Monday, August 31, 2015

[Found Treasures] World of Snarfquest

Long ago the pages of Dragon Magazine hosted Snarfquest, Larry Elmore's comic series about the adventures of a strange being, Snarf, who was a Zeetvah, an odd humanoid race. The world included all sorts of standard fantasy creatures, in addition to the odd creatures such as the Zeetvahs; while most of these "Exotic Beings" were found in the appropriately-named "Valley of Exotic Beings," a few other such critters could be found elsewhere.

At one point the comic featured the brief depiction of the map of the continent and region upon and in which Snarf adventured. And of course, with my love of maps, I took it and ran with it... end ended up with a series of interesting maps, closely based on the map depicted, but slightly changed up, with a few name and other changes here and there...

I never ran a campaign set in this world; it was only an exercise in map making and world building. Maybe someday... as it seems like a wild and wahoo kind of world suitable for a B/X, BECMI, or Labyrinth Lord campaign. Or maybe that's just because I associate Elmore's work on the Mentzer version of Basic and Expert, and thus could easily see Snarf walking through the art in those pages...

If only Aleena had had Telerie Windyarm at her side instead of some nameless schmuck, she'd still be with us today and Bargle's skull would be a random bit of dungeon dressing...

Here's the map of the geography of the continent...

Here's an map overview of the world's regions...

Here's a map that focuses on the geography of the Westrian Kingdoms, the area where Snarf was from...

Here's a regional map of the kingdoms of Westria...

And here is the regional map for the Tyran Empire... gotta have an Empire of Tyrants. A great place for gladiator games, debauchery, and backstabbing...

And here's a scan of the original map as depicted in the comic series (Dragon #94)...

I found two little notes in the folder where I keep the maps. One indicates that there are 48,000 Whaven, the "Exotic Nomadic Tribes" of the plain of the same name. There are nine tribes, each with a different skin color... Black, Red, Orange, Gray, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and White. The tribesmen ride zebras known as "Kwags."

The other note indicates the ethnic types of the region. Wesmen are red-haired Celts; Whaven are tawny-haired Picts; Elani are black-haired Greeks; Gelts are tawny-haired Germans; Northrons are blond-haired Norse; Martani are black haired Berbers; and the Tyrans are a mix of Elani, Gelts, and Wesmen.

There is also a little random chart to determine the title of the ruler of the village, town, or city that characters pass through. Even the smallest hamlet might be ruled by a king... very points-of-light style...

[Found Treasures] Mystara Miscellany

Found two interesting bits from my Mystara campaigns...

The first is the map of the area around Arbanville, center of a campaign set in the Westerlands of Darokin, in the Malpheggi Swamp. A no-prize to whoever first recognizes the real-world region and era upon which this is based...

And someday I need to revisit that Westerlands region map with Hexographer...

The second piece is the rate sheet for the Evil Minions Guild. This was used during a HackMaster Hackwurld of Mystaros campaign set in the Black Eagle Barony (the BEB). The misadventures of that crew were remarkable...

I have also found a chunk of old Ochalea material, but as I know I have a LOT more of that somewhere else in the boxes, that will wait for another time when I can put together scans of all the material. The big problem will be scanning the massive 8-mile-per-hex hand-drawn map I drew of the whole island and surrounds... its on one of those huge Armory hex maps sheets, so I'll probably just have to take a picture of it and call that good. Maybe Kinkos has an affordable large-scale scanner; I'll have to check...

[Found Treasures] Gangs of Specularum

I'd always loved the premise behind module B6: The Veiled Society, though thought it showed only a fraction of the mob/gang activity that would be present in such a large city. When GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos was released in 1987, I combined the material from Veiled Society with inspiration from the gangs of Porta as described in the Powers & Perils: Perilous Lands supplement, Tower of the Dead, to create a full set of gangs for the city of Specularum.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what else survives. I had full write-ups of each gang, but have not found those yet. Probably disappeared with my computer from that day, or they might still be found on a disk somewhere, if the disk hasn't failed...

This first image is a map of the areas controlled by each gang as of 1000 AC.

This second image shows the relationships between each gang.

This third image is a map of the stronghold of the Minstrels.
As usual, click to embiggen any image...

[Found Treasures] Gamma World Map featuring the Yceea Campaign

I went to grad school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa from 1992 to 1994. While there I ran numerous campaigns with many gaming groups. One of these campaign was the Yceea Gamma World Campaign. This Gamma World setting had several influences. The two most prominent were from television and literature.

As one can see, the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series had a major influence, from the inclusion of a "New Chicago" arcology/mega-city in central Illinois. New Chicago, along with a dozen or more similar locations, were built by the Starmen, the Pure Strain Humans who arrived from interstellar colonies and re-colonized the irradiated Earth. The Starmen were the source of all Pure Strain Humans in this campaign, as all native humans were Mutants. PSH had spread throughout the lands, as the Starmen arrived centuries ago, had a civil war, and those who wished to live free from the kind but stifling benevolent tyranny of the City-State settled their own lands.

The other influence were novels by three authors: Donald Moffat with Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars; the excellent Budayeen Cycle by George Alec Effinger; and of course, the Horseclans series by Robert Adams, notably mentions of the Khaleefate of Zahrtogah. And so most of the Earth, or at least, the campaign area, was dominated by a vaguely Islamic-style culture, with Ahmeers and Sooltahns, Mahleeks and Khaleefs; as with the Khaleefate of Zahrtogah, rulership was usually held by those with the most potent mental mutations...

I haven't yet found any of my notes from the campaign, just this map. I hope something printed remains; all my notes were on the first computer I ever owned, complete with a dot matrix printer. I think I might have even typed up some notes on a typewriter I still owned. But almost 25 years later, it is unlikely that much else remains. I might just rebuild it from the ground up for a Mutant Future or Mutants & Mazes campaign...

Scale is 8 kilometers per hex, or about 5 miles per hex.

As usual click to embiggen...

[Found Treasures] Labyrinth Lord Known Lands Expanded

Here's a map of far more recent vintage: an unfinished attempt to expand out the Known Lands of Labyrinth Lord. I never got very far with this map; IIRC, this was from around the time I picked up Hexographer and started working on the Olden Lands. I was definitely going with a Norse-inspired section in the north, something England-like in the east, Mongols in the west, and Egyptian/Arabic in the south... but never got any further than this.

Scale is 30 miles to the hex, as the original map it is based on was 10 miles to the hex, but IIRC I was planning on changing that to 24 miles and 8 miles, respectively, to fit with the old school scale of the Known World...

As usual, click to embiggen...

[Found Treasures] Hand-Drawn Map of Taymor

So I've finally gotten a chance to go through some of those boxes of long-stored gaming materials. I've found a trove of old maps and campaign notes, stuff I wrote ages ago that, if they exist in digital form anywhere, it is likely they are rotting on an old 5 1/4" or 3 1/2" disks in a box somewhere in the back of storage... so I'll eventually sort out what is cool and not, scan it, OCR it, and maybe do something with it... we'll see.

But for now, the maps. I used to hand draw TONS of maps back in the day, all sorts of maps from dungeons and wilderness to cities and villages. Now I pretty much doodle on Hexographer for hex maps and use existing maps from elsewhere for dungeon and city maps.

This map was my first go at a version of Taymor, the lands of the Known World of Mystara back before the disaster that created the Broken Lands and destroyed the Kingdom of Taymor. I wrote up a TON of backstory on Taymor when I was running Mystara on a regular basis. Most of that can be found on the Vaults of Pandius; at least, that which I posted to various Mystara fan sites. There's a ton of stuff still remaining that I might get to eventually...

This map is of course at the 24-mile-per-hex scale that was used in the Known World series.

As usual, click to embiggen

Monday, August 17, 2015

That RPG-a-Day Q&A Thingy... all at once, of course...

1. Forthcoming game you're most looking forward to
I’m kind of out of the loop these days on what’s coming up… Any good suggestions?

2. Kickstarted game most pleased you've backed
I have yet to back a Kickstarter, not from lack of those I would like to back, but mostly out of lack of funds. Were the funds available, I would pretty much back any Kickstarter from Goblinoid Games, Troll Lord Games, and/or Goodman Games.

3. Favorite New Game of the last 12 months
I haven’t bought any new game systems in the last 12 months. The last RPG system I bought was 5E D&D; while I was briefly enamored of it, the relationship turned sour pretty quickly when I realized the resemblance to B/X was only skin deep. But there were a few good bits there that I steal now and again for my B/X houserules.

4. Most Surprising Game
Not sure how to answer this one, so many ways a game can be surprising. I’d have to say recently, 5E D&D, as I was pleasantly surprised at first that I liked it, then disappointedly surprised that it wasn’t really as good as I’d thought it was. Two surprises for the price of one, I guess.

5. Most recent RPG purchase
The Petty Gods hardcover I bought during the July Lulu sale is the best thing since sliced bread (other than Betty White).

