Re-Imagining the DMG Cover

One of the items on my "would be fun to do someday" list is re-imagining the original ADnD covers in a modern style, but not too modern. When doing fan art or re-envisioning something a few questions come up. How far can you push it? What has to remain the same?

I've collected some references and done some sketches to answer these questions. I don't know if I'll go through with this and actually do full fledged paintings, but I might. One of the first things I sketched were the characters on the DMG and how they would look from the front. I've done a lot of character designs over the years in video games and in tabletop so I took the same approach to these designs. This first attempt is pretty safe and quite conservative with the characters. Not really changing anything. As I was doing this it occurred to me that it is not clear what the girl's character class is. Is she a thief? Or a magic-user? She seems to be holding her hand in a gesture to cast a spell, and a dagger isn't out of place for either class. I think I'm going to go with magic-user, though I suppose making her a thief would round out the party better.

The efreeti as cool as it is, has some opportunities for some really fascinating designs. Especially in the jewelry and its face.

Probably the most interesting part of this would be creating the city of brass floating over a burning ocean of oil. That could be made to look exceptionally brilliant. I haven't done any sketches for that part yet, but I am thinking how the front and back could be better integrated in a wrap around cover.


Blog Roll!

Some cool blogs I stumbled across in my recent journeys across the internets.

Nuclear Haruspex is an interesting hodge podge of stuff. Some random generators, which are always fun. Some OSR stuff, and some other ramblings about RPGs in general and GLOG (The Goblin Laws of Gaming) in particular.

Cratered Land has a variety of RPG stuff from OSR to Mechwarrior and more. And I appreciate the artists are given credit.

Whimsical Mountain. Primarily an OSR blog.

And Goblin Punch is the source of GLOG.

Here's a rotting pumpkin that looks like a face. Happy October!

3D-printed Lamborghini

3D printed Lamborghinis are hardly related to this blog, but it does relate to a post I made on predictions for 100 years from now. That post was a bit half baked and was merely a collection of ideas that had been bouncing around in my head and I wanted to get them down. Nothing new or revolutionary in those predictions, they were only my take on some likely outcomes.

One that I'm fairly certain will come true is that car bodies will be 3d printed and you'll be able to order any style you want. It'll probably have an electric chassis. An example of this becoming true is this article of someone 3d printing a Lamborghini. It is only a matter of time before this becomes widely available commercially from auto manufacturers. And they'll drive themselves. Allowing humans to actually drive a metal and glass death machine at high speeds will seem crazy to future generations.

D&D and Pop Culture: Feast of Legends

What does Wendy's and Dungeons and Dragons have in common? The Fight Against Frozen Beef!

What a surprise this was to see Wendy's published a roleplaying game. Yes, Wendy's. Even more surprising is it is really good! It's not exactly D&D, but close enough that it is unmistakably 5th edition-ish. They've even included a little campaign setting and adventure. This is so weird and remarkably cool for a fast food ad campaign.

I have fond memories of eating at Wendy's as a kid. I can't eat fast food as much nowadays, my taste buds like it but my body doesn't. Also, the one near us closed down and the nearest one is almost an hour away. This makes me want to go get one of those square burgers and a frosty and play some Feast of Legends with my kids.

You can download the free PDF, check it out:

Bookmark Adventure: Deathly Cell Of Xangarius the Berserk Princess

Deathly Cell Of Xangarius the Berserk Princess
Princess Xangarius was cursed by a vampiric sorcerer, and she was imprisoned in an impenetrable cell deep below Fendal castle.

A bookmark adventure for 2-5 characters of 5th-7th level.

  1. The entrance appears nondescript with a large plain wooden door. It is barred with an iron lock.
  2. Foyer. Two 5th level guards (common fighters) on duty armed with short swords.
  3. Guard Barracks. 2-5 5th level guards are resting here. Alerted if combat occurs in room 2.
  4. Storage room. Various kegs of wine and olive oil, crates of rice, beans, and flour.
  5. A 900gp gem can be seen under the water. A water weird guards it.
  6. Gallery of atrocities committed by Xangarius. Horrific scenes of people and animals torn apart.
  7. Five 6th level sentinels heavily armed with battle-axes and crossbows stop anyone entering. 7A. If outmatched in 7 the sentinels retreat to these alcoves to fight behind cover.
  8. Xangarius, she seems like a meek little girl, but when upset she transforms into a Vampire Spawn. If restored to normal her father will pay handsomely.

The Sentinel

35 years ago in the September 1984 issue of Dragon Magazine #89 appeared an article describing the Sentinel character class. Back then Dragon regularly published non-player character classes; unofficial characters classes meant only as NPCs. Of course most of us tried these out as player characters and often found them either way over, or under powered, but that didn't matter. Was the class cool or not was all that did.

The Sentinel wasn't exciting by any means. No unusual powers or spells. No weird or exotic flavor. Just a straight forward guard who took his duty seriously. And I always liked them! Maybe because Judas Priest had a cool song called The Sentinel released that same year on their seminal Defenders of the Faith album.

I've done a few revisions and updates to the class over the years, including one I blogged long ago when I first dived into the OSR. Now with the Sentinel's 35 year anniversary here is a new O5R version, optimized to fit on a bookmark similar to the Bookmark Dungeons I've been drawing lately.

Here is the text if you want to copy and paste and fiddle with it to your own taste.

The Sentinel
An alert fighter class.

LVL XP PB Features
1 0 +2 Hear
2 1,750 +2 Defense
3 3,500 +2 Find Hidden
4 7,000 +2 Ability+
5 15,000 +3 Veracity
6 30,000 +3 Ability+
7 65,000 +3 Detect Invisible
8 140,000 +3 Ability+
9 295,000 +3 Gut Feeling
10 455,000 +4 Wary

(PB = proficiency bonus, Ability+ = gain 1 point to put on any ability)

HD: d10 Armor: All armor, no shield Weapons: Simple weapons, Martial weapons Tools: None Saves: Strength, Dexterity Skills: Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception

Hear the sentinel has keen hearing, +2 and advantage to all rolls involving hearing.
Defense +1 bonus in armor
Find Hidden +1 bonus to find hidden objects on a person or in a room.
Veracity can tell when a prisoner is lying in interrogation.
Detect Invisible can sense where an invisible creature is within a 10’ radius.
Gut Feeling can tell when something is wrong or doesn’t make sense, even if they don’t know exactly what it is.
Wary cannot be surprised.

If the class feels underpowered you could change Veracity to Extra Attack, like a regular fighter has. And/or give it access to Martial Archetype features, but then it is just changing into a regular fighter.

If you're curious about the art, I stumbled across an old sketch of a knight I did many years ago, and recently did a repaint on it for fun.

As a side note, the cover of Dragon #89 was one of Den Beauvais' epic Fantasy Chess covers. Here is as high resolution image of it as you'll find anywhere. The original sold a while back for nearly $4000.

Tower of the Moon Free OSR Adventure

The Tower of the Moon is a monster-haunted ruin, its shadow falling over dark forest and desolate wilderness. Only the brave or foolish dare its secrets. A classic style adventure of Gothic Horror for three to five 3rd-6th level adventurers.

Those familiar with the Original Edition line of RPGs I've been developing over the years will recognize David Pulver's work. He is a well known long time writer in the RPG business, most of his work was for Steve Jackson games on their GURPS line. We've been talking for a while about publishing a line of books from his own personal writings and gaming.

This first one is a test to see if Pay What You Want would be the best pricing for an OSR adventure.

As you can imagine writing for RPGs is demanding work with minimal compensation, and I thought it a good idea to create some products that could provide some royalties for him later in life. He get's royalties from each purchase, your generosity is appreciated. If this does well we'll try to publish more of his books.

Check it out here:

My First 10 RPG's

I've seen some recent discussions of people talking about their first RPG's, and it got me to thinking about it. These are the first 10 RPG's I ever owned.
  1. Keep on the Borderlands
  2. AD&D/D&D (Moldvay edition)
  3. Gamma World
  4. Star Frontiers
  5. Marvel Super Heroes
  6. Indiana Jones (TSR)
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  8. Top Secret SI
  9. GURPS
  10. Dragonquest
Keep on the Borderlands
While not a stand alone RPG it was the very first RPG product I ever owned and it had those invaluable combat matrix and equipment tables which allowed me and a friend to fumble through playing the game. This adventure is a classic, and considered the best adventure module ever written for beginning play.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition
The first AD&D books I got were: Player's Handbook, DM's Guide, Deities & Demigods, and Fiend Folio for Christmas in 1982. I didn't get the original Monster Manual until a year later. So the FF was my monster manual, which might explain a lot of my weird tastes. Despite its warts AD&D 1st Edition has a particularly great flavor. Reading the DM's Guide is still entertaining and informative, almost a train of thought straight out of Gary Gygax's imagination and extensive knowledge of the fantasy and historical genres. I make it a point every few years to read the DMG from cover to cover. I mentioned the Moldvay Red Box in the list, and it's a bit fuzzy as to timing when I got the Red Box set, so I lumped them together.

Gamma World, 2nd Edition
I own just about every edition of Gamma World, actually, I think I have them all including the awful White Wolf version. I recall some kids on the bus in middle school having a copy of 1st edition, but I didn't get a chance to look at it then. I got Gamma World 2nd edition right when it came out, and in hindsight I consider it the best version. They took some of the best things about AD&D and applied it to the post-apocalyptic genre. And your characters started out super powerful, it's almost a super hero game. Each edition does have its own charm, though I'm hard pressed to find anything I like in the White Wolf edition. The last version has a card based mechanic I liked in theory, but in practice had some clunkiness. One thing Gamma World shows is that if TSR had any sense or awareness of the market they should have turned the AD&D system into a universal roleplaying game before GURPS took that title.

Star Frontiers
It says a lot that this game still has a small but loyal fan base. You can find resources still being created, blogs, and discussion groups. I recall liking Star Frontiers when it came out, but being disappointed that it didn't have spaceship combat so was glad when Knight Hawks came out. (A mistake I oddly repeated with my own Colonial Troopers RPG, and fixed with the starship supplement, though that is another story I'll tell at a later time)

In hindsight Star Frontiers was just too safe and mundane of a setting. It was very generic sci-fi. If it'd taken a more kitchen sink approach like D&D did, throwing in every cool idea from every science fiction novel from HG Wells to Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, Heinlein, and so on then Star Frontiers could have been a really compelling setting. I do like the cover art by Elmore, I might like his Sci-Fi work better than his fantasy.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones Roleplaying Game (TSR)
The Indiana Jones RPG gets a lot of flack for being the worst RPG ever, and probably deserves that moniker if you only consider the boxed set. I've written before my fondness for this much maligned set. Once you add the Judges Survival Pack it's a pretty nifty game that captures the spirit of the genre. The production values and art were very high quality for its day, and the adventures are quite well written and playable. Someday I'll finish my in depth review of the system itself.

Marvel Super Heroes
I don't care what anyone says, Marvel Super Heroes is the best superhero roleplaying game. Yes, I've played Champions and appreciate that system, but measured for shear fun playing super powered characters the FASERIP system is the best. If you were familiar with the comics you could instantly stat out any character. The addition of the advanced set was remarkably well done, they could have gone crazy with complexity (yes Champions, I'm looking at you) but instead Jeff Grub maintained the integrity and simplicity of the system.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of my favorites, and the first non-TSR RPG I owned. I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think about it, even though the Palladium system isn't the greatest. All the supplements for this game are just great. I was looking into getting the GM's screen, since it's the only item of this game I don't own but yikes are the prices high on it!

DragonQuest was feared by TSR as a potential DnD killer. Looking back their fears were a little silly, Dragonquest is ok but was never a threat to DnD's throne. They bought the game, published like one book or something, then left it to quietly wilt away unsupported. I should do a review of this game, it has some things that were innovative in its day, but are dated now and represent a different direction from where the RPG industry went.

Top Secret SI
Not much to say about this. I got this on a whim at the game store, read the books, but never got anyone to play it. Sometime later I did play the James Bond RPG, and that game is so good it's hard to imagine playing spies with anything else.

