Friday, November 30, 2012

Gaming Bookshelf Meme (aka RPG Book Porn)

I know I'm a little late to the party for James's Bookshelf Meme, but I'm just not ready to dig into client work for the day yet, so I'm procrastinating by tackling the meme.

My problem is that I don't really have one or two bookshelves I refer to most often. What I tend to do is gather any relevant books that I might be using at the time, and stack them just to the right of my computer (either on top my scanner, or on top my paper shredder which I haven't used in three years, literally). That way, if I want to go to Starbucks to work, I can just grab them on the way out the door and stuff them into my messenger back with my iPad.

Right now, I'm referring to Holmes a lot, as well as BX Red/Blue (for complete different projects), so they're unshelved and next to the computer.

Anyway, here's the basic overview with a few notes on the contents.

1. "Legacy" edition of H.G. Wells's Little Wars, The Complete Wargames Handbook and my digest Traveller books.
2. TSR's Star Probe Metagaming's Starleader Assault! and Trailblazer, as well as some Task Force micro-games.
3. Arneson's Adventures in Fantasy (don't have the box).
4. Dicing With Dragons, some Steve Jackson (UK) books, and my LBBs (again, don't have the box, just the books). BTW, at the far left is the AD&D coloring book.
Oh, and those are my Pantone swatch books on the far right.

5. Sci-fi stuff: SF modules, Judge's Guild Traveller Stuff, and FGU's Starships & Spacemen.
6. Nexus, Space Gamer and Ares magazines.
7. D&D modules.
8. Judges Guild stuff: modules and mags.
9. I.C.E. fantasy "Law" books.

The real problem in my home office is that it's a home office. My shelves are full of graphic design resources (books/mags/the like). And until I get the garage cleaned sufficiently to clear space for the bookshelves I'm planning, a lot of the random RPG stuff ends up on the floor...

1. This is the only stack of note here. It's the closest to my desk chair, and it's one of the most referenced. It includes: JG Ready Ref Sheets, the AD&D Dungeon Master's Design Kit, World Builder's Guidebook, Dungeon Builder's Guidebook, Rogues Gallery and Complete Book of Villains, as well as the D&D Stronghold Builder's Guidebook. It also has a couple of geomorphs references.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scroll Week Day 4: Preparing Quills

Yesterday, I addressed the acquisition of "raw" feathers, as well as the associate costs, etc. Today, I'll address preparing those feathers for use a quill

Cleaning, Curing, and Cutting

Once a feather has been obtained, it must be cured, cut, and trimmed in order to be used for writing.

First, the feather must be soaked (to make it more pliable) in preparation for curing. For the feathers of ordinary and extraordinary creatures, this can be accomplished by soaking the feather for approximately 24 hours in water that has been purified (by a cleric of any level). For the feathers of magical creatures, the water must also be blessed by a cleric of at least 7th level, and the feather must be soaked in that water for a number of days equal to the difference between an AC of 10 and the AC of the creature from which the feather was procured (e.g., a feather from a magical creature of an AC of 7 would need to soak for 3 days in purified and blessed water.)

Once a feather has soaked, it is tempered to give the tube resilience and toughness (making it less brittle). For the feathers of ordinary and extraordinary creatures, this is accomplished by first heating purified sand (through the use of the cleric spell purify food and drink), then removing the sand from the heat source, and third plunging the tip of the feather into the hot sand, allowing it to remain there until the sand cools. For magical creatures immune to the effects of heat, this tempering process is normally impossible to achieve, and will affect the success of trimming and cutting the feather (as outlined below).

Once the feather has been tempered, it is ready to be cleaned, trimmed, and cut. First, the barbs nearest the tip are removed, giving the hand a clean area to grip the quill. Next, the tip is trimmed to create a small opening at the end of the barrel, allowing access to remove membranes from the inside of the barrel. Finally, the tip is shaped (adding both a point, as well as a “slit” to aid ink flow). For the feathers of ordinary and extraordinary creatures, the chance of success for this process is 10% per level of the spellcaster plus 10% for each point of dexterity above 15 (e.g., a 7th level magic-user with a dexterity of 16 would have a 80% chance to successfully clean and cut an ordinary/extraordinary feather for curing.) For the feathers of magical creatures, the chance of success is the same as above minus the difference between an AC of 10 and the AC of the creature from which the feature was procured times 5% (e.g., the same magic user attempting to clean the feather of a magical creature with an AC of 5 would have a 55% chance of success.) Furthermore, if a magical creature is immune to the effects of normal weapons, the tools being used by the scribe preparing the feather must be of a sufficient level to affect the creature (e.g., if a +2 or better weapon is required “to hit” the creature normally, the tools of the scribe must likewise be sufficiently magically endowed.) For the feathers of creatures immune to the effects of heat (and therefore immune to the effects of the heated sand), the chance of success is similar to that of magical creatures (as above) with the AC modifier multiplied by 10% instead of 5% (e.g., the same magic user attempting to prepare the quill of a magical creature immune to the effects of heat would have only a 30% chance of succeeding.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Scroll Week Day 3: Feather Availability and Pricing

Today's scroll week entry will take a look at "raw" feather pricing and availability, while tomorrow's entry will address the process for preparing a raw feather for use as a quill.

Suitability of Feathers
The most suitable feathers for writing come from the outer rear edge of the wing of a bird and are denominated by the order in which they are fixed to the wing, with the first of these feathers (the “pinion”) being the most desirable for scribes. The second and third feathers are also generally acceptable, even for the more discerning scribe.

Feather Pricing
Though "raw" feathers (those feathers not yet prepared for use as a quill) of extraordinary and magical creatures are not widely available for sale, some varieties may be found in more esoterically-stocked magic shops. To determine the “fair market” price in g.p. for a raw (unprepared) pinion feather, multiply the experience point value of the creature (including XPs for the creature's average hit points) by the "frequency factor" of the creature as below:

Frequency Freq. Factor
Common .5 (one-half)
Uncommon 2
Rare 5
Very Rare 10

Feather pricing example - griffon (per 1e DMG):
Experience point value = 375 + 10/hp (w/ 28 average hp = +280) = 655 XP
Griffon = uncommon = frequency factor of 2
655 x 2 = 1,310 gp fair market price for a griffon pinion feather

Normally, “second” and “third” position feathers are priced respectively at 95% and 90% the value of pinion/prime feathers.

Prepared Quills
Prepared quills of an extraordinary or magical nature are nearly impossible to come by, but spellcasters/merchants who specialize in the trade (of preparing quills) are not unheard of, often demanding ten times or more the cost of a “raw” feather for a prepared quill of the same type.

The griffin image on this page came from Wikimedia and was donated by educational publisher Pearson Scott Foresman. I will posting soon about their donation from 2007 and the help Wikimedia still needs to finalize those images so they are ALL available the public.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scroll Week Day 2: Attribute Modifiers

I'm not sure why attribute modifiers aren't taken into account in the DMG regarding scroll inscription. Honestly, I can't even take a cap off a fountain pen without getting ink all over my index finger. I can't imagine having to spend days (or weeks if you use the BX time requirements) trying "not to mess up" a scroll. The real question is how much or how little modifier there should be?

On the chart at left, my thinking is this... after a certain point toward the "high end" of the attributes (in this case, around 15), the chance of failure "flattens out" if you're "following directions" to create the scroll. But below that point, I think it would get proportionately easier to screw up. No offense to those magic-users out there with the absolute minimum attributes required for the class, but a magic-user with INT and DEX of 9 each should face a much higher failure rate for successful scroll creation than a magic-user with INT and DEX of 18 each, regardless of the level of the spellcaster or the spell. BTW, modifiers are cumulative, so yes... a spellcaster with a DEX and INT of 9 each would modify their chance of success by -150%!)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Scroll Week Day 1: Number of Spells per Scroll

Ever since I wrote the post Scrutinizing the Scroll: Papyrus, Parchment and Vellum back in February of this year, it has continually been the most-viewed page in the history of this blog. With Comprehending the Quill and Investigating Ink, it's formed a trilogy that I hope someday finds life as a stand-alone supplement with a comprehensive approach to scroll creation for OSR editions (generically). After all, no matter which old-school edition you prefer, the rules regarding scroll creation are skimpy at best. So with that in mind, I put forth this week's post to cover some of the bases that I feel are uncovered by the rulebooks, but easily addressed. Today, I'll address the need for rules regarding the number of spells that may be inscribed on a single scroll...

Scroll Space Requirements

More than one spell may be inscribed on a single piece of papyrus, parchment, or vellum. However, the total space required for inscription is dependent upon the level and type of spells being inscribed, as well as the level of the spellcaster inscribing the scroll.

The maximum number of spells that a spellcaster may inscribe on a standard-sized sheet is a sum of spell levels no greater than the level of the spell caster (e.g., a 9th level magic-user may inscribe one 4th level spell and one 5th level spell on the same page, but may not inscribe two 5th level spells on the same page).

The maximum number of spells allowed on a standard-sized sheet (while not accounting for the scribe's spellcasting level) is a sum of spell levels no greater than 20 (e.g., two 9th level spells and one 2nd level spell would fit on the same scroll, but two 9th level spells and one 3rd level spell would not.)

Scrolls requiring more space must utilize a larger sheet, rather than a series of “attached” sheets. Any attempt to glue or bind multiple sheets together will cause impurities and “blemishes” to the scroll’s surface, hindering or possibly even nullifying the intended effects of the scroll.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Another Re-worked Illustration

The effed-up inkjob on this one's been bugging me for a while. I finally had a chance to re-do it the other day while my computer was tied up for a big-azz client upload to YouTube. Oh, and the jacked-up wizard in the original needed re-working too. And I feel like the fighter is now looking at the beast rather than the jacked-up wizard. So... uh... this needed a lot more work than I first let on.

Missed the other re-works?
- See the original post (the re-drawn jenglot and kala)
- See the re-drawn redcap goblins

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Flayer Chimp?

I had some time on the phone yesterday while I was on hold with Bank of America, waiting to rectify a fraudulent charge because some piece of hill giant excrement stole my wife's debit card number. The other charges, card replacement, etc. were taken care of a month or so ago when this happened; there was one charge that we didn't catch in time, and so I was on the phone. Anyway, there was a pad a pen on the table in front of me... so I drew. When I'm bored or goofing off, and don't know what to draw, I have a tendency to start with mouth tentacles and work out from there. It's actually how the giant flayer beetle developed. I'm not going to stat up this "flayer chimp," but feel free to for yourselves... if it's just gnawing away inside you to do so.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Oe/BX/1E Monster: Bloodgill

This past Saturday, I started digging through my posts (from the "back office" side of the blog) to see if there were any old posts that I'd starting prepping and hadn't finished, or I'd completely prepped but not posted. Well lo and behold, there were a few, including what were intended to be Monster of the Week posts. Today's monster is a genetic relative of the bloodbeast, a monster originally intended for Starmasters, but now slated for inclusion (along with the bloodgill) in the Creature Compendium.

Bloodgills are an amphibious creature resembling a large two-legged frog (no forelimbs) with bulging reddish-brown eyes, pale green skin and spotted bellies. They breathe with the assistance of a dually capable set of gills (in water and on land), and while they are adequate swimmers, on land they are more than capable jumpers, able to leap as high as 10'.

Their sharp teeth and gripping jaws allow them to latch on to prey in order to suck its blood. Each melee round after a bloodgill has latched onto its prey (per a successful "to hit" roll) it will continue to suck the blood out of a victim at a rate equal to the number of hit points of damage it score during its initial attack. It will continue to drink until it has had its fill (a number of points equal to three times the bloodgill's hit points) or is killed.
MOVE: 6"//9"
% IN LAIR: Nil
SIZE: S (1' long)
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

HIT DICE: 1/2*
MOVE: 60' (90')
ATTACKS: 1 bite + special
SAVE AS: Fighter: 1

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mongolian Adventure Update: Pre-gen NPCs Download

I'm doing the best I can to stay focused on finishing up my thoughts for William's Mongolian Adventure Design Contest at his Ramblings of a Great Khan blog. I think my thoughts are getting too domain-level for my own good. In trying to help myself focus, I created a page of NPC fighters (levels 1-6) to use as support material. I thought maybe if I gave myself some characters to work from, I could focus story. No such luck yet. I'm going ahead and making it downloadable here for whoever thinks it might help them as well.

Click here to download a free PDF of these Pre-generated NPC Fighters of the Steppe from MediaFire.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Classic Rock Song Titles I'd Like to See as D&D Modules

This is an idea that came to me back in late summer of this year. I was listening to "Man on the Silver Mountain" by Rainbow/Dio, and I starting thinking about how both Metal and Prog Rock are inclined to title (and write) songs with very "epic" subject matter... and how it all reminds me of module titles. So, in the same parodic vein as my Separated at Birth posts, I'd do a post for classic rock song titles that I'd like to see as D&D modules. All of the images on the cover mockups below are by a very cool Russian painter named Nicholas Roerich (October 9, 1874 – December 13, 1947). Very cool stuff!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

d30 Feature of the Week: Magical Instrument Generator

I know that this week's d30 feature is a day later than normal, but it's been a busy week. Between work, personal life, and trying to finalize/finish/proof/etc. the d30 Sandbox Companion, I've slacked on my attention to the blog.

With the d30 Sandbox Companion near completion, I decided I need to figure out where my "focus" would be on upcoming d30 posts. I've decided to put some attention toward magic items. I feel like there's plenty of fertile ground there, especially if you consider what I think some of my d30 charts do best... take actions that normally require a bunch of rolls (like creating a sage) and reducing them to as few rolls as possible (like my d30 Sage Generator). Imagine being able to create a magic sword in just a couple of key rolls.

Anyway, today's d30 chart started as a simple "list" of instruments. I had the extra space on the page, so I went ahead and added magical effect information and--voila! A Magical Instruments Generator.

Click here to download a free PDF of this
d30 Magical Instrument Generator from MediaFire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another NaGa Demon Update Wherein I Cannot Say Much

I wish I could. I REALLY wish I could.

Just sent majority of entire character section to Welbo for review.
It's about 2/5 of the entire book. So things are going well.

Just wish I could say more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recent Acquisitions

Just a few things I've picked up recently. The prize of the bunch is Star Probe. It's a helluvalot of game in just a few dozen digest-sized pages. Not in stellar condition (pun intended), but got a great deal on it!!! Thanks to Welbo for the hookup on this one (and the Cthulhu edition of Different Worlds)! His friend was dumping a box of his old RPG stuff in favor of more room, and an interest that's leaned more toward comics than games in the recent years. Palladium W&A book was a 30%-off coupon @ 1/2-price books purchase.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1763 English Indenture

This is something my father-in-law bought a couple of decades ago, and he just doesn't have a place for it. My mother-in-law is an obsessive collector and between the hoards of items lining the shelves and walls of their soon-to-be-smaller home, I doubt there was really ever room for it. It's an English deed from "the Second Year of the Reign of our Sovereign King George the Fourth." It is currently in my hands, but he's looking to part with it. He believes he paid about $200 for it when he bought it (from some vintage document place in Ft. Worth, TX that he thinks is probably not around anymore), and he's trying to get $100 for it now. If anyone is interested. If so, just figure that shipping charges will be on top of the $100 (other offers and interesting trades considered).

Doesn't your fighter deserve an actual deed for the land on which his stronghold sits?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaGa DeMon Update

Good news is, the character class section is 90% complete, and it pretty much wrote itself. That being said, my co-conspirator Welbo and I have decided two things: 1) we'll let the game keep writing itself while the ideas are erupting and juices are flowing, but 2) we won't force ourselves to finish by the end of the month, for two reasons: 1) we need to finish proofing the content of the d30 Sandbox Companion (which is 98% complete), and 2) I have got to try to finish converting the submissions for the Community Geomorph Project. There isn't a hard-and-fast deadline on the Community Geomorph Project, but I'm a couple of month behind where I wanted to be on the DM Sandbox Companion.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Illustrations

There used to be a time on this blog when I would do a new illustration every week (the post was creatively titled "Illustration of the Week.") Then, when I started doing a Monster of the Week (or "MOW"), I sort of combined the two endeavors into a single post, especially since each monster is illustrated by me to accompany the listing. (If you take a look at the labels on the MOW posts, you'll see that "original art" is part of every one.) That being said, sometimes I felt like I was rushed to create the illustration, or did an inferior job inking it, or whatever. And now that the Creature Compendium is numbering over 70 pages (and almost 170 monsters), there are some illustrations that have become real stand-outs to me (the good kind), and others that just feel damn inferior. So I'm re-doing some of them.

Yesterday, I had a couple of opportunities to re-work a couple of them. The first one I re-did was the monster pictured below (a "kala" - an elemental-like disease spirit, originally posted back in April as part of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge). The new one (below right) is based loosely on a nice public domain pulp image I found, and the new drawing was quick and fun, and works TONS better than the original (below left.) The other image I re-did was the jenglot (also posted on this blog back in April as part of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, and picture top right.) The more I looked at that piece of crap illustration, the more it bugged me. To get started, I whipped out a new sketch (above right, below the original Jenglot drawing). Also, something I've been wanting to do for a long time, is a sort of Russ Nicholson inspired inkjob. Usually, I don't have the patience for this sort of intensive inking, but when you're watching the numbers slowly roll in all night for the election, you suddenly find yourself with that time. I think the new illustration (top left) is infinitely better.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Oe/BX/1E Monster: Wooly Dragonboar

As promised in Sunday's WTF, Armory? post, here's today's Monster of the Week. BTW, at the bottom of this post is a "sketch-refine-final" drawing comparison of today's MOW illustration, like I did on the giant two-headed snake post.


Wooly dragonboars are large, muscular, fur-covered, swine-like creatures with a mouth and snout similar in appearance to a dragon. Normally found in forested areas of sub-arctic climes, wooly dragonboars are sometimes employed as steeds by those with the patience required to train them.

A dragonboar can attack by goring at a victim with its massive tusks and sharp teeth. However, dragonboars are similar to dragons in that they are able to breathe a cloud of acidic gas that does an amount of damage (on a failed saving throw vs. breath weapon) equal to the dragonboar’s remaining hit points. Dragonboars in the wild will possess this breath weapon 100% of the time, but there is a 50% chance that any dragonboar being used as a steed will have had these glands removed, disabling the dragonboar’s use of the breath weapon.

MOVE: 12”
% IN LAIR: 10%
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Breath weapon
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

MOVE: 120’
ATTACKS: 1 gore or 1 special
SAVE AS: Fighter: 5

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jumping into the NaGa DeMon Pool!

A very small note to say that my co-conspirator Welbo and I have jumped into the NaGa Demon pool. Unfortunately, we like our idea so much, we're having to keep it a secret. Let's just say it's been a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG time coming for this.

What I can tell you...

It's nothing we've ever mentioned on this blog before.) So, it's not Starmasters, or The System: Expanded, or Riot Squad, or StoryCode AG, all of which are "ground-up" designs based on our own mechanics and systems. Instead, it's an OGL "retro-clone based" mechanic (hopefully allowing us to finish before the end of the month), in a setting that's been oft-talked-about, but (to our knowledge) never attempted. So, it is a retro-clone in the sense of mechanics and spirit, but it's not a retro-clone specifically, in that you will not see fighters, dwarves, owlbears, and so on. You will see classes, and you will see saving throws. More importantly, we're hoping that you'll see it and say... "Why didn't anybody do this before?"

I just hope that when it's done, it's playable.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

WTF, Armory?

So, with nostalgia for simpler times, especially as I near completion of the d30 Sandbox Companion, I was looking back at my copy of The Armory's 30 Sided Dice Gaming Tables. While the link link is for the first edition; I have the "revised" edition which was published during the same year as the first edition. Scattered throughout the book are drawings of various miniatures available from The Armory, an obvious cross-promotion measure to push the various miniature lines they carried. After all, the d30 was a novelty (and still is, I suppose, though I'm doing my best to change that), and the content of the Armory book is only moderately passable by 1982 standards. From today's POV, the book's content is so "thin" as to be laughable, and could quite possibly be the sole reason the d30 never took off.

In my copy of the book, the image above-left appears with no title, and it left me with the question... "WTF?" By comparison, the images in the first edition are each listed with the manufacturer (e.g., Citatdel, Castle Creations, etc.), miniature name (e.g., "Serving Wench" or "Seductive Wench Seated") and, sometimes, the actual item numbers; this would make ordering the specific miniature all that much easier. I suspect the lack of rights to name usage required they remove all references to specific trademarks, including cover references to Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, Chivalry & Sorcery, and Tunnels & Trolls. Especially since the first edition covers specifically states, "Use of the Trademarks NOT sanctioned by the holder."

So... trademark infringement aside, I referenced the PDF of the first edition of the book to find a description of this beast of unknown type. In that edition, the image above-left is labeled "Castle Creations Boar," which leaves me with one more question... "WTF?"

Let's break it down... the image appears on a page entitled "Commons Skins and Furs." While "Boar" does appear on the list, right between "Jackel" (sic) and "Rabbit," what the f--- is "common" about this boar? Especially considering the mouth is more dragon-esque than boar-like. I'm more inclined to call it a "Wooly Dragonboar." In fact, I think I will. And I'll stat this baby up for this coming Tuesday's Monster of the Week post!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The System Hits 5,000 Downloads!!!!!
(+Other Free RPG Downloads)

It's been a while 'round these parts since I've mentioned The System, my universal RPG written originally in the mid-80s and finally typeset and published in February of last year, but the PDF downloads have now topped the 5,000 mark! That's 5,000 folks who've downloaded a free PDF copy of The System from MediaFire,, not including any Lulu or 1km1kt downloads.

Here's something ironic... though I wrote the game originally in the mid-80s (pre-GURPS, but post-Champions), and though the PDF has now hit 5,000 downloads and has been floating around the interweb for about 1-1/2 years, I've only recently seen anyone out there talk about The System. About a month ago, RPG4FREE, a Portuguese-language blog, posted about it. (BTW, you'll have to hit the "translate" button if you don't read Portuguese). Heder (the host over there) said some rather kind words about it... "The System... presents a system of simple rules, which fits in less than 30 pages, but is built on a solid enough to be capable of magnifications without becoming a patchwork of contradictory," and "Highly recommended for general interested in versatility and strong candidate to replace GURPS as my main system." (The translation is by Google Translate; I'm sure it flows better in its original Portugese.)

As per my previous 1K-interval blog posts, I have to thank Chris's Compendiums of Free Role-Playing Games, John Kim's Free RPGs on the Web, and Rob Lang over at 1KM1KT (1,000 Monkeys, 1,000 Typewriters), all of whom have taken on the vocation of helping rule-makers and home-brewers to get their work out there. Rob even goes above and beyond, working double-duty with the 24 Hour RPG competition, and triple-duty with the Game Chef competition.

• If you want the full story on The System, check out this post.
• To download a free PDF from MediaFire, click here.
• To buy a print copy of The System from Lulu, head over here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

d30 Feature of the Week: Temple Generator
+ d30 Sandbox Companion Update

I'm getting so freakin' close to finishing the content for the d30 Sandbox Companion! But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of proofreadin' and introduction writin' to be done. I did make good headway this week, though. The Hireling/Henchman Recruitment pages (at left) took a lot of work to get right (though I still got some splainin' to do). And the Temple Generator (above) took longer than I thought it would, but also feels pretty detailed considering its essentially only 2 very "straightforward" d30 tables (as opposed to something more structurally complicated like the Hireling/Henchman Recruitment pages).

So what's left?
- Master Wilderness Mapping Key
- Suggested Monster Lairs by Geography/Level
- Shop Stocker
- "How to Use This Book" Section
- Back Cover copy
- Proofreading/Polishing

Yep! That's it!

Click here to download a free PDF of the d30 Temple Generator from MediaFire.