03 March 2018

New titles at Black Blade Publishing booth at GaryCon X

Black Blade Publishing will have a pile of new books and games available at our GaryCon X booth at this year, with new titles from Black Blade as well as from our many friends and fellow-publishers.

Black Blade Publishing


Black Blade's newest title, Tales of Peril - The Complete Boinger & Zereth Stories of John Eric Holmes makes its debut appearance at GaryCon X:

Tales of Peril by John Eric Holmes

Jon and I will have the remaining copies of the signed and numbered limited hardcover edition available.  Tales of Peril features front and back cover art from Ian Baggley:

Amazons Attack the Temple of Dagon
Characters Engage the Dagonite EHP

...and interior art from Jim Roslof and Chris Holmes. For further information about the book, you can read these preview blog posts:
...and also follow-along with Zach "Zenopus Archives" Howard's Tales of Peril Book Club reading group!

Robert J. Kuntz

Black Blade will also stock copies of Robert J. Kuntz's publications, including RJK-1 Cairn of the Skeleton King, RJK-2 Tower of Blood, and LGCC-1 The Original Bottle City, as well as Rob's Dark Druids adventure from Guy Fullerton's Chaotic Henchmen Productions, and Dave Arneson's True Genius, El Raja Key Archive (in USB and DVD formats), K1 Sunken City from Three Line Studio and TLB Games

Lastly, Black Blade's stock of graph and hex paper has been replenished in time for the convention, and is available in the following sizes and formats:

Graph Pads

6 spi graph double-grid, top
5 spi graph double-grid, bottom

  • Graph Paper, 11 x 17  -  double-sided, 6 squares per inch double-grid on front, 5 squares per inch double-grid on back; $13 per 40 sheet pad
  • Graph Paper 8.5 x 11 - double-sided, 6 spi double-grid on front/5 spi double-grid on back; $6.50 per 40 sheet pad
  • Graph Pads, 4.25 x 5.5 - single-sided, with a 6 spi double-grid; $2.50 per 40 sheet pad

Hex Pads

Campaign hex pad, top
Campaign hex pad, bottom

Wilderlands-sized hexes, top
Greyhawk-sized hexes, bottom
  • Hex Paper, 11  x 17 - double-sided, double-grid with Wilderlands-sized hexes on front, and Greyhawk-sized hexes on bottom; $13 per 40 sheet pad
  • Hex Paper, 8.5 x 11 - double-sided, with triple-grid Greyhawk-sized hexes on front, and Wilderlands-sized double-grid hexes on bottom; $8 per 40 sheet pad
  • Hex Pads, 4.25 x 5.5 - single-sided, with single-grid Greyhawk-sized hexes; $2.50 per 40 sheet pad

Old-School Publishers

Black Blade will also have copies of The Twisting Stair issues #1 (Spring 2017), #2 (Summer 2017), and the new #3 (Spring 2018), which will be fresh-off-the-presses for the show:

The Twisting Stair

Hyqueous Vaults is the OSRIC 10th anniversary adventure module, published by Guy Fullerton.  It celebrates the original retro-clone game system for first edition AD&D, and is also fresh-off-the-presses:

The Hyqueous Vaults

Other books and games new to Black Blade and GaryCon X this year include:

We will likely receive some other titles with uncertain arrival times that are being hand-delivered, so be sure to check back throughout the convention!

Goodman Games

Goodman Games, as usual, will have a pile of new Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures and supplements at the show, including Kickstarter-backer-only copies of the Mutant Crawl Classics rulebooks.  Their Coming Soon page displays their newly-available books as well as those shipping soon.

Of particular interest to old-school gamers will be the Into the Borderlands collection.  It reprints two versions of each B1 In Search of the Unknown (by Mike Carr) and B2 Keep on the Borderlands (by Gary Gygax; B2 info at same link).  This book also includes 5e conversions, essays about the history of the modules, new encounters, and more!

Other highlights include the new DCC fiction collection, Tales from the Magician's Skull, and, as an experiment for Black Blade, we'll carry the Goodman Games Fifth Edition Fantasy adventures for the first time at GaryCon this year.  So, if you're playing 5e, drop by and check out the titles!

Stop By and Say Hello!

Jon Hershberger and I are always happy to catch up with old friends, chat with fans of the games we stock, and to put faces to names of folks we've only known online, so even if you're not interested in any of our books, do please drop by to say hello :D


28 February 2018

The Twisting Stair #3 (Spring 2018)

After a longer delay than planned, Tony Rosten and I are happy to announce that the Spring 2018 third issue of The Twisting Stair is going to press this week, and will debut at GaryCon next week (8-11 March 2018, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)!

The Twisting Stair, issues 1-3

Like TTS#2, The Twisting Stair #3 is 20 pages long, is priced at $5, and is available in print format only.  

TTS#3 Contents

Here's the TOC for The Twisting Stair #3 (Spring 2018):

  • From Kuroth’s Quill by Allan -- "Mega-Dungeon Mapping Strategies for Players" (in which Allan attempts to make mapping fun!)
    • Mapping the Problem: An Introduction
    • The Main Functions of a Map - Why to Map
    • grodog's Three Mapping Modes - How to Map
      • Replicated Maps - aka, the Ernie Gygax Method
      • Descriptive Maps - The Captain's Log
      • Trailing Maps - A Hybrid Approach
    • grodog's Mapping Tips and Tricks
      • Playing Mapping Tactics
      • In-Character Mapping Tactics
  • Critters and Glitters
    • New monster - Fire Weird by Allan (a firey variation on Ernie Gygax's classic monster)
    • New magic items - Ying’s Fantastic Fireworks by Tony (a collection of ten new one-shot magical devices)
  • The Centerfold Mega-Dungeon Map by Tony and Allan -- The third 11"x17" level of The Twisting Stair dungeon
  • Wandering Pairings by Tony -- Third-level wandering monsters
  • Down the Twisting Stair by Tony -- Vertical Design in the Mega-Dungeon
    • The Ups and Downs of Vertical Encounter Design
    • Encounter:  "Will you climb into my Parlour?" said the Great Red Spider to the Fly
    • Vertical Design Involving Multiple Encounters
    • Encounter:  The Upside-Down Water Lock
    • Vertical Design that Spans Multiple Dungeon Levels
  • Stackable Geomorphs Add Verticality to Your Mega-Dungeon by Tony and Allan -- A new type of geomorph designed to increase vertical space in dungeon design
    • 3 stackable base geomorphs
    • 6 stackable geomorphs
    • 3 blank stackable geomorphs

Ordering and Shipping Details To Follow

Since TTS#3 will be printed in Wisconsin for its GaryCon premiere, I don't have a copy in-hand to build out shipping and ordering specs yet.  I assume that baseline costs will be nearly-identical to the shipping for TTS#2, but will need to validate all of that prior to publishing shipping rates for issue #3, as well as for combined shipping rates for multiple issues.

Back Issues Availability

Copies of The Twisting Stair #1 (Spring 2017) and The Twisting Stair #2 (Summer 2017) are also available for $5 each.  Updated shipping information will be posted for ordering all three issues after our return from GaryCon.


If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please post them here, or via The Twisting Stair Google+ community or The Twisting Stair Facebook Page or email us at thetwistingstair@gmail.com.


12 January 2018

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - Introduction and V1 Vanquish the Evil

I have played D&D now for more than 41 years (since I was seven years old), and during those decades I've created many maps, with several periods of higher production back-in-the-day and more-recently since the (re-)advent of the mega-dungeon over the past 15 years or so.  I've shared my maps at several old-school forums, including (among those still alive and kicking), the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Dragonsfoot, ODD74, and various Greyhawk-specific forums like Canonfire!, as well as my grodog's Greyhawk website, and a few here-and-there have found their way to Facebook.  

The maps all vary in age, size, spi (squares per inch), media (pencil, colored pencil, colored ink pen, colored marker), intricacy, and level of completion.  I'd begun to re-inventory them over the past year or so, both to update my grodog's Castle Greyhawk archive, and to insure that I don't lose track of some of them.  This series is an effort to help me keep on-track with that inventory work, as well as an opportunity to revisit some maps I've not looked at in a long time, as well as, perhaps, to complete some that have lain fallow.  

I'm (mostly) thankful that I haven't lost too many of my old creations, since I've heard several stories from Rob Kuntz lamenting lost maps and keys, manuscripts, entire sourcebooks, and such over the years.  Of course, such juvenilia's survival into the present is a double-edged sword:  some are definitely lame.  But even lame maps may often offer us opportunities to learn, and hopefully some nuggets to salvage and to bring forward into newer designs.   At minimum, they should demonstrate the progress I've made as a designer (in my eyes, at least ;) ), keep this whole blogging thing from going to my head, and hopefully some elements from the worst of them can still be repurposed:

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.
--- The Six Million Dollar Man (1974)                                                                                              

So, I'll start this series about my maps---and perhaps their keys (we'll see; many of the levels remain unkeyed)---by beginning with one of my earliest surviving examples.  Here are the c. 1982-1984 maps from V1 Vanquish the Evil, drawn completely in green marker ink (I have no idea why!):

V1 Vanquish the Evil - Level 01 Map


V1 Vanquish the Evil - Level 02 Map


My next post will discuss the maps, and perhaps some of the history of V1 Vanquish the Evil, or I may just move on to greener pastures.  We'll see! :D


07 January 2018

The Hyqueous Vaults - free OSRIC 10th Anniversary adventure!

The Hyqueous Vaults was published over the holidays.  It is a free adventure written by members of the Knights & Knaves Alehouse forums to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the  publication of OSRIC (the Old School Reference & Index Compilation, the first published retro-clone and the one focused on 1e Advanced Dungeons & Dragons):

Its authors were
  • Rebecca Dettmann - contributed the original map design, further modified and rendered by Guy as we developed the scenario
  •  Guy Fullerton - managed all of the project coordination and most of the editing, created more than half of the adventure, and wrote or converted seven new monsters and magic items
  • Allan T. Grohe Jr. (me!) - I wrote three encounter clusters, and one of the magic items, and did some editing
  • Jimm Johnson - wrote two of the encounter clusters and a magic item
  • Matthew Riedel - wrote two of the encounter clusters and a new monster
  • Alex Zisch - provided the back cover illustration and all of the interior artwork, and wrote two of the new magic items
The Hyqueous Vaults has been reviewed twice soon after its release, and has been well-received to date:
You can download the adventure at https://hyqueousvaults.blogspot.com/p/the-hyqueous-vaults.html and we're working through options to print the adventure via both via Lulu's Print on Demand services, and a nicer professionally printed version too.

If you're interested in the development of the project, you can read its history on K&K at http://knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=13846.  We all riffed off of each other's ideas, modified the map, and plugged away at designing the encounters.  That discussion also includes some extensive discussion from the playtesting sessions, too.

Check it out, and please let us know your thoughts on it!


31 October 2017

grodog's events for GaryCon X (March 2018)

No, I'm not dead.  
Just busy.
Which is why I've only now submitted my events for Gary Con X in March 2018:

Explore grodog's Castle Greyhawk levels. Choose from among: 
  1. Escape from Level 14 (6th-9th PCs)
  2. The strange and surreal Egg Chambers level (8th-12th PCs)
  3. Assault The Hidden Aerie of Pazzuzeus (10-14th PCs)
  4. Seek the Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty in Diamonds in the Rough (10th-14th PCs). 
Bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! Pregen PCs provided.

I've submitted to run the events at these times:
  • Thursday 6pm-midnight
  • Friday 6pm-midnight
  • Saturday Noon-6pm

I'm going to try to play something on Saturday night, in addition to playing in Van Chane's Wednesday night Foolsgrave (if Jon Hershberger and I are done setting up the Black Blade Publishing booth in time!). I plan to play or DM in our traditional Sunday night games free-for-all as well.

I haven't decided on off-grid DMing, but am currently leaning toward:
- Call of Cthulhu "Grace Under Pressure"
- ASSH grodog's still-untitled Underborea adventure

I could end up running an off-grid game for Wednesday or Saturday nights if other options fall through, or as another option on Sunday night. We'll see....

26 August 2017

Vote for Greyhawk in New Survey from Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast has a new survey up for D&D 5th Edition at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/36e018baf04e which asks several questions where fans can support their favorite settings, including the World of Greyhawk.

World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980 (image from The Acaeum)

Go vote for Greyhawk! :D


10 August 2017

The Many Levels of Castle Greyhawk - Part 2

In part 1 of this article series, I examined the Castle Greyhawk::El Raja Key relationships reveled in Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key Archive, released last fall. 

In this article, I share an unpublished letter between Gary Gygax and Stephen Chenault of Troll Lord Games, concerning the initial development of the Castle Zagyg project.

Letter from EGG to Stephen Chenault, 14 January 2004

Afternoon Steve:)

Seems as if my email and yours is going to take up a considerable portion of this day, eh? If this goes on much longer I'll phone you +_+

> Thanks for this.  I thought that might be it but then
> looked at the color coded guide and confused myself.

Those colors were put in so as to lessen my own confusion...

> So to recap, does this look roughly online:
> Castle Zagyg
> Part I  Yggsburgh - City and surrounding area

Right, and you have the extent of this super-module set.

> Part II  Dark Chateau - Castle (?)

Well, I suppose a castle-like chateau, more of a cross between a mansion and a fortified dwelling with many outside areas and buildings according to Rob.

> Part III Upper Works - Castle Ruins


> Part IV Beneath the Ground (first three levels)

Storerooms, Cellars, and Dungeon, plus one sublevel, the Arena.

> Part V  The Laboratories, Menagier, Museum (five levels)

The two side levels being the Catacombs and the Upper Crypts.

> Part VI The Deeps (six levels)

These being the Lairs and a side level, the Lower Crypts accessed only from the Upper Crypts above; the Labyrinth and a side level the Warrens that can be accessed from the Labyrinth, the Warrens accessing the Lower Crypts above and the Vaults below; and finally the Endless Rooms with a side level, the Grand Mausoleum, but no entry to the Vaults.

> Part VII The Caverns - grotto, maze (six levels)

Proper order is Maze, Grottos (small caves) and the sublevel Pools of Chaos*, Caves with the Burrows sublevel it connecting to the level below, and Caverns.

* I envision normal connections to the Burrows and Caverns, also transporter pools on level and to various other dungeon level locations on a one-way basis.

> Part VIII Zagig's Way - Lightless Lake, Inferno (three
> levels)

Again, proper order is the Lightless Lake, the Little Inferno, and then Zagyg's Zone (or some such name).

> I've added some working title names that aren't written
> in stone, obviously.



The Levels of The Original Castle Greyhawk (as seen through the lens of Castle Zagyg)

The text from EGG's letter clarifies the original, intended scope for the Castle Zagyg project, and the "Part" designations from Stephen's initial note align to Troll Lord Games' original release schedule for the Castle Zagyg product line (thankfully preserved by Joe Bloch on his Greyhawk Grognard blog), for which Castle Zagyg: The Upper Worksmerely served as the introductory product in a far-grander vision.  A vision that was never realized, unfortunately.

Breaking out the levels from their CZ book groupings yields the following list:
  1. The Storerooms
  2. The Cellars
  3. The Dungeon 
    1. The Arena (sub-level)
  4. The Laboratories
  5. The Menagerie
  6. The Museum 
    1. The Catacombs (sub-level)
    2. The Upper Crypts (sub-level)
  7. The Lairs 
    1. The Lower Crypts (side-level; accessible only from The Upper Crypts above, and The Warrens below)
  8. The Labyrinth
    1. The Warrens (side-level; accessible from the Labyrinth, while The Warrens also accesses The Lower Crypts above and The Vaults below)
  9. The Endless Rooms 
    1. The Grand Mausoleum (side-level; no access to The Vaults)
    2. The Vaults (side-/sub-level?; no access to The Endless Rooms or The Grand Mausoleum) 
  10. The Maze
  11. The Grottos 
    1. Pools of Chaos (sub-level; accessible to The Burrows and The Caverns, and with transporter pools within this level and to various other dungeon levels' locations on a one-way basis)
  12. The Caves 
    1. The Burrows (sub-level; also accessible to The Caverns below)
  13. The Caverns
  14. The Lightless Lake
  15. The Little Inferno
  16. Zagig's Zone

Next up:  slotting the above information into what we already know about Castle Greyhawk's levels.