Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Extended Hiatus

Hey all,

I will be absent from the blogosphere for several months. I have many and various pressing things to take care of in the real world. So y'all play nice while I'm gone...

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Top 20 Favorite RPG Companies

Thanks to Zachary at RPG Blog II, I had to sit down for a bit and consider a list of my Top 20 Favorite RPG Companies...

20) New Infinities Productions: Cyborg Commandos aside, the Town of Baldemar and Aesheba: Greek Africa, as well as The Abduction of Good King Despot and The Convert, were excellent Golden Age AD&D products.

19) Sovereign Press/Margaret Weis Productions: The first, non-d20 edition of Sovereign Stone was an excellent game system, later resurrected for the Cortex System; the d20 version of Sovereign Stone showed what could be done to make d20 different, yet still fall within the realms of the familiar. And of course, the Serenity RPG is the modern incarnation of Traveller.

18) David Hargrave: His Arduin Grimoire series is still a source of inspiration.

17) Golden Age Wizards of the Coast: Early Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons was a fun game, and of course, without it and the OGL, we’d not have Castles & Crusades.

16) Hekaforge/Inner City Games Designs: Gary’s final game, Lejendary Adventure.

15) Goodman Games: Goodman Games produced some amazing adventures with their Dungeon Crawl Classics line, and their Known Realms Campaign Setting is still an inspiration to me today.

14) Necromancer Games: For me, of course, the major definitive Necromancer Games products are the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Campaign Setting Boxed Set, the Player’s Guide to the Wilderlands, and the City State of the Invincible Overlord Third Edition.

13) Midkemia Press: An early and often forgotten publisher, later swept away in the success of Raymond Feist as a fiction author, many of their early city/town products influenced my own style of city and town design and play… and when I need a city or town on the fly, I still pull their products off the shelf!

12) Mayfair Games: Mayfair Games can be forgiven, mostly, for their execrable re-imagining of the City State of the Invincible Overlord thanks to the wonders they worked in their early days with the Role Aids and Demons lines.

11) Ral Partha: In my mind’s eye, many AD&D monster still look like they were carved from lead at Ral Partha (pre-AD&D license)…

10) Grenadier Models: … and those that were not from Ral Partha sprang forth from the minds of the sculptors of Grenadier.

9) FASA: The original Star Trek RPG, though a knock-off of Traveller, held no little fascination for me back in the day, and still today (though finding anyone to play it today is like trying to find a Klingon at a Tribble convention).

8) Kenzer & Company: HackMaster 4th Edition and Knights of the Dinner Table. ‘Nuff said!

7) Silver Age TSR: Some latter-day TSR products were quite excellent, especially the early Known World Gazetteers and similarly, some of the early Forgotten Realms sourcebooks. A few of the early modules are standouts, too, such as Ravenloft, while new games such as Star Frontiers, Marvel Super-Heroes, and Gamma World 4th Edition carved a niche in my gaming time back in the day (and in the case of Gamma World, still to this day).

6) Palladium Books: Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books have kept it real for decades; in my opinion, the kludginess of the Palladium system is not a bug, it’s a feature. And the Megaverse, for all its “everything and the kitchen sink” philosophy on steroids, is still awesome.

5) Troll Lord Games: TLG brought back the essence of the Golden Age with Castles & Crusades, which takes the elegant basis of the d20 system and marries it to the philosophical basis of AD&D 1E and B/X D&D.

4) Chaosium/Avalon Hill: RuneQuest was always the #2 go-to game for me back in the day, and such amazing awesomeness as Call of Cthulhu could not be denied. Though I rarely played CoC as-was, the extensive materials presented in the rules, the wonderful distillation of Lovecraftiana, always influenced my game play in fantasy, science-fiction, horror, or what have you. Sanctuary was the #2 fantasy city for adventure, right behind the City State of the Invincible Overlord! Plus, of course, Chaosium also re-printed several excellent Midkemia Press products, and were the publishers of the original Hawkmoon RPG.

