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Level was the work that kicked off this phase of creation, and was itself inspired by my research into various unpublished Castle Greyhawk levels, discussions with Rob Kuntz about the Castles Greyhawk and El Raja Key, and my overall engagement with the old-school AD&D online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

 

14 October 2018

OSR Guide for the Now-Less-Perplexed (or So We Hope...)

OSR Guide for the Now-Less-Perplexed (or So We Hope...)


 
OSR logo by Stuart Robertson
OSR logo by Stuart Robertson


I tweaked Zak's original questions a bit (see below if you want to reuse my wording):
  1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:   This one's a toss-up for me, since I love both 1) timrod's excellent and inter-related series of blog posts on the maps and environs for B2 Keep on the Borderlands, T1 Village of Hommlet, and the Sample Dungeon from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, as well as 2) Zach "Zenopus Archives" Howard's page-by-page analysis of John Eric Holmes' original manuscript for the Holmes Basic set - Both of these exemplify close reading of texts in conjunction with creative approaches to leveraging that information in game play at the table!

  2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice"Megadungeon Tactics: Mission-Based Adventuring" by Matt Finch, published in Knockspell #4 (Spring 2010) - This is an excellent resource for old-school dungeon-exploring players in general, and helps players to effectively deploy in play the concepts outlined in Matt's Old School Primer

  3. Best OSR module/supplement:  Scot "Kellri" Hoover's Classic Dungeon Designer's Netbook #4 - Old School Encounters Reference.pdf - Perhaps the best free OSR resource ever published!:  an essential guide to adventure/encounter design, and while written with 1e AD&D/OSRIC in mind, it's very useful for anyone running any fantasy campaign, regardless of RPG and/or D&D edition.

  4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):  I have no recollection who came up with this concept anymore (and if you remember, please let me know!), but I love the idea that when PCs sell gems, jewelry, magic items, and other loot, that their payouts are influenced positively and negatively by the negotiating PC's Charisma reaction adjustments (to which I also add racial preferences modifiers, too).  This goes back to the old Amber Diceless RPG adage that each-and-every stat on your character sheet is the most-important stat (in some situation). 

  5. How I found out about the OSR:  The OSR coalesced, named, and formalized itself around the online mailing lists, web sites, boards/forums, and gaming conventions where I've hung out, discussed and shared AD&D- and Greyhawk content over the past 15-20 years.  I've met, gamed with, and become friends with many old-school gamers who I wouldn't otherwise have ever known except through the OSR communities where we've come together to talk shop around our favorite games.

  6. My favorite OSR online resource/toyJason Zavoda's Index Greyhawkiana, a compiled index of references within World of Greyhawk products published from the 1970s through August 2003 (the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was its last update) - Jason's index is something I use practically every day, and is an indispensable tool for a fan of the World of Greyhawk setting.  Other key reference tools I use nearly-daily include the Dragondex index of Dragon Magazine articles, and the D&D publishing history web sites The Acaeum, Adrian Newman's TSR Archive, and the Tome of Treasures.

  7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:  In-person at GaryCon (every year in March, in Lake Geneva, WI; ~2500 attendees) and the North Texas RPG Convention (every year in June in Dallas, TX; ~400 attendees) - These conventions have been a wonderful way to put-faces-to-names from discussion boards, to deepen friendships begun online, and to game with like-minded old-schoolers.  If you've never carved out the time and/or budget to attend one or the other, it's well-worth planning to do so.  If you dig around there's probably an old-school convention in your neighborhood, too.

  8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking gamesThe Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Dragonsfoot, ODD74, Canonfire!, and various other Greyhawk and/or old-school, general RPG, etc. groups on Facebook, Google+, and most-recently, MeWe.  Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to chat---I'm "grodog" on all of these platforms.

  9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:  Mapping as a player is fun, useful in-game, and makes the game easier to play!  I know, I know---you don't believe me, but I wrote an article in The Twisting Stair #3 that details three different ways to approach mapping as a player, and when to use one method vs. the other two.  It's worth checking out :D

  10. My favorite non-OSR RPGs:  Amber Diceless, Ars Magica, Blue Planet, Call of Cthulhu, Coriolis: the Third Horizon, Eclipse Phase, Kult, Upwind, Vampire the Masquerade, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  Of those, Call of Cthulhu most-often ends up atop the list after AD&D. 

  11. Why I like OSR stuff:  I love the fun and creative collaboration when people come together to play games and to enjoy discussing, playing, designing, and publishing the adventures, settings, sourcebooks, and rules for the games and settings that I love to play. Hand-in-hand with that spirit of collaboration is the important idea of designing, sharing, and publishing tools that make games easier to play, in addition to sharing out cool ideas, adventures, and settings.  To paraphrase Trent Foster---designing good "creativity aids, not creativity replacements” is an important aspect that drives the DIY work-ethic and work-product of the OSR. 

  12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:  1) David A. Hill's Eldritch Avremier, fifth of five old-school supplements from his Mothshade Concepts imprint, which publishes his OD&D-based Avremier campaign setting, and 2) Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea old-school game - I'm a sucker for good settings, and both David's and Jeff's works offer richly-evocative campaign settings immersed in old-school play styles. 

  13. If I could read but one RPG blog on my desert island, it would be:  Gabor "Melan" Lux's Beyond Fomalhaut and associated Echoes from Fomalhaut zine - Gabor's work couples the essence of Wilderlands of High Fantasy gaming with excellent design, useful-at-the-table gameplay detail, and a wonderful imaginative vision that always inspires me to design better, to try harder!

  14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot isTales of Peril: The Complete Boinger and Zereth Stories of John Eric Holmes, published in June 2017 by Black Blade Publishing and I'm adding a second since this one's free---The Hyqueous Vaults written the Hyqueous Vaults Creation Team and published by Guy Fullerton (two different links there) in December 2017 (the adventure somewhat-belatedly celebrates the 10th anniversary of the publication of OSRIC, the original AD&D retro-clone)

  15. I'm currently running/playing:   running and/or playing in four AD&D 1e campaigns, playing an Ars Magica 5e saga, and planning to run a Delta Green and/or Call of Cthulhu 5th edition Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign

  16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because...:  ...I have DM Screen to look up the proper numbers, of course---and I use it because repeating 20s are difficult to memorize!

  17. The OSRest picture I could post on short noticeIan Baggley's "Battle with the Dagonites" which we used as Tales of Peril's back cover artwork:
    Ian Baggley's "Battle with the Dagonites"


And here's my tweaked list of the questions, for easy cut/pasting:
  1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:  
  2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice:  
  3. Best OSR module/supplement 
  4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):
  5. How I found out about the OSR:
  6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:
  7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:
  8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:  
  9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:
  10. My favorite non-OSR RPGs:
  11. Why I like OSR stuff:
  12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:
  13. If I could read but one RPG blog on my desert island, it would be:  
  14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:
  15. I'm currently running/playing:
  16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because...:
  17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice