19 January 2019

UPDATE 1 - Charting The Flanaess: a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart

In May last year I began work on building a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart for the Flanaess, but the project has lain fairly fallow until recently.

Greyhawk Seminar at GaryCon 2019


A crew of six of us will host a Greyhawk seminar at GaryCon XI in March 2019, focused on the state of the state of Greyhawk fandom.  The seminar is titled "Celebraing Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance" and the event description is:

Greyhawk fans have been creating and sharing content online for 25+ years, across many platforms. Join Bryan Blumklotz, Mike Bridges, Allan Grohe, Carlos Lising, Anna Meyer, and Kristoph Nolen as we celebrate and showcase Greyhawk resources created by the fans who champion one of D&D's oldest settings. Reference handouts will be provided, and perhaps prizes if we get our act together!
Additional informationabout the seminar  (including a recording of the session and any distributed handouts) will appear on Greyhawk Online at https://www.greyhawkonline.com/seminar.

Charting the Flanaess Update


One of the seminar handouts I'm planing is a working prototype for the mileage chart,  limited in scope to the Central Flanaess in and around the City of Greyhawk, so I’ve been working on that recently by measuring out the distances from city to city on the Darlene map, in millimeters:


Flanaess Settlements Mileage - Raw Darlene Map Distances in mm
grodog at work -
measuring the Flanaess in millimeters


Once the measurements are complete, I enter the raw data into Excel in the first/upper set of cities listings.  The green, red, and yellow highlighted rows are my fact-checking:  I want to insure that the figures true-up across each row and column, and then in total as well:
 


Flanaess Settlements Mileage - Data Entry for Distances and Converting mm into Miles
grodog at work -
fitting the Flanaess into spreadsheet cells

The second/lower set of cities listings is where I convert the measured distances in mm into scale miles (I’ll eventually do kilometers as well), based on this data and formula logic:

  1. One Folio Darlene hex = 55 mm across = 10 scale leagues/30 scale miles
  2. Convert the raw distance between each city into a ratio relative to the hex sizes on the Darlene Folio maps:  (X mm/55mm). 
  3. Multiple the ratio by 30 miles to derive the final distance figure
Like in the first/ upper set of cities, I also fact-check the figures to insure that they match properly. 
 

I think I’ve also found a good methodology for how to manually count out of the Darlene map mileage distances:  I’ll simply print a copy of the “Index to the Cities & Features of the Flanaess” page from the Glassography and measure out the distances for each listed city, one city to a sheet.
 


 

Interesting aside #1:  of the 130 settlements that appear in the Glassography index, about 50 appear in the general region of the Central Flanaess.  That’s 38% of the cities squeezed into an area only that occupies only 25% of the Darlene mapspace. 
 

Interesting aside #2:  looking at each page of the original maps to calculate the settlement density will also be an interesting exercise to go through, I think. 
 

Minor Complications


One of the major issues I’ll want to call out in the data is a possible discrepancy in measurement when the distances span both of the Darlene maps:  maps can shift around, the hexes could be misaligned, etc., so measuring across both maps will be more challenging and more prone to error than when measuring within either map alone. 
 

In my prototype data set, only Luekish, Radigast City, and Riftcraft appear on the right-hand map, so I calculated all of the left-hand map’s distances first, then measured the right-hand ones back to the left, and wrapped up with the right-hand-only mileage. 
 

Next Steps


Once I have a better understanding of the scope included in the map handouts that we’ll distribute at the seminar (and we will post all of the handouts to Greyhawk Online, and at minimum an audio recording of the seminar as well), I will update the list of cities to feature any other major ones that aren’t already included in the chart, which will finalize the initial prototype data set. 
 

Sometime after GaryCon, the rest of the long-haul work will begin, likely to occur in three phases: 

  1. Count out all of the distances in the left-hand map.
  2. Count out all of the distances in the right-hand map.
  3. Count out all of the distances that span both maps.

I’ll continue to post updates here as I make further progress!
 
Allan.

09 January 2019

Paul Stormberg reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) on Gygax Manuscripts Archive

This afternoon today, Paul Stormberg of The Collector's Trove held a Q&A session over on reddit about the contents of Gary Gygax's unpublished manuscripts:
Adventurers wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success!
This is an AMA, wherein I allow adventurers to ask me anything about the trove of treasures left behind by Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and what traps and guardians await them.

Gail Gygax's agent, Gina Ramirez, also participated in the AMA, covering questions around licensing as well as future publishing plans for computer games, RPGs, etc.

In the Q&A discussion, Paul offered several interesting revelations about the contents of the Gygax collection, including details relevant to the original Greyhawk campaign!

I'm quoting Paul throughout the text below, and also quote a few of the asked questions for context, as well.  And here's a quick mini-TOC in case you want to jump among the topics later:

The Gygax Collection as a Whole

  • JustOneAmongMany's Q:  "Presuming that you've looked at (or, hopefully, catalogued) the entirety of the material, can you break it down into percentages by category? e.g. 10% Greyhawk, 25% Lejendary Adventures, 15% novels, etc.?"

    Paul's A:  "I'd say it breaks down to 30% product (comp copies and author's copies of product), 15% correspondence, 15% personal materials (play copies of games, dice, desk knick knacks, awards, etc.) , 40% game design materials (manuscripts, maps, notes, etc.).

    "Of the design materials: novels and short stories 20%, original campaign materials 30%, new unpublished designs 50% (fiction, board games, card games, computer games, adventures, RPGs)."
     

Castle Greyhawk Data Points

  • Paul:  "The manuscript for Gary's, unpublished, original home campaign is still extant! Indeed, I have unearthed the original castle manuscript of 22 levels. Also, the larger, expanded castle of 62 levels is also intact and well secured by Gary's widow, Gail Gygax.
    "Additionally, there are over a dozen alternate levels that were used to change out levels depending on who was playing. In total nearly 100 levels of the castle exist with some 300 pages of keys."
  • Paul:  "Finding and reading the entry of the imprisoned demigods in Gary's original castle was pretty cool too!

    "The demigods are different than what was published and what transpired in the game and later related historically is also different -- totally stunned when I read it and as thrilled as Carter when I discovered it.


    "Remember, Gary was actively running his home campaign. He was very careful about revealing secrets and rarely published his personal campaign material. If he spoke of it he was careful not to reveal too much.
    "
  • Zenopus Archives Q: "What are publication plans for the original Castle material that we know of, specifically the binder maps/keys, the demo of level 1 at Origins (which you have run at Gary Con), and the Teeth of Barkash Nour tournament level?"

    Paul's A: "Of course I am well aware of both of those properties and they have been incorporated back into the original castle. We have looked at different options and have met with several interested parties. This is Gary's magnum opus of game design and we want to be partnered with the right sort of publisher and developer.

    "Gary was very clear to his wife Gail on how he wanted this to be presented. She is striving to follow his wishes and find the best possible partner in this. Many are eager to be involved and have incredible heart but the effort must be exceptionally professional and of the utmost quality."


T2: 
The Temple of Elemental Evil

  • Paul:  "Indeed the original manuscript exists but more interestingly, Gary's original campaign notes, maps, and keys exist! Gary had an incredible epic planned for this legendary adventure but he was never able to realize it and turned over only the partial, typed manuscript to Frank Mentzer to finish.

    "Thus the real adventure lies in the the treasures of the Gygax vault. Indeed, the maps for the home campaign dungeon are totally different than the published version and his original notes from 1977 lay out a far different campaign than was published.


    "I have personally discussed these with Mike Mearls of Hasbro and Erik Mona of Paizo and, despite their immersed nature in the game and years of experience, were duly astonished and thrilled by the thought of the campaign laid out by Gary."

 

grodog's Questions

Paul very generously answered at length the questions I submitted, so I'm reproducing them here in full:
  • grodog Q #1: Given your access to and visibility across Gary's full career of creative work output, what do you consider Gary's best game designs, and why?

    Paul's A: "I really think the G-series and D-series, especially G1 for the economy of words -- I think like 6 pages of actual adventure -- Gary demonstrated what you really need to run a great sword and sorcery adventure. No prose is wasted on the DM and there is no padding that gets in the way of running the adventure. Nonetheless, it is one of the all-time beloved adventures and has to be one of the most published adventures of all time.


    "Like artists, I think all designers suffer in their sophomore efforts D&D and the AD&D are right on in tone and usefulness. The DMG is a giant in RPG design and is the bible for DM's of any stripe. It is an endless well of great advice and inspirational and instructive writing without having one mote of dull writing. Gary's sophomore effort was Unearthed Arcana, admittedly forced by circumstances. It broke all of his rules set forth in the first three books. While it is beloved by some it is polarizing."
  • grodog Q #2: "Similarly, what undiscovered gems in Gary's work that are either very rare or unpublished have you seen that you would most want to see published, and why?"

    Paul's A:  "His smallest samurai books are among my favorites for non-RPG materials.


    "So many levels of his original castle that have never been mentioned publicly -- wow! The Teeth of Barkash Nour lying undiscovered for years is a fantastic one. He has another adventure where the players must enter the Egyptian underworld, recover pieces of their souls, travel through the various underworlds, face their present aspect of their ruler, and ultimately ascend out of the place if they succeed. Great adventure!


    "Of course, the whole castle reigns supreme as far as crown jewels go but wow do I love Gary's original Temple of Elemental Evil home campaign! It really blows my mind the the incredible campaign arc he outlined back in 1977 was never realized! It really give me goosebumps when I describe it."
  • grodog Q #3: "Gail Gygax has talked in the past about wanting to publish Gary's IP in a variety of formats: movies, video games, RPG products, etc. Does she have any updates in the works for Gary's IP that you can share?"

    Paul's A:  "The update is that we are still wanting to find the right partner on a variety of projects. There have been some heartfelt efforts and some incredibly professional ones. We hope to start closing in on product lines in the near future.


    "Gina Ramirez, Gail's agent, will have some more to add as she has been shoulder to should with Gail on this."
  • grodog Q #4: " Among the World of Greyhawk materials in the collection, do these known-but-unpublished manuscripts still survive, and if so, to what extent?---that is, can please you describe what survives in terms of maps, content outlines, written pages, art orders, etc.: 
    1. Wasps Nest: the City of Stoink, 
    2. the missing Geomorphs sets: Dungeon Geos "Rooms, Chambers & Passages - Set Four and Outdoor Geos Set Two (Castle/Fortress) and Set Three (Ruins), 
    3. new class materials for Gary's proto-second-edition for the Bard, Hunter, Jester, Mountebank, Mystic, and Savant, 
    4. the City of Greyhawk in it's various forms (small, medium, and large?), and 
    5. last but certainly not least, Castle Greyhawk in its two (or more?) formats as the Original Castle and the Expanded Castle."

    Paul's A:
    1. None but all of Dyvers exists.  
    2. None. 
    3. Hunter, Mountebank, Mystic, and Savant only.
    4. All. 
    5. The manuscript for Gary's, unpublished, original home campaign is still extant! Indeed, I have unearthed the original castle manuscript of 22 levels. Also, the larger, expanded castle of 62 levels is intact and well secured by Gary's widow, Gail Gygax. Additionally, there are over a dozen alternate levels that were used to change out levels depending on who was playing. In total nearly 100 levels of the castle exist with some 300 pages of keys.
  • grodog Q #5: What do you consider Gary's most important role at TSR?: his work as an game designer/creator of original content vs. his work organizing, editing, and bringing together the diverse contributions from Arneson, Kuntz, Marsh, Lakofka, Lucien, and many others vs. his work as a visionary and leader scaling up the hobby as a whole (with TSR atop, of course), or some other role I've not described?

    Paul's A: Certainly we would not have D&D or AD&D and many of the beloved works associated with Gary's company TSR without his endless energy to network, connect, inspire, encourage, collate, collaborate, and publish the disparate contributions of so many. Ultimately these contributions end up under Gary's hand but there is no denying Gary's own ability to create and his vision are the reason we all have a beloved pastime.


    Gary's greatest impact on the company was probably the patriarchal role he played from the IFW days to TSR's heyday. He really had a cult of personality among the creative types and even other employees. This would bring the Blume's much grief as they tried to run the company under their edicts.

Gygax Games Website Update --- including Muesuem of the Gods level map!


Also very noteworthy is that the Gygax Games web site has a new facelift, and it sounds like Paul and Gina will be helping to maintain it going-forward (if I'm interpreting their comments properly). 

Under the Gary's Archive page is a picture of the Museum of the Gods map from the Castle Zagyg manuscript, too!:



Gary Gygax's Museum of the Gods map
from the Castle Zagyg manuscript, unseen for 45 years!

You can also download the full-size version, too.

Paul's video on the same page introduces the collection, and mentions the new Gygax Games Twitter account will be providing future updates, as well:  @gygaxgames.

All-in-all, this was a fine day for a Greyhawk fan, and I'm very curious to hear what more news may be revealed at GaryCon 11 in a couple of short months!

Allan.

04 January 2019

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - the Behind Bars level

I drew most of this level last night, and noodled on it more today over breakfast and lunch.  It's about 80% done or so---I need to work on the detailing more, to make some decisions on areas that aren't connected to the rest of the level yet, insert intra-level elevations, etc., as usual.

I wanted to focus on some specific design goals for the flow:

  • visible areas that are on/off inaccessible via portcullises, also with several one-way doors in the mix (including some off of the entry chamber; I need to add some more portcullises too)
  • some larger, more-open spaces, including a dragon lair perhaps (or one for a clutch of sibling sub-adults!)
  • several mini-hubs that corridors/rooms radiate outward from
  • a more middle-of-the-road level of complexity vs. my usual more-elaborately-tormenting designs ;)

Beyond what I noted above (and some miscellaneous very light notes on the map), I don't have a specific ideas in mind for the key, but I do envision this as a more upper-level, perhaps even an alternate primary entry route into the dungeons.

I got the idea to start another new level when browsing through OSRIC for an unrelated product, and I rediscovered Sean "Stonegiant" Stone's starting area VI on page 159 (in the PDF).  (My entry point is the 30' wide stair leading down into the level, center-ish in the lower-left quadrant):



grodog's "Behind Bars" level - first draft map
grodog's "Behind Bars" level - first draft map

The full-size version is available @ http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle_grodog_level-behind-bars-01.jpg

Allan.

23 November 2018

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - The Landings Level

I began this mega-dungeons maps "series" (more consistency in posting would help with that label, I'm sure!) earlier in the year with one of my oldest surviving maps, but that map (and its associated key content) does not reflect the quality of designs that I create today.  "The Landings Level" map and key more-accurately reflect my current design sensibilities.

I created "The Landings Level" map (the first in a group of similar types of maps), over a few days in early December ten years ago, and it marked the beginning of a new phase in my (ongoing) redesign work for my version of Castle Greyhawk.  Over the past decade, I've focused primarily on the creation of new levels and keys, rather than an overall structural schema or holistic design guided by a top-down vision for all of the inter-connections between the levels.  That approach has its own disadvantages (making the levels fit together into a rationalized, coherent whole is somewhat more difficult this way), however, its primary advantage rests in that during the several years that followed this first map, I've created a pile of new, well-designed levels, many of which I've playtested at GaryCon, the North Texas RPG Con, KantCon, and various smaller gatherings. So, volume of inspiration and creation vs. perfection in overall design won-out, in the short term anyway! 

The Landings Level was the work that kicked off this phase of creation, and was itself inspired by my research into various unpublished Castle Greyhawk levels, discussions with Rob Kuntz about the Castles Greyhawk and El Raja Key, and my overall engagement with the old-school AD&D online communities at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Dragonsfoot, OD&D74, and elsewhere. 

This is my first draft version of the map, drawn in one night's work:



The Landings Level - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level Map - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
First Draft

Over the next couple of months, I detailed the level's features that went largely unmarked during its genesis:  I added intra-level stairs, more doors, columns, elevations, water, etc., etc., and did so working on a photocopy of the map so that I could explore different options (and you can see various notes scribbled away where they didn't work out):



The Landings Level with sketched notes and features - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level Map - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
Keying Sketch Notes

In March this year, in preparation for running the level again at GaryCon and North Texas (the level debuted in play at the first North Texas RPG Convention in June 2008), I decided to rework the map, transferring it from its original 5 squares-per-inch graph paper to 6-squares-per-inch, in order to have a little more room to build out the level's features (the stairs and corridors along the top and bottom edges of the map were crowded by the physical edge of the sheet of paper), to correct/update the map symbols (one of the disadvantages of drawing in ink the first time around!), as well as to have some more room to expand some of the features further, in particular the caverns (which I wasn't terribly happy with in their original rendering).  That rework is ongoing, but here's a peek:
 

The Landings Level clearn redraw - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
Updated Map Rendering

This is one of the levels that I plan to publish, although it's not the first in line for production. 

Allan.


25 October 2018

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Epitaph

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Epitaph


After losing my blog posts for Day 15 and Day 17, I stopped the modules challenge blogging for the moment until I work out a better writing process than losing posts an hour+ into them on the blogger interface. Here are my final selections:


  • Day 15 - A Module I Like Based on a Book or Film: Court of Ardor by Terry K. Amthor
  • Day 16 - My Favorite Gary Gygax Module: G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King by Gary Gygax
  • Day 17 - A Module I'm Saving for the Right Time: D3 Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax
  • Day 18 - A Module from the Year I Began to Play: there are no modules I've played from 1977 (and few published---Tegel Manor is the only one that readily came to mind), so I went with Outdoor Geomorphs Set One: Walled City by Gary Gygax

I planned several follow-on posts that tied back to my various Runners Up selections, and a few additional categories that came to mind as variations on some of Scot's themes, which I will return to

My thanks to Kellri for putting the challenge together!


Allan. 

P.S. - And here are my responses to the full module challenge:




  1. Day 18 - A Module from the Year I Began to Play: there are no modules I've played from 1977 (and few published---Tegel Manor is the only one that readily comes to mind), so I went with Outdoor Geomorphs Set One: Walled City by Gary Gygax
  2. Day 17 - A Module I'm Saving for the Right Time: D3 Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax 
  3. Day 16 - My Favorite Gary Gygax Module: G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King by Gary Gygax
  4. Day 15: The Court of Ardor by Terry K. Amthor
  5. Day 14:  Starstone by Paul Vernon Lydiate
  6. Day 13:  "The Ruins of Andril" by Ian Melluish
  7. Day 12:  "Treasure of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers
  8. Day 11:  S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
  9. Day 10:  Return of the Eight by Roger E. Moore
  10. Day 9:  Pavis and Big Rubble by Greg Stafford, Steve Perrin, Oliver Dickinson, & Diverse Hands
  11. Day 8:  Angmar, Land of the Witch King by Heike Kubasch
  12. Day 7:  X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay
  13. Day 6: DMG Monastery Dungeon by Gary Gygax
  14. Day 5: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
  15. Day 4: "Deep Shit" by Jeff Barber
  16. Day 3: A Fabled City of Brass by Anthony Huso
  17. Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio
  18. Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
  19. Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

17 October 2018

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Day 16: G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King by Gary Gygax

Day 16 - My Favorite Gary Gygax Module: G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King


Whither Day 15?---Blogger ate my post on The Court of Ardor for MERP, and I've not recreated it yet.  Trying to stay as on-track as possible....
 



G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King (TSR, 1978) is Gary Gygax's final adventure in the initial trilogy of GDQ modules that made him a household name among every generation of D&D players. 




"The Battle for Snurre's Hall," a play account from all three rounds at Origins 1978 was published in The Dragon #19 (October 1978), and it speaks well to the trials and tribulations faced by the players in this scenario.

Why I Love G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King!


It's a meat-grinder, it's a small moon, it's a TPK trivializer!  


 

G3 is a wonderful capstone to the G1-3 Giants series of modules, while at the same time it acts as the introductory bridge into the even-more-brutal threats to be faced in its sequels, the D1-3 drowic underworld trilogy.  (Perhaps Gary intended the final series of Q adventures to be a Q1-3 trilogy as well?; hmmm....).  G3 pounces upon the PCs who've progressed through G1 and G2, ratchets up the level of challenge, and spits them back out by introducing many new and horrific ways for the players to bemoan the beat-down it delivers:
  • King Snurre Ironbelly (who fights as a storm giant!), his delightful, decapitating wife Queen Frupy, their pet hell hounds, pyrohydra (!!), and huge ancient red dragon (!!!), and other courtly attendants
  • A series of interesting prisoners who may, or may not, aid the PCs in their pursuit of vengeance against the giants, including:
    • An olven noble and her retinue
    • Obmi, the infamous dwarf from Castle Greyhawk and the Gord novels, first sees print here, complete with his now-under-powered gnoll retinue ;)
    • A stupefied titan 
    • A comely human female thief, likely to ally with the PCs in the short-term
    • And various other monsters that are likely to attack and/or betray their rescuers at the first opportunity
  • The Temple of the Eye---a fully-functioning temple to the Elder Elemental God, complete with Lovecraftian tentacles, madness-inducing/wish-granting sacrifices, and more!
  • Ropers, gnolls and trolls en masse as shock troops, wererats, ettins, and of course fire giants and hell hounds by the dozen!
  • As with each of the previous adventures, careful players' PCs will learn more about the fountainhead behind the incursions of the allied giants into Geoff, and are likely to come face to face with pure, unadulterated EVIL (don't touch it!)---of course, the drow!:


The drow are, naturally, one of the highlights of the entire series, but in G3 they offer a first, befuddling taste of what is to come in the characters' insane descent toward Erelhei-Cinlu and beyond:
  • Eclavdra, Evil High Priestess of the Elder Elemental God and House Eilservs (in anagram, "serviles"?)
  • Nedylene, Despana second-in-command, and foe to the Eilservs
  • Mind flayers spying on both, and being ignored by the drow!

Three Runners Up


This selection is more difficult than it should be, since Gygax wrote so many great modules, but I'll go with these as my selections:
More-properly D3 Vault of the Drow, S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun also deserve places on this list, but since there are only three slot, and I've already featured some in other entries....

My other posts in Kellri's 18 Day Module Challenge:

  1. Day 15: The Court of Ardor by Terry K. Amthor (coming soon!)
  2. Day 14:  Starstone by Paul Vernon Lydiate
  3. Day 13:  "The Ruins of Andril" by Ian Melluish
  4. Day 12:  "Treasure of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers
  5. Day 11:  S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
  6. Day 10:  Return of the Eight by Roger E. Moore
  7. Day 9:  Pavis and Big Rubble by Greg Stafford, Steve Perrin, Oliver Dickinson, & Diverse Hands
  8. Day 8:  Angmar, Land of the Witch King by Heike Kubasch
  9. Day 7:  X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay
  10. Day 6: DMG Monastery Dungeon by Gary Gygax
  11. Day 5: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
  12. Day 4: "Deep Shit" by Jeff Barber
  13. Day 3: A Fabled City of Brass by Anthony Huso
  14. Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio
  15. Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
  16. Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

15 October 2018

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Day 14: Starstone by Paul Vernon Lydiate

Day 14 - A Module I Would Run for First-Time Players:  Starstone by Paul Vernon Lydiate


Starstone by Paul vernon Lydiate (Northern Sages, 1982)





My first-impressions/gut-reactions in response to today's topic are that I would prefer to run "Castle Greyhawk" or the DMG Monastery dungeon for first-timer players, but since I've already covered the latter, and ruled out the former, I've dug around for some high-quality alternates, and Starstone landed on top.

Paul Vernon's Starstone was published by Northern Sages out of the UK in 1982.  If you're not already familiar with Starstone, Matthew Pook's retrospective review can get you up-to-speed.  Vernon also wrote several good articles in both White Dwarf---"Designing a Quasi-Medieval Society" (2 parts) and "Town Planner" (3 parts)---and Dragon Magazine---"First, Spread the Faith" and "Travel Works Both Ways"---that are worth looking up.    

Disclaimer:  I haven't played or run Starstone, so read my thoughts with a healthy critical eye.  Using Starstone, I'd like to build a small, local-focus campaign where Starstone's NPCs can shine, and where the players and their PCs know the names of the random citizen they're salvation for, and why they're worth saving. 

Why I Like Starstone


Starstone is a well-designed sandbox campaign setting that Vernon brings alive through:
  • The County of Starstone's Northern Region, a small and localized wilderness environment spanning 10 miles N-S by 11 miles E-W (in 1/2 mile hexes), containing a fair number of homesteads, monster lairs, and other features of note
  • Nine small settlements; for the larger ones, Vernon employs a series of tables similar to those in Midkemia Press' Cities supplement, but without as much detail
    • Branstead, a deserted hamlet
    • Cragley, a hamlet (37)
    • Dolgold Village and Castle, with nearby dwarven mines
    • Ganby, village (128)
    • Longbottom Down, village
    • Sardkirk, a gnomish village
    • Spoylesham, a hamlet (87) 
    • Starston Bridge
    • Verbury, village (206)
  • Two dungeons:
    • The Broch Caverns, a three-level dungeon with 133 keyed encounters, inhabited by ~500 goblins and their allies
    • Dolgar's Hold, a two-level dungeon with 45 keyed encounters, inhabited by trollings and morlocks
  • A broad tapestry of inter-related NPCs who are all-too-human in their ambitions, petty squabbles, and other relationships:  this is where Starstone really shines (and could, in fact, use a matrix of NPCs that would help make the interconnections more manageable)
Ristenby Town (population 2000) is the unpublished sequel to Startone, and details the small fishing port town.  Embertrees was lightly detailed in White Dwarf #34 (October 1982), along with a small temple dungeon (33 encounter areas).

Three Runners Up

I've also already written about L1 on Day 6, or it would appear in the list below, too:


My other posts in Kellri's 18 Day Module Challenge:

  1. Day 13:  "The Ruins of Andril" by Ian Melluish
  2. Day 12:  "Treasure of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers
  3. Day 11:  S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
  4. Day 10:  Return of the Eight by Roger E. Moore
  5. Day 9:  Pavis and Big Rubble by Greg Stafford, Steve Perrin, Oliver Dickinson, & Diverse Hands
  6. Day 8:  Angmar, Land of the Witch King by Heike Kubasch
  7. Day 7:  X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay
  8. Day 6: DMG Monastery Dungeon by Gary Gygax
  9. Day 5: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
  10. Day 4: "Deep Shit" by Jeff Barber
  11. Day 3: A Fabled City of Brass by Anthony Huso
  12. Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio
  13. Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
  14. Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...