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

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Everything Is Connected


(Wilderlands imposed on Ghostring)

My present Judges Guild Wilderlands campaign has been running for 15 years, and has direct linkages back through our "Blipping" campaign running between 1988-2005 and somewhat looser connections from our earliest campaigns there and elsewhere from as far back as 1979. (Ha, however, in a sort of "Groundhog's Day," every Wilderness campaign restarted the jumpstart year of 4433.)

Unfortunately, fast-forward back to nowadays after Bat in the Attic Games announced in February 2020 it would suspend all future dealings with Judges Guild over a series of racist and antisemitic posts made by Judges Guild owner Bob Bledsaw II, and it has become complicated to support the old-school brilliance of these Wilderlands works by the Senior Bob Bledsaw, who passed in 2008 and is unconnected to the present drama and controversy.

I sort of pulled a fast one on our shared referee "New Old Weird World" campaign and slipped the Wilderlands into a world map there, albeit in a Tekumellian, post-apocalyptic scene more than 20,000 years in the future.

Basically, I had found some time back a Judges Guild adventure for the sci-fi game Traveller call "Marooned on Ghostring." The setting is a planetary system missing from records of the galactic Imperial government, and several (but not all) of the attributes are similar to the system of Ghenrek IV, the planet where The Wilderlands exist.

I ran with this information adopting what I needed and changing the rest to fit the world into the Imperial empire of the far future.

Ha, so myself, I have been running essentially one campaign all this time. Everything is sought to fit (perhaps sometimes imperfectly) within an ongoing story of our group's adventures where I've refereed.

  • Furthest back 30,000 yeas ago Agent Smith from an alternate future dabbles in forbidden arts and ends up on Ghenrek IV during the Uttermost War. Smith is attacked by "Grey Goo" (a nanotech swarm) and only saved when Elder Alliance engineers transform Smith into a cyborg. Smith is secretly left behind on Ghenrek IV when the Elder Alliance abandons their starbase there under terms of a cease fire with the Markrab Prince.
  • During the year 4433 several large masses of combatants ranged across the Wilderlands. A humanoid and giant force that sieged City State of the Invincible Overlord. Githyanki sent by their Lich Queen to establish a massive hatchery helping combat future Mind Flayer domination. The traitorous Drow Necromancer who plotted with the World Emperor to field an undead army. And finally the undead horde released from Mount Doom across the Wild North above Valon.
  • Also during 4433 an adventuring party resisting the Githyanki incursion assembled the Tripartate of All Evil, inadvertently releasing the dreaded elder god, Tharzadu'un. As the elder god attempts to access a hidden portal to escape from this prime material plane, a massive magical-thermonuclear explosion occurs and the party/world (?) only survives through intervention from Codex of the Infinite Planes. This adventuring party is soon after imprisoned in a stasis field as when they moved to defeat the Drow necromancer.
  • At some point by 4434 the Baron of Blackmoor acquires what he believes to be a powerful weapon to defeat the various forces threatening Blackmoor. Unfortunately the "weapon" activates "The City of Gods," a terraforming installation left over from the Elder Alliance/Markrab days which was never put into use. The terraforming uses force beams to manipulate the flows in the molten core of Ghenrek IV to alter the planet's tilt, spin, magnetic field, gravity, etc. and creates a world-wide apocalypse.
  • The adventuring party, after messing with a faulty Mind Flayer time ship, is deposited sometime around year 8400 in the northern post-apocalyptic barren dry barren waste. They are only able to escape back to 4433 by discovering the Comeback Inn situated on a barren outcropping of magical black rock. The inn has a somewhat randomized time portal in its basement.
  • This party is abandoned in the Wilderlands approximately in year 25,000 where there is only a barren, icy wasteland populated by cultish white elves who are in transdimensional communication with Githyanki. Ultimately, the party discovers a plan to infiltrate the Mind Flayer home planet, a discworld Mind Flayers are preparing to send back in time.
  • After that adventuring party had fell through an interplanar transtemporal "rabbit hole" into an alternate prime material plane where they meet Matsuhara Yatsuya, a Time Lord, who sends the party to a number of alternate far, far future scenarios, which seem to resolve in ultimate futures of either a "Matrix"-like AI generated artificial existence, or a fiery ecological disaster of acid rains and marauding demons.