6. Most recent RPG played
Villains & Vigilantes, the original from FGU.

7. Favorite Free RPG
Labyrinth Lord from Goblinoid Games.

8. Favorite appearance of RPGs in the Media
The cameo appearances of D&D elements in Futurama. Always fun!

9. Favorite media you wish was an RPG
Thundarr the Barbarian. Tim Snider of Savage Afterworld hasdone an awesome Thundarr supplement for Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future, and I expect that is as close as we will ever get… likely for the best, as any official game would probably end up being some godawful bloated system like the latest Star Wars RPG.

10. Favorite RPG Publisher
Existing: Goblinoid Games. They brought back B/X in the form of Labyrinth Lord, and then topped that with the Advanced Edition Companion, which brought all the cool stuff from Advanced D&D without all the extraneous material that added confusion.

Extinct: TSR (pre-Williams era, mostly). ’Natch.

11. Favorite RPG Writer
A tough question… I’d have to say Gary, still, thanks to his Gygaxian writing style in the vein of Vance.

RPG Designer, now that’s another question entirely… I’d probably have to this is shared by Tom Moldvay and Dave Cook (and their editorial crew), as I still feel that the Moldvay Basic/Cook Expert set, together, are the best representation of D&D anytime, anywhere. Frank Mentzer’s work on the 1983 edition of Basic added the best introductory version of an RPG I’ve ever seen.

12. Favorite RPG Illustration
The Bill Willingham illustration of a battle with a dragon from the Moldvay edition of the Basic Set has always struck me as highly representative of what D&D was all about.

13. Favorite RPG Podcast
I don’t listen to them. Just not my thing.

14. Favorite RPG Accessory
Ready Ref Sheets, from Judges Guild. I’ve used them in virtually every game I’ve ever run.

15. Longest campaign played
As a player, two years in middle school, the “Awesome Campaign” run by my friend Thad, at the end of which everyone had at least one artifact and we traveled around in Baba Yaga’s Hut. Yes, it was a glorious campaign indeed!

As a DM/Judge, three years, played every two weeks to three months, set in the Wilderlands using 3rd Edition.

16. Longest game session played
Can’t recall, though if our marathon sessions of playing several different games back-to-back back in the day count, there was a massive three-day session where we played AD&D, Top Secret, and Twilight 2000 from end-of-school Friday until we were dragged home by our parents late Sunday night…

17. Favorite Fantasy RPG
B/X Dungeons & Dragons/Labyrinth Lord, if that wasn’t already obvious.

18. Favorite SF RPG
Gamma World, the wacky and wahoo version of 1st and 2nd edition.

19. Favorite Supers RPG
Marvel Super-Heroes (FASERIP)

20. Favorite Horror RPG
Cryptworld; I loved the old Chill system from Pacesetter, and this is the most worthy of the successors to date.

21. Favorite RPG Setting
This one is a toughie. For published settings, it is pretty firmly a tie between the Wilderlands and Mystara; Mystara is more on my mind these days, as I’ve had to back away from the Wilderlands, due to sad memories.

22. Perfect gaming environment
Years ago when I owned a house we had a mostly finished basement. One of the rooms was just the perfect size to set up bookshelves along the sides, complete with a computer hutch; a small fridge for drinks; and a large table in the center, big enough to seat 12 people, with me in a big captain’s chair at the head of the table, with side tables to hold all the miscellaneous stuff I needed during the game, including miniatures. That was a sweet setup!

23. Perfect game for you
B/X D&D.

24. Favorite House Rule
Three-way tie between “Carousing Rules” to squander treasure and cause chaos by Jeff Rients, “Shields Shall Be Splintered” to save your ass from Trollsmyth, and “Turn Over The Body to see if he’s Dead” and roll a save versus Death from Dungeon Crawl Classics.

25. Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic
Being pretty old school, I can’t say I have one…

26. Favorite inspiration for your game
So many things have inspired my gaming over the years, it is hard to say any one thing is my “favorite.” Fantasy literature as a whole, I guess, would be the thing most influential to my gaming, rather than say movies or TV. I keep going back to the literary well for new ideas and campaigns and races and classes…

27. Favorite idea for merging two games into one
Found in Mutant Future, the Mutants & Mazes mash-up of Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord codifies my long desire to mix D&D and Gamma World in a more unified fashion than the small rules section in the old DMG.

28. Favorite game you no longer play
I really, really liked Dangerous Dimensions: Mythus and its little cousin, Lejendary Adventure. It’s just way too hard to get others to try Mythus these days; and LA is tough to play, as my fondest memories of it are playing with Gary.

29. Favorite RPG website / blog
Eeesh, so many good ones.

I’d have to say that for pure cool and crazy inspiration, it’s a tie between Zak and Greg.

For good old school, I’d have to say it is a three-way tie between Al, Tim, and Trey.

