Sunday, August 31, 2014

[map] The Long Hall

The Long Hall
Much has been stated over the decades regarding the dungeon complex known as the Long Hall, but almost none of it is true. Rumors of untold wealth and treasures, the rumors of ghostly specters haunting the barren halls, even the tales of a long vibrant elven society...all are false and very wrong and the truth is even worse.

The long dead, and forgotten, dark elven king Melkor has become a very powerful liche and has surrounded himself with not only his original servants turned into undead slaves, but also the dozens of adventurers and explorers that have been tempted to wander his dark domain. Now, a huge variety of undead servants prowl the Long Hall protecting Melkor and the remains of his lost love, Vellaria.

Variant maps:
(this next one is my favorite version of this map, the muted colors with the white background just appeal to me for whatever reason)

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Friday, August 29, 2014

[map] The Dragan LAC IX

As Light Attack Craft go, the Dragan LAC IX has been a game changer. Small, agile and exceptionally fast (no doubt due to the four Merrin III Sublight cores mounted on stubby wings in an X formation), the Dragan has been a welcome addition to the Alliance fleet.

Crew members report nearly a triple fold kill to damage ratio in sublight dog fighting. The crew must also feel well armed with the two Mead-Miller Ion cannons mounted on extended struts to the front. Field reports say when fired in tandem these cannons can shred the shields of even the largest capital ships in the enemy's arsenal. A large dorsal mounted grapshot launcher provides protection against incoming missiles.

Variant maps:


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

[map] Deep Space Recon Station Algernon IV

Sectors away from Core Space, the UCN has established Deep Space Recon Station Algernon IV. Algernon orbits the large gas giant Talmnak, which provides excellent signal masking and thus far has prevented the station from being detected by hostile forces.

Algernon is a small station, with a medium size bay able to hold two scout ships or one frigate. The facility includes living space for its crew of eight plus two recon teams each of six personnel.

Alternative versions:

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

[map] The Artemis Bunker

Deep in the wasteland, the Federation has established a small facility to help guard the borderlands from incursions by the rebels. Artemis has been used for a multitude of purposes over its lifetime: prison, arms storage, space recon location and most recently as the base of operations for Special Recon Team 7. SRT7 is a quick response team with expertise in dealing with alien scum that attack human space.

A few variations on the map:

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

[book review] The Lost Fleet - Dauntless

I have been primarily reading two authors of late: Max Allan Collins (of the excellent Quarry series) and Bernard Cornwell (of the amazing Saxon Tales series) both are kick ass authors and I am loving their books. That said, I am nearing the end of the books that have been published in those series and I am on the prowl for books that are likewise good. Someone (sorry I forget who is was now) suggested The Lost Fleet series to me. I am not much for scifi these days (though Dune, A Princess of Mars and The Risen Empire are some of my all time favorite books) but it came highly recommended from numerous people, so I downloaded a sample to my kindle.

The book is pretty straight forward. A story with quite an interesting twist: a man frozen in hypersleep for 100 years at the end of a desperate battle. During the time he slept he became a mythical hero and he is discovered and woken just in time to find his people at their most desperate...truly a end of times. Based on nothing more than the myth he is appointed the leader of the fleet, being out ranked my most of the other commanders of the ships.

The tale is an interesting study between the myth and the reality, how people will take a story and inflate it over time. It is also an interesting take of space combat where the extreme speed of ships out paces the ability of communications and the results are simply fantastic. The inner battles the captain struggle with as he comes to terms with the man he really is and the myth that people think he is is a fascinating journey. There are some interesting bits about the fair treatment of people, the laws of war and how prisoners are treated. This might be primarily of interest to me due to my profession but I never felt the author was preachy or on a soapbox.

Part of my favorite part of the book is the battles, where they discuss tactics and the technology of these futuristic battles....but it somehow never gets bogged down in tech mumbojumbo. The descriptions of the battle never get too detailed and provide enough information to give you a clear picture but not drag the flow of the story.

This book literally cuts off at  the beginning of the Fleet's journey but it expands the universe with some interesting questions about the setting of the book. Given the distance to get home there, the various characters, and a huge universe, there are plenty here for many books and many adventures.

Given that I read this book in just four days, I have already purchased the second book. I would recommend this book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

[Map] The Ruins of the Bella Swan

An hour out from the village of Grimstad rests the ruins of the Bella Swan. This cargo ship was attacked and savagely sank on the shallow shoals common to the bay surrounding Grimstad. The villagers say the ship was sunk by a vicious tribe of Dragar, a humanoid lizard creature known to have a thirst for treasure and humans to use as slaves among their home.

Few have been brave enough to attempt a raid on the Dragar's home...the half sunk wreck of the Swan. Those that have made it upon the angled deck say the top holds the ruins of the old captain's room but below that lies a watery grave from which none have returned.

Those foolish enough to enter the wreck should heed the warning of the lower levels being flooded, and thick with Dragar.

Other versions of the map:

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Tomb of Rëschër-dü

And thus we are to our first, post Maps for Heroes, I thank you all for your continued support. This map was drawn a week ago in one sitting, and finally yesterday I had a chance to ink it quickly over another single sitting. It is somewhat based on ancient Egyptian pharaoh tombs that were designed to confuse tomb raiders  with false tombs and fake treasure rooms.

The Tomb of Rëschër-dü
Rëschër-dü was a madman, albeit a powerful madman. After pillaging his country he turned to his neighbors, killing and torturing his way into the history books. After decades of such action he understandably had a swollen treasury and decided he would take it with him.

He designed an elaborate and secretive tomb with false tombs, secret passages and trick doors. Once completed, he held a massive celebration to mark the completion. All who worked on the tomb were invited and led to a secret chamber where Rëschër-dü slaughtered them himself. He then sealed the room.

Later when he passed, his will decreed that only his two sons could accompany his body into the tomb to ensure the treasures went with him to the afterlife. [Little known fact: his two sons later plundered his tomb to support their own lifestyles.]

Variant maps:

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Maps for Heroes...the final tally

The final tally, counting the full amount from Patreon has come in and been sent to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The final amount is $1,231.00!

A big thank you to everyone that contributed monetarily, donating a map, or helping spread the word. With your help, we were able to help warriors wounded in combat. Thank you!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

[Pits & Perils] The Dweller

A cavern dwelling creature that lives in darkness and lives by devouring the raw flesh of any creature other than its own. Most common descriptions tell of a fast moving, dog-faced creatures with a large, fang encrusted jaw and a spiny back ridge. They have large powerful jaws and typically carry small blades or spears. While commonly seen as mere wild animals, these creatures are actually intelligent and can build fires for warmth and survival,though never, ever to cook as they prefer the taste of raw flesh.

Typically found in groups of 4 to 24, they are always accompanied by a powerful Dweller who acts as the leader. This leader is larger and more powerful than all the others, gaining a +1 to all attack rolls. The leader also has a powerful roar that has a STUN-like effect to all targets within 30'feet (note this affects all within 30' except other Dwellers).

If an enemy falls in combat before a dweller and there are yet more enemies to fight, the Dweller must make a save to resist the urge to stop fighting and feed. So powerful is the lust for raw flesh, these creatures have been known to completely ignore combat around them as they feed in a bloodthirsty frenzy.

ATK 2 (Bite & weapon)
MOVE 30'

These creatures keep their lairs so disgusting (dirty and odor) that any person first entering their lair must make a Save or suffer a -1 penalty to ALL actions for 2d6 rounds. Frequently the creatures will determine one room or area of their lair to be the trash pit. Here they will take care of business, toss partially decaying remains, and any other disgusting thing they can find. Anyone stepping into this pit has a 3 in 6 chance of contracting some form of disease (GMs feel free to mess with your players).

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bloodnut funnel - DCC/Pits & Perils

Wherein I discuss the game of Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman games, the much-talked-about funnel and why I still prefer Pits & Perils....

So I had Staff Duty on Monday. This means Matt stays awake for 24 hours, making sure someone of rank is on duty in case the world ends and I need to call the President. It is boring, maddeningly quiet, and the extreme late hours makes me a little loony.

Sounds perfect for mapping, eh?

So I drew a map, I give you Bloodnut Pass. And no, I have no idea what spurred me to draw a nutsack nailed to a wall, but I did, and the name for the place became clear.

In a further bit of insanity, I told my regular Thursday group I was running a DCC funnel through there. Having never ran...and only lightly perused the rules...this seemed like a strange leap.

Oh well.

My friend Bryan LOVES DCC and as a friend, I had to give it a shot, if nothing else, at least give it a shot for him. One of my regular guys could not join us so this seemed perfect, step away from our usual game, do a one shot and playtest this nutty adventure (pun intended). Another long and busy week and all I managed to skim was the combat section.

Thursday night I opt to draw the map as we play and drop a few tokens on the game area in +Roll20. +Bryan Meadows and +Robert Miller join me and update their tokens.

The group is on the road from one town to another, taking a short cut because the reason (never clarified) is time sensitive and this shortcut cuts travel time through the mountains by four days. They encounter the entrance to the tunnel and immediately discover the nasty smell, a wave of fear flows over the novice group of villagers (all zero levels created through the Purple Sorcerer Games party generator). A few fail their Will save and are forced to take a -1 on all rolls for a little duration but the group bravely presses on.

They enter the tunnel and come to stairs the perceptive point man noticing a very basic trap made from old rusted metal bits in a large goblet resting precariously atop an old rusted helmet. What appeared to be strong runs across the steps and is tied to the goblet. Closer inspection reveals this to be human hair tied to the rocks on the right and the goblet on the left. The trap is safely removed and they continue inward.

The group finds a small widened area with many footprints on the ground and they discover small broken bones scattered throughout the dirt. The smell gets worse. They press forward.

Coming down the stairs they come to a larger room, more stairs leading down directly across the room and another set leading upward to their right...but the room.... The room is disgusting. Blood, recent and old, covers the floor and the walls. Small pools and clumps of meat, entrails, a skull, a hand...just litter the room. The floor is sticky and gross. I believe one character barfed but I might be making that up.

Soft chatter is heard from the higher room to the right. The players, remembering that they are supposed to be 'normal' people just want to get through this and avoid anything nasty, bravely head for the noise free passage ahead of them.

As they come to the top of the stairs they discover they are looking down into a room filled with creatures. The group is outnumbers by these ashen skinned creatures, they sit around small fires tearing raw flesh from easily discernible legs, a head, an arm.

They opt to try to sneak past the creatures, fearing a confrontation would mean death. Rightly so. The GM (Judge?) is a dick and has been rolling his wandering creature rolls for the blood covered room.

Suddenly three creatures appear at the top of the steps over looking the tail end of the party (from where the chatter came from). The lead creatures bellows a loud growl/roar at the party. Things are looking bad for the group:

From here, things go as expected. Creatures are not happy with invasion of their home and start killing zero level peeps.

As it starts looking bad, Rob playing excellently as a normal joe, says "F This!" and makes a run for the passage, hoping to escape. Instead he comes across what I call The Shit Pit. A room literally filled with a giant pool of shit, piss, body parts and god knows what else.

He opts to stay and fight rather than explore the pit.

All of Bryan's guys fall except one. And then immediately all of Rob's guys fall except one! Unfortunately at this time Bryan had to drop of play and Rob and I opted to continue, wanted to resolve at least this battle before the night was through.

The battle rages on both stairs and then suddenly Rob's single guy, a brave navigator if I remember correctly, is the last man standing, still faces THREE creatures!

Things are looking really bad and I start wondering if this will be a TPK.

Burning of luck, multiple poor rolls on the GMs side of the table and great rolling on Rob's part and his very, very lucky guy remains alive. 

In a brilliant move, Rob opts to go back and scrounge a bit, see if he can gather up supplies from all the dead. As Bryan had left the group he made an off-hand comment about picking up some prisoners to replenish the group (I believe this is common practice among many funnel runners). This gives me an idea.

Rob mentions he will check the room the creatures had come from, back up the stairs. So I have him find two prisoners there and he frees them, recruiting them to the cause of escaping the tunnels. A quick roll over at the Purple Sorcerer site and he gets two new characters to reform his party. He grabs left over gear he finds in the room to gear the new recruits and finds three small vials. With a "What the heck?" he drinks one and luckily discovers it to be a healing potion! A quick swig and he is full up at 4.

The group heads back to the Shit Pit and builds a bridge using the bodies of the dead to skirt along the wall and get to the next room.

Here they find a larger, more muscular creature...naked...poking a naked human female with a massive (think Final Fantasy style) dagger. She has cuts all over her body and has clearly been beaten and abused. The group immediately runs to engage him. I try my hand at a little magic, casting a Sleep spell. He fails, sadly this would have made the ending a very different affair.

After a bit of combat he is able to run off into a tunnel and escape certain death, but not before he kills one of the newly found adventurers. Rob smartly covers the escape tunnel with some heavy rocks and the group decides to head out the other tunnel that was across the Shit Pit. The group safely makes their way out of the tunnels and back outside to the mountainside trail.

All told, eight characters were slain, one of the original pack and two of the folks rescued (the naked female was rescued though her sanity would surely be questionable).


Having now officially ran DCC I can say I like it. It was close enough to any other OD&D system that I could easily pick it up and run with about thirty minutes of planning. The luck mechanic is neat, though I see it primarily being used as a way of keeping those zero level nobodies alive.

The funnel...

I still see this as a gimmick. Sure, sure, I get the allure of it, absolute chaos, blood, death and gore! Characters you do not care about getting their ass handed to them as you slowly grow fond of one of these hapless heroes. As a GM I was sad when I killed the first, then it was all down hill until we got down to the last few. In my mind I was thinking "We may have a TPK here!" but then it followed with "Oh well, these are 'extras' and not the players' real characters!"

The funnel was fun and sort of a one-shot that could provide you with some history for the character you end up playing the the 'real' game.

I still say it is a gimmick, yes, a fun one, but still a gimmick.

My main problem, and there will be those who disagree with me, but here it is. DCC is OD&D with those old Crit & Fumble tables I had back in high school. Yes, I had a 3 ring binder with page after page of Crit & Fumble tables. They were awesome because they added narrative to your game and made it more interesting. The thing is, I do narrative now, I don't need those tables. And holy shit, they have tables for every C&F you could have. A dagger wielding halfling who fumbles while riding a horse and fighting a dragon? Yeah, that's there.

Ok, that may be a stretch.

Seriously. DCC has a few neat little rules with page after page of Critical & Fumble tables for everything. Halflings get a table. Fighters get a table. Dragons get a table. Giants too.

It is silly.

All those tables, yes they make the game fun but it slowed my game as I flipped to the correct table for roll that fumble, or that critical. That is a no-no at my table.

I do not think I need those tables. Maybe I am just being arrogant but I think at my tables we can and do make those critical & fumble results at my table on the fly...and likely more appropriate to the narration of the story.

To finish up, the DCC funnel was fun and even a GREAT diversion but I really just don't think I need a 400+ page book to have a great time. I think it is a great system and if I was 30 years younger I would likely run it, all those tables would be great to create some really nutty, wild, and fun games.

I have been running a game the last few weeks using Pits & Perils, a modern rules-lite game. It is such a thin system that you can easily hack it to be exactly the game you want. In my case, I have already written a few classes, houseruled some magic and even through in the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic from 5e system into it! The game is incredibly easy to pick up and run. Just like DCC I was able to read through the rules once and run the game with ease.

If I feel the need to do a funnel, I may just use P&P and run the characters through a funnel...