Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Spherical Hex Map

My last post generated two types of responses: 

"How did you wrap the hex map onto a globe?"

"You actually can't. It's been a quest of the computer games industry..."

This is a case of me working forward and backwards with some assistive tech to get a result. I want a globe covered with hexes and I already know that doesn't work so how did I do this? 

"Well, believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid... and I went ahead anyway."

"Map" and "hex" have specific mathematical meanings that don't apply to what I intend to do. The final image will be a drawing that might (I hope) look like a hex map on a globe. I am constrained by the paper's dimensions - 13 hexes wide and 9 hexes high (and each hex will be subdivided) to represent a drawing of a hex map on a hemisphere. 

The image on the left was a standard subdivided hex, distorted to look like it was bulging out of the page. It's constructed by a distorted hex, you can see where it literally becomes sketchy. 

The image below is a more refined and localized example of the same idea with some minor changes. 

The computer-generated hex map from Worldogragher is distorted to a hand-drawn globe with hex-like shapes. I used the simple icon set so I get a sense of how shapes distort like this. Virtually none of the points from the Worldographer map match the hand-drawn hex globe points. I am going to "bend" both images to something in between.

I am hoping for a piece of artwork that looks good and is compelling. 

Aside from the initial subdivided hex map that is flat, there is no math or code. It's done by hand to look good. 

You can download a set of normal hex map templates from DriveThruRPG here. 

          The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack
        The Hex Pack

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Taking a Break - 100+ Days

I love to brainstorm ideas and run with it all willy-nilly. In my last few posts, I have mentioned a few projects that are "almost done". And I have at least a dozen other ideas that need to be done. It is time to step back and reflect on my goals and priorities without the distractions of blogging. I think I will take a break for 105 days.

A few months ago, my ancient Power Mac bit the dust. This was my main machine for writing, with my clamshell iBook being the backup. Now I am operating with no backup at all. That is not good. 

I have been gifted two 2010 Mac Pros to get my writing and blog back on track. Yet they sit next to the broken Power Mac unused. What is holding me back is data recovery from the old Mac and recycling equipment that is no longer used.

Second, next to the computers is my gardening shelf, which is covered with crafting supplies. As May 7th is the last frost date in Western New York, I am going to need this space for my gardening supplies in April. It needs to be emptied and supplies bought for gardening. 

This also ties into the Giant Frickin' Bunny that inhabits our home. He needs a nice place to play, both inside and outside. His name is Fiver and maybe he will get his own blog. He certainly is cute and photogenic. 

Anyway, the garden and rabbit are linked topics because one needs the other. He is a cross between a Flemish Giant and a Continental Giant, so we can expect him to grow to be at least 30 pounds and maybe 3 feet long. We'll be using the garden to supplement his store-bought foods. We give him plenty of fresh food and it would be nice to not shop specifically for him.  

Third, my blog, in some form or another has been rolling since January 2010. It has developed a lot of cruft in 14 years. Formatting has gone weird, some posts link to places that no longer exist, and half a dozen things that bother me are begging to be fixed. That doesn't even cover the fact that I have a high-quality camera and microphone that sit unused on my desk. I need to clean up to keep this place nice. I also need to integrate it better into my social media accounts. 

In no particular order: I would like to scrub ads off the blog, fix formatting that is broken, and provide better images for existing posts while creating a standard for future posts. 

All of this takes time. Maybe 105 days.

When it comes to the content, I have a bag of holding worth of books and games waiting to be read, and played, and reviewed. 

I don't expect to go radio silent for the next couple of months. You can expect to see a few posts, probably less than what I have done in the past year. As I tick items off my list, I will definitely post updates. However, I don't plan on spending a lot of time on social media promoting things. While I am working on all this, I want to think about how I present on those other channels and gear my posts to work better in those places. 

Again, I would like to thank all of you for supporting this blog. 

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Sometimes... I think of murder...

Like every DM, I devise some very deadly things to throw at players. And sometimes, the players come up with absolutely deadly scenarios to throw themselves into. My favorite story is about the characters who cut the bridge before they crossed. Usually, the players tell themselves a story that doesn't jib with reality or logic and then they die. 

I won't change a die roll, but if the players engineer a TPK sometimes I don't tell them. This is the source of the idea SES-001 The One with the Killer Hook, a post I made in 2020. 

The party was in a small town, in the shadow of a large castle. The castle fell into enemy hands and the party took it upon themselves to recon the castle for the King's Army. However, instead of communicating with the Good King's siege force, they began hit-and-run raids in and around the castle. They had a secret way into the castle and used it to incredible effect. They managed to take out the water supply, start fires, steal the royal seals from enemy hands, and even take a very powerful artifact before they goofed. 

The goof was one of their own making. The artifact was a ring of wishes that they hung onto "in case something bad happened", like a death. The second bit was taking out the water sources and setting fires. The castle was on the verge of surrender due to the water issue when the characters went after the last well. They got cornered by a pair of magic users and when the first fireball went off, they jumped into the well.

The empty well...  

This should have been a horrifying TPK, but I decided not to tell the party. The next session, they escaped the well and went on to be a very effective team, reaching 6th level before they finally had "something bad happen". 

