Direbane is an abode to share artifacts, simulacra, histories, and other items of note related to ongoing years adventuring.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How to Play in a Sandbox

Northern Wilderlands circa 5434 BCCC (approx.)
Good grief, the things I do for my players... Someone presumably ignited the great planetary bomb device our heroes were originally sent to retrieve from the City of the Gods located in the Valley of the Ancients. Now, one thousand years later, civilizations of the Wilderlands have collapsed into barbarism from the unnatural geologic upheaval and global climatic cooling disrupting food production and other essential supplies.  Local warlords, of course, have exulted in the misfortune of their enemies and seized everything within their power.

Our group is updating our rules to 5th ed. version of The World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game. In conjunction with this I really hoped to use some of the indie resources Vornheim and Frostbitten & Mutilated by Zak Smith and also Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess. I needed a cold and barren wasteland pocked with destroyed civilizations cracking through the crust.

Given that I had run the party through the Judges Guild Blackmoor (First Fantasy Campaign version) blending in the TSR DA series and Wilderlands map 19 by Rob Conley from Fight On! issue #3, I already had most of the geographic framework. And I also had a big old sheet of overland hex paper from The Armory with which to draw upon the new cataclysmic environs.

What was not completely conceptualized (by me anyway) is that Judges Guild Blackmoor is 10 miles per hex which is double the Wilderlands standard 5 miles, resulting in an area 4 times larger than a standard Wilderlands overland map. So piecing map 19 with First Fantasy Campaign Blackmoor and the standard area Wilderlands overland maps left large gaps to the northwest and southeast.

Fortunately, there are two creations for Wilderlands expansion. One being the aforementioned Rob Conley's, the second is the much more vast (vaster?) Wilderlands of High Adventure by James Mishler's Adventures Games Publishing for Castles and Crusades system. James published maps including a continent-wide map containing the Wilderlands, Rhadamanthia, and a larger scale map of Western Karak on the western edge of traditional Wilderlands.

Thus I scaled and mushed everything for a complete campaign map.

And the amazing thing is that the portions of Mishler's maps actually aligned realy well with Conley's and the First Fantasy Campaign. Hurray!

P.S. I overlaid the rough map with 20-mile hexes courtesy of the published hex GIF file here. Doing the math was a pain in the ass, but the larger hexes in the image are scales at 20-miles based on the smaller 10-mile First Fantasy Campaign hexes. Ha, now I just need to draw the real map...

P.S.S. There are TWO large round features in Mishler's map showing deep into the Valley of the Ancients just about where I had deposited the City of the Gods that PCs never visited. Could there have been a pair of explosions?! Ha, and can you say radiation? I think you can...

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tex Ar-friggin-Cana...

(Tex Arcana #1, page 1)
Back in the days of yester-yore There was this artsy sci-fi & fantasy magazine called Heavy Metal that during the summer of 1981 (gawd, the summer between my junior & senior years of high school. Pretty much a blur, kinda fuzzy at least due to better living through chemicals... and beer) became mass-popularized by this artsy sci-fi fantasy movie called Heavy Metal.

Well, somewhere thereabouts 1980 I got me a subscription to the magazine, which was awesome (Mobius) and in March 1981 began following this here serial, Tex-Arcana, written and drawn by this dude, John Findley. The serial became intermittent at times, and had a break, and I let my subscription lapse and lost track.

Anyhow, I don't know what got me to thinking about ol' Tex Arcana, but I learned John has a Tex Arcana website that used to have all the comic episodes. Now it only has Book 4, "The Ballod of the Witch's Daughter."

However, through the magic of the Wayback Machine, you can read all the books, Tex Arcana from the beginning, here (a might teeny bit slower than normal). And you really should...

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Metropolis of the Doomed...


Our heroes accost Juan at the entrance to "Toad Lounge" when up arrives a young twenty-something lad in a black leather jacket and beanie who instructs Juan to let them inside the lounge. This new rascally-looking fellow explains to the party that strange events have been happening since a strange artifact was unearthed at a large construction site in wetlands near the bay, a large maybe 3' length bookish thing wrapped in what appeared to be some sort of black reptile hide.

He says for Juan to open the storeroom, and there the party sees "The Librarian" recently left for dead who is very much alive. "Greetings," says the wormy creature, "I was wondering how long it would take you all to show up."


"Unfortunately an insanely powerful... thing... has be acquired by an insanely ambitious person in this time. This person has allied themselves with an academic who knows a very tiny bit of what you might call magic which is how I ended up here. Also unfortunately, forces from beyond time, essentially two alternative futures, have appeared to obtain this... thing... which appears to have relevance to some ultimate fates of the Multiverse."

The windows of the Toad Lounge are smashed with shouts of "Police!" "Down on the ground!"

"Run now," says the Librarian.

Juan shows the adventurers a private entrance which appears to lead off into a metallic hallway harshly lit by intermittent florescent light set depressed in the ceiling. Departing the party briefly hears a barrage of gunfire before the door closes.

The party moves forward for a time, realizing this is not some city walkway or building, rather a long, long passageway of rust, uncertain lighting, and foul smells. They immediately retrace their steps intending a return to Toad Lounge, but the doorway has vanished - only more passageway heading in the opposite direction.


Walking back in their original direction for a number of minutes, the party spies a soldier moving along in front of them. The mage-thief silently creeps up on the person from behind, only to discover the creature is an armed zombie!


A battle ensues attracting several other of these armed walking dead - dangerously lethal with high tech blaster weapons - however, the adventurers dispatch the zombies while suffering only moderate wounds. So they press on eventually discovering what appears to be a transit station for some type of railway operation.


Within this terminal there are windows indicating a stormy atmosphere outside, so the mage-thief endeavors climbing up to the ceiling to create an exit for he heroes. This is almost disaster as the new egress exposes interior to powerful winds bearing rains of damaging acid before mage-thief can re-seal the opening. Thus the party decides to follow the rail path tunnels to find what purpose they were made to come to such a harsh display. 

Encountering toothy, bulbous demons along the way the party eventually arrives at a gargantuan, domed chamber where an enormous cyber-enhanced demon is waiting...


Although terrific damages are sustained, the adventurers triumph against the cyber-demon, but are no closer to resolving their dilemma of how to escape this demonic metropolis. Looking out through the domed skylights, off in the darkened distance on a small range of hills on the periphery of the metropolis, Man-With-No-Name sees a fat, golden Buddha temple. "That is where we must go," says he...


The reptile-cleric and half-orc barbarian, being the fastest and the strongest of the group, wrap the others against the acid raining down and run toward the temple, and once arrived Man-With-No-Name achieves entry through the temple's only seeming golden door.

Inside, a disembodied voice speaks - "A pleasure to finally see you again, lo these many, many centuries passed." It is the voice of Matsuhara Yotsuya from the timeship. "Yes there are forces at work that in this branch of time were overcome by demons and chaos. Still there are other branches yes, and you all have unfinished business in Blackmoor. There was something of the Baron's daughter, yes. Wouldn't be helpful she was not saved, yes." The voice bids them to rest and replenish supplies. When ready, off the adventurers will go through time again as they are beginning to seem something of the epic forces to influence power and control of the Multiverse...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Channeling the D&D...

(c. April 15, 1977)
This is a piece of my "art" I found from age 12, just 9 months or so before I began gaming Dungeons and Dragons. Mostly my other doodles were rocket ships and race cars. I would say I was primed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DunDraCon Night of the Walking Wet...


DunDraCon Game #106 Night of the Walking Wet
Friday 6 PM in 163 for 8 hours
Room Map
GM: Matt Morrison
Type: RPG
System: Dungeons & Dragons (hybrid)
Edition: see web desc.
Players: 6
Provided: Characters may be provided by GM
Power Level: 5th
Variations: d6 'party' initiative, various homebrew rolls
Rules Knowledge: Useful
Game Content: Mainstream
One night, not more than a century past, a bright light streaked across the heavens, rocking the earth as it impacted Scum Swamp. Days later, a wandering priest was heard from no more. Strange things were happening in the swamp. Rumors of hobgoblins massing in their fens, villagers disappearing in the swamp at night, and strange robed men asking for direction to Castle Krake. Tales of huge monsters in the rivers and the appearance of large ogreish slime zombies soon helped to empty out what little population was left in Krake Borough. The True Gods want to see this foul blasphemy destroyed once and for all, but are not really interested in doing it themselves. Thus they seek others to quest it for them... An OD&D adventure written by Jennell Jaquays, Randy Cox, & Tamara Wieland and originally published by Chuck Anshell and Judges Guild in two parts of "The Dungeoneer," issues 5 & 6, in 1977.
Adopted for DunDraCon to modernish versions of the World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game.Hybrid D20 (3.0, 3.5, 5 all will work; AD&D/OD&D ok if you already have a character)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

40th Anniversary...

Basic Set advertisement from 1977-78 T$R catalog.
It was 40 years ago today that Dr. John, whose X-mas lies 2 days yet post from his birthday, received a combo birthday/X-mas present of the John Eric Holme's Basic Set to The World's Most-Popular Role-Playing Game.

Winter break mid-8th grade, I believe the first week of January Dr. John introduced to the game myself, Sumerled, The Boy with the Bark, and Bark & Dr. John's cousin Cathie. (Perhaps the last week of December, I would have to check an old school calendar for when break ended - I know we played solid for at least a week to 10 days or so...) No dungeons to start with, only Dungeon Geomorphs Set 1 and Monster and Treasure Assortment: Levels One to Three, but that was enough to put things in motion for our little suburban clan.

I haven't recently asked the good doctor from whom he received this wonderful present. He probably told me back in the day, but I had forgotten.

The twenty-sider I bought back then in the set of plastic dice had been rolled so many times that by maybe the mid-late 1980's it crumbled into pieces that I put back together with JB Weld. Ha, it is still in the dice set I gifted to our middlin' son. What a journey to begin from a simple gift.

Happy days.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Night of the Walking Wet...

"Night of the Walking Wet" at DunDraCon
Here is my "official" dungeon entry to run at DunDraCon #42 over President's Day weekend in 2018. The adventure is 40 years old, from an D&D fan 'zine "The Dungeoneer" back in 1977 that I updated to my particular flavor of modern, D20 rules.

The challenge is trying to find the sweet-spot for player character's level.

I've seen this recommended as written for OD&D (or "reloaded" for AD&D) at 6th-7th level parties, but I have found that the d20 editions (3, 3.5, 5) characters tend to run a little hotter in terms of damage per round. I wanted to set the level at 4th also because folks invariably bring in some PC slightly higher level than requested.

In the end as I was going through the encounters, I thought, "What the heck," gave the PC's a bit of a higher margin at 5th level. The main difference being how often the party has an opportunity to rest up. (Heh, heh, heh...)

This also seems to be the year of the "Walking Wet" as North Texas RPG Association for 2017 published a special "Dungeoneer Revisited" version of the adventure with a new forward by the author, Jennell Jaquays, to raise money to cover some health expenses for one of that convention's co-founders.

By the way, Jennell authored for Judges Guild two of the most iconic third party stand-alone D&D modules, Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia. Her environments were intriguing to me as they often involved 3-dimensional interactions between encounter areas rather the typical strung-together, isolated flat pancake levels, one on top of the other and of denizens ne'er the twain shall meet.
Dark Tower, dungeon side view...
In Dark Tower, only the tops of the opposed temples presented at the surface. Adventuring was down through one and up through the other. Night of the Walking Wet also utilizes interesting vertical setting.

My long-running 1979-80 paladin, Lord Richard the Saintly, cavorted around in artifacts from Dark Tower's Temple of Mitra: Mitra's Eye (an amulet), Mitra's Favor (ring), Girding of Mitra (belt), and The Heart of Law (magical glowing gem)...
Lord Richard the Saintly
Ok, so if you're at DunDraCon February 16 and 17, 2018 look me up. 😁