 1 Print Available

The print version of Monsters & Treasure of the Wilderlands 1 has finally arrived.

Click here for information on how to order via Paypal.

E-mail me for details if you need to send a money order or check.