After high school I played way too much GURPS while in the Army. It was during the 2nd edition era of AD&D and I didn't care for what TSR did to the game. GURPS had a fully skill based system, crunchy combat, and no classes or levels. Everything I thought was wrong with D&D at the time, funny that now I think the opposite.

Looking back at 2nd edition DnD it's not all that bad, just some aesthetic decisions that were a turn off. It didn't go far enough in redesigning and improving the game. The cover art wasn't as cool as it could have been. 3rd edition is really what 2nd edition should have been, well except the covers I'm not much of a fan of the non-illustrated covers.

During the 90's I didn't play or buy that much RPG stuff. Then 3rd edition DnD came along, rekindled my interest in gaming and I went a little crazy buying and playing all the games I missed like Champions, Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, Deadlands, and many others.

Bookmark Dungeon: Shrine of Odolric the Cruel

This is a mini adventure that fits onto a standard 2"x6" bookmark.

Shrine of Odolric the Cruel
Deep in the jungle a lost shrine to a forgotten goddess bodes ill will.
A bookmark adventure for 2-5 players of 4th-6th level.

  1. The entrance is covered in detailed sculptures of snakes. Staring at them too long they seem to writhe.
  2. Three columns each in the form of a naga. They have 6 jeweled eyes worth 50gp each.
  3. The ceiling has partially collapsed. To the left the passage is completely blocked. There is a 50% chance some rubble will fall when exiting causing 1d6 points of damage.
  4. A Bone Naga lurks here. She is a guardian who will attack any trespassers.
  5. Chimes hang from the ceiling covering the entryway here, they are easily passed through, but will be noisy.
  6. Four small worship chambers are here. Searching each of them can uncover up to 200 gp, but will alert the Yuan-Ti in room 7.
  7. 2d4 Yuan-Ti are worshiping a demonic statue of Odolric the goddess of cruelty. She is in fact a Marilith demon. Reading the inscriptions on the statue will open a secret space with a bejeweled +3 dagger, and summon her within 1d6 rounds, she is not pleased.

Dungeoneer Review

A rather positive review of Dungeoneer by the writer/director of Bone Tomahawk (a really well done independent film staring Kurt Russel!).
"A clever dungeon crawler that focuses on quests, exploration, resource management, and battle.
Dungeoneer is smartly done and really enjoyable, though an undervalued boardgame...
Generally speaking this is a clever dungeon crawler that focuses on quests, adventuring/exploration, character modification, resource management, and battle. Leveling up occurs quickly, altering playing styles, and during the course of a game (approx. 40-60 minutes for 2 players), characters will explore rooms, escorts prisoners, take skill tests, alter the shape of the dungeon, challenge other players, fight monsters, deal with traps, boost skills, build a pack of monsters, and do many other things.
That so much memorable and creative adventure comes in two decks of cards rather than a 20 pound box of stuff is to be applauded."
Read the full review here:

Clip Art for your Small Press Book

Do you need artwork for that really cool adventure you wrote? Need an old-school style cover layout for your OSR inspired roleplaying game? On my store are several images you can purchase as clip art to use. The prices are very reasonable, especially compared to the cost of commissioning art.

Each image includes a license and full resolution image. Some of them are even layered PSD files and have suggested color schemes and fonts for layouts you might want to use. Check it out on

If you need adjustments to the layout, or minor changes to the art you can purchase additional graphic design service to customize the image to your needs.

New images are being processed and continually updated. If you'd like a particular image you've seen on my art blog or portfolio you can ask if licensing rights are available. Thanks for checking it out!

Dungeoneer Roleplaying Game

For some time I worked on a tabletop roleplaying game version of Dungeoneer. The design got quite far in various directions, but kept hitting some roadblocks. With some frustration the project was set aside, occasionally revisited, but never quite finished.

I still get asked from time to time what has become of the Dungeoneer RPG. So, to answer that question the "beta" version of the RPG is now available as a free download. The book is as much a world bible as it is an RPG, there are lots of interesting bits of lore that tie in with the flavor text on the Dungeoneer cards. If you are interested in getting your own PDF copy you can download it on DriveThruRPG.