In our latest campaign adventurers are back on Ghenrek IV circa 25,019, but I utilized the world map to provide different options for terrain and climate. We are also rotating referees, so while I started the campaign I have little control over where the campaign will end up (although I did hit up Sick Rick our next referee about the Wilderlands connection).

Despite the recent drama and bigotry, the Wilderlands for me continues to be our longest running campaign setting which still pays dividends to our imagination. I just wish certain people's beliefs would be less parochial...

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Game On


Thursday, September 10, 2020

DunDraCon Hosting an Online Events Database


DunDraCon, the west coast's longest-running game convention, is still planning for an in-person convention for year 45 in 2021 (ha, well kinda year 46, but that is another story).  DunDraCon announced Wednesday (9/9/20) that if they are forced to postpone the convention, there will not be any sort of Virtual or Online DunDraCon. 

However, they did set up a new feature, the Online Event database for event leaders (really anyone) to post their online games, podcasts, webinars, Youtube channels... as long as it is related to gaming. 

An "Open Gaming" database for online games and other events. You can add events here.

There are only a few events so far, but you can check for gaming events here.

Keep checking for game updates (there will probably be many if the convention is cancelled) and maybe put yourself out there to run a game or two.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Chronospatial Details in Lamentations of the Flame Princess Adventures


I have been intrigued for the past few months to run a sand box campaign in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess early modern weird historical fantasy milieu. While refereeing our games I have made brief ventures into alternative timescapes, but always part of a larger, sword and sorcery medieval fantasy campaign. In Lamentations weird historical fantasy the scene is primarily set in actual early modern 17th century Earth. It is an era of post-renaissance scientific revolution, commercial exploration, colonialization, and exploitation, and some profoundly devastating military conflicts often based around religious or quasi-religious differences.

Mechanically, the basic impact from the early modern setting is the addition of rules for simple firearms such as the flintlock. Other than that there is certainly enough mysterious and uncharted territory (at least from the European perspective) in Africa, the far east, the Arctic, and in the Americas.

In terms of a campaign setting map, I discovered this awesome 17th century atlas, Atlas Maior published between 1662 and 1672, which provides very cool worldwide maps. I just struggled a bit with how to initiate the campaign in a region and timeframe where I could maximize in both a spatial and a temporal sand box the potential incorporation of Lamentation adventures already extant. 

So, what I fashioned is a spreadsheet of Lamentation adventures and supplements that includes product number, title, year, location, some locations notes, any recommended PC level, and (for giggles) the product release date. While I purposefully attempted to avoid spoilers, this is really a resource for game referees and not players.

My hope is that with the adventures outlined I can pick a time and a spot for a campaign that will maximize my use of the standard Lamentations products which in turn lets me know where I may be filling in encounters with my own home brew material.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

40 Years Later - Finally Figured Out Weapon Speed Factor


(Art by David C. Sutherland III)

Ha, of course I've stated many times our home group had it's humble beginnings during the winter break of 1977-78 when Dr. John PhD received the Holmes Basic boxed set for his birthday/X-mas present.

Holmes had these simple weapon speed rules depending on the heft of the weapon...

"Each round consists of an exchange of blows with ordinary weapons. Light weapons such as the dagger allow two blows per round. The heavy two-handed sword, battle axe, halberd, flail, morning star, and most pole arm can be used only once every other round."

Probably by summer of 1978 we began to get copies of the new AD&D Players Handbook. In the Players Handbook each weapon is assigned a "speed factor" which is only described in the PBH as thus:

"You have already seen information regarding the damage each type of weapon does, how heavy each is, how long and how much space each needs, and each weapon's relative speed factor."

That's it.

We looked at these numbers, and notice a dagger is speed factor 2, a longsword is speed factor 5, and a two-handed sword is speed factor 10. 

The numbers, a dagger twice as fast as a regular sword, and a regular sword twice as fast as a two-handed sword, aligned up quite nicely with what we had been gaming based on Holmes Basic (no Dungeon Masters Guide published yet). We figure that "speed factor" meant the number of 6-second segments it took for the particular weapon to get strike(s) in each 1-minute round.

Ha, that begat a twenty-five year run of segment-by-segment combat which in particular benefited our thieves what with 2-handed attacks (from high dex) and 5 swings each hand per round! ("La Machine" we called it if you remember that old kitchen aid...) By the time Dungeon Masters Guide was released in 1979 our game was set in its ways, so I don't remember anyone even bothering with the weird, esoteric explanation of speed factor in the DMG.

Our group, using the same rulebooks for 25 years with basically the same group of people, was pretty cloistered. We just gamed our own stuff and remained pretty ignorant of just about anything that was going on in the gaming world. When we sort-of regrouped in 2005 with 3rd edition (and the internet) I began to learn alot about D&D history and how other folks played. And basically everyone we ran into played each weapon gets 1 strike per round - no difference whether you had a dagger or a 2-handed sword. This didn't make any sense to us, but we went along with it as an aspect of the new (to us) 6-second rounds rather than the old 1-minute AD&D rounds.

Fast-forward to today where we've migrated over to Advanced Labyrinth Lord B/X and AD&D adaptation, we have had kind of a second look at speed factor, in an effort to incorporate at least a bit more flavor from our game of old.

The first thing I tried to introduce was the original rule from Holmes Basic, but that kind of fell with a thud because no one who would ever wield a 2-handed sword wanted to only swing every other round for sure.

Next, I went back to the Gary Gygax explanation (other than the esoteric initiative order) of speed factor from the DMG, Gary goes on to write:

"When weapon speed factor is the determinant of which opponent strikes first in a melee round, there is a chance that one opponent will be entitled to multiple attacks. Compare the scare of the lower-factored weapon with that of the higher. If the difference is at least twice the factor of the lower, or 5 or more factors in any case, the opponent with the lower factored weapon is entitled to 2 attacks before the opponent with the higher weapon factor is entitled to any attack whatsoever. If the difference is 10 or greater, the opponent with the lower-factored weapon is entitled to 2 attacks before the opponent is allowed to attack, and 1 further attack at the same time the opponent with the higher-speed-factored weapon finally is allowed to attack. Note that such speed factor considerations are not applicable when either closing or charging to melee, but after an initial round of combat, or in cases where closing/charging was not necessary, the speed factor considerations are applicable."

I pick up on the rule of extra attacks with initiative at the beginning of the round and suggest: "...the party with initiative may get additional attacks at the beginning of melee only, and only if the party with initiative is not closing in or charging (so the opponent must be within reach) according to this regimen: Light Weapon vs Medium Weapon = 1 extra attack; Light Weapon vs Heavy Weapon = 3 extra attacks; Medium Weapon vs Heavy Weapon = 1 extra attack."

Dr. John PhD pointed out however, "Which type of weapon works best largely depends on how much the combatants can move. If the combatants can move freely (such as single combat or group combat where the fighters do not defend a particular spot, such as the fight in the chronical room in Moria in  Lord of the Rings), then the combatants are assumed to be dueling as individuals, and they trade attacks 1 to 1, with the longer weapon getting initiative (unless surprised), or an initiative bonus? 

"If the combatants are holding position, holding a moving line, or otherwise not free to move freely (such as having the rest of the party right behind them), then the combatants will exchange 1 to 1 blows as they close, again with the longer weapon getting first swing, but once the two sides lock into place we then use speed factors to to count off attacks."

A-ha! To me this invoked the last part of Gary's DMG speed factor explanation, that I had treated as a non-sensical throw away, "but after an initial round of combat, or in cases where closing/charging was not necessary, the speed factor considerations are applicable."

It appears our group had it more right than anyone else I've heard (ha, please let me know if your group ever used speed factor like this), it is only that instead of using speed factor for every attack it is applicable only with initiative, only with a lighter weapon (lower speed factor) than the defender, and only without have to charge/close at the initial attack or subsequent attacks when the attacker with initiative didn't have to close."

Huzzah! What we did is incorporate in Gary's speed factor explanation Dr. John PhD's idea of heavier weapons being able to easily defend against lighter weapons when they have room to do so (defined as the space to retreat) and the lighter weapons get extra attacks against the more unwieldy heavier weapons when the defenders do not have room (defined as no space to retreat)

The new rule we've drafted for our Advanced Labyrinth Lord game (available with other juicy morsels in this free supplement here), slightly different than AD&D because nothing since used speed factors, but in the spirit of Homles Basic and AD&D, is as follows:

During a combat encounter, an opponent with initiative may get additional attack(s) at the first round of melee or when wielder of heavier weapon cannot retreat, and if the opponent with initiative is not closing in or charging (i.e. 1 step within reach):

Opponent with initiative Light vs Regular = 1 extra attack

Opponent with initiative Light vs Heavy = 3 extra attacks

Opponent with initiative Regular vs Heavy = 1 extra attack

Light = Light Weapon (e.g. dagger); Regular = Regular Hand Weapon and Monster Strike (bite, claw, jab, etc.); Heavy = Heavy Weapon (e.g. battle axe, flail, morning star, pole arm, two-handed sword).

The cool thing about this hack is #1 it adds a little advantage to ambushers, even when those ambushed aren't surprised so long as those ambushing gain initiative. And #2 the rule adds a little more flavor whenever PCs or their opponents get cornered, at least when those cornered wield heavier weapons.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Cube World DIY Print

Cube World is an electronic-only product created by Zak Smith and available in installments (presently 20 of them) in PDF format that also comes with hi-res JPEG files of the source material.

What I've done for myself is print out all of the installments in a comb-bound book, and also (because I am a nutter) have printed out photo-quality images of the source material to make a Cube World Atlas for my home use.

I will reiterate my message from the video that there is nothing else like this being published in the OSR today. The breadth, artistry, and utility of the installments as a whole is phenomenal, I mean absolutely incredible.

Cube World Installments may be purchased here...

If you are going to print the installments for personal use you need a color laser printer (inkjet ink would cost a fortune). In the long run laser printers are way more economical than inkjet, especially if you search around and find a good third party ink supplier.

Because I do a lot of personal binding of my gaming stuff I already had a comb binding machine (they run about $50-$75 plus you have to buy the plastic combs). If you do some DIY books comb binding is an inexpensive method to bind a book if you don't mind a cardstock cover (not hardbound).

Note: I DID NOT trim the Cube World book of installments because I wanted to add as time went on, but longer books, if you do this a lot, require a machine-cutter to trim the edge or you can pay a print shop to trim (I bought a machine-cutter because print shops sometimes over trim). I think about 8 years ago I paid around $120 for a machine hand-press cutter that will cut I think up to 300 pages at a time.

You can pay always pay a print-shop to do all of this but $$$.

The Atlas pages I printed on photo paper and placed in one of these Pioneer Leatherette Post Bound Album, 8.5x11 pages, because the "bolt" page binding is concealed, and these are hardbound more like a regular book, but also expandable.

The album itself comes with 10 pages (enough for 20 prints). You can get all kinds of cheaper expansion pages, however if you purchase the Pioneer Albums Postbond Top Loading Page Protectors with 5 8.5x11 pages (this is a 3-Pack) these include the expansion bolts to increase the size of the album.

I put photo-paper prints of Zak's notebook pages (which are smaller, original page size 8.5x5.5) in this Filexec Products Art Presentation Book, 5"x7", 24Page/48 Views, (Pack of 2). I printed these 2 per page and then trimmed them down with a simple paper trimmer that run about $20 and are useful to have around.

Here are images of Cube World maps discussed in the video:

Oh, and here is the "unauthorized" cover I put together...

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Legendary Lands of Arduin, Episode 4 (World Geography)

A delve into the original gonzo DIY RPG setting of Arduin.

In this video I go through the continents and oceans of Khaas.

Some Arduin Pronunciations (Mark Schynert):

My initial observation is that Dave tended to stick 'H' into proper names as a trailer for some other consonant with abandon, but I never hear it pronounced, except for ph/sh/ch/th. I've never seen a written phonology of any of this, so I have to rely on what I've heard, and do some extrapolation. My best guesses ...

Pronunciation guide for the following:

    • Fhedlspaera = fed•is•PAY•ra
    • Khaora = ka•O•ra
    • Extaercara = ex•TAY•ka•rain
    • Archaela = ar•KAY•la (pretty sure about this one)
    • Laenkrwat = I dunno...LAYNK•ur•wat? Never heard it, not sure it was ever said.
    • Orichalcum = or•ï•CHAL•cum, but colloquially or•IK•cu•lim. 
      Yeah, maybe because the formal term is an uncomfortable mouth full of raw squid to an English speaker. 

Arduin is a Registered Trademark of Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures