... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Subhex Coastlines

I wanted to highlight and discuss part of Mphs. Steve's comment on his experience with the Subhex Wilderness Crawl system.
"...The drop die method was better for my purposes since it puts more points of interests on a single sheet. I used two of the paths off the starting point to create a coastline. It ended up being too straight so I used it as a general guide with natural looking irregularity added by using a rule that I borrowed from ICE's Campaign Law for creating coastlines. The end result was a map of a nicely detailed small area with a lot of opportunity for adventure."
I don't know what the rule from Campaign Law was (never had the Rolemaster books,) although I'd be interested in hearing about it. But I can  understand why the subhex system probably wouldn't make satisfactory coastlines.

Theoretically, you can treat a coastline as a path, rolling d12s to establish where the coast changes direction. But the problem is, the path rolls are geared toward the viewpoint of traveling characters. The length of each leg of a journey is based on travel speed modified by terrain. These things should not affect coastlines in the same way. Also, coastlines are more fractal and more "noisy". In theory, what you should do for a coastline would be to roll d12s to establish a rough coastline, then for each segment of the coast, roll more d12s to divide it into smaller segments, and then repeat a couple times, zooming in to smaller and smaller coastal changes.

That's kind of unwieldy.

I haven't fully thought it through, but a good compromise would be to roll some elevation checks -- the roll with three light dice and three dark dice, but use more dice, something like 8d6 light and 8d6 dark. Read them in a line to establish broad details of the coastline: light dice are spits of land or rocky cliffs jutting out into the water, the dark dice are coves and inlets. That's the rough outline, and the places where the first draft of the coastline changes are the defining points. For each pair of defining points, roll 5d12 to establish the deviations of that section of coastline from the straight line. Or, if  you prefer, start at one point and roll 1d12 for every four squares of coastline until you reach the next defining point. That might work better for rolling a coastline on the fly when players decide to follow and map it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Progress Update: Infernals

I've been working on the infernals as the next PDF document. I know I had listed that as something like Project #5, but it looked like something I could do quickly, with not as much rewriting or layout hassles  as some of the other projects. I think Ranks of the Undead will be the next one after this, so there's also another factor: a couple sections I wrote for the infernals document will be reusable in Ranks of the Undead, so working on those in sequence should go pretty quickly.

One of the interesting developments has to do with my standard ways of writing monster stats. You may recall that I like doing a header line with a quick appearance/behavior summary in parentheses, like: "Manticore (Fantastic Predatory Beast)" or "Banshee (Vengeful Spirit)". I try to fit in as many as many important details as I can ("Invisible Fiery Sadistic Ursine",) but for things like demons and devils, even my stripped-down versions, there may just be too many of these to be practical.

But then I realized that, since all demons would share some features, all devils would share some features, and so on for each infernal variety, I could have a section header that could define each variety. Like:  "Demonic (Chaotic Hostile Destructive Ethereal Monstrosity)". And each demon could then be like "Bat Demon (Flying Demonic Beast)". Basically, it's a macro. I don't have to repeat the terms  that apply to all Demonic creatures, because the label "Demonic" stands for and expands to the other labels.

One final note: I might change it again, but currently, I'm going with the original name of the series, "Our Infernal  Neighbors", as the name of this PDF.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Random Subhex Wilderness Generation PDF

I've done many posts on random wilderness generation tricks, including some recently. But sometime back in 2012, I did a short series about "subhex" wilderness crawls, mapping random wilderness at about the same scale as a dungeon. In other words, mapping individual boulders, trees, hillocks, huts, and roads.

I removed those posts along with many others that I planned on overhauling at some point, but I put it on low priority. I didn't think it was all that popular, especially compared to my hex-level wilderness posts. But then Justin Alexander said, "Hey, what happened to those?"

So I redid them as a PDF. Subhex Wilderness Crawls: Random Local Terrain and Landmark Tables for Class-and-Level Exploration Fantasy RPGs.

Turns out I did a lot  more rewriting and creating new material than I'd originally planned. I did several tables that weren't part of the original series, including a revamped version of the Landmarks table from the non--subhex posts. It's a major overhaul, but I think it reads a lot cleaner now and is easier to use than before.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Bag of Holding

I saw someone complaining about people misinterpreting how a Bag of Holding works. It turned out to be more about angry differences of opinion. Magic, being the "fantasy" part of fantasy adventure games, can be just about anything the GM can imagine, or that the players find believable. Each group can have its own "Bag of Holding", not necessarily anything at all like the Bag of Holding in other people's games.

Which got me musing: what's my Bag of Holding?

First, I refreshed my memory on what the original rules actually say, and I was a bit surprised:
"A sack-sized magical bag which will contain 10,000 Gold Pieces as if they were only 300. Objects up to 10' length and 5' width and 3' height may be stuffed into the bag, but the weight equivalent, regardless of the weight of the object, then becomes 600."
I don't remember noticing that penalty at all. Maybe it was dropped in the DMG. Oversized objects, even light ones like a polearm, will weigh 60 pounds when carried in a Bag of Holding.

Anyways, here's how I'm imagining this: the Bag of Holding has nothing to do with mystical planes. It's the inside of a huge bag combined with the outside of a large sack. Sometimes, it's described as existing in an extradimensional space, but this does not mean, to me, that there is an "extradimensional plane". This space is created by the process of enchantment, and ceases to exist when the enchantment is broken. If the bag tears, stuff doesn't disappear into some otherworld, it spews out into the real world.

