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 (not always smoothly) within an ongoing story of our group's adventures where I've refereed.

  • Furthest back, circa year -30,000 BCCC, Agent Smith (High Fantasy campaign) from an alternate or far-away galaxy future had dabbled in forbidden arts and ends up on Ghenrek IV during the Uttermost War between the intergalactic Elder Alliance and the forces of a single Markab prince from The Void. 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 (High Fantasy campaign). 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 (High Fantasy campaign) 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 sends a group of adventurers (Blipping #2 campaign) to acquire 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/Markab days which was never put into use. The Baron activates terraforming force beams to manipulate flows in the molten core of Ghenrek IV altering the planet's tilt, spin, magnetic field, gravity, etc. and creates a world-wide apocalypse.
  • The adventurers (Blipping #2 campaign), after messing with a faulty Mind Flayer time ship, are deposited sometime around year 8400 in the northern post-apocalyptic dry barren waste. They are only able to escape back in time after 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 is how the adventurers meet the Baron of Blackmoor in 4433.
  • After these adventurers (Blipping #2 campaign) 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 through using his TARDIS to a number of alternate far, far future scenarios, which seem to ultimately resolve in either a "Matrix"-like AI generated artificial existence, or a fiery ecological disaster of acid rains and marauding demons.
  • The adventurers (Blipping #2 campaign)are abandoned in the Wilderlands approximately in year 5,433 where there is only a barren, icy wasteland populated by cultish white elves who are in transdimensional communication with Githyanki. Ultimately, they discovers a Githyanki plan to infiltrate the Mind Flayer home planet, a discworld.
  • In our latest campaign (New Old Weird World campaign)adventurers are back on Ghenrek IV circa 25,019, utilizing the Ghostring world map to provide new terrain, and the planet is still tilted from the terraforming 20,000 years previously which has altered the original climate.
We are now 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 of Bob Bledsaw's son, the Wilderlands for me continues to be our longest running campaign setting which still pays dividends to our imagination.

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

Zak Smith took part in downtown LA peaceful protests at City Hall when everyone was surrounded by police.

(Protest map by Zak Smith)

Rundown of what happened to a peaceful protest at L.A. City Hall when police decided to corral people.
And also a Demon City contributor is blinded by police. All here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Fireworks Hailing Over Cube World

(Artist unknown, embellished from a t-shirt)
Sandy is how I enjoy my D&D campaigns. Roll some PCs then let things run amok. Ha, enough about me. What's up with Cube World...?

A month ago I wrote what I knew about new Cube World releases (table top RPG, not computer game), what that world appears is thus and what I saw as Cube World installments' significance to the hobby.

As a refresh, Cube World is the overall campaign setting that contains Vornheim: The Complete City Kit, Red and Pleasant Land, Maze of the Blue Medusa, and Frostbitten and Mutilated rpg supplements. It is literally a cube-shaped world with the campaign taking place on one of the six "faces" of the cube. However, "The entire planet is a hive of stone tunnels carved by long-dead civilizations."

Since new releases began last April began there have been roughly 200 pages of new campaign material published in 13 separate installments.

Couple things common to each installment:

1. These installments are MODULAR. You can just as easily drop them into your own campaign as run them in conjunction with a Cube World campaign. You can also break them up and reconfigure them to suit, and often suggestions are included how you might adjust elements for a one-shot or, conversely, an even larger adventure.

2. The adventures are ACTIVE. Meaning, stuff's happening independent to the adventuring party that reflects NPC and monster motivations; chains of circumstances to alter the tone, complexity, and/or nature of specific encounters depending on PC actions or lack thereof.

These are aspects of every installment and adventure by design, so you can expect being able to utilize all the material either within setting or out, and that adventures engage players from the outset with situations that demand decisions. Freewill? Of course... with consequences planned out for you ahead of time. (Fuck, Rush, there is a host of holy horrors pulling strings!)

Note Also: Maps and art are FULL COLOR with separate hi-res JPGs included. Many adventures include suggestions for running in the Weird Earth early modern Lamentations of the Flame Princess setting.

Perspective of a Cube World campaign from the new material:

You can check the link to peruse according your taste for individual characteristics of each installment. Below is my version of a topographical flyover lending an eye on how new pieces fit.

1. Still centered on Northern Continent, but further south.

(The fairy tales of Charles Perrault; Illustration by Harry Clarke; Harrap, 1922)

Vornheim and The Devoured Land are previous major regions detailed for Cube World's Northern Continent, both being north of the goblin empire Gaxen Kane. The largest area by far contributed from the new installments are to the Northern Continent land of Broceliande.

Broceliande is south to the horrible goblin empire of Gaxen Kane. Various nations of Broceliande, in particular the gray elves, have warred with the goblins since Cube World's primordial time. Broceliande is "unusually lovely and green, with tall castles, jousts, quests, wild forests, foxes, frogs and fae, elves in the north, halflings in the south, dwarves in mountains..."

Broceliande information is contained among several Cube World installments about seven kingdoms/baronies/duchies and discrete geographic regions, eight cities/towns, and six dungeon/adventure scenarios. Most all receive at least a half-page to a page of detail (much more for adventures), with major adventures there being political schemes and hidden dungeon treasures in the Duchy of Teeming, a siege to the eastern port city of Ortheque by Chaos Pirate warbands, warring mutant tribes from a spawning lake, rescuing treasure from a castle on the back of a mountain-sized giant, and two dungeons, one very dangerous and the other very mysterious, in the Barony of Eeping.

Lest you begin to consider Broceliande a region of mostly mere classic fantasy sorts, hidden areas are also occupied by strange psionically telekinetic/telepathic creatures: The Philosophers. An entire installment (#13) is dedicated to descriptions, environs, and four adventure encounters with this near-Lovecraftian species from another dimension.

2. Sea of Ignorance and Pain bits to the Scorpion Lands, "sailor's legend" of Drownesia, and hints of Southern Continent to points far east.

(The Adventures of Prince Ahmed, by Lotte Reiniger, 1922)

Should PCs take to water off the east coast of Broceliande upon the Sea of Ignorance and Pain, they'll find scattered islands and island-fortresses.

Traveling southward in the sea one installment (#4) provides an adventure encounter on Iguana Isle just off the Scorpion Lands on the north coast region of Cube World's Southern Continent. The island hosts a pirate queen's fortress, and the queen is in need of some "engineering" assistance obtaining a mysterious artifact lodged in the coral beds nearly 200 feet beneath the sea's surface.

Rumors heard at pirate island can help lead an adventuring party west to the jungle-thick collected islands of Drownesia, a mysterious land of dinosaur-riding dark elves. That same installment provides elements for the Drownesian island of Palafesh Opnow with two on-island adventure scenarios plus a megacorpse floating somewhere off the island's coast.

Should adventurers sail east from Iguana Isle another installment (#12) contains two islands with adventures that also hint to what lies on the Southern Continent mainland in those areas. PCs would likely first encounter the "sorcerer-tyrant and his monstrous pets" on The Isle of Massive Crustacians. Moving still further east might choose to become involved in a pair of rival sorcerers skirmishing over a powerful item come lodged beneath the midpoint of a thousand-foot bridge between their two isles in Peacock Isles.

There is another far east scenario for PCs to engage with maritime battles of an ancient wizard. The wizard possesses a terrible item used to take lands adjacent to Eight Demon River there as the wizard's own.

3. Nephilidia and the western sea.

(Photo by unknown)

If you happen to be running a campaign set around Vornheim (or just be keen on amphibious vampires), there is a sea west to the Northern Continent named, respectively at least in the sea's waters off the west coasts of Broceliande and Gaxen Kane, Goblin Sea or Sea of Dead Elves. Nephilidia, Eversinking Isle of seafrost and rime, is up in the cold northern waters of the western sea.

Nephilidia is home to Nephilidian Vampires, most preferring never to leave their half-drowned empire knee-deep in black and stagnant water. Another single location installment (#11), the adventure scenario includes random encounters for waters surrounding the island, an island map for overland encounters, tools for generating random dungeon ruins as needed, and The Last Palace of Queen Naxxala.

Nephidilia is, apart from encounters with The Philosophers, singly the most dangerous from these recent installments. A commensurate table of 1,000 Nephilidian magic items provides just rewards for survivors.

There is also one more island of note for the western sea from the installments, Isle of the Lava Trolls. The encounter has some nice terrain features that would provoke interesting exploration and combat, plus throwing the adventuring party on a volcanic isle in the middle of an icy sea. Ha, there's that.

4. Miscellany.

The installments do have a couple of scenarios related from the previous works. One is A Place of Garments horrific dress maker set in the kingdom from A Red and Pleasant Land. Another is Temple of the Mantis set near Vornheim that travels through a secret portal to the extradimensional place of the Mantis Cult. 

A special setting that may be used in a variety of places is Curated Destruction, a elvish library containing all knowledge and art deemed important by elves.

Likewise The Tracery along with echo chambers may be used as a strange and otherworldly means to link any dungeon sections, although a scenario involving heresy and lycanthropes is provided to draw PCs into the dungeon.

There are a number of items in the installments in addition to expanding the Cube World setting: Several particular d1000 treasure tables, book generators, useless book generators, and varied random dungeon tables along with a sample dungeon, Lair of the She Jackal, as example of randomly generated dungeon.


BUY THIS STUFF! Cube World installments have two things every dungeon master needs: Utility and surprise! These installments are dense because everything needed at the time fits on one or two pages with color-codes on the tables to move expeditiously to the information you need. 

The scenarios are varied and often with multiple decision trees such that I expect many of them with a tiny bit of re-skin you could run your same players through more than once without them catching on you're recycling. At minimum these are privately published ideas from a professional and award-winning author that your average gamer can't get at their FLGS.

Nearly all of the installments are just $5 each so you can afford to pick and choose to see how they run - either in your own game setting or that of a full-fledged Cube World.

Next up I am going to get a group to run through some of these, probably starting in Broceliande using our standard Advanced Labyrinth Lord. When that happens I can share play reports. Until then, ha, go easy, and if you can't go easy go as easy as you can.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Legendary Lands of Arduin, Episode 3 (Home Brew)

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

In this video, while working out new audio, I take an interlude to expose some of my personal Arduin home brew from a long ago campaign.

Note: I mention that each DM's scenario lasted for 3 sessions. Understand at this point in our gaming (late 1980s) our gang is mostly in our mid twenties, some are married, some with children, so we gamed probably once every month or two in Saturday night marathon sessions lasting 10-12 hours.

Also, I think now looking at the overland map that the party never made it across Moon Water to Bordertown. It looks like Black Bog is right on the way around Moon Water and that just happened to be where things ended up after my last session.

Arduin is a Registered Trademark of Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures

(Arduin home brew map...)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Legendary Lands of Arduin, Episode 2 (Cosmology)

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

In this video I examine information on cosmology of Dave Hargrave's Arduin campaign from the "World Book of Khaas: The Legendary Lands of Arduin."

Correction: When I mentioned David Hargrave's AKA "Dream Weaver" I also mentioned there is a class by that name. The class is correctly "Rune Weaver" and in the game's far distant history were "the first true men" who defeated the reptilian Kthoi.

Arduin is a Registered Trademark of Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures

(From Moons of Arduin by Thomas Grable)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Legendary Lands of Arduin, Episode 1 (Published Materials)

First episode of a delve into the original DIY gonzo RPG setting of Arduin.

In this initial video I examine the different sourcebooks and rules versions for Arduin as a prelude to a multi-part review of "World Book of Khaas: The Legendary Lands of Arduin."

Apologies! The author of "White Roc Inn," "World of Khaas," and "Arduin Eternal" is Monty St. John. I repeatedly in the video misstated Monty's name as "Monty St. Jean" so sorry. Monty spent more than a decade keeping the Arduin fires burning!

One other note: Monty St. John also authored for Emperors Choice an unpublished "retro" version of Arduin, based on the grimoires, called "Arduin Bloody Arduin." So, rather than an earlier title for "Arduin Eternal," references I recalled to Arduin Bloody Arduin may have been to this different version. Many of the discussions were on Google+ which are not generally recoverable now and I am left with my fallible memory.

Jesus instead of speaking extemporaneously I should write a script... Village of Hommlet (1979) would have been the summer between my frosh and sophomore years of high school AND... I forgot we picked up Tegal Manor as our first Judges Guild. City State would have come along later probably summer of 1979.

(David Hargrave, Copyright 1983 by Different Worlds)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

So Are the Days of Our Lives

... Like sands through the hourglass. That is pretty funny because there was actually a time back in 1986(?) when Heidramor was in Chico at University and I did what I do when left to my own devices (Not working, kind-of-junior college, there was something else??? Oh year, tequila!)

I was living at home and started watching "Days of Our Lives" with my younger sister and a mess of her friends. Like every day. I thought that shit was FANTASTIC! It was heckuv like D&D, like these weird plot lines besides the obligatory love story were espionage, secret identities, a mysterious computer disk (the 1st time I saw a 3 1/2" inch floppy was on Days). Then there was a writers' strike, and the show continued with I don't know who doing the story and,,, well. That was that.

Anyhow, we started the next phase of our rotating DM campaign and I played a character for only the third or fourth time since 2004! Hazzah!!!

(My game map...)
Linksman did an excellent story with some mysterious ancient translations, hidden traps, violent monsters, and travels through time. Due to California's Covid-19 shelter-in-place we gamed on Discord for video and chat, and used Roll20 for maps.

My one critique is that we could have just used Discord and verballed the mapping, 'twernt nothing but straight-ass rooms - easy to visualize. Ha, having virtual game tokens actually made melee a tad more confusing because of folks forgetting to move their mini. Minor issue though, the game was a blast.  :~)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Notes from the Underground: Zak Smith's Cube World, Installments #1, #2, and #3

Yea acutely conscious adventurers be bloodthirsty horribles infected unable to truly appreciate precious jewels and sublime artifacts without to suffer blood-soaked agony while smashing things. Spurred not by reason rather their desire.

So lie our way through space and time with elaborate vividness possessed judges only weep to flagellate perpetual and efficient lack of originality. 

“I want more life, fucker.”

My olde-homey-group-game game was steeped in Dave Hargrave's gonzo-DIY Arduin and the idea of "Multiverse" with 4,000 or so parallel universes discovered in the Arduin Nexus (so far). So our home games had no trouble bouncing campaigns and intra-campaign from any of our home brew settings to Hargrave's Arduin (Empcho is MIA, only used resellers) to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor First Fantasy Campaign (Only used resellers for FFC, can get Mystara or Zeitgeist versions) to even Cyberpunk and friggin' Star Trek.

The particular products Arduin Grimoire Trilogy and Blackmoor/First Fantasy Campaign are basically DIY campaign notes resulting from how parties in the author's home campaigns gamed and what the judges learned worked as a result of gaming in an actual, home campaign among friends - exactly the way RPGs are played by the rest of us. With ideas fleshed out informed from interactions with their friends (not employees or testers), Hargrave and Arneson educated us in an often gritty fashion, not merely what to play, but how we could play using their own campaigns as examples. And we did play.

40 years nothing similar to these early works has come along since, until now.

(Earth and cube with same volume, from Possibly Wrong)
Recent legal development (Note: 4/8/2020 statement/tweet by Paul Matijevic/ettin64 acknowledging "defamatory" statements that "...did not undertake any suitable fact check" contains brief description of abuse that may be triggering to some readers) being what it is, award winning game author and artist Zak Smith (D&D With Porn Stars, Vornheim: The Complete City Kit, A Red and Pleasant Land, Maze of the Blue Medusa with Patrick Stuart, Frostbitten and Mutilated) announced a decision to release the entire write ups for his game's campaign, "all the D&D," for Cube World.(*)

(* Not to be confused with the 2005 Radica Cube World electronic toy or Picroma Cube World video game released in 2013/alpha and 2019.)

What is Cube World?

1. Well first off we know (meaning me and the general public) everything Zak published for OSR D&D has a place in his home campaign:

On Vornheim Zak writes "These are our rules and tables and monsters and places. I wouldn’t want to spend all this time writing a book I couldn’t use." 

Of A Red and Pleasant Land "You can set an entire campaign in Voivodja or (and this is what I did) just have it occupy a spot on the campaign map in case your players want to go there..."

Maze of the Blue Medusa Zak put on his blog a Digital DM Screen that has a button for "Random Cube World Hex." This also provides a clue to the overall size of a campaign map. I fiddled about with the button and the largest number I came up with was hex 2020. Calculating the square root is about 50 (49.9444) and given Zak's penchant for 6-mile overland hex results in a square campaign map roughly 300 miles by 300 miles.

Zak in MotBM also references Nyctopolis, "... the annihilated capital of the Reptile Empire." In a blog post from July 2016 Zak indicates Suarians of Nyctopolis may become "Knights of Tittivila," the goddess of flesh and change. This religion is also found in Vornheim and "... operates out of ordinary buildings all over the continent." 

There is a history in MotBM that provides some details about the rise and fall of the "Reptile Empire" where also Vornheim mentions some traditions descended from "Reptile Men." It is easy to presume these details are related and Nyctopolis is out there somewhere.

Finally, Frostbitten and Mutilated has a bare campaign map roughly 340 miles north-south by 250 miles east-west with the city of Vornheim located toward the southern end and the "Devoured Lands" of Frostbitten and Mutilated located toward the northern. This map from F&M is likely the area of the main campaign map.(See MotBM note above) 

2. We know Zak's campaign takes place on Cube World, a cubic, hollowed-out gigadungeon, where different sides of the cube are essentially different regions of reality:

When Zak released Vornheim back around May 2011, he included this little tidbit paragraph at the bottom of the map key on page 3...

"The entire planet is a hive of stone tunnels carved by long-dead civilizations. Familiar landscape features – trees, grass, seas and oceans – form but a thin layer on top of this gigadungeon, and the ruins of nameless cities punch through the crust in every direction."

Later that same year in a September 2011 blog post Zak writes "I have long casually assumed that the world Vornheim is on is cube-shaped. I figured: the whole planet is artificial and made of solid dungeon beneath a thin layer of vegetation, so of course it's a cube."

Implications of a cube-shaped planet are "... because the atmosphere would still radiate outward in a sphere from the planet's core, the habitable areas would be limited to non-communicating separate circular zones on each face of the planet." (See image from Possibly Wrong above.)

(Both Vornheim and F&M reference a single, round moon, so perhaps with moon phase/eclipse math inhabitants might have discovered their planet is squared, not round, and thought to tunnel over to another side.)

The six faces of the world would also aptly develop together as environments of a quasi (i.e. non-traditional D&D) multiplanar system. "... (T)he best way to get to these other biospheres would be to go through the earth and come out the other side. Bam, you're in a new world or--literally--on another plane of existence. And that's why they're called planes."

What about Cube World Installments? (Not for players, some spoilers)

1. There are several hundreds pages of new and updated material Zak has decided to publish:

In a blog post this past April 8, Zak wrote he has over a hundred pages of material originally intended for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (including Violence in the Nympharium and Bards), hundreds of pages of new material such as hex locations, new monsters, weird religions, "... new rules, tools, creatures, classes, every country, every continent, from to Vornheim to the goblin kingdom of Gaxen Kane to Drownesia plus a vast megadungeon beneath. The whole Cube World."

Zak had not planned to publish any of this, but an unnamed DM asked Zak to write her a scenario involving a Tiger-King which Zak decided to sell and donate the first week of sales as a benefit. Zak wrote that positive experience "... maybe there are some people in the online RPG scene who aren't gullible psychopaths" motivated him to release all of it. "Everything. Nothing piecemeal."

The caveat is that the material isn't being presented according to "publisher quirks" of an LotFP or Satyr Press. It is Zak's art, maps, and words. Zak is taking time to write up his notes. But the appearance of the text thus far is nitty gritty if that matters to you.

2. The first set of installments are each separate sets (not linked between them):

Rules are LotFP and compatible with old versions of D&D like 1st edition AD&D and B/X, or OSR retroclones such as Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry (note: LotFP skills are used). Zak includes a very simple rule to modify encounters for 5th Edition D&D. And Zak helpfully provides variations for either LotFP early modern Europe or medieval fantasy settings.

Zak also includes notes with each installment suggesting alterations for each scenario to run piecemeal if necessary for your campaign. (If you aren't familiar with Zak's prior work, one hallmark is that it's modular.)

All of the scenarios contain new monsters and unique ways adventurers interact with the various environments.

Cube World #1: Castle Terravante, Vault of Omnilex, and Crypt of the Wretched is two linked scenarios and what Zak's home group is gaming right now. "A social-interaction clusterfuck involve shenanigans in a castle (a duke, a count, a scheming priest, a dark secret etc) and the rest about the dungeon beneath." The dungeon will be supplemented by a megadungeon, but not yet.

Cube World #2: The Inquisitor's Road, The Gray Fortress, The Echo Chambers (plus d100 potions with ingredients) has three distinct parts. "In the first scenario, the party heads through the wilderness to investigate a heresy at the behest of religious authorities, in the second section the party encounters an evil cult in a once-abandoned fortress, and the third section is a dungeon."

Cube World Installment #3: The Curated Destruction "is a semi-legendary library created by the elves to contain all useful knowledge and literary art." This scenario, in addition to tables of interesting books and tables of uninteresting books, has regional descriptions of the campaign world.

3. How does one purchase installments?

Zak has been selling installments for $5 and some pennies ($5.01 for #1, $5.02 for #2) except installment #3 is much longer and goes for $10.03. The text is PDF and maps hi-res JPGs.

The most punk, DIY, and underground way to buy these is to visit Zak's "Only Fans" pay porn site (no porn there, just RPG). Just a side note, I got hit with a bogus ransomware email threatening to send my contacts video captured from my webcam watching videos from the site and "self-pleasuring." Ha, bogus because I watched no videos and don't have a webcam.

If you don't mind missing Zak's message updates on "Only Fans" there is also a Venmo setup.

**** UPDATE 4/22/2020 - Updated blog post about what's out and how to get it.

What do I think?

I have enjoyed Zak's RPG work for a decade. On the installments, these are the wordsmith and art I grew accustomed to from Zak's blog and prior books. Not instructing you verbatim how a scenario should be run but rather where you might want to end up and a variety of thoughts on how to get you there.

Published campaign settings, however, are really no big thing, the difference here is this is Zak's personal campaign. Nothing matches the time, effort, and love for your players than what a game judge makes for the home group and setting you actually game in. Rarely for the rest of us are works available combining that personal effort with an award-winning author and an existing body of professionally published works. Jesus, I can only think of one predecessor: Dave Hargrave and Arduin.

Dave Hargrave was cut short at age 42 though, and most of his campaign notes, additional dungeons, maps, etc. are said to have likely ended up in a landfill. When a bit of interest in Arduin came up again during the early OSR, there was almost nothing written by Hargrave to add to the dozen or so Arduin works Hargrave published during his lifetime. That didn't stop Empcho from publishing an 800-page Arduin world book though, and a game map. The huge main difference is it wasn't Dave's voice in the words.

Ok Zak, please don't die, and I'll look forward to your vision for Cube World. Thanks!