Lamentably lost or more-or-less on hiatus… James and Jeff

30. Favorite RPG playing celebrity
I’ll say Vin Diesel, because it is hard to choose between Charlotte, Mandy, and Stoya…

31. Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing.
Countless friendships and a career that enabled me to both make a living and live my dreams for most of two decades.

1. Worst game you ever played
RPG system wise, Powers & Perils. I know some people swear by it, but I’ve tried to wrap my mind around it for decades, and just don’t see the appeal. But for hard-cord dark Sword & Sorcery, you just can’t beat Perilous Lands, the P&P campaign setting.

2. Interesting rule embedded within otherwise baleful game
The Drama Deck from Torg. Always wanted to adapt that to D&D.

3. Game you never played but you knew it sucked just looking at it
The World of Synnibarr. Ye gods, Rifts on crack…

4. Game you most wish didn't suck
The d6 System game brought out by West End at the end of their existence. I love the d6 System; it is totally my favorite system for Star Wars and space-opera style play. But the changes they made to the d6 System for the generic version were just too extreme; they tried to make it into something it wasn’t. Mini-Six fixed a lot of that…

5. Game about which you have the most mixed feelings
5E D&D. I really want to like it; I think as a casual player, I might enjoy it. Trying to run a campaign as a DM? Not again, thanks…

6. Old game most in need of an upgrade
Rifts. Love most of the world, especially like the fact that the system is essentially D&D; but golly, does that game need a solid edit, a good streamlining, and a re-baselining.

7. Game you can run with the least prep
B/X D&D. Gimme some dice, pencils, and paper, and I can run off the cuff without even checking the books.

8. Game with awful art (and who you wish you could hire to fix that)
I’m not really an art kind of guy; if the art is *dreadful*, I generally avoid the game because if the art is that bad, well, how good can the game be? So I’ve never really owned a game with dreadful art, and otherwise, never noticed much or cared. Though someone really needs to go back and put in new halfling art in the 5E D&D books; scary, scary stuff.

9. Best houserule you've seen in action and now use in your own games.
Most of the houserules I’ve adopted that were from others were from online posts, not in actual play, so really, none…

10. Game you've most changed your thoughts/feelings about
Old World of Darkness. Always thought the whole Vampire LARP thing was kind of poncey, so I thought the tabletop game was, too; but like most RPG systems, it can be used for whatever style of play you want.

11.  Game you'd use to run just about any setting if you had to
BRP from Chaosium.

12. Game that haunts you and you're not sure why
GURPS. I want to like that game, but every time I play it I feel like I am studying for a math exam. I also never played Champions/Hero System for the same reason, only moreso.

13. Game that would probably be most fun to play a bee in
Mutant Future.

14. Best Star Wars game?
WEG D6, hands down, though I prefer the earlier editions to the final revised one, which lost some of the edginess the earlier versions had.

15. Game that's good in theory but you're kind of on the fence about it to be honest
Tom Moldvay’s Lords of Creation. Played once when it first came out; have stared at it long and hard since. Great idea, beautifully realized for the day, but something just doesn’t seem right…

James’ Appendix

1. Best non-RPG property to licensed RPG you’ve ever played
Tie: Marvel Super-Heroes and WEG Star Wars

2. Best RPG you’ve ever read but never played
Artesia: Adventures in the Known World by Mark Smylie. Beautiful book, reads very well, game seems solid, but dang… it would take a special group of players to make it work without breaking the setting ideals.

3. RPG core rulebook you would take with you on a desert island
If I can’t take a B/X Lulu mash-up I’d take the D&D Cyclopedia, which is the next best thing.

4. Favorite RPG vaporware
Still, after all these years, I’d love to see that TSR Proton Fire RPG about robots and cyborgs and humans fighting the battle between the tyrannical Corporation and the University…

5. Best houserule that ended up with the worst results
Using the d30 once per game to replace another die. I allowed the players to not only use it for d20 rolls, but also in place of damage rolls. This worked out very poorly when the party encountered some young dragons. They were getting ready to run, having stumbled upon a dragon hatchery, but then realized they all still had their d30 rolls left. I think out of the whole group, only one rolled less than 20 points of damage; result, three dead dragons, one jubilant party (with only one casualty), and one unhappy DM.

6. Worst kerfluffle that ever ended an otherwise good, ongoing campaign
The party found a +5 holy avenger, and they had no paladins among the group. Trying to figure out how to dispose of the weapon drove the players apart…

That’s if you don’t count the ending of the Party of Evil campaign, in which the wizard cast a sleep spell on the two anti-paladins and had the assassin slit their throats… after all, that betrayal was inevitable…