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!

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."

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!


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

The other articles in my Mega-Dungeon Maps series include: