Thursday, May 30, 2013


Last Saturday was four years of blogging for me.  I just posted my 50th silhouette post.  I even managed to reach Pundit level.  But there is another milestone coming up.  This post is my 973rd.  That means, at a rate of a post about every other day, I'll be at 1000 in 2 months.

I know there are folks that have more posts than that or have been around for longer, but for me and my personality it feels like a big achievement.

I've had an idea for a while now that I would make some sort of publication on my 1000th post.  I figured I would let you know rather than just spring it out of nowhere (though I hate even announcing it because I can feel the fear welling up inside and the desire to procrastinate this off to some other unspecified time).

I love the blogs as an ongoing conversation and don't like the idea that to be a part of our hobby seriously you have to publish something.  That being said, there is a time for looking over all the conversations you've had and trying to build something from the whole.  A second level of making.  And with 1000 posts I think there should be plenty of meat here to make something larger than a sum of the separate posts that make it up.  So, that's what I'm aiming for.

The idea is a book to help DMs get a game going on a Friday night.  Tools basically.  And probably aimed more at the newer DM (experienced folks have probably already crafted similar tools out of necessity).  My current plan is to put it up on Lulu as a free download and a hardcover at cost.  Maybe someday I can revise this and get some awesome art and charge for it, but for now I just want to get a solid draft out the door.

There are still a few tools I don't have worked out yet.  I hope to address them in the coming months.  But whatever the results, I'm putting a book out on the 1000th post.  No excuses.  I suppose I might start trying to dodge the bullet by delaying posting, but I have to get this done by mid August because that is when my work ramps up again and I'll be out of time.

I feel odd to announce this when everyone is talking about Jack Vance's passing, but what better way to commemorate him, and Harryhausen, by making something fantastic?

Okay, wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Silhouettes L

Here it is, the fiftieth batch of public domain silhouettes for your maps, charts, and counters.  Use 'em or lose 'em.

I wanted something a little special for this post, so how about some lycanthropes?  We start with a werewolf:

A werebear
A wererat
And a weretiger or rakasha
That last one's just a mashup of two other silhouettes in the pack, but I think it works.

Now a lizardman I cobbled together from a few images:

An ape from a tarzan book that could also be a yeti or shaggy goblin of some sort:
An alternate thief or perhaps an assasin:
a wolf rider:
I might edit that one later to make it look more like a goblin on a worg, but I thought I'd give you the original.

Here's a native with spear ( I think he was the son of Tarzan):
He looks a little nonchalant to me, almost like he's a surfer hitting the beach.

Here's a savage flying beast from Pellucidar which looks like it might be based on a Rhamphorynchus:
And two kinds of geckos:
A woman begging (or maybe doing jazzhands):
And the one you've all been waiting for . . . a pig:
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.  I also converted a few more images in that file to svg and renamed some files.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Misc VII

I got the opportunity to head into the mountains over the weekend and, as always, sitting at a fire surrounded by pine trees gives me all kinds of D&D ideas.  Here are a few:

Sasquatch Rarity
The reason Sasquatch are so uncommonly seen is that they are sexually dimorphic.  The males are actually sloth-like creatures about the size of a raccoon.  Each lumbering female has a harem(?) of 3-4 males that climb tall trees around the area the female is hunting/foraging and serve as lookouts. If the males are seen they are often mistaken for raccoons or wolverines.

Old Meat Poachers
Usually moving in groups of five they call "hands" these poachers seek to satisfy the tastes of the most decadent wealthy by hunting "old" meat, that of elves and dwarves.

Old Leathers
Used by Old Meat poachers, leather armor made from the skin of elves offers bonuses versus sleep and charm.  More rarely, dwarven skins are made into leather that provide extra protection against venomous creatures.  Rarer still, sometimes the skins of a beautiful elvish couple is used to make a untanned suit of soft, white leather, worn by the leader of a "hand" and offering even greater protections, thought not lasting long.

Hearth Ringstone
A cleric, or anyone versed in the Old Ways, can take a stone weighing a half-stone or more from the night's fire.  By incorporating it into the next night's fire ring they make that fire a hearth.  Each night of doing so makes the hearth magic stronger.  Undead and shape changers can not enter the light of a true hearth.

Friday, May 24, 2013

More Monster Making

I was hoping to do the room stuffing thing with my friends tonight, but I don't think I'm really prepared for it yet.  I did sit down and make this monster chart:
It's a roll-all-the-dice giving you the basic nuts and bolts of a monster.  I haven't even rolled on it yet, it might be entirely unusable.  But it was one of those things where I needed to make what I saw in my head so I could try it out.

I have used my dice drop chart a few times and haven't been that happy with the results.  I might try printing a bunch of the possibilities on business card-sized slip and draw from them like a deck.

Another idea is to prompt players with categories like "body horror" or "fairy tale."  Or maybe just with tones like "goofy" or "creepy."  I suppose those could be another roll, another draw, or, if you're being game-like anyway, rotate through them.  In other words, the first player has to come up with an explanation of their roll as something body horror related, the next fairy tale-esque, etc.  I suppose that's all assuming the stats and special abilities don't give an idea of what the monster is all about anyway.  Okay, I'm off to see about making the cards.  Have a great Friday night.

Update: 6:28: Acch, just realized the AC doesn't really make sense. I think I was mushing ascending and descending together in my head.  I think it can be an easy fix though, by switching the Size and AC columns.  That would give more size points also.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Serendipity XXIII

You may not have noticed, but my next silhouettes post will be my fiftieth.  I've been searching hard to find some extra-special ones to mark the occasion.  I haven't had too much luck but I have found other really cool images.  These are all in the public domain, you can do what you wish with them:

The first and last are by illustrator Frank Cheyne PapĂ© and come from this book.  There are more illustrations by him there if you like these.  I'd love to have them as prints to hang on my wall.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Room Stuffing

An idea: have your players help you prep.  You probably use charts to help you determine treasures, monsters, and traps that will be in different dungeon locales-- and finding out what the charts say is fun.  Also, if you use more abstract charts to offer more possibilities, charts that require a little interpretation (like this one) it's fun to do that interpretation.  So why not let your players have some of that fun?
  1. OK, get a hold of a bunch of cheap envelopes and some colored paper.  
  2. Determine a color for trap, treasure, monster.  Leave white for details and descriptions.  Cut the paper into slips still big enough to write on.
  3. Now, start with one category (would a particular order be more fun?), let's say traps.  Have a person roll and share those results with the group.  the group can bounce ideas off each other about what a cool or horrible interpretation of that trap might be.
  4. The person who rolled get's to ultimately choose though, and doesn't have to say what they chose.  They write, legibly, that interpretation on the properly colored slip and place it face down on a pile of finished traps.
  5. Everybody gets to do a trap the same way.  Including you.
  6. Switch to monsters and do the same thing.  then treasure etc.  For details, if you don't have a chart, it might be good to offer a theme or flavor-- something it would be weird to find, or funny, remnants of some former adventurer, etc.
  7. After going through all the color types, use whatever method you like to randomly determine what a dungeon room has and then draw secretly from each pile (they've been shuffled) to place in an envelope. 
  8. I think the DM should get a final trump. So, as each item is handed to the DM they need to read them and scribble amendments or revisions. Then place that rooms contents into an envelope and seal it.
I think this could be interesting because the players will have an idea what treasure and monsters exist out in the world.  It might become apparent that some treasures are less interesting than others and some monsters should not be tangled with.  They will probably realize that some rooms have nothing and some have monsters with no treasure.  I think I prefer blind exploration myself, and finding out all these weird and wondrous things that exist through experience,  but you don't have to use this method for every dungeon.  You might want to say "tonight's dungeon is made from the rooms we stuffed," though.

So, when you use the rooms, you just need a map and then draw envelopes randomly.  I think what I'd need to do is open the envelopes then and look at what monsters, traps and details there were.  So when I dm I can use those details when players come close (maybe the monster is sentient and will come toward noise, maybe the trap is on the door.  I might number the envelopes to the room the represent and leave any treasures unlooked at, so they'd be a surprise to me too.

How much detail you need to write on the slips depends on when you have the most juice as a creator.  If you're stuffing rooms with players because you're too tired from work to DM, you might just do the minimal you need to have fun with everyone that night.  If, however, you are doing the room stuffing as a fun and different event to have rooms on hand for a future night that you are too tired to prep for, you'll want to do as much work as you can on room stuffing night and have everything you'll need on the slips when you seal them in.  So, if you are making up new monsters, for example, you'll want to write down AC, HD and determine hit points and # appearing that night, not just special powers and descriptions.

Anyway, I think i'll try this out this Friday.  It's also given me ideas for a better random monster table and a detail table.  I you try it out, let us know how it works.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Serendipity XXII - Maps

Sometimes I find cool pictures when I'm looking for something else. These are all public domain, which means you can use them any way you wish:
I like all of these, but love the style of the last one.  It's close to what I was talking about in my post here, showing players what to expect visually.  I wanted to stitch it together for you, but after several days of putting off the post because of it I realized I was procrastinating and decided to just give you the halves.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Here is an idea I think I'll try with my group tomorrow.  First the roots of the idea:

1. James Raggi posted about having players put two index cards in front of them on the table showing what was in their hands (because he was tired of what characters had at hand being nebulous to their advantage).*

2. Cyclopeatron gave a little orange lantern-card to place on the table in front of the person holding the party's light source.

3. My friends have gotten very excited about Munchkin and it helped clarify things immensely when my friend got the deluxe edition for his birthday, because it has a visual way of showing everyone's level.

Now, I know you need to know someone's level in Munchkin because it's a competition, but it made me think of one of the most common questions my players ask each other: "How many hit points do you have left?"

I thought it might be easier to build a sense of tension if they saw how hurt their comrades were.  That the ever present decision of how far to push it would be more visible to everyone if they could see some more information about each other right on the table.  So here is a draft at a display to try and do that:
I figure I would print it 8.5x5.5 inches and have each player place one in front of them.  A paperclip could be slid along the track to indicate HP.  Obviously this only works for low levels.  I suppose I could ditch the numbers and just have boxes represent full, 1/2, 1/4 hitpoints or something to make it useful for higher levels.

I put a place for a shield card so players that can carry shield will remember they have one to splinter, also a spot to place a big d30 card.  I put those because in the heat of things players sometimes forget these options and their party mates will better be able to remind them.

The middle space is for Brendan's roles idea.  I thought it would be neat to make cards for vanguard, rearguard etc. and have players think about what they'll be doing rather than just where they are standing in line. They pick their role, grab that card and plop it down.  If they get hurt and change roles, they need to change cards.

I don't have an explicit space for light source, or what weapon players have (though that might be less important).  But maybe the light could be in front of all this.  Or I could just make smaller boxes.

*I don't think that I read that when it was first posted, but it has been years since I did.  I'm always surprised at how long ideas will burble on the back burner.

Update: Here's draft 2 with cards:
I don't think I'll need the "light bearer" role if we just use the torch/lantern card to indicate that.  I don't see the roles as set in stone, in fact what is so cool about them is that it can be an aid to renegotiating who is doing what; if you lose half your hit points you may want to shift roles and then everyone else needs to think about theirs too.

I think the shield slot can pretty much substitute for tracking both hands closely; if a fighter is carrying a lantern and a weapons, no shield, etc.  Of course the possibilities are endless, but what they are holding has been less a problem in my group then what each of them are doing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


92 is a good age, so I'm not sad, but I want to pay respects for such a fundamental influence on my idea of the fantastic.  Rest in peace. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

OSR on Boing Boing

Boing Boing, if you aren't familiar with it, is very popular web magazine that deals mostly with pop culture.  There is a essay on the front page today about the OSR.  I'll let you go read it.

So, if you read it the same way I do, it seems to be the exact narrative I was afraid was taking hold when I wrote My OSR.  The story is that the OSR was made up of nostalgic grognards that held the AD&D rules in OSRIC form until WotC noticed the error of their ways.

If the narrative shows up on the radar of a site like that I think it won.  Welcome to the history of your hobby.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Silohuettes XLIX

For your charts, maps, and player handouts, these are all public domain, so use them as you wish.

First, a halfling, hobbit, or maybe a barkeep:
When I did dogs I never posted a greyhound, so here's one:
Here is an archer or bowman:

and finally, a peddler, vendor or monger of some sort:
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.  I also converted a few more images in that file to svg and renamed some files.  Incremental improvement is the name of the game for me.  Otherwise, it would seem like too much and I'd be procrastinating on something else.

The last guy certainly isn't imposing, and can't even represent a character, but I just figure I'll offer up the best crisp, distinct images that could possibly be useful and let it work itself out.  It is really hard to find good stuff.  In all the years I've been doing this I'm starting to wonder if has added any new books with illustrations from the 1900's, because I seem to be scouring the same works over and over.  Ah well, hope you are having a great weekend.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Last of Your Kind

I understand the need and use of classes but they do give the sense that the world can be pretty cleanly categorized and cataloged.  But what if you could play a weird one-off?  This idea is for experienced players who have played all the traditional classes many times.

I'm thinking kind of like Elric, kind of like Ishi.  It's a melancholy, last-days type of thing, but also you have abilities and knowledge no one else has anymore.  But I don't have those details worked out.  I thought I'd throw it out to you. 

You could let people pick singular spells (like levitate) that they can do once a day, but then make them take a limitation normally assigned that class (no armor).  But that would make the Last One feel pretty familiar, like a hodgepodge fighter-mage.  I'm thinking something weirder.

What about mixing abilities with means.  So you might have thief''s abilities but they functions as spells (you have to pick a few each day, not all.  Do you want to be able to climb today?).  Or maybe the fighter's ability to hit multiples of low-HD creatures, but you must petition a power for it, like a miracle.

That's a little weirder.  How about we let this Last One use a monster power, like the Umber Hulk look or a siren song?

If the player is experienced they may have always wanted something-- like the beastmaster's ability to see through the eyes of animals. Sure, why not.  The idea of this is to let them do something different and new.  You could also make a chart with a lot of these possibilities and just roll randomly.

I would say they cannot train anyone in these abilities and, even if they have offspring, the traits will not be passed on.  They really are doomed to be the last.  Maybe even make it impossible for other experienced players to pick the same set of traits later.

I also feel we could make it a little more doomed by giving them something like a curse (and this could be from a chart too).  Something like: you can't die in combat but if you would have someone fighting next to you (or someone you know) dies instead.  Though it sounds powerful, that could be a real challenge to play out in a party.

What non-traditional abilities would you want if you had your choice?