3) GDW: Traveller, for better and for worse, has colored all my later ideals of what makes a good science-fiction roleplaying game. Twilight 2000 soaked up weeks and months of my game days back in high school. Latter-day GDW published Gary Gygax’s Dangerous Journeys: Mythus, which I still feel is one of the best fantasy roleplaying games ever — and Aerth, Gary’s world for DJM, is among the best fantasy worlds.

2) Judges Guild: TSR produced the framework and the rules, Judges Guild made them live and breathe and gave me a huge (albeit really quite small) world to live in. The Wilderlands took hold of me and never, ever let go.

1) Golden Age TSR: The TSR products that most inform my game style, if not rule my table by virtue of being the game played, were produced in the Golden Age of TSR1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, the modules thereof, and so forth.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flan Mythos, Part 1

Inspired by the works of Greyhawk Grognard, I'm going to post some of my own work on the various pantheons and mythoi of Greyhawk, as I ahve developed them. First up: the Flan Mythos...

IN THE BEGINNING…
Many stories begin with “In the Beginning…,” but this one does not, for the World always was, always has been, and always will be. The beginning of this story, of how the gods came to be, well that begins at an ending, for this World we live in is not the first, nor will it be the last. At the ending of the last World, there survived but two beings, or at least, seemed to be — Oerth, whom we today call Beory, and Magic, he that is named Boccob.

Then as now, Magic was always obsessed with itself, and ignored the Oerth, while for her part, Oerth sought to seduce and subdue Magic, for she was lonely, and desired a mate. To entice Magic, she created trees and flowers, bears and bees — all the plants and animals that stand and live upon the Oerth. A great work it was, the World Garden, but Magic remained unmoved and self-absorbed.

To feed the plants and animals, Oerth had created rain, and the clouds to carry it. Feeling that perhaps she needed something more interesting to catch Magic’s attention, she caused her clouds to burst forth with thunder and lightning, disturbing Magic’s peace. Seeking to remain aloof and meditative, Magic sought a way to stop the loud and demanding display of Oerth, and so he created Allitur, whom he sent down to Oerth to lecture her on the impropriety of disturbing his father, Magic.

For long years he lectured Oerth, walking among her trees and debating with wise coyotes and wily ravens, seeking to mollify her and get her to understand things his father’s way… to little avail. For her part, Oerth sought to seduce Allitur, thinking perhaps he might be a worthy mate, first with honey and sweet fruits, then with the purr of cats and the cuddliness of hares, and later with wisdom and knowledge hidden deep within herself, knowledge that even Magic himself knew not. But Allitur, like his father, remained unmoved.

Finally, Oerth herself took on form, that of the luscious maiden, and took for herself the name Beory. But Allitur — oh so wise and yet so foolish, so very proper and yet still so unjust — failed to be moved by her feminine wiles. Failed to be seduced… but understood, perhaps for the first time, what she sought.

And so Allitur went to his father to plead Beory’s case. Unmoved, but knowing that in his sons words there was wisdom, if not at least a cessation of the troubles wrought upon his meditation by Oerth, Magic sent forth a second son, a champion whom it felt could meet and satiate Beory’s needs. Forth from Magic then strode Rao, born of reason, seeker of peace and serenity… and great potential.

For an age and a day Beory and Rao dallied together in the world garden that was Oerth, and on that last day was born their first son, Pelor, the sun, born of the first fruits of love, shining forth upon all things, bringing goodness and kindness, love and light to all. Pelor strode forth into the sky as a symbol of the love that Rao and Beory then held for each other… and then the twin discovered that, for all their joy in each other, they had been lonely.

So for another age and a day they dallied again, and upon the last day were born unto them the twins, Obad-Hai and Berei, the Shalm and the Hearth. Born they were to be father and mother to men and women, and upon the day after their birth Rao and Beory gifted them with men and women to be their people. Obad-Hai took the men out to hunt in the World Garden, teaching them the way of arrow and bow, spear and axe, while Berei taught the women the ways of fire and hearth, fruit and grain, card and loom.

