Friday, January 31, 2020

Map and map symbols

A question came up today in one of the comments regarding the symbols I use in my maps. I guess it just shows how old I am because I sorta thought everyone would easily recognize the symbols as these were common back in the good old days of gaming, but with the advent and proliferation of digital mapping resources I guess they do not use the same symbols we are used to.

This is not my work below (maybe I should do my own) but I mostly follow these symbols. I do divert a little here and there. For example the "slide" symbol below I use for a "slope", the difference being a slide means a 'trap-type thing' to me whereas a slope is just a naturally angled downward path. You will also notice I put door handles on my doors, because.

All that said, while I put symbols on maps, I encourage DMs to use the maps as they see fit. If you don't like the that I put a statue there, don't say it is. Or if you think a trap door in the floor would be better, put it there.

Another great resource can be found here: where you can download this fantastic key which is similar in many ways to the one above. New Big Dragon has a great blog and produce excellent gaming resources.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Adventures in Scaldwater Bay, session 02

H'Qha (Steve) - a half-orc, sent here by others but interested in the possibility that his background is somehow tied to this place
Seemorph (Joe) - an elven ranger, he's got a think for ruins and the talk on the coast was this place had ruins....and lots of treasure
Mitrum (Tim) - human cleric of the ancient god Moloch, a deity most noted for being pro-child sacrifice, he has heard rumors of ruins near Scaldwater Bay that might be related to Moloch

Click here for the previous game session.


Prior to this session, extensive conversation was had on the importance of the group name and it was decided Scaldwater Shockers was fitting for our merry band of ne'er do wells. I took it upon myself to quickly create a team logo. The group heartily approved of the logo and I believe Joe said he was getting put on his shield or armor. Good times. ;-)

We picked up immediately where we left off last week. The boys were in the back of Bronn and Galan's wagon, heading out to the orchard, about a two hour ride via a trail that traversed the winding hills west of Scaldwater. An hour in, Bronn was happy to announce they were now on the slack side of the storm and were heading into a reprieve. He stated that the storm would weaken over the next couple of hours and clear up for about twelve, before coming back down from the mountains. This was a battle between the sea bitch Ampherus and the mountain god Brugga, as Bronn explained.

Bronn alerted the group, riding in the back of the covered wagon, that something new had appeared along the southern edge of the trail. Off the trail about 100 feet were pure two white statues. From the trail, the group could see these appeared to not have been out in the weather. One squatted on one knee and the other was standing. Curious, the group dismounted and realized as they approached there was actually a third statue. This one was laying flat on the ground under a lean-to. The other two statues, a kneeling one holding a bow and the other standing but apparently having fallen over and was leaning precariously against a tree, had been exposed to the weather. They lacked detailed features, as if the hard rain has eaten away the details. The one under the lean-to still maintained the details: a hardy looking warrior with massive lamb chop sideburns.

The statues were made of some sort of soft, white stone, a pumice-like stone that rubbed off like chalk when touched. H'Qha kicked the leaning statue, cracking it in the torso. This revealed that the inside was not a solid...poured...shaped stones could be seen inside. While the group looked around for footprints, tools, equipment, etc they discovered an old campfire nearby. Mitrum twisted the head off the laid down statue, removed the top of the head, and broke off and crumbled part of the stony brain-shaped rock inside, grounding it down to a powered and keeping it safe in a leather pouch.

Deciding they had uncovered everything they could, the group opted to return to Bronn's wagon, as they did they spotted a small figure on the ridge above the wagon. Camouflaged in a green and brown cloak, the figure studied them a moment and then rapidly began moving away up the ridge. Seemorph and H'Qha aimed shots at figure but missed horribly. The figure moved up higher, eventually encountered two other being similarly dressed, conversed, and then disappeared into the forest. Frustrated but far more cautious, the group continued along the trail.
(map provided by 2 Minute Tabletop)

Seemorph's caution paid off. Walking ahead of the group, off the trail and among the trees, he spotted a cloaked figure waiting in ambush. He alerted the group and let arrows fly. He dropped a enemy. H'Qha and Mitrum took cover behind the wagon as arrows rained down the trail from atop the ridge and cliffs on the north side of the road. Mistakenly thinking he was covered, an arrow lodged in Mitrum back, in the shoulder area.
A moment later another one of these short bluish humanoids - Gobblers -  charged out of the bush and engaged Mitrum in deadly combat. Seemorph killed another in the bushes. H'Qha engaged the arrow shooters high up on the cliff. The fight was short, brutal, and unfortunately, deadly. Mitrum took a particularly deadly strike in the gut, felling him on the trail. A moment later and all the Gobblers were down.

map by me!
The heroes breathed a sigh of relief and Seemorph quickly pillaged the Gobblers and their late friend. He's a bastard. The collected gear was placed on Bronn's wagon. H'Qha noted the grotto on the north side of the road, something caught his attention.

Bronn stated he would travel up to the orchard, collect his apples, and return, promising to hold on to the gear for the group so they might sell it back in Scaldwater Bay. Tim, not to be saddened by the sudden death of Mitrum, rolled up a new a character, an elf. We decided he had been wandering along the trail in search of "Adventure!" and he joined the two surviving members of the Shockers.

The grotto was small, about 35 feet wide and twenty deep. On the left a large grey stone statue, clearly having been in this location for a long time, stood on a raised, round dais. He knelt in a battle stance behind a large shield and held a spear pointed forward, parallel to the ground. He stood over eight foot tall while kneeling. Before him were what appeared to be two benches, cracked and broken from decades or hundreds of years of neglect. Behind the benches were scattered the remains of a plaque, the group managed to piece together. Oddly, H'Qha could make out and understand some of the letters. He could not understand why he could read these, though they seemed familiar to him.



  • This session went very good. I think the group meshes well together, we are here for fun and a good time and everyone is in line with that.
  • I have always thought I had a 'loose DMing' style, using the rules as a base but adjudicating much of the details of combat, tracking, etc on the fly on the game does not slow down. I like DMing this way, I hope my players do. Example: Player says he will duck behind a bushes for cover but still keep an eye on the enemy he spotted. Enemy looks his way, does he see the character? Are there rules for this? Probably, but I am not looking them up. I decide he sees the character on a 2 in 6 and roll with it.
  • After being a player for a bit I decided I was not going to 'fudge' rolls at all for 'the story'. I would play the baddies like they mean it and let the dice stay where they land. Hence, Tim's character death. 
  • One cue I am taking from the game Tim runs is that characters will gain experience based on a few things, but mostly from coin spent. As a player I have seen first hand how this effects the game and I like it. SO I will be giving out XP for killing shit, roleplaying in excellent fashion, and being creative in your endeavors, but the bulk of XP will likely from finding stuff, selling it in town, and then spending coin.

Friday, January 24, 2020

CollaboDungeon 02

#CollaboDungeon Number Two!

So CD01 was THE MOST COMMENTED on post I have ever had here at the blog, in six years (here on Blogger, and another 3 or 4 over on Wordpress before I moved here). So, I will mark that as successful, thus I shall continue with these as long as people are interested in collective creative.

For CD02 I went big with 23 freaking rooms, I wanted to really challenge you folks and see what you come up with. I left this one a little more bare inside so you were not forced into a certain angle. I also added some shadow as well, to spice up the map a little. If you don't like that sort of thing, I included a straight black and white - perfect for printing.

Same plan here. I post a map. You flesh it out. If you contribute, you have full rights to use the map for personal or commercial use (see legalese below). Now, go forth and create!

Legalese: Matt Jackson allows free and unrestricted use, with attribution, of the above images even in commercial usage so long as they contribute to the CollaboDungeon effort by posting their creative work in the comments to this post, or link to them in the comments. "Their creative work" means you make up something for this dungeon. Failing to comply with the sharing of creative work will release Baby Yoda's wrath upon thee.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Adventures in Scaldwater Bay, session 01

I started running a new game last week using Old School Essentials (OSE), figured I might post about the game here and there. This session was the first and so a good amount of exposition on my part and most chatter between players and NPCs. All the characters are first level and coming this way for various personal reasons, we assumed they became acquainted prior to boarding the boat (because that is usually some boring as fuck role-playing).

H'Qha (Steve) - a half-orc, sent here by others but interested in the possibility that his background is somehow tied to this place
Seemorph (Joe) - an elven ranger, he's got a think for ruins and the talk on the coast was this place had ruins....and lots of treasure
Mitrum (Tim) - human cleric of the ancient god Moloch, a deity most noted for being pro-child sacrifice, he has heard rumors of ruins near Scaldwater Bay that might be related to Moloch


We joined the group a few days after they left a large port city known as Longshank Bottoms, a city on the western shores of The Kingdom. The trip from Longshanks to Scaldwater Bay typically take four to six days, depending on the severity of the storms along the way. They hit a strong storm on the second day, which pushed the trip to a full five days, most of the trip spent below deck to be out of the strong, biting winds and the cold rain.

We discussed a few tidbits of information they learned while speaking with the crew (some of this information was given to players in the form of a pre-game handout to seed character knowledge of the area prior to the game):

  • Scaldwater Bay is very small, barely a hamlet, on the edge of an unexplored island in the chilly waters to the northwest of civilization. While they are a ‘free city’, the hamlet is a chartered city, which means the man who funded its establishment is the unofficial ‘ruler’, Lord Bertolucci.
  • As the island is a five-day boat ride east and a seven-day trip west, supplies are few and far between. 
  • A ‘grumpy cripple’ named Chomper runs a sort of inn on the southeastern coast inside a rickety old boat. 
  • The Weary Wench is the only place in town to get a drink and the owner Stavos is a good, trustworthy guy. Stavos acts as a sort of ‘unofficial community- selected leader’.  
  • Sheriff Rolloc is the official leader of the community, and Lord Bertolucci’s man.
  • Rumors are that a quarry started two years ago has been emptied of workers because an opening to underground tunnels was opened. Now, people are saying it is a cursed place, gaining the name The Red Quarry, supposedly because ‘blood will run’ or some such nonsense. 
  • North of the bay lies the ruins. Some people claim this is the remains of a Black Abbey (another called it the Abbey Bleak), the reputed training complex for monks of Moloch, an ancient and vile sect of child sacrifices
  • The forests and hills west of the Bay are rife with orc, goblins, bear, and a host of other creatures
  • The coast is dangerous, with the bay being one of the few safe passages, and the coast surrounding the bay is littered with wreckage from previous explorers.

When their boats arrives and they are about to leave, H'Qha realized the person next to him, some adventurer, has died in the night. He quickly removed a satchel and a dagger from the corpse. He would later open this to discover a map (to an area south of the hamlet, along the coast, with a large red X) and a small vial with four clear, marble-like objects. Inside the marbles appear to be liquid of some sort with small shiny flecks that float around when the marble-like objects are shaken.

The character disembarked, grumbling about the heavy rains. Moving uphill to a covered area outside the Weary Wench (1 on the map), they encountered a few important people from town: Stavos, Tamalaud Breig, and Sheriff Rolloc. The Sheriff gave them a quick once-over, rolled his eyes, and uttered under his breath "Adventurers..." Tam is a little more friendly and introduces himself as Lord Bertolucci's man in the wilds here, he purchases treasures the adventurous recover, sell adventuring gear, and can order special equipment from the mainland. Stavos invites the party into the Weary Wench, offers a free, welcoming, drink and provides wonderful clam chowder.

As they eat and talk, two people enter, Bronn Tussle and his teenage son Galan. Bronn is clearly half-orc and politely nods to H'Qha. Steve has H'Qha make a secret half-orc 'gang' symbol....which we all discovered looks exactly like 'The Shocker'. Hilarity ensues and the table laughs uncontrollably. - GM note: I am sure this will become a long-lived thing in the campaign now. - Bronn speaks with Tam and Tam make a suggestion to the party. If they are wanting to get started immediately, Bronn is headed out to a natural orchard a couple of miles west, and more importantly inland from the hamlet. He has a covered wagon and could transport the party out a few miles while allowing them to stay having a few swords on hand in case they run into trouble would not hurt either.
The group agrees and we had to end it for the night.


  • I think the session went well, especially since it has been at least nine to ten months since I ran anything. 
  • I am using the Old School Essentials it! By far, the best version of the B/X rules I have seen.
  • I was thinking of using adjusted Advancement Tables to get rid of the annoying plateauing effect of BX, but then opted not too. I want this to be simple, straightforward, and fun. Messing with rules just complicates things.
  • I also let the players use the race & class option in the OSE Advanced Fantasy rulebook. 
  • I think I have a decent group, if anything they will likely show up most weeks and that is important for a game to exist and grow. I can handle a single player missing here but I need a stable group of a couple of players to have a campaign, otherwise it is simply a bunch of unconnected dungeons....boring!
  • We start early (for me!) because all the players are Eastern Timezone and ran for about two, maybe two and a half hours which ends up being 10-10:30pm for the easterners. This is actually pretty nice for me because it means we end at 9:30 y time. I can walk the pups and still get in bed before 10 to read a little before nodding off.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

CollaboDungeon 01!

#CollaboDungeon Number One!
As I stated on MeWe:
An idea that came to me while walking my pooches just now. A dungeon and collaboration between all of us to to make something, just for fun. The CollaboDungeon!

I post a new map, you blokes and I turn it into an adventure.

Those who contribute are free to use the map (and any text they write) for whatever reason they want: post on their blog, write and sell a full adventure on Drive thru, put on a t-shirt, or print out a poster.

With that out of the way, I give you, CollaboDungeon #1!

A quick note, there is no 'ownership of a room' so even if someone else already has fleshed out room 7 but you have a great idea for it, post it! The idea is that we do not end up with a definitive dungeon, but instead a decent map (least I hope so) and tons of cool, fun, and creative ideas that any DM could grab and use.
Legalese: Matt Jackson allows free and unrestricted use, with attribution, of the above images even in commercial usage so long as they contribute to the CollaboDungeon effort by posting their creative work in the comments to this post, or link to them in the comments. "Their creative work" means you make up something for this dungeon. Failing to comply with the sharing of creative work will release Godzilla's wrath upon thee.