And the bag can, in fact, tear. Notice the 300 GP weight equivalent? It's the same as an ordinary large sack. That's what the Bag of Holding looks like: It's about as big as a backpack or 30-pound sack of potatoes. It's no more invulnerable than a really sturdy leather backpack. It can hold 100 pounds worth of small, loose objects, like coins, or it can hold one oversized item, but not a mixture of both.
Yes, a person -- one person -- can fit in a Bag of Holding. But this is only useful for smuggling a willing or helpless person out of some locale. A struggling victim would tear the bag. The "one oversized item" limit means you can't set up a bedroom or laboratory in it. It's no more  air-tight than a backpack, so there's no danger of suffocation, but it's also not going to help you escape poison gas.

It's just a bag that's bigger on the inside.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Past Few Years Have Been Wasted

I normally only skim the first paragraph of the blog posts on Gnome Stew. They very rarely have anything relevant to my interest. But in the most recent article, "You Can Totally Do That Thing (Or Maybe Not)", the author gave an example of a player paralyzed with indecision, and had this to say:

"In the opening example, the player hadn’t played D&D in quite some time and was coming at his choices from a very old-school perspective. The last time he had played regularly, if something wasn’t explicitly stated in the rules, you simply couldn’t do it. He assumed that he couldn’t jump up onto the wall because it was something he couldn’t do in one of his previous games."

Yep. "You can only do what is explicitly in the rules" is now a "very old-school perspective". All the work the OSR has done over the past decade or so trying to convince people otherwise, all of Old Geezer's rants and subsequent bannings on RPGnet for telling people that their character is not their character sheet. all of it, has been either a lie or a waste.

OK< yeah, I realize that the "Anything Not Explicitly Allowed Is Forbidden" attitude did start to creep in at least around the time of AD&D, but even there, the PHB and DMG go to some lengths to point out that yes, people other than thieves can climb, some scrolls are usable by people who aren't magic-users, it's possible to use a weapon you don't have training in... it took years for the so-called "very old-school perspective" to become the norm in all things.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let 'Em Pick: Random Background Events

So: the plan, as previously reported, is to compile and edit some of the old blog material into useful PDFs for free download. This is before I even try to create commercial material.

The subhex material was slated to be first, but it's around 12 to 15 pages. I needed something shorter to put together quickly to get some LaTeX experience and work out most of my design decisions, so that layout on the subhex material won't be as hairy.

And then I remember some people had also asked for a re-release of the random background event table. The idea is: let players choose between 3d6 in order or just picking whatever scores they want, but then rolling for a random, possibly mildly bad, event that happened just before the character's decision to adventure. None of the events will undo the player's ability score picks, so they get to maintain their character concept.

The PDF is now ready for download: Let 'Em Pick.

I checked the PDF on both my desktop computer and on an Android tablet in a couple different PDF viewers, so it should be OK.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Here is a test logo for the Last-Minute Game Master series. Any thoughts?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Progress: SubHex Wilderness Crawl

I've been working on the subhex crawl material for Justin Alexander and I'm pretty much finished with the writing part, although I'd like to do some touch-ups in a couple places, plus I may have to write some examples. This took me longer than I planned. I figured I would just be compiling all the subhex posts, re-arranging paragraphs, rewording some things. Just a quick clean-up!

It turned out there was a lot more to do.

I wasn't entirely happy with the way some of the rolls worked. each step basically used its own, unique procedure, which made it harder to understand. There's a lot more uniformity now, although I may add an optional section reminescent of the original which would describe a "quick roll" method.

Another hitch in the plans: In the original posts, I just made suggestions on what kinds of landmarks or vegetation might exist. As I edited, I realized I needed tables for these. Not as elaborate as the tables planned for LMGM #1, but there's quite a bit more detail now. The new landmark table is essentially the same as the one in the hex/hexless random wilderness posts, but I made some changes... which will also be included in the PDF for hex/hexless wilderness generation.

The main thing left to do is some diagrams and formatting. I've been doing test prints with LaTeX, but not all the layout is acceptable yet. One table floated to the next page even though there was plenty of room, for example.

It's kind of ugly, still, but I feel strangely thrilled looking at it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Last-Minute Game Master: The Series

I mentioned in the last post that I plan to do something called Last-Minute Game Master #1: SubHex Wilderness Exploration, or a subtitle to that effect. And I mentioned "other LMGM booklets".

I should explain this.

A long time ago, I planned on doing a zine. But the concept didn't quite gel. It was more like writing a book than a zine, too much work for any kind of regular schedule.

I had been planning to write some books later, specifically some  crazy-big books of tables for random generation. A monster book called The Last-Minute Menagerie. Another book for hex mapping called The Last-Minute Wilderness, and its dungeon companion, the Last-Minute Labyrinth. Maybe one for magic called The Last-Minute Grimoire.

It would be nice, though, to lead into these with a series of smaller booklets. Too big for a zine, but smaller than those lofty goals. The subhex wilderness procedure is a good candidate; about 20-22 easy-to-use tables, with a couple pages of intro on how to use them in a couple different ways. Other good candidates would be random ruins, random castles, random towns.

Since times are tough, I'm considering selling these. They are going to be a lot of work. They will probably be print-on-demand only, since what I'm planning will really work better in print, but I've thought about the possibility of Patreon and free PDFs, or perhaps instead a delayed release of PDFs as pay-what-you-want. Or maybe just put a tipjar on the blog. Not really sure what I want to do.

But first, the free PDFs. Before I start charging for stuff, I need to produce something as an example of what I can do.