They used the ring to wish a dead character back to life. Except, they were already all dead. 

They found themselves back in the well and later replaying the events of their first couple of sessions. It seemed poetic. And fun. 

Over the next couple of sessions, I used my notes from the campaign to create a montage of the party's greatest hits. We spent whole evenings throwing dice, reliving the events that led the party to such highs. 

It was a fun ride. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

New Ko-Fi Store

My store on Ko-Fi has just opened. I am leading with items that will never change, like my AD&D Character Sheets for Unearthed Arcana and my Hex Pack. These items are pay-what-you-want and are IDENTICAL to those offered on DriveThruRPG. There is no need to duplicate your efforts if you already got them from DTRPG. This is simply a different shopping option.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Random Encounters/Making Memories

Tonight, Jen and Catherine are at a Stevie Nicks concert leaving me and Nathan to fend for ourselves for dinner.  Nate and I picked a local favorite and got to talking... about D&D. 

This only sometimes happens. He plays e5 while I am into AD&D e1 or OSE. They seem wildly different, to me anyway. But tonight proved that wrong. 

Halfway through dinner, Nathan realized he planned a D&D session with his friends. He looked rather glum about it. I said I was envious because I have very little time to game. 

The problem was he didn't know what to do for tonight's session. I asked him about the past sessions and he filled me on the problems first. They are 4 sessions into this campaign and they skipped a planned Session 0. Nathan was forced to cob together a very basic idea into a full-fledged campaign due to a lack of planning. 

Here is the gist of that idea: The players have found a cursed town. There are a couple of levels to the curse. A dragon is rampaging around the edge of town, but cannot enter due to a spell cast by a witch. The witch stole the dragon's eggs and placed them around the perimeter of the town to protect the town from a threat, a non-dragon threat. The hag was killed by the dragon mid-cast, so the spell is partially broken.  

Currently, the spell is supposed to protect the town from a threat. Thus far, this averted threat is limited to the rampaging dragon. The spell should be fixed on and powered by the maturing dragon eggs, but unfortunately, it is wavering. When a person touches the edge of the spell, say by entering or leaving the town, their memory becomes corrupted. The corruption is like amnesia, people forget personal facts but don't lose skills or abilities usually. 

Two characters have already been corrupted and lost the knowledge of a spell and resources. The mage forget the spell is in their spell books and are surprised every time they see it. The other character has forgotten he is rich. This is being played for laughs. 

Nathan, dressed to impress.

That's it. Nathan didn't define the threat to the town and threw the characters right in the middle of the mess without a plan to get them out. Worse, the players are fighting a bone construct for one of the eggs. Nathan has no idea why he introduced this combat. The players are hell-bent on destroying the egg for unknown reasons. The last session ended in the middle of that battle. 

Memory... funny thing that is. 

I parsed out the whole situation, problems and all. 

Here is what we came up with as a solution. The hag, a witch, was the town shaman. Unfortunately, she was fated to die young but didn't know when. As the appointed day came close, she bargained with the dragon for its eggs. She would cast a spell on the eggs, to protect the town from bad weather and disease in her absence while also protecting the eggs as they matured. People who found the eggs would be afflicted with memory loss about the eggs and would not harm or steal them.  

Problem one is solved, we know why stuff is happening. That's important. 

Next, time to tackle some other issues. Nathan starts every session with a synopsis of what happened in the last session. He simply reads from a notebook. Tonight, he decided that will change. Instead, he will hand out notes to all of the players. Once they have the notes, he will absentmindedly flip through his notebook as if looking for the notes he just handed out. 

Queue the laughs. He'll ask someone to read the synopsis for him.

Oddly, there will be no mention of the combat with the bone construct. Instead, the players will find themselves in an ancient and desecrated graveyard at the edge of town. It says that right there in the game notes. The graves have been pillaged for something. In the dark, a shambling bone creature will disrupt their investigations. The bone construct was made by a previous shaman with the intent to protect the town in their absence. As long as the party doesn't attack, it will not attack them. It needs them alive to protect the town. 

It seems all of the players are suffering from memory loss. They didn't fight a bone construct, they are about to fight a bone construct. Maybe. When they return to the town proper, fight or not, they will find some of the NPCs have changed. These will be subtle changes, maybe someone needed to step out for a while and a friend took over. 

Now for the real fun. One of the PCs wears a wedding band. The same player inquired about having it turned into a ring of wishes in the prior sessions. This was an off-handed comment, a part of their character background. They would wish their spouse back to life if they could. Obviously, they recently saw the Dungeons and Dragons movie. 

A week from now, Nathan will be armed with a letter from a sage explaining how exceedingly rare rings of wishes are and that it would be virtually impossible for this particular ring to be one of wishes. Of course, no player character asked a sage about this. But here is a letter like they did. 

How did that happen? Who paid for it? It appears to be the guy who can't remember he is rich. 

The path is now clear, the party needs to become the protector of the town and eggs while the spell casters try to correct the malfunctioning spell or end the spell by finding another shaman. It would be helpful not to be eaten by the dragon while doing this, but it's starting to look like one of the PCs or NPCs will become a dragon snack. 

That's fine by Nathan. Not only is he counting on it, he has a friend scheduled to show up with a brand-new character, and prepped and practiced to act as if he has been there since the beginning. 

It's amazing how a chance dinner-time meal can turn into a campaign session. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Setting, Theme, and Narrative

Last week, I was so hopeful. I would get myself back on track by returning to reviews until I was back on a regular posting schedule. Thursday morning, that goal was evaporating as my son got sick and by Friday evening, I had it too. 

It's been 147 days of Sudafed haze and sinus hell since Friday night. It's one of those sucky things you can't shake off. That's a shame because I wanted to post about something I received in the mail: 

Dragonlance is one of my favorite settings, my most hated modules, and THE THING that made me think about game design. It is a great setting. I can't wait to review these books and get into the Setting, Theme, and Narrative. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Throwback Thursday - The Anniversary Edition

Today, Jen and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. As we had an excellent dinner and drinks, I noticed the Riviera Theater across the street was advertising bands that were big when we started dating. One of them really jumped out at me: 

Part of the evening was talking about vacation plans for next year. We are going back to Saratoga Springs, NY to see Dave Matthews Band. Due to COVID, a yearly tradition went in the garbage and now we are playing catchup. Jen would like to see DMB twice next year, back-to-back dates in Saratoga. 

We've seen them a lot and I accidentally derailed the conversation.

Jennifer said, "Man, we have seen DMB so many times. I bet you haven't seen the same band twice in two days." 

"Queensryche, 3 times in 3 days. I've seen them so many times," I said. 

She was flummoxed. "We've seen Dave Matthews 18 times. How many times have you seen Queensryche?" 

I started counting. As I got into it, it was easier to count cities by country than concerts. 

Buffalo, NY. 84, 89, 91 
Darien Center, NY. 95, 97
Weedsport, NY. 95 
Rochester, NY. 84, 89, 91
Blossom, Toledo, and Columbus, OH. in 1997, one time each. 

In addition to these dates, I saw them in Syracuse twice but don't remember what year. 

I could swear I saw them more in Canada than in the US, but I was wrong: 

Toronto, ON. 86, 89, 91, 95
Hamilton, ON. '88, 89
Ottawa, ON. 89*

* There was a second disastrous show in Ottawa where I ate the pizza at Mcdonald's. I puked my brains out at the show. So embarrassing because I didn't even have a chance to figure out the drinking age. It was a straight-up bad food choice. (It would have been 18 but for some reason, I forgot Ottawa was in Ontario.) 

You'll notice a funny thing about that list. I met my wife at the end of 1996 and we started dating in 1997. She missed the Queensryche years. When we met, she had only been to one concert. I decided to change that and one of our first concerts was DMB. 

So, if we go to DMB in July of next year, I will have seen Dave Matthews a little less than I have seen Queensryche. Thanks to my wife, by virtue of our metalhead daughter, I will get to add one more Queensryche tally to the list and keep that band on top for another couple of years. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Artwork Update - POP-001

Over on Ko-Fi, I am working on POP-001. This takes place in a lost temple. The artwork for that appeared here several years ago. I didn't mean the maps to be a module, but when I discovered that it survived the fire, I decided to go for it. 

These images are very spare and were not meant to be a dungeon. Through the magic of digital media, I can actually adapt them to what I need them to be. Once complete, you will be able to see the original artwork at the same time as seeing how it was adapted for this title. 

Right now I am working on the main battle map, the cenote chamber. For this map, I need to deviate from the simple one-marker, black-and-white design without moving too far from it. This is for clarity.   

You'll have to check out my Ko-Fi posts for the complete ideation of what is to come from this module. What I'd like to write about is my process. 

A lot of times, people will get cagey about tracing stuff. Well, don't be. 

If you look at the 4 images above, they are digital combinations of 3 images that were traced. Granted, they were traced from my own original work, but this is an old-school version "fix it in post". If you zoom in, you'll notice that the gradient lines of the shoreline are exactly the same because it's a scan. With a lightboard and tracing, it would almost impossible to match the lines over and over again. 

At least for me, because I have a tendency to right to ink, no pencil at all. Usually, to create such things I do pencil on graph paper, then trace right to ink. The image is already set on the underlayer, so why not? 

Interestingly, this type of image can be turned sideways for elevation or twisted by some math to give a 3/4 view or whatever I decide, all on paper before the digital process starts. 

My goal is to generate different layers on paper then scan, then combine so I can have multiple images in a variety of styles. This mixed-style allows me to edit stuff digitally to output documents in 8.5x11", A4, or A5 and 5.5x8.5 booklets.  

As I get closer to completion, you'll see more art from me. However, at the end of the day, you'll want to follow me on Ko-Fi to see more of the behind-the-scenes stuff that didn't make the final cut. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Too Many Irons in the Fire

I'm working on a few too many projects. I need to get myself on a posting schedule. The countdown tells me I have 92 more days to finish my first module, POP-001. 

To that end, I am working on artwork. Or at least, sharpening my skills. 

This is a copy of Frank Frazetta's style, which I hope will assist in creating pictures for POP-001. 

Project 2 is a little more down to earth. I'm getting the raised beds ready in the backyard. I'll have two 8x4 foot areas this year to prevent the overcrowding I experienced last year.

In addition to the tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and peppers I grew last year, I'll be trying out lettuce, beans, radishes, and herbs. I plan to keep the strawberries, beans, and herbs out of the raised beds with a new area plus large planters. 

Ideally, at the end of the year, I'd like to bring the herbs inside. I didn't plan for that last year and managed to kill off everything by mid-December. There was some saving grace as I had a ton of dried herbs from the summer. 

Next up is a slow-moving project, one that may turn into a regular series here. I'm making a castle. I really love the classic look of Bodiam Castle and I recall drawing a rough floorplan for fun and as a blog post. 

Funny, I apparently forgot to blog about it and you are seeing the rough plan for the first time today. 

Anyway, I am upcycling some junk I have lying around to make this happen, I will probably detail my progress as I go. 

I don't plan on being too faithful to Bodiam or even rudimentary scale. I am letting the supplies on hand control the look. For a base, I used a bit of wood used for packing material. The towers stand 6 inches tall and will be spaced out 2.5 to 12 inches. The idea is to have something that would help out as a game space. 

As you can see from the image above, I have a bunch of different figures arrayed in front. I have a 1:144 scale T.I.E. Fighter, 1/296 Battlemechs, a 25 mm Space Marine from Aliens, a Lego figure, a couple of 25 mm fantasy figures, random plastic animals, and 20 and 15 mm figures. The block in front is 1.25 inches on a side. Roughly, anyway.  

It all seems pretty reasonable. 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

My Very Own Appendix N

As my friends and I entered high school, we really diverged in our interests and reading habits. Ryan read Douglas Adams and the Robotech series. Michelle read Doctor Who. I read all of the fantasy stuff like the Dragonlance series. 

This would have been around '84 to 1986. 

Almost every game session started with The Great Book and Mix Tape swap. In that spirit, I'll share a mix for you: The Great '86. This one year was amazing for music. (Editing note: You don't need a Google Music account, you can simply go on Youtube and listen with this link.) 

Anyway, back to the books. In swapping books, I lost more books than I will ever own. I also read more than you can imagine. Many of these books were yellow, pages dogeared and in some cases missing covers. 

I've been feeling nostalgic lately and picked up a Dragonlance book at Barnes and Noble. I am only 100 pages in and it fills me with both wonder and nostalgia. Clearly, I read it nearly 40 years ago. All of the details are gone, but it is strangely familiar.

I think I'll add this series to the review list, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is pretty cool and clearly made an impression on me because I freely stole ideas from it. 

This is the odd part, decades ago things moved with glacial slowness. I had this book from a used bookstore before I ever saw the Dragonlance Modules. I had no idea it was related to D&D until I saw DL-1 in about 1990. Bookstores were wacky like that. 

Since I ran down this memory hole, I've also returned to watching Doctor Who. The whole D&D gang watched the show, the old-school stuff. It was shown out of order, the local PBS station only honored the serial order, so at least you could see a whole story. But we had no idea what was happening in the larger Doctor Who story as they would happily skip from Doctor to Doctor, willy-nilly. 

I didn't care. It sort of matched the way I read the novels. Here is a silly bit. I had to go back to 2017 to pick up where I left off. The Master became Missy and slightly more and less diabolical. I was vaguely aware that Jodie Whittaker took over as The Doctor and I wondered how that would work. 

The transition reminded me of the novels I had read in the 80s. Remember, I mentioned that many of the books I read had no covers? The Doctor Who novels featured the image of The Doctor appearing in the story, so if you are missing the cover and the first couple of pages, you have no idea which Doctor features in the story. 

I thought that Whittaker was pretty great until I reached the episode, "Fugitive of the Judoon". In that story, The Doctor really shines. The series owes its success (and failures) to the author. The Doctor and the actor who brings these stories to the screen has be spot-on in translation from mere words on the page to funny, scary, and amazing stories to life. 

In a strange collision of real life, check out The Other Side Blog. He is doing an A to Z of Doctor. Totally love it. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Where Did I Go?

It's been a hectic month. My wife is traveling for her job, which makes me a single dad again for a bit. Somehow, it is already spring

and the outside desperately needs work. There will be a garden this year. 

I'm throwing out some goals for the next 50-90 days: 

  • Review of dB/dX (Done!)
  • Review X-Wing game
  • Review Classic Battletech  
  • Review Battletech: Alpha Strike
  • Complete artwork for POP-001
  • Review Kingpin Comics
  • Review Cosmic Comics
  • Review Pulp 716 Comics
Many game shops in my area are also comic book stores, hence the reviews. I will probably throw the local places into their own tab at the top of the site.  

Over the last 2-3 years, I've tried some other social media outlets and rapidly discovered that I don't have time for all of them. I'd like to save some of the content generated from them and pull it back here. What that means to you is, you'll see more garden, craft, and cooking posts. I have already exited Minds, Twitter, and Facebook and I am working on exiting Locals. I am still pulling good content from there. 

Once this step is complete, you'll only see me here, on Ko-Fi,, and MeWe. I have recently entered the world of Discord, so once I get the hang of it, you find me there, too. 

In July, I will post about various outlets for content. To that end, I might re-start sharing web and sales stats under The Tek tab. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Full of S*** on Valentine's Day

This post originally appeared on Valentine's Day, 2014. 
As a child, my favorite "toy" was a black corduroy tuxedo. It must have been a hand-me-down from lord knows who. It had black pants with a red stripe down the leg, and more importantly, a matching black vest.
With my toy blaster, it made the most epic Han Solo costume ever.
Not that I wore it for Halloween. It was my "Everyday Han Solo" costume. I wore it to school, and I wore it to church. I wore it winter, summer fall, and spring. I wore the hell out of that thing.
I wore it until it was ridiculously small on me; and even then, I did not give it up. I willed that thing to fit me for the opening of Return of the Jedi. I managed to hold on to it for years, no matter how hard my mom tried to dispose of it.
I told Jennifer this story, long before we ever got married. She laughed and said, "You are so funny but so full of shit."
My only reply was to pull the sad, little suit out of my closet and show it to her. She was so shocked and surprised, her eyes rolled back into her head.
On this Valentine's Day, I don't have any eye-rolling revelations, a tux, or wacky surprises in the closet, Jennifer Kitty Viverito. Only a great story about fun times. Thank you, today and every day, for laughing with me.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Weird Unboxing - Gifts from the Past

I've made an effort to push past certain things that happened in the past two years, but I want to bring something up that I have been ignoring because it's strange and interesting. 

After the house fire, the ceilings fell down, revealing a stack of cardboard boxes we had in the attic. It was very odd because the attic entry was in the garage and the attic is over the house. These boxes were stuffed "way in the back", which corresponded to the center of the house where most of the destruction was. We had no idea what was in these boxes until Jack, our contractor got a ladder and recovered them. 

Well, having lost nearly everything, anything in the boxes would be surprising. 

Inside was my wife's Cabbage Patch Kid from when she was a child, 3 packets of photographs from right before our wedding, a cat carrier, a dishrack, a baby bathtub, and a few of other oddities of mine. Exactly how these cardboard boxes survived in the center of the house, where the ceiling collapsed is a total mystery to me. 

I'd like to detail the gaming things found in that box. 

The first is a paper, hand-drawn map from when I was in high school. I recall putting it away after spilling something on it. Back in the 90's the only way to fix such a thing would be a lightbox or tracing paper. In 2023, the magic of photo editing software can do this in seconds. 

This was one of my first campaigns with a good map and spilling Coke or coffee on it annoyed me to no end. I stuffed it in a box and tried to forget about it. I can't believe how easily this problem is fixed now. 

The map pairs nicely with the dozens of photos I found. In 2021, I made an effort to scan every photo I had and backed them up to the cloud. Boy, I am glad I did. We were vaguely aware that some photos were missing that we attributed to moving right after getting married. 

We were half right, they made the move... to the attic. 

I figure I can spend next weekend scanning like a nut. 

Next up are a series of Reaper minis in the package and a blister pack of Micro Machine Star Wars figures. The packages were at the very top of the box and suffered a lot of smoke damage. They probably protected the things underneath them. Once I disposed of the packaging, the figures looked (and smelled) brand new. The Star Wars figures are plastic and the Reaper figures are soft metal. I'm shocked that they survived at all. 

By way of comparison, I had a box of Battletech Archers (or Robotech Spartan, if you like,) in the basement. Oddly, some of them are super clean like they were never painted and others are slightly charred. Notice the damage to the arms. I liked to kitbash models and often replaced or repositioned an arm. The glue vaporized, leaving me with armless figures. 

Presumably, the arms fell off and were swept up as debris. Understandable considering how much of the first floor fell into the basement. 

I am not too worried about that. I've modded hundreds of Battel Mechs and I have new material to work with. If you zoom in on the Grey mecha, (top row, second from the right), you can probably see the wood grain on the left arm despite the painting. That's because it's balsa wood. 

A while ago, I discovered a different material for figure mods: soapstone. I am going to fix all of these figures up in the coming weeks and I can't tell you how excited I am to try this new material and method. Soapstone is super soft and easy to carve and cut with hand tools. But relative to a metal figure, it is about as durable. 

Soapstone is ironically fireproof.

I am so done dwelling on what has happened. But there is this odd comfort in remembering what DID NOT happen. We all survived to get to this point of moving forward. Finding this box was a sort of gift from the past. I look forward to putting these things right and I will probably post a lot of images as this little project progresses. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Creeping Issues

Just a brief heads up. I have noticed creeping issues with my blog, such as odd fonts and strange formatting issues. I'm using a super old theme and I am going to change it this weekend. hasn't been hacked, I'm just really bad at code.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Step One Complete - Most Ads Removed

As promised in my previous post, I have deleted a bunch of ads. Nearly 75 of them. It was an annoying process of hunt and peck. This group was from Rakuten Advertising, a company I never really jelled with. The ads featured images that were good, but the image size was always too large for my website. 

Next up is AbeBooks ads. I have to target the code for the links which is an interesting tactic. 

It's kind of liberating not having to think about ads. 

I have added two more items to the "cut and trim" list. I'm going to kill my Anchor and accounts (complete). I really don't need locals and it is very unlikely that I go back to podcasting. It was a COVID Crisis moment. You know the bit where you personally believe you are having some sort of existential crisis but on further reflection, it doesn't exist? 

COVID=Threat or Danger.
I ran out of podcasts in the middle of an epidemic=not worth thinking about.  

You see how that doesn't make sense, so off it goes. 

Maybe... just maybe, I will revisit podcasting someday. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Taking Stock - Part Two - The Reality With a Preview of Things to Come

As you can probably guess, I am really excited about Old School Essentials. It's an OGL product and they have a handy instruction page right here. So this year, I will be looking at all of my products and reworking them into OSE-type products. 

Two of my works are perpetually frozen because they are too specific or too generic: 

1. The Hex Pack is too generic to rework in any meaningful way. It is what it is, a pack of colorful hex templates. It cannot change much, if at all. Unless someone asks me to change something, I won't. 

By the way, this title was changed based on feedback from a single person, so by all means, mention your needs. I do like feedback.

2. My Character Sheet for AD&D is linked specifically to Unearthed Arcana. The charm is that it's a scanned image of a character sheet created in the 80s. It is immune to change. 

Because they cannot change, I gave them their own little corner to the left side of the blog. 

That leaves my other 4 works that I would like to revamp. These are the two rule-agnostic mini-settings, Kobold's Folly and The Compass Rose Inn. These two don't have to change so I have also given them a less prominent spot on the left. I would like to flesh them out into actual modules for OSE. 

My first book should also get the OSE treatment, Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. Ironically, it was written before I saw Old School Essentials. The professions listed in it are almost a verbatim match for the list that appears in those books. Realistically, it just needs editing down and to conform to the ability check mechanics as per those rules. Easy to say, but a rather lengthy project in execution.

The last title, The Swashbuckler Character Class bothers me. I am tempted to delete it. It is too heavily based on AD&D 1e, it is less than useful for B/X. Altering it would be like polishing a turd. 

I also have a couple other ideas. First, I am going to sit down and play some games. I have OSE, Battletech with some nice figures, and a couple of others I would like to feature here. Assuming I can get in the swing of this, I should have time to produce other content. 

Second, I have recently acquired a 3d printer. I need to learn how to produce models using it, mostly to supplement my games, but also to produce products to sell.  I might be doing terrain, robots, cars, characters, etc. I have no idea what I am doing, so we will see what happens.

Speaking of other content to sell, my OSE campaign will feed into a completely new project. 

Currently, I am reading a series of books called: A Handbook for Travellers in Northern Italy. It comes in 3 parts, northern, central, and southern Italy. Not only is it in the public domain, but it was also written in a strange time period before Italy unified into a single country. It was published in the mid-1800s, so it was only accurate for a decade or two. The editor goes out of his way to mention the publisher indirectly and never mentions his name or the names of the writing correspondents. 

This gives the whole thing a very odd but familiar vibe. Here are 3 books about a place we all know with passing familiarity, but it gives details that are not current, accurate, or even the whole story. On purpose... Probably because the publisher and editor realized the world was changing too fast to be a useful reference and didn't want to slap their names on it. They hide this with an air of humility.

It sounds like a D&D module. Theoretically, all modules exist within your homebrew campaign world with references to the goings-on of people who you don't know, but also theoretically exist in your campaign world. 

I hope to use these three books as a framework to produce modules and a campaign book for my homebrew campaign. It would come in two parts, a lore book which is directly modeled on those old handbooks of Italy, and the campaign book which would reframe the lore into specific modules and setting details that DMs with find useful. 

The funny bit is this stuff almost writes itself. Where the real-world handbook is cloaked in humility to sell copies, my version is written by an evil, selfish person working on heavy self-aggrandizement. As a sample, I offer the preface of this work: 

Volume One


═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═ ═

The length of time that has elapsed since the first publication of this (1274) Handbook has made many additions and alterations necessary.  The extension of roadways, trails, and ferries in several nations of the Northern portion of the Peninsula, important changes in the distribution, and descriptions of several Routes became indispensable. Some new Routes have been added. 

It has been the Editor’s endeavor to render this New Edition as a complete guidebook of the region that it professes to describe, as Drowishly possible; in doing so, I, Magarven the Great Traveller, must acknowledge my obligation to numerous kind Correspondents, Spies, and those who I have lavishly interrogated on numerous occasions, who have transmitted to me valuable, practical information for the purpose. These lesser people and contributors, second always to me as the Great Traveller, allow the author of this work to claim perfection. I must solicit from those who use THE HANDBOOK FOR TRAVELLERS IN THE NORTHERN PENINSULA, any additions, or forsooth, corrections, founded on personal experience, they may be able to transmit to me or any information generally of a practical character, useful to travellers on the Peninsula. Assuming, of course, that they are more correct than I am. Which is unlikely.  

I, Magarven the Great Traveller, the Editor Extrodinare of this work think that it is proper and just to leave out the name of the author who penned the first edition of The HANDBOOK FOR TRAVELLERS IN THE NORTHERN PENINSULA. That lesser person has had nothing to do with the six subsequent editions, except as regards those portions which were appropriated and rewritten, to an exceptional standard, through the hard work of myself and perhaps the few minor and lesser contributors who I have righteously selected as better correspondents than the original hack.

I warn the reader that any mistakes or misinterpretations of this guidebook must be attributed to the scribes or a failure of the reader’s intellect. As mentioned before, this is My greatest work, a simple and humble Perfection. 

Porto di Nazza, Juno, 1361

2023, I hope will be a very good year. While I doubt I will be able to meet every goal I've listed, having them spelled out will help me attain a couple of them. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

New Project - New Direction

In my last post, I spoke about a book. This book will be the kernel of how I present my campaign world to others. When people start new campaigns, they compartmentalize the world to limit the scope of what the DM has to present to the players. For example, they start with a small town and perhaps a dungeon or keep then expand to larger ideas. It is a good bit of advice for gamers, however, there has always been an inclination to have a roadmap to a larger world and events.  Maybe you don't start large and go larger, but making a whole world (a good-sized continent) does require some sort of roadmap. 

In this case, I am starting with a massive idea and breaking it into chunks that might not be obvious from the outset. The main idea of this campaign setting is romanticism. The Peninsula of Plenty has many locations, cities, towns, kingdoms, and other places that will be described in detail by an in-universe author name Magarven the Mad.

Magarven, although crazed, has a pretty good handle on what is happening in his world. It is an era of peace and prosperity at the largest level, which does not preclude mysteries and conflict at a local level. For the most part, this campaign world has left the medieval age behind. He has stumbled on the idea of describing what is happening with imperfect information. Or more correctly, information he has not validated but wants to be true. He is operating from his ego over his guts. He wants fame for bringing knowledge to the masses. He doesn't see any possible harm because he believes this one volume of books accurately describes the world. It does but only poorly.  

You might guess correctly that I am a history major. This process occurred in various parts of the world back in the 18th century and peaked in the mid-1800s. It spread from Europe to Russia and to both North and South America. This was not exactly a peaceful era, but romantics often portrayed it as such. This was really not a good time to take a romantic perspective or a good place to evoke powerful emotions. Emotion and feelings took precedence over logic and facts, which had a dreadful effect on historiography and the natural sciences of this era. People were basically making their own rules and creating their own version of history which was radically different from reality. As all of this was taking place, things were falling apart. 

In writing as he does, Magarven is actually sending people with torches and weapons to marvel at the wonders of a world made of powder kegs. 

While akin to a hexcrawl, it places the characters in civilized danger. There are patches of wilderness here and there but the real problems lay just outside of cities and towns. Obviously, many of the bits of wilderness and hinterlands were left empty on purpose and as a result, play off of the wildness found in the so-called civilized bits. 

In this world, it would not be too surprising for a country fair to cover up a coven of witches or a massive clambake ending with a sacrifice to a dragon. A vampire could be the mayor of an idyllic village. Or a lonely abandoned boathouse is a gateway to the underworld. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

New Project - Meet the Author

I have started a new project, a deep dive into my campaign world. My campaign setting is a small part of a single continent. I never saw much need to expand it much further. What it lacks in size it makes up in depth. 

Virtually all of the races found in the D&D game books appear in this one place. However, some are just visitors to the main continent. 

I have many oddball characters running around. One of them is Magarven the Mad. He is a Drow in the same vein as 1e. He is obviously evil (or chaotic) and were it not for his flaws, he would be dangerous. Early in his life, he made a name for himself as an adventurer. He loves fame. He will do anything in pursuit of it, including casting himself as a heroic explorer. 

The reason I mention him is, he is the author of a handbook to my game world. In reality, I am modeling this book on many of the works produced in the 1800s by romantics touring Europe in search of something... romantic. Except, this Handbook is written by a madman. 

This project will be a two-parter: The Handbook of Lore and Background written from an in-universe perspective, plus the second matching book of adventures and events that DM's can plug into their world. The Peninsula is divided into many nations and city-states, so a game master is free to carve out a tiny piece of their map to plunk one or more of my bits. 

As you can tell, Magarven (and myself) have grandiose plans, as this book is "Volume One". As I work on this, I will share little bits of lore and perhaps a mini-adventure or two. 

I plan on making it my first item for sale on DriveThruRPG. As a flesh out bits, I will share them now and then. If it seems well received, I might even attempt to do a print copy instead of PDF. 

Let me know what you think. 

New Game, Same Players

 Twenty-eight days. Soon to be twenty-seven.  It's gonna go fast, maybe one will be done before I post.

I have a new game, Old School Essentials, a newish take on the old B/X rules. There have been a few changes, such as invalidating the statement "comes with 31 illustrations, charts, and tables". There are a lot more than 31 illustrations, plus a twist on the old rules to incorporate ThAC0 and/or ascending armor class which limits the charts to just essentials.  

Well, the artwork is fantastic, so I guess I can take the good with the bad. I might not miss my to hit charts and tables. 

I can see it already, this should be almost exactly like B/X but I want to try it out on myself before I inflict it on my players. You know, to look smooth and polished. 

I diced up a half dozen characters, plus one because I can't properly count. I made one of each of the basic characters and one extra cleric. And hit my first hitch. Clerics don't heal at the first level. Do I homebrew that away or keep it? 

I can hear my hypothetical Players grumbling, so I think I keep it as written. I can already picture the first session. The players will dodge and juke every hook and line I offer them. They break into cliques and small groups to go their separate ways. 

The Magic User and Elf will get together and exchange spells because that is what spell casters do. The clerics, realizing they aren't the healers will beg and borrow (but not steal) from the party to get the heaviest armor they can while arming themselves with the standard maces and slings.  The Fighter, the Thief, and the Halfling will wander the town in search of a tavern or inn. 

They will stymie me, the DM, as they avoid the town square where the local lord has criers searching for adventurers. They will also avoid the large Inn in the square where they could meet one of the town guards who would clue them into the threat the town faces. For the same reason, they will avoid the temple, the wandering priest, the wash women, and the boy with the lost dog. 

This is what Players do. I've been a DM for 40 years. I am used to it. They will, on the outskirts of the town wander into the last place serving booze and food and the one I expected them to find as I was presenting moot hooks. 

It's called The High-backed Booth, a magical place that I took from reality. It's a former tavern turned into a Church, just like the one on Transit Road in East Amherst. When you're forced to improvise, it's best when you don't try too hard and just use reality. The world is strange, so why make stuff up? 

In my world, The High-backed Booth is fused with history and magic. It's run by Elder Bruegel, named after the painter. In this magical place, he is the proprietor and priest of the church. The church seems to hold chance, risk, games, and luck in high esteem,. No particular deity is worshipped. In fact, in place of prayer and ritual, storytelling rules The High-backed Booth. The odder the circumstances, the more random or unlikely the story, the better. The congregants pray and worship in the telling of stories.  

The building is as real as it gets, it has a waddle and daub upper floor on firm timber stilts. The lower level has temporary walls made of hay bales. Of course, these hay bale walls are lined with heavy tall wooden booths. The building changes over time as the hay is removed, but not its character. Or characters. 

On this evening, the party finds a strange occurrence happening at The High-backed Booth. Elder Bruegel is there of course, as he always is, but he is pandering to a guest of high importance. The wizened man sits at the center of attention. The drinkers and the worshipers mutter indignantly about him as he is silencing stories with games of chance. They call him the "Game Master". 

It doesn't get more meta than this. Having dodged all of the obvious hooks and lines, the Players will sit at the table with the Game Master and engage in drinking, food, and games in the hopes of receiving easy cash and prizes. 

Every Player wants this for their Characters. Soon, reality and storytelling become muddled as the Players and the Characters take the same bait. It's a card game, played with a strange deck. At first, it seems normal enough, but then it becomes obvious that these are Tarot Cards. After every round, the winner takes one of the Major Arcana in sequence. It replaces one of the Minor Arcana they would receive in the deal. As the Arcana are swapped, the tone of game becomes more serious. 

It's a race. The Fool and The Magician eventually lead to the Judgment and The World in the hands of the Game Master. In fact, the Game Master has been playing with nothing but trump cards for a while all of the Players and Characters only have one or two. And then the final hand is dealt.  

"We are done, you must perform," the Game Master says quietly. 

After a rather anticlimactic silence, the characters all have the sensation of falling. It's not fast or sudden, just a slow transition to the wet, muddy ground. If the Players are hooked, and enrapt with the story so far, I might stand up and slowly tip one chair backwards and gently lower the Player to the floor to demonstrate what is happening.

When they stand up, they are still at the table. All of their chairs sank backwards in the mud. The table, the chairs, and everything they own are between a cluster of willow trees to the north...

and a magical fountain to the south...

As I said before, why make stuff up while improvising? Reality is the best hook and sometimes, it comes with pictures. 

East and west are paths leading to strange buildings, and the players can't resist a good hook provided by the Game Master. They gather up their things, drink the last of their beer from the table, and wonder where the cards and chips went before taking to the path to adventure. 

If you liked this introduction to adventure, perhaps you would be interested in the books that spawned it: 

Old School Essentials Characters, Magic, Monsters, and Treasures on DriveThruRPG. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Lake George Needs a Playlist

I've been quiet for a while. There's been a lot of work and hectic jobs around the house. This weekend, we are taking a day or two to visit Lake George, NY.

That's about 5 hours from here. So, a playlist is in order.

Lake George is one of our favorite places with a ton of history. Typically we go in the summer but I wanted to see it in the fall. They have a ton of great shops, restaurants, and of course, steamboats on the lake.  I have no idea which if any of these things will be open in the off-season. 

We'll find out. 

We need a good recharge moment and that starts with 5 hours of music before hitting the boardwalk. 

I have a feeling we'll need winter jackets over sunscreen. 

Now, it occurs to me that I created a free locals account for these sorts of off-topic posts. I've covered concerts, cooking, travel, art, etc. I should have posted this over there, but then I couldn't share the playlist. 

Update - I have deleted my locals account.