Thursday, October 31, 2019

NaNoWriMo - Rebellion

Every year I sign up for NaNoWriMo and every year I never really finish. This year, rather than a novel, I plan on doing something functional. I want to wordsmith every blog post I have ever made and if possible, add an image for each.

I figure this task is on par with writing 50,000 words. And I think it is something I need to do anyway.

As I work on that, I will also wordsmith all of my publications and add more artwork to each.

It's a reasonable endeavor, at least more reasonable than kicking out a novel.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 35 - Lead of Calling

The Lead of Calling is a weak magical device used by country witches and sometimes huntsmen and trackers. The Lead of Calling will allow the user to call back a lost animal within a league of the wielder. The animal will take it's sweet time responding, often as much as 3 hours, but it will come. So long as the wielder's only intent is to collar and return the animal, the animal will behave as if it was charmed.

This Lead only works on domesticated animals, which does not include cats.

If the animal is more than 3 miles away, the Lead will indicate the direction to the animal.

There is a powerful and dangerous side effect to this magic item. If the animal is killed while on the lead, the holder will be struck down as if Mazed. They will be trapped in this maze until the animal is consumed, buried or naturally decays. The maze will continuously replay the animals last moments and the character cannot avoid this. There is no saving throw. The trapped person will also experience everything the animal's body experiences in death, from two perspectives, one of being the animal and one of being the Mazed watcher. They cannot starve, die of thirst or inclement weather in this condition. They may awake with one or more phobias or insanities from this effect.

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 34 - Aerialist's Skin

Flying is a little more than throwing one's self at the ground and missing.
This week's magic item is the Aerialist's Skin. This item appears as a rolled runner made of some sort of soft parchment. It feels slightly tacky and can be either brightly colored or a natural tone. It can be found at magic academies as much as at traveling circuses. The runner is laid down along a course or under the trapeze in lieu of a net.

The Aerialist's Skin somehow contains a fractional dimension, meaning that it acts like a net or trampoline. It does not need to be suspended like a net, the falling victim's body penetrates into the fractional dimension of the Skin, rather than the cold, hard ground. The Skin's surface is soft, with a lot of give. It will reduce damage from speed or falling by 6d6 or the equivalent of falling from 60 feet. The tackiness of the surface is amplified by speed and impact meaning that a person falling onto it will not roll or bounce off.

The Aerialist's Skin is unlikely to find its way into a dungeon, but it is an interesting "consumer magic device" which the general public will have a small amount of experience with. Wizards use it to learn to fly. Circuses use it as a safety device for high wire acts. Creative thieves and thief acrobats may find a use for it in cat burglary.

The material is flammable, so usually it is wet down before use.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pulling it together...

Well, I am trying to put together a Patreon Campaign. Patreon is a great idea, but realistically, it is a one stop shop for pulling together some sort of Campaign or major production. No one is there to just fork over money so you can "do some stuff and things".

So, what do I got?

I don't like the tier system, because assigning items/rewards to tiers is a bit wonky if the items don't have a 1 to 1 correspondence. Ok, I'll have to think about it. But what does someone get for a couple of bucks?

A city. Not a module, or a game, but a place to have their characters live in.

I have this great software called Worldographer from Inkwell Ideas. It produces maps like the one above. It comes with a license so you can use in commercial works. That ok, but it's someone else's art work. As a starting point, it's ok.

What comes next follows that person's work. As I look at these little icons, I start to think of how each one appears on the outside, from street level.

That image is how I picture those large villa structures on the upper right side of the map.

And of course, since I have the street view, I can easily image in the interiors.

Interiors give way to "who lives here?", which leads to character art and sheets. That I can do.

How would it look?

I would like an atlas feel, so that each of the facing pages reference each other. On the left page would be the color mini-map, a sketch and a hand drawn interior map of the structure.

On the right side would be a character sketch, a description and a character sheet. It would be very simple to rework the page so that the mini character sheet could be removed and replaced with more text for details of the area. Simply put, one would be D&D based while the other would be rule set agnostic.

I find myself naturally doing this as a part of the process of building my campaign. This one city will have 64 blocks or insula, so at a rate of two a month, I have a functional Patreon page for 2.6 years. Possibly more were I to branch out and do other themes, rule sets, etc.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, October 28, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 33 - Mortar of Pestilence

The Mortar of Pestilence is a massive variation of the Wondrous Decanter. They stand 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. The Mortar must be mounted on some sort of pivot. They are often found on castle walls as a defense. They can disgorge 100 gallons of water, like 3 bathtubs full, in one second. This will cause 1d6 points of damage on impact and will push the victim back 1d12 feet for an addition 1d6 points of damage. If the surface struck is a slope, the victim will slide further and possibly take more damage. The target area is about 10 feet by 10 feet.

But what about the Pestilence? One of the first attempts to use the Mortar involved oil. A couple of pours of oil worked correctly, but it was found that water was far cheaper. One of the Mortars was not poured and over time, the oil went rancid. The oil was impossible to light and within minutes everyone with in 120 feet was sickened, including the defenders.

Oil will go bad within an hour when put in the Mortar. The sickness is airborne and will require a saving throw vs. Disease in the first round of pouring for everyone within 10 feet of the Mortar or within the target area at the base of the wall. A failed saving will sicken characters to the point that they will suffer -2 penalty on all ability scores and a -2 to attack. Anyone who enters the target area will need to make a save, even hours later. This effect will be washed away by the next rain or by pouring water on it. 

The mortar can be filled by bucket or by Create Water spells. Usually clerics will have to work in shifts to fill the whole vessel by magic. Buckets are easier than magic and nasty materials can be added to the vessel. Oil is most common, but so is sewage. Any organic material placed within the Mortar will rot and spoil within an hour and causes the disease effect. Aside from water, any substance placed in the Mortar will become so foul it will be unrecognizable and often does not operate as it should. For example, poison will not be a poison on decanting, oil and alcohols will not burn and milk... oh god. Milk!

Pouring acid into the Mortar of Pestilence will demagik the device and it will bubble and spatter out of the container over a period of 100 hours. Everything in the area must make a save as if they were splashed by the acid.

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 32 - Wondrous Decanter

The Wondrous Decanter is often found in churches, temples and shrines. It is a utility item for holding liquids. Occasionally, the very rich will own one for home use.

The Wondrous Decanter will be filled with water when found. It can be refilled. It does not have charges. There are three ways of filling it: the normal way, going to the well or the stream and filling it up; the second way is for a cleric to cast Create Water; or using the Decanter as a part of the create Food and Water spell casting. 

In all cases, the Decanter will accept up to 36 gallons of water. When filling from a stream or lake as opposed to magic, the Decanter will fill to the brim with clean water in one round even if the source was muddy or fouled. It is not a perfect filter, the source liquid must be mostly water. It cannot take water out of another substances. If water is not the major component of the source, the Decanter will not fill.

One of the wonders of the Decanter is, it will not spill a drop. It will dispense 1 cup of water every 3 seconds. The stopper will seal itself if left unattended. This item is a +5 item when making saving throws. It may occur to characters to use it like a water bomb. It is often too hard to break to make this effective. If broken, all 36 gallons will gush out from the fragments over a period of a minute.

The last wonder is more for the sagely, the Decanter acts like a Bag of Holding for water. It is no heavier full than empty. The water contained within also has little momentum so that all 36 gallons can't be dispensed by accident.

These Decanters come in a variety of shapes, styles, and outward sizes. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

RedBlade Character Generator Review

RedBlade is a super fast character generator for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. This tiny piece of software is lightning fast and full featured. Don’t let the price or size of the package fool you.
The Base screen is all business. Down the left side are buttons to guide you through the process. Select a name, class, multi-class, adjust hit points, etc.

As you select items, the graphical interface displays changes. Click the Abilities button to continue.

Rolling abilities couldn’t be easier. But what kind of player would you be if you didn’t reroll? The program orders the rolls high to low. Assign the highest first by clicking the ability button and proceed through the numbers sequentially. Should you wish to make changes ability assignment, use the arrow buttons on the right.

The Class button displays all the class skills and abilities available. Since I have selected a rather plain fighter, nothing is displayed.

Skill selection is a breeze. There is a drop down box for class and Class skills and Cross Class skills. The software tabulates points to Class and Cross Class skills. The initial selection occurs on the center screen and more ranks are added on the right with the arrow buttons.

The Feats screen is rather ingenious; not only are bonus feats displayed in their own area, feats with prerequisites are greyed out. Hovering on a feat displays a blurb about it in the bottom box.

Languages are a snap with this software. Class and race are used to create a list of languages, the number available is counted off on the top box.

Shopping for equipment is fun; this is my favorite part of character generation. RedBlade breaks equipment down in to a dozen or more types and will display standard magical versions. The only oddity of this screen is the fact that coins are optimized to the minimum quantity. Silver is automatically converted to gold while gold converts to platinum.

The software allows you to customize equipment in the form of masterwork creations or non-standard magical items. It is very comprehensive.

Through out the software, helpful pop ups will appear and describe issues. Each is very clear. To resolve the issue below, you may add more money or click the “Buy for free” check box.
Each screen feeds another, so selecting armor under shopping calculates information for both the “Equipped” screen and the actual armor class.

The Equip screen allows for multiple sets of armor and weapons. It is intelligent, allowing for two handed welt weapons. This screen will create a series of armor classes and to hit numbers on the final character sheet.

One set of equipment is labeled primary combat kit. Using the Dropbox allows for secondary kits such as bows.
The magic screen displays all things magical. Typical this is reserved for inherent abilities. Our fighter does not have any so the screen is blank.

The spells screen divides spells into level and class.  It will allow you to “cheat” and obtain more spells than normally possible. It will also calculate any bonus spells based on race, domain, class or ability points.  It will display both known spells and spells memorized. There is a row for spell DC which I find to be very handy.

The role play section is all free form. Basic information is entered on this page.

A separated area is available for history.

The last area is for goals. If an area is omitted, it does not appear on the character sheet. No need for clutter, eh?

“Finished” gives two options, character sheet and save. The sheet is saved as an HTML file and clicking the sheet button will display it in your favorite browser software.
Since RedBlade uses standard HTML portability is not a problem. Pages can be opened in Word or converted to pdf to fine tune printing.
All and all RedBlade is not the most comprehensive character generator, but if you want to quickly crank out characters, this is the tool for you.

Reality to Fantasy and Back

I want to explain some of the fantastic and mudune items that appear in my last post. This piece felt like a bit of Ready Player One. There are many references which may be unclear.

  • On Transit Road, in East Amherst is a former bar converted to a Church. I have no idea what kind of church, but there it is. My wife really did point it out to me. 
  • In Buffalo, it is common for people to tack on an "s" to words that should not have them. "Anywheres" is a horrible one, but we also say things like "Federal's" for "Federal Butch Shop". It's not entirely clear if we think that Mister and Missus Federal own the butcher shop or if we think we need to add an apostrophe because we dropped whole words. "Timmy runs", "Timmy ho's" and "Tim Hortons" are some of the more common language butcherings we perpetrate. 
  • The Peasant Dance and The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are the source of many of the references in this story. If you enlarge the picture on the right, look at the two men carrying pies on the unhinged door. There is an extra foot or two people have 5 feet. The foot is wearing a shoe which doesn't match the boots of either men. Mysterious, eh? 
  • Fact: The very high booths are a reference to a bar named McBee's. (Again, that damned Buffalo "s".)
  • The picture on the wall matches McBee's style and mirrors Bruegel's styling of the Wedding painting, but is actually an image from the classic D&D module, X2 Ch√Ęteau d'Amberville.
  • Bruegel is referred to as "the Elder", but he wasn't a friar or anything. 
  • Many of Bruegel's paintings depict The Church in a questioning way.
  • "Diamonddraught from the Land" is a reference to the Thomas Covenant Chronicles. It heals people. 
  • "Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre" is a reference to the game Gemstones IV. 
  • Gemstone IV is entirely textual. Actually consuming coffee from a text game would be weird. 
  • The coffee referenced can be found in the town of River's Rest or simply "the Rest", which is referenced in the blessing prayer potion of the text. It is the reason that one word is capitalized after the comma. 
  • Elanith is not in Canada, it is the fictional world Gemstone IV and DragonRealms takes place in. 
  • The menus and dice are a reference to the many tables in various RPGs. 
  • "Scout. The Son of the Miller" was meant to sound like the name of a Tarot card. 
  • One of the ways of gaining experience in Gemstone IV is run messages. Destinations are random, as is payment. 
  • The die rolling is kind of reference to The Deck of Many things and how it is presented is how a Deck of Many things might work for a married couple. 
  • The blessing is a reference to classic Cub Scout and Boy Scout meal time prayers. My son is a Scout and lifeguard at a local camp.  
  • I'm a teacher who has taken over a classroom from an excellent teacher and mentor named Ms. Miller. This has happened at two different schools, three times. Weird how that happened. 
  • There is only one magic item table with an entry for 67-68 in the Efreet DMG . It's the Armor and Shield table, Splint Mail, +3. 
  • Believe it or not, passing down tradition like D&D has been going on for 3 generations, with more to come. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tales from the High-backed Booth

My wife and I were driving for the sake of getting out of the house. We were rolling through East Amherst, NY. My wife is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, so walking was out of the question but she had been in the house for far too long. So, a drive it was.

"Ow," she said for the hundredth time, for the hundredth pot hole on Transit Road.

"Sorry. Again," I said, "Also, for the hundredth time."

Kitty laughed a bit. "I wish it wasn't so dreary. And I wish I hadn't taken that hydrocodone."

"Well, if you hadn't taken that, I would have never gotten you out of the house," I said.

"True. But still, I wish it wasn't raining." She sighed.

"There's a Tim Hortons ahead." I've never been certain if "Tim Hortons" is grammatically correct, or if it needs an apostrophe or if it was the Buffalo "S" running amok. Verbally, you can't tell the difference, but in writing it gets flagged by the spell checker, every time.

As I pulled in for our usual Timmy run, Kitty began musing.

"I should've put something in my stomach before that pill," she said.

"A muffin? Maybe a breakfast sandwich?" I offered.

"Hey, that's weird." Her voice was dreamy, distracted. "They turned that old tavern in to a temple."


I didn't slam on the brakes, it was just the sound my brain made.

"What did you just say?" I demanded.

"That tavern, the one that looks like a barn. It's a temple, now." She pointed at a rough building across Transit Road.

The Peasant Dance by  Pieter Bruegel the Elder
It was an impressive structure, despite being so old. The roof was thatched and the second floor was made of reinforced wattle and daub, framed in dark thick timbers. The timbers were rough cut and stained, as was the central door. Around the door was more of that light colored wattle and daub and two matching holy symbols. A hex with an eye in the center and 7 lightning bolts radiating from the iris in every direction. 

What was especially odd was that the tavern's... er temple's other walls were made up of hay bales stacked up the rafters of the second floor. Someone had placed blue canvas under the bales to protect them from direct contact with the asphalt parking lot.

Kitty's eyes met mine and she sent one of those mental commands that only a spouse can do.

I swung the car around and crossed Transit Road. All six lanes, excitedly, but carefully. Equally carefully, I opened my wife's car door and helped her hobble to the entrance of the tav... temple. It was a trick getting her over the blue canvas, flapping in the wind and rain.

"Does it have a name?" Kitty asked.

"None, that I can see," I answered.

The door wasn't locked and we stumbled over the threshold; Kitty sucked air as her knee moved faster than the surgery would allow.

"Sorry," I said as I took her weight on my shoulder. Inside, by lantern light, I could see dark, rich colors and little else. There was a large rectangle, which I interpreted as a booth and table. We hobbled over and took a seat. We sat in the middle of seven high booths. For some reason, I moved to the seat across from Kitty, rather than next to her.

As I blinked in the relative darkness, I could see the booth backs were nearly six or seven feet high. We could only see a narrow slice of the room, like a hallway. Along the far wall was a high bar or a low wall. I couldn't tell which, but there was a lantern on that wooden bulk. The near wall was more interesting, it was made of hay. We both ran our hands across the prickly surface. A small tray of condiments was in the middle of the table, and inexplicably, there was a framed picture tacked to the hay bale wall. In the dark, I though perhaps the photo was of a couple or family standing around a table, but I couldn't be sure.

Kitty chuckled and said, "It's the Hydrocodone Tavern."

Unnerved by her chuckle I got up from my seat and moved next to her. A shadow loomed over us as a form blocked out the light of the lantern on the bar.

"Welcome to the Temple of the High-backed Booth." A zippo flared before my eyes. The friar lit a small candle next to the condiment tray. He was clean shaven, with ring of wild white hair around his head, but his scalp was bare, tonsured. He seemed to be wearing some sort of bearskin or perhaps a hair shirt. His boot steps were heavy thuds, even as he delicately shifted to the far side of the table to look at both of us. His look was full of judgement and appraisal.

He produced a pair of menus and two small black cups. Like the boots, they clunked solidly on the tabletop before us.

"I am Elder Bruegel, but you may know me as Peter." His voice was gravelly, like an old peasant's and his smile was slight like a wizened village elder.

"Diamonddraught from the Land, for the lady's knee. And Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre, for the gentleman. Please consider your options carefully." He left the menus before us and faded back into the darkness.

"I'd say that was 'weird', but we're in an old bar turned Temple on Transit Road, ordering drinks," I said. "And there is a picture of the d'Amberville family standing around Stephen in a coffin."

"I don't want to know that. And I certainly don't want to drink this," Kitty indicated the cup before her.

"Yes, you do. Trust me."

She sniffed it. "It smells... powerful, clean."

I made a sound of assent.

"Trust me, it's better for you than what I have here. And this coffee is frickin' close to perfect." I fished around in the condiment tray for a half and half and raw sugar. A pair of percentile dice toppled out of the tray and there was a flare from my menu.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Something very good or very bad, I'm sure." I ignored the light from the menu and stirred up my coffee. I took a tiny sip. My whole face smiled as I remembered the last time I had this coffee.

"That good? You're face is going to stay like that if you keep smiling like that." Kitty tapped my nose and lips, smiling back at me.

"I haven't been to Elanith in forever," I said.

"Is that in Canada?" she asked.

"You need to drink, too," I said.

As I spoke she gently picked up the cup and sniffed it again.

"Trust me," I repeated.

She sipped the Diamonddraught and let out a deep, deep breath. Relief spread across her face. Although I had made her laugh and smile several times that morning, the creases of pain had let go of her forehead, dispelled by the giant's drink.

"Sir, the dice have been cast. Tell me your option." Elder Bruegel said. Funny, he had approached silently this time. It struck me as mysterious, the boots were gone, replaced by pointed shoes. A minor mystery I guess, because there was never any explanation.

I opened the menu and looked at it. It was blank but for one glowing line. I nodded at the option and it seemed fitting. Before I read it back to him, I asked a question.

"Elder Bruegel. Peter, sir. What is this place?"

"This is the Temple of The High-backed Booth. It is the place where one goes when one does not know what campaign they are on. It is the starting place of many adventures. But for people such as you, it is a resting place between adventures. As you know, at the level you two have attained, there is no magic and no miracles, but the ones you make. It is time for you to read me your selection," Elder Bruegel said.

Reassured, I read to him from the table in the menu.

"Number 67-68. Scout. The Son of the Miller," I read. I was pretty sure that if I had counted, there would be have been forty-nine blank spaces around it.

"So your adventure begins. Do you know what it means and what you must do?" Elder Bruegel asked.

I nodded.

"Do I get to roll?" Kitty asked.

"No. Any number of casts may be made in The Temple of the High-back Booth, but you are bound together in life and in this adventure," he said.

Kitty did not look happy at all. She was very disappointed not to be allow to play.

"My lady, it is very well, it more than suffices. Have faith. Take a chance today, like you did when he asked your leave, years ago," he said.

We only had a moment to hold hands and exchange nervous glances before Elder Bruegel returned with our food. He placed a covered platter before each of us and handed me a small bundle. It was made of parchment and wrapped with a wax sealed ribbon. Inside, I could feel cool metal.

"Do you know what to do?" Bruegel asked.

"Yes. I do." I answered. Before he could leave, I asked him for a blessing.

"Tireless guardian on our way,
"Thou has kept us well this day,
"While we thank thee, we request,
"Care continued, pardon, Rest."

"Thank you, Elder," I said. "That was beautiful."

Kitty smiled at him and he excused himself. That was the last we saw of him.

"Oh! It's perfect!" she exclaimed. It was a plate of strawberries, chocolate, tiny muffins and jams. "What did you get?"

"Bread. Want some?" I asked, but I already knew the answer.

She nodded and I broke it into pieces to share. She slather them with jam and we ate together, sipping our drinks. Just like we did on our honeymoon at Disney. The little jars of jam even had little Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, just like the jars in Disney did in 2001. I glanced around, half expecting a castle view out the window, but there wasn't even a window. A Disney Honeymoon is fantasy and this was real life.

"Is that the bill?" Kitty asked as she tapped the small package.

"Its... a form of payment. We paid in advance, I guess you could say." I answered as best I could. "We have to run the message to receive the reward."

As we drove home, the rain abated. Everything seems so much lighter and not just the sky. We felt lighter inside.

I gave the package to my son Paul, the scout.

Kitty asked, "What is it?"

"I don't know. Will see when it is done," answered Paul. He ran off to his bedroom with Elder Bruegel message.

Later that night, long after bedtime, Paul was done.

"I never would have gotten into models and games, if it wasn't for you dad."

I smiled. "I said the same thing to my dad. Probably more than once."

"It's a windmill," he said.

"What does it mean?" my wife asked.

"I think it is a sign. Millers used to be a place where people went to negotiate, with the actual miller-man acting as the moderator. It's a good thing to be, kind of the linchpin of society." I said.

"I don't care about that. I would like any thing you brought for me," Paul said.

"He's my boy, through and through," said Kitty as she gave him a hug.

Friday, October 25, 2019

City of Nace Update

I have been doing some updates to my City of Nace map. The software I am using is called Worldographer by Inkwell ideas.

When I first started with the software, I just started throwing stuff on a map all willy-nilly. If it looked vaguely correct, I went with it. Since this is a Roman themed campaign, I realized that I need Roman themed buildings. Worldographer comes with a solid icon set, which features hundreds of icons. This is overwhelming at first.

In the first iteration of the map you can see medieval structures blended with Romanesque structures. I thought it was cool, but then I learned to hate it .

I have been slowly updating and over writing medieval structures with Roman-like ones. In the image below, can see the difference. These two blocks are a mixture of villas and apartments. To get a sense of scale as to how large this city is, the villas have a footprint of 160 feet across by 80 feet. Each black grid box is 80x80 and each city block is about 800 by 800 feet to the middle of the road. I plan on having about 62 of these insulas or city blocks on the map, perhaps more. 

There are a couple of different villas, some with large stone block structures and others that are more plain. I did some sketches of villas based on some of the ideas I had for this city. Currently, I am working on inking some of the apartment like structures.

With the sense of scale, you should have a sense of density. The smaller, rectangular structures are apartments, which could hold 20-24 families. The Romans sort of had a nuclear family, but they also had a high mortality rate. Sometimes, families would include adopted family members, adult children (adopted or not), servants, in-laws, parents and slaves. A family of 4 plus, one parent, one in-law, a servant and a slave would be 8 people packed into a tiny space. Add in some cousins and such and the density swells. Each one of these structures would hold about 175-200 people in a 40 by 80 foot space.

Since this city is new and Romanesque, the town will have massive green spaces and broad roads because of the expected density. To be Roman was to be civilized and that meant your city was your home. Your apartment was merely were you slept.

Nace has two independent, but side-by-side agricultural industries going on. The first is the official state run gardens of magical herbs. The other is the hoppers and brewers black market. Due to happenstances of history, the city first had a minor environmental disaster that made some parts of the city undesirable for dwellings rapidly followed by two acts of war which made rehabing these areas impractical. The brewers moved in and started planting trees, flowers and herbs in the empty spaces of the city. Such activities in the city are illegal, but the Hopper's Guild is too strong to be confronted, mainly for the reason of beer. The other issue is that almost no one wants to live in these areas, so bringing the practice to heel is not practicable.

The villas with the stone block structures are silos for black market goods, mill houses or fake silos. Some people pretend to have access to black market sources to inflate their social standing and build these fake structures into their homes. Mill houses are animal and human powered grinding stations within the city walls. Both tend to hide the houses of  illicit business. Some of these mill houses are simply stone sitting areas where children and women sit with family and neighbors to gossip while using small hand mills. It could take hours to produce enough flour feed a family for a day, so these are social hot spots in the town.

The second type of villa house has a central courtyard, sometimes with a fountain or pool, memorial stones or other outside artwork. I have rendered all exterior features as "stone thingies". They could be standing stones, benches, flagstones, etc.

These villas are slightly more modern than a Roman villa, while maintaining many of the features. The roof covers only the sections around the walls with an open courtyard. The exterior walls are brick covered with stucco or perhaps marble depending on the owner's wealth. Some of the walls are not entirely closed. The most modern area is a smallish gable like structure on the south wall. Its is two stories tall and has two 15' by 10' wings which are independent of the main two story structure. The main space is about 20' by 30'. The front doors are vaguely like the large wooden doors on a stave church. This central structure serves many purposes, from storage to upscale apartments.

The two L shaped, roofed but unenclosed areas are work areas. In winter, the ends of the L's would be closed off by light wooden walls with doors. This area doesn't often receive snow. The southern two corners are bedrooms, while the center wings are offices and living spaces. In the open areas under the roof would be many tables and such to support the production work in the L shaped areas, whatever that might be.

Moving away from the housing areas, there are two large areas for infrastructure. First is the termination point for the aqueduct, which comes over the walls of Nace. From here water, is directed around the city underground. There are three large pool in this area: the main reservoir (center south), the public fountains (center north) and the fountain of Neptune (northeast). The main reservoir is 8 feet above ground and rough stairs lead up to the water's edge. The public fountains are large attached to a 3 foot retaining wall. Neptune's fountain is a massive pool with a backing wall 10 feet high. All three are connected by tunnels under the insula.

Midtown is the Colosseum, just east of the northern gate. It is a massive 4 insula or city blocks. Around the southern edge of this image are the tavern houses. These are illegal business and are frequently burned to the ground by arsonists. These pyromaniacs have yet to be arrested. Sometimes people go to bed looking at the large green spaces around the structure, only to awaken to new, illegal bars and taverns in the morning.

The grounds of the Colosseum are public spaces and no buildings can be built there, except the 4 gladiator quarters. The city guard plans on not investigating their 3 planned arsons that will demolish the row of taverns on the southeastern side of the Colosseum. The citizens don't mind because of the cheap beer and the fact that the guard calls the fire brigade before it commits these unsolvable crimes. It's a game of flaming cat and mouse. 

Much of this history is based on David Macaulay's excellent book, City.

As an added bonus, David Macaulay partnered with PBS to create the film Roman City, which uses animation and live action show how his fictional city of Verbonia came to be. I have yet to find DVDs, but it is available on Youtube.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Unreview - Fat Goblin Games - Gnoll Artwork

As I mentioned before, I am working a OSR/AD&D character class for Gnolls. It's still a work in progress, I am slow has hell. I've never drawn a gnoll in my life, so it was time to get some artwork from someone else.

I made a DriveThruRPG purchase of Fat Goblin Games artwork. The publisher's name is rather longer than that: "Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art Ⓒ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games".

I hope I got the artist name correct, because this is fabulous artwork.

In my discovery process for using other people's work in my products, I read through the licensing agreement, something I haven't done in a very long time. The license is excellent, probably covering any thing you might want to do with the work. There are some restrictions, which are also well thought out and completely reasonable. You get exactly what appears in the preview and cover, at a much higher resolution and in .tiff file format. So, fear not when ordering. It's all good.

In looking at it the artwork, I realized something. It doesn't fit with my style at all. My work is rather low end, and to be honest, this artwork is way too good to be paired with my works. I won't be using as a style choice. I have no idea what I will do. However, I will be framing a copy of the Gnoll for my game area. It is a very nice piece, which will be very suitable for other, professional content producers. I'm a hobbyist, not a pro.

What I am really looking at is the subscription model. For less than $100, you can get a 100 images by Mr. Hershey. To be brutally honest, I have no need of such a stockpile of work, but I want it. I want it for no other reason that it looks great. Even if I only LOVED 1 in 10 image, that's a steal for a card sized mini-posters for the game room.

Even better than 100 images for less than 100 bucks, is his Patreon account. I totally missed this aspect of Fat Goblin Games and wouldn't have known about if Merciless Merchants over on MeWe hadn't pointed it out for me. Thank you, MeWe community!

I would request a minor update from Mr. Hershey. A second file with a signature. I know Fat Goblin Games is looking at a completely different model of business, but sometimes good artwork is simply to be appreciated and needs an artist's signature.

I'm not going to do my normal stat-block for this unreview, It's great stuff. I'll close with 5 of 5.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Very Simple Combat

Last week, I went back to Gemstone IV by Simutronics. This is a MUD heavily drawing on Iron Crown Enterprises.

I want to show a simple combat or two. It doesn't end well. My character has encountered a kobold. The game features many weapons, armor types and shields. My character is equipped with a very basic shield and broadsword. In this scenario, my character is at the ready, as is the kobold. 

You swing a broadsword at a kobold!
  AS: +33 vs DS: +34 with AvD: +36 + d100 roll: +29 = +64
   A clean miss.
Roundtime: 8 sec.

Lets walk through this wall of text. AS is my Attack Strength, a computed value which is based on my skill with a one handed weapon, my strength bonus, my skill at combat maneuvers (which I have none), a bonus due to magical effects (also none) and my stance. Stance is an important topic as my character can choose how aggressive he is; at the moment he is hardly aggressive at all.

The kobold has a stat called DS, or defensive strength which my AS is compared to. AvD is Attack vs Defense and is a measure of how good my sword is against the kobold's armor. It is pretty good.

The final two numbers a random 1d100 roll subtracted from everything else. In this case, I got 29, which was modified to +64. 100 or better is required to hit, so I just wasted my time. If I stayed like this, I could roll a maximum of 1d100+35, which means I will hit eventually.

Actual time. My character is unable to act for 8 real time seconds, as shown by the Roundtime indicator.

A kobold swings a short sword at you!
  AS: +36 vs DS: +79 with AvD: +34 + d100 roll: +76 = +67
   A clean miss.

The monster goes through the exact same sequence I did. Note that he rolled a 76, which was modifed to +67. He has no chance of hitting me. He also is stuck in Roundtime, but I don't get to see that number.

You are now in an offensive stance.

Stance controls how aggressively my character attacks. By switching to an offensive stance, I gain AS.

You swing a broadsword at a kobold!
  AS: +66 vs DS: -5 with AvD: +36 + d100 roll: +51 = +158
   ... and hit for 46 points of damage!
   Stomach ripped open by mighty blow!
The kobold crumples to a heap on the ground and dies.
Roundtime: 8 sec.

Well, that was quick. By switch stances, I doubled my AS from 33 to 66. The kobold is dead, but I am stuck in round time as a goblin walks in. Goblins are second level monsters and tougher than kobolds.

A goblin swings a flail at you!
  AS: +46 vs DS: -5 with AvD: +43 + d100 roll: +92 = +186
   ... and hits for 82 points of damage!
   Awesome shot collapses one of your lungs!

Looking at the AS, the goblin is only 10 points better than the kobold. BUT my DS is -5 because I am stanced up. I am not in a defensive position. Note that the end roll is very high, which increases the damage. I edited out some other things, but left in the killing shot.
It seems you have died, my friend.  Although you cannot do anything, you are keenly aware of what is going on around you...
You mentally give a sigh of relief as you remember that the Goddess Lorminstra owes you a favor.
...departing in 10 mins...

A goblin kicks your dead body and spits.

Goblins are mean. In this exchange, the monster and the characters are on nearly equal footing, except for one minor point. Monsters have roundtime when they enter a room, giving a characters a chance to change stances or retreat before a swing comes.

Since I wanted to show a fatal combat from both sides, obviously I did neither thing. This is playing to lose or playing to make an example. It would have been easy to avoid this end, but I chose not to.

The beauty of this game system is the use of computers to speed the computation of stats vs. rolls. It is an elegant system. Over the next few weeks, I will be demonstrating some of the various aspects of the game.

You can join me in game at It is F2P.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Magic Scroll I Was Looking For...

I seem to recall making a list of all of the spells in the AD&D Player's Handbook. It was a text file, I am sure. As I look around, I can't find what I did with it. It could have been decades ago, it could be on a floppy.

I'm sure if I searched long enough and hard enough, I would find it.

Google directed me to, which has a file sort of like what I want. That website is full of Old School goodness. Check out the top level, here. It looks to a multi-session game log. I can't wait to read it.

Ok, I digress. Back to the task at hand.

I want a list of spells, just the names, from PHB, as close to text only as possible. I needed to recreate the file.

So I got working. Here are the results:

Spreadsheet file for Google Drive.
A Spreadsheet file as HTML page.
A Doc file for Google Drive.
A Doc file as HTML page.

Now, I have better than what I wanted. Feel free to use and share this AD&D Spell List.

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 31 - The Strap of Stamina and Strength

The first character to find this magic item will probably use it wrong. It is a toggle on a leather loop or strap. The character will notice that the leather loop will grow or shrink on command. The largest and small sizes are 6 inches and 2 feet. It sort of looks like a lanyard. If worn like a lanyard, the wearer will be immediately healed at a rate of 1 hp or whatever their constitution bonus is. This can happen once per week.

Some may think that it is a key chain, a necklace, a lanyard or other common device. It is obvious not a weapon but does hold power. 

It IS activated by being placed around the neck, but all humans and demi-humans are using it wrong if they wear it.

When placed around a dog's neck, the Strap of Stamina and Strength confers the following abilities: 
  • The dog will be granted maximum hit points for it's type. 
  • They will also grow to the maximum size for it's species or bred. 
  • The animal will gain human like intelligence, to a maximum of seven (3+1d4) 
  • The dog will be able to speak common, although it will speak only when it thinks it is necessary. 
  • The dog will become territorial and defend a specific person or area of it's choosing. This maybe rather nebulous to characters, such as all children, one woman, a house, a forest, a lake, etc. 
Additionally, the dog is able to regenerate 1 hit point per round to full health, once per week. This requires sleep. 

One of the side effects of The Strap of Stamina and Strength is the animal has free will and will not necessarily follow the person putting the device on the dog. For this reason, it cannot be placed on a familiar or animal companion. They will frustrate all efforts to be collared. 

Once an animal is collared with such a device, they will attack anyone who attempts to remove it. The Strap is all but indestructible once placed on the dog. The Strap will magically free a dog if a leash or lead is attached to the collar. The Strap will phase if it becomes stuck on a natural obstruction and remain with the dog. 

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 30 - Elven Firebeads

In my very first post for this series, Magic Lamps, I introduced the idea every day problems caused by magic. A magic lamp or a light spell doesn't throw heat. Back when we all lived in caves, we probably needed light more than heat. However, knowing you can make both is great.

This magic item is very common in the elven lands in the Peninsula of Plenty campaign. The first elves in the land were unwilling to cut down trees and as a consequence, used magic for lighting. This was not helpful when they were hit by particularly cool monsoons. The Peninsula doesn't often receive snow outside of the mountains, so when it started falling right after the cold monsoon season, the elves were in trouble. If they had wanted to collect wood, it was too late to identify the best wood and proper kindling. The first attempt at a colony on the Peninsula retreated across the sea because of the lack of fire.

Thus the need for Firebeads were born. Firebeads look very much like prayer beads. To make them function, the user pulls a bead off the end, cups it in their hands like an ember and blows on it. The bead will warm, then burn like kindling for two hours. The beads have an affinity for earth and ash. They will roll up to 3 feet towards earth and ash, even up hill. A typical set of firebeads will have 52 beads with one large bead or toggle at the end to serve as a handle.
Empire to the left, Elven lands to the right.

In the elven lands, every household and every traveler will have one of these sets. In the human lands, they are highly prized treasures as they have not found a way to reproduce the magic. Creating such an item requires both a magic user and a cleric working in tandem.

Firebeads are interesting in the fact that they are a magical consumer product. They can burn homes down and they can inflict a point of damage, but only in highly contrived scenarios. For the most part, they are totally safe.

While totally common in the elven lands, they are a novel and highly prized commodity in the Empire. Most Elven-Human treaties involve the trade of Firebeads for Verbena, a powerful healing herb. These products are used to seal deals because they cannot be used as a weapon.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 29 - The Witch's Staff

A witch's staff is empowered by contact with owner. It is a personal magic weapon, which cannot be wielded by anyone other than the mage, while the owner lives. If the owner passes, the staff will attempt to reach their next closest family member. Failing that, it may pass into the hands of a dear friend.

The staff has several benefits. First, it improves the wizards night vision, so they may see and read more easily at night. It is more like low light vision than infra or ultravision. There must be some source of light, even if it is starlight. Second, it confers a bonus of one to the mage's Dex bonus, allowing a +1 even if they do not possess an ability score high enough for a Dex bonus. If the mage isn't entitled to use their Dex bonus, they lose this bonus, too. The witch's staff is a +1 weapon that will inflict 1d4+1 in melee or release a dart of energy up to 20 feet for 1d3 points of damage. The dart of energy is a once per round effect, they do not gain more darts per level, nor can the darts be fired as fast a mage could throw a physical dart. The mage may not swing and fire a dart in the same round. 1d4+1 and 1d3 are not typos. This is the cost of having a staff that does multiple things. If the mage is reduced to 4 hit points or less, the staff will heal them for one hit point a day, in addition to any natural healing. If the mage is tied up and is in contact with the staff, the staff will cause ALL knots within 10 to 60 feet (1d6x10) to unravel, freeing the mage and possibly others. It will do this at the time of the mage's choosing. It can and will unravel the knots on clothing, shoes, armor, nets, etc. and this function is all or nothing. It is not selective.

There are dangers to creating or owning a staff like this. If someone grabs the staff from the mage's hands, it will sting them for 1d4+1 points of damage and they will let go. The mage may swing at them in the same round. If the staff is left someplace and someone touches it, it will sting for 1d2 point damage. If the person persists in their efforts to pick up the staff, it will "bite" them for 2d4+2 points of damage. The wound will actually look like an animal bite, even though the staff has no teeth or mouth-like structure. This is normally fatal to average people and the law may take the staff owner to task over this. A person who is bit by the staff and survives will not willing enter line of sight of the staff ever again. The staff will not bite or sting animals, family members or dear friends.

The wielder of such an item cannot be multi-classed or duo classed, EVER. The witch's staff will not accept them and will not reveal any powers to such a person.

Domesticated animals, even hostile ones, cannot be harmed by the staff even if swung at them. If detected for, the staff has an alignment of true neutral. This has no bearing on the mage's alignment or their ability to use it. It's a tool.

Owning a witch's staff will reduce the wielder's hit points by one per level. A third level mage will have a max hit points of 9, plus a Constitution bonus, if any. If the staff is lost, destroyed, etc. the hp loss is permanent. Replacing the staff with second staff will drain an additional 1 hp per level from the mage. A third will do the same, leaving the mage with but 1 hp per level. Taking up a fourth staff will transform the mage into a green slime, even if they had a Constitution bonus or some other magical means of boosting their hp over 1d4 per level. They cannot be resurrected or reincarnated, as they aren't dead. Nothing short of a wish will allow them to recover. If wished back into their normal form, they will be unable to wield a Witch's Staff.

This weapon was designed for old school D&D and AD&D campaigns, but should be usable in other systems. The terms "witch" and "mage" has been used throughout so that users could be an actual witch, an illusionist or a magic user. It is not appropriate for druids and clerics.

This magic item steals heavily from R. A. MacAvoy's Damiano Series of books.

H. M. Hoover's The Delikon Review

Title: The Delikon
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1977
Pages: 148 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ten year old Atla, 12 year old Jason and 307 year old Varina are children in the palace at the time of the coup. H. M. Hoover likes hooks like that, and this hook is fabulous.

Not all that is described is as it is. Hoover weaves a tale of an alien teacher guarding her charges as the world turns upside-down. Her prose is sanitary, succinct as is the world these characters exist in. As a Young Adult book should be as it is meant for children.

The focus of the story is the many dilemmas faced by Varina as she tries to guide her charges to safety. Varina's people have reshaped Earth's society and reshaped Varina to navigate between these societies. This creates a number of problems as Varina protects her charges in a place between two worlds-gone-wild.

This book holds itself against progress as the technology described is either utterly fantastic or totally pedestrian, with solid plot and story reasoning for both.

The Delikon is a drama, pasted on top of a world that could be utterly violent. The reader, like Alta and Jason are effectively screened from the violence of the world, while still being touched by the urgency and import of such events.

The Delikon is a wonderful read, a quick page turner. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Books by H. M. Hoover on AbeBooks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

AD&D Spell Magic User - Aware Air

Aware Air

Level: 3                                                                                                    Components: V, S, M
Range: 0                                                                                                   Casting time: 1 segments
Duration: 6 rounds                                                                                 Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: 36"

Being caught in melee is an occupational hazard for magic users. Aware Air gives the spell caster a supernatural ability to track threats out to 36" (360 feet indoors, 360 yards outdoors). Casting the spell takes but a single segment, but precludes attacks and other magic for the round of casting and the next round.

Aware Air will alert the magic user to moving targets in a 360 degree sphere, regardless of line of sight or illumination. This awareness gives them a bonus of 1 to AC and also means that moving targets cannot flank or sneak up behind them, even if hiding or invisible. They can't see details of the invisible person, only the fact that something is there. The spell will give the caster a bonus of 1 against illusions as it is one more point of data to allow them to disbelieve it.

The caster is aware of trees, bushes, etc. moving in the wind but will filter them out as non-threats. If the caster is in a body of water, they can only see above the surface. Moving liquids are opaque to this spell. Casting this spell underwater is ineffective, however it will create a sphere of airy water for two rounds before dissipating, out to 36". 

The caster is NOT aware of non-moving targets. They cannot see barriers, meaning there could be a wall between them and the tracked target. In respect to flanking and backstabbing, if the enemy is already in position, within reach to attack and motionless, the mage will NOT see it coming. They do keep the bonus to AC. Likewise, the spell doesn't reveal traps because they typically don't move until sprung.

Creatures that teleport cause the caster duress, they will jumps-startle when something teleports within the sphere of the spell. This completely breaks their concentration. Blink dogs are particularly distressing. When fighting Displacer Beasts, the mage will see two copies of the creature and will be unable to detect which is real until someone either makes or fails a strike on the beast. If an Air Elemental is within the range of the spell, it will be the ONLY target tracked. Air Elementals in range of the spell can speak directly to the caster, as if they are whispering in their ear.

If the caster moves faster than a jog, they can only detect targets to their front and in their path of travel. If the caster stops running, the spell becomes a spherical effect again.

The material component is a feather plucked from a living bird. Found feathers do not count.

Never, Ever Do I Ever... Horses, Drownings and First Aid.

I never let my characters have a skill called "horsemanship", "swimming" or "first aid". Know why? Killing a player because they don't have these skills is painful. Boring. Nothing is worse than being in bored and in pain. I wrote a book just for that reason. 

If a player wants to role play that they can't ride a horse, the other players can cart him around like a bag of oats. No need for silly rolls. I'm not prepping a campaign for players where one of them wants to die of a horseshoe to the face.

How hard it is it to jump in the ocean in a full set of plate armor, shield and sword? Super easy. Why roll? It's obvious as to what happens next.

One time, I amused myself with this very scenario by having the player to roll a four to succeed. As an epic battle of life and death raged around him, he was the only person not in on the joke.

"No... you're still aliv- er, hanging in there... keep rolling..."

I have this rule that characters aren't dead until they hit -10 hp and once you hit zero or less, you lose one point per round. Anyone attending to that character stops to the hit point drop. It creates an interesting scenario where the wizard drops to -4 hp, and all the way down to -7 before the cleric hits him with a cure light wounds for 4 points leaving them at -3 until they heal naturally. It's a couple of days before the wizard wakes up.

No need to screw any of the characters by telling them the medic couldn't figure out the arrow was the problem due to a bad roll. This is realistic for some reasons and total BS for others. In the Middle Ages, if you didn't respond to treatment, they'd bleed you. Save vs. Barber? No thanks.

Why do this? Because I like to reuse bad guys. A dude with a club isn't assured of killing someone with it unless they beat that person downed and beyond. If THAT doesn't occur to the players, well, I can be lazy with their enemies and they can have endless rematches with opponents. My NPCs can have names.

Which is more legendary, beating someone to death in a dark, dank, dungeon or having a horde of people who refuse to fight you because they don't want to be whupped again, third time this month? 

In my last aborted campaign, the "heroes" hacked apart 4 raiders that wouldn't surrender and took two captive. The captives were obviously intimidated by the PC's bloodthirsty treatment of their friends. Although the campaign ended, one of the players put two and two together and realized that the prisoners were the ones responsible for most... actually all of the raiding parties kills in the village. The 4 guys killed were a patrol that didn't mix it up with anyone. They let the wrong people live.

Trust me, that would have come back to haunt the party.

The lesson is, don't give people stupid skills.