Meanwhile, Allitur, forgotten by the lovers, had wandered the World Garden unto the ends of the Oerth, which far in the West ended in fetid swaps where Oerth met infinite still waters. And there he was found by a young boy — a chance meeting, or rather, a meeting by ill-chance, for the young boy was none other than Ralishaz. The boy evinced great joy at finding another, or so he said, as there had ever been just himself and his father in their cave at the far end of the world.

Ralishaz led Allitur by the hand through the fetid swamps and misty marshes to a hillock midway between Oerth and Water. There, at the entrance to a cave black as night, where even the light of Pelor had never fallen, sat the boy’s father, a not unhandsome man who introduced himself as Incabulos, brother of Oerth. After lighting torches and setting the table, Incabulos offered Allitur salt and meat, mead and bread, then asked after his fair sister, and after the history of Allitur and his peoples.

Having no reason to mistrust his host, who had been most gracious, Allitur recounted the tale of Oerth and Magic, Rao and Beory, and the birth of Pelor, Obad-Hai, and Berei. Most interested was Incabulos in the creation of men and women, and their giving the gift of hunting and fire by his niece and nephew. Incabulos exclaimed happily at the good fortune and prosperity of his fair sister, and wondered aloud at what joys the couple might bring forth next.

Having the gift of Sight and Foresight, as he was the son of his father, Allitur answered, “A king, of course, to rule over men and women for all their days.” “A king, eh?” muttered Incabulos. “Well then, certainly, I must be off to visit my fair sister, for it has been too long since I have seen her, and I must greet this new… king.”

Inviting Allitur to stay at his home while he journeyed to see his sister, Ralishaz remained to entertain their guest. Three days after he left, the torches sputtered, and from the darkness of the deep cave sprang forth demons and devils, which held fast and silenced Allitur ere he could cry out. Down into the darkness they took him, and chained him such that his gaze fell ever into the Abyss.

Back at their manor in the World Garden, Beory and Rao eagerly awaited their third son and fourth-born child. Pelor flew high above in the sky, that every inch of the World Garden be draped in shimmering light at the birth of he that would be king of men and women. And so, at the appointed hour, just as Beory was to give birth, Incabulos arrived at their door and knocked three times.

Berei answered the door, and saw there a man she knew not, but who claimed to wish to pay his respects to the parents and the newborn king. As such had been the case for many long days, she thought little of letting the man in — and as in those days, it men were permitted at the birth of a child, had no worries to let him enter the birthing chamber, where the many chiefs of the clans then stood, ready to welcome their king.

As he entered the room, he swiftly strode to his sisters side, grinned down at her with a lizard’s smile, and greeted her. “Hello. Dear. Sister!” Beory’s eyes went wide with recognition and horror at that-which-should-not-be, but too late! For with each word Incabulos breathed forth his plagues, poison, and hatred. Strong and mighty were the chiefs of men in those days, but struck dead they were, ere their bodies fell to the ground.

Sickened were the others, Beory and Rao and Berei. Three anguished cries gave the newborn babe, ere he died… though being the scion of Oerth and Magic as he was, he could not ever truly die, and so rather than dying, he became death! And rather than the king of men, he became the death of men, for to that point men and women had not known death, only life. And so was born into the world Nerull, death incarnate, born of Oerth and Peace but born in Plague and Evil.

And so to the tears of mother and maiden Incabulos laughed and he fled the manor. As he ran through the countryside horror and screams accompanied him, for all women then filled with child lost their unborn young, and all those sleeping woke screaming in terror at the nightmares they beheld in their once unblemished dreams.

Obad-Hai, then hunting to fill the tables for the great feast to follow the birth of his brother, felt the cries of his mother and sister, of the men and women in his charge, and quickly caught the trail of the evil-doer. Him he followed across the length and breadth of the World Garden and beyond to exact vengeance. Three times they fought, and twice Incabulos struck Obad-Hai and fled again.

Their first battle took place in the far South, amid smoky mountains and rivers and lava. There Incabulos struck Obad-Hai with his bastard sword wrought of un-Oerthly iron, and Obad-Hai’s blood fell to the ground in two places — upon a vein of mithral and a stream of lava. Forth from these points instantly sprang Bleredd Metal-Maker and Joramy Fire-Hair, who together stood above their father and fought back Incabulos ere he fled. But, as he struck Obad-Hai, so too had Obad-Hai struck Incabulos with his spear — and when the black ichor that stood in its stead for blood struck the ground, forth sprang evil monsters of fire and flame, giants of fire and firenewts, salamanders and hell hounds.

After resting and regaining his strength, Obad-Hai took up the hunt again, with Bleredd and Joramy at his sides. He followed the villain to the uttermost North, where he trapped him in a crook of a fair river in a high mountain glen. There the three fought one, until again Incabulos struck Obad-Hai a terrible blow. His blood flew east and west, upon the mountainside and into the sweet waters of the fair river — there from sprang forth Ulaa Mountain-Mother and Zodal Hope-Bringer, who together with their exhausted brother and sister, protected their father ere Incabulos fled. Again, even as Incabulos struck Obad-Hai, so too did the Shalm return the favor, and forth from the black ichor that struck the shadowy caves and murky marsh strode forth grimlocks and grues, meazels and mites.

During this, the Great Hunt, as Obad-Hai and his sons and daughters sought out Incabulos, two other great battles occurred — Beory and Berei fought with their son and brother, Nerull, for the souls of men and women, while Rao sought out his missing brother in the depths of the Abyss.

For even moments after he was born, Nerull sought to claim his subjects, men and women, in the only way he knew — death. Using cunning and wisdom, Beory and Berei sought to dissuade Nerull from his purpose, as the deaths of every man and women would mean an end to all their plans, and all futures.

First they asked of him, “How then oh King-Of-Death, will you collect your subjects?”

Being still young and new, and not truly born to purpose, Nerull thought long and hard on the subject, until the kernel of an idea planted in the fevered dreams left by Incabulos bore poisonous fruit. Grinning — as only Nerull, lacking of lips and humor, might grin — he happily went to the smithy, and there made for himself his scythe, Life Drinker, forged to reap a harvest of souls. He proudly returned to his mother and sister and showed them his new weapon that glittered evilly in the light.

Second they asked him, “Where then, oh Reaper of Flesh, will you keep the souls of your subjects — for there is no room for the Dead in the World Garden?”

This question stumped Nerull for some time, as he knew the World Garden extended to the ends of the Oerth, and beyond was the endless still Ocean. He knew the world above was home to his grandfather, Magic, and sought not to challenge him. And then, using the reason granted him by his father, and the shadow of a dream left by Incabulos, he came upon an idea…

Meanwhile, horrified at the birth of Death, serenity shattered and peace a lost dream, Rao had lost all reason and fled the manor. After a time he found himself beside the Great Sweet Waters, which were near the heart of the World Garden. He stared into those mirror-like waters and found himself again, reflected in the light of his son, Pelor, and reason and peace once again fell upon his mind. Too, he saw reflected the endless might of his father, which made him think of his brother, whom he had not seen in some time.

At a loss of what to do in the circumstances, for he had no knowledge or understanding of Evil, he clung to this one thought, that he must find his brother, who would, being knowledgeable in all things proper and ethical, know what to do! And so he sought out Allitur, and followed his path to the West.

In time he came to the great swamp at the end of the Oerth, where he discovered the hillock and the deep, dark cave. Through mischance and ill-luck on the part of Incabulos, Ralishaz had skipped off for the day to perform some minor evil or prank, and left the cave unguarded. Finding a torch upon the wall, Rao lit it, such that it glowed with his own power, and so he set off, down the winding passages of the cave, through the bowels of Hell, over the plains of Hades, and unto the verge of the Abyss…

Far to the East, Obad-Hai and his children had for the third time and finally hunted down their quarry, Incabulos. Mighty and great was the battle that followed, and many were the wounds that Incabulos suffered. Many monsters that blight the world today were born in that battle of his ichor, including harpies and hordlings, snyads and sea-hags, lamias and leucrottas. But finally he was brought low — but not slain, for Obad-Hai and his children did not have the strength to end him, for his Evil was ancient and of unknown depths even to them.

So they chained him, there in the swamps and wastes, East of the World Garden and at the shores of the endless still Ocean. They found a great rock, a stone unblemished by time or rains, un-carven by man and un-worn by worms. Bleredd forged great chains of mithral in the fires fanned by Joramy; Ulaa drove home the spikes into the virgin black stone as Zodal placed the hopes of men and gods upon the strength of the chains, that the Evil One be forever bound thereby.

Being born of Evil, the beasts born of his blood thought nothing of feeding upon his flesh as he lay supine and unable to struggle, and so every night his flesh and organs would be torn from him by his own children, even as they would regenerate by day to be once again rent asunder at fall of darkness.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Names of Dwarves from Disney

Whilst settling a debate with my wife about Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I found an interesting reference in Wikipedia to a pool of names used to choose the names of the seven dwarfs. Naturally, this set me to putting together a table of names to be used to name dwarves or, in a pinch, similar small humanoid creatures, such as gnomes and goblins.

These names work best for dwarves and gnomes if your campaign setting is lighthearted and/or fairy tale style; they work well in any case for goblins...

D100 NAMES
01 Awful
02 Baldy
03 Bashful
04 Biggo
05 Biggy
06 Blabby
07 Burpy
08 Busty
09 Busy
10 Buttinsky
11 Chesty
12 Cranky
13 Creepy
14 Curly
15 Daffy
16 Delightful
17 Dippy
18 Dirty
19 Dizzy
20 Doc
21 Doleful
22 Dopey
23 Dreadful
24 Drippy
25 Dusty
26 Edgy
27 Eggy
28 Farty
29 Fearful
30 Fidgit
31 Fink
32 Flabby
33 Frightful
34 Fussbudget
35 Gabby
36 Ghastly
37 Gloomy
38 Goopy
39 Graceful
40 Grumpy
41 Grungy
42 Happy
43 Helpful
44 Hoppy
45 Hotsy
46 Hungry
47 Jaunty
48 Jumpy
49 Lazy
50 Lumpy
51 Mealy
52 Mournful
53 Nifty
54 Nutsy
55 Pokey
56 Puffy
57 Queasy
58 Randy
59 Raunchy
60 Remorseful
61 Sappy
62 Scrappy
63 Shifty
64 Silly
65 Sleazy
66 Sleepy
67 Sneezy
68 Sniffy
69 Snoopy
70 Soulful
71 Stinky
72 Strutty
73 Stuffy
74 Stumpy
75 Surly
76 Tearful
77 Thrifty
78 Tipsy
79 Titsy
80 Tubby
81 Vermin
82 Wally
83 Weepy
84 Wheezy
85 Wimpy
86 Wistful
87 Woeful
88 Wormy
89 Yippy
90 Zippy
91-100 Roll Again, Ignore Re-rolls of 91 to 100, add a second Rhyming Name (see below)

RHYMING NAMES
A second Rhyming Name plays off the first name with a second, utterly nonsensical second name, which is added to the first through use of a hyphen. See below for examples.

RHYMING NAME EXAMPLES
Baldy-Waldy
Biggo-Wiggo
Biggy-Wiggy
Blabby-Wabby
Burpy-Wurpy
Cranky-Wanky
Daffy-Waffy
Dippy-Wippy
Dopey-Opey
Eggy-Weggy
Farty-Warty
Hotsy-Totsy
Scrappy-Dappy
Shifty-Wifty
Silly-Willy
Sleazy-Deazy
Sleepy-Deepy
Sneezy-Wheezy
Tipsy-Wipsy
Tubby-Wubby
Wheezy-Deezy

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sigh...

So...

You start with selling print product.

"What, no PDFs? You gotta sell PDFs, too!"

So you sell PDFs. PDFs sell well, far better than print products, so you concentrate on selling PDFs.

"What, no new print products? You gotta sell more print products!"

But, you say, print products don't sell as well as PDFs.

"Well, then maybe you oughta be in stores! Yeah, if you sell to stores, you'll sell more print products!"

So you bite the bullet, put together a program of print products, and finally sell into a store...

"Hey, why did that store get their print products before I got the print products I bought from you the same day the store ordered them!?"

::facepalm::

Customers. Can't live with them, can't chop them up, slop them into a bucket, and serve them as chum.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Original Blackmoor Maps

There's a thread on the Original D&D Discussion boards about the Blackmoor map, specifically, where it came from originally. There are different reports on this, apparently based on different things said by Dave Arneson at various times. Some believe the map coastlines and rivers are based on Lake Superior, others say it is based on old maps of the Netherlands, and some believe it may be a combination of both.

Dave himself wrote in First Fantasy Campaign that the maps were "...originally drawn from some old Dutch maps. Much of the rationale and scale was based on data found with the Dutch maps. Later, the game moved south and we then used the Outdoor Survival tm map for this phase of the campaign..."

One point I believe has been missed and has greatly complicated matters is that the well-known map, the map that was published in the Judges Guild First Fantasy Campaign booklet, was not, in fact, the map originally used by Dave Arneson! This map was created by Bob Bledsaw for the product; that the work is Bob's is indisputable, as he was the cartographer on all the large scale maps (the 18 region maps for the Wilderlands), and this is definitely his cartography style.

So that map, and all the maps made for Blackmoor thereafter, were in fact based on Bob Bledsaw's interpretation of Blackmoor... not Dave Arneson's original map, which presumably is what is found on page 12 of the First Fantasy Campaign. There, Dave writes: "In redrawing the first campaign map, I decided that it would be advantageous to make some minor changes along the south and west borders to link it with Judges Guild's "Known World" area..."

However, from the great differences that exist between the original map and the Bledsaw version, much more was changed; whether this was changed by Bob with Dave's blessing or they were changes by Dave that Bob made to the map when he drew it may now never be known.

A few points from the "original" map in comparison to the Bledsaw and subsequent maps:

WATERWAYS
The "inner sea" that would be later named "The Black Sea" in the TSR version was much smaller, and not (apparently) directly connected to the "Great Ocean" (which was later named "The North Sea" in the TSR version). The "Sinking Lands" thus were not at all yet sunk. There is no sign of the peninsula that is home in the Bledsaw version to the Egg of Coot, and in fact, it seems the Egg of Coot is much further to the north, though the "Firefrost Channel" already exists. The waterways of the southeast are much changed, with many of the lakes being moved south and west (likely to make room for the mountains, which were greatly expanded in this region), while the waterways in and around the southwestern swamps are most changed in the area that would be known as "Loch Gloomen."

SETTLEMENTS
Most of the settlements are recognizable; a few that fail to appear in the Bledsaw version actually appear later in the TSR version...

1) Vestfold
2) Blackmoor
3) Bramwald
4) Might be Maus, could be Archlis, most likely is Jackport, as it is most directly through the "Elf Forest" across from Blackmoor, though Maus is actually mentioned in the FFC booklet...???
5) Glendower
6) Sages' Tower/The Wizard Watch
7) Lake Gloomy
8) Unmarked on the Bledsaw map, this is named Hanford on the TSR map
9?) The northern point is unmarked on the Bledsaw map, though in the TSR map is named Kenville; in both maps the southern point is named Boggy Bottom
10) This is in all likelihood the Temple of the Frog, as the trail from Boggy Bottom heads to the Temple, though the islands in Loch Gloomen are changed so significantly on the Bledsaw map it is hard to be sure.
11) Not on the Bledsaw map, this is identified as Williamsfort on the TSR map
12) Again, not identified on the Bledsaw map, this is in all likelihood the location on the TSR map named Erak
13) With all the shifting around of the mountains in this region, I would guess that this location is the Regent of the Mines, though in the Bledsaw and subsequent maps it has been moved south and west.
14) This might be Southport, identified as such on the TSR map, or perhaps it is the meeting point for the "Nomads of Ten," later known in the TSR version as Whitehorse. Note that in the original Blackmoor, then, these would be desert nomads, not plains nomads... but neither are likely choices, frankly, as there are no major roads in this area! Similarly, the settlement to the south and east along the road is nowhere to be seen. Of course, with the Bledsaw maps being designed to match up with the Wilderlands maps, and the region there near the Valley of the Ancients being utter wilderness, the lack of these settlements and roads makes some sense...

As for the "old Dutch map"... well, here's some food for thought...

ORIGINAL ORIENTATION

FLIPPED AND INVERTED...

As usual, click to embiggen... and then look closely at the lakes in the western peninsula jutting north (modern North Holland) that is, in the flipped and inverted verison, the "southern peninsula" jutting to the east... and if you take the waters of the North Sea outside the Zuider Zee ("Holad") and make them land, say desert in the west and the Great Kingdom in the east... it looks a bit familiar, no?

HOW DID HE DO IT?
Of course, back in the day they didn't have even simple computer programs that could manipulate maps... all he had, likely, at best was a photocopier or mimeograph machine; at worst, he had an original copy of an old Dutch map of his own, likely from some old history book, which lacked printing on the back of the page (you'll find a lot of old history books with maps had these as fold-out insert sheets with no printing on the back of the map).

So Dave either took a copy of a map or an original map and did one of two things:

1) He had a light table (easy enough to make with a piece of strong plastic and a light) and set the map on the table, then drew on the back; or

2) He took a thick black marker that would bleed through the back of the paper, drew along the coast lines on the front of the map, and then flipped the map over and using the bleed-through lines as a guide, drew the coastlines and rivers.

I used the second method, with the thick black marker, to make the map above... Blackmoor at the center, desert to the south and west, Great Kingdom to the south and east, ocean to the east, Frisia to the north and east (and yes, that's exactly where Frisiae, or the RW Frisia, really is), and Duchy of Ten to the west.

Egg of Coot... note interestingly that the Zuiderzee, the extension of the North Sea that went into Holland, was slowly reclaimed for land through the Zuiderzee Works, a decades-long project that made whole new land. Once upon a time, historically, it had been land... and sank... through the Middle Ages. Sinking Lands? hmmm... and later, the land of the Egg of Coot rose from the seas (right were, on a modern map of the Netherlands, you would find one of the major pieces of land reclaimed from the sea)? More than mere coincidence, I think...

I also think that perhaps when he and Bob put together the new map for the First Fantasy Campaign, Bob went back to the original "Old Dutch Map," or something close to it, for inspiration to expand out the north... which had been truncated by Dave in his original map (maybe he only had the southern portion of the map available originally?) Maybe, during their conversation while Bob was trying to make this new map, one or the other suggested putting the Egg of Coot on "reclaimed" land...

Finally, I should note that Blackmoor proper, east to west from Jackport to Hanford, is about 300 miles using the original Bledsaw map at 10-mile per hex scale... the region of North Holland, which is essentially the area used to "create" Blackmoor using the Old Dutch Map, was about 30 miles north to south, from Amsterdam to where, in the Old Dutch Map, the coastline was on the north... so all Dave had to do was multiply the RW scale by 10...

Finally finally... one must wonder. "Duchy of Ten"... is it possible that the map Dave used numbered the maps on the bottom of the page? Numbered them as "plates," as many maps and illustrations were so called in those days? Perhaps, just perhaps, the "Duchy of Ten" was inspired by the fact that in that area of the map page, near what would have been the bottom of the page, were the words "Plate No. 10"...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Publishing 1E Stuff... Hmmm...

So I've got some 1E stuff sitting around on my hard drive, material I've worked on over the years for various campaigns, and in some cases, just for the hell of it.

I'm thinking I might work some of it up into booklet format to sell. Most of these things just need to be edited a bit here and there. I've been reformatting my Alternate Bard class, and so far it's looking pretty good... I just need to add some more flavor text, maybe an NPC or three, and a couple of bard-based magic items/relics/artifacts, and I might have something people will want to buy.

And hell, with a bit more work and it would make for a nice Castles & Crusades alternate bard, like I did with the barbarian. The C&C bard has frankly just never seemed exciting...

If I end up doing this, it will go out as generic 1E, and bypass the whole "which retro-clone system will you use" issue in the same fashion as Goodman Games and Black Blade Publishing...

More Dreaming Games

I'm trying to get this down while the dream is still fresh and has not yet faded, so it won't be very coherent...

The dream started in Washington, DC, where my friend Al and his brother Scott and I were trying to thwart an invasion of intelligent giant rats.

Seriously. This is about par for course for my dreams.

So there we were, in the Capitol Building, in the giant room under the dome (the one that looks like the Senate hall from Star Wars, which isn't really there) where all Congress meets, and we were trying to get the Congresspeople to flee as invasion was imminent and giant rats were hissing in the shadows, when the super-mega-kamehameha-giant rat in the form of giant Condoleeza Rice burst forth through the floor, reared up to her full height (which touched the top of the dome, even though she was only half out of the giant hole in the ground), hissed at us all, then swooped down and ate everyone in one gulp.

Fortunately, Al, Scott, and I had The Perfessor with us (not The Professor from Gilligan's Island, this was The Perfessor, another fellow entirely), and he also got et. He MacGuyvered a method to slice open the Super-Giant Condi Rat using a long rubber band and a paperclip, and everyone slid out to safety.

After that bit of excitement, Al was able to get a job at the Capitol working as a guard at the arcade next to the movie theater (yeah, Congress has the good life). I went to the movie theater to hang out, but couldn't find anything I wanted to watch. Al asked if I wanted to get a job instead, and I said yes. So we went back to Indiana, where he used to work as a guard for an old storage facility.

So we were wandering around the storage facility... it was old, ancient, one of these places that was built out of old barns and shacks, rather than the new places built specifically as storage facilities. Piled here and there haphazardly between the locked-up buildings were old books and boxes; most of them were crap, but a few were very interesting. One, for example, was a box that, from the cover, apparently once held a Dungeon Master's Design Kit. Not that 2nd Edition card game kit; this was for AD&D 1st Edition, had a physical design in the same fashion as the original DMG, and had Sutherland and Trampier art on the box... it was a classic TSR box, like the ones used for the Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert D&D sets. I opened it, hoping to see what was within, but it was empty, and I was very sad.

We looked around more and saw that there were remnants of other, similar D&D and AD&D products that never really existed, along with 70's style fantasy posters and other such books (stacks of those early 80's Time-Life Fantasy books, etc.) I thought this was odd, and asked Al about it; he said that the storage place used to be a printing company, and that in fact, they were the guys who printed all the old D&D and AD&D stuff!

So thinking maybe these guys could print stuff for me, I went into the office to talk with the boss, and found out that he was a hippy. His office didn't have chairs; instead you sat on piles of bags of rice, which were actually pretty comfortable. I pulled out a card while saying that I "represent Castles & Crusades, and we'd like to print our books like the old AD&D books."

"Cool man, we haven't printed anything in years," the guys said, as he looked over my business card, which was tie-dyed in color and for some reason had the dragon from the old KABAL ads on it. "You wanna see all the old stuff? We got rooms full of stuff that got printed and never released..."

"REALLY? Sweet!" I said, and we left our rice bag chairs to go and check out the storage units. We go out to one of the buildings, it's so old it's lopsided and practically falling down.

"Yeah man, you're not going to believe some of the stuff Gygax had printed but could never release..." he said, as he opened the first storage unit...

Then I woke up. ::Sigh::

Some elements of this have obvious origins in real-life events. I've actually been thinking about boxed sets lately, and wondering if I could find out who printed the old TSR boxes back in the day. I was reading the DMG just the other day. And I've been missing Al since he left after the wedding. Whence the giant rats and Condi Rice, I've no idea...