Here is the link:

Adventures in Tarnys

Vision Map 2019

A while back I posted a Vision Map of OSR projects I'm working on. My original goal was to finish them in 2018, but that was a bit ambitious. Here it is halfway through 2019 and how are these projects coming along?
I went through the various documents and artwork to see where things are at. I have a terrible habit, instead of working serial: one project at a time until completion, I tend to work parallel: jumping from project to project as whim and inspiration comes along. So here is a visualization of where these parallel projects are at. The good news is two of them have been completed! Beasties II and Knight Hawks.

If you are interested in any of these and want to see their development, and even help in playtests and early previews you can sign up for my Patreon and get access, along with other rewards.

The Origin of the Basic D&D "Known World" or Mystara Setting

Black Gate got a great scoop on the origin of Mystara, the default fantasy campaign setting for basic D&D.

Lawrence Schick says:
In early ’74 Tom [Moldvay] came back from an SF convention with Dungeons & Dragons in its original white box edition. He DMed a session, I DMed a session, and suddenly we knew what we were going to create together: a fantasy world setting for D&D.
We were both nuts about Clark Ashton Smith, Tom was a Michael Moorcock and Philip José Farmer fanatic, while I could quote chapter and verse from the works of Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber. So we knew what we wanted to create: a single world setting that would enable us to simulate the fictional realities of these, our favorite authors.
Read the full text here:

Knight Hawks, the first expansion for Colonial Troopers

Knight Hawks, the first expansion for my sci-fi game Colonial Troopers has been released. I made a fun cheesy little promo video to give you the gist of what the book is about.

Realm of the Ice Witch Available Again

One of the best Dungeoneer sets, Realm of the Ice Witch, has been made available again through DriveThruCards.

Get your copy here:

Read Wormy from First to Last

Happy Birthday Dave Trampier!

Dave and I have something in common, we share the same birthdate. I was reminiscing about the Wormy comic strip and found this website that compiled them all together in an easy to read format. You can start from the very first one and just hit Next to see the next one. You can get through the entire run rather quickly and appreciate just how great this strip was and also see Dave's artistic growth. The artwork starts out good and by the end is truly remarkable!

So, celebrate Dave's birthday with me and read Wormy.


Brainstorming Custom Dice

Taming the randomness and upping the fun.

A Chainmail Retro-Clone

I've been playing around with the idea of creating a Chainmail retro-clone. Now that Beasties II is done, this is the next book on my schedule. The original book itself, like all early TSR products, is a scattershot with random organization. For example poring over the text for information on any unit type shows bits of valuable game information scattered across various tables and sections.

A while back I did a little personal project to reformat the original Chainmail to make it more useful for my gaming group. Since Chainmail is not public domain I couldn't disseminate it, other than showing a few fair use page examples (I was even warned on one forum not to post any more images of it).

I wouldn't be the first to make a retro-clone of Chainmail. There is Grognard which you can learn about here. Also there is Platemail, and the excellent Swordplay & Spellcraft that takes it into an RPG direction. There are probably others I don't know about. Grognard is closest to what I envision for a retro-clone as it stays close to the source mechanically, but it doesn't get the aesthetic quality I'm seeking. So here is a little example. This takes all the information of an Anti-Hero unit, puts it all together into one stat block with a cool illustration to decorate it.

Division: Chaos
Point Value: 20
Combat 1:20: 4 figures as unit type +1 die (see below)

Combat 1:1: 4 figures as unit type (see below)
Combat FC: Hero
Hit Points: 4
Move: see below
Charge: see below
Road bonus: as unit type
Missile Range: by weapon type
Morale: n/a

Special Abilities:
Never need to check morale.
Add 1 to dice of their unit for 1:20 combat results.
Last figure in unit to be killed by regular missile fire or melee.
May engage in regular melee with normal troops, 1:1 combat with other heroes/anti-heroes, or engage with fantastic creatures on Fantasy Combat table. (See below)
A Hero-type, armed with a bow, shoots a dragon passing within range overhead out of the air and kills it on a two dice roll of 10 or better (9 or better when firing an enchanted arrow).
Anti-heroes have the fighting ability of four figures. Their class of figure is dependent on the arms and equipment of the Anti-hero types themselves, who can range from Light Foot to Heavy Horse.
Melee (1:20) Combat: Anti-heroes are the equivalent of 4 figures. They move, charge, fire missiles, attack and defend per their class. When meleed by regular troops, four simultaneous kills must be scored against Anti-heroes to eliminate them. Otherwise, there is no effect upon them.
Man to Man (1:1) Combat: Similar to Melee Combat.
Fantasy Combat: Anti-heroes may be attacked individually by enemy troops of like type (such as other Hero-types) or creatures shown on the Fantasy Combat Table. Anti-heroes may act independent of their command in order to combat some other fantastic character.

Beasties II now on DriveThruRPG

Both Print & PDF versions (including package deal) are live now on DriveThruRPG.

Dream Cover - In Search of the Unknown

Frank Frazetta was born this day February 9, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY. I'm dedicating this "Dream Cover" post to him.

In Dream Cover posts I imagine being the art director on a project and who would I contract to do the art. Once in a while an image strikes me as being the perfect cover for something and I'm tempted to make a post about it. In this case a question came up on Twitter about if you could own just one Frank Frazetta art which one would you take? Wow, what a question! At first I thought it would be a simple task of looking through some favorites and picking one, but it wasn't that easy. Besides the quality of the image there are personal feelings about where, when, and on what the first time you encountered a Frazetta image. In my case the first of his work I ever saw was Spider Man and it blew my mind how powerful it was. Keep in mind that this was in the 70's, long before the internet and before the proliferation of fantasy art we see these days.

Then, there was Moon Maid the very first Frazetta painting I saw on the cover of an Edgar Rice Burroughs' book. This introduced me to the writings of Burroughs and made me a life long ERB fan. This may just be my favorite painting of his.

One that I have the most nostalgia for was this cover he painted for Illustrators of the Future. While it's not one of his best (it's still amazing), it was the first Frazetta original painting I saw in person. And it was the cover of the first book my work was published in. Apparently this was right after he recovered from a serious medical condition that threatened his life and career, so this was a bit of a comeback piece for him.

A trip through Frazetta's work is always fun, and while I was looking around I saw his cover for "The Secret People" (Lancer, 1964) which I believe started his career with ACE. To get back to the topic of this post: the Dream Cover would be this image and it is almost perfect for module B1: In Search of the Unknown. Just put some fantasy armor on those foreground characters.

Beasties 2!

This little book of monsters for your OSR game has been sitting on the backburner long enough. This is one of those little gems I'd take out and work on every once in a while between other projects. It's been long enough! I powered through the completion of this book, tying up loose ends, and trimming the fat. What it is, I hope, is a worthy successor to the first Beasties book. It has the same quirky charm, more useful beasties, some interesting NPC's, and other little goodies. Oh, and a ton of art! These monster books take so long for me to do because of how much art they need. But they are so fun.
I'm selling the PDF directly on my webpage, so I'm able to pass savings on to you.

Call for Articles!

I'm putting together a one-shot homage to classic 80's Dragon magazine. It will be called Drakar and have the look, feel, and layout of that era. Including articles, ads, even humor!

In order to fill this up I'm looking for articles from the OSR. It can be an original article, an excerpt from your homebrewed RPG or campaign. This issue is going to be generally Norse Mythology themed, but just like those old magazines it will be a hodge-podge of cool stuff, so anything you enter that is RPG related will work. No bias towards any particular system.

Also looking for ads, that's right, free ad space! Remember those old homebrewed ads of someone's passion project? Hardcopies will be available, and the neato thing is that since it will also be a PDF any links you include in your ad will be clickable to take the reader straight to your web page or online store item.
You can submit your article to tldenmark at gmail dot com. Space is limited so submit your entry now.

Old school ads!

Tower of the Moon

I've really been getting into drawing maps lately! This is Tower of the Moon, a sort of Werewolf's version of Ravenloft. It will soon be an adventure written by the esteemed David Pulver.